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California Assembly Committee Passes Bill for Groundwater Legislation

On April 30th, 2014, by a vote of 9-5, the California Legislature Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife amended and passed AB 1739, a bill that establishes a statutory definition of groundwater management, enhance minimum requirements for local groundwater management plans, and outline specific processes for enacting that management.

The amended version of the bill seeks to provide a pathway to regulating the use of underground water and preventing its overdraft. This bill has 9 provisions that can be summarized into the following items:

  1. Makes groundwater to sustainability a priority and the sustainability levels to be determined by the Department of Water Resources (DWR).
  2. Requires the creation of a sustainable groundwater management plan (SGMP) by January 1, 2020, which should be adopted in each Priority Basin by an overlying groundwater management agency (GMA) and updated every five years.
  3. Requires SGMPs covering different portions of a groundwater basin not to interfere with each other.
  4. Empowers GMAs to the ability to engage in the activities necessary for managing groundwater. 

AB 1739 was introduced by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) in order to address the groundwater overdraft and encourage action at the local level. Association of California Water Agencies Senior Legislative Advocate Whitnie Wiley said that “AB 1739 is a work in progress. We expect to continue to work with the Assembly member and other stakeholders as the bill moves forward.”

AB 1739 along with SB 1168 are two of the current bills in the legislature that address the issue of groundwater management. SB 1168 was heard in the Senate Committee of Natural Resources and Water on April 22, 2014.

Groundwater is increasingly becoming a part of the water policy dialog in California. The Department of Water Resources recently released a report documenting levels of groundwater decline which the department attributes to inadequate monitoring and regulation.

Written by Stratecon Staff