Historic Water Reform Package Passes California Legislature

Environmental protections will ensure restoration of the Delta and 21st Century solutions to meet California’s water needs

SACRAMENTO, CA (November 4, 2009) – Early this morning, the California Legislature passed three landmark bills that reform California water policy.

Following is a statement by Barry Nelson, Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The water package approved today increases environmental protections in the Bay-Delta estuary, improves statewide water use efficiency, and requires California to begin monitoring groundwater – all key to ensure Californians are able to meet future water needs.  This is the most important state water reform legislation in a quarter-century.

“These landmark bills lay the framework for a 21st Century water policy in California, by establishing a State policy of reducing reliance on the Delta and investing in alternative water supply solutions, including water recycling, groundwater banking, conservation, and low impact development. This bill shows remarkable agreement that these tools, rather than pumping more water from the Delta, are the cornerstone strategies for ensuring adequate water for all Californians.

“Passage of this legislation also demonstrates that California does not need to relax environmental laws in order to provide safe and sufficient water supply. It shows that farmers, fishermen, urban water agencies, business leaders and conservationists can work together to meet the State’s water needs. It’s worth noting that this package had authors from Northern and Southern California and strong bipartisan support. That’s a breakthrough that many thought was simply not possible.”  


The legislation includes the following provisions that NRDC and other environmental organizations advocated for:

  • Implement the Governor’s call to improve water use efficiency by 20 percent by 2020;
  • Reduce reliance on the San Francisco Bay-Delta by increasing the use of cost-effective projects to increase regional water supplies, including water recycling, efficiency, and low impact development;
  • Establish performance standards and new public trust flows critical to achieving a healthy and resilient ecosystem;
  • Establish a comprehensive statewide groundwater monitoring program;
  • Require Delta agencies to respond to climate change and the threats it presents to Delta communities;
  • Restore the Delta ecosystem, meeting the highest standards for species recovery, while addressing water supply and water quality problems;
  • Reforming governance of the agencies that manage the Delta; and
  • Ensure that construction of any new conveyance facilities cannot begin until after the State Water Resources Control Board has issued a permit that includes binding protections for California’s beleaguered fisheries.
  • Ensure that any new conveyance facilities are financed by water users, rather than taxpayers. 


NRDC has not taken a position on the bond passed by the legislature.

There has been a significant amount of discussion regarding the legislation and a possible Peripheral Canal. The legislation does not authorize a canal.

Read NRDC’s position on Delta conveyance issues in the following blog: A Tale of Two Peripheral Canals. Or is it Three?