California will no longer be the only western state with a pump-as-you-please approach to groundwater after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday requiring local agencies with depleted supplies to begin managing their wells.
The state's water resources board can intervene if necessary by establishing a plan to manage groundwater supplies during California's worst drought in a generation. The state's dry spell gave momentum to three bills by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento and Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, both Democrats.
Groundwater makes up nearly 60 percent of the state's water use during dry years but is not monitored and managed the same way as water from reservoirs and rivers. In some cases, groundwater is pumped faster than in can be replenished -- a condition called "overdraft" that can lead to sinking soil, water contamination and infrastructure damage.
Republicans and Central Valley Democrats criticized the legislation, saying it punishes well-managed agencies and infringes on water rights.
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