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For Next California Governor, There’s Plenty of Advice on Water Issues

Californians choose a new governor in just a few weeks. At a recent water conference in Sacramento, participants got a chance to offer the newbie some advice. There was plenty to be heard, as well as some wry humor.

Written by Douglas E. Beeman, Water Education Foundation Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes
In February 2017, a giant sinkhole was torn open in the main spillway of California’s Oroville Dam, creating the biggest dam disaster in recent American history. Industry officials say water infrastructure is one thing the state’s next governor needs to make a priority.AP

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges, both old and new, involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should the next governor’s water priorities be?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

The audience was asked to respond via a mobile phone survey app to five questions, four of them stemming from Water Summit speakers and panels on climate change, headwaters challenges, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the state’s human right to water law.

The last question asked: “If you were California’s next governor, what would your priorities be regarding water?”

Participants responded with a wide-ranging potential to-do list – increasing flood protection and drought resiliency, improving dam safety and access to clean and affordable water for economically pressed communities, focusing on more water storage and groundwater recharge, and doing more for ecosystem restoration and forest management.

California voters will elect a new governor Nov. 6. Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox are running to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown. The winner will be sworn in Jan. 7, 2019.

Republican John Cox (left) and Democrat Gavin Newsom, candidates for California governor on the Nov. 6 ballot. They are seeking to replace Gov. Jerry Brown. Image courtesy candidate websites via Water Education Foundation

The water summit drew participants from water agencies, engineering firms, law firms, farms, environmental groups, government agencies and other backgrounds. Not surprisingly, the priorities were as varied as the participants and fell under these key topics:

  • Fix stuff: Address aging infrastructure; improve water efficiency and food security; Salton Sea restoration
  • Trim red tape and use science: Reduce regulatory redundancy and complexity; streamline decisions and science
  • Water supply: Accelerate implementation of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; accelerate recycled water
  • Ecosystems: Address shrinking snowpack and climate change effects; clean up forests and improve ecosystems
  • Other priorities: Provide housing for the homeless to get them off the riverbanks; expand the range of voices addressing California’s water needs, and more.

You can read the full list, along with responses to other questions stemming from the summit, here.

Yet some participants were clearly skeptical that any water issues would find easy fixes.

“There are no silver bullets,” wrote one. Another suggested, “Whiskey needed.”

Still another offered this bracing advice to the next governor: “Find an easier topic for a legacy.”

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Water Deeply.

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