Stakeholders Discuss Groundwater Legislation
Two Bills That Would Regulate Groundwater Pumping Moving Through the Process
The legislature may be out for the summer recess, but at least one hot issue still has people meeting, talking and trying to come to agreement. More than 70 stakeholders gathered at the CSAC Conference Center this week to continue hashing out plans for groundwater management in California.
The water pumped out of underground aquifers always plays an important role in California, but in these days of severe drought, when surface water is in short supply, groundwater is an even more critical resource. But there currently is no comprehensive statewide regulatory framework over groundwater and too much pumping can lead to significant problems.
“This is a very complex issue,” said CSAC Lobbyist, Karen Keene. “Counties already have permitting authority over drilling new wells, but groundwater pumping is relatively unregulated unless the courts have stepped in, which is the case in several groundwater basins across the state. Too much pumping out of the same aquifer can lead to “subsidence” when the surface of the earth can actually fall. In some cases this has damaged above-ground structures.”
There are currently two bills working their way through the legislative process that would provide additional oversight for groundwater: AB 1739 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (See CSAC Letter here) and SB 1168 by Senator Fran Pavley. (See CSAC letter here) CSAC supports some parts of both bills, and has concerns with others.
The stakeholders meeting in Sacramento this week are trying to find the balance among sustainable groundwater practices, local control for counties, and individual property rights for land owners. In addition to the near overflow crowd in the room, dozen’s more participated over the phone and via webinar.
“I thought it was a very productive meeting,” said CSAC lobbyist Cara Martinson. “I think it’s really valuable to have an open and frank discussion, where people can lay their positions and concerns on the table, and find the points we agree on.”