Groundwater Bills Clear Legislative Committees
The state continues to move closer to groundwater regulation. Two bills aimed at advancing sustainable management of California’s groundwater basins moved out of Senate and Assembly committees June 24 with talks continuing to work out details.
The bills include:
• SB 1168 by state Senator Fran Pavley (D-AGOURA HILLS), which moved out of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on a 9-4 vote. It would establish a statutory framework to achieve sustainable management of groundwater basins statewide.
• AB 1739 by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, (D-SACRAMENTO), cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on a 7-1 vote.
Both authors said the measures may be merged into one bill. The two are listed as co-authors on each other’s bills and say they hope to see the bills approved this year.
The sponsors said there has been unusual cooperation among stakeholders, even those who now oppose the bill.
Kings River Conservation District General Manager David Orth, a member of the California Water Commission, testified in support of both measures. Orth said empowering local entities to monitor local groundwater basins is among the key principles of AB 1739. “The challenge is…not to undo what has been successful at the local level,” said Orth. He said the Department of Water Resources should remain the technical lead agency in helping local entities.
He stressed that unreliability of surface water – due in part to drought, poor infrastructure and regulatory restrictions – compounds the groundwater problem by forcing over reliance on the resource.
Meanwhile, California Water Commission members on June 18 heard several speakers identify the need for a more sustainable groundwater management system in California as a top statewide priority.
The California Farm Water Coalition, in a separate statement, said many farm groups and water districts acknowledge a need to improve groundwater management practices. “It is also important to realize that groundwater overdraft is not a new occurrence in California,” the Coalition said. “State and federal water projects were originally constructed, in part, to overcome long-term groundwater overdraft. And the projects were successful in achieving that until 1992 when project water began to be repurposed to meet new environmental objectives.”