Please Note: 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.
It was perhaps unsurprising I wound up a field ecologist.
Raised in Wisconsin, I spent almost all my childhood free time
roaming largely unchaperoned in nature, pre-internet. It was
there that I developed a deep love for nature, water and fish
that would stay with me my whole life. It was a privileged
upbringing. And yet somehow it was years later, when I was 22
and taking a university field course, that I finally figured
out I wanted to pursue a career in fish and ecology. It’s
unclear how many biologists trace their paths back to
experiences like these, but I suspect there are many. Field
courses are so impactful, and we need them now, more than ever
Last week, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District
of California issued a long-awaited decision in the Antelope
Valley Groundwater Cases, resolving a dispute more than two
decades in the making. The case adjudicated groundwater rights
in the Antelope Valley Adjudication Area (AVAA) in northern Los
Angeles County and southeast Kern County. The adjudication,
which commenced in 1999, involved private water suppliers,
public agencies, the federal government, and overlying
landowners who pump water for agricultural, industrial,
commercial, and domestic uses. Although currently unpublished,
the court’s opinion illustrates several important developments
in California groundwater law.
The Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for three counts of
violations under the Clean Water Act because the district court
failed to instruct the jury that the defendant needed to
knowingly discharge material “into water” to convict.
… In the summer of 2014, Lucero executed a scheme under
which he charged construction companies to dump dirt and debris
on lands near the San Francisco Bay, including wetlands and a
tributary subject to the Clean Water Act. Although Lucero
admitted to “walking the land” where the dumping happened, the
period when the dumping occurred was unusually dry due to
drought. The trial court found Lucero guilty on two counts of
discharges into wetlands and one count of discharge into a
The city is getting ready to impose new penalties for water
customers who exceed their rations during St. Helena’s Phase II
water emergency. On Tuesday the City Council told staff to
bring the recommended penalties back for adoption at the April
13 council meeting. The new penalties would take effect May 1.
Meanwhile, city officials will develop clear conservation
targets and look at adjusting the city’s water management
policies, including how water allocations are calculated.
When the first European explorers arrived in California’s
Central Valley, they found a vast mosaic of seasonal and
permanent wetlands, as well as oak woodlands and riparian
forests. What remains of those wetlands are still the backbone
of the Pacific Flyway; along with flooded agricultural fields,
they support millions of migrating waterbirds each
year. According to a just-released study from Audubon,
tens of millions of land birds rely on the Central Valley as
well… But today, the situation is dire. More than 90% of
wetlands in the Central Valley – and throughout California –
have disappeared beneath tractors and bulldozers.
-Written by Samantha Arthur, the Working Lands Program
Director at Audubon California and a member of the
California Water Commission.
The San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s next update to it’s
2016 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the
Estuary—or Estuary Blueprint—will bring a new focus on equity
and environmental justice to ongoing efforts to restore and
protect the Bay and Delta.
Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will
transition to sustainable groundwater management under the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring
reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come.
Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will
inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. By some
estimates, the amount of farmland that will have to be taken
out of production to balance groundwater demand and supply is
equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park — a transition
that could serve a huge blow to the agricultural economy, rural
communities and the environment.
Much like when tech money reshapes an historical neighborhood,
a beaver’s move downtown can cause the locals to worry. In
Napa, the animals’ sprawling waterfront complexes create
worrying pools along the riverbank, while the native
cottonwoods are whittled down and threaten landowners’ roofs.
It seems destined that two species known for their
environmental engineering would struggle to live in unison.
However, municipalities like Napa and Martinez in Contra Costa
County have learned to live with their beavers, and the
upcoming California Beaver Summit aims to set the record
Efforts are continuing to support restoration of crucial
habitat for salmon spawning and rearing on the Merced River.
Last fall, Merced Irrigation District completed the Merced
River Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project.
Adult salmon, which migrated from the ocean to the river, are
already known to have used the new gravel beds for spawning.
Now, in the coming months, surveys will be done by biologists
to further study the use of the new stretch of river and the
developing juvenile salmon that may rear there.
Vandals caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Calaveras
County water authority’s supply system and now the public’s
help is being sought to catch the suspects. The crime occurred
sometime during the weekend of Saturday, March 6th at the Utica
Water and Power Authority’s (Utica) public water supply system
east of Forest Meadows near the end of Pennsylvania Gulch Road
in the Murphys area. Authority officials note that this is the
only water supply for more than 10,000 residential, commercial
and agricultural customers between Murphys and Angels
ACWA-sponsored SB 323 (Caballero) passed out of the Senate
Government and Finance Committee on March 25, following a
hearing in which ACWA staff and members testified in
support….The bill would improve financial stability for
public agencies by creating a 120-day statute of limitations
for legal challenges to water and sewer service rates. It comes
as water and wastewater agencies have faced increased
litigation from ratepayers over whether agency rates comply
with Proposition 218 and other existing laws.
With the end of the first quarter of 2021 approaching, we
thought it timely to issue an update on selected recent
developments and proposed changes in law and policy touching
environmental, land use, and natural resource issues. At the
national level, with the new Biden administration, federal
policies already have undergone a significant sea-change from
those of the Trump administration. And the Golden State
continues to lead with a protective agenda on land use,
environmental, and natural resources legislation and
Water-related challenges are among the biggest issues in
Oceanside, ranging from our drinking water quality to concerns
over drought and runoff polluting the ocean. With an overall
score of 39.79, Oceanside finished just above Moreno Valley,
CA, and Garden Grove, CA to be ranked as the 3 cities with the
worst water quality. The city with the highest-ranking was
Columbus, OH, with a score of 81.03.
Padre Dam Water District wants to keep everyone in the loop
about its massive sewage reclamation project, especially the
city where the project is located — Santee. At its March 24
virtual meeting, the Santee City Council approved a legal
agreement to work collaboratively with the joint powers
authority that is overseeing the nearly $700 million program
called Advanced Water Purification. … The Advanced Water
Purification project got going in 2014 and is similar to
several other water reclamation projects in the state,
including one being built by the city of San Diego called Pure
It may surprise you (it surprises me all the time) but a lot of
young people are deeply interested in how our world runs.
Especially young people who also have a passion for journalism.
One of those young people, Jonathan Horwitz, a graduate fellow
at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for
Communication and Journalism, contacted me some months ago
asking about water. He wanted to do a multimedia project on the
subject and eventually settled on the complexities of the Kern
River. Below is a link to his finished product, which I think
deserves an A+.
[F]or those who live in the legal Delta zone – some 630,000
people – the braided weave of the Sacramento and San Joaquin
Rivers and their maze of associated wetlands and levees
provides a place of home, community, and recreation. And, as a
recent study by the Delta Stewardship Council shows, climate
change is tugging on the watery thread holding it all together.
… The council’s overview reveals a grim outlook for the
millions of people that are tethered to the region’s water:
drought similar to that experienced in 2012-2016 will be five
to seven times more likely by 2050. This will result in more
severe and frequent water shortages and, as the report bluntly
states, “lower reliability of Delta water exports.”
The second consecutive dry winter has prompted state water
managers to reduce allocations to the state water project that
supplies millions of Californians and 750,000 acres of
farmland. The state Department of Water Resources
announced this week that it will only be able to deliver
5% of the requested allocations following below-average
precipitation across the state. That figure is down from the
initial allocation of 10% announced in December. Many of
the state’s major reservoirs are recording just 50% of average
water storage for this time of year, and won’t see a major
increase due to a snowpack that is averaging just 65% of
normal, according to state statistics..
The rivalry between farms and wildlife for water and land was
long seen as a zero-sum game, especially in California where
water is such a precious commodity that the state’s water
futures are traded on the stock exchange. That competition has
been particularly sharp in the Central Valley: 95% of the
region’s historic wetlands have transformed into farmland, and
the region’s increasingly scarce water supply has been
prioritized for farming. As a result, some of the migratory
birds that rely on the Central Valley for habitat, food, and
water sources have seen steep declines in the past
Each year, the Board of Directors of the Water Education
Foundation votes to accept a member of the graduating
Water Leaders class to join the board for a three-year
term. For the 2020 class, the board selected Carl B. Evers III,
vice president of water resources for Hancock Natural
Resource Group, where he is responsible for the management of
water policy at the state and national level for the company’s
agricultural investments in the western United States.
Evers joins a board whose president is Mike Chrisman, who
served as California natural resources secretary for seven
years under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many of the wetlands in the western United States have
disappeared since the 1700s. California has lost an astonishing
90 percent of its wetlands, which includes streamsides, wet
meadows and ponds. In Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, more than 50
percent of wetlands have vanished. Precious wet habitats now
make up just 2 percent of the arid West — and those remaining
wet places are struggling. Nearly half of U.S. streams are in
poor condition, unable to fully sustain wildlife and people,
says Jeremy Maestas, a sagebrush ecosystem specialist with the
NRCS who organized that workshop on Wilde’s ranch in 2016. As
communities in the American West face increasing water
shortages, more frequent and larger wildfires and unpredictable
floods, restoring ailing waterways is becoming a necessity.