For immediate release March 26, 2010

Contact: Barbara Vlamis, Aqualliance (530) 895-9420 Carolee Krieger, CWIN (805) 969-0824

CEQA Is Fundamental to Managing California’s Water
Budget demands would undermine core environmental protections
California’s landmark Environmental Quality Act is fundamental to the responsible management of California’s water supply. Prior to CEQA, water law was defined mostly by litigation between private parties over ownership of water rights. After CEQA, water users also had to explicitly consider the environment. Two landmark lawsuits show the importance of CEQA to areas of origin. The Owens Valley Restoration In 1972, Inyo County sued Los Angeles over its management of the Owens Valley floor, and won a restoration water to the lower Owens Valley River. The Owens Valley water supply is now jointly managed by Inyo County and Los Angeles. Mono Lake In 1994, as part of the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report, the California State Water Resources Board gave the order that actually put water back in Mono Lake. As California’s water supply becomes a commodity, CEQA will become central to balancing the economic value of water with environmental impacts of water diversions. The largest diverter of water is the State Water Project, which sends water from Northern California via the Delta to cities in Southern California. CEQA has been used to ensure that the SWP uses responsible assumptions in its projections of water supplies.

In 1994, the Department of Water Resources instituted the “Monterey Agreements,” which threw out the safe yield of the project as the determining factor in water supply decisions. A CEQA challenge followed. A landmark 2000 court decision ruled that the state could not rely on “"entitlements

[which] represent nothing more than hopes, expectations, water futures, or as the parties refer to them, 'paper water.'" This is a critical decision for responsible use of California’s water.
California has large desert regions, and the temptation is ever present for developers to build with water supplies that are mostly wishful thinking. Recent legislation requires major new developments to show proof of a reliable water supply. Courts have held that CEQA is the fundamental law for enforcing this requirement. California faces unique challenges in the 21st century in living within its water supply. CEQA will be fundamental to meeting the needs of a growing population while still protecting the environment. CEQA and other modern environmental laws are essential to protecting the public trust and should not be subject to revision for special interests in budget negotiations ###

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