Governor Brown Helps California Prepare for Climate Change with Historic Groundwater Legislation

Published Sep 16, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (September 16, 2014)—California Governor Edmund G. Brown approved sweeping oversight of groundwater resources today in an unprecedented step for the state, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“This will help California prepare for future water challenges, especially as global warming makes longer and more severe droughts more likely in the coming decades,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, a UCS climate scientist who specializes in Western water issues. “Improved groundwater management will help the state adapt and provide reliable water resources in dry years.”

The Governor signed Senate Bill 1168 and Assembly Bill 1739, which call for stricter groundwater management by local and state agencies. Until now, California has been the only state in the Western U.S. that has not comprehensively monitored or regulated groundwater.

Record dry conditions in California have led farmers and others to rely more heavily on groundwater. Excessive pumping of dwindling water resources has resulted in increased conflicts among water users, land subsidence, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers, and harm to ecosystems.

On August 22, 48 water experts wrote an open letter to California legislators and Gov. Brown asking them to adopt sustainable groundwater management this year. The letter, organized by UCS, said that California should require local agencies to collect groundwater data and develop plans to manage groundwater using so-called “sustainable yield metrics” by 2020.

“Make no mistake, there is still much more work to be done to ensure that local groundwater sustainability plans are based on science and give everyone a seat at the table,” Christian-Smith said. “We look forward to working with local groundwater managers to help preserve groundwater reserves for Californians."

Christian-Smith offers more context around drought, climate change and the new law on UCS's blog, The Equation.