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Governor’s Administration Releases Proposal for Modernizing Groundwater Adjudication Process

Legislation also Proposed

July 28, 2015
The primary method for solving groundwater disputes and protecting groundwater basins prior to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was litigation.
When over-pumping led to a crisis, like seawater intrusion or chronic overdraft, people had little choice but to file a lawsuit, called an adjudication, in which all rights to water in a basin could be defined by a court.
This is an expensive and cumbersome process, sometimes lasting decades. SGMA now requires groundwater basins to be managed sustainably through local management plans, but does not define water rights. The Administration believes that this leaves a need to provide water right holders with a forum for resolving legal disputes over water rights.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SGMA into law, committing to reforming the adjudication process. The Administration recently released its proposal and if enacted, the legislation would provide a modern, comprehensive adjudication process for all groundwater basins that are regulated under SGMA, and an option for basins that are not. The proposal seeks to make adjudications more cost-effective, provide a process to settle water right disputes, and ensure that litigants don’t misuse the court system to obstruct or delay SGMA. The League is in the process of reviewing the Governor’s proposal.
Supporting documents include: The Legislature is also considering two bills that pertain to the adjudication process, SB 226 (Pavley) and AB 1390 (Alejo).

Visit California Groundwater for news and information on implementation of SGMA.

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