Agriculture

Newsom rolls out new water plan. What’s in it?

As California’s drought worsens, Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled out a wide-ranging plan aiming to address the state’s long-term water issues.

Newsom outlined a number of objectives, including a hope to increase recycling of resources, adding millions of acre-feet of storage capacity, and tackling the state’s complicated and contentious water rights system, among other topics.

At the heart of the pitch was a warning that the Golden State will see its water supplies shrink by 10 percent due to climate change.

The plan, as CalMatters notes, was exceedingly light on details, “distant deadlines and does not include a water conservation mandate.”

One key provision was regarding water rights. In the blueprint document, the Newsom administration calls for “the State securing all reasonably available future flood flows in the Central Valley, allowing the State to then allocate the available water in an orderly, holistic, equitable, and integrated approach.”

One of the benefits of the state-led securing of flood rights would include addressing “equity concerns, including, for example, the need to protect domestic wells or abate subsidence.”

“[The water rights component] is something [Newsom] will lean into,” Anthony York, a Newsom spokesman told the Sacramento pub. “That’s a huge deal for ag.” 

Reaction from Ag, Legislature

Dave Puglia, CEO of Western Growers, expressed support over Newsom’s water blueprint.

“We applaud Governor Newsom’s bold and comprehensive water infrastructure and management strategy. Our farms are in distress due to water insecurity, increasingly placing millions of Californians in our agricultural regions at great risk of economic harm. To adapt to climate realities, the Governor’s plan recognizes the urgent need to build new and improve existing infrastructure and to streamline and improve the practicality of the regulatory processes that govern them. Critically, that means new and expanded surface and groundwater storage to capture wet year flood flows that are too infrequent to be missed. While we have only seen this plan for the first time today and are certain to have many questions about it, Governor Newsom has given us reason to move forward with optimism. This is clearly not just nibbling around the edges. We echo the Governor’s sense of urgency and look forward to working with his administration in good faith to turn this plan into action.”

He was joined by California Fresh Fruit Association chief Ian LeMay:

“We appreciate the efforts the Newsom Administration has taken to address the critical need for water investments to guarantee the continued sustainability of California agriculture. This plan recognizes the need to expand on existing surface and groundwater infrastructure while streamlining the process to get construction started on new storage projects. Every person in our state, nation and world relies on agriculture, and the Association appreciates Governor Newsom’s action to ensure that California continues to be able to have a safe and resilient food supply. Our state and industry cannot survive without a reliable water resource.”

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R–Yuba City) assailed the plan for its general lack of specificity on solutions:

“Another day, another empty promise from the Governor. It’s his administration that is holding up water storage projects we desperately need. If he wants to do something on the drought, he could stop the press conferences and go tell his staff to act. Ultimately, the Governor didn’t announce much at all today. With this current policy, we will continue to see fallow fields and abandoned farms well into the future.”

Les Hubbard is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.