Karla Nemeth, who directs the Department of Water Resources, said the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) beginning this year will provide “agriculture with more certainty, even around surface water supplies.” Nemeth was delivering a keynote talk last week at the summer conference for the Association of California Water Agencies.
She recognized the “economic dislocation” associated with implementing the act’s local basin plans. A report earlier this year found that SGMA could cost the San Joaquin Valley as much as $7 billion every year. Yet Nemeth emphasized that “the cost of doing nothing in the context of groundwater management will be far higher, and that uncertainty will be far greater.”
She explained that the plans being developed for SGMA will “address a long-standing need to connect surface water supplies with how we manage our groundwater basins.” They will also provide the state with focused regional perspectives on the economic impacts to both farming and communities.
On Delta outflow: Nemeth added that the administration is still pursuing voluntary agreements as another way to add more certainty to agricultural water customers. DWR is also working closely with the coalition behind the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley, particularly on coordinating groundwater recharge projects, she said.
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On water infrastructure: While the administration is no longer supporting a climate resilience bond this year, Nemeth said it is looking at ballot initiatives for later elections. One selling point:
"Prop. 1, which at $7.1 billion, will have leveraged $21 billion in investments in water in California,” she said. “That math is very important to make our case, not only in the Legislature, but to the voting public.”