Brown vows tighter groundwater regulations

waterLaboring to strengthen his aggressive anti-drought policies, Gov. Jerry Brown vowed that the historic groundwater management rules he pushed into law will be ratcheted up in coming years.

In an interview on Meet the Press, Brown cautioned that he did not “rule by decree,” working “through the Legislature,” but promised to move regulations further ahead than current law provides. “California now has groundwater management for the first time in its entire history, so we are much more aggressive” than in years past, he said. But, citing a new study claiming the state’s drought is connected to climate change, Brown warned “we’re not aggressive enough. And we will be stepping it up year by year.”

The connection alleged by that study has been disputed. “Scientists have attributed the state’s historic drought primarily to natural – not man-made – causes. But they say rising temperatures have worsened its effects, and Brown has used the drought to skewer Republican presidential candidates skeptical of climate change,” the Sacramento Bee noted. Contenders including Carly Fiorina and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have shot back, suggesting that Brown and other environmentalist policymakers failed to prepare adequately for the current drought.

Sinking land

A new list of troubled groundwater basins, released by state officials, has led to a fresh round of concern in and out of the Brown administration. The report showed that 21 groundwater repositories suffered from so-called “critical overdraft” — “a condition in which significantly more water has been taken out of a basin than has been put in,” as the Los Angeles Times noted. “A NASA report also released Wednesday showed that pumping too much groundwater has caused land in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley to subside faster than ever,” the Times reported, adding that the “vast majority” of overdrawn basins tallied by officials were located in “the same places where the land is sinking.”

State environmental regulations have intensified the challenge of retaining groundwater, which has been tapped by residents and farmers absent significant increases in diverted water pumped from the San Joaquin Delta. “Roughly half of California’s water is fulfilling some environmental role and can’t be ‘developed’ for human consumption,” according to Archinect. “That covers water needed to maintain aquatic habitats, in federally or state-protected ‘wild and scenic’ rivers, in wildlife preserves, etc. Of the other half of California’s water, the half intended for human use, 80 percent is used for farming operations, while the remaining 20 percent goes to urban use.”

Disproportionate harm

As the plight of California’s Central Valley residents has grown, political dividing lines familiar to voters and residents have begun to blur. Traditionally the Republican-leaning part of the state, with interests broadly opposed to the wealthy deep-blue elite concentrated on the coast, the poorer Valley has become a growing source of dismay for liberals as well as conservatives upset with Democrat-led water policy. Better-off towns and cities have weathered the Valley’s water cutbacks. “For less wealthy communities, however, the inconveniences quickly turn into catastrophes,” the Nation recently reported.

“In hundreds of poor rural spots — places too small to qualify as towns, too isolated to be incorporated into larger cities, and oftentimes condemned as “nonviable” by their county’s General Plan — the drought has literally meant the end of water. These settlements have long been at the mercy of ramshackle delivery systems, which pump unsafe water laced with arsenic, uranium, nitrates, and pesticides into family homes; now those wells are dry, too. And despite the passage of the state’s largely aspirational Human Right to Water Act in 2012, the large-scale investments needed to link these communities into the water systems of bigger towns, or to dig wells deep enough to allow them to survive off their own water supplies, haven’t materialized.”

Local controls

As legislators faced the prospect of more protracted water negotiations, some localities began taking matters into their own hands. In San Luis Obispo, the Tribune reported, county supervisors recently voted in favor of a parcel tax that would net $1 million for a water management district covering the Paso Robles basin, where aquifer levels have been falling.


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  1. Just Another Disgruntled Citizen
    Just Another Disgruntled Citizen 26 August, 2015, 11:50

    Well. If the drought is this bad, then why hasn’t Gov. Brown and/or the State Legislature placed a statewide-no exceptions moratorium on all new development? While all this is going on, there are mega-warehouses, high-medium-low density residential housing, commercial, etc. projects going in all over the place. Every county and city in the state is greedy for increases to local tax revenue and loves this, then they complain if there isn’t enough water everywhere to supply the people that are already here. Also, the recent craze for tearing out oxygen-producing, temperature-reducing grass and replacing it with artificial turf is insane. That fake stuff has to be watered regularly to “keep it fresh”, it is a microbe-magnet, it is not self-renewing, and it is a serious health-hazard to people and animals. I guess right now we ought to be educating ourselves about the actual conditions of local water-delivery companies and agencies, how they get their water, how various government policies are affecting them, and what they think would be a better approach. Then we need to educate our Governor and State legislators. They really don’t hear from we the people as much as you think. They are all on a first-name basis with special-interest lobbyists, but they don’t know you (well, maybe they do, but if so you are the exception). Take a trip to Sacramento, visit the State Capitol, stop by Governor Brown’s office and say hello to your State Senator & Assemblyman, get to know their aides, stay for a legislative session. Remember, they work for you. If we want to solve our water and energy problems (hey, what about methane-generators that use animal waste & convert it to liquid clean natural gas?), we have to stop blaming others. Gov. Brown thinks he’s doing the right thing because his information is faulty. Instead of attacking him, show him a better way. Ask him if he thinks beef critters have more flatulence, pound for pound, than the vast herds of bison who used to roam North America for thousands of years. Ask him if he were persuaded that this makes sense, would he be willing to consider changing his policies to reflect a broader understanding of the situation. There is a way out of this, folks, and it is called the high road.

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  2. Dude
    Dude 26 August, 2015, 16:51

    Skaroo you Moonbeam and you manufactured crisis. It’s hot. We call it summer. California has always had droughts and will continue to do so. Why you ask? Because our terra type is an arid sub-desert, and the only reason we have anything green here is because of the unnatural water flow brought here from the Colorado river. This Global Somethinging s sole purpose is to gain control over the citizens and their money.

    Reply this comment
  3. Queeg
    Queeg 26 August, 2015, 17:30

    Nowhere to hide comrades. Food, water, oil, electric, roads, autos, air all in Plutocrats perview.

    The little guy suffers and no one cares-

    Reply this comment
  4. unclevito
    unclevito 26 August, 2015, 20:38

    The environment uses 50% of the water and farming only uses 40%. Time water for the environment was conserved for human use. Also what is this talk about ground water. Really stupid to talk about that when it is the only source of water during a drought. Let’s talk about it after some big rains when folks can do without wells.

    Reply this comment
  5. farmer dude
    farmer dude 26 August, 2015, 20:51

    Ag does not use 80% of surface water. That number is a calculated, manipulative lie. Ag uses 41% in an average rain year. In extreme drought years like this, we’re not even close to 41%.

    Reply this comment
  6. desmond
    desmond 27 August, 2015, 04:21

    I think it would be common sense for California to split up. The state in the Sierras could turn off the taps from Hetch Hetchy. It wouldn’t t be long before San Francisco would turn into Mad Max with cannibals. Talk about appointment television, a rainbow tied banker getting devoured by a gang from the Tenderoin in front of the Tadich grill, filmed by a drone with the CNN logo. Emmy material.

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 27 August, 2015, 10:37

      SF is hard pressed to balance compassion, free spirit living, law and order. How can you govern a run down filthy city that generally attracts renters with no idea why pride of ownership or stewardship are important in a whacko controlled “village”.

      Reply this comment
  7. Outcast
    Outcast 3 September, 2015, 02:24

    B.S! Santa Clara County Water District drained San Jose its percolation ponds last year to “improve” the underground basins. They did not drain the ponds that are in public view.
    They’ve been releasing water from our reservoirs at night, stopping before sunrise but deny this fact.
    Repeated contact has resulted in run around and the “Be a water saving hero” email. They sure don’t work for us.

    Reply this comment

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