The California legislature last week approved a series of bills designed to address water issues facing the state, including an $11.4-billion bond that will leverage another $30 billion if passed by voters next November.

The $40-billion plan targets the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta and its system of levees. It includes the creation of a new seven-member oversight body, the Delta Stewardship Council, to develop a comprehensive delta management plan by Jan. 1, 2012; the establishing of a groundwater monitoring program; reporting requirements for water diversions and imposition of civil liabilities and penalties for false statements; and a requirement for the state to achieve a 20% reduction in urban per-capita water use by Dec. 31, 2020.

The urban-use requirement also includes a 10% reduction by Dec. 31, 2015. Urban water retail suppliers are required to develop a target by July 1, 2011.

For agricultural water, the legislation requires suppliers to implement “efficient water management practices” by July 31, 2012, and prepare a water-management plan by Dec. 31, 2012.

The legislation also appropriates $546 million from the 2009 Budget Act for integrated regional water management grants to help reduce dependence on the delta for water supply. It also provides funding for flood-control projects in the delta, stormwater flood-management projects and Wildlife Conservation Board grants for delta conservation plans.

The bond money will address water supply and drought relief projects including a peripheral canal to Southern California and water-storage projects.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) says the “linchpin” to the plan is bond approval and securing federal funds. “What we get for that is below-ground and above-ground water storage, and also the canal and fixing the delta ecosystem.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says the package will help the city reduce reliance on imported water by dedicating billions of dollars for groundwater cleanup, recycled water and conservation. California had been the only western state not to monitor or regulate groundwater supplies.