Yesterday, the California Water Foundation (CWF) released a report, “Recommendations for Sustainable Groundwater Management: Developed Through a Stakeholder Dialogue,” that outlines policy proposals for consideration by the Legislature and Governor. The recommendations were informed by a stakeholder dialogue process that commenced earlier this year. CWF held sessions with multiple interest groups, including production agriculture, and convened a steering committee to help guide its understanding of the complex issues involved in any discussion about changes to the state’s groundwater laws. WG’s Dave Puglia, a member of the steering committee, offers his thoughts on the CWF report:
“The Foundation’s recommendations reflect a growing focus on protecting groundwater resources for future generations. In several areas, the report appropriately connects the decline of groundwater in some basins to the loss of reliable surface water supplies. In the last 20 years, about four million acre feet of water annually has been reallocated from farms in the San Joaquin Valley to environmental programs, with much of that water flowing out to the sea. It should not shock anyone to learn that removing so much irrigation water – an important replenishment source for groundwater basins – has increased overdraft conditions in these areas.
In focusing on new laws regulating groundwater, the Legislature must not discount the causal relationship between reduced surface water supplies and declining groundwater supplies. Any move to establish a new statewide approach to groundwater must be accompanied by parallel actions to add new surface storage capacity, improve our ability to convey stored water through the Delta, and restore common sense in the implementation of environmental regulations.
The stakes in this discussion are very high. California farmers will do their part to responsibly manage groundwater resources. However, they will not accept the ruin of their livelihoods due to government policies that diverted their surface water and then punished them for turning to the only water supply left, one that is predicated on a property right that establishes the value of their main asset, their land.”
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