One of California’s greatest attributes is its diversity. Throughout our history, we have welcomed people from all over the world, each contributing in their own way to make California a global leader in aerospace, entertainment, technology, environmental protection, and of course, agriculture.
California has also had a traditionally diverse water supply, from rain, and snow, to plentiful groundwater basins, and rivers flowing in from other states. Predictable weather patterns have now changed, making long-term water supply planning even more difficult.
That is why I appreciate Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent effort to help protect the water in our reservoirs that was captured during the storms in December and January. It is more important now to capture water during the wet season to save for times when it will be dry. Today, those extremes can all happen within a one- or two-year time period.
As Californians, especially along the Pacific Coast, we depend on reliable water supplies to fuel our economy, to grow our food, to create jobs, and to bring clean drinking water to our families. But in this era of climate change, flexible water policies that are sensitive to environmental needs are also important.
More nimble management of the water stored in our reservoirs is essential if we are to meet both water supply and quality, and San Francisco Bay-Delta outflow requirements. It may be necessary, from time to time, to adjust water management practices to accommodate our changing climate. In approving the governor’s recommended change, State Water Board staff included important conditions that require additional reviews to further protect the environment later in the year.
California is still in the midst of a prolonged drought. The governor’s two-month modification of a Bay-Delta outflow standard will help the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) mitigate the impact of drought on rural and urban communities, on businesses, and on the environment.
At the urging of the governor, DWR and USBR filed for a Temporary Urgency Change petition, or TUCP, to reduce the amount of required Bay-Delta outflow for a short period of time, and retain water in upstream reservoirs. It is a commonsense approach to protecting the water we have already saved, and it does so in a way that the Department of Fish and Wildlife says will have no unreasonable impacts.
The governor’s plan also is valuable to make sure our reservoirs have sufficient water supply going into the summer. Fuller reservoirs are more able to meet future environmental objectives, such as robust cold-water pools for fish, and augmented outflows to enhance water quality when natural flows diminish in the summer.
Following the governor’s leadership, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the petition and water stored in upstream reservoirs will be protected for uses later in the year. The action will save roughly 700,000 acre-feet of water supply already in storage, which is enough to meet the domestic needs of more than 6.1 million people, enhance stream flows for fish, improve drinking water quality, or a combination of all three.
Protecting water supplies protects our rural communities and food for our families as well. Less water means fewer choices at the grocery store, higher prices, and increased unemployment for our vulnerable communities.
Gov. Newsom is doing the right thing by protecting water for our families, our food supply, and our environment. This kind of leadership and flexibility is the right decision for all Californians.
State Senator Anna Caballero represents California’s 12th Senate District, serving a large portion of the San Joaquin Valley as well as Monterey and San Benito Counties.