Amid well-drilling and pumping, calls grow for stronger California water regulation

Cascade Drilling, LP, drills into the ground for a multicompletion monitoring well in Zamora, California, for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program of the California Department of Water Resources. Zamora is a city in Yolo County. Photo taken September 26, 2018.
Florence Low /DWR

In 2014, California adopted a landmark law aimed at combating excessive groundwater pumping, especially in farming areas of the San Joaquin Valley where many families were seeing their wells sputter and run dry.

More than eight years later, many local agencies are still working on long-term groundwater sustainability plans. Water levels have continued to decline, and in many areas household wells have continued to dry up — including some that have failed since torrential rains soaked the state in January.

Now, with more wells at risk of running dry, activists are urging the state to intervene in five Central Valley areas where they say plans are inadequate to combat chronic overpumping.

“At this point, we just don’t believe that the locals will actually take into consideration drinking water needs,” said Nataly Escobedo Garcia, a policy coordinator with the environmental justice group Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

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