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
“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
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
[to top of second column]
"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
(Aaron Mendelson reported from Sacramento; Editing by Sharon
Bernstein and Simon Cameron-Moore)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.