February 23, 2016

California Department of Water Resources Releases Draft Groundwater Regulations

Statement by Juliet Christian-Smith, Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Feb. 23, 2016)—The California Department of Water Resources has released draft regulations for evaluating and implementing groundwater sustainability plans. Today, Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will be testifying before the Senate Joint Oversight Hearing on State Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Below is a statement by Juliet Christian-Smith, climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The draft regulations released by the Department of Water Resources include some good provisions, but need to be sharpened in the months ahead to fulfill the promise of California’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Of most concern, the draft regulations fail to answer the basic question at hand: what is sustainable groundwater management? By failing to provide a statewide standard of groundwater sustainability, the regulations could allow a continued race to the bottom of the aquifer.

“On the positive side, the regulations set out a clear and consistent framework for groundwater measurement and monitoring as recommended by our recent report, Measuring What Matters. In particular, the regulations require local agencies to make their data transparent by using open-source models that are available to the public, a key recommendation of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

 “However, the regulations do not reflect the urgency with which we need to act considering the critical role of groundwater in the face of more severe drought and flooding due to climate change. The law requires groundwater managers to have plans in place to protect aquifers by 2022, at the latest. A loophole in the regulations allow local agencies to wait far too long — an additional five years or as late as 2027 — to start addressing the impact of groundwater pumping on streams, rivers and lakes.

“The Union of Concerned Scientists will continue to work with the Department of Water Resources, California Water Commission, State Water Board, Legislature, and stakeholders to ensure that the final regulations effectively protect this vital state resource.”

Note: Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith will be testifying today at the Senate Joint Oversight Hearing on State Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act hearing beginning at 9:30 a.m. The hearing will be broadcast live on CalChannel. The full text of Dr. Christian-Smith’s testimony is available upon request.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.