Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Gov. Jerry Brown signed historic groundwater legislation Tuesday, imposing new rules in the Golden State that could limit how much water commercial and residential users are allowed to pump from underground aquifers — a move decades in the works, spurred this year by California’s drought.
The new laws, which take effect in January, will require local government officials to ensure use of groundwater basins is sustainable, protecting underground reserves and averting other environmental damage. The regulations could have a ripple effect on thousands of farmers and ranchers across the North Coast.
Brown, who sought state action on groundwater during his first run as governor more than 30 years ago — during another prolonged drought — characterized the new move as a necessary step to save the state’s groundwater reserves from depletion.
“This is a big deal,” Brown said at the signing ceremony Tuesday. “It has been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way.”
California has long been the only western state to allow property owners to pump as they please, and proponents of the legislation said that hands-off approach has led to overuse of wells, causing sinking land and billions of dollars in damage to aquifers, roads and canals.