Appropriations committees in the Legislature ticked through hundreds of bills on Thursday—the session's second great culling of unsavory legislation.
While many farm groups may have wished to see a bill on groundwater wells quietly disappear, the Senate committee instead handicapped it with new amendments. This happened as the Community Water Center rallied outside on the Capitol steps to pass the measure and others related to safe drinking water and as Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new investment goals for expanding the state's water supply.
In March the governor issued an executive order aimed at protecting Central Valley drinking water wells as the drought deepens, adding new delays for well drilling. The Legislature is looking to extend the mandate at the center of Newsom’s executive order to continue beyond the governor’s drought emergency proclamation.
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Under the bill, a farmer hoping to drill a new well to counter the lack of surface water deliveries during the drought would need a permit from the local groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). The agency would determine if the proposal would impact nearby wells or cause subsidence that could damage infrastructure like roads or conveyance canals. The bill would deny permits for farms within basins the Department of Water Resources has placed on probationary status while the GSAs revise the groundwater sustainability plans.
With the new committee amendments, the bill would no longer require counties to accept the findings from GSAs and it now targets only new wells, excluding new upgrades and routine maintenance.