Aaron Fukuda is frustrated with discussions in Sacramento over reforming water rights. Fukuda, who manages the Tulare Irrigation District and leads a local groundwater sustainability agency, explained his concerns to the State Board of Food and Agriculture during a meeting this week on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

He was specifically pushing back on a new white paper from a group of law scholars that encourages the Legislature to revise the state’s water laws to better account for drought and climate change. Fukuda argued that “opening up water rights” for fully appropriated streams would divert critical resources from sustainability projects to instead cover court fees, and “that, in my mind, is a bad place to be.”

He explained that GSAs are already functioning on tight margins: “The GSA is usually a one-person operation or two. If you’re lucky, maybe you get three and a bunch of consultants.”

The problem with the white paper, he said, is that the authors “have never managed a molecule in their lives.” Fukuda added that he “cannot catch a breath before some other issue comes up” like this one and argued that water managers instead need stability and that districts are already using those water rights to better manage climate impacts.