October 11, 2015, marked the deadline by which Governor Brown had to act on legislation submitted to him by the legislature in September. In addition to those bills the Governor signed, we note below legislation that has been identified as two-year legislation. Stoel Rives’ Water Law Team has been monitoring water-related legislation, especially given California’s historic drought. We will continue to monitor bills identified as two-year bills, as well as any bills introduced in the second half of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session. We will provide periodic updates as these bills move through the legislative process. Below is the status and summary of some of the bills Stoel Rives is monitoring.

Supply and Groundwater

AB-307 (Mathis): Graywater: groundwater recharge

STATUS: Currently identified as a two-year bill.

If passed by the legislature and signed into law, AB-307 would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to explicitly permit the usage of residential, commercial and industrial graywater for the recharge of a groundwater basin or aquifer.

AB-453 (Bigelow): Groundwater Management

STATUS: Currently identified as a two-year bill and pending in the Senate.

If passed by the legislature and chaptered, this bill would authorize, until a groundwater sustainability plan is adopted, a local agency to amend an existing groundwater management plan in furtherance of, and consistent with, the groundwater management plan’s objectives.

AB-647 (Eggman): Beneficial use: storing of water underground

STATUS: Currently identified as a two-year bill and pending in the Senate.

If signed into law, this bill would:

  • declare that the storing of water underground constitutes a beneficial use of water if the diverted water is used while it is in underground storage for specified purposes;
  • state the intent of the Legislature that this storage of water underground not injure any legal user of the water involved; and,
  • provide that the period for the reversion of a water right does not include any period when the water is being used in the aquifer or storage area or is being held in storage for later application to beneficial use, as prescribed.

AB-936 (Salas): Groundwater monitoring

STATUS: Currently identified as a two-year bill.

If signed by the Governor and chaptered, this bill would authorize the department to exempt an entity from this eligibility restriction if the entity submits to the department for approval documentation demonstrating that there are special circumstances justifying the entity’s noncompliance, including, but not limited to, that a significant portion of the entity’s service area qualifies as a disadvantaged community and that the water grant or loan project includes those actions needed to comply with groundwater monitoring functions.

AB-1390 (Alejo): Groundwater adjudication

STATUS: AB-1390 was signed by the Governor and Chaptered by the Secretary of State on October 9, 2015.

Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which applies to all groundwater basins in the state, all basins designated as high- or medium-priority basins by the Department of Water Resources as basins that are subject to critical conditions of overdraft, as specified, are required to be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan or coordinated groundwater sustainability plans by January 31, 2020. This bill establishes special procedures for a comprehensive adjudication, which is defined as an action filed in superior court to comprehensively determine rights to extract groundwater in a basin. For additional information, please see our post on Stoel’s California Environmental Law Blog from August 21, 2015, entitled, “Legislation Revamping California Groundwater Adjudications Marches Forward.”

SB-228 (Cannella): Groundwater storage: beneficial use

STATUS: SB-228 is currently identified as a two-year bill.

If passed by the legislature and chaptered, SB-228 would declare that the recharging of a groundwater basin by a local groundwater management agency or a local groundwater sustainability agency for the purposes of repelling saline intrusion and recovering basin groundwater levels constitutes a beneficial use of water if the recharge is consistent with the local agency’s groundwater management plan or groundwater sustainability plan.

Water Quality

AB-725 (Wagner): Water quality: recycled water: storm-induced overflow

STATUS: AB-225 has been identified as a two-year bill.

If signed into law, this bill, on or before December 31, 2016, would require the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Board”) , in consultation with stakeholders, to adopt a policy to address the potential for a storm-induced overflow from an impoundment in which recycled water is stored for subsequent beneficial use or aesthetic purposes.

AB-1242 (Gray): Water quality: impacts on groundwater: instream flows

STATUS: AB-1242 has been identified as a two-year bill and is pending in the Senate. If passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, this bill would require the State Board to:

  • take into consideration any applicable groundwater sustainability plan or alternative in formulating state policy for water quality control and adopting or approving a water quality control plan that affects a groundwater basin; and,
  • identify projects for fish recovery that may be undertaken in lieu of instream flows before adopting or approving water quality objectives or a program of implementation that requires instream flows for protection of instream beneficial uses.

SB-385 (Hueso): Primary drinking water standards: hexavalent chromium: compliance plan

STATUS: SB-385 was signed by the Governor and Chaptered by the Secretary of State on September 4, 2015.  

SB-385 takes effect immediately as an urgency statute and further:

  • authorizes, until January 1, 2020, the State Board, at the request of a public water system that prepares and submits a compliance plan to the State Board, to grant a period of time to achieve compliance with the primary drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium by approving the compliance plan, as prescribed;
  • requires a public water system to provide specified notice regarding the compliance plan to its customers and the public water system to send written status reports to the State Board;
  • prohibits a public water system from being deemed in violation of the primary drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium while implementing an approved compliance plan or while State Board action on its proposed and submitted compliance plan is pending;
  • authorizes the State Board to direct revisions to a compliance plan if the board makes certain determinations and prohibits a public water system from being granted a period of time to achieve compliance under certain circumstances, including if the public water system does not submit a revised compliance plan or the revised compliance plan is disapproved; and,
  • authorizes the State Board to implement, interpret, or make specific these provisions by means of criteria published on its Internet Web site.

Well Reports

SB-20 (Pavley): Wells: reports: public availability

STATUS: SB-20 was ordered to the Assembly on June 1, 2015. It was read for the first time in the Assembly on June 2, 2015, but failed to pass the Assembly before the September 11 deadline. The bill has been identified as a two-year bill.

If signed by the Governor, SB 20 would:

  • require the Department of Water Resources to, upon request, make available to the public the reports of completion filed by anyone who digs, bores or drills a water well, cathodic protection well or a monitoring well, or abandons or destroys a well, or deepens or reperforates a well and require the Department of Water Resources to provide specified disclaimers when providing such reports to the public;
  • authorize the department to charge a fee for the provision of a report to recover the costs that does not exceed the reasonable costs to the department of providing the report;
  • require the release of a report to comply with the Information Practices Act of 1977 and would require the Department of Water Resources to redact from the report specified information pertaining to the well owner; and,
  • require a person who requests a report to provide his or her name, address, identification number from a government-issued source, as provided, and reason for making the request.

Mutual Water Companies

AB-656 (Garcia): Joint powers agreements: mutual water companies

STATUS: AB-656 was signed by the Governor and Chaptered by the Secretary of State on September 3, 2015.

AB-656 specifically authorizes a mutual water company and a public agency to participate in joint powers agreement for the provision of insurance and risk-pooling, technical support, and other similar services for the purpose of reducing risk liability, as specified.