Baykeeper Statement: Newsom Administration Announces MOU with Water Districts

Mar 29, 2022

Governor Newsom's administration announced today a new timeline and a new price tag for divvying up the state’s water supplies among major water districts that provide for industrial agriculture in parts of the Central Valley. The state also submitted a required plan for managing Sacramento River temperatures this year, which is critical for the survival of Chinook salmon runs. Both plans rely on paying water districts for access to water, even though all water in the State of California belongs to the people of California.


In response, Bayeeper senior scientist Jon Rosenfield, PhD, made the following statement: 


"Governor Newsom has been trying to craft water deals with entitled water districts since election night, 2018. Each new announcement moves further away from what science says is necessary to protect fish, water quality, and communities—and each new draft deal is more expensive for California taxpayers than the last. The governor’s team argues that these agreements will improve environmental conditions faster than using the state’s regulatory authority. Newsom put the state's regulatory process on ice for 3 years, yet nothing has been achieved through backroom negotiations with water districts. 


“The state’s latest scheme promises only a tiny fraction of the relief our rivers, fisheries, and delta communities need, according to a wealth of research—and it leaves all the hard questions unanswered. Governor Newsom needs to wake up to the reality that California regularly uses more water than nature provides. As a result, fish species are headed towards extinction, our fisheries have collapsed, and water quality is deteriorating fast. We don’t need more science to understand how to fix these problems. 


"We don’t need to pay water districts for water that belongs to the people of California. Instead, we need the state to do its job by establishing and implementing science-based water quality standards for San Francisco Bay and its watershed. Governor Newson must stop blocking his Water Board from implementing better water quality safeguards, something it is required to do under state and federal law. California can't afford to waste any more time—or more water."  



The deals announced today 

  • Were negotiated through an exclusionary, non-transparent process. 
  • Are science-free, so it’s not surprising that Newsom’s plan fails to protect fish and wildlife, water quality for Delta communities, fishing jobs, etc.
  • In the wettest years, call for less than half of the flow into San Francisco Bay that the Water Board identified in its 2018 Framework for an average year (in a 2010 report to the legislature, the Water Board identified even more flow would be necessary to protect Public Trust fisheries)
  • Assume repeated waivers to water quality standards whenever there is a drought
  • Do nothing to address high river temperatures below Central Valley dams, which are killing off our unique Chinook Salmon runs
  • Will cost taxpayers over a billion dollars to subsidize the water districts’ obligations, 
  • Are the product of 10 years of negotiations—and they will only last 8 years, then we’re back where we started.


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