Bruce Herring: NID’s Plan for Water a big step
Today we take a look at the Plan for Water, coming this September from the Nevada Irrigation District. The Plan for Water emerged out of board discussion back in 2018 as a precursor to the Raw Water Master Plan. It’s been tossed around ever since, with a few false starts and changes of direction. Now it’s back and a basic overview was presented by General Manager Jennifer Hanson on July 28.
Now if you’ve been paying attention to NID — as you should — you may have noticed they recently completed an Ag Water Master Plan and an Urban Water Master Plan. So what’s the difference?
Urban and ag plans are compliance documents required by the state every five years from all water districts. Earlier this year NID complied with state guidelines and completed both plans. This is somewhat of a routine staff function utilizing for the most part previously completed data and modeling concerning supply, demand and hydrology.
By contrast, the Plan for Water is not required by the state. Yet it is an important step for NID and aims to take a comprehensive science-driven look at water availability, demand, hydrology, climate change and the health of the watershed.
This is a big task and a big opportunity. It is crucial that NID take this on with an integrated approach and much greater fervor and community involvement than that of a compliance document.
Stage 1: system overview. A thorough review of our watershed, reservoirs, hydropower facilities, transport and delivery systems.
Stage 2: review of water rights currently held. Their location, year of seniority and present usage.
Stage 3: strategic planning. Leverage work previously completed to develop mission, vision and strategic priorities to be used as a framework for Plan for Water process and policy decisions.
Stage 4: planning horizon (50 years). Intended outcome refinement, frequency of plan update, usage and responsibility for the plan.
Stage 5: hydrology and hydrography. Leverage existing work, drought scenarios, climate change impacts and watershed health.
Stage 6: future demand. Requires a new model that considers land use, end user changes, regulatory flows, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Stage 7: short- and long-term supply needs within planning horizon.
Stage 8: strategy options. Operations, restoration, capital programs.
Stage 9: Evaluate strategies and criteria consistent with strategic plan. Consider environmental, cost, technical feasibility, risk and politics.
Logistics: Will require 18 months, consulting for modeling work, a series of public meetings, and final document preparation.
Hanson’s presentation is a promising start. But let’s take a closer look. Though implied that an integrated approach will be taken, it is imperative from the get-go to say right out loud that the Plan for Water will be utilizing integrated regional water management.
During the ag and urban process, it became clear that NID was using dated modeling for the hydrology report and flawed growth projections in the demand model. As a result, the board added the following provision in the resolution that approved both documents: “The district will review, and amend as appropriate, supply and demand assumptions at the beginning of the Plan for Water process to better understand available water supply and corresponding demands.”
The Plan for Water is all about water availability. To understand demand, we must understand supply. To understand supply, we must understand hydrology. To understand the hydrology, we must understand the natural processes. Then and only then can we know how much water is available.
Finally, a series of public meetings? That, in simple terms, just isn’t going to cut it. One of the key components of integrated regional water management is meaningful public input. There must be bonafide local and regional experts on both technical and lay citizens committees throughout the process. For that is what integrated regional water management truly is — a process. A goal-oriented process that requires cooperation with nature rather than command, collaboration with stakeholders rather than control over them, and self-determining watershed stewardship.
And what is a stakeholder? Individuals or groups who can affect or be affected by an organization’s activities or those with an interest in what happens as a result of any decision or action. Stakeholders do not necessarily use the products or receive the services of a program (from the California Water Plan Update 2013).
Thanks to Alan Riquelmy, editor of The Union, for inviting me to join the editorial board. I intend to use my monthly piece to keep us informed on the Plan for Water progress and other issues regarding water and NID. This is only the beginning.
Bruce Herring is a member of The Union Editorial Board. He is retired and lives on the outskirts of Grass Valley.
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