A measure to help Californians through the current drought with continued ground water supplies recently was introduced. The legislation will prevent the loss of 30 percent of the state’s ground water drilling rigs. Existing California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations would eliminate, on January 1, 2010, certain deck engines used to power ground water drilling equipment. But the new bill would provide relief to farmers, municipalities and homeowners from a shortage of water well drilling equipment in the current drought.

“Taking about 400 drill rigs out of service while the state is in a declared drought emergency will definitely impact supplies of ground water, which usually meets 50 percent of our water needs in time of drought,” notes Mike Mortensson, executive director of the California Groundwater Association (CGA), the sponsor of the bill. “We do not believe the elimination of these rigs will make a major improvement in air quality due to the very limited size of the ground water fleet.”

Mortensson reveals, “In the past year, we provided the CARB staff with information on the ground water fleet, showing the difficulty in retrofitting certain vehicles, the low annual mileage and the high costs of the long-lived equipment used by ground water contractors, who comprise less than 1 percent of the state’s contractors. While we continue to work with CARB staff,” he explains, “we felt we had to pursue a legislative resolution, given the impending fleet reduction date.”

The new legislation would provide that CARB regulations on portable engines, off-road equipment and on-road vehicles would not go into effect in the ground water industry until 5 years after the end of the drought emergency declared by Governor Schwarzenegger last February.