Managing Groundwater in CA: History, current conditions & potential reforms for the State's adjudicated groundwater basins

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Photo Credit: 
DWR/Florence Low
Ruth Langridge, Associate Researcher, Politics Department,
University of California Santa Cruz

Groundwater adjudications are one approach to managing a groundwater basin in California. While the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) established new management requirements for 127 high and medium priority groundwater basins, it exempted all of the state’s adjudicated groundwater basins from the Act. These basins underlie many of the major urban centers of Southern California as well as some desert and coastal areas. The State Water Resources Control Board prioritized the evaluation of these adjudicated basins to assist in aligning the processes and outcomes of adjudication with SGMA’s goals for the sustainable management of groundwater.  Working with the Board, our research evaluated the history and current condition of all of California’s adjudicated basins along with potential future improvements to the adjudication process. My talk will provide a summary of our findings and highlight some successful features of the adjudication process along with the challenges adjudicated basins face to achieve long-term sustainable groundwater management. 

About the Speaker
Ruth Langridge is the Principal Investigator and Lead Author on the Adjudication Project, a detailed examination of all of California's adjudicated groundwater basins.  Her overall research focuses on the legal and institutional issues related to water supply planning and groundwater management; on the processes and relations that enable access to water and create resilience to water scarcity; and on water supply security under climate change. In addition to the adjudication project, recent work funded by NOAA and the California Energy Commission examined water supply security under climate change, with Andy Fisher as a Co-PI, and increasing drought resilience under climate change, with Ben Crow as a Co-PI. Her team's paper on reducing vulnerability to drought was incorporated into California's Third Climate Vulnerability Assessment. She has presented her work to state and federal agencies and legislators, and just completed a three-year term as a member of the CA Department of Water Resources Climate Change Technical Advisory Committee.