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Intelligent Infrastructure and the California Water Policy, Oct 13

In 2009, the California legislature passed a comprehensive and historic legislative package that will reshape California water policy in the 21st century. The legislation establishes as the central policy principle of California water law the achievement of the “co-equal goals”, defined as the restoration of the ecosystem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and improvement of water supply reliability in California. For the first time, major legislation on water policy seemed to recognize that a future of coequal goals would require both investments in water use efficiency and local water resource supplies and new infrastructure investments in the massive system that moves water from where it originates to where it is used in the California economy.

But, what is the role of infrastructure in 21st century water policy? In fact, a wide range of “intelligent” infrastructure will be essential in achieving the coequal goals. Moreover, coequal infrastructure will likely be significantly more expensive than the infrastructure built in the last century primarily to move water supplies as cheaply as possible to urban and agricultural water users. To complicate matters, infrastructure projects under a policy of co-equal goals will be expressly designed to provide a much higher degree of public benefits (e.g., temperature and flow improvements for fisheries) than the projects of earlier decades that focused primarily on providing (private and excludable) water supplies to identified contractors.

All of these factors raise daunting challenges in the planning, design, construction and operation of infrastructure in an era of coequal goals, which are the subject of this presentation.