California’s newer groundwater regulatory structure, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“SGMA”), was signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on September 16, 2014. The State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) is the enforcement agency for SGMA. SGMA requires the SWRCB to establish a schedule of fees sufficient to recover the costs incurred by
Wes Miliband leads Stoel Rives’ California water practice and focuses on securing and protecting water rights and water supplies, including assistance with water transfers as well as the infrastructure necessary to treat, store and deliver water. Wes’s practice lends itself to related environmental issues involving water quality impacts to surface water and groundwater supplies, regulatory permitting and environmental compliance with federal and state requirements. Wes is listed among Rising Stars (Environmental) by Super Lawyers® for 2013 to 2017.
On May 5, 2017, the Sacramento Superior Court issued a decision that the state’s water regulation, when it comes to the hexavalent chromium, also known as Chromium 6 (or Chrom-6) water standard, is not economically feasible and must be withdrawn. A copy of the Court’s Order can be read here.
In 2014, the California…
On April 7th, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in fifty-four of the fifty-eight California counties. After six years of a prolonged drought in California, Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne.
While the drought is declared over for…
Co-authored by Wes Miliband and guest-blogger Hayley K. Siltanen
The Ninth Circuit recently ruled that federal reserved water rights held by Indian tribes extend to groundwater underlying reservation lands. Determining the quantity of that groundwater, however, is reserved for another day.
In Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s declaration that the United States impliedly reserved appurtenant water sources, with “appurtenant” including groundwater, when it created the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ reservation in the Coachella Valley of California. The decision marks the first time that a federal appellate court has recognized groundwater rights as being included in federal reserved water rights.
Federal reserved rights are water rights that are appurtenant to land that has been withdrawn from the public domain by the federal government, and that are necessary to accomplish the federal purpose of the withdrawn (or “reserved”) land. In a landmark decision issued over 100 years ago, Winters v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal reserved rights apply to Indian reservations. These rights, known as Winters rights, derive from the federal purpose of the reservation. In the case of the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (the “Tribe”), the Ninth Circuit explained that, “[w]ithout water, the underlying purpose—to establish a home and support an agrarian society—would be entirely defeated.”Continue Reading Tribes’ Federal Water Rights Include Groundwater—But How Much?
In a narrow win for plaintiff Wild Fish Conservancy (“Plaintiff”), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington held that the biological opinion (“BiOp”) for the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (“Hatchery”) was arbitrary and capricious because the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) failed to adequately consider the effects of climate change.
This case concerns a Hatchery located on Icicle Creek about three miles south of Leavenworth, Washington. The purpose of the Hatchery is to replace spawning habitat impacted by construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, and it is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) and the Bureau of Reclamation (“BOR”). Icicle Creek is home to two Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) listed species: the Upper Columbia River Chinook salmon and the Upper Columbia River steelhead.Continue Reading Up the Creek Without a Paddle: District Court Holds that Biological Opinion Must Consider Climate Change Impacts
On October 18, 2016, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released its final modifications to California’s groundwater basin boundaries in response to the emergency regulations adopted by DWR last October. The basin boundary changes were implemented under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to provide flexibility to local public agencies to bring their groundwater basins…
With Senate Bill 1262 (“SB 1262”), California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) has become firmly rooted into the State’s water supply planning laws. Specifically, SB 1262 amends the Water Supply Assessment statute (commonly referred to as “SB 610”) and the Written Verification statute (commonly referred to as “SB 221”).
Background – SB 610 & SB 221
As way of background, SB 610 and SB 221 operate to help cities and counties make informed land use decisions by providing the local governments with information on water supply availability. SB 610 and SB 221 are companion laws that promote more collaborative planning between local water suppliers and cities and counties. Both statutes require detailed information regarding water availability to be provided to the city and county decision-makers prior to approval of specified large development projects.
Under SB 610, Water Supply Assessments must be provided to local governments for certain projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The Water Supply Assessment must analyze whether projected water supplies are sufficient to meet the projected water demand of the proposed development project. Similarly, under SB 221, approval by a city or county of certain subdivisions requires an affirmative Written Verification of sufficient water supply.
Continue Reading With SB 1262, SGMA Becomes Further Entrenched in California’s Water Supply Planning Laws
On August 22, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) held an informational meeting to answer questions and get the public up to speed on California’s new surface water diversion reporting requirements. As we previously reported, all surface water diverters will be required to report their diversions annually instead of every three years, as previously required.
Below are three things you need to know about the new requirements:
- The requirements will be phased in depending on how much you divert.
The measurement requirements of the regulation apply to all water right holders who divert more than 10 acre-feet of water per year and will be phased in between January 2017 and January 2018. Large diverters with a right to take 1,000 acre-feet of water or more per year must have a measuring device in place by January 1, 2017, while those with rights for 100 to 1,000 acre-feet have until July 1, 2017 and those with rights to take 10 to 100 acre-feet must comply by January 1, 2018.
Continue Reading Three Things You Need to Know About California’s New Surface Water Diversion Reporting Requirements
Stanford University released a study this week stating that California has three times more useable groundwater located in deep aquifers than previously estimated. This might come as welcome news to a state that continues to suffer through a historic drought. The researchers found that fresh groundwater was available at depths previously thought to be too deep to contain fresh water.
At the outset, readers should note that “freshwater” and “drinking water” are terms of art having regulatory and legal distinctions, and ultimately making a difference for the public welfare. The definition of freshwater varies depending on the state or federal agency; however, freshwater is generally defined as having less than 3,000 mg/L of total dissolved solids (“TDS”). Underground Sources of Drinking Water (“USDW” or “drinking water”) as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency include groundwater aquifers with less than 10,000 mg/L TDS. For reference, seawater contains approximately 35,000 mg/L TDS.
Historically, California’s fresh groundwater supply was thought to be limited to water found above 1,000 feet. However, the researchers determined that the mean base of fresh water (“BFW”) in five Central Valley counties (Kern, Fresno, Solano, Colusa, and Yolo) ranged from 1,345 feet (Colusa) to 2,204 feet (Kern). The base of drinking water is considerably deeper than the freshwater. Specifically, USDW can be found in Kern and Los Angeles Counties at depths deeper than 8,200 feet.
Continue Reading Does California Bear A Water “Windfall” From Deep-Aquifer Sources?
California has moved one step closer to implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”), California’s landmark groundwater legislation. On Wednesday, May 18, the California Water Commission adopted a set of regulations that will govern the creation of groundwater sustainability plans (“GSPs”) by local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (“GSAs”). The emergency regulations, developed by the Department of Water Resources (“DWR”), take effect in June.
The new regulations will have some real impacts on GSAs and their implementation of SGMA. The most significant requirements include:
Continue Reading New Regulations for California Groundwater Management
Last summer, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a sweeping ruling in Siskiyou County Farm Bureau v. Department of Fish and Wildlife, which made any substantial diversions of water subject to the streambed alteration agreement provisions of the California Fish and Game Code (“CDFW”). The court ruled that California Fish and Game Code…