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Environment & Science

Is 2040 too little, too late for rules about pumping groundwater in the Golden State?




California governor Jerry Brown talks about new efforts to cope with climate change during a panel discussion at the 18th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
California governor Jerry Brown talks about new efforts to cope with climate change during a panel discussion at the 18th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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It’s been one year since Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s first-ever groundwater regulations into law.

Groundwater is the water that’s found underground… It’s still not clear how much California has, since efforts to calculate the amount separately from surface water (lakes and rivers) have been resisted for decades.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act asks each basin and aquifer throughout California to craft its own plan for managing groundwater use. That means the plan for a basin in the parched Central Valley could be drastically different from one in the Bay. But the deadline for these regulations isn’t until 2040 -- and the unchecked pumping of groundwater is already causing parts of California to literally sink.

Last month, 21 of the state’s groundwater basins and sub-basins were deemed “critically overdrafted” by the State Water Resources Board. That means a ton of water is going out -- and very little is coming back in.

Governor Jerry Brown is already threatening to implement pumping restrictions ahead of schedule… So what are the basins going to do? And how soon are they going to do it?

Guests:

Tim Ross, Groundwater Section Chief for the Southern Region Office of the Department of Water Resources

Chris Scheuring, environmental attorney for the California Farm Bureau

Peter Gleick, President and Co-founder of the Pacific Institute