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Dodd Introduces Bill that Would Pave the Way for Robust Water Market to Improve Water Management

On February 3rd, Assemblymember Bill Dodd (D–Napa) introduced the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755). The purpose of the bill is to create a robust water market and water transfer information clearinghouse to share data across the state, enabling the state to improve water supply reliability and ecosystem health.

The bill is supported by the Bay Area Council, which describes itself as “a business-sponsored, public policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay area.” Water Supply and Security is one of the Bay Area Council’s main issue areas.

“California’s current water transfer market is inefficient,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “With the right market signals, water agencies and private capital will want to invest in conservation and improvement of our water delivery system. California leads the world in developing new and innovative technologies. It’s time to take the first step and invest in a better water information system.”

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce (“LA Area Chamber”) has also applauded the bill. In a statement published on the Fox & Hounds website, Gary Toebben, President and CEO of the LA Area Chamber reminded his readers of Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “What gets measured gets managed.”

Toebben noted that California has a lot of the information needed to make informed water management decisions scattered throughout disparate databases. “Gathering this data in one place would boost both the private sector—likely spurring investments and a real water market. And, it would make water agencies more knowledgeable about the true state of California’s water resources,” said Toebben.

He later added, “Without this data, California will be unable to take an important first step toward the creation of a truly functional water market. Open and easily accessible data on water transfers will provide the information needed by water users to enter the marketplace. A robust statewide water market can improve the reliability and efficiency of California’s water system.”

To establish a regulatory framework that is conducive to development of a robust water market, the Open and Transparent Water Data Act would require the Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) to establish a public benefit corporation charged with integrating existing information from multiple databases into a single statewide water information accounting system. The public benefit corporation would also be responsible for creating and managing an online water transfers clearinghouse that includes databases of historic water transfers and transfers pending approval and a public forum for discussion of water market issues.

In addition, the bill would require the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Board) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (“DFW”) to develop protocols to promote compatibility among datasets. Protocols would address matters such as data sharing, documentation, quality control and public access.

The remaining major sections of the bill would address additional information needs and funding. The need for additional information would be explored through the submission of reports to the legislature on protocols and on the feasibility of creating better surface water and groundwater monitoring networks. For funding, the bill would establish the Water Information System Administration Fund that would receive legislative appropriations to implement the act.


Written by Marta L. Weismann