Conference Agenda

California Water Policy 28: The New Shape of Water

April 4 & 5, 2019

The Courtyard by Marriott at Liberty Station, San Diego


 Thursday, April 4


8:00 am



9:00 am

Conference Welcome

  Conference Co-Chairs:
Jovita Pajarillo, US EPA Region 9 (Retired)

Meena Westford,
Special Projects Manager, MWD of Southern California


9:15 am

Opening Plenary

  Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board


10:00 am



10:30 am

Breakout Sessions:



San Joaquin Valley – End of an Era?


A powerful combination of legal mandates and institutional changes affecting California water policy are converging in the San Joaquin Valley. Consider this triple whammy: the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, environmental regulations related to Delta pumping, and the Water Quality Control Plan for the Delta. All this will likely result in substantial impacts on the future of the San Joaquin Valley.

This San Joaquin Valley-centric panel will provide their perspectives on how these changes may affect the environment, farms, local communities, residents, and local economies in the region.

Danielle Bergstrom, Founding Director, Fresnoland
Veronica Garibay, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice
Soapy Mulholland, Executive Director Sequoia Riverlands Trust
Kristin Olsen, Supervisor, Stanislaus County



“I’m Bond, (Water) Bond” – An Agent for Progress or Sly Operative?


In November 2018, California voters failed to approve Proposition 3, the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018. Prop 3 would have provided $8.88 billion for water infrastructure projects, including efforts to repair damaged canals, provide safe drinking water, facilitate implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, restore degraded watersheds, and conserve fish and wildlife habitat. What went awry? Why did it fail? Voter water bond fatigue?

This panel will review the recent debate over Prop. 3, discuss the limitations of California’s reliance on bonds to fund water infrastructure, assess the future of water bonds, and explore alternative mechanisms to fund water infrastructure and habitat projects.

Kim Delfino, Califiornia Program Director, Defenders of Wildlife

Phoebe Seaton, Co-Founder, Co-Director and Legal Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice

Michael Tognolini, Director of Water and Natural Resources, East Bay MUD 




Reasonable Use or Waste: A Developing Dichotomy


This panel will explore the evolution of the doctrine of reasonable use, provide examples of successful efforts to modernize the doctrine’s application, discuss some of the impediments to a more robust use of the doctrine, and hypothesize about how the doctrine will, or will not, be applied in the future.

Eric Garner, Partner, BB&K

Paul Kibel, Professor of Law, Golden Gate University School of Law

David Owen, Professor of Law, UC Hastings



12:00 pm

Lunch Presentation


Mark Arax, Author, The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California*


2:00 pm

Breakout Sessions:



Southern California Water Supply Reliability: The Future in Question?


The California Southland – as many other regions throughout California – has long depended upon imported water to support its economic growth, healthy communities, and to sustain a distinctive lifestyle.

Demand for imported water increased until it peaked about 20 years ago. Reduced reliability and volume were the result of federal and state environmental mandates and regulatory requirements. In response, Southern California water agencies pivoted to increase local investments in locally developed supplies, while fighting to maintain deliveries from afar.

This panel will discuss the components which currently make up Southern California’s water supply, how reliability has changed in recent years, what is the current status of challenges, and what the future may hold.

Sandy Kerl, Acting General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority

Matt O’Malley, Executive Director and Managing Attorney, San Diego Coast Keeper

Fiona Sanchez, Director of Water Resources, Irvine Ranch Water District

Deven Upadhyay, Assistant General Manager and COO,  MWD of Southern California



Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan: Progress or Purgatory?


The State Water Resources Control Board is responsible for the review and modification of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. The Plan establishes water quality control measures and flow requirements needed to provide reasonable protection of beneficial uses in the watershed. The SWRCB is now engaged in urgent efforts to address prolonged and precipitous declines of native aquatic species in the Bay-Delta and the ecosystem they depend upon. It is both a monumental and consequential undertaking. The SWRCB is aiming to make substantive changes to water rights to achieve the flows they seek: 55% unimpaired flow on the Sacramento River and its tributaries and 40% unimpaired flow on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. The contention is how much instream flow and Delta outflow is needed for native fish to thrive.

This panel will focus on the policy question of how best to use the limited supply of water to balance competing needs including cold water pool, Delta outflow, terrestrial habitat, and consumptive uses. Moreover, how much can be accomplished with the impacts of a warming climate.

Thad Bettner, General Manager, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District

Nina Hawk, Chief Operating Officer, Santa Clara Valley Water District

Steve Rothert, California Regional Director, American Rivers




Emerging Groundwater Markets: Sustainable Path or Panacea?


Passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 focused significant resources on the development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans to improve basin management, including overdraft in many basins underlying agricultural regions. In Ventura County, the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency has established a small-scale water market as a pilot project. Farmers who agree to participate have the ability to fallow their own land and sell groundwater to other users willing to pay more (than estimated crop sales would generate). Water markets have been suggested as viable tools in several parts of California, including the southern San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast, Paso Robles and the Russian River.

Christina Babbitt, Environmental Defense Fund

Matthew Fienup, Executive Director, Center for Economic Research and Forecasting,

California Lutheran University

James Workman, Founder, AquaShares Inc. Design & Operation of Water Conservation Markets


3:30 pm



4:00 pm


  Environmental Justice in Practice: Collaboration in the Desert Provides a Community Access to Clean Water and a Statewide Model

Moderator: Evon Parvaneh Willhoff, Environmental Scientist, California Department of Water Resources
Castulo Estrada, Director, Coachella Valley Water District
Sergio Carranza, Founder/Executive Director, Pueblo Unido CDC
Carrie Oliphant, Assistant Director of Engineering, Coachella Valley Water District
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia


5:15 pm

Adjourn for Day – Environmental Adjustment Hour


 Friday, April 5


7:00 am



7:30 am

Breakfast Presentation

  Flash Thoughts: Conversations with Curious California Graduate Students
Featuring the Sustainable Water Markets Fellows from UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management


8:45 am

Morning Keynote:

  Brenda Burman, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation


9:30 am



9:45 am

Breakout Sessions:


A New Federalism in California Water?

The State of California and the federal government have a long history of shared water management in California, agreeing at times and at times disagreeing over the soundest policy approaches. Under today’s leadership, certain conflicts have intensified between Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Which are the water policy issues upon which two administrations can find common ground and where do tensions exist?

This session will explore the dynamics of our federal and state water management regime through the lens of current politics. The panel will discuss topics such as wetlands protection, instream flows, and the future of water operations in the Delta and Colorado River Basin and provide insight into what the future may hold.

John Bezdek, Shareholder, Water and Power Law Group
Cliff Lee, Deputy Attorney General, Natural Resources Law Section, California Department of Justice California
Pete Silva, Commissioner, California Fish and Game Commission
Letty Belin, Consultant, Alletta Belin Consulting, Former Senior Counselor to the Secretary of the Interior



Tribal Groundwater Rights: Surfacing an Underlying Tension


In the arid desert landscape of the Coachella Valley, two of its largest water districts have been fighting the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in court for over five years over who has the right to the precious water that lies beneath their feet. Last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Tribe's water rights include both surface and groundwater assets, including the Coachella Valley aquifer, based on the Winters Doctrine. Shortly after that ruling, the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District filed petitions to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court but the repeal was denied. This precedent setting case is the first time the Supreme Court has determined that Indian tribes hold special rights to the groundwater beneath their reservations. The implications of the court's ruling extend beyond the Coachella Valley to the entire state and country. Now, in the midst of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, how will governance structures develop and respond to Tribal groundwater rights?

Anecita Agustinez, Tribal Policy Advisor, California Department of Water Resources
David Sandino, Senior Staff Counsel, California Department of Water Resources
Art Bunce, Chief Counsel for Barona Band of Mission Indians, General Counsel for San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority



Colorado River/Salton Sea and the Drought Contingency Plan


Dan Denham, Assistant General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority
Bill Hasencamp, Manager, Colorado River Resources, MWD of Southern California
Tina Shields, Water Manager, Imperial Irrigation District
Sarah Rose, Executive Director, Audubon California*
Darryl Vigil, Colorado River Indian Tribes*


11:30 am

Closing Plenary


Leaning Into the Future


Moderator:  Jennifer Persike, Executive Director, Leadership California 

Laurel Firestone, Board Member, California State Resources Control Board 

Gloria Gray, Chairwoman of the Board, MWD of Southern CaliforniaJuliet Christian-Smith, Senior Program Officer, Water Foundation and Director, Stege Sanitary District

Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Program Officer, Water Foundation and Director, Stege Sanitary District



12:30 pm