California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“Act”) has been heralded as a “once-in-a-century achievement.” While some have criticized the Act’s relatively modest regulatory goals, long compliance deadlines, and weak enforcement powers, others have hailed the mere accomplishment of the state passing some form of groundwater legislation and celebrated the Act’s stated goals of protecting existing water rights and local control of groundwater supplies. Some groundwater basins may prove to be well-suited for the regulatory scheme imposed by the Act, but equitable regulation of other groundwater basins may be challenged by current and future efforts to privatize these groundwater resources. Specifically, several major basins, including the Paso Robles and the Kern, are threatened by the development of water banking operations which function to replace groundwater resources with privatized, banked water that would undermine the public interest – a threat that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act may be promoting.
Adam Keats and Chelsea Tu,
Not All Water Stored Underground is Groundwater: Aquifer Privatization and California's 2014 Groundwater Sustainable Management Act, 9 Golden Gate U. Envtl. L.J. 93