Water news you need to know

A collection of top water news from around California and the West compiled each weekday. Send any comments or article submissions to Foundation News & Publications Director Doug Beeman.

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Please Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing. Also, the headlines below are the original headlines used in the publication cited at the time they are posted here, and do not reflect the stance of the Water Education Foundation, an impartial nonprofit that remains neutral.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Newsom announces proposed budget with funding for water categories

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 10 unveiled his proposed budget for the next fiscal year … [T]he governor has proposed timely new funding for flood risk reduction and protection, as well as several other important water management issues. Specifically, the governor’s proposed budget calls for funding in the following categories. Urban Flood Risk Reduction — $135.5 million over two years to support local agencies working to reduce urban flood risk. Delta Levee — $40.6 million for ongoing Delta projects that reduce risk of levee failure and flooding, provide habitat benefits, and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion contaminating water supplies. Central Valley Flood Protection — $25 million to support projects that will reduce the risk of flooding for Central Valley communities while contributing to ecosystem restoration and agricultural sustainability.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

In a water deficit, Arizona contemplates a future without Colorado River access

Water from the Colorado River covers more than a third of Arizona’s total water usage, but the state is increasingly losing access to that supply. The state is no longer in what Terry Goddard, the president of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors, called “a fool’s paradise.” Arizona had maintained a surplus of water since the mid-1980s, but that’s not the case today. Now, it’s losing water, and it’s losing it fast. That loss, and potential future loss, was the focal point of Arizona’s state legislature Tuesday, starting with a presentation from the Central Arizona Project on the status of the state’s water supply in which legislators heard about the tensions between Arizona and other Colorado River Basin states over access to groundwater.

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Aquafornia news CBS - San Diego

NOAA predicts California storm could cost $1B

A climatologist with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that the ongoing storms in California will likely be the first billion-dollar storm of 2023 in the United States. … Smith is an applied climatologist at NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information. He’s the lead researcher for the annual “Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disaster’s” report. “It takes into account many different impacts such as damage to homes, businesses, government assets like schools, all the contents of those structures,” Smith said. 

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Aquafornia news NPR

How dynamically managing California’s reservoirs could save more water

Despite several weeks of torrential rain and flooding, California is still facing a severe multi-year drought. That has many people thinking about how to better capture winter floodwaters to last through the dry season. An innovative approach at two California reservoirs could help boost the state’s water supply, potentially marking a larger shift from decades-old water management approaches to a system that can quickly adapt to precipitation in a changing climate. At issue are rules that, at face value, seem perplexing to many Californians. Even in a chronically dry state, reservoirs are not allowed to fill up in the winter. … Two sites, Folsom Reservoir and Lake Mendocino, are rethinking this by using weather forecasts to guide their operations. Instead of sticking to set rules, they only empty out if a major storm is forecasted for the days ahead.

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Opinion: Department of Interior needs to review agricultural use of water amid negotiations for Colorado River cuts

As Lake Mead continues to decline toward dead pool, federal officials are requesting the Colorado River states to offer major cuts in water usage. Nevada has responded with a detailed and innovative plan set forth in a December 20, 2022 letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, calling for basic reform of water management throughout the entire Colorado River system. … Arizona and California have not responded in public. They remain on the sidelines, unable to summon the political will to either agree or to propose an alternative. The reason Arizona and California are internally deadlocked can be summed up in one word: agriculture. Irrigated agriculture uses more than 70 percent of the water allocated to the two states from Lake Mead. 
-Written by Bruce Babbitt, an attorney and politician from the state of Arizona, and President Bill Clinton’s secretary of the Interior from 1993 to 2001. 

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

Blog: SGMA implementation and CEQA: Is now the time to reconsider a statutory exemption?

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to adopt Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to ensure sustainable groundwater management in all high- and medium-priority groundwater basins, is well into its implementation phase. The deadlines for GSAs to submit GSPs for all high- and medium-priority basins have passed, and the Department of Water Resources continues to issue determinations on submitted GSPs. As GSPs are approved, GSAs have begun to pursue projects to implement their GSPs, primarily comprising groundwater recharge projects. These projects are generally subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which mandates environmental review of discretionary public agency actions.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valadao rolls out sweeping overhaul of Calif. water policy

A comprehensive overhaul of water policy affecting the San Joaquin Valley is back on the table, courtesy of Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford). Valadao initially introduced the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act last September and is bringing it back, this time with a Republican-controlled House. The entire California Republican delegation joined Valadao as co-sponsors on the bill. … What’s in it: If it passes, the act will require the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) to be operated consistent with the 2019 Trump-era biological opinions, which have been under fire by the Biden administration.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Madera farmers push back on tighter pumping restrictions, county agrees to keep status quo

Facing heated pushback from growers, Madera County officials decided to maintain current groundwater pumping allotments for the next two years rather than reduce allocations over that time. At its Jan. 10 meeting, Board of Supervisors also considered increasing penalties for growers who exceed pumping allocations in the Madera, Chowchilla, and Delta-Mendota subbasins as part of an effort to raise money for projects geared toward bringing more water into the critically over drafted region. Madera County has been the site of an escalating battle over how to reduce groundwater pumping and who should pay for new water projects. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

How bad was California’s ‘Great Flood’ of 1862? It was a torrent of horrors

The Great Flood of 1862, seemingly lost in time, is the answer to the question: What was the most destructive flood in California history? Even as flood waters rise throughout the state in January 2023 and President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on Monday, the event has created only a fraction of the impact of the 19th century deluge. News reports from the time describe a surreal scene: Entire towns were destroyed, and farmland and plains turned into lakes as far as the eye could see. Almost everyone in the state was impacted by the flood, from victims who lost their homes to state employees who, in the chaos and confusion, didn’t get paid for more than a year. … San Francisco began flooding in December 1861, when steady rains drenched the city. The first week of January dumped 12 more inches of rain in S.F., and one local newspaper made Biblical comparisons.

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Aquafornia news The Confluence - ANR Blogs

News release: Erik Porse named director of California Institute for Water Resources

Erik Porse joined the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) on Jan. 11 as director of the California Institute for Water Resources (CIWR). Porse has built an outstanding career in water as a research engineer with the Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento and an assistant adjunct professor with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. His research focuses on urban and water resources management. He specializes in bringing together interdisciplinary teams to investigate complex environmental management questions.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Sports betting, water, education: The issues raised by Colorado’s tribal chairmen in historic speeches at the state Capitol

The chairmen of the Ute Mountain Ute and the Southern Ute tribes spoke in a joint address to the state legislature on Wednesday. It was the first time, under a new state law, that the tribal leaders were invited to address state lawmakers. Over the course of about 30 minutes, the two leaders shared the history of their communities and asked for lawmakers’ help on specific issues. Here are a few. Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute, said the tribe needs help to access the water for which it already holds rights. … Heart said the state should partner with the tribe to work on a pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Montezuma County. The tribes also deserve a greater role in water planning among the Colorado River basin states, he said.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Editorial: Let’s take action on water supply

As Californians struggled to deal with a grueling drought that has led to water rationing and other extreme water-conservation measures, Mother Nature has this week intervened with an atmospheric river that has led to massive rainfalls and flooding — especially up in our end of the state. This cycle of drought and flooding is nothing new. … Unfortunately, California has left itself dependent on the weather (or climate, if you prefer) because it hasn’t built significant water infrastructure since the time that essay was published — when the state had roughly 18 million fewer residents. Some environmentalists argue against building water storage when there’s little rain, but they only are correct if it doesn’t rain again. History suggests the rains will always come — at least eventually, and this week’s ongoing series of storms is a whopper of an example. 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

How does California store all the rainwater from the storms?

Why Guy is getting many questions about why we can’t store all the rainwater we’re getting. California is still officially in a drought and we need water for drinking and agriculture and other basic needs. Even though it’s been dumping rain like watery gold, we can’t seem to store it all. We have reservoirs and dams that do much of the water storage, but most of the rain we’ve been getting is flowing into the Pacific Ocean. It’s wasted. The rain is also falling so quickly that we can’t store it and what we want to do with it is get it out of here to clear our roadways and landscapes as soon as possible. The best-case scenario is that we get a ton of snow in the high Sierra that naturally melts as the weather warms and disperses the water in doses to a thirsty state.

Aquafornia news NBC 7 San Diego

San Diego farmers say rain will let them go weeks without irrigation

Vendors at the Ocean Beach farmers market are singing rain’s praises after a series of storms that have passed through San Diego. … While farmers say the rain makes their fruits and vegetables pop, they say it also helps them save money and the environment. … Pasqual said the farm he works for could save a couple grand from being able to turn off the irrigation system. … As California has suffered through a devastating multi-year drought, giving irrigation systems a vacation after the rain is a critical part of much-needed conservation, according to the San Diego County Water Authority.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: In defense of alfalfa – Important crop gets a bad rap

California is the most populous state in the nation and the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. That combination can occasionally lead to misunderstandings between consumers in cities and suburbs and growers in farming communities. That extends to public perceptions about decisions farmers make to grow crops such as alfalfa. The crop is an important part of our food chain that most of us depend on every day. But very few people understand that. … We see it all the time when water supplies are scarce. Critics emerge, confident that they know how the state should manage water resources and what crops farmers should and shouldn’t be growing.
-Written by Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Crushed by falling trees. Drowned in floodwaters. The deadly toll of California storms worsens

As a series of storms continues to pummel California, officials say the havoc is a testament to the unexpected ferocity of extreme weather. By Tuesday evening, at least 17 people have been killed in circumstances directly related to a train of atmospheric rivers that has inundated the state since New Year’s Eve, bringing the death toll from the storms higher than the last two wildfire seasons combined….The deadly weather is foiling evacuation plans and straining the state’s aging infrastructure as strong winds topple power lines and fast rising waters overtop levees. Officials say the storms highlight the way in which climate change is increasingly catching people off guard as the state swings from one extreme weather event to another, leaving little time to prepare.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Newsom budget plan: Climate, transportation bears the brunt of cuts

As California wrangles with a projected $22 billion budget deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting most heavily from programs designed to help the state confront the worsening effects of climate change. Newsom’s proposed budget, which he released Tuesday, would cut a net $6 billion from the state’s climate efforts. Among the cuts: subsidies for electric vehicles; funding for clean energy programs, such as battery storage and solar panels; and money for programs to help low-income people deal with extreme heat waves. Climate activists and some progressive legislators said they were wary of the move, particularly as another atmospheric river drenched much of the state and brought flooding to communities from Santa Cruz to San Diego….Among the other proposed cuts to climate programs and projects in Newsom’s budget: … $194 million for drought preparation and response 

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Reservoirs, snowpack are benefitting big time from California’s stormy pattern

It’s been a wild couple of weeks of weather in Northern California. But there is a rather bright silver lining to this train of storms: our surface water supply is getting a big boost. Here’s a look at some of the highlights. On Oct. 1, 2022, the start of the new water year for California, reservoir levels were woefully low throughout the state. But after an active December and now a very busy January, water levels are rising quickly. Folsom was the fastest reservoir to fill up to the seasonal benchmark. There’s no surprise there, given that it’s one of the smallest in the region. … Reservoirs are steadily filling up with runoff from rainfall and later this season, there will be plenty of snowmelt to look forward to. As of Tuesday, the statewide snowpack is at 214% of average for the date. 

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Aquafornia news Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

News release: Metropolitan installs new board chair, welcomes three new directors

Adán Ortega, Jr. took the helm today of Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors as the 20th chair and first Latino to lead the board in the district’s 95-year history. In addition to his installation, Ortega welcomed three new directors who took their seats to represent the Calleguas, Central Basin and Eastern municipal water districts on the 38-member board. Ortega, who has represented the city of San Fernando on the board since March 2021, took his oath of office in a boardroom filled with family, elected officials, community leaders, mentors and friends.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Registration now open for Water 101 workshop & Lower Colorado River Tour

Registration for the Foundation’s early 2023 programming is now open, so don’t miss once-a-year opportunities for our Water 101 Workshop Feb. 23 + Optional Watershed Tour Feb. 24 and our Lower Colorado River Tour March 8-10 that weaves along the iconic Southwestern river. Take advantage of our popular Water 101 Workshop to gain a deeper understanding of the history, hydrology, legal and political facets behind management of California’s most precious natural resource.