Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed significant water funding support in the May Revise of the California budget. The governor has proposed investment in water issues of $5.1 billion over the coming years. President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, Roger Isom noted that funding allotments fall short of addressing the overall water issue in California.
“There’s nothing that’s going to create significant amounts of water that’s going to offset a year like this where we have a drought year and farmers are getting zero percent allocation. None of this money is going to do that. It’s significant, don’t get me wrong. The governor has definitely put a significant amount of money towards water, but it’s band-aids at best,” Isom explained. “Overall, it’s just not providing the necessary storage that we need to capture water in the wet years. So, it will help get us by to some degree, but it’s not going to fix the problem.”
The water funding included in the budget proposal addresses issues of water quality, drinking water, infrastructure improvements, and resiliency projects. However, as Isom explained, the investments are not going to provide additional water supplies as increased storage capacity would. Isom said that the environmental justice community has been increasingly influential in its opposition to new water storage projects. “The fact is they don’t want farming in California. I’ve been resistant to say that over the years, but it’s very clear what their agenda is,” Isom stated.
Environmental activists have been vocally critical regarding the potential of increasing water storage in California. Voters in California approved a bond measure in 2014 that would have financed water supply projects such as Temperance Flat and other dam projects. Despite approval from voters, much of the intended work related to the bond measure was never carried out. “When the previous administration under Governor Brown put the rules in place and basically changed them in a way that prohibited Temperance from scoring well, it was clear that it’s not about water. It never has been. It’s about satisfying the environmental justice communities,” Isom noted.