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Is Groundwater Regulation Coming to California?

Is Groundwater Regulation Coming to California?

Is California Moving Towards Groundwater Regulation?

Move would be the first change in state water policy in 100 years.



As expected, it has just been announced that Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation which will require local water agencies with depleted water supplies to begin managing their wells.

The bills were introduced by state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and state Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). The bills passed both houses with comfortable majorities, but were opposed by Republicans and some agricultural interests.


“What we’re doing with groundwater is an equivalent to deficit spending. Something bad is going to happen.” – Lester Snow, California Water Foundation.


Everyone who lives in California knows we are in the middle of a major drought – perhaps the worst drought in recorded history.


Until now, California has not had any official policy on groundwater regulation: since the days of the 1849 Gold Rush, California law has always been that the water under your land is yours, and no-one can tell you what to do with it.


Until now.


The California legislature is now considering regulating groundwater in the face of the devastating drought the state is experiencing. As less and less water becomes available from California’s rivers and lakes, more and more water has been extracted from underground sources over the last few years. As a result, more water is being withdrawn from underground basins than is being replaced.


Currently being proposed is legislation which would direct local water agencies to create plans for managing their groundwater. If passed, these plans will have to be in place by 2020.


And legislators prefer to have groundwater management controlled by local water agencies. “We do recognize that local management is by far preferable,” said state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), an author of one of the bills now before the legislature.


If the legislation passes, it would be a huge shift in California water-management policies, which have not changed or been amended for over a century. California is currently the only western state which does not regulate the extraction and use of groundwater.


Agriculture interests are afraid that regulation of groundwater may affect property values. Farm groups want there to be limitations on how much power the state could have to enact and enforce local plans.


In other water-conservation news, The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has added three more full-time “water cops” to it force. These officials drive around Los Angeles, watching out for cases where people are flagrantly wasting water or violating the city’s water policies, and imposing fines on violators.





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