Looking to Gov. Newsom’s initial budget proposal for the coming year, State Water Board staff met with stakeholders Thursday to offer an early outlook for fees.

They expect water-quality fees to rise 10% and water rights fees by 8–9%. Yet the budget is certain to evolve considerably over the coming months, and staff will revise the calculations in June based on the May Budget Revision.

The governor’s office has called for keeping potential budget changes to a minimum due to the state’s current economic uncertainty. But staff cautioned that directives on climate change, drought and forest health could impact the budget later.

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Staff are also closely watching a proposal to align reporting processes across agencies into one central hub. They said this could serve as a model for reducing compliance costs.

With emerging drought conditions, stakeholders were concerned the board could curtail senior water rights this year, as it’s done in previous dry years.

“Based on pending litigation, it's very questionable whether we would go into pre-1914 water rights,” responded staff scientist Eric Bradbury, adding that fees would not be refunded in that case.