“Infrastructure” in general can be defined as the components and
equipment needed to operate, as well as the structures needed
for, public works systems. Typical examples include roads,
bridges, sewers and water supply systems.Various dams and
infrastructural buildings have given Californians and the West
the opportunity to control water, dating back to the days of
Water management infrastructure focuses on the parts, including
pipes, storage reservoirs, pumps, valves, filtration and
treatment equipment and meters, as well as the buildings to
house process and treatment equipment. Irrigation infrastructure
includes reservoirs, irrigation canals. Major flood control
infrastructure includes dikes, levees, major pumping stations and
The controversial Poseidon Water seawater desalination plant in
Huntington Beach could be in line to receive millions in state
funds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee. The
committee met Wednesday, a three-hour meeting during which it
partially decided how to divide up more than $4.3 billion in
tax exempt Private Activity Bonds that are available for
distribution in 2022. Most of the money — about $3.7 billion —
will go to qualified residential rental programs…. However,
the committee also voted to allocate about $510 million to
other exempt facilities, which include Poseidon.
Mention zoning to most people and they’ll likely think of
height limits, density restrictions, or, if their memories are
long enough, the notorious practice of racial redlining. But
local zoning ordinances and other land-use regulations are
taking on a new role in communities trying to mitigate or adapt
to the impacts of climate change. … In the Bay Area, the
city of Burlingame, with help from a new countywide agency in
San Mateo County and a climate think tank in Washington, DC,
just amended its zoning code to require higher ground-floor
elevations and space for protective infrastructure in new
development within an area vulnerable to sea-level rise.
The City of Santa Monica, California, has taken a significant
step toward a self-reliant water future as expansions to the
Arcadia Water Treatment Plant (WTP) and restorations to the
Olympic Well Field break ground. The key water infrastructure
improvements are a component of the city’s goal of becoming
water self-sufficient by 2023. Santa Monica’s water system
comprises groundwater basins, treatment facilities, and
imported water connections to serve 18,000 customers with an
average annual water demand of approximately 11,600 acre-ft per
year (AFY). About 50 to 60 percent of its water supply is from
local groundwater resources.
The Union Sanitary District will receive a $250 million federal
infrastructure loan to upgrade its aging waste treatment
facility. The cash infusion will help support the district’s
roughly $510 million plan to significantly upgrade its 33-acre
wastewater treatment facility in Union City, the largest
improvement project it has ever undertaken. The project will
take an estimated seven to 10 years to complete, officials
Several serious concerns emerged this week about the impact of
California’s planned bullet train on Hollywood Burbank Airport,
Burbank’s water supply and a massive commercial development if
construction proceeds on a proposed 13.7-mile route through the
area. Despite the issues, the California High-Speed Rail
Authority approved its route plan on Thursday. … City
water officials say the construction will temporarily take out
75% of the city’s water supply and force it to recertify its
system with state regulators afterward.
The State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday withdrew
an emergency drought regulation for the Sacramento–San Joaquin
Delta. Despite a dry January, board staff said the regulation,
known as a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP), would not
improve conditions if implemented as planned in February. They
found no potential benefits to Shasta and Trinity reservoirs,
which have the greatest need for water.
The delivery of safe, affordable and reliable drinking water is
a key responsibility of utilities and governments everywhere.
In the U.S. there is growing evidence that access to safe and
affordable drinking water is distributed unevenly. Low-income
and minority communities are more likely to experience drinking
water contamination, face higher water bills, and have less
reliable access to drinking water. The importance of drinking
water services are clear and gaining policy attention.
California State Route 37, the major throughway that bridges
the divide between Highway 101 and Interstate 80 and serves
thousands of drivers daily in the North Bay, is in dire
straits. A recent dispatch from the California
Department of Transportation warns that nearly the entire route
— spanning Novato to Vallejo — could be “permanently submerged”
as soon as 2040 by increasing weather crises and rising sea
levels caused by climate change. Its proximity to the San
Pablo Bay makes this route especially vulnerable.
Dry conditions in California are traditionally a benefit for
construction companies looking to continue work through the
winter season. This year, however, drought-stricken California
received desperately needed rains and snowfall … in abundance.
That’s good news for the state, not so good for our crews
looking to continue work on the Natomas Reach B project.
December storms dropped so much water, that areas of Reach B’s
construction site have been turned into not just puddles, but
Supporters of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 put
a call out for donations Friday to help get the measure on the
California ballot. In a “last call” for major donors,
supporters of the ballot measure wrote, “the campaign finds
itself in the inexplicable position of having a solution
everyone wants, but unable so far to raise funds to qualify it
for the ballot.
They say children are sponges who soak up ideas and concepts
more quickly than adults. That’s why one of the state’s largest
water providers is hoping to soak in some of their thoughts on
ways to solve local water issues. Last month, California Water
Service (Cal Water) along with the California Association of
Science Educators (CASE) and consulting firm DoGoodery, has
launched the eighth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge. The free,
project-based competition invites fourth-, fifth-, and
sixth-grade classrooms in Cal Water service areas to develop
and implement solutions for local water issues.
This year, our reservoirs were reaching near historic lows in
September. We were faced with the realistic prospect of running
out of water by the summer of 2022. Then the “atmospheric
river” storm in October set rainfall records in Marin. Despite
predictions of a dry winter, the rain continued and now five of
our seven reservoirs are full, eliminating the danger of
running out of water this summer. The pendulum swung fast. But
the lessons of the past year are clear: We must prepare now for
what broad scientific consensus tells us the future holds,
particularly the extreme swings in precipitation due to climate
change. -Written by Monty Schmitt, representing San
Rafael’s District 2 as a member of the Marin Municipal Water
District Board of Directors.
California Water Service announced it has begun a water
infrastructure improvement project in Marysville, which could
cause some disruptions for residents. The project includes the
installation of 1,221 feet of a new 6-, 8-, and 12-inch
ductile-iron water main and replacement of all existing
individual customer service connections, Cal Water said in a
news release. The utility company also said crews were
installing two new fire hydrants to improve access for
The More Water Now campaign was formed to qualify
the Water Infrastructure Funding Act to appear as a
state ballot initiative in November. Nearly every expert in
California agrees that more water infrastructure is necessary;
that conservation alone will not protect Californians from the
impact of climate change. Projects to capture storm runoff and
recycle urban wastewater are urgently needed, and this
initiative provides the funding to get it done. -Written by Edward Ring, lead proponent of the Water
Infrastructure Funding Act, a proposed state ballot
Federal officials are investigating why millions of gallons of
sewage-laden water isn’t making its way from Tijuana to the
international wastewater treatment plant in the U.S. Instead,
that untreated wastewater is flowing into San Diego through a
border drain, which indicates there’s probably a broken pipe or
a clog somewhere in Tijuana. The runaway flow began Jan.
7 around 1:30 p.m. when almost a million gallons of sewage
escaped from Tijuana through Stewart’s Drain, which sits just
east of the International Wastewater Treatment plant operated
by the International Boundary Water Commission.
Perennial water shortages in California will likely only grow
worse due to climate change. But emerging technologies offer
hope—if Californians can stop taking water for granted, says
David Feldman, UCI professor of urban planning & public policy
and director of Water UCI. Water shortages will become
more severe as both droughts and floods become more intense,
with less rain and snow falling during dry seasons and more
falling during wet ones. Capturing the excess precipitation and
saving it for dry periods will also only get more challenging.
On December 16, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(Commission or FERC) issued a final rule amending its
regulations governing the dam safety of FERC-licensed
hydroelectric projects under the Federal Power Act (FPA).
FERC’s final rule follows its July 16, 2020 Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NOPR) (see July 21, 2020 edition of the WER), which
FERC issued following the 2017 spillway incident at the
Oroville Dam and the May 2020 dam failures at the Edenville Dam
and Sanford Dam in central Michigan.
In a major victory for one of the Bay Area’s preeminent
developers, a state appeals court has struck down an
environmental challenge to plans to build 469 large houses near
the edge of Newark’s wetlands, clearing a path for the
controversial development to go forward. Though the project
area could see flooding in the coming decades because of
projected rising sea levels, and will remove some habitat of
the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, the Newark City
Council approved The Sobrato Organization’s plans in November
2019, over the objections of some residents and environmental
groups, who called the development “illogical and
Pacific Gas and Electric could be liable for contamination from
a defunct gas plant that operated more than 100 years ago, a
federal judge has ruled, because evidence suggests its
predecessor dumped hazardous waste at or near the San Francisco
site in 1903. … In a 14-page ruling issued
Tuesday night, U.S. District Judge William Orrick rejected that
argument, finding the available evidence supports a “reasonable
inference” that SFG&E operated the plant and dismantled its
parts in 1903, two activities that produced toxic waste that
would have been dumped in or near the San Francisco Bay at that
In much of the West and Southwest, the climate crisis is
projected to raise average temperatures while reducing snowpack
for much of the foreseeable future. These trends will
significantly increase the risk of drought in an area heavily
dependent on irrigation for food production. So what’s the
plan? For many farming communities, there is none. That’s
according to a new report on drought preparedness
… Patterson Irrigation District, a public utility that
delivers water from the San Joaquin River to more than 12,000
acres of farmland in California’s Central Valley, is one
irrigation organization with a formal plan.
Last week, Rep. Jim Costa continued to advocate
for key California infrastructure priorities as funding from
the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
(IIJA) begins to roll out. In a letter to U.S.
Dept. of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton,
Costa provided recommendations on how
the Biden administration can prioritize the
distribution of IIJA funding to help
improve water infrastructure in the San Joaquin
The proposed water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael
Bridge will undergo standard environmental review, losing its
emergency exemption after recent rains spared Marin County from
the harshest impacts of the drought and assuaged the urgency of
the project. Marin Water, which had planned to start
construction on the pipeline next month, will soon begin a
review of the project under the California Environmental
Quality Act. It says the project will give the county’s largely
self-contained water systems more flexibility in the long
Maybe you’ve been wondering why Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard is
being torn up right now, and what’s up with the massive pipe
sections being staged on its median. The answer to both of
those questions is at least in part because as of Dec. 31,
2021, California American Water finally had to scale back its
pumping of the Carmel River to its legal limit of 3,376
acre-feet annually. There are already two pipelines under the
road – both projects of Marina Coast Water District, another
utility – one of which is currently being used to pipe water
from the Pure Water Monterey project south into the Cal Am
Some of the details will likely change over the next few months
as the governor’s office negotiates with the Legislature, which
must approve the budget. But here are nine things you should
know about how Newsom would tackle the climate crisis.
… It also adds $750 million to last year’s $5.2 billion
for drought response, including $180 million for water
suppliers to plug leaks, tear out grass and improve efficiency;
$145 million in emergency assistance for communities at
risk of going dry; $75 million to protect fish and
wildlife; and $30 million for replenishing groundwater.
Four major aqueducts along the Wasatch Front are the heart of a
system that ultimately delivers drinking water to more than 2
million people. A report on these structures details how three
of them cross the Wasatch Fault zone and the fourth is in an
area of risk for landslides or other ground movement. In the
event of the “Big One,” these aging water delivery systems
would fail and be offline for several months, maybe as long as
six months, as custom parts from out of state would have to be
shipped to Utah.
Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed setting aside $1 billion to remove
the salt from sea water and bring it to Arizona, a major legacy
project as he enters his eighth and final year in office. The
Republican governor previewed the plan but offered few details
in his annual state of the state address, delivered to a joint
session of the House and Senate. … Lawmakers also set aside
$200 million last year for future water infrastructure.
Last week, the Marin Municipal Water District announced that it
was slowing down its plans to build an emergency water
pipeline. The district was initially moving quickly in its
timeline to consider building a pipeline under the bridge that
would carry third-party water sources to Marin. Typically,
projects like pipelines or any other construction that has the
potential to directly or indirectly physically change the
environment must undergo processes in the California
Environmental Quality Act.
A new report conveys significant progress made in the past 18
months to implement the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Newsom
Administration’s water policy blueprint to build climate
resilience in the face of more extreme cycles of wet and dry.
… Recent progress includes assisting tens of thousands
of Californians who depend on small water systems or domestic
wells that have drinking water supply problems, dedicating
hundreds of millions of dollars to improve streamflow for
salmon and other native fish species, advancing the removal of
four obsolete dams that block salmon passage on the Klamath
River, providing extensive financial and technical assistance
to local sustainable groundwater management agencies, restoring
streams and floodplains, and steadily improving the state’s
ability to manage flood and drought.
As the world struggles for consensus on climate action and
national policy focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,
the impacts of climate change occur all around us. … The
San Diego region is a case in point. Its beaches and coastal
bluffs are being eroded by ocean storms and sea level rise. Its
inland valleys and mountains suffer from severe drought,
leaving them vulnerable to wildfires. Long-term drought and
higher temperatures contribute to the loss of natural habitat
and wildlife. Its population, industry and agricultural economy
rely heavily on water from shrinking, faraway sources — the
Sacramento Delta in Northern California and the Colorado
River. -Written by Robert Leiter, former director of land use
and transportation planning for the San Diego Association of
Governments; Julie Kalansky, a climate scientist at
Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Cary Lowe, a
California land-use attorney who has written widely on
environmental and planning topics.
The Ojai Valley in Ventura County is a magical place. Consider
its elements: the sweet smell of California citrus blossoms in
the spring, the open space preserved by orchards, the seasonal
creeks that run free through the cultivated lands. But the Ojai
Valley is also a place in peril. That’s because the water
source that keeps this inland Ventura hamlet thriving is nearly
dry. Lake Casitas reservoir was built in the late 1950s, when
decades of plentiful rain hid the true nature of California’s
arid climate. Back then, the official projections for
water-resources potential were optimistic. Today, that story
has changed dramatically. -Written by Stephanie Pincetl, a professor at the
UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and
founding director of the California Center for Sustainable
Communities at UCLA.
[Arizona] Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed spending $1
billion from the state’s general fund over three years to help
“secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” In his
final State of the State address, the governor said the
budget he sends to lawmakers will prioritize water
infrastructure including desalination. … Long discussed as an
idea to deliver some of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River
without drawing down Lake Mead, seawater desalination on the
Sea of Cortez would pump treated water to Morelos Dam near Yuma
for distribution in Mexico. The U.S. parties paying into the
program would then take some of Mexico’s river water as
Buoyed by another massive surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday
unveiled a wide-ranging $286 billion spending proposal for
2022-23, prioritizing more money to fight COVID-19 and tackle
climate change, homelessness, the rising cost of living and
other issues that plague the Golden State. … The budget
also aims to address more long-standing problems, including
climate-related issues such as wildfires and drought. It calls
for an additional $1.2 billion to boost forest management and
$750 million to round out last year’s $5.2 billion water
package to help residents, farmers and wildlife respond to the
A project three decades in the making is nearly complete and is
scheduled to deliver a reliable source of drinking water to
Turlock residents by next year. The Regional Surface
Water Supply Project was formed in 2011 as the Cities of
Turlock and Ceres, in cooperation with Turlock Irrigation
District, to start the process of building a plant to deliver
treated Tuolumne River water to residents. The City of Turlock
has been working for 30 years to secure this alternate drinking
source, as its current drinking water supply is 100%
groundwater — and dwindling.
In the latest setback for a project that has been fraught with
delays and cost overruns for more than a decade, the price tag
to rebuild Anderson Dam — Santa Clara County’s largest — to
improve earthquake safety is nearly doubling, from $648 million
to $1.2 billion. The news comes one year after the Santa Clara
Valley Water District, the government agency that owns the dam
near Morgan Hill, announced that another of its large
construction plans, a proposal to build a huge new reservoir
near Pacheco Pass, also had doubled in price, from $1.3 billion
to $2.5 billion.
At the Helix Water District Board of Directors Meeting on
January 5, 2022, the board elected Director Kathleen Coates
Hedberg to serve as board president in 2022 and Director DeAna
Verbeke to serve as vice president. Hedberg, who is a third
generation water professional and licensed civil engineer with
a master’s degree in public health, said “…This is the
first time in Helix’s over 100 year history that the board
president and vice president are both women.”
In rural, coastal areas, rising groundwater is flooding
people’s properties from underneath, causing septic tanks to
fail. States are responding, but it could be a losing battle in
some places. … Sixty million Americans rely on septic tanks
to flush their toilets. But extreme rain, floods and rising
seas are making the ground too wet for many to work properly.
As Zach Hirsch reports, the biggest problem is in rural coastal
The market for avocados is among the fastest expanding markets
worldwide, and consumption, particularly in North America and
Europe, has increased during recent decades due largely to a
combination of socio-economic and marketing factors. Avocado
production, however, is associated with significant water
conflicts, stresses and hot spots, as well as with other
negative environmental and socio-economic impacts on local
communities in the main production zones. … It is
evident that increasing demand and production of avocados is
already causing water stress conditions in some countries, and
has the potential to affect many others.
The Monterey County Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-2
Wednesday to finalize its denial of the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District’s planned takeover of California
American Water. The 5-2 LAFCO vote followed its initial vote
Dec. 6 to dismiss the water district’s application for the
buyout, an acquisition mandated by a 2018 ballot measure.
General Manager Dave Stoldt of the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District said he wasn’t surprised by the vote.
The city of Half Moon Bay is examining the impact of sea level
rise and erosion on its southern coastline, which could harm
the most significant contributor to the city’s economy.
According to ongoing studies from San Mateo County and its
environmental consulting firm Integral Consulting, parts of the
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, the Golf Links and Ocean Colony
neighborhood are at risk of erosion and flooding as a result of
sea level rise.
In the last year, deadly frigid winter temperatures in Texas
gave way to excruciating summer heat in the Northwest.
Wildfires raged across California. In late summer, Hurricane
Ida devastated Louisiana and flooded the Northeast. In
December, an outbreak of nearly 70 tornadoes caused
unprecedented destruction. If you’ve thought headlines
about U.S. weather and climate disasters are becoming more
common: You’re right.
Development of a $1 billion resort and housing project in one
of the state’s most wildfire-prone communities has been placed
on hold after a judge ruled developers didn’t adequately plan
for what might happen when a wildfire erupts and thousands of
people have to run for their lives. The Lake County judge’s
ruling on the Guenoc Valley Resort could have sweeping
ramifications for housing and business developments across a
state where fires are growing in severity and local officials
are under intense pressure to approve new building projects
during a housing crisis.
It’s the decades-long conflict even our recent surge of storms
can’t wash away — How to build the thousands of new housing
units we desperately need and at the same time ensure there’s
enough water for an expanding population. … While the
recent storms may bring short-term relief, many experts believe
a true end to the current drought, could still be a long ways
off. Marin County is currently working on plans for a new
emergency water pipeline across the Richmond – San Rafael
In Arizona, verdant fields of crops and a growing sprawl of
suburban homes mean a sharp demand for water in the middle of
the desert. Meeting that demand includes drawing from massive
stores of water in underground aquifers. But some experts say
they’re overtaxed, and shouldn’t be seen as a long-term
solution for a region where the water supply is expected to
shrink in the decades to come.
A study examining vulnerabilities to the southern coast near
Half Moon Bay from climate change was presented to the City
Council Dec. 21, showing buildings like the Ritz Carlton are at
risk from sea-level rise. … It found the Ritz
Carlton and the California Coastal Trail is at serious risk of
erosion with just 5 feet of sea level rise, while other
structures, residences and trails are at risk. Erosion would
affect 123 buildings, including Pescadero Cal Fire Station, the
Ritz Carlton, Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Gazos Creek Gas
Station. Pescadero, Martin’s Beach and Tunitas Creek are
vulnerable communities due to creek and storm wave flooding.
With its reservoirs nearly refilled, the Marin Municipal Water
District is considering delaying a proposed $100 million
project to build an emergency water pipeline across the
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The district board was originally
set to vote on whether to construct the 8-mile pipeline as soon
as February. But now the district staff recommends the board
delay that decision by possibly more than a year in order to
conduct a full environmental analysis of the project.
Water has become a precious commodity worldwide. In many
places, drought has dried up the water supply. And in places
where water is plentiful, it can sometimes be surprisingly
expensive. The city with the most expensive water in the world
is Oslo, Norway. … The city with the highest average
price of water was Oslo, Norway, at $6.69. It was also the city
with the highest water quality score, at 97.8 – compared to the
city with the lowest quality score, San Diego at 84.
A years-long project to increase water storage capacity by
removing sediment from the reservoir behind the Littlerock Dam
has been postponed by delays in permitting at the state level.
The Palmdale Water District’s Littlerock Reservoir Sediment
Removal Project has been in the works for more than 25 years.
The project calls for removing more than 1.16 million cubic
yards of sediment that has built up behind the dam since 1992,
reducing the water storage capacity by 500 acre-feet, according
to District officials.
The Bureau of Reclamation has initiated the first application
period for Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) projects that will
address aging water and power infrastructure across the West.
Newly enacted funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
will be applied to the program following the new application
period requirements set out in the separate Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260) which became law
in December of 2020.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to take no action
on a proposal from the County Administrative Office to consider
once again splitting the Water Resources Department off from
the Department of Public Works. County Administrative Officer
Carol Huchingson said she agendized the discussion because the
county is anticipating a “considerable amount of infrastructure
funding” in the next year or two thanks to the federal
An earthquake that measured 6.2 in magnitude off the coast of
California could be felt as far inland as Redding early
Monday afternoon. … Don Bader, the area manager for the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, initially said the effects of the
quake were not felt strongly enough in the area north of
Redding to trigger an inspection of Shasta Dam. But due to
ongoing aftershocks, the bureau added Shasta Dam to its
inspection list, he said. Bureau officials also planned to
inspect three other dams in the area that are managed by the
agency, he said.
Residents of Ramona’s Acres community are working with local
officials and a nonprofit on an application for a $1.32 million
grant that would give them better access to clean water. The
funds would pay for new water main pipelines for the community,
which has contaminated well water and inadequate pipes. Toby
Roy, a specialist with the nonprofit Rural Community Assistance
Corporation, provided an update on the application process at
the Dec. 14 Ramona Municipal Water District meeting.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an $81
million loan to the Sacramento County Water Agency in northern
California to modernize the county’s water infrastructure and
help make the water supply more climate-resilient. … The loan
will help Sacramento County meet current fire protection
standards and water metering by financing a portion of the cost
to install 30 miles of new distribution pipeline, 260 fire
hydrants and 3,000 new water meters.
Droughtsville, California, is in trouble. Its water supply is
endangered as multiple crises intensify: worsening droughts,
competition for scarce supplies, sea level rise, groundwater
contamination, earthquakes, wildfires and extreme weather. All
of these factors, and more, threaten Droughtville’s ability to
provide clean water to its residents. The city is
fictional, but the threats are not. … CalMatters delved
into the details of what scientists and planners have
determined could jeopardize the water supply of a typical
California city — and some potential solutions.
Sustaining the nation’s water infrastructure is an ongoing
task. San Jose Water (SJW), based in San Jose, Calif., has
heeded the call to seriously address asset management. Serving
more than one million people in the greater San Jose
metropolitan area, SJW operates one of the largest and most
technically sophisticated urban water systems in the United
States. The system consists of three water treatment plants
along with approximately 2,400 miles of pipelines, 340 pumps
and motors, 100 wells, 120 tanks and reservoirs, and hundreds
of thousands of other assets such as valves, fire hydrants,
meters, electrical systems and chemical systems.
In the San Joaquin Valley, water is becoming a commodity equal
to life and death. California is a powerhouse of food
production, growing some 40 percent of the country’s fruit,
vegetables and nuts. However, the agriculture industry depends
on a water supply that’s increasingly fragile and unreliable as
the climate warms. As a means to increase access to livable
drinking water, community and elected leaders alike are
rallying behind “Building More Dams.” But this is simply not a
viable solution. -Written by Monike Reynozo, an advocate and
leader in the Delano community, and has worked on climate
issues and electoral campaigns.
With California’s drought still looming, the Napa City Council
will consider passing the city’s 2020 Urban Water Management
Plan on Tuesday, a state-required, 255-page document that
evaluates the city’s water supply and demand through 2045.
California requires water suppliers that provide water to more
than 3,000 customers — such as the city of Napa — to create the
plan and update it every five years, which effectively means
that future predictions are constantly being projected and
updated based on changing conditions, said to Joy Eldredge, the
city’s deputy utilities director.
A proposed ballot measure that would dedicate $100 billion to
bolster California’s water supply is drawing a sharp rebuke,
not only for the amount of spending but also for the dramatic
sidesteps it would allow in the environmental review process.
For example, the proposal would make the controversial plan for
a Huntington Beach desalination plant eligible for a huge
taxpayer subsidy — even though the private, for-profit Poseidon
Water company currently intends to pay for the $1.4 billion in
While different places in the United States experience
different climate impacts (e.g., more extreme precipitation in
eastern states, stronger hurricanes in the Gulf, and dryer and
hotter conditions across southwestern states), the Central
Valley is expected to experience quite a few: hotter
temperatures, droughts, wildfires, and extreme precipitation
events. Because of this, and because of the Valley’s history of
environmental and socioeconomic inequities and injustices, we
are devoting a blog series to the region.
State water officials have asked local groundwater agencies to
better prevent land subsidence. Simultaneously, the state is
also working to fix the damage caused by sinking land.
… The sinking of land is slowly impairing the complex
system of canals that deliver water throughout the state.
According to a 2017 report by the Department of Water Resources
(DWR), the sinking and buckling of portions of the California
Aqueduct, which runs 444 miles from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to the Tehachapi Mountains, has reduced its flow
capacity and its ability to store water in overflow pools.
When it comes to water, Californians have a lot of big ideas
for how to get more of it. One of the latest is in Marin
County, where water managers are looking to build an eight-mile
pipeline atop the towering Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The line
would allow water to be moved across San Francisco Bay from
other parts of the state, to prop up sagging local supplies.
But for every grand plan pushing forward like this one, a dozen
others – often more ambitious and sometimes outright wacky -
get only eye rolls and a quick thumbs-down.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.)
today called on the Interior Department to prioritize $8.3
billion in Western water infrastructure funding for California
projects that will promote preparedness and resiliency to
As hacking attempts have become a larger threat to some of the
country’s most critical infrastructure, President Biden’s
administration is getting ready to follow through on promises
to tighten cybersecurity efforts and better protect that
infrastructure. … U.S. authorities recently
revealed that at least four ransomware attacks had
infiltrated water and wastewater facilities in recent months,
with bad actors nearly managing to poison drinking water in
Florida, California, and Maryland.
After more than four years of planning, study and political
debate, a proposal to build a $2.3 billion reservoir in Santa
Clara County — the largest reservoir constructed in the Bay
Area in more than 20 years — will reach a make-or-break moment
Wednesday. The California Water Commission, a 9-member panel
appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is scheduled to vote on whether
the project, which would be located near Pacheco Pass, will
continue to be eligible to receive $496 million in state
Our country faces a flood crisis. More people and places are at
risk, with climate-induced flooding threatening widespread
social, environmental and economic impacts. We need a holistic
approach to reduce flood risk now. The U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has focused on building levees, spillways and
hardened infrastructure to address episodic storm events. But,
by focusing solely on storm surge, they leave millions exposed
to chronic flooding from sea level rise, tides and extreme
rainfall. … Coastal areas experience flooding from
rising seas, storm surge, rainfall, and swelling rivers and
-Written by Natalie Snider, associate vice
president of Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds at
Environmental Defense Fund; and David
Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay.
To cope with worsening droughts, over the past few decades
Californians have made impressive gains in water efficiency.
Total water diversions in California for agriculture and cities
– roughly 30 million acre feet per year for agriculture and 8
million acre feet per year for cities – have not increased even
while California’s population has grown and irrigated farm
acreage has increased. But conservation alone cannot guarantee
Californians have an adequate supply of water. -Written by Edward Ring, a senior fellow with the
California Policy Center, which he co-founded in
Amid a historic drought, water is never far from Bay Area
residents’ minds. Marin County is suffering from water
shortages like its peers, but unlike other parts of the Bay
Area has no backup ways to get water when it runs dry. Though
the county gets 25% of its water from neighboring Sonoma, the
drought is forcing cutbacks in that supply as well.
… The bill has an entire section for Western water
infrastructure, including $1.15 billion for water storage and
conveyance projects like the one Marin is undertaking. Bay Area
water districts could use such money to expand reservoirs, as
The Marin Independent Journal reports the proposed plan would
deliver water from the Yuba River more than 100 miles before
pumping it over the bridge into Marin County. The operation
would also involve the cooperation of the East Bay Municipal
District and the Contra Costa Water District in transferring
and storing water destined for Marin. The proposed eight-mile
long pipeline would cost an estimated $100 million to
construct. There has been opposition to the pipeline from some
elected officials. Conservationists have filed suit to block
With President Biden last month signing a historic $1 trillion
infrastructure bill into law to fortify roads, bridges and
waterways, among other things, Western states stand to gain
major water infrastructure investments. On Sunday, U.S.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined Nevada Democratic
Reps. Susie Lee and Dina Titus in Las Vegas to tout the Biden
administration’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs
Act that includes more than $50 billion for water
State lawmakers want to use a projected $31 billion surplus to
fuel an infrastructure boom, a tactic that could reduce the
amount Californians might see in any rebate checks this year –
if they happen at all. The state expects to have so much money
it risks exceeding a state spending threshold called the Gann
Limit…. [Assemblyman Phil Ting, who runs the Assembly Budget
Committee] said he wants lawmakers to use the state
surplus for drought resilience projects and broadband expansion
to communities without reliable internet access.
For more than 20 years, Tanya Trujillo has been immersed in the
many challenges of the Colorado River, the drought-stressed
lifeline for 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and
the source of irrigation water for more than 5 million acres of
winter lettuce, supermarket melons and other
crops. … Trujillo talked with Western
Water news about how her experience on the Colorado River
will play into her new job, the impacts from the drought and
how the river’s history of innovation should help.
When you oversee the largest
supplier of treated water in the United States, you tend to think
Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California for the last 15 years, has
focused on diversifying his agency’s water supply and building
security through investment. That means looking beyond MWD’s
borders to ensure the reliable delivery of water to two-thirds of
As California slowly emerges from
the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by
the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic
challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and
the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt.
Water affordability concerns, long an issue in a state where
millions of people struggle to make ends meet, jumped into
overdrive last year as the pandemic wrenched the economy. Jobs
were lost and household finances were upended. Even with federal
stimulus aid and unemployment checks, bills fell by the wayside.
A government agency that controls much of California’s water
supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the
numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another
drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most
of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project
will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low
number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more
rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather
forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. The National
Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and
windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.
Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.
Innovative efforts to accelerate
restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the
benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water
agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires.
Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of
California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address
persistent challenges facing the Colorado River.
These were among the issues Western Water explored in
2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed
It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends
of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water
districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the
state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it
can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems
and upend an agency’s finances.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne
Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the
management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was
appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the
United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees
myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to
sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado
River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other
rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be
named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and
Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the
commission’s 129-year history.
The San Joaquin Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket, grows a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and
other agricultural products.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April
3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare
the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that
helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through
hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams,
reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
New water storage is the holy grail
primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014
the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage
1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits
portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The
statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the
benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem,
water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.
It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the
Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is
first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan
for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors,
California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water
levels in Lake Mead before
they run too low.
If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level,
the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and
Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by
320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1
million households in one year.
Get a unique view of the San Joaquin Valley’s key dams and
reservoirs that store and transport water on our March Central
Our Central Valley
Tour, March 14-16, offers a broad view of water issues
in the San Joaquin Valley. In addition to the farms, orchards,
critical habitat for threatened bird populations, flood bypasses
and a national wildlife refuge, we visit some of California’s
major water infrastructure projects.
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
Contrary to popular belief, “100-Year Flood” does not refer to a
flood that happens every century. Rather, the term describes the
statistical chance of a flood of a certain magnitude (or greater)
taking place once in 100 years. It is also accurate to say a
so-called “100-Year Flood” has a 1 percent chance of occurring in
a given year, and those living in a 100-year floodplain have,
each year, a 1 percent chance of being flooded.
Mired in drought, expectations are high that new storage funded
by Prop. 1 will be constructed to help California weather the
adverse conditions and keep water flowing to homes and farms.
At the same time, there are some dams in the state eyed for
removal because they are obsolete – choked by accumulated
sediment, seismically vulnerable and out of compliance with
federal regulations that require environmental balance.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven
Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The
Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch
map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s
apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for
urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4
million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000
square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page
Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the
river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the
items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of
significant Colorado River events.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to
California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of
water development and use in California. It includes sections on
flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery
systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water
quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as
water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of
the guide is a section on the human need for water.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
explores the history and development of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery
system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes
the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP
brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).
Everywhere you look water infrastructure is working hard to keep
cities, farms and industry in the state running. From the massive
storage structures that dot the West to the aqueducts that convey
water hundreds of miles to large urban areas and the untold miles
of water mains and sewage lines under every city and town, the
semiarid West would not exist as it does without the hardware
that meets its water needs.
This printed issue of Western Water discusses low
impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging
interest that are viewed as important components of California’s
future water supply and management scenario.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
changed nature of the California Water Plan, some aspects of the
2009 update (including the recommendation for a water finance
plan) and the reaction by certain stakeholders.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of
the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta
Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater
monitoring and the proposed water bond.
It’s no secret that providing water in a state with the size and
climate of California costs money. The gamut of water-related
infrastructure – from reservoirs like Lake Oroville to the pumps
and pipes that deliver water to homes, businesses and farms –
incurs initial and ongoing expenses. Throw in a new spate of
possible mega-projects, such as those designed to rescue the
ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the dollar amount grows
exponentially to billion-dollar amounts that rival the entire
gross national product of a small country.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and
from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that
influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for
it and how much they might have to pay in the future.
They are located in urban areas and in some of the most rural
parts of the state, but they have at least one thing in common:
they provide water service to a very small group of people. In a
state where water is managed and delivered by an organization as
large as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
most small water systems exist in obscurity – financed by
shoestring budgets and operated by personnel who wear many hats.
This issue of Western Water looks at water
infrastructure – from the large conveyance systems to the small
neighborhood providers – and the many challenges faced by water
agencies in their continuing mission of assuring a steady and
reliable supply for their customers.
Chances are that deep within the ground beneath you as you read
this is a vast network of infrastructure that is busy providing
the necessary services that enable life to proceed at the pace it
does in the 21st century. Electricity zips through cables to
power lights and computers while other conduits move infinite
amounts of information that light up computer screens and phone
This issue of Western Water explores the question of whether the
state needs more surface storage, with a particular focus on the
five proposed projects identified in the CALFED 2000 ROD and the
politics and funding issues of these projects.