On February 13th, Governor Newsom issued a new executive order on drought, in the wake of significant rain events the previous two months. However, even with the precipitation in December 2022 and January 2023, the new drought order made no changes to active provisions from prior drought orders from May and July of 2021 save for two sections: the first on Central Valley deliveries and a minor change to the provision on new groundwater well permitting. 

The first change pertains to the storage and release of supplies from the state reservoir system, known in previous orders as Paragraph 4. The new drought order directs the State Water Board to monitor reservoir and carryover storage levels, as well as upstream and downstream conditions, in order to determine when releases to downstream systems, including project deliveries, are made. The modifications to this section are largely being seen as directing state agencies to store more water in state reservoirs during high precipitation winter events to allow for releases and project deliveries later in the year, should conditions warrant; and to not solely prioritize early releases for the purposes of mitigating saltwater intrusion and providing in-stream flows in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta during the winter fish spawning season. To date the State and Central Valley projects, while making some deliveries via the two projects, delivery allocations remain but fractions of full contract amounts. 

The new order also makes a minor change to provisions regulating the issuance of new groundwater well permits. Previously, provisions regulating the issuance of new permits—known as Paragraph 9—were interpreted as subjecting replacement wells to its requirements. The new executive order explicitly exempts some replacement wells from the rules in Paragraph 9 so long as the replacement well is producing an equivalent amount of water as the well it is replacing, and only when the existing well is being replaced because it was acquired by eminent domain or under threat of condemnation. All other provisions under Paragraph 9 remain in effect. 

The new drought order also directs state agencies to report further recommended actions to the administration by April 28, 2023. Short of extraordinary spring rainfall and snowpack, the new order will presumably remain in effect through the remainder of this water year. The text of the executive order can be found here.