July 18, 2018

Next January, a new governor will occupy the state capitol for the first time since 2010. As voters prepare to elect the next chief executive of the Golden State this November, water supply, reliability and water quality will be among the most complex and important issues facing a new administration. After all, our economy, environment, and the quality of life of 40 million Californians depend on water.

Significant progress on water issues has been accomplished during the Brown Administration. Maintaining that progress and further advancing sustainable water policies will be critical for residents, farms, businesses and the environment. However, water supply scarcity is a growing concern as California experiences continued population growth in the face of episodic drought and flood cycles, and the unknown impacts of climate change.

After two decades of redistributing vast amounts of water from human use to environmental purposes and dedicating billions of dollars to ecosystem improvement, we have simply not seen expected improvements to imperiled fisheries and the Delta ecosystem. It will be pivotal for the next Governor to develop a more comprehensive and sustainable approach while balancing the state’s co-equal goals that focus on both the environment and the economy.

Even though water and drought topped the voters’ list of most important issues facing the state just two short years ago, these issues generally don’t get the requisite level of attention, debate, and discussion by candidates that they deserve. The media tends to sensationalize the confrontations between fish and farms and rural and urban. How often have we been reminded of the famous Mark Twain refrain, “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over”?

It doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be that way. Water is a critically important issue to California and there are lots of policies that can and will benefit all regions and interests in our state. This election voters should insist that our gubernatorial hopefuls engage in a lively discussion about water issues and the state’s pressing water problems.

Over the course of the next few months leading up to the election, we will be highlighting key water issues for the candidates to facilitate this important discussion. By doing so, we hope to play a role in educating the gubernatorial candidates. Most importantly, we look forward to an informed Governor in January who continues the leadership and good work initiated by Governor Brown to adopt sustainable water policies that enhance and protect the water resources that grow our economy and maintain a high quality of life in California.