Almost invisible in thedrought debate this year are the two bills to change the way the state manages ground water. SB 1168 Pavely (D-Angora Hills) and AB 1739 Dickerson (D-Sacramento). Pavely’s bill will require categorization of each basin and sub basin as either, high priority, medium priority, low priority or very low priority in cooperation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and would give the State Water Board more control in cases of compromised groundwater, if local agencies did not have a suitable management plan. At a recent hearing several legislators supporting the legislation sited concerns about pumping and subsidence as a reason for that support. Speaking against the legislation was Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) who was concerned about property rights and Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) citing economic concerns. The Association of California Water Agencies has take a “support if amended position” on both bills. Both bill have moved out of committee.
While most people believe that ground water can best be managed at the local level it is critical that people become educated and involved in the process to maintain that local control. The goal of sustainable groundwater management is important to the future of all water users and will only be successful if local communities and water users participate in the discussions. Part of that participation is insuring that accurate data is used.
The pressure on limited water resources, issues like global warming and endangered species continue to impact access to water resources. That uncertainty could shift many landowners to avoid arbitrary water allotments and move to pumping ground water rather than rely on the water delivery system. Those decisions will impact the public focus on groundwater management.
As the summer progresses more will be written about how groundwater is managed. When inaccurate media stories drive legislative policy we all suffer. Together we can show how the Sacramento Valley is working to provide stability and sustainability to the groundwater management efforts. There will continue to be calls to manage groundwater at the state level and it will only be with dedicated participation and organization that rural counties will continue to control the water beneath its boundaries. n