From Circle of Blue:
Because the state has such variety in its aquifers and management agencies, local control is important, said Dennis O’Connor, the principal consultant to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water and the Senate’s point man for groundwater policy. But the governor’s office is floundering on the details.
“I don’t think they know what they want to do,” O’Connor told Circle of Blue on Wednesday, having just come from a meeting with the governor’s staff. “I don’t think they can articulate what they want to see manifested in a new groundwater policy.”
The governor’s 2014-15 budget proposal does include $US 11.9 million for groundwater, money that will be used to hire enforcement staff, monitor aquifer levels, and assess pollution in aquifers used for drinking water.
The reason they cannot articulate what they want to see is that everything that would work is taboo. It is so taboo, in fact, that I would be surprised if it even gets brought up and rejected. The things they will say aloud, even in the privacy of the executive suite, are either already in process (monitor levels) or so trivial that the drought immediately exposes the suggestion as ridiculous.
Here is what the governor’s office could do if it wanted to address groundwater with the seriousness that matches the drought, and the extent of overdraft and subsidence. They declare groundwater to be a resource that belongs to the state. They figure out safe yield from the basins in the San Joaquin Valley. They might assign that to overlying users by some rule (weighted by acreage ownership) or they might auction it off (using the proceeds to do something useful). They accept that irrigated acreage will go down as a result, since growers have been mining groundwater for decades to expand irrigated acreage beyond what precip and safe yield can provide.
This isn’t conceptually hard or complicated. It exists in the world already. It exists in some groundwater basins in California already. The governor’s office won’t propose the thing that would work because it is politically taboo, not because it is beyond us to fix this problem. So they won’t say (or maybe even think) the thing that would work and they’ve already said the other banal benign things. They’re left with nothing, which shows through to observers.
You know, Governor Brown. They already hate you for the high speed train. You aren’t getting them back. Why not use the drought to get ‘er done? Save the San Joaquin Valley aquifers by
fiat emergency powers; their grandchildren will thank you.