Groundwater Legislation on the Horizon
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture met recently to discuss groundwater sustainability. With California enduring its third consecutive year of drought, groundwater has become the last line of defense for agriculture. During times of drought, it is estimated that 60% of total water used throughout the state comes from groundwater.
The State Board heard from representatives from the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Water Foundation, Western Growers Association and others.
The common message was that groundwater management must remain at the local level with state oversight as necessary but clearly defined, and must be part of a comprehensive program that improves surface water availability.
Legislative efforts to address groundwater management are also moving forward as both the state Assembly and Senate have passed bills requiring sustainable groundwater management. AB 1739 would establish a statutory definition of groundwater management, and provide minimum requirements for local groundwater management plans. SB 1168 authorizes local agencies to adopt and implement groundwater management plans but allows the state to step in when local agencies fail to do so. It is likely both bills will be amended as they move through the process. ABC will continue to monitor their progress.