Today Californians face increased risks from flooding, water shortages, unhealthy water quality, ecosystem decline and infrastructure degradation. Many federal and state legislative acts address ways to improve water resource management, ecosystem restoration, as well as water rights settlements and strategies to oversee groundwater and surface water.
A proposal to solve a long-running San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage dispute between the Westlands Water District and the federal government is roiling a Congress already hung up on other California water fights.
House Republicans are making another push for a bill addressing California’s drought, adding the text of a measure by Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) to two pieces of legislation headed to the Senate. … Here are some highlights from Tuesday’s back and forth among some California lawmakers.
Long considered an ally of Delta advocates, U.S. Rep. John Garamendi introduced legislation this week that appears likely to test that reputation. … The Feinstein-Garamendi bills are pitched as a more moderate alternative to a bill by U.S. Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, that already has passed the House.
Five years into California’s latest drought, a major water bill compromise can seem as far away as ever. The perennial conflict, often summed up as fish vs. farms, subtly surfaced again Tuesday at a key Senate hearing.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
When fully implemented, SGMA is expected to effectively administer groundwater pumping, though it remains to be seen if some of the damage done to aquifers is irreparable. Without SGMA, however, there is no hope for management.
California’s tireless water warriors have something fresh to fight over, with the introduction of a bill to resolve an irrigation drainage dispute that affects three modest-sized San Joaquin Valley water districts, as well as the much bigger Westlands Water District.
Federal burdens dampen California’s hydroelectric power potential, PG&E and Turlock Irrigation District officials told lawmakers Tuesday. … In 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law two bills intended to streamline the approval process for small hydroelectric projects.
A major water resources bill introduced Tuesday in the Senate would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to partner with local governments and other agencies – not just California officials – on projects to address the problems of the shrinking Salton Sea.
A still-controversial 1992 law intended to boost California’s striped-bass population can be scaled back, the Obama administration now believes. … Another bill, by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, to revise a water-recycling grant program established in the 1992 law likewise secured administration support Wednesday.
Deep in Gov. Brown’s 2016-17 budget was a big surprise for Lake Tahoe – the lake was cut out of its expected share of a $475 million environmental pie. Two years ago, California voters approved Proposition 1, a complex, $7.12 billion water bond package.
Politicians in Washington could have passed laws four years ago that would be yielding benefits today. These would be things like assistance with groundwater recharge, water conservation on farms, stormwater capture and wastewater recycling. I [Matt Weiser] call these non-nuclear options, because they don’t peg the Geiger counter in many lobbying offices in the land.
Surface water supplies have returned to normal for most rice growers in the Sacramento Valley. … However, now that farmers are ready to fire up their tractors to plant rice, commodity prices have taken a nose-dive.
Legislation to protect California’s aquifers and groundwater resources from permanent damage due to over-pumping has been approved by the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on a 6-2 vote.
Building on last year’s declaration of the Berryessa Snow Mountain Region as a National Monument by President Obama, the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve a bill that establishes a state conservancy to protect, preserve and restore the Northern Inner Coast Range.
The politics of California water is becoming three-dimensional chess in Congress as lawmakers balance competing anti-drought ideas with a proposed San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage settlement that’s going to get bigger.
Arizona and California are arguing over Colorado River water again — this time over whether it should be inscribed in law that California can’t take Arizona’s share of river water that’s left in Lake Mead to prop up lake levels.
Congress is about to try again to help ease California’s drought. … Discerning the helpful proposals from the hyperbole can be difficult. So as a guide to the process, Water Deeply offers the following four themes to watch as the bills are debated.
Congress is about to try again to help ease California’s drought. A handful of bills — some new, some held over from last year — will come up for debate in the weeks ahead. The subject is as partisan as the presidential race, and a lot more complicated.
A second state legislator plans to introduce legislation that would add appointed members to the embattled Central Basin Municipal Water District’s now elected Board of Directors that were slammed in a state audit for “poor leadership,” violating state law and spending money inappropriately.
California is the first state to have a law declaring the human right to water, and now it also has a resolution from the Water Board prioritizing it. … In Poplar, California, an unincorporated Central Valley town of low-income, largely Hispanic residents, two of three community wells are contaminated with nitrates. The other one is going dry.
The bill proposed by [Rep. Jackie] Speier and [Rep. Jared] Huffman — the Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2016 — seeks to appropriate about $138 million in disaster funds to fishermen and small businesses, including restaurants, that were banking on the commercial season. Sen. Barbara Boxer is expected to introduce its companion bill on Monday.
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced a package of water measures Friday, including legislation halting the proliferation of new wells to slow the depletion of aquifers, and avoid permanent damage to the state’s groundwater resources.
Congress is to consider two bills that would allow states to hand over vast tracts of federal land for mining, logging or other commercial activities – just weeks after the arrest of an armed militia that took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in protest at federal oversight of public land.
Hence Assembly Bill 2496, which would end the [daylight saving time] practice in California, undoing a law that voters approved back in 1949 via Proposition 12. At the time, a ballot statement in favor argued altered summertime hours would bolster “public health and industrial efficiency” by improving worker safety, limiting juvenile delinquency, saving water, preventing car crashes and aiding farmers.
As California enters its fifth year of a historic dry period and residents buckle down to reduce urban water use by one-fourth, a novel strategy adopted by the East Bay water utility has turned the spotlight on the region’s most wasteful consumers – among them the rich and famous – and could become the basis for statewide policy.
The Department of Water Resources has now released the first draft regulations to manage groundwater sustainably. The plan lays out the steps local public agencies will need to take to prevent chronic groundwater overdraft.
Lawmakers representing the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the heart of California’s water system, have introduced a bill that would make Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial twin tunnels project subject to statewide voter approval.
The state Department of Water Resources on Thursday released a list of 21 groundwater basins and subbasins that are overdrafted, causing land subsidence, chronically lowered groundwater levels and, in the case of the Salinas Valley, seawater intrusion.
California’s congressional delegation continued to wrangle over how to respond to the Golden State’s water crisis Thursday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released what she called a “discussion draft” of proposed legislation.
It turns out “emergency drought relief” can take up to two years to distribute. On Wednesday, California regulators awarded the final pieces of the $680 million drought aid package Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved in March 2014.
On Monday, he’ll [Anthony Rendon], be voted into one of the top political posts in California, the speaker of the Assembly. … But early in his first term, he charged into a high-profile and politically thorny issue: water.
The complicated pact, backed by the states of California and Oregon, called for the removal of four hydroelectric dams, settled water rights disputes and spelled out water allocations for irrigators and wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s $122.6 billion budget plan out Thursday contained $80.5 million for the restoration of habitat at the shrinking Salton Sea, the creation of a longterm plan for the lake’s management, and is raising hopes for its restoration, officials said.
Don’t be surprised to see a flurry of new legislative proposals in 2016 that push toilet water recycling, rooftop water tanks and underground systems to filter sewer sludge for field irrigation in California. Call it the Australian plan.
Debate over a plan to address California’s drought continued Friday as the Republicans in the state’s delegation held a news conference blaming Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for not supporting their bid to insert the plan into a must-pass spending bill.
California lawmakers’ repeated failures to agree on legislation to resolve the state’s seemingly endless battle over how to use its water resources raise new questions about whether they’ll ever be able to find a compromise. This year, the climate looked ripe for an agreement.
The utter collapse of negotiations means a California water package that in its latest manifestation spanned 92 pages will not be slipped into a much larger, much-pass omnibus federal spending package needed to keep the federal government open.
California Republicans will continue trying to include language addressing the state’s drought in a must-pass bill to fund the federal government, over objections from the state’s Democratic delegation.
Five years after a high-profile deal was struck to remove four hydroelectric dams and improve conditions on one of the West Coast’s prime salmon rivers, the agreement is on the verge of collapse for lack of action by Congress.
A closed-door attempt to rewrite California water law crashed late last week in a public row between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that could doom drought legislation for yet another year.
A new law regulating groundwater use for the first time in California is decades away from being fully implemented. But already, it is clear how difficult it will be for local water providers to comply.
A California water bill that skeptics say has been cloaked in excessive secrecy will probably miss its Capitol Hill train this year. … The latest plot turn in California water politics bears a striking resemblance to past Capitol Hill narratives.
In a classic Capitol Hill tradeoff, conservatives would get the Clear Creek Management Area reopened to off-roaders while liberals would secure new wilderness and wild-and-scenic river designation for other federal lands.
A California law – that was passed to respond to the drought – allows artificial turf on all residential property. But, a Sacramento city councilman says the law should allow cities to restrict its use.
The tensions in Kings County offer just a taste of what’s expected in cities and towns throughout California’s farm belt over the next few years as local officials work to enact the state’s first-ever groundwater regulations.
As California enters the fifth consecutive year of unprecedented drought, Congress is debating two competing bills designed to provide federal drought relief to California agriculture. The proposals reveal stark differences in proposed federal water and environmental policy.
Gold is, of course, no longer even a minor factor in California’s economy. But for decades, the 49er spirit has survived in a few thousand semi-professional hobbyists who have used small suction dredges to gather gold-bearing gravel from streams.
It’s been one year since California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark law to manage the state’s groundwater. The California Water Commission has approved new groundwater basin boundaries – the first major step in implementing the law.
As Congress considers an appropriate response to the Western drought, our experience in California gives us a keen sense of how Congress can best help. … I [California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird] take passage of Proposition 1 as a resounding endorsement of a constructive approach that does not pit urban or agricultural users against one another and does not undermine water rights or environmental protection laws.
As the California legislative session came to a close, Governor Brown signed more than 20 bills that address different aspects of water policy, ranging from water conservation and measurement to water quality. Two bill packages took important steps toward improving groundwater management and reducing the negative environmental impacts of marijuana farming.
The California Natural Resources Agency will move forward with the projects in the coming months and work with Colorado River officials to accelerate planning, permitting and construction, the governor’s office said.
On October 9, 2015, Governor Brown completed what is probably one of the most remarkable two years in water legislation in California’s history. … In signing SGMA, the Governor pledged that during the 2014/15 legislative session, he would submit a proposal to streamline groundwater adjudications. With the signing of AB 1390 (Alejo) and SB 226 (Pavley), the Governor kept his promise.
Among the batch of bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week is one that sets new water quality regulations on certain types of mining popular in the North Coast area and could result in the state lifting its ban on new mining activity that began in 2009.
Rules governing pesticides and water discharge will apply to cannabis, newly classified as an agricultural product. [Gov. Jerry] Brown directly addressed pot’s ecological implications in a signing message, saying he would direct the state Natural Resources Agency to “identify projects to begin the restoration of our most impacted areas in the state.”
With California mired in the worst drought in state history, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law a measure aimed at reducing the billions of gallons of water lost every year across the state from leaks in aging and cracked water pipes in hundreds of city water systems.
With California withering through a multiyear drought, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation banning cities and counties from prohibiting drought-tolerant landscaping, including synthetic grass and artificial turf.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to require the Salton Sea Authority, working with the Natural Resources Agency, to study projects to restore parts of the rapidly shrinking Salton Sea, a huge and troubled body of water considered a health menace.
Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski convened the two-hour hearing Thursday primarily to consider significantly different House and Senate versions of California water legislation. The morning hearing was the first to be held specifically on the bills.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed 23 new environmental bills into law, banning tiny plastic beads in cosmetics that scientists say are polluting the ocean and San Francisco Bay, toughening oil pipeline laws and requiring the state’s massive pension funds to sell off their coal stocks.
For a local tribe and environmental groups, recently passed state legislation that would require a certain method of gold mining to comply with the state’s clean water regulations could be the key to resolving long-standing environmental concerns and litigation.
On September 16, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown, cheerfully triumphant, signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which many observers assert is the most significant addition to California’s water protection code in a century.
For years, an obscure team of water wonks has met each month in a conference room at the California Water Service Co. offices in downtown Stockton. Their charge: To protect the region’s precious groundwater, an invisible natural resource as little-known as those who guard it.
In an annual lobbying ritual, more than 30 officials from eight [San Joaquin] valley counties this week swarmed the hill in search of federal support for an assortment of projects and priorities. … What they got was a crash course in congressional politics, circa 2015.
With California in the fourth year of a drought, a state lawmaker has introduced a last-minute bill that would require half of treated wastewater to be used for beneficial purposes, including landscape watering, by 2026 and 100% usage by 2036.
California homeowners who replace their water-gulping grass lawns with artificial turf in response to the drought would be protected from sanctions by homeowner associations under one of 10 bills signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The state Legislature last month balked at a measure that would have provided $10 million for grants and low-interest loans to replace private dry wells. The bill is now in limbo, even though many lawmakers seemed to like it.
The record wildfire season scorching the West is prompting renewed calls for Congress to change how it funds firefighting, a push that comes as the head of the Forest Service said the agency would soon exceed its firefighting budget for the year — again.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney ripped the governor’s twin tunnels plan, calling it “misguided” and wasteful. … “But I can’t just say ‘No,’ ” McNerney said Tuesday after hosting a drought forum at the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center in south Stockton.
Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei recalled cleaning toilets at Sand Harbor. … Those were some of the stories business, state and federal leaders referred to during the 2015 Lake Tahoe Summit at Round Hill Pines Beach on Monday, Aug. 24.
The lawmakers convening Monday for a major Lake Tahoe conference confront a Capitol Hill conflict over how best to protect the much-beloved mountain region. They differ over money, environmental laws, timber harvesting and more.
When elected officials from California and Nevada meet Monday for the 19th annual Lake Tahoe Summit, much attention will be given to the clarity of the lake and protecting the unique basin environment. Part of the discussion must include the health of our national forests and their associated watersheds.
There are many threats facing Lake Tahoe, and unless we take action, the pristine beauty [John] Muir described will soon be only a memory. We [Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.] joined our colleagues, Senators Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, to introduce the bipartisan Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015, a bill to protect Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin for generations to come.
A California lawmaker has proposed a new label for food irrigated with what he calls “fracking water.” … Oil companies sell Central Valley farms millions of gallons of treated wastewater every day for irrigation.
Environmentalists are mobilizing in protest of a would-be bill backed by the local wine industry that would create an irrigation district intended to protect the water rights of about 1,000 grape growers in the Russian River region.
Lawmakers are seeking budget solutions amid a superheated political climate as the wildland fires now raging across California, Washington and other Western states burn through federal dollars as well as forests. A new report warns the funding problem will worsen.
Publicly and privately, California lawmakers are pushing to get a big water bill off its current glacial pace. But history cautions that California legislation this ambitious always takes time, and plenty of it.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein filed her long-awaited legislative response to California’s water crisis on Wednesday, hoping to broker a compromise that has eluded Congress through four years of fallow fields and brown lawns.
The drastic drop in acres burned in the past year is in large part because of an increase in the number of crews and aircrafts CalFire was able to obtain through the state declaring a drought emergency last year, officials say.
We face major environmental challenges at Tahoe, including the uncertainties of climate change. … This month, our bi-state delegation in the U.S. Senate introduced the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015.
The House of Representatives’ passage Thursday of an ambitious and controversial California water bill now starts a round of maneuvering that will show whether a divided Congress can get its act together and legislate.
Sponsored by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) along with Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and Barbara Boxer (D-California), the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act would authorize up to $415 million in federal funding over 10 years to help continue critical environmental restoration work at Lake Tahoe.
While water consumers are pressed to save every drop in the continuing drought, water utilities keep poor track of how much of their supply is lost before it ever reaches faucets – and at least some are resisting a bill to make them report those loses more frequently.
In the end Senate Bill 4 regulating hydraulic fracturing pleased neither environmentalists nor the oil and gas industry, but supporters argue it imposes needed oversight by requiring well permits, disclosure of what chemicals are used, water testing and studies of fracking’s impact.
Northern California Rep. Jared Huffman came to Southern California to push his $1.4 billion drought bill and find some common ground in what he called the state’s water wars being waged in the halls of Sacramento and Washington.
House Republicans are swinging for the fences with an ambitious new, but familiar, California water bill introduced Thursday. … The legislation speeds studies for water storage projects, including proposals for raising Shasta Dam and building a new reservoir at Temperance Flat on the Upper San Joaquin River.
The California Legislature approved a budget bill that would grant the state authority to force water systems to consolidate to serve disadvantaged communities where a steady supply of clean drinking water is not available. Senate Bill 88 also would give public water suppliers the power to impose civil fines of up to $10,000 for violations of water conservation programs, impose new measuring and reporting requirements for water diversions, and suspend environmental review for certain drought-related projects.
A California budget bill that would allow the state to force consolidation of water systems, exempt certain water projects from environmental review and make other far-reaching changes in response to the drought cleared the Legislature on Friday over the angry objections of Republicans.
Late-emerging legislation designed to deal with the drought could be part of the budget package California lawmakers will vote on Friday. Part of the legislation would give state water regulators the ability to force local water agencies to consolidate.
Some drought-related groundwater and water recycling projects would gain exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act under late-emerging legislation at the Capitol. … The bill includes language related to the consolidation of water agencies, among other measures.
[David] Orth is general manager for the Kings River Conservation District, a California Water Commissioner, and a key participant in the negotiations leading up to the enactment of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.We spoke at a recent event in Fresno about the challenges facing the new groundwater law.
In response to the worst drought in our state’s long memory, our public institutions – with one unfortunate exception – are stepping up. … That’s why I [Rep. Jared Huffman] developed the kind of serious, comprehensive legislation this crisis demands.
The Brown administration is pushing late-emerging budget legislation to let state officials force the consolidation of troubled water systems with larger, better-funded agencies, with the goal of improving Californians’ access to safe drinking water after four years of drought.
California’s worst water-guzzling residents and businesses could get slapped with 300 percent taxes on their bills under drought-inspired legislation that was proposed Tuesday but faces a tough path before it could actually affect local water bills.
The governor’s obsession with building massive tunnels under the Delta could muck up what should be a simple issue: granting CEQA exemption requests for emergency drought projects. The request in the form of Trailer Bill 831 is part of the budget process for dealing with the drought.
As California struggles to respond to a heightening drought emergency, state lawmakers are promoting legislation that would potentially increase scientific knowledge about the state’s shrinking groundwater reserves. On June 1, the California Senate passed SB 20 by a vote of 21 to 15. The bill requires public access to the groundwater information that well drillers file with the Department of Water Resources after completing a well.
Members of the Klamath Tribes are speaking out against the Klamath water settlements and the new land base being written into them. … The land base transfer now being considered is part of SB 133, the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act.
The tremendous challenge of upgrading our water infrastructure will require federal cooperation. That’s why I [Dianne Feinstein] plan to introduce drought legislation soon to lay out the federal role in this long-term effort.
The state’s splintered congressional delegation — despite its size and influence — has been stymied by fundamental disagreements over the causes of the drought and the role of the federal government in mitigating its consequences.
Despite opposition from agriculture groups, the state Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation Thursday that would make data on water wells available to the public like is done in all other Western states.
While state-mandated requirements of Colusa County’s groundwater are still years away, concerns about aquifer health among local farmers already exist. About 50 local residents and growers participated in a public informational meeting about groundwater at the Colusa County Fairgrounds on Tuesday night.
The state’s oil and gas agency has missed the deadline for reporting on the use of water by oil producers in California, saying that the large volume of information required could not be processed in time.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 creates an opportunity to establish standards for the way California accounts for its stores of groundwater, which provide up to 60 percent of the state’s water supply during droughts.
With dead almond trees propped on the Capitol steps and school children clutching signs that read “We need water. Build storage now!”, advocates for new dams and reservoirs in California offered a striking set of visuals in Sacramento last week.
The $35 billion bill includes money for the California status quo, ranging from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta restoration to operations of the sprawling Central Valley Project. It also includes drought-related language, with directives to speed completion of water storage project studies.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, wants the federal government to transfer ownership of New Melones Lake east of Stockton to local water districts. That’s the aim of one of two bills introduced by Denham on Wednesday.
If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can be fined right now is $500 a day. Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise the maximum penalty 20 times that amount – to $10,000 per water violation.
[Gov. Jerry] Brown said he will empower communities to reach their target, with legislation that allows them to crack down harder on residents and business in violation of state and local water restrictions by imposing $10,000 penalties, while deputizing more people to hit the streets and issue fines.
Despite a rally that attracted hundreds of supporters to the state Capitol, a proposed bill that would have expedited the environmental review process for two large reservoir projects failed to pass through committee.
Alarmed that some cities have fined residents for allowing their lawns to turn brown during the drought, the state Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit penalties for failing to water grass.
California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the installation of water meters in each unit of newly constructed apartments. Democratic Senator Lois Wolk is author of the proposed legislation.
Adam Gray on Wednesday was booted off the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, one day after an unlikely victory when the committee narrowly approved his legislation aimed at protecting communities near the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.