alifornia’s New Groundwater Law: An Interactive Timeline

Hi  Folks —

This information comes from the Legal Planet website.  They put up an interactive timeline, which I have translated into a table.

CA Groundwater Law Timeline


<>California’s New Groundwater Law: An Interactive Timeline

What are the major deadlines for local groundwater management agencies, and when can-or must-state agencies act?

Posted on October 8, 2014 12:17 pm by Nell Green Nylen

Many (including Legal Planet’s own Frank) have examined the pros and cons of California’s new locally-focused groundwater management law.  Such analyses will continue to be critically important as state and local players move forward with the nitty-gritty of actual implementation, and the legislation’s practical, on-the-ground (and under-the-ground) implications become clearer.

In this post, however, my goal is to simply lay out the relationships between the many dates and deadlines embedded in the law.  Together, Senate Bill 1168, Assembly Bill 1739, and Senate Bill 1319 impose mandates for sustainable groundwater management on local agencies in high- and medium-priority groundwater basins.  While the legislation puts most of the burden-and the power-in the hands of locals, it also establishes roles for two state agencies: the Department of Water Resources (<>DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (<>SWRCB).

The timeline shows three categories of dates and deadlines displayed in separate, stacked bands: (1) the upper band shows the major deadlines by which DWR must act; (2) the middle band shows the major deadlines that apply to local agencies; and (3) the lower band shows the dates after which SWRCB could potentially intervene to address local management deficiencies.

A brief summary of each of the three categories of dates and deadlines follows.

1.  Major Deadlines for Action by the Department of Water Resources (DWR)

The new groundwater law relies on DWR to jumpstart local groundwater management efforts by laying ground rules and providing information.  First DWR will set the stage by identifying which groundwater basins have to be managed.  By January 31, 2015, it will establish the initial priority-high, medium, low, or very low-for each groundwater basin in the state.  Only high- and medium-priority basins will be subject to sustainable groundwater management mandates.  If DWR later elevates a low- or very-low-priority basin to
“medium” or “high” priority, that basin will have to establish a groundwater sustainability agency within two years and adopt a groundwater sustainability plan within five. (Water Code § 10722.4).  Although DWR already prioritizes groundwater basins, the legislation adds a new consideration (“adverse impacts on local habitat and local streamflow”) for DWR to take into account.  (Water Code § 10933(b)(8)).

Next, DWR must develop two sets of emergency regulations to govern how DWR and local groundwater agencies interact.  Since the legislation allows local agencies to request basin-boundary revisions, it tasks DWR with adopting regulations that detail the substance and process of boundary review by January 1, 2016.  (Water Code § 10722.2).  Additionally, by June 1, 2016, DWR must adopt regulations for evaluating groundwater sustainability plans, their implementation, and coordination agreements between local agencies for groundwater sustainability planning.  (Water Code § 10733.2).

By December 31, 2016, DWR must publish its best estimate of how much water is available for groundwater replenishment “in the state.”  By the following day, January 1, 2017, DWR has to publish best management practices for sustainable groundwater management.

These deadlines are all front-loaded, with DWR’s actions occurring before deadlines for local agency action come due, but the legislation imposes other deadlines on DWR that are keyed to specific local agency actions instead of to absolute dates.  For example, DWR must evaluate and issue an assessment of each groundwater sustainability plan within 2 years of the date a local agency submits it, then review plans and plan alternatives (see below) at least every five years.  (Water Code §§ 10733.4(d), 10733.8).

2.  Major Deadlines that Apply to Local Agencies

The deadlines for local agencies’ actions begin on the same date DWR’s date-linked deadlines end.

First, if a local agency intends to use an alternative to a groundwater sustainability plan, it must submit that alternative to DWR by January 1, 2017, as well as every five years thereafter.  (Water Code § 10733.6)

Second, if DWR has not approved an alternative (and one is not pending approval), each high- or medium-priority basin must have identified / formed a groundwater sustainability agency by June 30, 2017.  (Water Code §§ 10724, 10735.2(a)(1)).  Any groundwater extractions that take place in parts of basins that lie outside these agencies’  management areas must be reported directly to SWRCB starting on July 1, 2017.  (Water Code §§ 5202, 10724)

The next group of deadlines marks when high- and medium-priority basins must be managed under groundwater sustainability plans.  Basins designated as having critical conditions of overdraft must be managed under groundwater sustainability plans by January 31, 2020.  (Water Code § 10720.7(a)(1)).  For all remaining high- and medium-priority basins, the deadline comes two years later, on January 31, 2022.  (Water Code § 10720.7(a)(2)).  Subsequently, groundwater sustainability agencies have to submit annual reports to DWR.  The reports must include information about groundwater elevation, (aggregated) groundwater extraction, use and availability of surface water for recharge or in-lieu use, total water use, and the change in groundwater storage.  (Water Code § 10728)

Within twenty years of the date a groundwater sustainability plan is implemented, a basin is supposed to achieve sustainability (operating within the basin’s sustainable yield).  (Water Code § 10727.2(b)).  However, DWR can give up to two five-year extensions on meeting this goal.  (Water Code § 10727.2(b)(3)).

3.  Dates After Which the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Could Intervene in Local Groundwater Management

In contrast with the hard deadlines it sets for DWR and local-agency action, the legislation identifies a series of dates and other threshold requirements that must be met before SWRCB may-but is not required to-intervene to address deficiencies in local groundwater management.

There are two main stages of intervention possible: probation and interim planning/management.

First, SWRCB can assign probationary status to a basin that has (1) missed a deadline (e.g., to form a groundwater sustainability agency, submit an alternative, or adopt a groundwater sustainability plan), (2) developed an inadequate groundwater sustainability plan, or (3) implemented a plan inadequately.   The legislation includes different dates/thresholds for different types of probation that generally correspond with the passage of a local agency deadline.  For example, the earliest possible date SWRCB can put a basin on probation is June 30, 2017 (e.g., if the basin lacks a groundwater sustainability agency).  However, SWRCB can’t put a basin in which groundwater extractions result in significant depletions of interconnected surface waters on probation for inadequate planning or implementation until January 3 1, 2025, at the earliest. (Water Code § 10735.2).  Beginning ninety days after SWRCB puts a basin on probation, all groundwater extractions must be reported directly to SWRCB.  (Water Code §§ 5202).

The second stage of intervention occurs if SWRCB decides to develop an interim plan for a basin it has placed on probation, often after a substantial waiting period that allows the applicable groundwater sustainability agency time to address the problem. (Water Code §§ 10735.4, 10735.6, 10735.8).

What do these dates and deadlines tell us?

We can draw many inferences from the above dates and deadlines and how they interact with one another.  Most obviously (and as many others have noted), the legislation is not a quick fix for California’s groundwater woes.  Even if every high- and medium-priority groundwater basin meets every deadline, every groundwater sustainability plan is adequate, and each is implemented appropriately, we would not expect to achieve sustainable groundwater management (basins operating at sustainable yield) for at least a quarter of a century.  Longer if we factor in DWR’s ability to give up to two five-year extensions on that deadline.

Beyond this straightforward look at the timeline for implementing California’s new groundwater law, there are many other levels on which we can analyze the legislation and its impacts.  We plan to do so.

Posted in Agriculture Impacting Water, Climate Change Impacts, Drinking Water issues, Groundwater Impacts, Water Conservation Issue, Watershed Related Concerns | Leave a comment

Documents Reveal Billions of Gallons of Oil Industry Wastewater Illegally Injected Into Central California Aquifers

Tests Find Elevated Arsenic, Thallium Levels in Nearby Water Wells

SAN FRANCISCO Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to state documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.

The documents also reveal that Central Valley Water Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates  contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater  in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.

“Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a Center attorney. “Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”

The state’s Water Board confirmed beyond doubt that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.

Thallium is an extremely toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison. Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer. Some  studies show that even low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight illness. “Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands. “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

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Posted in Drinking Water issues, Environmental Impacts, Groundwater Impacts, Oil, Mining, and Gas Water Pollution | Leave a comment

A Rising Tide of Contaminants

By Deborah Blum
September 25, 2014

Photo of fisherman standing in canoe on river

Scientists are concerned by the increasing variety of contaminants in the environment. Traces of pesticides and caffeine were found in the Zumbro River, above, in Minnesota. Credit Brent Frazee/Kansas City Star, via MCT, via Getty Images

Deborah Swackhamer, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, decided last year to investigate the chemistry of the nearby Zumbro River. She and her colleagues were not surprised to find traces of pesticides in the water.

Neither were they shocked to find prescription drugs ranging from antibiotics to the anti–convulsive carbamazepine. Researchers realized more than 15 years ago that pharmaceuticals – excreted by users, dumped down drains – were slipping through wastewater treatment systems.

But though she is a leading expert in so-called emerging contaminants, Dr. Swackhamer was both surprised and dismayed by the sheer range and variety of what she found. Caffeine drifted through the river water, testament to local consumption of everything from coffee to energy drinks. There wererelatively high levels of acetaminophen, the over-the-counter painkiller. Acetaminophen causes liver damage in humans at high doses; no one knows what it does to fish.

“We don’t know what these background levels mean in terms of environmental or public health,” she said. “It’s definitely another thing that we’re going to be looking at.”

Or, she might have said, one of many, many other things.

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Posted in Environmental Impacts, Waste Discharge Pollution | Leave a comment

Report: EPA Proposal to Expand Clean Water Protection is Scientifically Sound

by Emily Atkin, September 23, 2014

Photo of wetlands
CREDIT: Shutterstock

A controversial proposal to expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over United States waters is based on scientifically sound evidence that pollution in streams and wetlands can have a big impact on larger, downstream bodies of water, according to a draft report released by the EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) last week.

The Science Advisory Board, a group of independent scientists chosen by the EPA to review agency reports and regulations, largely signed off on a proposed rule that would give Clean Water Act protection to about 20 million acres of wetland and two million miles of streams. Under current regulations, it’s not totally clear if these bodies of water are covered under the Clean Water Act, meaning it’s also not clear whether the EPA can pursue legal action against potential polluters.

Many agricultural groups, rural groups, and Republicans oppose the proposed rule change, calling it a case of “EPA overreach” that will put burdensome regulations on anyone with a small body of water in their backyard. But the EPA contends that it needs to regulate pollution to small sources like streams, tributaries, and wetlands because that pollution can affect downstream waters that people use for drinking water supply.

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To All,

Don McEnhill, Executive Director of Russian Riverkeeper is a featured interview in:


“The time of using greed to justify degrading our environment is over.”

“We need to get very honest with the amount of water we have in the worst year. We tend to plant vineyards and put up houses based on the wet years, but we need to be planning for the dry years.”
– Don McEnhill

The non-profit documentary features Don McEnhill and other voices on the subject of the protection of the Russian River watershed.

This film needs wider distribution and could really use your help!  Please visit our IndieGoGo fundraising website. Even a small donation will help further distribute this film. We’d love it if you would forward this email to a friend or two! Our sincere thanks!

Here is where you can see this film…and with your help we hope to add more venues!

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014 at 1:00 P.M.
The Clover Theater
Cloverdale, CA 95425

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Raven Film Center
Healdsburg, CA 95448

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2014 6:30pm
West Coast Salmon Summit
The Mill Casino and Hotel – Hwy 101 on Coos Bay
North Bend, Oregon

MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2014 at 7 p.m.
Rialto Cinemas
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Thank you! If you have questions please write us at

Many thanks from all of us,
Producers at The Russian River: All Rivers LLC

THE RUSSIAN RIVER: ALL RIVERS – THE VALUE OF AN AMERICAN WATERSHED is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), 501©(3) nonprofit arts organization.  Contributions in behalf of THE RUSSIAN RIVER: ALL RIVERS – THE VALUE OF AN AMERICAN WATERSHED are payable to IDA and are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Forward to a Friend!

Posted in Agriculture Impacting Water, Groundwater Impacts, Lakes and Resevoirs Impacts, Logging Impacting watershed, Pesticide pollution, Pharmaceutical Contamination, Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Vineyards, Waste Discharge Pollution, Water Conservation Issue, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off

Eel River goes to ground near Fortuna

September 14, 2014

The main stem of the Eel River snakes northwesterly some 200 miles through canyons, forests and verdant farmland, gathering water from its many tributaries as it travels from its headwaters in the Mendocino National Forest to its terminus at the Pacific Ocean south of Humboldt Bay.

But this year, just 10 miles short of its final destination, the river vanishes from view as it passes by the small city of Fortuna, a sign that three years of drought is affecting traditionally water-rich Humboldt County, where the average annual rainfall of 55 inches is more than twice the state’s average.

Other factors, including sediment deposits in the river and escalating water diversions by marijuana cultivators have contributed to the rare, disappearing Eel River incident, according to state and federal fisheries authorities.

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Photo of the Russian River with Kayak

This non-profit feature-length documentary explores the diverse forces influencing the health of California’s Russian River watershed.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014 at 1:00 P.M.
The Clover Theater
121 E 1st St
Cloverdale, CA 95425
(707) 894-6347
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Hearing Dates for Sonoma County’s Riparian Protection Hearings


Please plan to attend one or more of the hearings on riparian protection.  In times of drought our waterways and surrounding lands are particularly vulnerable to degradation, and terribly important as potential areas for recharging our groundwater and protecting our streams.

Mark your calendar & spread the word:

Board of Supervisors hearing
Oct. 21, 2014 (tentative)
Nov. 18, 2014 (tentative)
Supervisors’ Chambers
Sonoma County Administration Building
575 Administration Drive, Room 102A

Be sure to let others know about these important hearings.  Our voices will be needed to inform and encourage good decisions.

have a great week,

Posted in Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off

Environmental Water Caucus Shreds ‘Misleading’ Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Written By: Dan Bacher, June 12, 2014

The Environmental Water Caucus, a diverse coalition including conservation, fishing and environmental justice groups and the Karuk and Winnemem Wintu Tribes, on June 11 responded to Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its associated Environmental Impact Report with a stinging 250-page critique of BDCP’s inadequacies and multiple failures to conform to state and federal laws.

“The plan is an omelet of distortion and half-truth intended to mislead and deceive,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), characterizes the BDCP as “a construction project masquerading as a habitat conservation plan.”

The core of the plan is the construction of two underground twin tunnels 35 miles long and 40 feet in diameter to deliver Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County.

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The Environmental Water Caucus has responded to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its associated Environmental Impact Report with a stinging 250-page critique of BDCP’s inadequacies and multiple failures to conform to state and federal laws. Among the criticisms detailed in the Caucus’ review are that it is contrary to the Delta Reform Act of 2009, it fails to provide adequate ecological assurances under state and federal endangered species laws, it fails to assure funding for the project, and it fails to analyze reasonable alternatives to the preferred plan for huge tunnels under the Delta. Other points highlighted by the Caucus include:

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