Water Storage Must Be a Priority

California is heading into its third consecutive year of drought.

Traditionally, our winter months produce half of California’s annual rainfall, but this January and February were the driest on record

We are facing dramatically shrinking water supplies and growing threats of extreme wildfires. Farmers will once again have to make the difficult choice to leave their fields fallow, prices could increase, and there is talk of a statewide water conservation mandate.

The Governor’s office has proposed spending $8.25 million “to increase outreach efforts to educate Californians on water conservation measures and practices.”

We have been down this road before. We need practical, sustainable, and LONG-TERM solutions to our never-ending water crisis.

In 2014, voters approved Proposition 1, which authorized bond funding for water infrastructure, including several water storage and groundwater projects. Unfortunately, a cumbersome permitting process, bureaucratic red tape, and lack of sufficient funds due to increasing costs have led to no new water storage being built in the seven years since its passage.

I am proud to co-author bipartisan legislation, SB 890, which advances the goals of Proposition 1 by making significant investments in California’s aboveground water storage and conveyance infrastructure. Specifically, this legislation will establish the Water Storage and Conveyance Fund to complete the funding requirements for the Sites Reservoir, and augment the budget to repair four main Central Valley canals.

Completion of the Sites Reservoir would ensure an additional 1.5 million acre-feet of water is stored during wet years and made available to farms, cities, and rural communities during times of drought.

Due to our excessive state budget surplus this year, now expected to reach over $60 billion, we have a unique opportunity to fund these critical water infrastructure projects by using revenues already collected.

I have also authored AB 1774, which adds water storage and conveyance to the type of projects that qualify for expedited judicial CEQA review.

With this legislation, these projects will benefit from the same type of expedited judicial review as other projects California has decided to prioritize, like stadiums and major company headquarters.

Expedited judicial review does not exempt projects from any CEQA standards. Streamlining the timeline for review keeps court costs low, prevents delays, and ensures projects meet their deadlines for approval. When projects are litigated under CEQA, judicial review time can make or break a project’s success.

AB 1774 is a way to ensure that water infrastructure investments flow to our communities and not into time-consuming and costly litigation.

Voters have made it clear that they would like California to plan and build water storage for dry years, and state leaders have a responsibility to eliminate the red tape and obstacles that stall or kill water storage and conveyance projects.

Building more water infrastructure is critical for the long-term economic health of California. It must be a priority.