Lawmakers received an update Tuesday on the drought, which “is going to change California,” said the director of the Department of Water Resources. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

By Matt Stevens
May 12, 2015

With Californians increasing efforts to deal with the drought, lawmakers got an update Tuesday on exactly how bad things are and heard little to cheer them.

Among other areas of concern, about 1,900 wells have gone dry, Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, told a Senate joint oversight hearing on the drought.

Preliminary data from this spring show that over the course of the last year, the levels of more than 40% of measured wells have declined more than 2 feet, Cowin said.

“This drought is going to change California,” Cowin said.

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, wondered whether counties should “be pushing a pause button on drilling deeper and deeper wells.”

Several senators examined the hot-button question of which water uses should be forced to cut back the most.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) asked regulators whether it was true that some senior water-rights holders with plentiful supplies were taking advantage of the crisis by selling their surplus water for exorbitant prices.

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