California Water Alliance Issues Statement on President’s Executive Order Concerning Water in the West


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Robert Dolezal
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October 22, 2018 (Hanford, California) – The West and the people who live in it have suffered over water for decades. By turns, they’ve toiled with:

     •  Confusing, frequently contentious debate over California water policy,
     •  Arbitrary court decisions,
     •  Federal and state agencies in conflict over water management decisions better left to water experts,
     •  Multiple years-long droughts with forced water rationing,
     •  Preferential treatment of non-native predator species over federally listed and endangered fish and mammals
     •  Millions of acres of once-productive farmland being fallowed
     •  Trillions of gallons of water wasted into the Ocean from the region’s rivers and reservoirs.

On October 20, the Trump Administration issued the president’s executive order to bring reason out of chaos and provide clear direction to his Cabinet-level secretaries regarding water policies applied to the West.

Trump’s move followed months of elected local and congressional representatives from states across the West; water, industry, agriculture, civic and conservation interests; and water policy advocates working together with administration officials to build the case for a reset.

The president’s order will change the way the federal and several state governments interact and will improve efficiencies, evolve a greater role for transparent science, better weight the economic losses and benefits of water and energy policies, and remove uncertainty and doubt that have tied the West’s hands in knots for decades.

The California Water Alliance’s chairman, William Bourdeau, says, “Those who represent the West, but especially those who represent California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington, deserve the lion’s share of the credit for President Trump issuing this groundbreaking order.”

He continued, “They carried the message of countless individuals, entities and groups to the president, and they made the case that ‘business as usual’ was simply bad business.”

In individual statements, key legislators described how important the executive order will be for the Western states and our nation:

House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, speaking at the signing ceremony said, “I want to thank the President. This is just another campaign promise he’s keeping. Water is one of the most critical issues. This will bring more water not only to Washington and Oregon, but throughout the Central Valley [of California].”

Rep. Devin Nunes echoed McCarthy’s thoughts, “It really is the first time since John F. Kennedy that we’ve had a U.S. President actually come to the Valley and act on what he said he was going to act on.  And so that goes back to the 1960s.”

Rep. David Valadao pointed out that the order would have immediate and telling effect far beyond the farms of California, saying, “There are actual communities that rely on this water.…some of this water will actually go into homes of people who have been desperately needing this water for a long time.  So it affects people…it helps put them back to work.”

Rep. Jim Costa said, “For years, communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley have been harmed by the regulations imposed under the Endangered Species Act which reduce the Valley’s water supplies in order to restore fish populations. [The] announcement by the President is the next step in restoring more reliable water supplies to all regions of California.”

Rep. Jeff Denham described how many felt prior to the president’s action, saying, “Taking away our water takes away our jobs, takes away the economy and the largest agriculture industry in the country.…And the state is trying to double our flows right now and push more water out to the ocean that will just cripple our economy and affect our drinking water.”

Rep. Tom McClintock agreed, saying “Droughts are nature’s fault; they happen.  But water shortages are our fault; that’s a choice that we made a generation ago.” He continued, “This order today…move us back toward an era of abundance as the cornerstone of our water and power policy, rather than the scarcity and rationing that two generations of bad laws and bad regulations have imposed on one of the most water-rich regions of the country.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said, “Dams and fish coexist, and after more than two decades in the courtroom, we should let scientists, not judges, manage our river systems and get to work to further improve fish recovery efforts, [and] Trump’s action Friday meets those goals.”

Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources added, “For many years, westerners have expressed their need for certainty and access to water and affordable, renewable hydropower. “This action will increase the availability of innovative technology, improve access to water, reduce regulatory burden, and provide needed certainty from completed biological opinions.”

While many have mischaracterized President Trump’s order, it is quite direct and simple. The memorandum establishes five major directives:

     1.  Streamline Western water infrastructure regulatory processes and remove unnecessary burdens.
     2.  Improve forecasts of water availability.
     3.  Improve use of technology to increase water reliability.
     4.  Consider locally developed plans in hydroelectric-projects licensing.
     5.  Streamline regulatory processes and remove unnecessary burdens on the Columbia River Basin water infrastructure.

In California and Oregon, it would clear red tape out of the way of major water infrastructure projects impeded by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) or individual responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) by consolidating compliance under a single authority and set timetables for completion of authorization and environmental permitting processes.

The order would also resolve coordination issues between federal agencies and the states, establish new working rules pertaining to the relationship of the California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, and it would hasten a conclusion to the Klamath Basin’s Irrigation Project that straddles the California-Oregon border.

In Washington and Idaho, the order will set a firm timetable to conclude the Columbia River’s System Operations Environmental Impact Statement and its associated Biological Opinion by their 2020 due dates.

Besides these regional projects, the order also initiates an action plan to improve the information and modeling capabilities related to water availability and water infrastructure projects, and it directs new technology efforts for desalination, recycling water, and information-driven water deliveries and management.

Key provisions of the order are summarized in CalWA’s “Executive Summary of President Trump’s Executive Order for Water In The West,” available at the California Water Alliance website.




The California Water Alliance is a non-profit statewide water policy, education and advocacy group that promotes achieving a safe, reliable and adequate water supply for all Californians and seeks long-term solutions to the continuing water emergencies and droughts afflicting California. Get involved. Visit