Gov. Jerry Brown didn't miss a beat on Tuesday when asked what made a deal come together on a first-ever law regulating the use of groundwater in California.
"First of all, we've got a drought," said Brown. "And that's got everybody's attention."
And that attention has allowed Brown, partially in public and a lot behind the scenes, to wield some real power on one of the most contentious issues in the history of the Golden State. On Tuesday, the governor signed into law three bills that put in place a first series of steps to limit what, until now, has been almost limitless: the power of individuals and industries to tap underground water supplies.
The new laws signed by Brown in a state Capitol ceremony will require groundwater management plans to be crafted on the local level over an eight-year period, based on underground basins identified and prioritized by state officials. Locals would then have a few more years to begin getting a handle on groundwater use and would have new enforcement powers.
"Today, we do set into law a framework that's been resisted for a long, long time," said Brown as he signed the bills.