By Elizabeth Zach, staff writer

California’s State Senate has approved a bill that would ban drilling new wells where aquifers are in “critical overdraft,” and mandate that some cities and counties require permits for any applications to drill a well.

The bill, SB 1317, stems from two years ago, when state officials said more than 120 aquifers were drying up at a rapid pace from overpumping. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act calls for local agencies to address aquifer depletion by 2022. However, the drilling continues and groundwater levels have plummeted in some regions.

“There seems to be a real gold rush—or a water rush—to dig as many wells as possible before the deadline of 2022, at which point there will be a groundwater association in place to regulate or control that,” Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who introduced the bill, told The Desert Sun.

The bill, which passed earlier this month, will require that by January 2018 some cities and counties obtain drilling permits and prove that the pumping would not seriously impact the local environment. It also would ban most new wells in 21 basins from Merced to Kern counties to the Borrego Valley. Now the Assembly will consider whether to approve SB 1317.

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