Executive Order N-3-23 Confirms That California Is Still in Critical Drought Condition
On February 13, 2023, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-3-23 (“Order”) regarding water use and supply conditions in California.
Despite the recent floods in California, the Governor acknowledges that the rain did not reduce stress upon the State’s water resources, including low storage levels, depleted aquifers, and diminished local water supplies. Governor Newsom directed that the provisions contained in his previous State of Emergency Proclamations regarding California’s water usage and supply conditions (and the State’s efforts to address such conditions) remain in full force and effect except for some minor changes.
Under a previous Executive Order from March 28, 2022, a county, city, or other public agency was prohibited from approving a permit for a new groundwater well or for alteration of an existing well in a basin subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and classified as medium or high-priority without first obtaining written verification from a Groundwater Sustainability Agency managing the basin or area. It also prohibited approving permits for new groundwater wells or for alterations of certain wells without first determining that extraction of groundwater from the proposed well is (1) not likely to interfere with the production and functioning of existing nearby wells, and (2) not likely to cause subsidence that would adversely impact or damage nearby infrastructure.
Now, under the new Order, this prohibition will not apply to permits for wells that: (i) will provide less than two acre-feet per year of groundwater for individual domestic users; (ii) will exclusively provide groundwater to public water supply systems as defined in section 116275 of the Health and Safety Code; or (iii) are replacing existing, currently permitted wells with new wells that will produce an equivalent quantity of water as the well being replaced when the existing well is being replaced because it has been acquired by eminent domain or acquired while under threat of condemnation
The Governor ordered the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”), and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to continue to collaborate on expediting permitting of recharge projects and to work with local water districts to facilitate recharge projects, while also recommending that the Water Board modify the requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations in Central Valley Project or State Water Project facilities.
Executive Order N-3-23 can be read in its entirety here.