Groundwater Ruling Has Rippling Effects

Decision could lead to unprecedented state regulations

Amid concerns of costly and unregulated use of California’s groundwater, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has ruled groundwater pumping that impairs waterways violates the public’s right to use those waterways, which one group states could set the stage for making counties responsible for implementing regulations.

“What we have here in California is a first-time ruling that groundwater pumping has to be managed and regulated to protect nearby rivers under the (California Environmental Quality Act) and public trust doctrine,” Environmental Law Foundation staff attorney Lowell Chow said. “It hasn’t really been applied by California courts before, certainly not with respect to groundwater. What we have here is a decision that we think is a pretty big deal because it shifts the landscape in terms of how we deal with groundwater management.” …

Stuart Dickey of Rich Well Drilling and Pump Service Inc. in McKinleyville said he averages three to five phone calls a day requesting his company to drill wells, and about one-third are requesting to have their wells drilled deeper.

“We went out to a spot (Thursday) and pulled a pump because they were running short up on McClellan Mountain,” he said. “We drilled the well last year. The elevation dropped 15 feet in the last year.”

As for the number of wells currently in the county, Hawkins said her department does not have a figure, but she has seen a surge in applications to install groundwater extraction wells over the past year.

The UC Davis study states that California is the only western state without groundwater rights regulations and does not measure groundwater use, but that both the state Senate and Assembly are considering two groundwater policy bills — AB 1739 and SB 1168 — which would provide incentives for increased management of groundwater and assure groundwater support for crops during the ongoing drought.

Article by: Will Houston

Published by: Eureka Times Standard

Published: July 17, 2014

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