Amid escalating concern regarding California’s continued four year drought, Governor Jerry Brown signed a $1.1 billion emergency drought relief bill into law on Friday. Just under two-thirds, $660 million, is set to go towards improving and increasing the number of flood protection structures in place to protect communities from mudslides and sudden storms. Much of the remaining budget will fund grants for water recycling programs, new wells for drinking water facilities, and improvements at wastewater treatment plants.
Brown also signed three additional bills that would create a framework for sustainable, local groundwater management for the first time in California history. Groundwater currently accounts for one third of California’s water supply. The bills establish a definition of sustainable groundwater management and require local agencies to adopt management plans for the state's most important groundwater basins. The legislation prioritizes groundwater basins that are currently overdrafted and sets a timeline for implementation:
- By 2017, local groundwater management agencies must be identified;
- By 2020, overdrafted groundwater basins must have sustainability plans;
- By 2022, other high and medium priority basins not currently in overdraft must have sustainability plans; and
- By 2040, all high and medium priority groundwater basins must achieve sustainability.
Collectively, these bills mark the most significant statewide investment in water supply infrastructure projects in California in decades – a package that includes surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection.
For full texts of the bills, visit California’s Legislative Information website