THIS JUST IN … Governor Newsom directs state agencies to prepare water resilience portfolio for California

The plan will assess conditions, identify priorities, and emphasize regional approaches

This afternoon, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order directing state agencies to collaborate on developing a water plan that identifies priorities for building a water resilient portfolio and creating a water system that will meet the water needs of California’s communities, economy, and the environment into the future.

California’s water challenges are daunting, from severely depleted groundwater basins to vulnerable infrastructure to unsafe drinking water in far too many communities. Climate change magnifies the risks,” said Governor Newsom in the press release. “To meet these challenges, we need to harness the best in science, engineering and innovation to prepare for what’s ahead and ensure long-term water resilience and ecosystem health. We’ll need an all-of-above approach to get there.”

The new plan will build off of the Brown Administration’s California Water Action Plan, which was first issued in January 2014 and updated in 2016, as well as other plans and reports that have been subsequently prepared, such as the California Water Plan, the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, and others.  The new plan is intended to identify and prioritize a broad portfolio of actions, which does mention modernizing Delta conveyance with a smaller capacity tunnel, although no additional specific details on the tunnel were included in the executive order.

The plan should be cohesive and comprehensive and benefit people and nature,” said Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of Natural Resources.  “We want to deepen partnerships worth local government, other state agencies and tribes.”

The Executive Order directs the secretaries of the Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the California Environmental Protection Agency to assess existing demands and supplies, current water quality conditions of groundwater and surface waters, projected future water needs, climate change impacts, contaminated drinking water, and existing water programs and policies.  The Order also directs the agencies to assess progress on voluntary agreement negotiations as well as the current planning to modernize Delta conveyance with a ‘new single tunnel project’.

The agencies will then identify key priorities for the Newsom Administration’s water portfolio moving forward, and identify how to improve integration across agencies to implement these priorities.

Modernizing the state’s water system has become increasingly urgent as the impacts of climate change intensify.  “We have 19th century water rules and 20th century infrastructure and we’re dealing with 21st century problems,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

As water managers face ever increasing extreme weather future, this water portfolio approach presents a wonderful opportunity to take a proactive approach and to build on successful efforts already implemented throughout the state to move toward securing our water future,” said Grant Davis, General Manager of Sonoma Water.

The approach is to be based on a set of principles that includes strengthening partnerships with state, federal, and local agencies as well as tribal entities, water agencies, irrigation districts and other stakeholders.  The plan will emphasize regional approaches, leverage the best data and technology; and integrate natural and green infrastructure.   Multi-benefit projects will be encouraged, such as floodplains that provide flood protection, create habitat and allow for groundwater recharge, noted Mr. Crowfoot.

Development of the plan will include robust outreach to stakeholders, including other state, local, and federal agencies; tribal entities; water agencies; irrigation districts; agricultural interests; environmental justice; environmental conservation organizations; business leaders; academic experts; and other stakeholders.  A website has been launched at http://resources.ca.gov/initiatives/water-resilience/ to track progress and collect public input.

The approach was hailed by environmental groups as a positive step that is badly needed.  “The Newsom administration’s focus on a portfolio approach presents a tremendous opportunity to promote climate resilient water solutions that meet our needs while restoring rivers and groundwater resources,”  said Eric Wesselman, Executive Director of Friends of the River. “I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in years, and Friends of the River is eager to work with the administration on this needed approach.”

Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy, said Governor Newsom’s Executive Order builds upon the Brown Administration’s Water Action Plan which considered how we manage water for all uses and challenged the state’s residents to ‘make conservation a California way of life.’

We see Governor Newsom’s action as a way to see if the strategy integrates all facets of water management,” said Mr. Ziegler.  “How are we doing on water conservation goals? How are we doing in applying science to water management objectives – especially meeting environmental flow needs? How are we doing in integrating combined groundwater and surface water management in meeting SGMA objectives? How does both groundwater and surface storage fit into the strategy? How are we doing in providing clean, affordable drinking water to all? How does the tunnel strategy fit in this equation? How does the pending Voluntary Agreement/Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan Update fit in all of this? How are we doing in authorizing real “multi-benefit’ projects? What kind of collaboration do we need from federal agencies – especially Reclamation and the Army Corps to achieve CA goals?”

The Governor’s action will help pull together all these metrics to better understand and evaluate the State’s water management to achieve water management goals for people and the environment,” continued Mr. Ziegler.  “It is an important step forward and we look forward to evaluating the analysis, recommendations and actions called for by Gov. Newsom.”

Here is the press release and the Executive Order from the Office of the Governor:

As climate change continues to threaten the state’s water infrastructure and reliability, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed an executive order directing his administration to think differently and act boldly by developing a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient water system.

The order seeks to broaden California’s approach on water as the state faces a range of existing challenges, including unsafe drinking water, major flood risks that threaten public safety, severely depleted groundwater aquifers, agricultural communities coping with uncertain water supplies and native fish populations threatened with extinction.

“California’s water challenges are daunting, from severely depleted groundwater basins to vulnerable infrastructure to unsafe drinking water in far too many communities. Climate change magnifies the risks,” said Governor Newsom. “To meet these challenges, we need to harness the best in science, engineering and innovation to prepare for what’s ahead and ensure long-term water resilience and ecosystem health. We’ll need an all-of-above approach to get there.”

The order directs the secretaries of the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.

The order directs the state to think bigger and more strategically on water by directing the agencies to inventory and assess current water supplies and the health of waterways, future demands and challenges. The agencies will seek input over the coming weeks and months through listening sessions, information workshops and other public meetings to help inform the water resilience portfolio that will be recommended to the Governor.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

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