California is siccing its Environmental Protection Agency on property owners who have private water wells on their land and making them pay based on how much water volume they use, according to a new report.
California Globe reported Wednesday that an anonymous tipster produced a letter signed by Natalie Stork, identified as chief of groundwater management program unit 1. The letter advised the San Diego-area resident that they would have to report the volume of well water they used and pay a fee per acre foot of groundwater extracted starting in February 2023.
The letter was on the official letterhead of California Water Boards and was sent under the authority of Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld.
“They’re sending out letters to property owners saying they must declare [if] they use just two acre feet,” the source told The California Globe. “If they use more, they must pay an annual fee of $300 for each well plus they must meter the water and send in a monthly usage report and pay a fee for water that is pumped starting in Feb 2023.”
“What a great racket!” the California resident added. “The government provides no service, no support, no product, doesn’t even do the billing! That’s all on citizens. All [the government does] is cash the check.”
“In addition to pumping volumes, reports must include the location of the well and the place and purpose of use of the groundwater. Groundwater extraction reports are not due to the state water board until February 1, 2023,” the letter added. “However, if you are required to report, the report must include pumping volumes for each month between the date of receipt of this letter and September 30, 2022.”
The letters came in the midst of a record drought and as local governments in California are also ramping up tactics to force residents to consume less water.
In Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power team has created a team called the Water Conservation Response Unit (Water CRU). There is currently an ordinance in L.A. that limits how and when L.A. residents can water their property. The ordinance also says “any water use resulting in excess or continuous water flow or runoff onto adjoining sidewalks, driveways, streets, gutters, or ditches is always prohibited.” The unit goes around looking for pools of water on property and then determines whether or not the body of water could be in violation of the law.
On one occasion, a reporter from the Agence France-Press followed water patrolman Damon Ayala along to see how he cracked down on these water violations.
“It’s not extreme, but it’s something that we want them to take a look at,” he said pointing to a puddle.
“Looks like they have drip irrigation on this side. So there might be just a broken connector,” he explained to the AFP reporter.
AFP added that repeat offenders are fined hundreds of dollars for excessive water use.
“We’re not looking really for their money — that doesn’t get us more water. We’re trying to get behavioral change,” Ayala explained. “So that way we can capture the water savings from making those changes.”
If an L.A. resident violates the ordinance more than five times, a device is placed on their water meter that limits the amount they can use.
“We’ve been in serious drought situations in the past in the city of Los Angeles, and its citizens responded,” he said. “And we expect them to respond this time around, too.”
After the original publication of this story, a spokesperson from California’s Drought Communications team responded to The Daily Wire’s request for comment and confirmed the letters in question were real.
“Pursuant to California law (specifically the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA), groundwater extractors in unmanaged areas are required to file groundwater-extraction reports with the State Water Board and pay reporting fees (note that reporting fees IS NOT REQUIRED to small well users who extract only two acre-feet per year or less for household use),” the spokesperson said in an email. “Most households that use well water for domestic use extract considerably less than two acre-feet per year and, therefore, are not affected by this requirement. Unmanaged pumping can lead to a range of problems, especially in the face of the escalating drought, including drinking water and irrigation wells going dry, streams drying up from lack of baseflows, and canals breaking due to subsidence.”
“On July 11, 2022, the State Water Board sent letters to 50 parties in the Upper San Luis Rey subbasin to notify them that they need to measure their groundwater extractions and report them annually to the Board, unless they are exempt,” the spokesperson added. “Again, if they are small well users who extract only two acre-feet per year or less for household use only, they are exempt and only need only let us know of this fact and nothing more.”
“Groundwater pumping reports are due to the State Water Board by February 1, 2023,” the spokesperson concluded.
This article has been updated to include additional information.