SACRAMENTO — Outreach to farm groups will be a key area of focus as the state Department of Water Resources takes comments through June 1 on its plans to regulate California’s groundwater, an agency specialist says.

Agency representatives were set to give a presentation during this week’s annual meeting for UnitedAg, a Southern California-based trade association, and has been meeting with affected landowners and organizations for the past several months, said Laura Bisnett, an information specialist for DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Program.

“Outreach and communication are a critical component of DWR’s strategic plan for implementation” of a series of bills passed by the Legislature last fall giving the state greater control over local groundwater use, Bisnett told the Capital Press in an email.

The presentation at UnitedAg’s conference, held March 17-19 in Ojai, Calif., follows last week’s release of a draft strategic plan for overseeing compliance with laws that require local water agencies to form groundwater management plans by 2020 or 2022, depending on the region.

The 25 actions proposed in the strategic plan include developing comprehensive water budgets for groundwater basins, prioritizing basins, developing best-management practices for groundwater use, developing a groundwater information system and establishing well standards.

The plan comes as state water authorities are taking various steps to enforce conservation as a fourth year of drought unfolds. In other water-related activities:

• The State Water Resources Control Board on March 17 renewed drought-related restrictions for urban residents, including a limit on outdoor watering to two days a week, no watering of driveways or sidewalks, no landscape watering for at least two days after a rain and a requirement that restaurants serve water only upon request. Hotel guests can also choose to opt out of towels and linens laundered daily.

• The Department of Water Resources is taking comments through April 24 on guidelines for the final round of grant funding under Proposition 84, a 2006 bond measure that authorized nearly $5.4 billion for safe drinking water, flood control and other water needs.

Some farm groups complained last year that the trio of groundwater bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September were developed too hastily and could lead to uncertainties in agricultural operations as well as litigation. But other groups, such as the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, contended that better controls would help growers know how much water is in the ground and how it is recharged.

Most Californians support measures to conserve water in light of the severe drought, according to a poll commissioned by the Association of California Water Agencies. In all, more than 80 percent of the 801 registered voters polled Feb. 22-March 1 by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates said it’s important to save water regardless of whether the state is in a drought or whether conservation is mandated by local agencies.

The DWR invites comments on its groundwater strategic plan to be sent to sgmps@water.ca.gov.

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