Gray Proposes Laws to Alleviate Effects of Drought in Valley, Statewide

Taylor HillmanDrought, General

Adam Gray

Adam Gray

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) today proposed three new priority water bills aimed at mitigating the impact of the drought on farmers statewide and spurring Central Valley agriculture.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1242 prohibits the State Water Board from adopting water plans that significantly harm groundwater basins. For the past year, the Board has considered redirecting significantly more water away from agriculture and urban users to allow additional water to flow out to the San Francisco Bay Delta.

In a February 4 letter to Gov. Brown, Gray called the proposal to divert more than 350,000 acre feet of water from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced river basins “unreasonable, punitive and discriminatory.”

“It is ludicrous to demand we develop policies for sustainable groundwater and at the same time take away the single most important recharge element — irrigation water. That the agency responsible for compliance with the new groundwater law would even consider such action in one of our most threatened groundwater basins is mind boggling and offensive to those of us who live there,” said Gray.

As rivers and streams have dried up due to the lack of rain and snow in the mountains, many users have turned to pumping groundwater to meet their needs. Unfortunately, the prolonged drought has drained the state’s normally robust supply of groundwater. AB 1243 helps local governments and water districts pay to construct systems to put water back into the ground.

“We need to be aggressive, and innovative in meeting our groundwater challenges,” said Gray. “There are too many stories of Central Valley wells going dry, and we have too few resources in place to help local communities refill their wells and basins. We need to take some of the money going to bureaucrats in Sacramento, and invest in water recharge systems locally.”

Gray also introduced AB 1244 that allows farmers to construct small on-farm ponds to accommodate water storage and targeted irrigation.

“Farmers on the Russian River watershed are allowed expedited reviews of small ponds and reservoirs. This bill simply extends that ability to all farmers in the state.” concluded Gray.

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