Water users along individual tributaries are hoping to avoid state mandated cutbacks through a voluntary approach.

State Water Board staff this week said they have yet to see any such agreements and would have to evaluate each one for balancing the needs of all water users while providing sufficient carryover storage for next year. Board members also raised concerns over whether the agreements could be implemented more quickly than the regulatory route. Emergency regulations would likely take months to complete, well into the drought.

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Staff also pushed for agreements shared among a broader set of water users, rather than being too localized.

Board Member Tam Doduc said emergency regulations could still provide the framework and focus for voluntary negotiations to take place.

Progress made through negotiations over voluntary agreements for the board’s Bay-Delta Plan could serve as a model for such drought agreements, according to board members.