CA Lawmakers Approve Water & Energy Use Bills

By Published On: September 4, 2014

Legislation attempting to better conserve water resources and intertwined energy supplies await the governor’s signature. Three bills seek to set parameters for groundwater extraction to alleviate the increased stress on the shrinking supply. While surface water use is regulated by the state, groundwater use is not. California is one of the few states in the U.S. that does not regulate groundwater. Those proposed laws are: -Sen. Fran Pavley’s SB 1168 and SB 1319. They target water districts that pump from aquifers suffering from serious over draft, requiring the development of sustainable groundwater plans. Overdraft occurs when the amount of groundwater removed from the basin significantly exceeds an aquifer’s replenishment rate. -SB 1168 is tied to Assemblymember Roger Dickinson’s (D-Sacramento) AB 1739. It seeks the same end. The two bills together create the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. “These bills take the much needed steps to preserve and restore a limited and indispensable resource—groundwater,” Pavley said. Accessing groundwater pumping data, however, is no easy task. A July 2014 University of California at Davis drought report notes that a “lack of groundwater pumping information precludes most forms of regional groundwater management.” The trio of bills passed both legislative houses last week. Pavley’s bills were passed by the Senate and Assembly Aug. 29. Dickinson’s related measure was passed by the Assembly Aug. 29 and two days earlier by the Senate. Two other Pavley bills seek to limit the stress on water supplies, thus also energy resources: -SB 1036 authorizes urban water management plans to track energy use and incorporate energy considerations in water planning. -SB 985 seeks to promote the collection and use of storm water, which can help meet local demand. “Storm water has the potential to supply up to 630,000 acre feet of water in Southern California and the Bay Area alone, roughly the equivalent of a year’s supply for the City of Los Angeles,” Pavley said. An acre foot is 325,871 gallons. Curbing the distance that water is transported can save a considerable amount of energy. Southern California water supplies are far more energy intensive, largely because of the distance imported water travels. “On average, water conveyance requires more than 50 times the energy for Southern California than it does for Northern California. That is five times the national average,” according to an Energy Commission report on water-energy use.

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