California passes toothless law regulating groundwater pumping

Fissure caused by groundwater pumping, Antelope Valley CA
Fissure caused by groundwater pumping, Antelope Valley CA

California is in denial about water. Other Western states have long had rules regulating water pumped from wells. California has finally passed such a measure. However the law is vague and will do little to alleviate problems in the current drought. Groundwater pumping accounts for up to 60% of water used during droughts in California. In some areas, roads, canals, and aqueducts are buckling because so much water is being pumped from aquifers. You might think this would cause a sense of urgency in normally comatose California legislators. You would be wrong.

The new law allows local water boards two years to create groundwater agencies which then have up to five years to implement a plan. Thus, there could be no action for up to seven years. Unbelievably, the new agency can mandate water meters be installed and impose fines but does not have to, which is absurd. Water use should be metered everywhere. Piggish users should be fined. Any other plan is simply evasion and kicking the can down the road, something the California legislature is well known for doing.

In another example of how California really doesn’t get it about water, San Jose has declared a water shortage, imposing new rules on watering lawns – yet says it won’t enforce the rules, relying instead on a local water board to do it. We just moved from San Jose to Las Vegas. The San Luis Reservoir which supplies water to San Jose, is perilously low, yet San Jose apparently has little sense of urgency about conserving water. By contrast, here in Las Vegas, there are strict rules about watering lawns, which are enforced, with substantial fines for noncompliance.

California needs to get serious about water. Right now, it’s living in denial.

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