by Andrew Ayres, Research Fellow, Water Policy Center, Public Policy Institute of California

This presentation will provide an overview of current priorities in California water policy. Then, it will more closely address ongoing groundwater management challenges. In particular, markets for water in California support drought resilience, environmental improvements, and adaptation to new market and regulatory conditions. In coming decades their effectiveness will be tested when it comes to easing implementation of the state’s new groundwater law: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This policy requires that local groundwater users form management agencies and bring their groundwater basins into balance by the 2040s; as they face a future of pumping reductions and subsequent land fallowing, water banking and water trading may prove important tools to help manage this transition. However, a combination of aging infrastructure and complex, conflicting regulatory structures currently hinders the expansion of banking and trading. We will discuss these barriers and what improvements may be possible.

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