Fisheries are collapsing. Salmon runs are dwindling. Endangered species are rapidly approaching extinction. And drinking water is unsafe in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities.
The fresh water that flows from the Sierras, through the Central Valley, the Delta, and into San Francisco Bay is a precious natural resource. But decades of overuse and mismanagement have exploited this supply and devastated aquatic ecosystems across the state.
When Governor Newsom announced plans to release a Water Resilience Portfolio, we knew it was an opportunity to address these issues and put California on the path to water sustainability.
That’s why Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield led a coalition of 54 organizations to identify our top water priorities for protecting disadvantaged communities, endangered wildlife, and dying fisheries. We advocated heavily for the Newsom Administration to use these priorities to guide the new water plan.
The Administration recently released a draft Water Portfolio that includes many of Baykeeper’s recommendations, such as:
- Moving forward to adopt long-overdue standards to restore healthy levels of flows in the watershed;
- Simplifying and promoting water efficiency standards; and
- Incentivizing farmers, ranchers, and homeowners to manage land in ways that store more water and reduce carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, the draft plan contains no concrete steps to achieve any of these critical goals. It fails to prioritize the long list of initiatives or specify budgets, timelines, legislative proposals, or administrative actions.
We need the Portfolio to be a real plan for addressing California’s most urgent water issues. Without budgets and action timelines, the Governor’s Portfolio is just a wish list of nice ideas.
For instance, a key step to water sustainability will require serious conservation measures for agricultural operations and large cities that currently waste a lot of water.
Which is why it’s no surprise that Big Ag lobbyists for powerful water districts in the Central Valley have pressured the Trump Administration to oppose some of the Portfolio’s most important recommendations, like updating standards to keep enough freshwater flows in our rivers.
So far Governor Newsom has taken some jabs at Trump in the media, but true leadership requires more than that. Only time will tell if he’s willing to do more than just talk about the sustainability of California’s water supply.
Baykeeper will continue to advocate for Governor Newsom to make water sustainability a reality. California needs an aggressive plan to rapidly protect the environment and disadvantaged communities—before Trump and the lobbyists suck our rivers dry.
Photo by Robb Most for Baykeeper, thanks to LightHawk Conservation Flying