Statement by Federico Barajas: Governor Expands Drought Proclamation

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of his earlier drought to include 41 counties, including San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, Kings and San Benito Counties. In response to the Governor’s declaration of a drought emergency for the Central Valley, Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, issued the following statement:
“The all of government approach announced today by the Governor is a positive step to responding to the evolving drought conditions facing California. The historic drought conditions have negatively impacted nearly 1.2 million acres of farmland, over 2 million people, many of whom live in economically disadvantaged communities, and 200,000 acres of critical habitat and managed wetlands are reliant on the water provided by members of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.”
“Water supplies for our members have been severely reduced as a result of this year’s dry conditions and an ongoing lack of necessary investment in water infrastructure. These types of water reductions are unsustainable and will have severe negative impacts on California’s agricultural economy, the communities that support it, and critically overdrafted groundwater subbasins throughout the Central Valley. Years like this only reinforce the need for improved water conveyance and increased water storage – so that water can be moved in the years when it’s available and stored for those years when nature fails to provide adequate water for all of California’s needs. Local agencies have made a commitment to advance needed projects and we look forward to increased investments from the state and federal governments to secure a more resilient water future for our member and the communities and ecosystems reliant on the water they provide.”
“We applaud the Governor for the actions taken today to streamline water transfers, which improve water supply in the near term, and for proposing a $200 million up-front investment to restore critical conveyance facilities like the Delta-Mendota Canal, which improves long-term climate resilience.”
Parts of the Central Valley Project infrastructure that conveys water to member agencies of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority has lost up to 30% of its conveyance capacity over time due to subsidence. This lost capacity, combined with higher operational and power costs, results in millions of dollars of increased ratepayer expenses to convey less water through the system and reduces long-term climate resilience. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority is a lead sponsor of a broad coalition supporting Senate Bill 559 (Hurtado) and S. 1179 (Feinstein) / H.R. 2552 (Costa), companion state and federal legislation designed to address this issue.
During California’s last extended drought, over 500,000 acres of productive farmland were fallowed due to inadequate water supplies, resulting in the loss of 21,000 farm and farm-related jobs and a $3.8 billion hit to the economy, according to a 2018 journal article by Professor Jay Lund.