Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
California could soon become the last state in the West to regulate water pulled from beneath the earth, with the Legislature on Friday advancing an unprecedented groundwater-management strategy.
The Legislature passed the three-bill package after lengthy debate about whether state government should oversee pumping from the water table. Lawmakers argued over the long-term fate of California’s water supply as a severe drought puts water scarcity at the forefront of public consciousness.
“Every single member on this floor recognizes that we’ve been overdrafting our groundwater not just in the last year, not just since the drought started, but for decades,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. “Proponents know it, and opponents concede it. The question is not what will happen if we act, the question is what are the consequences if we fail to act?”
But critics from both parties said the legislation would upend more than a century of water law and create another layer of bureaucracy. They said the measures threatened to make a bad drought situation worse by restricting farmers and other property owners’ ability to pump water to help make up for sharp reductions in surface water.
via Historic California groundwater regulations head to Gov. Jerry Brown – Water & Drought – The Sacramento Bee.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rohnert Park is the latest city to crack down on wasteful water users and impose mandatory conservation measures in the face of one of the worst droughts to hit the state in a generation.
With the passage of a new city ordinance this week, residents are no longer allowed to water lawns to the point of excess runoff or wash vehicles with hoses that do not have shutoff nozzles. Washing down driveways also is prohibited, as are decorative fountains that do not use recirculated water.
The city will stop short of fining violators, officials said, even though it has the authority to levy fines of up to $500 per day. Instead, those who waste water will get a visit from code enforcement personnel followed by a letter asking them to be more conservative with their watering. A third infraction could result in a customer’s water being shut off.
via Rohnert Park OKs mandatory water limits | The Press Democrat.
Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To get a sense of how the state’s three-year drought has created a new normal in the wine industry, consider the truck that Rued Vineyards purchased this year.
Almost daily, Tom Rued would drive the stainless-steel tanker, with a capacity of 6,400 gallons, about 15 miles to a city of Healdsburg filling station to load up on recycled wastewater.
The entire operation takes about five hours, including the round trip between the Alexander Valley vineyard and the plant, the time filling up the tanker, and offloading the water into a drip irrigation system to keep 19 acres of sauvignon blanc vines moist enough to make it through another harvest.
Rued Vineyards has been pressed into such a drastic action after state water regulators this spring curtailed some of the vineyard’s water rights in the upper Russian River watershed along with more than 600 other junior water-rights holders. Officials with the state Water Resources Control Board have been following up with growers to make sure such orders are being followed, but no enforcement actions have yet been taken, said board spokesman George Kostyrko.
via Drought fears in Wine Country | The Press Democrat.
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Windsor is taking water conservation to the next level by imposing mandatory restrictions and stepping up “early morning irrigation patrols.”
The Town Council this week declared a Stage 2 water shortage emergency because the initial call for 20 percent voluntary conservation issued in February has fallen short.
While Windsor customers through the end of June cut water use by 15 percent compared to last year, dry conditions require more water stinginess, officials said.
The water saving by residents has been commendable, officials said, but not enough.
“We really need to do more, given the condition of our water supply,” Public Works Director Toni Bertolero told the Town Council prior to the 4-1 vote to impose mandatory restrictions.
Bertolero noted that all water contractors in Sonoma County are moving toward mandatory conservation, particularly after the state emergency regulations that went into effect last month that prohibit water waste and call for potential fines of up to $500 for each day of violation.
via Windsor imposes mandatory water restrictions | The Press Democrat.
Ed Joyce, CAPITAL PUBLIC RADIO
A Sacramento Superior Court judge issued a ruling Tuesday requiring regulation of groundwater pumping to protect a river in Siskiyou County.
Attorneys on both sides say it’s the first time a California court has ruled the "public trust doctrine" applies to groundwater. The doctrine says the State of California holds all waterways for the benefit of the people.
The lawsuit claimed groundwater pumping in the Scott River Basin is partly responsible for decreased river flows – limiting the public’s use of the river and harming fish habitat.
Jim Wheaton with the Environmental Law Foundation was lead attorney for the plaintiffs. He said the ruling is "a monumental decision."
"Because California is famously the only western state that has no regulation of groundwater pumping at all. And so this decision for the first time is going to say that well at least where that groundwater pumping affects surface waters, you’ve got to regulate it and control it so you don’t do harm,” said Wheaton.
via Sacramento Judge Makes Precedent-Setting Ruling On Groundwater Regulation – capradio.org.