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. — California will no longer be the last Western state with a pump-as-you-please approach to groundwater.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Tuesday overhauling the state’s management of its groundwater supply, bringing it in line with other states that have long regulated their wells.

Groundwater makes up nearly 60 percent of California’s water use during dry years. But it is not monitored and managed the same way as water from reservoirs and rivers.

Supporters of the legislation say the worst drought in a generation inspired them to rethink the state’s hands-off approach to tapping wells, which has led to sinking land and billions of dollars in damage to aquifers, roads and canals.

“This is a big deal,” Brown said at the signing ceremony in his office. “It has been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way.”

The package signed into law requires some local governments and water districts to begin managing their wells, and it authorizes state water agencies to intervene if necessary. It also allows for water metering and fines to monitor and enforce restrictions.

Bills by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, passed in the final days of the legislative session over objections from Republican lawmakers and Central Valley Democrats.

The opposition was driven by agricultural interests that are increasingly dependent on pumping from wells as reservoirs dry up and government water allocations plunge in the drought. They say the legislation was rushed and punishes well-managed agencies while infringing on property rights.

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