Starting in February 2023, according to a letter signed by Natalie Stork, chief of the groundwater management program at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA), a San Diego-area resident who received it will have to report the volume of private well water used and pay a fee per acre foot for it.
Whether this new rule will apply throughout the entire state or only to the recipient remains unclear. What we do know is that the letter came on official letterhead and was sent under the authority of Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as 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 who received the letter 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."
Calling the move "a great racket," jokingly, the California resident added that this is perhaps the most ridiculous thing the Golden State has done in a long time.
"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," this person added.
The source says that he is being told he must report on water usage as well as the location of the well and even the place and purpose of use for groundwater.
"Groundwater extraction reports are not due to the state water board until February 1, 2023," the letter explains.
"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 letter was sent amid an ongoing drought throughout the Golden State, which Newsom is using as an excuse to charge higher amounts for city water when residents go above a certain usage threshold.
In Los Angeles, there is even now a Water Conservation Response Unit (Water CRU) that roams the city in search of residents who are violating a local ordinance that limits how and when properties can be watered.
The ordinance states that "any water use resulting in excess or continuous water flow or runoff onto adjoining sidewalks, driveways, streets, gutters, or ditches is always prohibited."
The Department of Water and Power's Water CRU also drives around looking for water that has perhaps pooled up in an area on a property in order to cite the owner for potential violations.
"It's not extreme, but it's something that we want them to take a look at," says Damon Ayala, a water patrolman whose job involves walking around looking for illegal pools of water forming on grass or sidewalks.
"Looks like they have drip irrigation on this side," he told a reporter from the Agence France-Press who followed him around for the day to see what the job entails.
"So there might be just a broken connector."
Repeat offenders, Ayala explained, could face fines of hundreds of dollars for alleged excessive water use. (Related: Remember back in 2014 when California was supposedly on the verge of a water infrastructure collapse that never ended up happening?)
"We're not looking really for their money," he claims. "That doesn't get us more water. We're trying to get behavioral change."
To keep up with the latest news about California's ongoing water woes, be sure to check out WaterWars.news.
Sources for this article include: