Here’s a bulletin from the “isn’t-it-too-little-too-late?” department: Despite its history of drought, including the extreme dryness of the past three years, California has been the only state in the U.S. without a groundwater management plan — until now. This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of legislation that will limit how much water can be pumped from underground aquifers … eventually. The changes will begin to take effect in the 2020s, and the last piece becomes active in 2040.
In a nutshell, Senate Bill 1168 directs local water districts to create sustainable groundwater management plans; Assembly Bill 1739 says state government will step in if local management falls short; and Senate Bill 1319 delays state oversight by several years, to appease farmers who complain that regulation will hurt their businesses. Agriculture is by far the biggest user of water, and no more so than in the Golden State, which grows and sells hundreds of crops under what some would call lax regulation.
Implementation of a plan is good news, though it seems too gradual a move for such a parched state. Because of the drought, the aquifers are depleting more quickly than usual, without “recharge” (a process that takes a lot of time and precipitation even in wet periods). Anything that gives nature more of a chance to catch up is a good thing.
Amid Drought, New California Law Will Limit Groundwater Pumping for First Time – National Geographic
California Drought 2014: Gov. Brown Signs Landmark Groundwater Regulations To Protect State’s Dwindling Water Supplies – International Business Times
Brown Signs Bill to Regulate Pumping of Underground Water – Los Angeles Times
Drought-Plagued California Stops Treating Groundwater Like Private Property – BloombergBusinessweek
California Groundwater Problems and Prospects – California Water Blog
How Ground Water Occurs – USGS