san joaquin

Voluntary Agreements for Delta Water Established in MOU

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Water

Voluntary Agreements

A series of voluntary agreements related to water flows have been solidified with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The document outlines an eight-year plan to improve conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta watershed. Several of the water agencies impacted by the MOU have praised the development as positive progress in addressing water supply challenges.

“The program advanced today represents a fundamental change in how state agencies, federal agencies, public water agencies, and other interested groups approach efforts to protect the environment and provide water for cities, industries, and farms,” said Thomas Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District.

“We look forward to the new collaborative governance and trust building that will occur through decision-making processes in the agreement, and appreciate the framework to balance beneficial water needs for fish, farms, communities and the environment,” said Thad Bettner, general manager of Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.

The cost of implementation of the agreements is approximately $2.6 billion, to be divided among water users and state and federal governments. Depending on the season and overall water supplies, up to 824,000 acre-feet of additional flow will be dedicated to ecological benefits through the MOU. The document also outlines dedicating an additional 20,000 acres to floodplain habitat and more than 5,000 acres of additional tidal wetlands and associated floodplain.

Water agencies in the Bay-Delta watershed that did not sign the MOU could face stricter regulatory requirements established by the State Water Board. Additional flows detailed in the MOU will be made available through a combination of voluntary fallowing of farmland, reduced diversions, and increased water purchases. California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson expressed appreciation for the MOU announcement but noted that additional work will be needed to address ongoing water challenges.

“We call for additional negotiations and continued refinements to reach a truly comprehensive solution. Our farmers and ranchers need alternatives to flow-centric Bay-Delta policies that still fall short in safeguarding our environment and protecting California’s economy, including the critical contributions of agriculture,” said. “These voluntary agreements are also critical for the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries, and we strongly encourage a renewed commitment by the administration to find collaborative solutions to ensure healthy ecosystems and a healthy economy for those farming communities.”     

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West