Without much public involvement, the State Senate passed sweeping groundwater legislation Wednesday that will create a new government agency with extraordinary powers to impose fees and fines on property owners who rely on groundwater.

Tonight’s vote underscores the lack of trust the public has in the Legislature. This legislation will drastically change the way Californians deal with groundwater, and yet, the public has not been included in the deliberation.

This measure will increase regional water tensions. It pits the little guys against the big boys. It exempts the largest consuming counties like Los Angeles and their basins from the regulations.

Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickinson) and Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), together would require landowners to register their wells and install meters on their pumps. Newly created and existing government agencies will be granted enforcement powers to inspect, with or without landowners’ consent, the property or pump to ensure compliance. If the State Water Resources Control Board deems that local agencies failed to comply and/or enforce restrictive regulations, then the State intervenes with its excessive powers to impose fees and fines. 

This bill would create local and state water police, who will have the ability to limit and restrict groundwater use.

If this legislation passes, landowners’ rights to the water underneath their private property could be diminished and the value of the land may be lessened.

Landowners would be subject to limitation, even suspension, of the groundwater underneath their properties.

Let’s do the people’s business the way that we should. We – Republicans and Democrats – collaborated and had an open process on the water bond a few weeks ago. Let’s regain the trust of the people of this great state and include more public involvement.

Assembly Bill 1739 passed the Senate with a vote of 26 to 11. It now moves to the Assembly for concurrence.