Bill to regulate California groundwater passes in state legislature

SACRAMENTO Calif. Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:17am EDT

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SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - A package of bills aimed at regulating drought-parched California's stressed groundwater supplies were passed on Friday despite efforts by some agricultural interests to block bills in the waning days of the state legislative session.

The trio of bills, which would allow the state to take over management of underground aquifers and water accessed via wells, aim to tighten oversight of water at a time when groundwater levels are shrinking in the third year of a catastrophic drought.

The final two measures passed by identical 24-10 votes in the Senate on Friday night, and now go to Governor Jerry Brown for review.

“An increasing number of groundwater basins are in extreme overdraft and others are approaching that status,” said Democratic Senator Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, who authored one of the bills in the package.

“The time to act is right now.”

Farmers in California's agricultural breadbasket rely on water from wells to irrigate their crops when the state cuts back on supplies from streams and the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.

About a million people statewide rely on private wells for drinking water, many of which have gone dry as groundwater levels have receded.

Recent studies have shown groundwater levels receding throughout the Southwest, prompting concern among environmentalists and others that usage needs to be better regulated.

Many Central Valley lawmakers opposed the legislation, arguing it would impose overly rigid guidelines on farmers and wouldn’t address the needs of water users in the Central Valley. Opponents also said the legislation was hastily written and could lead to costly litigation.

"I beg of you do not in the dying hours of this session allow such a sweeping usurpation of water rights," said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), during debate in the state senate.

Pavley said she collaborated with farmers to draft the measure, and that many, including Community Alliance with Family Farmers, have signed on to support it.

“The legislation was crafted with extensive input from stakeholders, including water agencies, farmers, businesses, local governments, environmental organizations and individual community members," Pavley said in an email.

(This story has been refiled to fix date of publication; no change in text)

(Aaron Mendelson reported from Sacramento; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Comments (4)
CountryPride wrote:
Once they regulate to death California and ruin it, the hordes of unwanted transplants will vulture into your nice small town soon after. It is already happening as we speak.

Aug 30, 2014 1:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
Drought in one area, floods in another. Room for infrastructure cure?
Congress must open up infrastructure projects to enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate naval shipping that uses waste grade oil fuel. Switch to North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route as a matter of efficiency. Re-Engineer rail gauge for reliability and speed. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at interstate intersections, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting local electric transport. Build national level canals for water distribution relieving drought by using excessive fresh water run of. We might then improve CO2 sequester by irrigating our mid plane deserts. One of the canal paths through the Rockies could be coupled with a SF to Denver Maglev 2G space ramp using a common power generation infrastructure. Thus promoting Maglev transit as a spinoff of Space Access Maglev launch capacity.
We should build on a strategic infrastructure designed to make USA a Global transportation hub, linking Americas (North Central South) to the old world. Not because this is easy or hard, because this will be our challenge, we must be willing to better mankind.
morbas(i)

Aug 30, 2014 7:18am EDT  --  Report as abuse
riposte wrote:
We need more regulations about anything, like a hole in the head. However, with this said, sometimes it is necessary. These are one of those times. We are in a desperate drought situation and the time has long since passed for direct and severe much needed restrictions to all uses for water.

Aug 30, 2014 8:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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