Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


The purpose of this Article is to explore the preparation of Water Supply Assessments in the context of subsurface water supplies. The term “subsurface water supplies” is used here rather than “groundwater” because, as discussed below, the proponent of a development project may propose to utilize a subsurface water supply (such as water produced from beneath the surface of land via a well or a flowing spring) that is not properly classified as groundwater because it falls within the legal definition of subterranean stream flow. In such a case, the supply would be subject to the water rights permitting jurisdiction of the State Water Resources Control Board. A central premise of this Article is that, in the context of subsurface water supplies, the level of scientific and legal certainty required under SB 610-related statutes often does not exist in California. Recent appellate decisions suggest that the courts will afford public water-system operators substantial discretion in determining the sufficiency of subsurface supplies under SB 610. Looking forward, a key question is whether public water systems will consistently exercise such discretion in a manner that ensures the prudent management of the state’s groundwater resources.