New Groundwater Plans Afoot

Lawmakers Say Proposed Bills Would Ensure Supplies are Not Over-Harvested

Santa Barbara’s two representatives in Sacramento both strongly supported the two bills just passed by the Legislature, requiring individual water agencies to craft groundwater management plans. California remains the last state in the Western United States where such planning doesn’t occur. “For 200 years, it’s been California’s policy that the person with the longest straw in the ground gets as much water as they want,” said Assemblymember Das Williams. “That’s crazy.”

The two new bills, if approved, mandate that all water agencies devise long-range management plans to ensure their groundwater supplies are not over-harvested. But how that plays out has yet to be seen, especially if and when private property owners with legal drilling rights refuse to release data indicating how much water they’re pumping. Traditionally, any government efforts to secure such data has encountered profound resistance from the affected property owners.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson secured passage of an extremely limited bill earlier this summer that gave a single Ventura County water agency the authority to get such information. She said she encountered no resistance to the bill, which she carried on behalf of the water agency in question. When so many residents rely on groundwater for their water supplies, Jackson argued, it was imperative that some planning occur. She said the key details would be worked out only after such plans were drafted.

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