While Gov. Gavin Newsom’s expandeddrought declaration and $5 billion relief packagehave drawn industry praise, trade groups have remained suspicious of what the new authorities could mean to growers.
“Water curtailments disproportionately impact rural and disadvantaged communities,” said Western Growers CEO Dave Puglia in a statement.
Puglia said these communities felt the impacts of the last drought, when half a million acres were fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley, with $4 billion in losses to economic activity. He urged a voluntary approach to water conservation, “giving our smart and capable public and private water agencies the space they need to maximize limited water supplies.”
Puglia also encouraged state agencies to “remove the red tape” for investing in water storage infrastructure. Similarly, California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said that “building, not just planning” is needed, referring to unspent funding from the Prop. 1 water bond in 2014. Along with storage, Johansson called for investments in water use efficiency and water recycling and desalination.

Conservation groups, on the other hand, said the declaration was “too little, too late.” Cold-water pools in upstream reservoirs were already too low because “supplies were shipped” to southern cities and the Central Valley, argued Restore the Delta.

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The group Save California Salmon called the spending provisions “taxpayer-funded pork projects” that would benefit industrial agriculture through private canals and the Sites Reservoir.
More collaborative groups like the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), however, were pleased to see proposals for multibenefit projects and nature-based solutions.
On a related note, EDF launched a new partnership with state agencies Tuesday to scale upan open-source groundwater accounting platformto enable “data-driven water management.”
“Bringing groundwater supplies into balance is a challenge that demands new, innovative solutions and partnerships,” said EDF’s Christina Babbitt.

Top photo: A residential drinking well is restored in Porterville (photo: DWR)