Sacramento River, seen in Redding, California.

NEED Water Act to Provide Drought Relief to San Joaquin Valley

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Legislative

NEED Water Act

New legislation has been introduced in Congress aimed at addressing drought conditions in the San Joaquin Valley. The Necessary to Ensure Expeditious Delivery of Water Act, known as the NEED Water Act, aims to provide emergency drought relief. The legislation was introduced by Congressman David Valadao and co-sponsored by the entire California Republican delegation. The bill would reportedly provide better flexibility for the movement of water and mandate greater transparency for water management decisions.

“Burdensome regulations continue to prevent communities in my district from getting the water they desperately need. The reservoirs are currently extremely low because of disastrous policies that force us to waste water during wet years. The severity of the effects of this drought could have been lessened by commonsense actions during years with more rain. The lack of rain this year is exacerbating the ongoing drought, and my constituents are in desperate need of immediate relief,” Valadao said in a news release.  “While the NEED Water Act is not a long-term solution, it would provide temporary operational flexibility for the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project to reduce water supply shortages in Valley communities.”

The NEED Water Act seeks to address some of the regulatory hurdles affecting water transfers between regions. Provisions pertaining to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act would be extended under the legislation. The bill seeks to codify the biological opinions released in 2019 which govern the operation of California water systems. Existing contractual obligations for Sacramento Rivers Settlement Contractors and San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors would also have to be honored.

The Delta Cross Channel Gates would remain as open as possible under the legislation and permitting decisions would also be expedited. The text of the bill calls for the adoption of “a 1:1 inflow to export ratio for the increment of increased flow of the San Joaquin River.” Pumping reduction decisions would also require documentation and supporting data prior to issuing determinations.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West