Legislators and interest groups respond to Governor Brown’s signing of groundwater legislation
Legislators and interest groups are responding to Governor Brown’s signing of groundwater legislation today. (Click here for the governor’s press release.) Here’s what they had to say, listed in alphabetical order:
Note: I will continue to add to this post as I find other reactions, so do check back later – there will probably be more.
From Timothy Quinn at ACWA:
“Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), issued the following statement on the signing of historic groundwater legislation today by Gov. Jerry Brown. The three-bill package is aimed at advancing sustainable management of the state’s groundwater basins.
“This legislation has been called one of the most important developments in California water history. Its passage is indeed historic, and sets us on a path toward locally controlled, sustainable groundwater management.
“This legislation addresses a groundwater crisis that has been brewing for over half a century. It is designed to place the power to deal with that crisis in local hands, and it does exactly that.
“ACWA recognizes there are concerns, particularly in the Central Valley, where water managers are struggling with drought and deep cuts in surface water deliveries. But it is important to keep in mind that this groundwater legislation is but one essential component of a comprehensive water action plan put forth by the Brown Administration and strongly supported by ACWA and its members.
“We are committed to working with the Administration, local water managers and others to implement this package as part of that comprehensive action plan. I have no doubt that in the near future, we will look back on this day as a turning point in securing reliable, long-term water supplies for California and our vital agricultural economy.”
ACWA is statewide association of public agencies whose 430 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.
From Speaker Toni Atkins:
“I commend Governor Brown for signing this historic legislation. California has the most groundwater of any state, but we are the only state without a groundwater management plan. That just doesn’t make sense. You cannot have reliability without a plan to manage groundwater. Now, for the first time in more than a hundred years, California will develop a process to ensure the groundwater in our aquifers is clean and available for generations to come.”
From Senator Tom Berryhill:
“Not only is this a slap in the face to rural California communities whose basic water needs lose out year after year in favor of environmental concerns; it will bring much uncertainty to many mountain area folks who have relied on wells for generations as their main source of drinking water. Giving bureaucrats the keys to the tap is a dangerous precedent that I fear we will regret for years to come.”
From the California Alliance With Family Farmers and the California Climate & Agriculture Network:
“Today, farmers and sustainable agriculture organizations expressed their appreciation for Governor Brown’s signatures on a package of bills to manage the state’s groundwater, as well as for the leadership of the legislature in passing SB 1168, SB 1319 and AB 1739 at the end of the legislative session in August.
Here are some reactions:
“Local groundwater management is long overdue for such an important agricultural region as California,” said Rich Collins, a Solano County farmer and President of the Board of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. “These bills will help provide certainty for everyone in the state.”
“We need to know how much water is in the ground and how it is recharged, and we need to manage both groundwater use and recharge in order to sustain farming in California,” said David Runsten, Policy Director with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
“Farmers and ranchers all across California are struggling with this drought. But it’s the small and medium sized family farmers who are at the greatest disadvantage if they can’t afford to dig a deeper well,” said Phil McGrath of McGrath Family Farm in Ventura County. “Doing a better job of managing groundwater will level the playing field for everyone.”
“Climate change is a game changer for California’s water resources,” said Renata Brillinger, Executive Director with the California Climate and Agriculture Network. “Today, California ends its ‘wild west’ era of water management and joins other Western states in regulating our groundwater for the benefit of future generations.”
CAFF is a statewide organization that represents both farmers and non-farm urban residents who
support sustainable food and farming policies. www.caff.org
CalCAN is a coalition of sustainable agriculture organizations and farmer member groups that
advocates for policies that advance sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change mitigation
and adaptation. www.calclimateag.org
From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
“Expressing disappointment in Gov. Brown’s decision to sign a package of groundwater bills, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation said the organization will now focus on how the bills are implemented.
“We’re concerned that these hastily written measures may come to be seen as ‘historic’ for all the wrong reasons,” California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said. “Truly historic measures were taken more than 50 years ago, when President Kennedy and Gov. Pat Brown broke ground on water projects that ultimately allowed California to become a world economic power with food production that rivals that of entire nations.”
Wenger said he hopes history does not look back on this day as a time when California’s prominence began to erode.
“We consider ourselves a progressive state,” he said, “yet we embrace measures that will reduce our quality of life, our economic growth and our ability to grow food for our state, nation and world.”
Now that the bills have been signed, Wenger said, Farm Bureau will “actively monitor” their implementation.
“We will be watching this process carefully to make sure state and local agencies respect water rights, property rights and privacy rights, as the bills require,” he said.
“Farm Bureau has supported local groundwater management for many years, but groundwater has been under pressure mainly because surface water supplies are in crisis,” Wenger said. “If we want to make groundwater supplies truly sustainable, we must make sure all water needs can be met through addition of more surface water storage and better management of the storage we already have.”
Wenger said Farm Bureau favors an all-of-the-above approach to water, which includes more surface and underground storage, recycling, desalination and continued improvements in water-use efficiency to accommodate population growth, increased environmental water commitments and changing weather patterns.
“Our focus on constraining demand—which includes these groundwater bills—has left us in the position we’re in today: with not enough water to meet our needs for food production, environmental and urban uses. We must also enhance California water supplies in order to maintain our state’s unique economic and environmental contributions to our nation and world,” he said.
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 the California Water Alliance:
Please attribute this statement to Aubrey Bettencourt, Executive Director for CalWA.
“While we recognize the need to incorporate groundwater management into a comprehensive effort to reform California water policy, we have grave concerns about the legislative package the governor has just signed into law.
“Unfortunately, these measures were hastily drafted and without a true understanding of the global nature of our water crisis. Consequently these new laws, if not modified, will do more harm that good primarily because they completely omit any consideration about how to recharge our groundwater supplies. The following represent our primary concerns with the new laws:
- They do not recognize that groundwater management must be handled in concert with surface water management. Limiting pumping will not recharge groundwater supplies; only reliable, annual surface water deliveries will recharge basins throughout the state.
- They do not validate the fact that groundwater recharge must be acknowledged as a reasonable use of surface water; which currently it is not. To reach our goal of restoring our aquifers, we cannot punish activities that provide for achieving that goal.
- They trample on private property rights of landowners who own the water on their property.
- They do not adequately take into account local management efforts that have taken place statewide over the past decades.
- They disregard the fact that famers have been tapping groundwater as a matter of survival and in direct response to the state and federal government’s dysfunctional and onerous surface water restrictions.
“We remain concerned that irregular supplies of surface water, and limited groundwater use will continue to severely impact our agricultural economy and its related industries. Our supply of water will dictate crop plantings; reduced water will mean fewer crops, jobs, exports and ultimately our position as the world’s number one exporter of fruits and vegetables.
“Groundwater management is critical but only if conducted responsibly and holistically. This package of new laws do neither and have the potential to further undermine efforts to achieve effective and balanced reforms to California water policy.”
About the California Water Alliance
The California Water Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan organization comprised of 4,000 members statewide that is dedicated to achieving both short-term relief and a long-term solution to the water emergency afflicting California. To this end, California Water Alliance supports the development of a water infrastructure bond that is comprehensive, and takes into account the needs of all Californians. To learn more, please visit www.californiawateralliance.org
From the California Water Foundation:
“Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act, a package of groundwater bills that creates for the first time a framework to sustainably manage and protect California’s groundwater resources.
“The historic nature of today’s signing cannot be overstated,” said Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation. “It was 100 years ago that California enacted the first comprehensive legal framework for managing surface water. The bills Gov. Brown signed into law maintain that legal framework while establishing a long overdue system for managing groundwater resources. The legislation gives locals the time, authority and resources they need to effectively and sustainably manage their groundwater supplies for current and future agricultural, municipal and environmental uses. Gov. Brown, Senator Pavley and Assemblyman Dickinson are to be commended for their leadership in addressing this challenging issue. Thanks to their commitment, California will no longer carry the dubious distinction of being the only state in the west that doesn’t have state standards and requirements for managing a resource as invaluable as groundwater.”
The bills – AB 1739, SB 1168 and SB 1319 – will require local agencies by 2020 or 2022 in some regions to develop groundwater sustainability plans that responsibly manage and protect their groundwater resources. The legislation is based on local agency control and flexibility. It also includes numerous provisions to protect water and property rights.
The California Water Foundation (CWF) led a lengthy and highly collaborative stakeholder process, involving months of public meetings that included input from water districts, farmers, business leaders, homeowners, and other citizens across the state that formed the basis of the bills authored by Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.
CWF also sponsored the Groundwater Voices Coalition, a collection of leaders representing agriculture, conservation, business, water districts and community advocates who all agreed that California needed
a policy framework that would appropriately balance both local and statewide interests.
In the months leading up to the Assembly and Senate floor votes, CWF issued five reports, authored by some of the leading experts on the state of groundwater in California. The CWF also commissioned and released a statewide poll to gauge the public’s view on the importance of groundwater, which found that more than 78 percent of Californians across party, demographic and geographic lines supported a comprehensive groundwater approach.
- In April, CWF released “Land Subsidence from Groundwater Use in California,” a report that inventoried current and historical instances of land subsidence in California as a result of groundwater pumping.
- In May, CWF released “Recommendations for Sustainable Groundwater Management,” which was developed through a stakeholder dialogue and showed findings and recommendations to achieve sustainable groundwater management in California.
- In July, CWF released “An Evaluation of California Groundwater Management Planning,” a report on groundwater management that showed California’s groundwater basins are fragmented, and many groundwater management plans are outdated and flawed.
- Also in July, CWF commissioned a statewide poll that found 97 percent of Californians agree that groundwater is important to the state’s water supply and that 78 percent of residents would support a proposal to manage groundwater.
- In late July, the Groundwater Voices Coalition released “Land Subsidence from Groundwater Use in the San Joaquin Valley,” which indicated that subsidence – or sinking land caused by pumping groundwater – is occurring at historically high rates in portions of the San Joaquin Valley.
- In August, CWF released “Central Coast Groundwater: Seawater Intrusion and Other Issues,” which revealed that groundwater levels in the Central Coast have declined as a result of several dry years and over‐pumping, which has allowed seawater to contaminate the region’s underground water supply.
CWF is committed to working with agricultural and other diverse interests throughout the state to ensure effective and successful implementation of this important new law.
“Many months of stakeholder meetings and public hearings have brought us to this day,” Snow said. “Now the hard work really begins. With today’s signing, I encourage those on all sides of this issue to come together and do what everyone agrees must be done for the benefit of future generations.”
About the California Water Foundation: The California Water Foundation’s (CWF), an initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund, is committed to achieving a sustainable water supply to meet the 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 Senator Anthony Cannella:
“Just yesterday, I joined fellow legislators and members of the agricultural community to urge the Governor to veto these bills and offered to work with him on language that would work for the entire state. This marks the largest change in California water policy in a century. Unlike the water bond, which took years to develop, these bills were hastily put together in the final days of this year’s session. That is not the way to create such important policy.
“California is a large state and our water basins are diverse and used in very different ways. We cannot have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach where Sacramento dictates how groundwater is used. Over the past few decades we have seen the state mismanage our precious surface storage and now they will oversee groundwater.”
From Assemblywoman Connie Conway:
“Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, of Tulare, today issued the following statement in response to Governor Brown signing sweeping groundwater management legislation (Assembly Bill 1739, and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319) on Tuesday:“I am disappointed that the Governor today rejected a bipartisan call for a veto and a special session on groundwater, instead giving the green light to a Sacramento power grab that will infringe upon people’s private property rights. These bills are overly broad, undermine local control, and will pave the way for billions in new fees on groundwater users.“It is troubling that measures that will significantly impact the state’s economy were rushed through at the last minute with little opportunity for public input. While there is legitimate concern about the over-drafting of some groundwater basins, this massive expansion of state authority will not solve the problem. Our priority instead should be improving groundwater management and recharging groundwater basins, which this legislation fails to accomplish.”Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Brown urging him to veto the controversial legislation, writing that the bill package “punishes groundwater users in basins that have little or no overdraft or already have effective management efforts in place” and that it “infringe(s) upon the right to groundwater, at a time when available water supplies are getting tighter.” They urged the Governor to call a special session on groundwater when the Legislature reconvenes in December.”
From Senator Jean Fuller:
“Today, Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) released the following statement in opposition to a package of bills that will significantly change groundwater laws in California and result in a loss of local control:
“Groundwater is an extremely important resource for many communities and farmers throughout California, but each local groundwater basin is different. This is why groundwater management is better administered at the local level. These bills give too much authority to the state.
“I am disappointed this extensive package of new regulations was rushed through the approval process instead of taking a more thoughtful approach for such an important subject.”
From Senator Jim Nielson:
“Governor Jerry Brown today signed a package of groundwater legislation – Assembly Bill 1739, Senate Bill 1168 and Senate Bill 1319 – that were put together in the back rooms of the Capitol. These bills were continually amended and tweaked up until the final moments of passage in the late hours of the legislative session.
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) issued the following statement:
“It is unfortunate that the Governor felt compelled to sign this groundwater management scheme that was hastily cobbled together without regard to historical legal precedent and private property water rights.“
Californians who rely on groundwater will now have to deal with not only new and unaccountable government agencies that will police water usage; they will be at the mercy of these faceless bureaucrats who will impose unknown fees and fines.
“With the stroke of his pen today, the Governor changed over 100 years of water laws — without the people’s input. This is not the democracy Californians deserve.
“We need to address the overdraft problems in specific regions of the state. This can be accomplished through good local management and groundwater recharge. The state can play a big role working with local government. This should include local government and citizen input. This should be our approach, rather than giving dictatorial control to state agencies.”
From Senator Fran Pavley:
“A legislative bill package by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) to sustainably manage California’s groundwater was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown. The three-bill package including SB 1168 (Pavley), SB 1319 (Pavley) and AB 1739 (Dickinson) will initiate groundwater sustainability planning and programs for California’s most distressed groundwater basins. The bills define local responsibilities and give local agencies the authority necessary to manage groundwater sustainably and ensure no groundwater basin is in danger of being permanently damaged by overdrafting.
“California will no longer be the only Western state that does not manage its groundwater,” Senator Pavley said. “The cost of doing nothing is the biggest economic gamble. Thousands of homes and small farms cannot keep pace with the race to drill deeper and deeper wells. The bills take a balanced approach – they protect property rights and incentivize local control.”
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 creates 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 that are subject to the most critical conditions of overdraft.
The bills draw upon the proposals of the California Water Foundation and the Association of California Water Agencies, and the Brown Administration’s groundwater management proposal. The proposals were also informed by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee’s informational hearing on groundwater held this March, hearings of the bills in both the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, and four public stakeholder meetings held in July.
The package of bills were supported by over 100 interest groups, including water agencies, environmental groups, labor organizations, groundwater and engineering firms, environmental justice advocates, individual cities and counties, family farmers, local chambers of commerce, and other interests groups. The bills were further supported by more than 75 individual scientists.
There is also widespread public support, with more than 70 percent of Californians in a recent poll supporting a comprehensive groundwater approach.
“These bills take the much needed steps to preserve and restore a limited and indispensable resource—groundwater,” Senator Pavley said.
From Assemblyman Anthony Rendon:
“After Governor Brown signed the bills establishing groundwater management across California, Assemblymember Anthony Rendon hailed the work of the legislators and the Governor who led the public debate that made this landmark legislation possible.
Rendon emphasized the importance of transparency: “The Governor and the Legislature working together, in an open and transparent process, is what makes important but controversial legislation succeed. Public debate works. The Legislature has worked on groundwater management bills for the last decade, and the Brown Administration proposed it back in the 70’s. But, this year, the Governor, Senator Pavley, and Assemblymember Dickinson collaborated to bring everyone – including opponents – to the table for public debate and discussion. They organized 14 public meetings and supported many other public discussions, through the California Water Foundation and the Association of California Water Agencies. That transparency made the difference.”
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act sets statewide standards but relies on local communities to craft and implement groundwater sustainability plans that address their basin’s needs. The basins that currently suffer from critical overpumping do their plans first. If no plan develops, or if the plan is insufficient, the State Water Resources Control Board may require improvements or adopt an interim groundwater management plan until the locals can step back in.
In March, Rendon convened the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee to hear from experts and practitioners about the serious depletion of California’s groundwater reserves. He and his staff then worked closely with Dickinson and Pavley on pushing the bills all the way through the Legislature, to the Governor’s Desk.
Assemblymember Rendon chairs the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. Rendon was elected to the Legislature in November of 2012 to represent the 63rd Assembly District, which covers the cities and communities of Bell, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, North Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, and South Gate.
From Senator Lois Wolk:
“Senator Lois Wolk, who spearheaded the development of The Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 and is a leader in state water policy, issued the following comment on the Governor’s signing today of a package of legislation on groundwater management and monitoring:
“The enactment of groundwater reform, along with the comprehensive water bond passed earlier this session, mark historic steps forward in addressing California’s critical water challenges. This year has been the most productive in decades on water policy. The signing of this important groundwater legislation and the water bond demonstrates how much can be accomplished when the legislature and Governor work together.”
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