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UCLA Law report recommends improvements in state’s groundwater regulation

Originally published in UCLA Newsroom
By Lauri Gavel & Sara Rouche

California's water supply system depends heavily on groundwater use, but its overuse threatens the reliability of the state's future water availability. A new report by the UCLA School of Law's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment recommends improvements the state can make in groundwater monitoring and regulation to help secure California's water supply.

"Under Water: Monitoring and Regulating Groundwater in California," the Emmett Center's inaugural Anthony Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Brief, discusses the importance of groundwater and its management, as well as the advantages of realigning California's water rights system. 

"To encourage efficient and responsible water use, California must better account for the benefits of water availability and the costs of overuse," said the report's author, M. Rhead Enion, UCLA's Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy. "Surface water and groundwater are connected — increased use of one affects supply of the other — and an overuse of groundwater can negatively affect surface water supply. Without comprehensive monitoring of groundwater use and quality throughout the state, programs to encourage water efficiency and conservation are undermined." 

While groundwater makes up approximately 30 to 40 percent of the state's annual water supply, there are currently only limited local regulations on groundwater, with no statewide guidelines. Among Western states, only California and Texas still allow the use of groundwater without a permit or other means of tracking and regulating users.

According to "Under Water," the state should establish enforceable standards and goals for monitoring, data reporting and management of groundwater basins, to be implemented by regional and local entities. The paper recommends, among other things: comprehensive groundwater monitoring, including groundwater-use metering and groundwater-quality screenings; the availability at a statewide level of monitoring data from regional and local agencies; and the implementation of statewide rules for regional regulation of groundwater, with mandatory management goals. 

"With the tools to value water appropriately, and through better integration of surface water and groundwater policy, the state can help to protect its water supply from overuse so that Californians can enjoy sufficient water into the future," said Cara Horowitz, the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Executive Director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. 

To read a full copy of "Under Water: Monitoring and Regulating Groundwater in California," visit the UCLA School of Law website

The Anthony Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Briefs are published by the UCLA School of Law and the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment in conjunction with researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines and the broader environmental law community. They are made possible though a generous donation by Anthony "Tony" Pritzker, managing partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group. The papers provide expert analysis to further public dialogue on issues impacting the environment.

The UCLA School of Law, founded in 1949, is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training, and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession.