Late-emerging legislation designed to deal with the drought could be part of the budget package California lawmakers will vote on Friday.
Part of the legislation would give state water regulators the ability to force local water agencies to consolidate. Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, says the intent is to help communities without access to safe drinking water.
"It is better to take those small community systems that just are not working and get them into the hands of someone who can make them work," says Marcus.
But Tim Quinn with the Association of California Water Agencies says consolidation is fraught with legal issues and other complications. He says it also gives the state too much authority.
"These are decisions that ought to be made in our view at the local level allowing local discretion to sort through the myriad of complications and issues that have to be dealt with," says Quinn.
Under the proposed legislation, local ordinances that prevent or restrict new groundwater wells would be exempt from environmental review.
Farmers who divert 10-acre-feet of water or more a year would have to monitor and report water use to the state water board. And people who ignore water conservation requirements would only be fined up to $1,000 for the first offense, not $10,000 as Gov. Jerry Brown originally proposed.
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