Jan 02

2015 California Water Laws

January 1 is a traditional day on which new laws approved by the California legislature go into effect, and the Lege passed a whole lot of laws in 2014. As a fourth severe drought year looms, it’s no surprise that a lot of those laws pertain to water. We’ve described the most important here.

AB 148: Salton Sea Restoration
As written when first introduced, this law would have authorized feasibility studies to fund Salton Sea restoration efforts through developing the region’s geothermal and solar energy resources. Those provisions were stripped out of the bill, which now merely adjusts agency responsibility for the long-delayed restoration of the Salton Sea.

AB 2100 and AB 2104: HOA lawns fines
AB 2100 is an emergency measure that went into effect as soon as it was passed in February: Homeowners associations can no longer legally fine members for letting their lawns or other landscaping die in order to save water. AB 2104 clarifies the state law that allows HOAs, saying that they can’t legally forbid replacing lawns with more water-conserving plants.

SB 1168, SB 1319, and AB 1739: Groundwater Management
Until this last drought year, California had some of the least-stringent groundwater regulations in the country. A trio of bills passed in the last legislative session starts to change that. SB 1168 proclaims the state’s interest in regulating groundwater sustainably, creating local groundwater sustainability agencies and specifying that existing agencies now tracking groundwater reservoirs consider the effects of their use on surface water such as streams and lakes. Sb 1319 allows the state to classify individual groundwater basins according to the degree of their depletion, and to single out “probationary” basins that are severely overdrafted. AB 1739 allows the above-mentioned groundwater sustainability agencies to assess fees of water users, as well as fines on those who continue to overdraft groundwater in probationary basins.