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LOS ANGELES, October 20, 2020— Mayor Eric Garcetti has released to Southern California’s largest water wholesaler a list of water priorities for the City of Los Angeles that departs from the path the wholesaler has taken in recent years.

The list calls for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) to focus its policies to “(1) invest in local water supply projects to protect the region from climate change impacts; (2) protect ratepayers, particularly low income ratepayers; and (3) empower leaders at MWD that embrace the vision of regional water resilience and transparent governance.”

In a letter to MWD Chair Gloria Gray accompanying the list, Garcetti urged MWD to take a new path as it considers its replacement for long-time General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, who is scheduled to retire in March.

“The next General Manager of MWD must have demonstrated a commitment to regional resilience through the development and support of local water projects,” Garcetti wrote. “This will be a departure from the status quo—and is necessary to bolster reliability in the face of unpredictable climate patterns. This very well may be the single most important task of your tenure, and it must be executed with diligence, thoughtfulness, and transparency to secure a water future that reflects a changing paradigm and new normal.”

Under Kightlinger, MWD has been among the most aggressive proponents of a proposed project to build a $16 billion tunnel to divert river water from the San Francisco Bay Delta, located in Northern California. The agency has poured more than $200 million into the project planning and for purchase of land in the Delta region and is expected to vote on additional tunnel planning funding in December.

The project has broad opposition from environmental groups, Delta communities, and the salmon fishing industry. Opponents argue that the water diversion would destroy the Delta ecosystem. They also argue that it would not provide new water, especially during a time of climate change when forecasts indicate that there will be reduced flows and water reliability in Northern California rivers that depend on runoff from Sierra snowpack. 

In the priorities list and in his letter, Garcetti called for MWD to take into account the effects of climate change as it considers Delta investments. The mayor also called on MWD to delay further investments in the Delta planning until after the agency has completed its own integrated plan for water acquisition and delivery. He also called on the agency to focus on developing local water sources through a variety of measures, including recycling, stormwater capture and conservation.

Statement by Caty Wagner, Sierra Club California Southern California Water Organizer: 

“Mayor Garcetti has laid out a reasonable proposal that will protect ratepayers and the  environment. 

“The mayor’s letter makes it very clear that the largest city in the region is not going to stand by and allow ratepayer money to be wasted on old ideas that won’t work during climate change.

“We agree with Mayor Garcetti’s assessment that MWD’s next general manager must be someone who is committed to regional water resilience. 

“The current board and the next GM simply have to realize that the future of water in Southern California is local and doesn’t and shouldn’t involve expanding expensive water imports from places that climate change is showing won’t have new water to share.”

www.SierraClubCalifornia.org