California to Start Regulating Groundwater

New law puts onus on local planners

Sep 18, 2014
Outside Magazine
death valley stovepipe well california drought environment outside water

An old stovepipe well in Death Valley. California was the last Western state that allowed people to pump groundwater without regulation.    sprokop/Thinkstock

On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to regulate groundwater, making California the last Western state to do so, according to a report by the Associated Press. Previously, while some local rules were in place, many landowners were entitled to pump as much water as they could. This practice was increasingly viewed as unsustainable, particularly in light of California’s ongoing drought. 

Republicans and Democrats representing agricultural areas opposed the legislation. California farms have come to rely on groundwater to cope with the drought.

Unlike other western states, the California bill does not create a statewide agency with the power to outlaw groundwater exploitation. Instead, the new legislation requires local planners to draw up plans for sustainability by 2040.

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