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Asociacion de Gente Unida por el Agua v. Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20228
Nos. C066410, (Cal. Ct. App. 3d Dist., 11/06/2012)

A California appellate court held that a water control board order that regulates waste from existing milk cow dairies violates the state's antidegradation policy. The order prohibits the further degradation of groundwater, as is required by the state’s antidegradation policy, but it does not prohibit the discharge of waste to groundwater. Instead, the order relies on groundwater monitoring to insure that the groundwater is not further degraded. An environmental group filed a petition challenging the order, arguing that it violated the antidegradation policy, but the lower court denied the writ, ruling that the policy does not apply. But the antidegradation policy does apply because the affected groundwater is of high quality, and because the order allows activities that will result in a release of waste into the groundwater. To comply with the policy, therefore, the record must show that the order is consistent with maximum benefit to the people of the state, will not unreasonably affect the beneficial use of the water, and will not violate water quality standards. But the relevant findings are insufficient to comply with the policy. The monitoring system of taking samples from domestic and agricultural supply wells is insufficient to detect groundwater degradation in a timely manner, and the order contains no remediation measures in the event groundwater monitoring determines degradation has occurred. The court, therefore, reversed and remanded the lower court decision denying the petition.