Reactions: Legislators and organizations respond to the passage of groundwater legislation

Here’s what organizations and legislators are saying about the passage of groundwater legislation, which now awaits the Governor’s signature, listed in alphabetical order:

From the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA):

acwa_logo.gifACWA Applauds Passage of Groundwater Legislation

The statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) hailed final passage today of historic groundwater sustainability legislation in the California Legislature. The three-bill package is aimed at advancing sustainable management of the state’s groundwater basins.

“Earlier this year, ACWA’s Board of Directors took a strong position calling for sustainable, locally controlled management of the state’s groundwater basins and a suite of new tools and authorities to help local agencies do the job. We also recognized the need for a limited state backstop role in cases where locals cannot accomplish the goal,” ACWA President John Coleman said. “This legislation is highly consistent with the policies adopted by our Board in March of this year, and ACWA strongly supports it.”

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn said passage of the legislation ranks among the most important developments in California water history. While the achievement is historic, he noted, there is difficult work to be done.

“The issues are complex and controversial, and we know there are many serious concerns in the Central Valley, where water managers face some of the most difficult decisions,” Quinn said. “But the job must be done, and we strongly believe it is best done through local action and local control. As we move forward, ACWA is determined to work with its member agencies throughout the state to meet the challenge.”

The groundwater legislation is part of a comprehensive, statewide plan advanced with the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown to secure the state’s water future, Quinn said. In addition to groundwater management, elements of that comprehensive plan include investments in water storage, local strategies such as conservation and water recycling and long-term solutions to water supply reliability and ecosystem challenges in the Delta.

Coleman said the groundwater legislation, together with the water bond approved by the Legislature earlier this month, marks a key step toward creating a much improved water supply picture for California for future generations. “We credit the Brown Administration, Sen. Fran Pavley and Assembly Member Roger Dickinson for their leadership on this historic groundwater legislation this year,” Coleman said.

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 430 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit

From Senator Tom Berryhill:

Governor should call a Special Session on Groundwater

Tom_BerryhillSenator Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte and a bipartisan coalition of legislators call on the Governor to veto Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley),  AB 1739 (Dickinson) and SB 1319 (Pavley), the groundwater management bills and convene a special session on groundwater management.

“If we are going to put together a groundwater management plan it should reflect the needs of all Californians.  This will take time, negotiations, and extensive input by people who are impacted by the changes.  We can do this if we work together; involve the stakeholders and communities that will be impacted. In a special session we can devote 100% of our attention to this issue and craft a good policy that works for all of California – mountain communities, agriculture, urban areas, north and south state.

“This doesn’t have to be an ‘us vs. them’ situation.  The water bond proved we can accomplish a lot if we work together.  I urge the Governor to veto what was passed tonight and give us the chance to get this right. That’s all we are asking”

Link to letter can be found here.

From Assemblymember Frank Bigelow:

frank.bigelow.vp.bioBigelow Joins Lawmakers In Urging Governor Brown to Veto Groundwater Legislation

Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Vice Chair Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, today joined Republican and Democrat lawmakers in sending a letter to Governor Jerry Brown urging him to veto controversial groundwater management legislation (Assembly Bill 1739 and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319).  The text of the letter is below:

August 29, 2014

Governor Jerry Brown
State Capitol

Re: SB 1168 (Pavley), AB 1739 (Dickinson)
Dear Governor Brown:

We write to urge your veto of Senate Bills 1168 and 1319, and Assembly Bill 1739, related to groundwater.

The basic principles outlined by these bills and in your Water Action Plan have merit.  Like you, we are concerned about increasing conditions of overdraft in many groundwater basins, and the long-term effects of overdraft on access to groundwater, land subsidence, and other risks.  While the recent drought has exacerbated these conditions, some basins have been critically-overdrafted for decades.  In those circumstances, the threat of state intervention should be an option to motivate better local management.

However, the legislation before you punishes groundwater users in basins that have little or no overdraft or already have effective management efforts in place.  It will also infringe upon the right to groundwater, at a time when available water supplies are getting tighter.

We further object to the details of these proposals, most of which were not released to the public until the first week of August.  Three weeks is not enough time to fully consider and seek consensus on these numerous, substantial policy changes.   It took us nearly ten years to assemble the pieces of an historic water bond; we can take a least a few more months before enacting such sweeping, permanent changes to groundwater regulation.

In the coming years and decades, the authorities granted in this bill will radically alter the landscape of groundwater law.  That will have a de-stabilizing impact on those who depend on groundwater supplies, particularly in Northern and Central California, as evidenced by the virtually unanimous opposition of the agriculture community to these proposals.

We agree that it is time for a groundwater regulation that meets today’s needs, and we stand ready to assist your Administration in crafting a narrower, more effective measure focused on basins where real problems exist, encouraging them to implement management measures modeled by other regions, and providing new state authority to intervene where local management fails.

In furtherance of such efforts, we ask at this time for your vetoes of SB 1168 and 1319, and Assembly Bill 1739, and pledge our support in crafting an improved measure during the interim.  We also request that you call a Special Session of the Legislature on groundwater management when the Legislature returns in December.



Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway
Assembly Republican Leader-Elect Kristin Olsen
Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian
Assemblymember Travis Allen
Assemblymember Frank Bigelow
Assemblymember Rocky Chávez
Assemblymember Brian Dahle
Assemblymember Tim Donnelly
Assemblymember Steve Fox
Assemblymember Beth Gaines
Assemblymember Jeff Gorell
Assemblymember Adam Gray
Assemblymember Shannon Grove
Assemblymember Diane Harkey
Assemblymember Curt Hagman
Assemblymember Brian Jones
Assemblymember Eric Linder
Assemblymember Dan Logue
Assemblymember Allan Mansoor
Assemblymember Melissa Melendez
Assemblymember Rudy Salas
Assemblymember Donald P. Wagner
Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Assemblymember Scott Wilk
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff
Senator Tom Berryhill
Senator Anthony Cannella
Senator Jean Fuller
Senator Ted Gaines
Senator Cathleen Galgiani
Senator Steve Knight
Senator Mike Morrell
Senator Jim Nielsen
Senator Mimi Walters
Senator Andy Vidak

From Paul Wenger at the California Farm Bureau Federation:

CFBF logoPassage of three groundwater-regulation bills by the California Legislature—Assembly Bill 1739 and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319—threatens a number of negative consequences for family farmers, ranchers and other landowners, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

CFBF President Paul Wenger said Farm Bureau has always encouraged the proper management of groundwater, “but doing that job efficiently and effectively should have been a priority.”

“Instead,” Wenger said, “the Legislature took the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, rushing these bills through and creating a massive new regulatory program in the final days of the legislative session.”

Farmers, ranchers and other landowners in California will be left to pick up the pieces, Wenger said, dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come.

“The bills would allow for groundwater to be monopolized to the detriment of urban water users and farmers—including people who have not created an overdraft problem but who could need access to groundwater in the future,” he said. “The same agencies that have been hamstrung by conflicting missions and statutory mandates—including environmental restrictions of questionable value—will now control all water decisions.”

In addition, the bills reach beyond efforts to balance inflows and outflows of groundwater basins, creating requirements that will lead to confusion and litigation, Wenger said.

“Farm Bureau and other opponents have been able to take some of the edge off of this legislation. It now includes protections for water rights and other provisions that could lessen its detrimental impact. For that, we must thank those in the Capitol who helped rein in some of the proposals’ worst overreaches and the legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted against the bills,” he said.

“But making this significant of a change in water law—arguably the most significant in more than 100 years—and doing so without the necessary deliberation, or even a policy hearing, shows how susceptible to flaws this legislation could prove to be,” he said, adding that Farm Bureau will ask Gov. Brown to veto it.

“True resolution to California groundwater problems will come through measures that this legislation does not address, such as a streamlined adjudication process and the recognition of groundwater recharge as a beneficial use of water,” Wenger concluded. “Most importantly, California must improve its surface water supplies. All the fees and fines in the world won’t heal our aquifers unless California builds additional storage and improves management of surface water in order to reduce demand on groundwater.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 78,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

From Lester Snow at the California Water Foundation:

cwf logoThe California Water Foundation (CWF) issued the following statement from Executive Director Lester Snow after the California Assembly passed SB 1168, SB 1319 and AB 1739, and the Senate passed SB 1168 and SB 1319 on a concurrence vote.

“I applaud our state legislature for passing landmark groundwater legislation. Today’s vote will go down in our state’s history as the day we stood up to protect our groundwater supplies for our families, our farmers and our future. Lawmakers listened to their constituents who overwhelmingly support groundwater reform up and down the state and across party lines. This bipartisan agreement provides the tools and authority for local agencies to protect this precious resource for future generations of Californians. Voices from throughout the state spoke up on the need for a new path forward and the Legislature listened. That hard work has paid off as Governor Jerry Brown will be sent a trio of comprehensive groundwater bills to sign into our history books. No longer will California carry the dubious distinction of being the only state in the west that doesn’t manage this invaluable resource.”

About the California Water Foundation

The California Water Foundation’s (CWF) vision is to sustainably meet the water needs of California’s farms, cities, and environment today and into the future. CWF supports innovative projects and policies and brings together experts, stakeholders, and the public to achieve 21st century solutions. For more information, please visit

From Assemblymember Roger Dickinson:

roger dickinsonToday, Assembly Bill 1739 (A.B. 1739), authored by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson was approved by the Assembly 44-27.  The bill seeks to achieve sustainable groundwater levels within twenty years of the plan’s adoption.  This bill would improve local and regional groundwater management levels, especially in high and medium risk overdraft basins and sub-basins.

“A critical element of addressing the water challenges facing California involves ensuring a sustainable supply of groundwater,” Dickinson said. ”Over drafting our groundwater leads to subsidence and contamination; consequences we cannot afford.”

AB 1739 is one part of a 3 bill package that includes SB1168 and SB 1319 by Senator Fran Pavley.  The bills are tied together and will need to be enacted concurrently.  Should one bill fail, they all fail.

SB 1168 and SB 1319 are pending final action in the Senate.

The bills address critical policy changes in order to achieve sustainable management of the state’s groundwater basins:

  • The bills establish key definitions that will guide sustainable groundwater management plans and programs, including the definition of sustainable groundwater.
  • The bills require local land-use plans to take into consideration adopted groundwater sustainability plans and to assess the impact of land-use on groundwater resources.
  • The bills focuses sustainable groundwater management on those basins which are at high or medium risk of overdraft
  • The bills define the components of a groundwater sustainability plan and  authorize a variety of tools for local groundwater management entities to use in achieving sustainable groundwater levels.
  • The bills require establishment of an entity to develop a local groundwater management plan within 2 years.  They then have 3 – 5 years to develop and implement a sustainable groundwater basin management plan.  They then have 20 years to achieve a manageable groundwater basin.  Plans must be reviewed every 5 years and update if necessary.
  • The bills provide for a state “backstop” to allow the State Water Resources Control Board to develop an interim plan for a basin when local communities have not met requirements set forth in the legislationThe bill requires the inclusion of diverse interests in the community when developing and adopting the plan.

From Assemblyman Dan Logue:

Assemblyman Dan Logue Opposes Overreaching Groundwater Regulations

North State Assemblyman Dan Logue today voted against AB 1739 (Dickinson) and SB logue1168 (Pavley), a last minute attempt at regulating California’s groundwater resources. The Assemblyman cast his votes in defense of responsible ground water management and protection of property rights.

“AB 1739 and SB 1168 pose a great threat to property owners, farmers and the ag community, especially in the North State,” said Logue. “While California does need to work toward establishing responsible groundwater management, this bill is far too broad and overreaching to truly benefit the state as a whole. There is a difference between responsibly managing our resources and the State coming in to take control from property owners.”

AB 1739 and SB 1168 would allow for the creation of groundwater sustainability agencies and grant them the authority to take control of groundwater basins, and impose fees upon those drawing from the basin. By taking control away from property owners, the bill not only strips their water right but it opens the state up to years of litigation.

Logue concluded, “It never fails that at the end of the legislative a cycle, a bill that results in overregulation, overreaching or is simply irresponsible, surfaces without transparency. It was only a couple of weeks ago that legislators came together to pass a bi-partisan water bond with significant input from the public. That is how this issue needs to be handled, not with a last minute, partisan overreach. I’m disappointed that these two bills passed, and I urge Californians to call the Governor’s and tell him to veto these bills.”

Both bills passed, despite bi-partisan opposition. AB 1739 passed the Assembly with a 44-27 vote, and SB 1168 passed with a 45-26 vote, and are both heading to the Governor’s desk.

Assemblyman Logue represents the 3rd Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Tehama, and Yuba.

From the Nature Conservancy:

nature_conservacy_logoThe Nature Conservancy Applauds Legislature’s Passage of Historic Groundwater Management Package Statewide Policy to Stabilize Water Supply

Today the State Legislature passed a package of three legislative proposals, SB 1168 (Pavley), SB 1319 (Pavley) and AB 1739 (Dickinson), that put in place a statewide policy for the sustainable management of groundwater. Until now, California has stood alone as the only Western state without a comprehensive statewide policy for groundwater management.

“The wild, wild west, where everyone can do as they please, is a nice, romantic idea, but when it comes to our groundwater supplies, they are just too precious for us not to pay attention to them. With the leadership of Governor Brown, Senator Pavley and Assembly Member Dickinson, we have finally brought California’s groundwater management into the modern era. This legislation is a monumental step toward stabilizing the water supply for our farms, communities and wildlife,” said Maurice Hall, Science Lead for The Nature Conservancy’s California Water Program.

It has long been understood that surface and groundwater are inextricably connected and that overuse of either directly impacts the other. Yet, California’s regulatory framework for water management treated the two as if they are separate. This has led to adverse impacts to the environment, agriculture, rural communities, water supply reliability and critical infrastructure.

The legislative package provides local agencies with the authority and tools to develop a plan for the sustainable management of their groundwater and allows up to 37 years for local agencies to achieve sustainable management in groundwater basins that are out of balance. Under the legislation, the State Water Resources Control Board could intervene in limited cases if local agencies are not doing the job.

The passage of these bills is a first, very big, step, and The Nature Conservancy looks forward to working with local and state agencies and other stakeholders to shape a future where the water needs of California’s farms, communities and wildlife are met today without compromising the future.

From Senator Fran Pavley:

pavleyHistoric bill package to protect groundwater supplies heads to Governor

A bill package by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and Assemblymember Dickinson to sustainably manage California’s groundwater has passed the California Legislature and now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. The three bill package including SB 1168 (Pavley), SB 1319 (Pavley) and AB 1739 (Dickinson) would initiate groundwater sustainability planning and programs for California’s most critical basins.

“California will no longer be the only Western state that does not manage its groundwater,” Senator Pavley said. “Passage of this bill package will now provide California with sustainable groundwater management for our most critical basins.”

Groundwater makes up about 40 percent of California’s water in normal years and up to 60 percent during droughts. Three of four Californians rely on groundwater for at least a portion of their drinking water.

Unlike surface water from lakes, rivers and streams, California’s groundwater is not systematically managed or regulated. Groundwater is being pumped faster than it can be replenished, a condition known as “overdraft” that causes sinking land (“subsidence”), damage to infrastructure, increased costs for farmers and residents who have to drill deeper wells, water contamination, impairment of underground water storage and other problems.

The bill package would create a framework for local and regional groundwater management providing for the creation of local and regional groundwater sustainability agencies throughout the state.  The bills focus on high priority basins which are in the most critical overdraft.

“These bills take the much needed steps to preserve and restore a limited and indispensable resource—groundwater,” Senator Pavley said.

From Assemblymember Henry T. Perea:

Perea Opposes Groundwater Regulations Because They Hurt the Central Valley

Henry-pereaToday, Assemblymember Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) opposed problematic ground water legislation that has a disproportionate impact on the Central Valley. This bill, rather than resulting in common sense groundwater sustainability, will result in years of litigation and cost to Central Valley water users.

“We can all agree groundwater regulation is important. I am disappointed we could not come to an agreement that takes the needs of every region into account,” said Assemblymember Perea. “The costs of implementing this bill will be enormous and reach into the billions. Local agencies and State Water boards have fee ability to recover all their costs, but the ratepayers of my district will retain the burden.”

“If signed by the governor, these bills would allow for the monopolization of California’s groundwater to the detriment of individual farmers, including farmers who have not created the overdraft problem yet may someday need groundwater to keep their crops alive,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. “We thank Assemblymember Perea and the other members who voted against these bills. They understand that the bills have been rushed through the process, create a vast water management bureaucracy and threaten disastrous financial consequences for farmers and ranchers.”

“The lack of specified up front funding, lack of clear understanding on some of the controversial items such as “depletions of interconnected surface water” to be included as a “trigger” for board interventions and how the bill would be implemented, as written, would in my view create legal entanglements not groundwater management; we need to get it right not just pass a bill for political purposes,” said Chris Kapheim, General Manager, Alta Irrigation District.

“I applaud Assemblymember Perea’s leadership on this issue and his understanding that these bills directly impact people and jobs in Fresno. Perea has fought for the interests of his constituents in the Central Valley,” said Garry Serrato, General Manager, Fresno Irrigation District. “We support the goal of meaningful and workable groundwater management, but are disappointed that these bills will not lead to effective management of the State’s groundwater resources, especially in the Central Valley. They will result in years of litigation and conflict, rather than address the stated intention to promote planning and reduce conflict.”

From Senator Andy Vidak:

Vidak Urges Veto on Water-Grabbing Groundwater Measures

vidakSenator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) today delivered the following letter to Governor Brown, urging him to veto Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickinson), Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), and Senate Bill 1319 (Pavley), which will put bureaucrats and politicians in charge of groundwater regulations:

August 29, 2014

The Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor
State of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento CA, 95814

Dear Governor Brown,

I write to strongly urge you to veto three bills: Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickinson), Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), and Senate Bill 1319 (Pavley). These three measures are a water grab by the state, plain and simple. They will kill jobs and hurt our Central Valley.

Like you, I am very proud of all of our efforts on the new water bond in which everyone worked very hard throughout the summer and came together for a consensus in the end.

That is not the case with AB 1739, SB 1168 and SB 1319. This water grab will devastate our Central Valley, which already has up to double the state average unemployment rates. Those hardworking folks have already had to make significant sacrifices. They cannot take another hit.

This is a very complex issue with many stakeholders who have been excluded from the process and have been unable to voice their concerns. We should not rush this process, as rushed products often create more problems than solutions. Instead, let us revisit this issue in January and take the necessary time to work on a bipartisan measure that will work for all of California.

On behalf of my constituents, I hope you can see the dire consequences that this legislation will have, not only in the Central Valley, but the entire state, and veto these water-grabbing measures.

Thank you for your consideration,


For a copy of the Vidak’s letter, click here.

To watch Vidak’s Senate Floor speech in opposition to AB 1739, click here.

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