Advancing Ridgetop to River Mouth Water Management in the State Budget

Wednesday, Sep 29th, 2021

By Gary Link

The first year of the 2021-22 legislative session recently concluded and the Legislature and the Governor took significant action on various elements to support and provide robust funding for Ridgetop to river mouth water management, including the immense benefits of Healthy Forests, Reactivating Floodplains, Sustainable Groundwater Management, Vital Rivers and Streams, and Healthy Soils and Farms, and Safe Drinking Water.

In the Sacramento River Basin, we are focused on priority funding for water resiliency for California’s communities and economy and projects that address the needs of fish and wildlife. The budget trailer bills show investments of $4.6 billion over three years, a total of $988 million for wildfire resiliency, and $3.6 billion over three years for climate resiliency funding. By nature, these budget provisions are very general, and we will now shift our focus to working with agencies, departments, and boards to help direct best implementation practices for each element of funding. The approved budget includes generous funding for the following:

Healthy Forests
Healthy forests and actively managing our state’s headwaters increase water supply reliability, reduce flooding risks, improve water quality, reduce impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increase renewable energy supplies, enhance wildlife habitat, and improve response to climate change and extreme weather events. Forest resiliency is imperative and state funding for these efforts benefits our diverse ecosystem.

Reactivating our Floodplains
The Sacramento River Basin is fertile ground to reactivate our floodplains in a way that benefits fish, wildlife and people as a new path forward for holistic water management that incorporates best available science and practical know-how of farm and refuge managers. State budget funding is imperative for this holistic approach with proven results. The Floodplain Forward Coalition sent a letter to the Governor and Legislature requesting proactive budget funding on May 26, 2021.

Sustainable Groundwater Management
Utilizing the region’s natural infrastructure, such as our groundwater aquifers, will be important in many parts of the Sacramento River Basin to maintain and help achieve groundwater sustainability, particularly around the small pockets where groundwater levels may be declining or not recovering during wet periods as quickly as they have in the past. State budget funding for FY 2021-22 and 2022/23 will be incredibly helpful for the required implementation dates in 2022 and annually thereafter for SGMA. We appreciate the economic challenges in many critically over-drafted basins in California, but want to make sure funding is allocated to resources management in the Sacramento Valley, including groundwater recharge and SB 19 (monitoring) funding.

Vital Rivers and Streams
Our rivers and creeks are the lifeblood of Northern California —serving as drinking water for our communities, vitalizing our economy and ecosystems, and providing opportunities for recreation and play. Holistic, science-based solutions across our landscape, paired with appropriate funding will help to continue restoration and maintenance of these waterways for long term health and vibrancy.

Healthy Soils & Farming
Development of innovative farm and land management practices contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Cover crops also increase soil organic matter, leading to improvements in soil structure, stability, and increased moisture and nutrient holding capacity for plant growth. Wildlife thrives on farmer’s fields, especially winter flooded rice fields, as well as the food web created for threatened and endangered fish via farmers. State funding will help increase fish and wildlife numbers.

Safe Drinking Water
Successful implementation of sustainable drinking water solutions for local communities is essential to ensure access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water for all Californians. NCWA and coalition partners are engaged on multiple budget fronts to attain state budget funding for safe drinking water and to ensure access to safe drinking water in all communities.

To preserve our special way of life in the North State, water resource managers in the Sacramento River Basin are working together to help manage the regions’ water and land resources. By using a nature-based approach from the ridgetop to the river mouth, we provide nourishment and sustenance from the fields, habitats for fish and wildlife, high-quality drinking water, recreation and a special quality of life.

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