Agriculture

Villapudua presses Newsom over drought emergency citing unmet, long-term water needs

Following efforts from California legislators to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency over the drought, one Central Valley Democrat is urging the governor to go one step further by making long-lasting investments to solve the state’s water crisis. 

Earlier this month, a group of bipartisan legislators wrote a letter to Newsom making their case for an emergency declaration. 

Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua (D–Stockton) did not join in that effort. However, last week he penned a letter to Newsom that noted the key benefits of declaring an emergency with the focus on long-term solutions. 

“I want to acknowledge that declaring a drought emergency would be helpful in the short run as long as certain benefits become available, but making long-term and lasting investments to solve our state’s water troubles would go even further in helping our state to secure our food supplies, sustain our local economies and protect our environment,” Villapudua wrote. 

Villapudua brought up three sectors in which he thinks will help minimize the impact of the drought: water infrastructure, financial and regulatory assistance for the agriculture industry and state emergency regulatory flexibility and relief. 

The Stockton legislator noted that California has not had a major water infrastructure project in more than 50 years, and he argued that the need for more storage has increased due to the impact of climate change on rainfall and snowpacks. 

“This means we need to find ways to capture more water during wet and high flow seasons,” Villapudua wrote. “Investing in major water storage projects across the state will help us be ready to bank water for when droughts take place.” 

In order to assist the agriculture industry, Villapudua asked Newsom to increase financial support for counties, farmers, ranchers and workers affected by the impact of the drought. 

Villapudua also touched on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the agriculture industry, and he asked the governor to provide financial support and economic relief to farmers and ranchers affected by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. 

With the federal government halting water allocations to contractors in the Valley, Villapudua also asked Newsom to revisit the California Department of Water Resources decision to reduce water allocations by five percent. 

“If growers cannot get the water they need to survive an agricultural catastrophe in a single season, how can we expect them to go at it alone in a drought that lasts multiple years,” Villapudua wrote. “If we do not act, it will likely have a ripple effect on the entire economic system.” 

Villapudua added, “By making lasting investments to our state’s water infrastructure, ensuring we provide financial and regulatory assistance to our agricultural sector, and regulatory flexibility during a state of emergency caused by a drought we can ensure that California continues to be a world leader in food production.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.