September 4, 2014

Will the California Supreme Court address groundwater regulation?

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

This week we submitted an amicus letter on behalf of the California Farm Bureau Federation urging the California Supreme Court to accept Siskiyou County’s immediate appeal from a state trial court decision.  That decision holds that the public trust doctrine extends to groundwater extraction that affects navigable waters.  The letter argues that prompt resolution of this issue is especially important now given farmers’ increased use of groundwater during the drought.

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Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board

Environmentalists sued the State of California and Siskiyou County on the theory that the government’s failure to regulate groundwater violates the public trust doctrine. This doctrine traditionally applies only to navigable waters and entrusts the government with the responsibility to preserve the land and resources for productive, recreational, and environmental uses. No California court had ever applied the public trust doctrine to groundwater until the Sacramento Superior Court did so in this case. As amicus on behalf of property owners and farmers, PLF asks the Court of Appeal to reverse this unwarranted, vast expansion of the public trust doctrine.

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