Originally published in Capitol Weekly on June 19, 2014.
Dramatic declines in groundwater levels and a record drought have made groundwater management reform in California a priority for discussion in the California Legislature and a call for change. Among the principal reasons given for these changes are the lack of available data and the need for new laws and state oversight. It is true that we have no centralized regulatory entity that oversees groundwater use, and overdraft is ever worsening in some portions of the state.
The cause of groundwater overdraft in California, however, is not a failure of our laws per se. In California groundwater may only be harvested in quantities that do not exceed a baseline supply, commonly known as “Safe Yield”. In short, we may lawfully take only that quantity of groundwater that can be safely removed without causing harm to others and the environment.
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