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© Krantz News Service, September 2, 2014

Now in the third year of a serious drought, California has become the last state in the nation to pass comprehensive groundwater management legislation. Gov. Jerry Brown received a legislative package including Assembly Bill 1739 and Senate Bill 1168 on Aug. 29.

Earlier in August, Brown signed legislation to place a water bond measure before California voters in November. It addresses a range of local projects as well as groundwater cleanup and management.

Assemblyman Roger Dickenson, D-Sacramento, sponsor of AB 1739, said groundwater management was an urgent need. Watch video of the Assembly floor debate regarding groundwater regulation here.

To track to progress of all California groundwater-related legislation click here.

"In a normal year groundwater supplies about 40 percent of the water consumed in California," he said in a floor speech. "In periods of drought such as we find ourselves (in) now, that percentage jumps to 60 percent or more. That means that over 75 percent of Californians -- about 30 million people -- are relying on groundwater for a portion of their drinking water. And for some it's their only source."

Dickenson drew attention to the fact that even Texas, known for a growth-friendly regulatory environment, has comprehensive groundwater management. "I often hear around this building that we should be more like Texas," he said. "For those of you who believe that, here's your chance."

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who finished second in the Republican gubernatorial primary in June, spoke against the legislation, calling it "a massive infringement on the right of private property."

Donnelly later posted a more extensive critique at the conservative media outlet, breitbart.com.

"This drought is a government-created drought due to the lack of vision and the lack of action," he said. "Had we taken action to build the storage we need then we wouldn't have a state where we're burning through groundwater faster than we're burning through cash."

But the Union of Concerned Scientists endorses California's legislation, saying it will address "a host of problems including land subsidence, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers, harm to ecosystems, and increased conflicts among water users."

As noted in the Daily Democrat of Woodland, Calif., agricultural interests who depend upon tapping into the groundwater oppose the legislation.

And many have observed that even as California debates its water crisis, the state has not built a reservoir since 1979. (See San Jose Mercury News feature on the issue here.)

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