Few details in Newsom’s water policy directive

Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out his state water priorities Monday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out his state water priorities Monday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water needs in the face of climate change.

The executive order includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new water course for the state.

Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking water to impoverished communities.

The directive calls for the Natural Resources Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture to assess water demands and the impacts of climate change on California’s far-flung water system.


The agencies will “identify what priorities and actions we take in this governor’s term to strengthen resilience in our water systems throughout the next century,” natural resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said.

The order says the plan should include innovation and new technologies, use “natural infrastructure” such as flood plains and encourage regional approaches.

Newsom announced in his February State of the State address that he planned to pare Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnel project down to a single tunnel.

The order mentions a single water tunnel but says nothing about the size, financing or permitting of the smaller project, which would partially reconfigure the way Northern California supplies are shipped south through the delta to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

The impact of climate change on California water is not simple. The latest models suggest precipitation in Northern California — the source of most of the state’s supplies — will increase. But rising temperatures mean more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, reducing the natural reservoir of mountain snow pack that the state relies on.

Warmer temperatures will also worsen drought impacts.

“The way that California has thought about and dealt with water in the last 100 years has not been integrated,” said environmental protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld.

He added: “How do we think about water reuse, water capture, water recycling in a way that we can set long-term, bold targets that bridge the gap between what we know is an uncertain water future with climate change and a growing population in the state?”

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