As drought drags on, Newsom draws fire for ‘status quo’ approach

Two children water seeds in a garden
Erick Garcia, 2, watches as his sister Aryanna, 6, waters newly planted watermelon seeds in East Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, July 29. I’m Christopher Goffard.

A prominent state water official has quit mid-drought, with blistering words for the governor on his way out the door.

In a resignation note, Max Gomberg blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom for what he deemed insufficiently bold action in the face of drought, aridification and climate change. And he tore into former colleagues at the state water agency for failing to push back.

“Witnessing the agency’s ability to tackle big challenges nearly eviscerated by this Administration has been gut-wrenching,” wrote Gomberg, who left his longtime post as the climate and conservation manager of the California State Water Resources Control Board.


In an interview with my colleague Ian James, Gomberg said it had become “intolerable” to see his many climate-preparedness and water-conservation ideas ignored. The governor has been too slow, cautious, and ready to accommodate groundwater agencies dominated by agricultural interests, Gomberg contends.

“The de facto policy is cheap food, as cheap as possible,” Gomberg said, saying the water supply could not sustain the state’s “zillions of acres of almonds and grapes.”

Gomberg, 43, is now working as a water-policy consultant. The governor’s office rejected his criticisms, saying Newsom “is doing more than any other state to adapt to our changing climate,” including efforts to diversify water supplies and enhance ecosystems.

The water board’s chair also shot back, saying the agency had taken “unprecedented, bold, real-time regulatory actions in response to the state’s drought emergency” over the past year.

California is entering its third year of drought. Some 700 household wells have gone dry in 2022, many in the Central Valley.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced the reopening of two recycled water fill stations. Residents can claim up to 300 gallons of free, disinfected water per visit to irrigate their trees and lawns.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Mask mandate is off, for now. A new indoor mask mandate was set to go into effect today, but Los Angeles County health officials have called it off as coronavirus cases decline. Los Angeles Times

Clouds float in a peach colored sky behind city buildings at sunset. In the foreground cars drive over a bridge.
The 6th Street Viaduct at sunset.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The summer of the bridge. The $588-million 6th Street Viaduct has become a must-see experience. Los Angeles Times

8-figure condos and “penthouse reveal” dinners. The real estate market may be cooling overall, but L.A.’s luxury-condo market continues to rack up massive sales. Los Angeles Times

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Bass wins Clinton endorsement. Adding to her near-monopoly on endorsements from establishment Democrats, L.A. mayoral candidate Karen Bass can now count Hillary Clinton as a supporter. Los Angeles Times


Perjury case fallout. A man serving prison time for assaulting a Long Beach police officer will be released, months after the officer was charged with perjury in another case. Los Angeles Times


San Pedro shooting. Details emerge on the fatal shooting at San Pedro’s Peck Park. Los Angeles Times

Kidnapping hoax. The strange case of Sherri Papini, who told detectives she spent three weeks in captivity in November 2016 before her story unraveled. Sacramento Bee

Sick dogs seized by animal control. Authorities believe they are connected to the operator of a Modesto puppy mill. Modesto Bee

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Monkeypox outbreak. As the virus continues to spread, San Francisco officials have declared a state of emergency. Los Angeles Times


a person surfing.
Natasha “Tashi” Smith surfs on a foam surfboard at Topanga State Beach in Malibu.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Costco surfboard. Soft-top surfboards used to scream “beginner,” but surfboard companies now sell higher-performance models. Los Angeles Times

Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has decided to become a for-profit venture. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 84. San Diego: partly cloudy, 72. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 64. San Jose: partly cloudy, 80. Fresno: sunny, 106. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 97.


Today’s California memory comes from Duncan Earle:

I remember driving with my six siblings and parents to California from Upstate New York in 1957, much of it in the West on Route 66, and camping. We got to the very end of the route in Santa Monica, at that time with some minimum barriers so you did not drive into the ocean. And I remember, at just age 5, realizing, “That’s what they mean by from sea to shining sea.” I can see it like it was yesterday.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


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