The bills—AB 1390 (Alejo) and SB 226 (Pavley)—represent another concerted effort by California lawmakers to address groundwater issues. After ignoring California’s ever-diminishing groundwater resources for decades, the Legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) in 2014, which endeavors to nurse California’s most severely impacted groundwater basins back to health. The new legislation promises to build on that effort, and to ease the multi-year—and often multi-decade—process of comprehensively adjudicating groundwater rights in court.
To confront the significant challenges in determining the groundwater rights for the thousands of users in each groundwater basin, AB 1390:
- streamlines the processes for providing notice to all affected parties,
- speeds up the timeline for these parties to identify their groundwater extractions,
- provides the courts ample new tools to streamline the adjudication process, and
- creates new judicial powers to enable prompt resolution without increasing the potential for overpumping generated by the filing of the lawsuit.
SB 226 adds new provisions to the SGMA that are aimed at ensuring that neither the adjudication process nor the efforts to develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans required by SGMA interfere with each other.
Together, the bills represent another important step in reducing the conflicts and easing the resolution of contentious battles over water rights. The California legislature—unlike in past droughts—has taken seriously the call to action this drought has presented, and has produced another law that promises to bring faster resolution to contentious courtroom fights over groundwater allocations.
If Governor Brown signs the bills, and all indications suggest he will, new courtroom battles over groundwater rights should be expected.
-- Dave Metres
For more information, contact Dave Metres at [email protected] or (415) 228-5488.