There is hope that a more localized voluntary approach will be adopted to better address California’s water goals, in lieu of regimented guidelines to be implemented statewide. There has been significant concern regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s plan for regulating minimum flow requirements for some of the state’s waterways and the impact that will have on communities.
“It doesn’t provide for any flexibility on managing resources or improving environmental projects. There are a number of voluntary agreements that are being adopted or in the process of being negotiated that would do that,” said Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, Mike Wade. “We think the voluntary agreement process is a much more flexible one, that provides flexibility for water users but also provides money and water supply for the environment.”
Wade noted that Governor Gavin Newsom and his agency staff appear to be receptive to the idea of voluntary agreements. “They believe that a voluntary approach to water supply and ecosystem management is better than a restrictive, top-down regulatory approach and we’re hopeful that that goes through and that we see these voluntary agreements adopted,” Wade said.
Another concerning factor in addressing California’s water goals is the introduction of Senate Bill 1 (SB-1) the California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019. Wade explained that SB-1 would codify in California some of the federal regulations such as the 2008 and 2009 biological opinions.
“It upends California’s water management. It takes away the ability to use the science that we’ve learned over the last ten years and it locks us into the regulatory structure from ten years ago that has failed,” said Wade. “We’re hopeful that SB1 gets amended and that the water provisions are changed so that we have that flexibility with voluntary agreements.”