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Brown Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation

Office of Governor Jerry Brown
California now has its first laws regulating the use of groundwater. Governor Jerry Brown signed the package of legislation today.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
Well drilling rigs like this one are a common sight this year in Fresno County.

It’s going to become more difficult to drill a well in California. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on a package of groundwater legislation signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

The regulations will require local agencies to create and implement groundwater management plans within five years and meet groundwater sustainability levels within 20 years. Brown says the laws, combined with the Legislature's bi-partisan approval of a water bond slated for the November ballot, represent a giant step forward toward securing the state’s water supply.

Brown: “Just signing the bill today is only the beginning. This process that is set in motion by the law is going to take many, many years.”

Brown says the laws place an emphasis on local control.

Brown: “It isn’t all about laws and bills. It’s about actually implementing the laws we have on the books and finding out how they work and how they don’t work. And at the end of the day this is about people who drill wells and county administrators who go out and look at these wells and find out what’s the proper balance here.”

But Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen says unlike the water bond, the groundwater legislation was pushed through in the final weeks of session without vital input from stakeholders.

Olsen: “We could have had real, viable solutions that will protect and enhance our groundwater resources without inflicting so much harm on the people and the farmers and the businesses that call the Central Valley their home.”

Olsen says she’s already working on clean-up bills to introduce next year. 

Brown says he knows some people are unhappy with the legislation, but insists the new laws are necessary.

Brown: “This is a problem that has been around. It’s a real problem. With climate change it’s going to get to be a bigger problem. And we have to learn to manage wisely water and energy and land and our investment.”

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