Groundwater Bills Signed By Governor
Governor Jerry Brown’s September 16 action in signing three new bills into law has ended California’s long-time status as the last Western state without groundwater regulation but it has also upset many valley growers for whom use of the aquifer beneath their land had always been seen as a property right.
The California Department of Water Resources is working to implement SB 1168, SB 1319 and AB 1739 with growers and water agencies hoping the state means what SB 1168 says, that “groundwater resources are most effectively managed at the local or regional level.”
Water pumped from the aquifer has been sustaining the valley’s multi-billion dollar farm industry but groundwater levels are rapidly falling in many locales because of the lack of surface water supplies caused by drought and environmentally-based regulatory curtailments.
The new measures are to maintain a local approach with state oversight, requiring agencies in fast-depleting basins to draw up plans to sustain groundwater. The California Water Resources Control Board can now intervene if local interests fail to act or come up with inadequate solutions.
These new laws will take years before they go fully into effect.
In news accounts following the signing, many in agriculture said the new layer of state control will cost their industry more and lead to regional economic problems.
Beatris Sanders, Kern County Farm Bureau Executive Director, told KBAK in Bakersfield, “To put a cap on that blood line of water, I think it’s dangerous. Everything about farming is already unpredictable, harvest to harvest.”