California’s climate, characterized by warm, dry summers and mild winters, makes the state’s water supply unpredictable. For instance, runoff and precipitation in California can be quite variable. The northwestern part of the state can receive more than 140 inches per year while the inland deserts bordering Mexico can receive less than 4 inches.
By the Numbers:
Precipitation averages about 193 million acre-feet per year.
In a normal precipitation year, about half of the state’s available surface water – 35 million acre-feet – is collected in local, state and federal reservoirs.
California is home to more than 1,300 reservoirs.
About two-thirds of annual runoff evaporates, percolates into the ground or is absorbed by plants, leaving about 71 million acre-feet in average annual runoff.
For decades, cannabis has been grown in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in suburban tract homes.
In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.
As we continue forging ahead in 2018 with our online version of Western Water after 40 years as a print magazine, we turned our attention to a topic that also got its start this year: recreational marijuana as a legal use.
State regulators, in the last few years, already had been beefing up their workforce to tackle the glut in marijuana crops and combat their impacts to water quality and supply for people, fish and farming downstream. Thus, even if these impacts were perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of Californians who approved Proposition 64 in 2016, we thought it important to see if anything new had evolved from a water perspective now that marijuana was legal.
According to a new report in the journal PLOS One, we Americans wasted just over 25% of our food between 2007 and 2014. … Each year, just short of 4.2 trillion gallons of water were used to produce all this uneaten food. That includes nearly 1.3 trillion gallons of water to grow uneaten fruits and 1 trillion gallons of water to grow uneaten vegetables.
Tension over the drought-stressed Colorado River escalated into a public feud when four U.S. states accused Arizona’s largest water provider of manipulating supply and demand, potentially threatening millions of people in the United States and Mexico who rely on the river.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Too many decisions about the West get made in Washington, D.C. At least, that’s what the Secretary of the Interior thinks. Ryan Zinke plans to move thousands of the department’s employees out west to manage water, public lands and energy from there.
Learn what new tree-ring studies in Southern California watersheds reveal about drought, hear about efforts to improve subseasonal to seasonal weather forecasting and get the latest on climate change impacts that will alter drought vulnerability in the future.
At our Paleo Drought Workshop on April 19th in San Pedro, you will hear from experts at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Arizona and California Department of Water Resources.
Joaquin Esquivel learned that life is what happens when you make plans. Esquivel, who holds the public member slot at the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento, had just closed purchase on a house in Washington D.C. with his partner when he was tapped by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago to fill the Board vacancy.
Esquivel, 35, had spent a decade in Washington, first in several capacities with then Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and then as assistant secretary for federal water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. As a member of the State Water Board, he shares with four other members the difficult task of ensuring balance to all the uses of California’s water.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Every storm helps improve the state’s summer water picture, scientists and state water planners said Thursday. But even taking into account this storm and a big one two weeks ago, the Sierra Nevada snow pack — the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply — still is only about half of normal for this winter season, with this month’s totals measuring just half of the 1991 miracle month’s final tally.
U.S. scientists studying the effects of uranium mining around the Grand Canyon say they are lacking information on whether the radioactive element is hurting plants, animals and a water source for more than 30 million people. And they would not get to fully gather it if President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal is approved.
A major storm system is forecast to slam into California from Alaska and Canada starting Wednesday night, bringing soaking rain to the Bay Area on Thursday and dumping up to seven feet of new snow to the historically dry Sierra Nevada by Saturday. But as welcome as the snow is during a very dry winter so far, it won’t be enough to return the Sierra Nevada — the source of 30 percent of California’s water supply — back to its average for the year, experts said Tuesday.
This April 19th workshop in San Pedro was focused on helping Southern California water agencies and others to gain information for improving drought preparedness and updating Urban Water Management Plans. The workshop was sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Water Education Foundation.
DoubleTree by Hilton (Madeo Ballroom)
2800 Via Cabrillo-Marina
San Pedro, CA 90731
The Sierra snowpack may be next to nothing, but the Stockton area is set to receive another full supply of water from New Melones Lake, and there’s no reason to expect a shortage here this year, officials said. … While the Stockton area is getting its full share from New Melones, other federal water contractors are not as fortunate.
Does California need to revamp the way in which water is dedicated to the environment to better protect fish and the ecosystem at large? In the hypersensitive world of California water, where differences over who gets what can result in epic legislative and legal battles, the idea sparks a combination of fear, uncertainty and promise.
Saying that the way California manages water for the environment “isn’t working for anyone,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shook things up late last year by proposing a redesigned regulatory system featuring what they described as water ecosystem plans and water budgets with allocations set aside for the environment.
Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle, pulling a child’s red wagon, arrived at a meeting of the California Water Commission with a stack of petitions with 4,000 signatures supporting the two largest reservoir projects seeking bond money: Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento and Temperance Flat in the San Joaquin Valley.
With the threat of another drought looming, west San Joaquin Valley farmers received some dismal news Tuesday about this year’s water allocation. The initial allocation from the Central Valley Project is 20 percent, the U.S Bureau of Reclamation announced on Tuesday.
More than six years after critics began calling for a full economic study of the Delta tunnels plan, the Brown administration released one on Tuesday, finding that the benefits outweigh the costs — albeit by a slim margin for some water users.
Even a single water tunnel burrowed under the California’s Delta would be worth it for urban ratepayers and farmers who would to pay to build and maintain the project, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
Every day, people flock to Daniel Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from California, intensifying the drought.
Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the western United States. In a recent interview with Western Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may lie ahead for the state’s water supply.
The state water board held its first hearing Thursday since Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to move more water efficiently from Northern California to the south was pared down. … “This is something we expected,” Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of MWD, a provider of water to 19 million Southern Californians and the biggest supporter of WaterFix, said during an interview Thursday. “But I still think for the greater good, a two-tunnel project would be better.”
Researchers, government officials, and technical experts met February 8 in Washington, D.C. for the first meeting of a National Academy of Sciences investigation on minimizing the spread of Legionella bacteria in building plumbing and municipal water systems. Legionnaires’ disease sickened at least 6,141 people in 2016 in the United States and killed several hundred, a death toll that is higher than any other water-related illness in the country.
Be prepared for some of the West’s biggest and most important rivers and streams to see record low flows this spring and summer. That’s the message of the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest water supply forecast released Monday.
Many Western reservoirs are full, and downpours have triggered floods and deadly mudslides in parts of California. But all that water isn’t enough to save the West from another drought. Most of the region has slipped back into the drought conditions that have plagued it on and off for the past two decades—alarming water managers across several states.
I’m [Mark Arax] going to Kern County, just shy of the mountains, to figure out how the biggest farmers in America, led by the biggest of them all, are not only keeping alive their orchards and vineyards during drought but adding more almonds (79,000 acres), more pistachios (73,000 acres), more grapes (35,000 acres), and more mandarins (13,000 acres). Even as the supplies of federal and state water have dropped to near zero, agriculture in Kern keeps chugging along, growing more intensive.
Hampered by hot weather and a stubborn high-pressure ridge that has blocked winter storms, California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack — a key source of the state’s water supply — on Tuesday was a paltry 30 percent of normal. The last time there was so little Sierra snow at the end of January was in 2015, when it was 25 percent of its historic average.
An application for $1 billion of state bond money to build Temperance Flat dam east of Fresno scored a dismal zero from the California Water Commission on the cost-benefit ratio, potentially jeopardizing its construction. Supporters of the dam expressed shock and dismay and are blaming the commission staff for the low score. They’ve got company.
Nothing sharpens the political divide in California like a fight over water. Just before New Year’s, the U.S. Bureau of Administration announced it would try to “maximize water deliveries” to the agricultural districts that belong to the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
A dystopian drama is unfolding in Cape Town, a popular tourist destination of nearly 4 million on the coast of South Africa that in April is expected to become the modern world’s first major city to run out of water after three years of drought. For Californians, who panted through five years of record drought before last winter and have seen a fairly dry winter so far this year, it raises the worrisome question: Could it happen here?
All utilities, to varying degrees, shut off water service to households who do not pay bills. Shutoffs, utilities argue, are an essential tool for maintaining financial health. They are the leverage that ensures payment. The universe of U.S. water utilities is vast and varied. There are more than 50,000 systems that serve 15 or more people year-round.
The first forecast for the Colorado River is in, and the outlook for the coming year is bleak. The National Weather Service’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts the river will flow at about 54 percent of its average volume during the key runoff period from April to July.
The story of water in 2017 was one of trial and response. America’s water utilities, for instance, are caught between two forces: a need to reinvest in aging systems and income stagnation among the bottom 20 percent that is calling into question the affordability of water service for the poor. Overseas, the risks to life and health are more immediate.
As Congress debated a tax cut that would transfer an enormous amount of wealth from America’s poor and middle classes to its rich, a United Nations expert was visiting people already pushed over the edge by poverty. … [Philip] Alston’s findings also reflect how the widening gap between rich and poor in the United States worsens the country’s challenges for drinking water access, sanitation, and health.
With the country and the world facing increasing strain on water resources, beer companies, including craft brewers, are learning how to do more with less water. … Craft brewers have recently struggled with water shortages in the American West. During the California drought, the city of Chico asked Sierra Nevada Brewing to reduce its water usage by more than 30 percent.
The 2017 Water Leaders class organized by the Water Education Foundation completed its year with a report outlining policy recommendations for the future of water storage in California.
The class of 20 from various stakeholder groups and backgrounds that hailed from cities and towns across the state had full editorial control to chose recommendations. While they did not endorse a specific storage proposal, they recommended that California:
Deepen your knowledge of California water issues at our popular Water 101 Workshop and jump aboard the bus the next day to visit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource.
As firefighters battled a destructive wildfire that swept through neighborhoods in Ventura, they were stymied by some fire hydrants that didn’t work. Officials said power outages caused by the fire and heavy winds left some water pumping stations inoperable, meaning water couldn’t reach the fire hydrants.
It can be very expensive, for instance, to build a new water treatment plant or connect with one in the next closest town. … Now a team of engineers and students at the University of California, Los Angeles, has developed a water treatment system that fits in a 40ft shipping container.
Scientists have calculated future scenarios for the coming decades that include sea-level rise, more severe rainfall and an increase in the frequency of heatwaves. Some areas will get drier, others wetter. No matter what the future brings, one thing is clear: Impacts from a warming climate are already being felt across the American West, with changes to ecosystems and water supply.
Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast.
They are commonly referred to as the “Pineapple Express” because of their origins in tropical regions. While atmospheric rivers are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage. Their presence has been likened to the West Coast version of the hurricane hazard posed to the Southeastern United States.
The state Department of Water Resources on Thursday, Nov. 30, announced an initial water allocation of 15 percent for most of its State Water Project contractors for 2018. The low percentage is a conservative figure, which is typical of the department’s early season forecast.
California’s wettest months of the year are still to come, but the state’s largest water reservoirs already appear to be in decent shape. As of Nov. 27, most of California’s major reservoirs were above their historical averages for this time of year, according to the Department of Water Resources.
Although the majority of Americans get their drinking water from a municipal, public supply, 1 in 7 rely on private water wells. Though wells for drinking water and wells for oil and gas production are known to exist in the same geographic regions, their proximity to one another across the United States was uncertain. … “Forty-five million Americans rely on private groundwater wells for their drinking water,” says Scott Jasechko, assistant professor at Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California at Santa Barbara.
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. Join us as we head into the foothills and the mountains to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state.
GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. This year, special attention will be paid to the flood event at Oroville Dam and the efforts to repair the dam spillway before the next rainy season.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Lake Shasta, where participants take a houseboat ride.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration plans.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
We will travel deep into California’s water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The tour will make its way to San Francisco Bay, and includes a ferry ride.
The thousands of miles of concrete channels diverting street water from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers represent the last major water project in Los Angeles County, built almost 100 years ago. On Thursday, Dave Sorem, owner and vice president of Mike Bubalo Construction Co., showed off the first of a second wave of street-water projects that elevate what is essentially water pollution into a drinkable water source.
For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley, farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This has caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that can never be restored.
Californians slashed their water use during the drought. But a new study finds we still used more than the national average. Between 2015 and 2010, Californians slashed their water use by seventeen percent, according to the US Geological Survey report.
It was raining and Judy Adler had a broken gutter. What could have been a simple repair turned into an effort to capture rain and use it for her backyard pond. Since late 2009, Adler has collected up to 11,000 gallons of rain annually at her Walnut Creek home.
Over the past 12 years, the country’s biggest urban water agency has paid farmers about $190 million not to grow crops on thousands of acres near the Colorado River in the Palo Verde Valley. The water has gone to Los Angeles and other cities across Southern California, and in return, the farmers who’ve left some of their lands unplanted have been able to count on additional income.
The way water is acquired and distributed throughout the Santa Clarita Valley changed forever Sunday when Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill creating one new all-encompassing water district for the SCV.
Sonoma County officials said they will not let people return home until it is safe and utilities are restored. Crews have been working around the clock to connect water and power, in some cases putting up new poles next to smoldering trees, the sheriff said.
Like every autumn, October is bringing cooler weather, changing leaves and pumpkins to fields across California. But unlike the past five years, when a historic drought gripped the state, there’s something new across the landscape: full reservoirs.
Camp Pendleton officials swear that the water consumed by 55,000 Marines and their families is safe, despite a pair of scathing state and federal investigations indicating chronic problems in the treatment systems at the sprawling military base.
Environmentalists are opposed to a proposal championed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Southern California water interests to ramp up pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta starting next week.
One day after the largest water district in America pulled out of a $17 billion state project to build twin tunnels under the Delta, a water supplier for 220,000 Alameda County residents supported the plan and said it wants to join in.
Around California, the country and the world, reservoirs are silently filling with sediment, and only a few people are thinking about it. … According to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey, in many regions erosion rates are now accelerating thanks to wildfires and climate change. The western U.S., which relies on reservoirs for vital water storage and flood control, will be particularly impacted.
Nestled in thick brush high in the San Bernardino Mountains, bunker-like structures protrude from the rocky slopes. Built with stone and concrete and secured with metal doors and padlocks, these vaults are connected to a series of stainless steel pipelines that run down the mountainside like veins.
A dozen water storage projects in California are now officially in the running for a share of $2.7 billion in state bond funds. But experts are cautioning that taxpayers shouldn’t get their hopes up that these projects will solve chronic water shortages in the state. The money comes from Proposition 1, a bond measure approved by state voters in 2014.
A federal judge tapped the brakes Thursday but didn’t stop a proposal for a massive and expensive water pipeline to draw underground water from rural valleys along Nevada’s eastern edge to supply the growing Las Vegas metropolitan area.
During the drought, Californians often asked why the state wasn’t building more reservoirs. On Tuesday, the state finally began taking a major step toward that goal, unveiling a list of 12 huge new water projects — from massive new dams in the north to expanded groundwater banks in the south — that will compete for $2.7 billion in state bond funding for new water storage projects.
Heavy winter snows in the Rocky Mountains have rescued the thirsty Western U.S. for another year. U.S. water managers said Tuesday there will be no water cutbacks in 2018 for millions of residents and farmers served by the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River that lies behind the Hoover Dam.
California voters in 2014 approved a ballot measure that allocates $2.7 billion for water storage projects. It’s likely there will be hot competition for the money when the California Water Commission gets around to awarding it next year.
A $914 million plan to expand the Los Vaqueros Reservoir as drought insurance for millions of Bay Area residents picked up endorsements Monday from six conservation groups in a rare display of environmental support for new water development.
As California water becomes an increasingly precious and contentious resource, the state needs an umpire with the power to enforce laws against illegal diversions and protect the rights of the public and others with enforceable claims to state water.
East Porterville took by far the hardest hit in the [San Joaquin] valley during the drought, state officials say. … The State Water Resources Control Board has responded with $35 million to connect East Porterville’s 300-plus dry homes to Porterville’s system. Another 400 homeowners who didn’t lose their wells have opted into the Porterville hookup to prevent future water problems.
Shirlee Zane, the chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, is set to appear before a Congressional panel in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the county’s efforts to better manage its water supply and respond to major storms. … Zane intends to tell senators about two initiatives led by the Sonoma County Water Agency, of which she is also a board member.
The deadline is Aug. 14 to apply for water storage funding from the Proposition 1 bond measure voters approved in 2014, and while the folks working to build Sites Reservoir will be applying, they don’t need the money. Enough water agencies have agreed to invest in the reservoir near Maxwell that it can be built without taxpayer funds, according to Sites Project Authority General Manager Jim Watson.
As the summer sun was warming up on a July morning, a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered on the north steps of the California Capitol, many having arrived stiff-legged after a four-hour bus ride. … Most were San Joaquin Valley residents, including children as young as 5, who woke up before dawn to travel to the state capital to voice their support for Senate Bill 623, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Since the state’s drought officially ended earlier this year, there’s also been a precipitous drop in Californians worrying about having enough water. Last July, 62 percent said water supply was a big problem for the state.
With a friend in the White House and their party in control of both chambers of Congress, House Republicans have embarked on their most ambitious effort yet to change the way water flows in California. Legislation that the House sent to the Senate last week outlines a bold effort to build big new dams and shift water from fish, birds and other wildlife to farms in the San Joaquin Valley.
The coastal town of Davenport, gateway to the new Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument and home to 100 households, may be running out of water. The problem started in February when storms damaged the water intake at San Vicente Creek that provided the town with water.
When it comes to managing water in uncertain times, few things are more important than knowing how much is flowing in the river alongside your city, or filling the reservoir that irrigates local farms. … But this basic information is at risk across the West because the nation lacks a reliable funding source for the simple stream gages that measure river flows.
Every year for almost half a century, California snow surveyor Pat Armstrong has trekked the rugged Sierra Nevada with three simple tools: a snow core tube, a scale and a notebook. For as long as he can remember, state water officials have relied on the accuracy of those tools to deliver crucial data on the size of the Sierra snowpack and its ability to sustain a growing population.
Nearly five years ago, the California Legislature declared that the state’s residents have a right to “safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water.” Passage of the landmark law provoked a practical question that has always dogged the noble ideals of the right-to-water movement: how does a state government or municipal utility ensure clean and affordable water for all? … Staff members at the California Water Resources Control Board are now taking a full swing at the affordability component of the right-to-water legislation.
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.
High temperatures put the Merced River in Yosemite National Park over flood stage on Thursday as snow from higher elevations melted and flowed into the river’s basin. But most Central California reservoirs, preparing for the warmer weather and melting snowpack throughout the Sierra, have excess capacity to handle such runoff.
State officials on Monday reported a near-record May snowpack, but the bountiful winter that demolished California’s five-year drought is now increasing the risk of late spring flooding, as temperatures climb across the Sierra Nevada.
The Department of Water Resources announced that contractors north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will receive full allocations this year. Those south of the Delta, including the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, will get 85 percent of what they’ve requested.
The water agency that supplies drinking water to Los Angeles agreed Tuesday to contribute $1.5 million toward the planning of Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley, giving the agency a toehold in a potentially valuable storage project.
Southern California’s most powerful water agency is prepared to invest in Sacramento Valley’s proposed Sites Reservoir, a move that could broaden support for the $4.4 billion project but also raise alarms about a south state “water grab.”
The Trump administration has handed a big boost to a private water venture in Southern California, angering California’s senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who said the decision could “destroy pristine public land” in the Mojave Desert.
As big snowflakes fell high in California’s Sierra Nevada on Thursday, surveyors on snowshoes measured the deepest springtime snowpack in years and said it boosted concerns about destructive floods when all that snow melts.
The biggest blizzards are over. But as state water officials head into the Sierra Nevada on Thursday for the annual April 1 snowpack reading — the most important of the year for planning summer water supplies — California still has a huge amount of snow covering its highest mountain peaks, an avalanche that has buried the state’s punishing drought.
Among the projects listed by the unions is the $1 billion Huntington Beach Desalination Plant in California. … Also in Southern California, the Cadiz water project aims to tap groundwater from the Mojave Desert to supply roughly 100,000 homes.
As snow continued to fall on the eastern Sierra Nevada on Monday, platoons of earth movers, cranes and utility trucks fanned out across the Owens Valley, scrambling to empty reservoirs and clean out a lattice-work of ditches and pipelines in a frantic effort to protect the key source of Los Angeles’ water.
A state reservoir at the starting point to ship Delta water to 23 million Californians has been damaged by heavy water flows this winter — which may trigger a temporary shutdown of the state’s giant water pumps.
State officials say that it will take 30 to 45 days to repair damage detected this week at a key point in the state’s system for shipping water from the Delta to farms in the San Joaquin Valley and to cities from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles.
State officials said Wednesday that Californians reliant on water pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta won’t face supply shortages, even as crews shut down a massive pumping station that serves much of Southern California for at least a month to make repairs to its intake reservoir.
Plunging the long, metal rod into the snow beneath his feet in the mountain town of Phillips, state snow survey chief Frank Gehrke measured the Sierra Nevada snowpack Wednesday not against California’s recent, historic drought but against its biggest rain years.
Clambering through a snowy meadow with drifts up to the tree branches, California’s water managers measured the state’s vital Sierra Nevada snowpack Thursday at a drought-busting and welcome 173 percent of average.
Snowfall from a series of blizzard-like storms that blanketed the Sierra Nevada last month deposited the equivalent of more than 5.7 trillion gallons of water along the rugged mountain range — enough water to fill California’s largest reservoir more than four times, according to recent analysis.
Northern California is on track to break rainfall records. … But you wouldn’t know the region has experienced an exceptionally wet winter looking at the steep, dry shores ringing the Sacramento region’s largest reservoir, Folsom Lake.
Leaning against a wooden rail, environmental activist Geoffrey McQuilkin took stock of a parched geological wonderland [Mono Lake] that had been altered by a weekend deluge. … Similar scenes were playing out at lakes and reservoirs across Northern California as weeks of heavy rain and snow brought them back to life.
The powerful storms that soaked Northern California over the past week did more than trigger power outages, mudslides and flash floods. … Officially, California’s drought won’t end until Gov. Jerry Brown rescinds or revises the emergency drought declaration he signed in January 2014.
Two weeks before President Barack Obama leaves office, his administration vowed to move full speed ahead on California’s controversial Delta tunnels project, calling it essential for the state’s water supply as well as its environment.
The first manual survey this year of California’s snowpack revealed Tuesday that it holds about half as much water as normal, casting a shadow on the state that’s hoping to dodge a sixth straight year of drought, officials said.
Around the start of each year, California water officials make a big show out of measuring the Sierra Nevada snowpack for reporters. Tuesday’s measurement before a throng of cameras was fairly bleak: Water content in the snowpack stood at just 53 percent of average, about a third as much water as the same time last year at that site.
On Tuesday in Modesto, it was standing-room only at a State Water Resources Control Board hearing for a plan that could cut irrigation water for farmers and drinking water for cities. Many people showed up at the meeting to protest the plan, while others came to show their support.
More than 900 people packed a Modesto hearing on boosting river flows Tuesday, most of them determined to stop the state’s plan. … The round of hearings started Nov. 29 in Sacramento and will finish there Jan. 3.
A critical aspect of California’s drive to create new water storage is in place after the California Water Commission approved regulations governing how those potential storage projects could receive public funding under Prop. 1.
The Dec. 14 decision potentially paves the way for new surface water projects, such as Sites Reservoir, and expansion of Los Vaqueros reservoir in Contra Costa County.
President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed and bequeathed to President-elect Donald Trump a massive infrastructure bill designed to control floods, fund dams and deliver more water to farmers in California’s Central Valley.
When California water officials assess the drought, the first place they look is the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. Rain and snowmelt from the area feed into a complex system of rivers, canals and reservoirs that send water across the state.
Now, if past weather patterns are fulfilled this year, experts say, Northern California’s winter — and long-term relief from years of drought — could be just around the corner for the state’s most important watershed.
In a preliminary outlook, the state Department of Water Resources said it can count on allocating as little as 20 percent of requested water supplies to start, hinting drought fears are far from over in California.
California’s Department of Water Resources has made its initial projection of how much water public agencies can count on receiving from the canals and pipelines of the State Water Project next year: 20 percent of their full allotments.
The founders of fledgling San Francisco firm Blue Forest Conservation want to use the proceeds of what they call a forest-resilience bond to pay crews to cut down small trees, clear out shrubs and burn off ground cover in overgrown forests.
Fishing and environmental groups will get the first say Tuesday about how much water should run down the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. The session in Sacramento will be the first of five before the State Water Resources Control Board, which is considering a major boost in the flows.
Thirsty avocado trees in the hills of De Luz are on a literal chopping block. The Rancho California Water District on Monday, Nov. 14, started accepting applications from district growers who want to remove high water use crops, such as avocado trees, for lower use varieties such as wine grapes or citrus trees.
Lake Cachuma, a giant reservoir built to hold Santa Barbara County’s drinking water, has all but vanished in California’s historic drought. It reached an all-time low this summer — 7 percent capacity, which left a thick beige watermark that circles the hills framing the lake like an enormous bathtub ring.
Millions of Bay Area residents could get extra drought insurance against water shortages and quality problems from a proposed $800 million expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir that may have up to 10 water suppliers as partners.
As the state enters its sixth year of drought, Northern California is seeing some significant relief thanks to a series of powerful storms, while Southern California remains mired in record dry conditions.
Last week, folks who are in the inner circle of the plans for Sites Reservoir held a get-together in Maxwell to show off the group’s new office and new logo. Also new is a website, that talks about all things Sites Reservoir — a construction schedule, facts sheets and a list of interested participants (see sidebar).
Manteca-area farmers voted this week to oppose a state proposal to permanently allow more water to remain in the Stanislaus River to protect fish. … The State Water Resources Control Board says river flows would increase from roughly 20 percent to perhaps 40 percent on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers combined.
California’s drought has brought about a strange partnership that includes corporations like Coca-Cola and environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy. They’re partnering on projects aimed at helping increase water supply in California.
California has been trying to fill its reservoirs for 5 years, and it will get a little help from a storm expected to hit later this week. Right now, Lake Shasta is only at 60% capacity and Lake Oroville is at 44%, with other reservoirs across the state even lower.
Four of the five board members at the Turlock Irrigation District voted Tuesday against the state’s proposed boost in river flows. Meanwhile, the fifth board member was in Sacramento to press the same case.
The board of the Turlock Irrigation District will get its turn Tuesday to denounce the river flow increases proposed by the state. Later in the morning in Sacramento, supporters and opponents of higher flows will speak to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.
The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.
California’s goal of ensuring universal access to safe drinking water, as mandated in the 2012 Human Right to Water Bill, will come a step closer to being met if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a new measure into law that halts the creation of new small, unsustainable – and in many cases dangerous – water districts in the state.
San Francisco faces potentially drastic cutbacks in its water supply, as state regulators proposed leaving more water in three Northern California rivers Thursday to protect wildlife in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary, the linchpin of California’s water supply.
It sounded too good to be true — an official forecast that 2016 [Colorado River] water use in Arizona, California and Nevada will be the lowest since 1992. That forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was too good to be true — by the bureau’s own admission.
A prominent Sacramento-area economist says Gov. Jerry Brown’s $15.5 billion plan to overhaul the troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta doesn’t make financial sense, with costs far outweighing the benefits.
Tania Ramirez stepped into her family’s front yard Friday morning, leaned down toward a pipe protruding from the garden, and twisted a spigot. For the first time in three years, water came pouring out.
Recently, Gov. John Hickenlooper cast renewed attention on water supply and growth in the West with a decision in a long-running process to expand a Colorado River diversion. … The Gross reservoir expansion reflects a fundamental tension for the seven states and two countries that share the Colorado River: how many more diversions can the stressed basin tolerate?
State and federal reservoir levels have been dropping at dramatically different rates for the last couple of months, for reasons that figure into last week’s discussions about the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Plans to build the Sites Reservoir have been in the works since 1957, and if it is eventually approved, work on the project probably would not be complete for another 10 to 12 years, according to Jim Watson, the Sites Reservoir Project general manager.
Activists arguing that Nestle’s bottling of water from the San Bernardino National Forest is illegal due to a long-expired permit gathered Saturday at Sprouts Farmers Market locations across the U.S., including one in La Quinta, in order to protest the chain’s sale of Nestle Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water.
Whether the temperature management of the runoff of Northern California water reservoirs, including Shasta Dam, results in improved survivability of endangered fish or uncertainty for human water users was debated at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
Backers of a controversial ballot measure intended to shift billions of dollars in state bond money from high speed rail to water storage projects say they will rewrite the stalled initiative in an effort to gain broader support.
Calling all water users: If you would like to buy in on water from a future Sites Reservoir, now is the time. Plans for Sites Reservoir are moving forward, with a deadline of June 2017 to ask the state Water Commission to pay for half of the estimated $4.4 billion construction cost.
Of the roughly 300,000 acres in the city of Los Angeles, more than 2,000 are alleyways that cut through city blocks. And because they’re mostly paved, they do little to capture one of the city’s most prized resources: water.
Within less than a year, as many as 50,000 marijuana growers in California could be required to obtain state permits for the irrigation water they consume. … This new ability to regulate water for marijuana growing is a result of SB 837, a state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 27.
In a failed effort to protect endangered fish, the federal government decided without proper study to default to restricting the giant pumps at the bottom of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. So argues a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by a powerful consortium of water agencies.
California water will retake the Capitol Hill stage in coming days, with compromise nowhere in sight. … Underscoring the many complications entangling California water, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the Westlands Water District on Friday sued the federal Bureau of Reclamation over measures intended to protect endangered species.
A coalition of local elected officials, water districts, tribal members and the federal government will gather Friday to launch the application process to help build Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project.
When a group of water officials from California, Nevada and Arizona get together behind closed doors to talk about potential cuts to California’s share of the precious and dwindling Colorado River, representatives from San Diego County Water Authority are not present.
After weeks of uncertainty and pressure from members of Congress, federal officials on Wednesday announced a plan for managing water releases from California’s largest reservoir this summer in a manner that will not involve cutbacks in farm water deliveries – at least if all goes as hoped.
Under the state’s newly relaxed conservation rules, California’s 400 urban water district were to submit an analysis of their supply conditions and conservation outlook by last Wednesday. The water board won’t publish the responses until next month.
Residents of El Porvenir, threatened with water shutoff in August as their neighbors in Cantua Creek were last year, are getting financial relief from the state. … In April, the farmworker residents of the tiny western Fresno County town rejected a higher water rate over five years that amounted to about $5 a month the first year.
Because Nestle North American Waters did not provide requested information, its permit related to water withdrawals in the San Bernardino National Forest has lapsed, plaintiffs contend in a brief filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
Municipal water agencies across California are required to report to state officials by midnight Wednesday on whether they have enough water to withstand three more years of drought. … Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board are calling it a “stress test.”
The state announced plans to spend $10 million to begin connecting unincorporated East Porterville in Tulare County to the water system of neighboring Porterville. … Statewide, officials said roughly 2,000 wells have run dry during California’s most severe drought on record and stretching into its fifth year.
Word of the vanishing Sierra snowpack, which usually helps replenish reservoir levels later in the summer, arrives amid uncertainty over how California’s dams will be managed in coming months to protect endangered fish. It also comes at a critical juncture for urban water officials across the state.
This new Order, approved Tuesday, will encourage more recycled water projects by providing a single permit that can be used across Regional Water Quality Control Board boundaries. It also establishes conditions for recycled water use and gives authority to an administrator to issue recycled water permits to users.