Over the past few years, California has experienced its worst drought in recorded history. As a life-long Central Valley resident and farmer, I know firsthand the challenges faced by Valley families and farmers when water becomes scarce. Access to safe, clean, and reliable water is the lifeblood of the Central Valley’s booming agricultural economy, and ensuring access to water is imperative to the everyday lives of all Valley families.
Legislation cannot provide California with the steady rain it so desperately needs to support population and agricultural demands, but it can deliver relief by fixing complex and contradictory laws, court decisions, and regulations at the state and federal levels, and improving water storage infrastructure.
Since coming to Washington, I have engaged local water districts, water-users, and other stakeholders from across the valley to hear their concerns and gather their input on how we can work together to bring more water to the Valley in the short-term, and address the long term-water management problems facing our region. As a result of this collaborative work, during my time in Congress, I have introduced several pieces of legislation to reform California water policies.
I introduced H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act, which passed the House of Representatives on July 16, 2015. The legislation required federal and state agencies to consider the water needs of Central Valley communities when making regulatory decisions regarding the pumping of water south of the Delta. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act upon my legislation during the 114th Congress. However, the House and Senate were able to agree on temporary provisions prior to the conclusion of the 114th Congress. S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, included provisions similar to those in my bill that allowed for increased water deliveries to the Central Valley, and expedited storage projects to ensure we have adequate infrastructure to capture much needed water during the rainy season for use during the summer months. S. 612 was signed into law on December 16, 2016. While this agreement does not solve California’s water crisis, it will provide interim relief, especially during the winter rainy season.
While we were able to implement temporary provisions in the 114th Congress, a complete and permanent agreement is still needed. In order to achieve a long-term solution, I introduced H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water (GROW) Act on the first day of the 115th Congress. My bill, the GROW Act, will enact policies to expand our water infrastructure and allow for more water conveyance while protecting the water rights of users across the state.
The Central Valley needs water to grow its prosperity and economic vitality and it is past time for House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle to enact a long-term, bipartisan and bicameral solution.