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Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?
Drought and climate change are raising concerns that a century-old Compact that divided the river’s waters could force unwelcome cuts in use for the upper watershed

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir that has seen its water level plummet after two decades of drought. Climate scientist Brad Udall calls himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.

Announcement

Ringing in a Year of Hope (Again) with the Water Education Foundation
Water Leaders Turns 25 And We're Expanding the Program; Find Out More in Executive Director's Letter

Jenn Bowles, Water Education Foundation Executive DirectorHappy New Year to all the friends, supporters, readers and tour and workshop participants of the Water Education Foundation! We’re grateful to each and every person who interacted with us in 2021, especially as we continued to pivot our in-person programming to virtual and, in some cases, hybrid platforms.

As we turn the page to 2022, we are cautiously returning to in-person tours and events in mid-March with our Lower Colorado River Tour. While the current COVID-19 strain, omicron, is expected to fizzle out by then, we will be implementing precautions to keep everyone safe.

Water News You Need to Know

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Friday Top of the Scroll: Desert groundwater plan OK’d by state

The Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan got a thumbs up from the state on Thursday but with a swarm of lawsuits surrounding the plan, it’s unclear what that approval will mean going forward. One of those lawsuits seeks a “comprehensive adjudication” of water rights of the Indian Wells Valley basin, which could reconfigure who has rights to how much groundwater, a fundamental underpinning of the groundwater sustainability plan that was just approved.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Charts show vividly how winter storms have eased — but not erased — California drought

After a strong start to the water year, all of the Bay Area and California have moved out of the exceptional drought category, with most of the state now in the lesser extreme or severe drought categories, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data posted Thursday. The national Drought Monitor uses a number of drought measurements, including precipitation, soil moisture and streamflow, to determine which category an area is in. Exceptional drought is the worst category — indicating a water emergency. The next category is extreme drought, which brings with it widespread water shortages and restrictions.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

Spaceship-sized detection system could help determine future of California water supply and where to store it

If it looks like something that could transport you into the future, in a sense it is. A spaceship-sized hoop suspended from a helicopter is actually part of an advanced water detection system. The information it’s gathering, could help determine the future of California’s water supply – and where we store it. … For several years, [Stanford professor Rosemary] Knight has been conducting aerial surveys using an electromagnetic sensing system. She says the technology is able to penetrate the ground, yielding vital data on the geology of natural groundwater basins. 3D maps pinpoint attractive sites, made up of materials marked in red, like sand and gravel, that allow water to sink in.

Aquafornia news Axios

Earth’s climate went off the rails in 2021, reports show

Global warming became local to a new and devastating extent in 2021, with the year ranking as the sixth-warmest on record, according to new, independent data from NASA, NOAA and Berkeley Earth. Why it matters: Each year’s data adds to the relentless long-term trend, which shows rapid warming due overwhelmingly to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions during the past several decades in particular. … Four of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history occurred in 2021, as heat waves and drought primed the environment for massive blazes. 

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Online Water Encyclopedia

Restored wetlands in Northern California
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Wetlands

Wetlands are among the most important and hardest-working ecosystems in the world, rivaling rain forests and coral reefs in productivity of life. 

Salton Sea
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Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 237 feet below sea level.

The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe

Lake Oroville shows the effects of drought in 2014.

Drought

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.

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Important People in California Water History

Read about the history people who played a significant role in the water history of California.