OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – California’s Department of Water Resources is illegally awarding grants to water suppliers that refuse to implement mandatory conservation measures, the Natural Resources Defense Council claims in court.
The nonprofit sued the department and its director Mark Cowin in Alameda County Court on May 28, seeking writ of mandate.
Also named as respondents are three cities that got grants, including Sacramento, and three county water districts that received them-including Los Angles County Waterworks District No. 40.
Water suppliers that do not comply with state conservation orders, such as volumetric pricing for retail suppliers and sewer services, are not eligible for grants or loans from the Department of Water Resources, the NRDC says in the complaint.
Volumetric pricing induces agricultural users to use water more efficiently.
“For example, if the charges paid by an irrigation customer vary in accordance with the level of water usage, an irrigator will have an incentive to reduce its costs by implementing more efficient irrigation practices,” the petition says. “Improvements in irrigation efficiency could reduce agricultural water demand in California by 17 to 22 percent.”
The grants at issue were given to Cerritos, Sacramento and Folsom, the Placer County Water Agency, Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 40.
“The Department’s failure to enforce state conservation laws could not come at a worse time,” NRDC attorney Joshua Purtle told Courthouse News in an email.
“Failure to ensure that grant recipients implement conservation measures will mean that water that could have been conserved will now be lost, and avoidable and unnecessary water use will continue for years to come.”
The Department of Water Resources declined to comment on pending litigation.
The NRDC asks the court to order the state to include “enforceable plans for implementation” of the required practices for the parties in interest and to include “enforceable schedules” for that implementation. It also seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.
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