Legislature Approves Final Groundwater Package

  • by BPC Staff
  • on September 2, 2014

ACWA Legislative Update: August 29, 2014

Groundwater Bills Approved by the Legislature

A three-bill package aimed at advancing sustainable groundwater management throughout California was approved by the Legislature today and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for signature.

The package of bills would enact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and provide a framework for the improved management of groundwater supplies by local authorities. The bills also would provide a mechanism for limited state intervention when necessary to protect groundwater resources.

The three bills won approval in the Assembly and Senate Friday. The Assembly acted first, taking up AB 1739 by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) for concurrence on amendments made in the Senate. It passed on a 45-27 vote.

Next, the Assembly approved the other two bills in the package: SB 1168 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and SB 1319, also by Pavley. The measures passed on votes of 45-26 and 48-25, respectively. Final vote tallies are subject to change while the Legislature remains in session.

Hours later, the Senate provided the final votes needed to send the package to the governor. On identical 24-10 votes, the Senate voted to concur on Assembly amendments in SB 1168 and SB 1319. Again, final vote tallies are subject to change.

The Senate had approved AB 1739 on Wednesday.

ACWA, which supported the package, applauded its passage. Read ACWA’s statement here<http://outreach.acwa.com/site/R?i=Jdp2F689dSdU_NiuxO71ug>.

Key Provisions of the Bills:

ACWA, its member agencies and other stakeholders have provided extensive input on the legislation since April. The bills are largely based on recommendations by ACWA’s Groundwater Task Force earlier this year as well as recommendations by the California Water Foundation.

Last week, SB 1168 and AB 1739 – which previously were identical – were amended to distribute key provisions of the legislation between the two measures. The measures must be enacted together.

In their current form, SB 1168 includes provisions related to establishing groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and adopting groundwater sustainability plans, while AB 1739 includes complementary provisions related to implementation tools and enforcement authorities at the state and local levels.

SB 1168 would establish that it is the policy of the state that all groundwater basins are managed sustainably for multiple economic, social and environmental benefits and that such management is best achieved locally based on best available science.

It also would establish phased requirements for high and medium priority basins to adopt groundwater sustainability plans, depending on whether a basin is in critical overdraft. It would require adoption of groundwater sustainability plans by Jan. 31, 2020, for all high or medium priority basins in overdraft condition and by Jan. 31, 2022 for all other high and medium priority basins unless legally adjudicated or otherwise managed sustainably.

SB 1168 also includes language regarding basin boundary adjustments, requirements and authorities for establishing groundwater sustainability agencies, and required plan components.

AB 1739 includes provisions related to coordination among local land use and groundwater management agencies, as well as provisions related to technical assistance from the Department of Water Resources, financial and enforcement authorities for groundwater sustainability agencies, and provisions related to the state intervention role.

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