When I was in the Assembly, there were many heated debates over water. Fast forward five years and water issues are still just as contentious as ever. It’s being compounded by the drought, which after three years, is producing a lot of uncertainly and concern amongst Californians. But the drought has contributed to one major water crisis that everyone agrees we can work on together – and that’s groundwater.
Groundwater is a critical part of California’s water supply, used to meet approximately 40 percent of the state’s water demands in an average year and up to 60 percent or more during droughts. In some regions, groundwater provides 100 percent of the local water supply. Yet, California is the only state without comprehensive statewide groundwater management programs.
To address this void, the Groundwater Voices Coalition, sponsored by the California Water Foundation, launched a new website today (wwww.groundwatervoices.com) and released a poll that underscore the current situation in regards to California’s groundwater crisis.
The website features a diverse group of 15 Californians, including representatives from North and South, business and agriculture, professional water managers and environmental leaders.
Our groundwater problem is urgent, and we have to fix it before it is irreversible. It has broad appeal across the state and across the political spectrum and it is unifying groups that have traditionally not always been united.
The polling data confirms that Republicans and Democrats agree that we need to work together to protect the resource which ultimately helps people, industry, the environment, jobs and local government.
The time to act is now, in the final days of this legislative session.
We have already seen a wide range of voices agree on a roadmap that will guide our state to a policy framework that will appropriately balance both local and statewide interests, without falling victim to gridlock and “water politics as usual.” It will take strong leadership but we can do it.
And here is what are key principles that will ultimately provide a consensus-based solution:
- Establish a statewide goal of sustainable groundwater management that helps ensure a thriving future for agriculture, protects urban and rural residents, maintains drinking water supplies, protects public trust resources, and avoids irreversible impacts of overdraft;
- Empower locally driven solutions and agencies to achieve groundwater sustainability in a reasonable time frame; and,
- Define limited role for state agencies to include technical assistance for local groundwater management agencies, financial support for implementation, and limited oversight and intervention ONLY when local agencies are unable to achieve sustainable management.
Currently the Legislature is working to try and galvanize support for a legislative fix that is based on the principles mentioned above. This critical work is happening as we speak. Everyone has their sleeves rolled-up and is talking to each other. Our hope is that policy makers can unify behind a vision that benefits all Californians.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the water issues in California today. But we are a can-do state with a lot of opportunity, creativity and strong leaders. Groundwater is an issue that is urgent and galvanizes support from a broad constituency across the state that doesn’t always work together. So lets use this historic opportunity to work together and show we can still do big policy solutions in California that benefit everyone and hopefully create a positive road map for other bi-partisan water solutions in our Great state.