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Legislative Interviews: Sustainable and Equitable Water Resource Management - February 2023

Q: How would you propose to transform management of California’s water resources in response to changing conditions to minimize impact on food production and its associated jobs without adversely affecting food security and other users and uses of water?

State Senator Nancy Skinner

  • Complicated question – can’t give appropriate answer

  • 80% of CA water is used by Agriculture and controlled by Federal government, not CA

  • The water situation is so convoluted because of this; this is why this is one subject she hasn’t tried to take on;

  • Worth LWVC looking at drought

  • When Jerry Brown was governor, he mandated a 20% statewide water reduction that resulted in close to a 25% drop in both water and energy usage.

    • The mandate was removed because water districts couldn’t meet operating costs as they rely on water usage for funds

    • Removing the mandate was a lost opportunity in terms of reduction in electricity use at that time. Why? Because electricity is used in pumping, treatment, and transport of water. When we look at grid reliability, if we went back to a water reduction plan, we could potentially eliminate some less reliable sources of electricity because the electricity needed would be reduced due to the water reduction nexus.

    • UC Davis did the research and has the data on this, but the success of the program wasn’t well-publicized..

  • The legislature just voted to extend Diablo Canyon.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks

This is a complicated topic. This year, for the first time, I am doing two different bills on this issue. Water rights in California are ripe for reforms – they are incredibly complicated. People mention 1913, the 1850’s even – long, complicated historic problems with diversion upstream and evaporation. Some legacy water rights holders have tremendous power here.

Rebecca Bauer-Kahan is chairing the committee looking into this. We are trying to work on policies for more equity. There is a separate bill for low-income communities for equitable access.

With the drought, water has become a scarce resource, a crisis. The public of California is not in control of water rights and access. Eighty percent of our water is controlled by agriculture; a water board needs to have more power.

“Wild, the water issues we have here.”


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