Despite opposition from agriculture groups, the state Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation Thursday that would make data on water wells available to the public like is done in all other Western states.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, heads to the Senate floor, where it must pass before the end of next week to be eligible to be considered by the state Assembly this session.
The measure would make the data, called well completion reports, available to the public.
These logs contain a history of drilling and construction of the well and information on the location, depth, and the types of soil surrounded by the well. In contrast, logs for oil and gas wells are deemed public records in California.
The reports can be used to develop detailed underground aquifer maps that can be utilized for groundwater management plans, such as finding the best areas to bank water and reclaim it later as well as less suitable areas worth avoiding.
The bill comes as Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a landmark law that directs local agencies to create groundwater management plans, a bill that Pavley sponsored, and another that would allow the state to intervene if those plans turned out to be insufficient.
The measures, drafted in response to California’s drought, could potentially restrict how much water commercial and residential users are allowed to pump from underground aquifers.
Pavley has said her bill is necessary because academics, consultants and other groups cannot have access to such information to develop sophisticated maps and models, unless they have the backing of state government. She also argued that local community activists are unable to get the data they need from the logs to better protect their drinking water quality.
The California Chamber of Commerce and various farm groups oppose the measure. Opponents contend “no beneficial purpose” will be served for making the information public and that the measure “is intended to assist those trolling for lawsuits.”
The restrictions preventing public disclosure of the log data have been in effect since 1951, only allowing such information “to governmental agencies in the use in making studies.” It was enacted at the behest of well drillers for competitive reasons.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or email@example.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.