As atmospheric rivers blasted across California this year, they
brought epic amounts of rain and snow follwing a three-year
Devastating and deadly floods hit parts of the state and now all
eyes are on the potential for more flooding, particularly in
the San Joaquin Valley as the record amount of snow in the
Sierras melts with warmer temperatures.
With anticipated sea level rise and other impacts of a changing
climate, flood management is increasingly critical in California.
In this Issue: Water leader applications for
2024 will be coming out soon! And don’t forget to join us at our
annual Water Summit Oct. 25 when we’ll be talking about taking on
the improbable; and check out our latest Western Water
article about a little-known change in law that will benefit
groundwater in California.
A new but little-known change in
California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure”
promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that
increase the state’s supply of groundwater.
The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law,
enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners
and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.
For decades, water has been siphoned from springs in the San
Bernardino Mountains and piped downhill to be bottled and sold
as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water. After a years-long
fight over the bottled water operation in the San Bernardino
National Forest, California water regulators ruled Tuesday that
the company must stop taking millions of gallons through its
pipelines. The State Water Resources Control Board voted
unanimously to order the company BlueTriton Brands to “cease
and desist” taking much of the water it has been piping from
tunnels and boreholes in the mountains near San Bernardino.
Environmentalists, who have campaigned for years against
bottling water from the forest, praised the decision.
Even though California enacted sweeping legislation nearly a
decade ago to curb excessive agricultural pumping of
groundwater, new research predicts that thousands of drinking
water wells could run dry in the Central Valley by the time the
law’s restrictions take full effect in 2040. The study,
published this month in the journal Scientific Reports, casts
critical light on how the state is implementing the 2014
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The research reveals
that plans prepared by local agencies would allow for heavy
pumping to continue largely unabated, potentially drawing down
aquifers to low levels that would leave many residents with dry
Despite a megadrought, states in the West have been able to
avoid drastic cuts to their allocations of Colorado River water
this year not only because of surprising storms but also thanks
to generous financial incentives from all levels of government
that have encouraged people to conserve. The temporary Colorado
River water-sharing agreement that Arizona, California and
Nevada announced in May depends on an injection of $1.2 billion
from the federal government. Some of the 30 tribal nations in
the river basin also are getting federal dollars. The Gila
River Indian Community, for example, will receive $233 million
from the feds over the next three years, mostly to conserve
water. Fueled by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan
Infrastructure Law, the feds will spend a total of $15.4
billion for drought resiliency programs …
An irrigation district in the Klamath Project can no longer
divert water from the Klamath River under a state-issued water
right without approval from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a
federal judge has determined. Reclamation sued the Klamath
Drainage District in July 2022 for taking water from the river
despite curtailments intended to protect endangered fish. The
2022 irrigation season was severely hampered in the project
following several consecutive years of drought. Reclamation
allotted just 62,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake
for irrigators, about 14% of full demand, including zero water
for districts with junior rights.
Wetlands are among the most
important and hardest-working ecosystems in the world, rivaling
rain forests and coral reefs in productivity of life.
They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of
water, sequester carbon, reduce flooding and erosion, recharge
groundwater and provide a
diverse range of recreational opportunities from fishing and
hunting to photography. They also serve as critical habitat for
wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on
California’s endangered species
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the
Bay Model is a giant hydraulic replica of San Francisco
Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta. It is housed in a converted World II-era
warehouse in Sausalito near San Francisco.
Hundreds of gallons of water are pumped through the
three-dimensional, 1.5-acre model to simulate a tidal ebb
and flow lasting 14 minutes.
Drought—an extended period of
limited or no precipitation—is a fact of life in California and
the West, with water resources following boom-and-bust patterns.
During California’s 2012–2016 drought, much of the state
experienced severe drought conditions: significantly less
precipitation and snowpack, reduced streamflow and higher
temperatures. Those same conditions reappeared early in 2021
prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom in May to declare drought emergencies
in watersheds across 41 counties in California.