California’s severe drought has set off alarms from the Capitol to the sound stages of Hollywood. The Governor has declared a State of Emergency and both Lady Gaga and Conan O’Brien have starred in “Save Our Water” public service announcements to promote water conservation measures. On the more impactful legislative front, the California Legislature has passed three pieces of legislation that together make up the “Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.” This new regulatory program may have significant land use implications, particularly in the case of general plan amendments, as it potentially adds a new layer of review to the entitlement process.
Before this Act, regulation of groundwater pumping in California was virtually non-existent, with no meaningful statewide standards for groundwater management. This Act creates new standards and, in the process, merges groundwater management and local planning. Before a city or county can adopt any substantial amendment of its general plan, it will be required to review and consider applicable Groundwater Sustainability Plans. These Groundwater Sustainability Plans will be prepared by newly-established local “Groundwater Sustainability Agencies,” comprised of one or more local agencies. Not only must the city or county consider the applicable Plan, it also must refer the proposed general plan amendment for review and comment to the Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Continue reading