The California Legislature appeared to be heading toward an historic breakthrough on water reform last night before an impasse over mandatory groundwater monitoring arose and threatened to crush a package of policy and financing bills.Bottom line: They were making great progress until they attempted to pass a bill that would align California with the other49 states and ensure monitoring of groundwater use at the state, rather than local, level.
Early in a long night of roll-call votes, signs were pointing to the state Senate delivering key portions of a comprehensive water package to the Assembly. The Senate passed a negotiated water policy bill, 29-4, before easily securing the two-thirds threshold required to move a controversial $9.99 billion water bond, 28-8.
Then groundwater monitoring reappeared and slowed momentum in the chamber. A bill that would require statewide monitoring of water pumped from the ground — as opposed to more relaxed local control — was defeated under pressure from agribusiness groups and water districts, just as it was rejected earlier this fall.The Senate then recessed floor action and later called it quits for the night.
The irony of NOT monitoring groundwater use is huge when you consider that groundwater supplies are being depleted so quickly that land subsidence is becoming an issue even in states that monitor it, much less California. And once depleted, groundwater becomes more saline, often accelerating the degradation of agricultural land due to salt intrusion. The USGS estimates that 400,000 - 700,000 acres of arable land in California will be lost to agriculture due to this issue alone by the end of 2010.
And so the quest for common sense in Sacramento continues...