Seizing the Moment on Water

Seizing the Moment on Water

In a drought, when as much as 60 percent of the state’s total water supply depends upon it, severely depleted groundwater becomes a crisis within a crisis.

Resources Legacy Fund and its donor partners in 2011 created the Water Foundation, with groundwater management reform a top priority. Midway through the destructive 2012-2017 drought, RLF’s Water Foundation was ready to act. It assembled leading strategists to craft a plan targeting political leaders and the Brown Administration, with the intent of developing a larger coalition—including interests that had historically opposed one another—and additional champions for regulation of groundwater. With drought leading the news nearly every day, leaders of the agricultural, local government, and environmental communities coaleiStock_000013777245_Full-editedsced. A wave of support began to swell. By the summer of 2014, an encouraging poll indicated that almost 80 percent of Californians favored groundwater reform.

Throughout that summer, building on favorably received policy recommendations from the Water Foundation and the Association of California Water Agencies, negotiators crafted legislation appealing to the broadest range of support.

The September 2014 passage of California’s first comprehensive groundwater management policy was historic, coming a full century after California regulated surface water and long after other Western states had regulated groundwater. The package of laws—called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—will bring balance to more than aquifers. As they implement the laws, local governments and water districts must consider the sustainability of all sources of water supply, as all connect to California’s critically important underground basins. RLF, through the Water Foundation, launched this far-reaching and important policy shift by helping many voices speak as one, fostering unorthodox relationships, and seizing the moment.




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