The State Water Board gathered public comments on Wednesday on its proposed Winery Order expanding permitting requirements to more businesses. Industry representatives feared the regulation in its current form would add significant costs to small businesses already struggling under closures due to the pandemic as well as years of trade uncertainty.

They estimated the total cost for monitoring, report and overall compliance to be as high as $119,000 per year for some wineries. Many of these are small businesses with just three people managing the winery side.

“There's still a lot of discussion that needs to happen to make this order focus on addressing water quality and be workable for wineries,” said Noelle Cremers of the Wine Institute (above).

Industry losses due to COVID-19 are expected to reach nearly $6 billion. Individual wineries will see up to 66% of their revenue lost. Cremers added that small wineries are currently focused on keeping their businesses intact and not on the State Water Board's regulatory process. Since the governor’s shutdown order last week, they have been moving tasting rooms outside, and the coming harvest is requiring extra planning to ensure social distancing and safety for workers.

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Water Board members were receptive to the concerns and encouraged board staff to work with the industry on gauging the potential economic impacts of the order. The board will be considering amendments through November.

The order would increase the amount of wineries subject to permitting from about 500 to 2,000. The state has about 3,600 in total.