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Assembly Committee Holds Groundwater Oversight Hearing

RCRC (Regional Council of Rural Counties) Report 2/4/11

The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, chaired by Jared
Huffman (D-San Rafael) held an oversight hearing on Tuesday on the “Management
of California’s Groundwater Resources.”

On the first panel, Thomas Harter and groundwater hydrologist from U.C.
Davis provided a primer on groundwater basics, the Legislative Analyst’s
Office (LAO) presented the LAO report Liquid Assets: Improving
Management of the State’s Groundwater Resources; and Mary Scruggs of the
Department of Water Resources updated the Committee on the
implementation of SB 7x 6, the statewide groundwater monitoring program.

The LAO concluded their presentation with four recommendations for
improving groundwater management: 1) Phase in a comprehensive monitoring
system and require local water districts to submit standardized
extraction from all groundwater wells; 2) Establish Active Management
Areas (AMA’s) with jurisdiction over groundwater basins that are
especially vulnerable to contamination or overdraft; 3) Remove the legal
distinction between percolating groundwater and subterranean streams;
and, 4) Consider phasing in statewide groundwater permitting.

The LAO presentation can be accessed at:

Of interest to some member counties, DWR’s Scruggs indicated in her
comments that more flexibility in the law to
address the difficulties of monitoring remote groundwater basins was

The second panel, consisting of representatives of the Sonoma Valley
Groundwater Management Program, the Orange County Water District, and
the Kings River Conservation District briefed the committee on their
groundwater management programs.

The third panel, discussing current and future challenges, was made up
of representatives of the Northern California Water Agency (NCWA), the
Community Water Center, and The Nature Conservancy. David Guy, President
of NCWA, suggested that a program similar to the Cooperative Snow Survey
established for groundwater management could coordinate the various
state agencies with groundwater information, while creating a public
advisory committee that includes local entities. Additionally, Guy
suggested that the issue of protection of important recharge zones
should be further advanced this legislative session, and that the
Legislature would benefit from a report on the status of existing law
relating to water supply and land use planning and whether they are
working effectively as part of active groundwater management in California.

Based on comments made by the Chair, it is expected that Assemblymember
Huffman will introduce one or more bills dealing with groundwater this
legislative session.

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