CLEAN WATER FOR LIFE AND BUSINESS – Critical Intelligence on Water Issues for Business Leaders and Decision Makers

More than 150 business, community, and opinon leaders participated in the BizFed Institute’s NextUp Forum: Clean Water for Life and Business at Woodbury University in Burbank on June 4, 2014.  This major half-day educational event brought together top academic, government, industry, and environmental experts to address the opportunities and challenges associated with securing safe, reliable sources of clean water to sustain life and business in Southern California.

As a public service, with grateful support from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, we have produced this electronic document as a one-stop resource highlighting critical intelligence resulting from those proceedings.  By bringing together diverse – and even conflicting – voices, our goal is to move beyond rhetoric and contribute to informed decision making about California’s water resources.

Tracy Rafter
BizFed Founding CEO

You can experience the BizFed Institute’s NextUp Forum: Clean Water for Life and Business in its entirety online via YouTube.  Or, click any of the following links for the segment you wish to view:

  1. Opening Remarks and Introductions by LaDonna DiCamillo, BizFed Institute Chair, Dr. Don St. Clair, BizFed Chair, and Tracy Rafter, BizFed Founding CEO
  2. Presentation: Water Management Lessons from Australia by Dr. Wade Graham, Pepperdine University and Glen Canyon Institute (Followed by Discussion with Audience)
  3. Recognition of Sponsors and Elected Officials by Tracy Rafter, BizFed Founding CEO
  4. Presentation: Hazel: A Tool for Uncovering Hidden Water Potentials in Los Angeles by Peter Arnold, Director of Research, and Hadley Arnold, Executive Director, Arid Lands Institute, Woodbury University (Followed by Discussion with Audience)
  5. Keynote Panel: How Do We Wnsure Safe, Clean, Reliable Water for California? (For Part 2 of the panel discussion, click here) Moderator: Ron Gastelum, former CEO, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Panelists: Jim McDaniel, Senior Assistant General Manager – Water System, City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Steve Fleischli, Director and Senior Attorney, Water Program, Natural Resources Defense Council; Mark Pestrella, Assistant Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works; Ken Farfsing, City Manager, Signal Hill; Mike Antos, Programs Director, Council for Watershed Health; Deven Upadhyay, Group Manager, Water Resources Management, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  6. Audience Discussion with Keynote Panelists moderated by Ron Gastelum, former CEO, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  7. Closing Remarks by Dr. Luis Calingo, President, Woodbury University

The Experts: Diverse Points Of View Illuminate Key Issues

The following individuals with diverse backgrounds and points of view came together to drive the discussion and share their expertise on how to ensure clean, safe water for California:

Ron Gastelum, former CEO, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, moderated the expert panel.  He framed the discussion by pressing the panelists on questions such as:

  • What specific mix of resources can we rely on (e.g., imported, recycled, local groundwater, and conservation), taking into account cost, regulatory hurdles, public acceptance, potential drought, climate change, and environmental restrictions on existing and planned water supply sources?
  • What specific near term decisions need to be made by the City of Los Angeles, other local water suppliers, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the State of California, and the Federal Government in order for your vision of water supply reliability for Southern California to be realized?
  • How do you propose the water supplies in your vision of water supply reliability be paid for, and what would be the water and property tax rate impacts in the Los Angeles County area?
Jim McDaniel, Senior Assistant General Manager – Water System, City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who oversees all water system operations at LADWP, including production, distribution, treatment, pumping, water resources, and engineering for the largest municpal utility in the United States serving more than 4 million customers.  McDaniel said it will take appropriate planning, management, and investment in order for the region to have enough water in the future.

  • There is a finite amount of water and competing demands for this scarce resource
  • Water use for landscaping must change; more than half of water used in Los Angeles is used outside the home
  • Recycled water is a good thing and should not be feared
Steve Fleischli, Director and Senior Attorney, Water Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
Fleischli leads climate preparedness and energy and water issues for NRDC, an environmental action group that combines members and more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals. Fleischli said:

  • While it’s important to embrace a statewide plan for water issues, Southern California must make its voice heard, particularly on priorities for a water bond
  • 80% of water is used for agriculture, a practice that must change by creating new efficiencies
  • Business leaders, citizens, government agencies, and others in Southern California need to say what they care about
Mark Pestrella, Assistant Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, oversees the DPW’s Water Resource Management, Transportation, and Administrative Branches. Over the last decade, he has provided leadership in the protection, conservation, and management of the County’s water resources, and currently administers DPW’s $2.1 billion budget.  Pestrella doesn’t believe there’s “a silver bullet” that will solve the water problem. He said it will not be possible in the future to have all the water that everyone wants for every purpose, and that an integrated approach to water will be necessary. Instead, it’s going to take:

  • Conservation
  • Local resource development
  • Sustained, imported water supplies

Additionally, Pestrella noted that California needs federal dollars to help solve water woes.

Ken Farfsing, City Manager, Signal Hill, a city of 11,000 residents near Long Beach, said stormwater represents an unfunded city utility because cities must spend money cleaning up the dirty urban runoff that washes pollution into drains and coastal waters.  In order to address water issues, he said cities in the region should:

  • Organize, not only as municipalties, but as business and resident stakeholders as well
  • Cities should work together to create regional plans to meet quality standards related to watershed management
  • Recognize that there is no single source of funding to cover costs related to water
Mike Antos, Programs Director, Council for Watershed Health, a nonprofit that conducts watershed research and analysis and promotes an integrated approach to managing water and land resources, urged residents and regulators to consider how much water is really needed and to adopt “a conservation ethic.”

  • Southern Californians use an average of 180 gallons of water per person, per day
  • The global average for similar climates is 60 gallons per person, per day (Click here to download more details.)
  • Long Beach has trimmed its average daily consumption to 100 gallons of water per person, per day and may offer lessons on how to make cutbacks in consumption

Additionally, Antos urged us to reframe the conversation about costs, arguing that money is being spent on landscaping and streets and other infrastructure that causes, rather than alleviates water problems.

Deven Upadhyay, Group Manager, Water Resources Management, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, who manages water resources, including conservation efforts and groundwater recovery, said unfettered water demands on a per capita basis cannot continue.

  • Solutions to California’s water woes will require money—in the form of water rates and possibly taxes
  • “A cash-strapped water agency isn’t going to get a lot done”
  • Greater efficiency and recycling of water must occur

Additionally, Upadhyay argued that the Bay Delta needs to be shored up before a crisis, such as an earthquake, diminishes Southern California’s water supply.

Hazel – A Tool for Uncovering LA’s Hidden Water Potential

Peter and Hadley Arnold of Woodbury University’s Arid Lands Institute, presented Hazel, a dynamic, integrated planning tool for water-smart urban development in drylands. The Arnolds are national experts in analytic modeling and visualization of stream systems in arid rural environments; the analysis of embedded energy within imported urban water supplies; and the quantification of storm water as groundwater augmentation supply.

Click here to download their full presentation.

Special Presentations Highlight California’s Water Challenge

Richard Katz, former California Assembly Minority Leader and member of the State Water Resources Control Board, opened the forum by framing the day’s conversation. Katz has long warned that Caliornia’s water system needs an overhaul, and he noted that this is California’s driest year in 164 years. He said mindsets, uses, and prices for water must all change. “This is a serious crisis that is not going to go away,” he said. Problems caused by the drought include:

  • Wildfires at the beginning of the year instead of the typical fall fire season
  • Record-low water levels in lakes and rivers that threatens the ability to make environmentally-friendly hydroelectric power that the West needs to power homes and businesses
Peter and Hadley Arnold of Woodbury University’s Arid Lands Institute warned that drier climates are only going to get drier in the future, meaning that policy barriers to considering different uses of water must adapt with changing conditions. They argued that:

  • Storm water is not a threat; it’s an asset
  • Rain and storm water should be used, reused, and recovered
  • Use of storm water will localize water supplies, making cities less dependent on imported water
Dr. Wade Graham, an adjunct professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, trustee of the Glen Canyon Institute, and the author of “American Eden,” said California ought to learn from the experience of Australia, the driest continent on Earth:

  • Put nature first and manage water on common interests, rather than on jurisdictional or sectoral based views
  • Eliminate subsidies so users pay for infrastructure
  • Let markets function by removing barriers to water trading

Stormwater Funding Options: Providing Sustainable Water Quality Funding in Los Angeles County

Prepared for the California Contract Cities Association and the League of California Cities, Los Angeles Division by NextUp Forum panelist Ken Farfsing, City of Signal Hill, and Richard Watson, Richard Watson & Associates, Inc., this new report:

  • Describes the stormwater regulatory requirements specific to the greater Los Angeles area, the complexities of funding stormwater programs, and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District’s funding initiative.
  • Recommends a “multi-pronged” approach to address urban runoff funding issues, since our communities may encounter several dead-ends.  A number of the recommendations require active management and a higher degree of organization by local government.

The recommended actions are voluntary, and the report is not advocating that any city, group of cities, or the County adopt stormwater fees.  Click here to download the full report.

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