A new year often brings renewed hope. With Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1, which would have unnecessarily frozen environmental laws that govern endangered species and management of California’s water system, the water community can start the new water year with renewed focus on taking important steps to address the challenges in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. We are encouraged that Governor Newsom has again demonstrated his commitment to tackling a decades-old, state-wide water management issue through collaboration and science-based decision making.

Under Newsom’s leadership, stakeholders, managers and regulators are coming together on a comprehensive strategy for improving endangered species in the Delta while securing reliable water supplies for millions of families and thousands of farmers. The outcome, known as the Voluntary Agreements, will provide millions of dollars for habitat restoration projects and improved scientific understanding of the most complex ecosystem issues. This funding will complement new rules, expected later this fall, for how the water system is operated. If there is any hope of making progress towards a solution for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta crisis in an age of climate change, California needs increased flexibility in how the water system is managed to capture water supplies when they are plentiful in order to supplement supplies when it is dry.

The state is ending the 2018-2019 water year with most of the major reservoirs at or above historic averages for this time of the year thanks to a wet 2019. Statewide reservoir storage is 125 percent of average for this time of the year. Despite these healthy reservoir levels, water users in both the State Water Project and Central Valley Project did not receive full supplies in 2019. The system is clearly broken. If water managers are unable to improve this broken system, the impacts will only be exacerbated in the coming years with the full implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). As users begin to ratchet down groundwater use to sustainable levels, a reliable surface water supply is crucial to soften the devastating impacts on the Central Valley’s economy – already home to some of the highest unemployment rates and levels of poverty in the state.

Undaunted, Valley leaders are still pressing Sacramento for assistance with navigating SGMA. If the State would help bring more water to the Valley, they argue, the region could curtails its groundwater consumption without unraveling its economy.
Sacramento Bee. California Farmers Face ‘Catastrophic’ Water Restrictions. Can They Adapt to Survive? September 25, 2019

In the 2019-2020 water year, the state is poised to make monumental improvements that could benefit struggling endangered fish populations, California families, and farmers across the state. In order to capitalize on this revolutionary opportunity and provide some stability in the years to come, stakeholders from all sides must remain committed to collaboration and sustainable solutions.