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I find some hope for the future of our planet in the emergence of millions of unconnected environmental and social movements. The leaderless Anarchy of this mass phenomenon and its macro scale means that its cells will not be centrally controlled or turned aside by profit motives. It seems to be a genuine grass roots response to the global threat which our planet faces. —Paul Hawken

Sacramento Judge Makes Precedent-Setting Ruling On Groundwater Regulation

Latest Data Shows
California Drought
Gets More Extreme

Ed Joyce
July 17, 2014

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that extreme drought has expanded in California.

In the July 15 discussion of the national drought, the report shows that much of California is in either in extreme drought (81.85 percent) or exceptional drought (36.49 percent) and “May-September normally dry, there is not much more room for further deterioration, at least during the dry season.” 

But then the report goes on to say that extreme drought has expanded in Southern California “east of San Diego to include the mountains, and to cities such as Riverside and San Bernardino.”

The report also cites NOAA National Climatic Data Center rankings showing that from July 2013 - June 2014, California experienced its warmest and third driest period since 1895.

“The only drier July-June periods were in 1923-24 and 1976-77,” according to the drought discussion released Thursday. “This is the first time California experienced three consecutive years in the top 20 for dryness: 2011-12 ranked 20th, 2012-13 ranked 18th, and statewide precipitation has averaged 67 percent of normal during this three-year period, and was just 56 percent of normal in 2013-14. Fortunately California’s reservoirs hold more water than they did in 1977 when the state experienced its 4th and 2nd driest years on record from July 1975."

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that extreme drought has expanded in California.

Ed Joyce
July 16, 2014

The Scott River in Siskiyou County
The Scott River in Siskiyou County

A Sacramento Superior Court judge issued a ruling Tuesday requiring regulation of groundwater pumping to protect a river in Siskiyou County.

Attorneys on both sides say it's the first time a California court has ruled the "public trust doctrine" applies to groundwater. The doctrine says the State of California holds all waterways for the benefit of the people.

The lawsuit claimed groundwater pumping in the Scott River Basin is partly responsible for decreased river flows - limiting the public's use of the river and harming fish habitat.

Jim Wheaton with the Environmental Law Foundation was lead attorney for the plaintiffs. He said the ruling is "a monumental decision."

"Because California is famously the only western state that has no regulation of groundwater pumping at all. And so this decision for the first time is going to say that well at least where that groundwater pumping affects surface waters, you've got to regulate it and control it so you don't do harm,” said Wheaton.

The lawsuit named the California State Water Resources Board and Siskiyou County.

Attorney Rod Walston represents Siskiyou County. He said under current state policy, groundwater regulation is a local responsibility. 

Walston said the ruling by Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner fundamentally changes that system.

"By requiring, not allowing or permitting, but rather requiring counties to regulate groundwater by application of public trust principle,” said Walston.” He said the trial court ruling will likely be appealed and the final decision may be made by the California Supreme Court.

The ruling comes as California is in the third year of a drought which has brought calls for an organized groundwater management system.