Update on 2015 Water Legislation


California legislators introduced dozens of water-related bills in 2015. The LWVC was most interested in bills expected to have statewide impacts in the following areas: water conservation; water availability and quality, especially for low-income or disadvantaged users; environmental protection; and sustainable management of groundwater.

The League supported the following bills that passed both houses of the legislature and were sent to the Governor:

  • AB 88 (Gomez) Exemption from sales and use taxes of certain energy- or water-efficient home appliances provided to low-income persons—Vetoed by the Governor because of financial uncertainties with the state budget.
  • AB 401 (Dodd) Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program—signed by the Governor and chaptered into law.

The LWVC took a position on the following that are now two-year bills that may see action in 2016:

  • AB 311 (Gallagher) Changes to environmental impact report process for some water storage projects funded by the 2014 water bond, Proposition 1—Oppose
  • AB 356 (Williams) Groundwater monitoring of oil and gas facilities—Support
  • SB 7 (Wolk) Water metering in multifamily residential rental buildings—Support
  • SB 127 (Vidak) The senate version of AB 311 above—Oppose
  • SB 248 (Pavley) Inspections and reporting relating to oil and gas operations—Support
  • SB 454 (Allen) Conditions governing proposals by the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to exempt aquifers from U.S. EPA water quality requirements—Support

The League followed but did not take a position on two additional groundwater bills that were of interest to many of our members and that have statewide implications. AB 1390 (Alejo) and SB 226 (Pavley) address adjudication of groundwater rights. These initially competing bills ended up containing provisions that work in tandem, with each bill stipulating that neither bill would take effect unless both were enacted. Both passed through the legislature with nearly unanimous votes in both houses and were signed into law by Governor Brown.

AB 1390 and SB 226 provide for comprehensive adjudications of groundwater rights and priorities within a groundwater basin. Groundwater adjudications in California have sometimes taken decades to resolve. This legislation aims to improve efficiency, reduce unnecessary delays, provide due process, and be consistent with the achievement of groundwater sustainability within the timeframes of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The goal is to correct the serious, long-term groundwater overdraft that is occurring in many California groundwater basins.