Governor Issues Order to Increase Water Held in Reservoirs

water drip

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order intended to allow officials to hold more water in reservoirs. The order updates an earlier one issued last March.

Specifically, the order maintains the prior California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) suspension for projects that prioritize efficient uses of water, which has been utilized by groundwater recharge projects, among others, in the past year.

New in the latest order is a suspension of CEQA for any actions the State Water Resources Control Board takes in order to conserve water upstream for cold-water storage, protect carry-over storage, provide opportunities for expanding water supplies north and south of the Delta, and improve habitat and water quality. The order also directs state agencies to provide additional recommendations to address current and future drought conditions.

These new provisions may have come about, in part, to respond to criticism from across the state that large amounts of January’s rainfall washed out to the ocean rather than being directed to storage.

The order itself cites the severe pendulum swings experienced to date in 2023 — from critically dry conditions in 2022 to deluges and flooding in January to an unseasonably dry start to February — as the impetus to ensure that the state can handle increasing hydrologic extremes.

Staff Contact: Brenda Bass

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Brenda Bass joined the California Chamber of Commerce on January 24, 2022 as a policy advocate specializing in water supply and storage issues. She came to the CalChamber policy team from the Sacramento office of Downey Brand, where she was a senior associate. She advised public agency and private clients on environmental review requirements, as well as applying for and complying with water quality permits. She has experience with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation and groundwater quality issues for agricultural and water clients throughout California. She also advised clients on Clean Water Act matters, compliance with state and federal laws governing stormwater and wastewater quality, as well as assisted agricultural enterprises with rapidly changing irrigation discharge regulations. Before joining Downey Brand, Bass practiced at a California boutique environmental firm. She also externed for a federal bankruptcy judge in Sacramento. Bass earned a B.A. in linguistics at the University of California, Davis, and a J.D. with distinction from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, where she was primary editor of the McGeorge Law Review.