June 4, 2015

California Assembly Unanimously Passes Groundwater Adjudication Bill; Bill Awaits Senate Action

On a 76-0 vote, the California Assembly passed a bill (AB 1390 – Alejo/Gomez ) that makes improvements to the process governing judicial proceedings related to groundwater adjudications. The changes reduce the burden of groundwater adjudications on both the courts and claimants without altering the law of groundwater rights and without disrupting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act planning process. Western Growers supported the legislation, along with many other key agriculture groups. The bill now moves to the Senate where we will continue to push for its passage.

The legislation was brought forth as a result of Governor Jerry Brown signing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act into law last year, a comprehensive three-bill package that established a new structure for managing groundwater in the state. Western Growers opposed the collective of bills and along with several other agriculture groups, asked Governor Brown for a veto of the legislation. Our support for the passage of AB 1390 is based on its intent to clarify and streamline the current groundwater basin adjudication process which can be a cumbersome, lengthy and costly process.

AB 1390 will work in conjunction with the Groundwater Management Act to verify groundwater rights in a basin, which may be important to the planning process, and allow the court to encourage the parties to cooperatively develop a groundwater sustainability plan pursuant to the Act to serve as the basis of a stipulated judgment setting forth a physical solution for management of the basin.

The bill would also facilitate and encourage the early settlement of groundwater adjudications by providing tools and opportunities for courts, claimants, and local groundwater management entities to develop solutions in a more timely manner, further reducing costs on the courts, claimants and local entities.