California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) plans to sign a law Tuesday to regulate groundwater pumping in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the state’s historic drought.
Local governments will have to establish plans to bring their groundwater to acceptable levels, measure groundwater and eventually ensure that pumping only takes as much water as is naturally replenished, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The legislation would change the long-standing practice in California and most states, in which groundwater is pumped freely with few restrictions.
It comes as groundwater in some areas is dangerously low. Recent research found that the ground is sinking in some places because the water is so empty.
Major water users rely increasingly on groundwater during drought years for plants, drinking water and other uses.
But by relying on local agencies, the law is likely to take years to implement, the Mercury News said. Some agencies will have until 2020 to submit their water management plans, and it could take decades until groundwater is replenished in some of the hardest-hit areas.
The law, passed in August, received strong support from Brown and Democrats. But Republicans objected, saying it would hurt farmers who rely on groundwater.