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​Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the Water Storage Investment Program?

A. The Water Storage Investment Program fulfills the requirements of Chapter 8 of Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, which tasks the California Water Commission to develop and adopt regulations, guidelines, and criteria to award bond funding for water storage projects that provide public benefits like restored ecosystems, recreation, flood control, emergency response, and water quality. The Commission is currently developing the guidelines and regulations for the Program through an open, transparent, and engaging public process. The Commission must adopt regulations by December 15, 2016, which is the earliest date the Commission can award bond funding to eligible projects.


Q. What is Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014?

A. Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, will help fund the implementation of the Governor’s Water Action Plan, including the expansion of water storage capacity and improvement of groundwater management. The water bond specifically includes $2.7 billion dedicated to water storage projects, which could include:

  • Surface storage projects identified in the CALFED Record of Decision, with the exception of projects that are prohibited by the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • Groundwater storage projects and groundwater contamination prevention or remediation projects that provide storage benefits
  • Conjunctive use and reservoir reoperation projects
  • Local and regional surface storage projects that improve the operation of water systems in the state and provide public benefits

The funding is dedicated to the Public Benefits of these projects. In crafting the bond language, the Legislature designated the California Water Commission as the state entity responsible for appropriately allocating these funds to agencies and communities across the state.


Q. Why does California need increased statewide water storage?

A. To meet California’s long-term water needs, we must act aggressively to expand water storage capacity throughout the state. Increased storage will help provide the flexibility necessary to manage and prepare for future water challenges due to climate change, weather extremes, and a growing economy. Increased storage allows water managers to store water during wet years to help manage dry years. Think of this as you would a personal savings account; you put savings aside so that it is there in case you need it. The need for increased statewide water storage is also one of the key actions laid out in the Governor’s California Water Action Plan, to “expand water storage capacity” to help ensure more reliable water supplies, the restoration of important species and habitat, and a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system. 


Q. What is the Governor’s Water Action Plan?

A. In early 2014, the Governor released the California Water Action Plan. The five-year plan outlines a path to ensure we have a water management system that can address the state’s current water challenges while also providing for future needs.


Q. What is the California Water Commission?

A. The California Water Commission is a nine-member Governor-appointed board charged with several statutory responsibilities related to water resources management. The Commission members represent a broad range of views and have diverse expertise in water, business and environmental issues. The Commission provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and takes appropriate statutory actions to further the development of policies that support integrated and sustainable water resource management and a healthy environment. The Commission will implement the Water Storage Investment Program independent of DWR and is committed to an open public process on all issues. All of its meetings are open for the public to watch and participate.


Q. What are the California Water Commission’s responsibilities?

A. California’s comprehensive 2009 water legislation gave the Commission new responsibilities to help invest public funds set aside for the public benefits of water storage projects and develop regulations for the quantification and management of those benefits. The Commission provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and takes appropriate statutory actions to further the development of policies that support integrated and sustainable water resource management and a healthy environment. Other statutory duties include approving rules and regulations and monitoring and reporting on the construction and operation of the State Water Project.


Q. What has been done so far?

A. In anticipation of voter approval of Proposition 1, the Commission has been working since 2012 with stakeholders and the public to develop a set of draft guidelines and regulations to help determine how bond funding for water storage projects should be allocated. In 2015 and 2016, guided by significant stakeholder input and collaboration, the Commission will build on this work to craft the Water Storage Investment Program.


Q. Who is on the California Water Commission?

A. The Commission consists of:

  • Chair Armando Quintero, Executive Director of the University of California, Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute
  • Vice-Chair Carol Baker, former natural resources consultant and Deputy Budget Director for the California Assembly Speaker's Office
  • Andrew Ball, partner with Ball + Winter consulting firm
  • Joseph Byrne, counsel attorney in the law office of Best, Best & Krieger, LLP
  • Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters
  • Joe Del Bosque, president and chief executive officer of Empresas Del Bosque, Inc.
  • Maria Herrera, community development specialist at Self-Help Enterprises 
  • Catherine Keig, former director of Southern California activities in the office of the California Senate pro Tempore
  • David Orth, principal in New Current Water and Land, LLC


Q. What projects will be considered for funding?

A. Water storage projects for this program are categorized four ways:

  • Surface storage projects identified in the CALFED Record of Decision, with the exception of projects that are prohibited by the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • Groundwater storage projects and groundwater contamination prevention or remediation projects that provide storage benefits
  • Conjunctive use and reservoir reoperation projects
  • Local and regional surface storage projects that improve the operation of water systems in the state and provide public benefits

The voter-approved bond language requires that the Water Storage Investment Program funds only the public benefits associated with a storage project. Eligible projects must also provide measurable benefits to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem or its tributaries.


Q. What are the public benefits?

A. Public benefits are benefits that the general public – all Californians – can enjoy.

In addition to providing water supplies for farms and cities, many storage projects also have public benefits. Public benefits are defined in Proposition 1 as ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control benefits, emergency response, and recreational purposes.  

Q. What are the known funding parameters of the Program?

A. Although the mechanics of the Program are yet to be determined by the Commission, the law also clearly states that 50 percent of a project’s State funding must go toward ecosystem benefits, regardless of the project type. State funding for a project cannot exceed 50 percent of the total project cost.


Q. How will the guidelines and regulations be developed?

A. The program guidelines and regulations will be developed in an open and transparent public process using sound science and established economic principles to evaluate the public benefits of projects. The law also requires that projects under consideration for funding through the program must improve ecosystem and water quality conditions, and demonstrate benefits to the Delta ecosystem or its tributaries.


Q. How will the Commission know what potential water storage projects are being considered in California?

A. The Commission solicited information about water storage projects through a scoping survey to help commission members and staff understand the scope and breadth of potential projects. Survey responses will help the Commission anticipate how many projects are in the pipeline as well as anticipated project timelines and regional priorities.


Q. When will the funds be allocated?

A. The law allows the Commission to select projects for funding no sooner than December 15, 2016. In advance of this date, the Commission plans a robust stakeholder engagement process to collect feedback and insight that will help craft a program that will yield far-reaching benefits for California.


Q. How will the public benefits of projects be determined?

A.  Public benefits are defined in Proposition 1 as ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control benefits, emergency response, and recreational purposes.  In 2012, DWR presented a report describing available tools and methods for quantifying the public benefits of water storage projects.  As they develop the Water Storage Investment Program, the Commission will hold public meetings and working sessions to discuss the public benefits of various project types and the best methods for quantifying those benefits.


Q. How will other resources and expertise be considered?

A. The Commission will identify and conduct additional economic analysis, technical work, and policy analysis. The Commission will also solicit input from the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and others on water quality and ecosystem issues that will be considered.


Q. When will regulations be approved?

A. In January 2016, the Commission submitted the draft quantification regulations to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to start a formal rulemaking process. This process will include additional public hearings and the opportunity to provide comments. The deadline for approval of the Water Storage Investment Program regulations by the Office of Administrative Law is December  15, 2016.  That is also the first date that funds can be allocated to water storage projects. Each element of this process will be driven by stakeholder input. The Commission’s timeline gives it enough time for a robust public process, so the criteria developed puts the state in the best position to fund projects.


Q. How can I participate?

A. Public participation is critical to the success of the Program. The public can get involved by:

  • Attending Commission meetings
  • Attending an informational meeting in your area
  • Participating in Public Workshops
  • Providing written comments by mail or email
  • Visiting the commission website for other opportunities

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