Transcript: Climate Change Impacts on Water  (CA Climate Policy Summit 2024)

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Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza (02:47):
Welcome everyone. I’m Lyn from The Climate Center. I’m our Los Angeles Regional organizer. Thank you for being here this afternoon. We have a wonderful panel for you and I just to take this opportunity to let you know that the ladies room and the men’s room are out to your left. We’re actually very close to them, which is good or bad depending on how you view it. Then I’ll be managing the speaker slides. So my apologies if I have a little bit of challenge with that because it’s on an Apple computer and I’m used to pc, so apologies in advance. Now I’d like to introduce to you one of our board members for the Climate Center, Susan Longville.

Susan Longville (03:31):
Thank you. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to host this panel today. I’m a board member for the climate center, but my day job, which is an elected position, is for 10 years. I have served on a wholesale water agency board down in Southern California in the San Bernardino Valley. So today our three distinguished panelists are going to help us examine the drivers to climate change related to water and focus on our attention on actions that California can take to adapt and reduce impacts to local communities. And our first presenter is going to be Dr. Juliet Hart, who joins us from Pathways Climate Institute, where she serves as the director of science policy and engagement. Her work focuses on the marine and climate science policy and stakeholder engagement, and she specializes in translating complex coastal and climate science to make it useful, usable, and accessible to all audiences. So take it away.

Dr. Juliet Hart (04:33):
I realize putting that in my bio then makes it so that I have to do all those things so you can tell me if I’ve actually made it useful, usable, and accessible. Thank you so much. Thank you for the invitation. And it wasn’t actually to me originally it was to Phyllis Gman from University of Southern California Sea Grant Program, who is my mentor, and she wasn’t able to make it, so they kindly have allowed me to come in and pinch hit. So I’m going to tie in some of the work that Phyllis has done too. And I think the main thing, we’re going to have a nice discussion, but what I kind of want to start with is just giving a primer sort of on sea level rise and sort of the coastal flooding issues. So thank you. And then we’re at a climate conference.

I think most people have seen some variation of these kinds of graphs before. And so this is showing you relative temperature change from 1901 until 2021. This is relative to 1971. So the blue is showing you relative to 1971 to 2000, we were in a cooler period over the beginning of the 20th century to where we are now. So everyone here has bought into this. We all know the earth is warming. So what does that have to do with the ocean is just to get a sense. Do folks here think work in the sea level rise space much or a few? Okay. All right. Okay, cool. Okay, so I apologies if this is a little bit, hopefully we’ll bring everybody along together so the earth gets warmer, that means the ocean gets warmer and if you’ve ever looked at water and watched it get warmer, it gets bigger.

So that this circle here, lemme see if I gives you sort of the different pieces of what causes sea level rise. And so about 40% of that, or 45% of it, or 43%, sorry, is that thermal expansion. Just warmer water is bigger water. That means it moves further up onto the land. The other 45% of that is from the melting of land-based glaciers. So as the air temperature gets warmer, the land-based glaciers melt, you have that water that’s sitting on land coming into the ocean. So that combination gives you about 90% of why we’re seeing global sea level rise. And then the remaining 12% is what we sort of do with water in our own backyards or coastal zones. So those two processes that I talked about before, the warming water and the movement of land base ice into the water, those are those big drivers.

But the other piece of what we see in our respective corners of the world, because there’s global sea level rise and then there’s relative sea level rise is really dependent on what we do. How much groundwater we pump could lead to subsidence in that land. How much water we push out could lead to local elevation of water levels. But then there’s also things like, actually I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll show you pictures. So those are the big drivers for why we see global sea level rise and then the local sea level rise just off of our doorsteps.

I have two of these kinds of figures, I promise, and not too many, but this is basically showing us today, well not today, 1970 when I was born, probably Thank you. Because that’s not often what happens. So from 1970, this black line here is showing you observations. And so what you’re seeing since 1970, and this record will go back way further, but just for the purposes of this, this is observations and then these are the models and what we are expecting to see in terms of sea level rise over time. This is new projections that have, well, not new, they’re about a year and a half old that came out from all of the federal agencies work together to develop their projections of sea level rise looking into the future. And so this audience is really familiar with the greenhouse gas side of things and projections.

And so this is in meters, so just multiply everything by three to get to feet. But this is showing you if we are able to take stuff out of the atmosphere that we’ve been putting in, this is kind of the curve that we expect to be on. First sea level rise right now. What you’re seeing in this black is that this is a projection of just continuing what we’ve already seen. And you can see that’s already putting us on this, what we’re calling the intermediate line. But what we do with our emissions is all connected. And if we keep pumping, we’re on these levels here. So that’s looking at three to six feet of sea level rise by end of century.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:00:02):
And then it really depends on all of us doing all this work on mitigation to keep us and bending the curve down to this level. California has adopted those federal sea level rise projections, and so they actually take it out even further to 2150. They recommend planning that far out because a lot of the projects that we need to do to protect and be ready for the future, we need to be thinking that far in advance. So what’s really nice with this latest round of science is that the federal projections and the California projections are all landing on top of each other. So we have one sort of set of numbers to move forward.

All this comes together with these very intense statistics around those model projections that I showed you that are all lining up on top of each other. They’re showing about 10 to 12 inches. That’s a foot of sea level rise in the next 30 years. Regardless of our emissions. There’s just a certain amount that’s baked into the atmosphere. What that’s going to really look like is these short-term flooding events. When you see king tides, I’ll show you pictures of that in a second, those are going to become more damaging. There’s just more water to move onto the land, and then emissions do matter. So on our current pathway, we’re looking for sure at two feet by end of century, but we’re looking at anywhere from three and a half to seven feet by end of century.

I always have the bad news because that’s just sea level rise. It’s all bad news. It’s all bad news, but we’re going to fix it. That’s right. Yay. Coastal flooding is more than just sea level rise. There’s all these other things that play into it. Right. So have people heard of king Tides? Oh, lots of nods, yes. Okay, so I have some I haven’t. Okay. King tides, they’re like the best heckler ever. Tides king tides are nothing to do with sealable rise. They’re just about the position of the earth, the sun and the moon, the earth and the sun. The moon and the sun pull on the earth. And when they do that, they make the earth kind of bulge out. And a tide is just basically a big wave that’s moving from one side, moves from one side of the ocean to the other, and that’s what a tide essentially is. Just very simplified. So when you have today on the equinoxes, when you have this equal sort of pull, I had that wrong on the solstice, not the equinoxes on the solstice, you get these big bulges in the earth and then you get these big tidal ranges, and so on those kinds of days, on a perfectly sunny day, let’s say in San Francisco, you can see water elevated just from that king tide, that high tide.

I love it. I love it. This is amazing. When you put some waves on top of it, you get even more flooding. This is in fan hall. I know we’re in California, but this is both sides of the country. All corners of the globe are seeing these kind of king tide flooding events when flooding. That’s another way of thinking about it is sometimes you hear it called king tide flooding. Sometimes you hear it called as high tide flooding or sunny day flooding or nuisance flooding. Sometimes people use that term too. It’s just that sense of it’s not to the point necessarily where it’s catastrophic and you can’t get to where you need to go, but it’s enough that it’s blocking an entrance to an on-ramp or you have to go around to get to a different thing. Okay, so the other impacts that we have are when you have that water coming along the coast, you have what is called coastal erosion, just kind of this chomping away at sandy beaches or more dramatically, I dunno how they were there when this was happening, but this is in Pacifica and you’re seeing some development right on a cliff edge.

You see rip wrap rocks along the bottom that are meant to protect against coastal erosion, but over repeated kind of wave action there. It just eats away at this coast. And I just took some clips of the full video and they actually caught this part of the shoreline eroding. So this is one of the things that happens often. Yes. When can we ask questions? I don’t. After I think I’m almost done. I only have a minute left, and then we’re going to have a long conversation. The other piece of it is that water doesn’t only come this way or this way. It also comes up through. And so what you’re seeing here is this wedge of oceanic water and then fresh water and infrastructure. I saw thanks. As water is kind of coming up over land, it’s also pushing up in here. And so these figures sort of show you kind of as this set salt wedge moves up, it pushes that fresh water up and it leads to flooding on the backend, not necessarily coming in the direction of the ocean. So you could be seeing this emergent groundwater table before you even see the water kind of coming at you from the ocean side.

This is just showing with a four feet of sea level rise. That’s my timer. This area in San Francisco, the purple is showing you where there’s emergent groundwater. So you see this whole area now becomes an area that could be flooded in the future and buried under. There are contaminants. And what’s been really interesting over the last year and presenting round groundwater is that this was a year ago, this area in Bayview Hunter’s Point that there’s these toxic chemicals that it’s a super fun site. There’s been a lot of question around sea level rise and how that’s going to raise the water tables. And finally the Navy is like, yes, we need to look at this and think about sea level rise and groundwater and be thinking about these and how these are going to impact communities. And then to just one last point is that this also relates back, and this is the connection to the I’m the salty side of the conversation. This relates back to the potable side of the conversation. That groundwater, as that water comes in, it gets more sated and then that impacts some of our coastal agricultural lands. And so there’s increasing studies around how that pulling of the salt water up either through pumping or because it’s coming in through sea level rise is impacting our coastal agricultural fields. So lots of things to consider. We’ll talk about how to solve it in a bit. That’s where I’ll stop. The good news is we’re working on it and that’s where I can stop

Susan Longville (00:06:36):
If anybody in the audience has a pressing question about your presentation, I’ll allow it now.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:06:43):
Yes. My friend in the back. Yes.

Speaker 4 (00:06:47):
So the question I have is because of coastal erosion housing policy is interconnected with that, so then it’s probably not a good idea to continue building housing where the erosion is happening. Correct? Yes. That’s common sense, right? Yes. Okay. That’s

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:07:03):
All I Yeah, that’s a great plant. I was not on purpose. Okay.

Speaker 2 (00:07:09):
Okay. All right. Thank you. Yeah.

Susan Longville (00:07:13):
Next, Justine Massey is going to join us from the community water center where she serves as a policy director and an attorney. Her work focuses on policies and community engagement related to sustainable groundwater management. She holds a BA in visual arts from Stanford and completed her law degree at US Davis School of Law.

Justine Massey (00:07:40):
Thanks all. And then just a quick clarification, I’m a policy manager, not director. The director couldn’t be here today, but thank you. Okay, so we’re getting set up here. It’s really great to follow what you were talking about. You’re right. It flows really well. It looked like maybe you had it as PDF before. We could do it that way too.

Well, I’ll just start by describing community water center and let me just look at the time. Okay. So we work with low income communities of color, especially in the San Joaquin Valley and on the central coast. We’ve been fighting for safe, clean, and affordable drinking water for all Californians for around 18 years now. It started as a door to door operation, just finding out how people were doing with their drinking water, whether they thought it was safe or not, some testing to back that up. And the answer was that the problem was very deep. And so now we have an office in Visalia, an office on the central coast as well in Watsonville and an office in Sacramento to tackle things. From the policy side.

This is our mission to act as a catalyst for community driven water solutions through organizing education and advocacy in California. So climate change impacts drinking water availability pretty severely and from a lot of different angles. Dry wells and water quality issues from drought are probably one of the most visible ways. And we’re developing at the state level more tools for tracking that. We’re also seeing more approaches to have accountability and have the parties who are actively contributing to those problems pay for solutions. But it’s like trying to run a race against time really. So we see both water levels decline and then water quality issues get worse too, whether that’s from a movement of contamination plumes due to continued pumping or increased concentration. I think I’ll continue to touch on that more later. Another angle is severe flooding events also a big problem for contamination.

And then as we get down the road into collapsed systems where people can access their drinking water, that also means that our backup plans start to fail. Right now when wells go dry or are contaminated, one of the main solutions is to provide bottled water, but when it’s flooded, those trucks can’t deliver either. So you really start to see how all the pieces fall apart. Extreme heat often combined with drought, also lowers groundwater levels due to increased evaporation and increased water demand, both at the industrial level and at the household level. People rely on water for swamp coolers, for example, to stay cool.

And then sea level rise as Juliette was just covering is a major issue. And as that salt water, you called it a block I think rises, it’s also infiltrating into the sweet water or the drinkable water. Yeah, just increasing the crisis. I also want to state really explicitly the communities we work with are frontline communities when it comes to climate change impacts. We have a law that states that all Californians have the right to save clean, affordable, and accessible water, adequate for human consumption. That includes cooking and sanitary purposes. This was signed into law in 2012, and state agencies are also required to factor this law in when making decisions. So it’s not just a decorative statement.

I want to kind of sample some of the extremes that I talked about and how it can affect these communities. This is an average per year of days over 100 degrees in Visalia, kind of in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, 13 days on average per year above 100 degrees between the seventies through 2000 and projected, that will increase to 55 days average per year. You can just try to imagine that, right? It’s an extremely high percentage of the year. And this isn’t even talking about what those extremes would look like. Is that 120 degrees? Because that’s pretty different from 100 degrees. And as I said, this puts immediate pressure on drinking water sources. One factor I didn’t mention yet is also energy use to operate wells. And if there’s a blackout, then that access gets interrupted. So can’t give a climate presentation without some kind of graph.

I mean it’s possible, but I really appreciate this one, even though it scares me quite a lot. This is a very, very zoomed out view going back to 100 million years. And then you can see there are breaks in the graph that bring us to different periods of time. The farthest on the right would be our most modern period. But what I want to point out, I don’t know if I know how to use this clicker. Is this the Yeah. Okay. This is all of modern civilization, all of it. The advent of farming known structures, all of that is within this tiny little range of temperatures and we’re leaving it. And the irony that really strikes me is that by burning fossil fuels, we’re actually going to take ourselves back to temperatures that existed when those dinosaurs were alive. So I hope it’s clear from this, we’re going into uncharted territory for our species and the scale of the problem is enormous and our responses need to match that.

Okay, so now zooming back in to the areas that we work specifically, these are communities that were named in county general plans. I think this was true up until 2005. Somewhere around there they were named as being non-viable. I know it’s kind of small text, but these are specifically some of the communities that we work in. And as I mentioned, our organization started with door knocking and part of that was to say to them, Hey, did you know that you’re listed in the county plan as being phased out? And of course the response was absolutely not. My family has lived here, plans on living here. We want to be part of the future as well. So as we look at addressing climate change, making investments both in adaptation and mitigation, there’s a lot of catching up to do in these communities and communities like them.

Some of that has to do with infrastructure challenges. This specifically is in allensworth, and you can see when you have problems with your infrastructure, also it creates more loss of water, too, more waste. So investing in communities so that they can responsibly manage their water supplies is really important. Another kind of infrastructure is protection from extreme events. This is on the central coast. Another example in a growing line of examples of disasters that are much worse because our manmade prevention strategies fail because the storms are getting stronger, and this obviously impacted people’s lives. These are homes that are partially underwater. It also affects their drinking water because most wells aren’t so perfectly sealed that they can keep out water that may have mixed with wastewater and other contaminants.

I’m just going to say quickly, seawater intrusion is another threat on the coast. There also are salinity issues in the Central Valley, but just to say this is actually what’s already happened. None of this is projections. So this problem is already happening very quickly and needs to be addressed. And I was kind of alluding to this before. The pattern that has gotten us to the climate crisis is the same pattern that’s gotten us to the drinking water crisis. And in a nutshell, it’s over extraction and contamination of our resources. So combined with the extra demand for groundwater when surface water is not as readily available, is the overuse of groundwater. I’m just going to briefly say water quality is a major issue. Groundwater is our main defense, our main adaptive strategy for climate change. It built up over thousands of years and in just a couple hundred years, we’ve depleted it and contaminated it. These are nitrate levels, mostly from applied fertilizer. There are regulatory programs meant to address this on very, very slow timelines with a lot of trust for the same industries that have caused the problem.

To that point, what we need is accountability to disincentivize over extraction and pollution, including polluter fees and well impact mitigation gets at these programs meant to assign that accountability to the same people who are causing the problem. And I know I’m at time here, so just to mention, another really important component is planning for water shortage. And that can happen at county levels and also small water system levels and land transition is going to be a really massive component of handling these crises to state it shortly, the only real way for us to capture water sustainably and have it on hand for the future is to allow the land to do what it did for thousands of years, but we have to make it available. We have to make sure that the soil is healthy enough so that it can absorb it and not polluted so that it’s adding pollution to those supplies. And this can and should be cited near communities really to make up for the catastrophic consequences that they’re facing without having contributed to the problem. Beautiful image. To demonstrate my point there, and I think I can leap it at this slide, so thank you all. Thank you.

Susan Longville (00:20:44):
Before you sit down, does anyone have a pressing question that came to you during the presentation that you’d like to ask? You’re off the hook. Oh, there’s one. There’s one,

Speaker 5 (00:20:55):
Yes. Just one question. That non-viable list you mentioned, is that a state level one or is that just a local

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:21:02):
Analysis? That was local but widespread because it was all of Tulare County and there were similar determinations in other counties as well. Those communities are not on a list like that anymore because they fought back to make sure that the state would plan for them too. But like I said, there’s so much catching up to do. The damage has really been done and there’s even more historic background. They were disenfranchised before that as well, like purposefully excluded from cities that developed nearby, sometimes explicitly in writing on racial grounds. So kind of the usual story of colonization and exclusion. But yeah, we have a lot of work that we can and should do to rectify that.

Speaker 6 (00:22:00):
Is there about manage climate migration right now? Example, when all flooding happened in Central Valley, people started saying, oh, well people shouldn’t be living there anyways. So I know you mentioned that also earlier in your presentation that people deserve to live in their homes, why they call homes. So

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:22:22):

Speaker 6 (00:22:22):
That to emerge a lot more?

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:22:24):
Yeah, really interesting question. So if anyone couldn’t hear, she’s asking about managed climate migration. Communities are not looking at that right now. I think they are wanting to stay where they are. They, it’s also very difficult to move. It takes a lot of resources to move and their property values have been impacted by these problems that are happening around them. So selling and trying to buy somewhere else is also not very feasible. But I think your main point of will these areas be habitable is an important question and I think that it’s our responsibility to make sure that they are. Thank you.

Susan Longville (00:23:17):
Next will be Felicia Marcus, and she joins us from Stanford University’s water in the West Program. She most recently served as the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board that implements laws related to drinking water, water quality, and water rights. Before her appointment to the water board, she served in various positions in government, the nonprofit and private sector, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Board of Public Works for the City of Los Angeles, the National Resources Defense Counsel, the Trust for Public Land in Heal the Bay.

Felicia Marcus (00:23:52):
Thanks, my colleagues did such a good job. It’s really hard to choose what to say in about 10 minutes. And I’m batting cleanups. So I’m going to give you sort of a Spalding Gray rapid fire menu of issues out there with an emphasis on climate. I’m only going to linger on a few of the slides, but I put them all in so that when I put it up on Hova, say it right, Hova, you can go back to it and you can also come back to whatever you want to talk about in the presentation. So I’m going to talk a little bit about California and the West, overview a bit about the challenges, some of the efforts going on and what it’s going to take to get there. And my colleagues did a really good job. I’m going to touch on a couple of things.

They talked about this slide my husband hates because has too many words on it. I once missed going, I can’t remember who the group was. I was supposed to give a talk and I got sick. So two people who knew me did my slides, I hadn’t talked to them. They did my slides and they were trying to figure out that elephant. And they came up with different things, both of which were wrong actually. But it was funny to hear about it afterwards. I never heard of anybody saying, let’s just take our slides and riff off and see what they mean. The reason I did this is that I was in the, I’ve worn a lot of hats in the water world, kind of an expert generalist, which why I liked the 1 0 1 presentation. But I left for about seven years and went into land conservation.

I ran screaming out of the Bay Delta world in particular after the Accord. And I wanted to work with people who knew how to make a deal work with people versus talking past each other across the decades. But then I got drawn back in long story, I got dragged in against my will. I have now succumbeded to water and water, but I do other things too. Toxics and land use and all that. But any event, I came back in and it reminded me of that parable of the blind men and the elephant where they’re each touching it and describing it and it can’t possibly be the same thing. That’s California water. They’re people who know a part of it and they just keep repeating it louder and slower past each other. But in fact, it’s complicated. So this idea as a wallet slide to give people sort of a cheat sheet about California water generally and to make them more effective in conversations, particularly with policy makers that know it’s more complicated, but also to defend them against that jerk at the cocktail party who says it’s just that one thing.

If those bleeping idiots, and that could be another stakeholder or government just did this one thing, if we just built a dam, if we just did all conservation recycling, it would solve everything. And the answer is no, it won’t. So key things to know. Most variable hydrology in the country, year to year, place to place time of year, every place has a different mix of sources, not one bathtub. Some have surface water. They can see most get water from multiple places. Most Californians get it from a hundred miles away. They don’t know where it comes from. They don’t see it at all. Others get it from groundwater a hundred percent. Some get it a little, it’s just different everywhere you are. Water rights are different too. So you can’t just look at it when you see that fallowed field on the news. If you pan the camera, you might see a verdant field to the left and that just had to do with water.

So it really is complicated. But as a result, we have a mix of solutions, conservation, recycling, desal, stormwater capture, desal only in appropriate circumstances and integrating water management. Looking at a more sophisticated view of it than just one water source. And I say storage story, storage, storage, not the way people say storage, storage, storage, storage. It’s like we got to have storage and I’ll explain why there’s climate reason, but there’s a general reason as well. And that means big, small, above ground and below, preferably not onstream, where we have wreaked havoc with a natural ecosystem and damned everywhere. And then just a few facts in there about us that are important. But climate change is a big driver that says we need to change things. There’s just an illustration. Everybody always forgets the Colorado River too. I’ll talk about that in a minute.

So we have these major water projects that overcome that. They’ve created a lot of environmental harm. They’ve created an economic and social development in California unseen in history. It’s one of the marvels of modern civilization. However, it’s come at a tremendous cost and the political issues we’re dealing with are both trying to rectify that a little bit and rest a little few more drops of water back to the ecosystem. And the water board just won a big case vindication after 2018. So I knew we did it right, so I didn’t need the court to say it, but it was nice to win one 16 zip on the claims. Yes, in any event, but this is the very complex system that we’re dealing with. Here are the future drivers climate change. Here’s the biggest thing to remember from today. Since we need storage because of this uneven years uneven location, we need it.

Snowpack is our single largest storage, not just a bunch of dams. 30% on average is in that snowpack. And that becomes important because it melts out during the spring and summer. So what you have is you have what gets filled in the reservoir at a given point in time. A bunch of it needs to be let go to create flood capacity because floods kill, right? And then you use ’em, but it’s not one and done. So they start using them and then the snow melt comes in and replenishes the reservoirs, it replenishes the streams and it comes down at a pace that the groundwater basins can absorb. So snowpack is like the greatest gift. That’s what we lose with a couple degrees, temperature rise even Fahrenheit. So it tells you that even in this complex system where we have a lot of conflict now all the conflicts we have today are going to feel like a picnic comparatively.

And so we have to change, and I’ll talk about that in a second. We have limitations of looking at recorded history. I loved how far back Justine went with that chart. I don’t have any graphs. I feel bad now, but I have a fish graph I guess. But if you look back at the geophysical record, we’ve had 40 and 400 year drafts. Even without climate change, we’ve been living in a relatively wet time, so we’ve been in denial. So any change, there’ll be population where food security is important too. So you can’t just bash agriculture for everything, although it’s going to need to shrink for the reasons Justine said, et cetera. Just we’ve over pumped and we’ve over polluted as well. But also the importance of protecting nature has become a much bigger and important deal, and I think it’s really a true test of our civilization.

Okay, there is the nightmare picture. You can pick any other two years in the drought. When I was at the water board, this was the picture on the bathroom mirror saying, get it together. We’ve got to act quickly and we’re in the crosshairs, not just in the Sierra system, but also in the Rockies. And you all probably saw the news. Finally, people are starting to hear about the Colorado in terms of just, it was as low as it had been since it had been filled because of the nature of the Colorado River. They have much bigger dams like Lake Mead and Lake Powell. So for 20 years, the reservoirs that filled before 2020 have been bailing us out when the Sierras had a bad time. Now they’re both in desperate circumstances, so very scary, particularly for Southern California, which about 30% dependent on the Colorado, 30% dependent on the Sierra system, both the east and the west side, but actually 40% dependent on exercising their groundwater basins and local recycled water and the less dependent on imported water than the Bay Area.

I love saying that because I’m from la, but there’s more denial happening here and then a lot of adapt. We don’t have time to go through ’em all. It’s another picture. Nightmare pictures. I have a whole set of them if you ever want to see them. But here’s the answer for the state, and I encourage you to take a look at this. It’s just if you Google it, you just have to make sure you Google action plan, not just water plan. And this was the brand administration for a climate reasons the governor always being 30 years ahead, like when he did the energy efficiency the first time, said, we’re not going to make it unless we start now. And so it’s a pretty simple document, obviously done by committee, about 18 pages, but it was the first time California did in all of the above strategy and included safe drinking water for all communities, which was always left to the side and became a central part of our efforts because of the human right to water and because of how great the advocates are, the best advocates I’ve known since Heal the Bay and probably better than Heal the Bay, but don’t tell my Heal the Bay friends about that.

Way back I was a sewage advocate. But it has this list that you can see that includes integration, recycling, stormwater, desal, and appropriate conservation. First and foremost, because cheapest, fastest and smartest, and we still fight over it for a lot of reasons we can talk about it has to do with water agency billing systems and resistant to change, prepare for floods, prepare for storm deal with groundwater. Why? Because our overdrafted groundwater basins are the only thing that can approximate in size the snowpack we’re going to lose. And that’s why you had Governor Brown putting his political chits on not just signing the human right to water, but getting groundwater management passed the only hope. Getting groundwater management together is our only hope for agriculture in particular, but also for the communities in the valley. I’m going to quickly, this just slides where this governor has built on it.

So you can take a look at these, some good things, some not so good things, but a lot of good things actually taking the next step. A lot of other things in nature-based solutions and the like that are worth looking at. I only have a minute, I went too long. So we’ve got this, we’ve got this, which we’ve talked about, which puts more pressure on the delta and creates all the things that both previous speakers talked about. Our infrastructure’s old needs to be rebuilt that doesn’t need to be rebuilt the way it was built the first time. Integrating nature-based important. The delta is the crucial challenge in terms of big picture water management just because of salinity intrusion and everybody plays that to their own interest. But we’re losing one of the most important ecosystems, commercial fisheries, et cetera, through the inability to move forward on balancing the system or rebalancing the system, kind of the war of the Titans.

The tunnels that you hear about are not the only issue site’s. Reservoir is big and the water quality control plan, whether the water board continues, and I’ll rapidly go through these. I’m not good at graphs. I’m sorry, I’m graphically challenged. Okay, the groundwater issues are big. That just illustrates what Justine was saying. We can talk if you want about what the management act does and what’s going on. It’s very interesting. We talked about this. If you’re in LA for example, this isn’t as big a deal. You can afford to treat it if you’re a small system on a shallow well, it’s a huge deal. Things we did, you’ll have wildfires have an impact on it. Our water rights system stinks and there’s a lot there. We could do a whole session on that. There’s a lot we did. This is all for your records. And then some of the good news and things we can do on conservation efficiency where we’ve made great strides but have to go further.

Recycling is my favorite thing. It’s very exciting. You’ve got these giant projects going. We put a billion and a half dollars out the streamlined rules. You’ve got these amazing huge scale efforts in Los Angeles. It’ll be the largest in the world. They know how vulnerable they are and massive stormwater capture, really exciting stuff. The Bay Area is doing exciting stuff to deal with sea level rise through nature-based solutions and horizontal levies, a lot of vision. And we can do it in the upper watershed and in the floodplains. If we do all those things we’ll have a more livable state and we’ll actually solve a lot of these problems. But to do that have to use better technology, which makes it easier. And we got to get over ourselves and deal with what I always call ecosystem management, which is the problem of not being able to talk to each other around a table, let alone in the abstract. People spend a lot of time talking about each other but not to each other. And it takes some real skill and work, which is one of the things I like spending time on. And those pictures are more for stories I could tell if we had time. So then clearly what we have to do. There we go. Thanks

Susan Longville (00:36:12):
Felicia. Before you sit down, I have a few questions I wanted to ask the panelists just as we close.

It’s just a quick round and some of it might even repeat something that they’ve said in their presentations, but it’ll be the most important thing. So the first question, oh, that’s me. Sorry. The first question to each of you is what are the biggest climate change challenges of our time?

Speaker 8 (00:36:51):
Oh, drinking water is the massive problem with climate change. Not only because I work on it of course, but because we need it to live.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:37:11):
Even just the biology of it. I feel like we’re taught as children that you can survive. I don’t know exactly how long it is. Seven days without food, no,

Speaker 8 (00:37:21):
Three days without food, seven days without water. That’s right.

Felicia Marcus (00:37:23):
Three days without food to anarchy was

Speaker 8 (00:37:25):
What the farm Bureau.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:37:28):
All I know is I learned that you can last longer without food than without water. Oh, that’s it. Yeah. So even just to continue addressing climate change, we need clean water so that we can do that work. And part of what I want to say is we urgently need to adapt to the conditions that are already here and that we know are locked in till at least 20 40, 20 50. Some of that is set in motion now because of the emissions that are already in the atmosphere. So we need to adapt now and intelligently, and while we do that, we need to continue to reduce the emissions. The scientists have been very clear that we can’t adapt our way out of it. And I noticed that in conversations it has become easier maybe for people to talk about adaptation. It feels less confrontational or something, but really one without the other is not going to work.

So that’s what I would say is urgently needed and I hope that the state will continue to invest our minds and our money in solutions that will address both of those pieces. Okay. Do you want to go? Okay. Okay. So I actually gave a presentation to the Met Water Board yesterday. Oh, you did? On adaptation pathways and climate change. So they’re working on it. So I’ll answer this question by saying that I think the challenge is this feeling that where’s the money going to come from to either mitigate or adapt and we have to figure that out before we can do the solution or put these strategies in place to prepare for the future. My answer to, and then the other side of that is sort of this human nature thing where change is really hard and we’re going to have to change. And so the way that I sort of think about it is change is hard. Climate change is harder and people are the hardest of all because we have to sort of change how people think about change. And that is really hard because it’s fear. It’s something different. We have to do something different. And we’ve done what we’ve done for so long as you were saying the same things that put the climate problem in place, put the water problem in place. So something we have to change in order to address this difficult change of climate change. I’m going to try to say change seven times in one sentence. Yes.

Felicia Marcus (00:40:05):
We go get our thesaurus us. No, I agree with all of That’s good. I think that’s really good. What I was going to say, I think denial is one of our biggest problems. We’ve seen it for decades on mitigation. I also think in the environmental community, and I’ll own this, I didn’t fight it hook, line and sinker, I didn’t like it. But I think putting off talking about adaptation because there was a sense that that was capitulation and that we could somehow stem this tide and that we couldn’t walk, talk and chew gum at the same time is a problem. And so eventually I see adaptation finally taking hold and people realizing that we have to adapt, but we’re a couple decades late in starting it. On the other hand, I also think that stories of adaptation now that we’re seeing the impact of bigger storms, more frequent drought, drier dries, I think that tide is turning but too slowly.

So I think our biggest challenge has to do with this resistance to change. The price tag is huge, but the way to do it is to start actually treating the public with more respect and sharing the information. As we saw during the drought in the mid teens when we put the information out and went past the water agencies about conservation and we put all the data out there where everybody could see what their agency was doing compared to anyone they wanted to pick the public hit it out of the park when the agency, it couldn’t be done. And I think we have to raise climate and water literacy in a big way in order for people to understand that we need to invest now to avoid much greater economic harm and social harm and physical harm later. I think those stories motivate action a lot more than talking about parts per billion in the atmosphere or degrees centigrade. So I think we blew it and I think what we need to do is change it and I think we need to figure out how to talk about our survival in many situations. So I think it’s a communication issue that is really hard to overcome.

Susan Longville (00:42:15):
We have 10 more minutes. Okay. Well I’m going to skip my second question that I sent you and just go to one more question. What policy initiatives will be necessary to create the momentum for this meaningful change?

Justine Massey (00:42:33):
I’ll speak kind of broadly to this. I am a fan of using sticks in legislation and regulations. The way I think about it is that actually many Californians are already getting hit by the stick with the status quo. And we need to shift that because they don’t have more room to change. When disadvantaged communities reduce their water use, all that is letting the tree that’s providing shade for their home die. That’s what we’re saving. Meanwhile, the field right next to them is pumping so much water that they’re counting it in acre feet per second, which is how much a foot of water would pile up on an acre. So the scale is massively different. I’m not saying there’s no role for individual conservation and for example, I would advocate for people to switch from their lawns to a water smart landscape, but still a landscape. This is literally the land around us. It’s what keeps us alive. It’s what keeps our natural systems functioning.

So we don’t want to give up on that. As I mentioned, we need that to be healthy so that we can capture the water that’s coming at us, especially in these more intense ways. So policies that support nature-based solutions and greater equity are going to be absolutely key. And I think that decision makers need to be very clear that we are the final stand. We’re living at one of those periods. People look back at, oh, the civil war or when we wrote the Constitution or the Civil rights, these are the decisions that are going to mark the history for hundreds if not thousands of years. So we need to be brave.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:44:58)::

So I was at OPR before, I’ve worked in all sectors as a Fed, I was a state person. I worked at USC, so I’m an LA person too.
Well, I’m also from New Jersey that you can hold against me because we’re kind of annoying.

Money. It was about money. So what I think on the equity side of it is that we have a lot of really good scientific information. I’m a scientist. I love science. We always could use more science, but we have enough to start planning. And then there are communities that are left behind in planning and developing their paths forward because you have to compete for money. One of the things over the last several years on the climate side, there is a lot of money right now out there for climate adaptation and climate resilience and all this kind of stuff, but it’s piled on top of each other. It takes a lot of resources and time and effort to maybe get the grant that’s only going to cover about a fifth of what you need to do. I think one of the policy changes that would be really nice to see is moving towards a non-competitive grant way of moving money so that you don’t have to be putting all your resources into putting a proposal together that you may not win. I think we’re seeing that right now. OPC has sea level rise, non-competitive rolling money. It’s the first time I’ve seen this and I think it’s going to be a really big game changer for getting money to all the communities, not just the wealthy ones that can afford the consultant like me who can write the plan that then. So I would like to see money move in a different way to really make it more accessible across the board so people can do the planning work. This is a planning effort.

Susan Longville (00:46:35):
Yeah. Another way of saying that is you would offer to every region that we will give you the money to plan, do a climate resiliency and an adaptation plan.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:46:44):
Yeah, like a block grant or Yeah, exactly. Formulate if you won’t

Susan Longville (00:46:48):
Do it, no money, but if you will do it, we will give it to you. We’ll guarantee it.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:46:51):
And one of the new legislation has that sort of stick piece to be able to get a certain type of money. This is SB 2 72, which is going to be, it’s going to take a while for it to happen. But to get that state money you’ll have had to do a sea level rise vulnerability assessment. But that’s not fair if you’re not providing the tool to also do the sea level rise vulnerability assessment, which is what OPC has been trying to fix. So I feel like I think people, the state agencies, federal agencies, not yet, but are seeing that we need that easier movement of money to who needs it.

Felicia Marcus (00:47:21):
I think that’s great. Yeah, I went into a whole Biden infrastructure law, IRA thought because they’ve put billions out there for getting rid of all lead pipes. Talk about that was a great priority and getting water to tribes at Navajo, those are really good. But the question is, will the money get there in a way that’s usable? That’s a really good point. I always say we have to understand how to get more into all of the above frame versus fighting over little pots. And what you all have suggested I think makes a lot of sense. And again, it was good to be able to get a funding source controversial as it was to be able to subsidize operation and maintenance for underserved communities, but still a really long way to go. I think California’s the first in the country to do that. We were trying to get a fee.

We failed two years in a row. We all tried, but then you got it in a very creative way. I won’t name in any event, it was kind of exciting. I think the two issues, and we’ve talked about ’em, one is we have to change our mindset from even sustainability to resilience because resilience is way more complicated and involves more things. But it means we’re going to see a bigger range than we can plan for in the traditional engineering ways. So that’s why we need to think about nature-based solutions that are more resilient to things like sea level rise or et cetera. However we do the planning and this is a big threat to traditional planning models and engineering approaches as engineers are wonderful people. This scares the crap out of them because it’s just not how a lot of them were trained. And I think we just have to make it easier to figure out how to do this kind of work in a more creative way so that we figure out how to make communities more whole and resilient versus everything being in little silos of grant funding that’s impossible to get for a narrow picture.

And we’ve got to figure out at the state and federal level how to be supportive of cities in doing that. Both through giving them money, do the planning to do the work, but also through figuring out how to move our processes so they’re not so pinhead while also protecting the environment and everyone. So it’s not just letting regulations go, it’s figuring out how to be more creative with it. And then equity as an overlay is something that we have a long way to go, but we’ve made some really great strides and I credit the movement with this at the national and the state level is not true in every state, but the whole notion of Justice 40 where at least the federal government’s trying to spend 40% on underserved environmental justice communities. We’ll see how they do, but I’ve never seen that before in a way at that big a scale.

That’s good. And similar related things at the state level, again, we have a lot to catch up on, a lot to atone for, but I think really figuring out how to accelerate that work and move communities back into the driver’s seat of the conversation. If we had time to talk about signal, one of the big issues there is not including communities at the table in a way that they should be, et cetera. And what I found when you do that, whether it’s tribes, EJ communities, any community and you take a little bit of extra time, you end up with much better projects, much better relationships, you can end up at the end of a SQ process with people coming and saying thank you. It’s not unheard of.

Susan Longville (00:50:33):
Okay. We’ve got just a couple minutes left. A question make a short one.

Speaker 9 (00:50:39):
First of all, I’d like to compliment the panel. This is all panel moderator treating this really important subject question I’ve had. I have a script. You started off talking about data from the government in terms of projecting sea level rise and that data family you said was a year and a half old.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:51:05):
The projections? Yeah. The report came out a year and a half ago. Yeah.

Speaker 9 (00:51:08):
Okay. I’m wondering if that is already outdated. And I say that because of one particular study called Study Group, Caitlin Martin, another woman basically came out after Antarctica that thewas West Antarctic ice sheet is in fact being undermined faster than they thought and likely it could collapse this century leading to just itself three meters sea level.

Dr. Juliet Hart (00:51:52):
Yeah. So the federal projections come from the international panel and Global Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, IPCC and those one of the areas of active research, that’s the euphemism for not really understanding what’s going on with ice melting. Is that right? So that is the area of the biggest source of uncertainty. What’s going to happen with the ice caps and with weights. And so in the 2018 OPCC level rise guidance, they had this scenario that was called the h plus plus. If you go back to the slides, you’ll see this dotted line that goes up to three meters. The current sort of global climate consensus is that there’s just too much research to be done to put that out there. But it is something that is in the kind of scientific language. The state of California was hoping that people would plan to that three meters in this kind of higher bound scenario. Right now the science is too uncertain to put it out there, but it is something that people should be paying attention to

Susan Longville (00:53:05):
Now we really are out of time. I want to thank you. Give a final round of applause for our panelists. Aren’t you glad you came? Thank you. Thanks.