CSAC Bulletin Article

Drought Order Creates New Well Permitting Requirements

On March 28, 2022, the Governor issued Executive Order N-7-22 which directs new state and local efforts related to the ongoing drought. The Governor has called on local water suppliers to move to Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which require locally-appropriate actions that will conserve water across all sectors. In most cases, Level 2 requires 10-20 percent conservation within a district though local discretion is allowed.

In addition to the water supplier conservation measure, the Order includes a number of key directives for Counties and local government:

  • New Local Well Permitting Requirements. Local governments may not approve a permit for a new groundwater well or alteration of an existing well in a basin with a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (medium- or high-priority) without first obtaining written verification from the managing Groundwater Sustainability Agency; and must determine that the groundwater will is not likely to interfere with nearby wells and/or cause subsidence that may damage nearby infrastructure. Domestic and small wells are excluded.
  • Certain Water Hauling Ordinances Suspended. Suspends all local prohibitions on hauling of water for human consumption, cooking, or sanitation out of a water basin of origin, or public agency jurisdiction.
  • Groundwater Recharge Projects Expedited. Expedites and reduces permitting requirements for groundwater recharge projects to support future flood-flows.
  • Expanded Illegal Diversion Enforcement. Expands State Water Board inspections for illegal diversions and/or waste and unreasonable use of water.
  • Funding Requests for State Agencies. Requests state agencies to submit proposals for drought mitigation by April 15, 2022 for inclusion in the Governor’s May Revision budget.

The Governor also ordered the State Water Board to evaluate the adoption of regulations banning irrigation of “non-functional” turf (or grass), such as decorative grass adjacent to large industrial and commercial buildings. The ban would not include residential lawns or grass used for recreation, such as school fields, sports fields and parks. The Department of Water Resources estimates this ban alone would result in potential water savings of several hundred thousand acre-feet. An acre-foot of water serves the needs of approximately three households for a year.

A copy of the executive order can be found here. More information on the state’s response to the drought and informational resources available to the public are available at https://drought.ca.gov/.

For more information, please contact Catherine Freeman, CSAC Legislative Representative at cfreeman@counties.org.

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