California’s top water agency is under federal investigation
after a coalition of California tribal nations and
environmental justice groups filed a civil rights complaint
accusing it of discriminating against several Native tribes and
communities of color. The complaint, filed in December, says
the California Water Resources Control Board has failed to
protect the water quality of one of the nation’s largest
estuaries — the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and has
intentionally blocked tribal members and residents of color in
some cities from giving input on major decisions.
Agricultural irrigation induces greenhouse gas emissions
directly from soils or indirectly through the use of energy or
construction of dams and irrigation infrastructure, while
climate change affects irrigation demand, water availability
and the greenhouse gas intensity of irrigation energy. Here, we
present a scoping review to elaborate on these
irrigation–climate linkages by synthesizing knowledge across
different fields, emphasizing the growing role climate change
may have in driving future irrigation expansion and reinforcing
some of the positive feedbacks. This Review underscores the
urgent need to promote and adopt sustainable irrigation,
especially in regions dominated by strong, positive feedbacks.
Today, the Department of Commerce and NOAA announced more than
$106 million in recommended funding for 16 West Coast and
Alaska state and tribal salmon recovery programs and projects
under the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF). The
funds, including $34.4 million under the Bipartisan
Infrastructure Law and $7.5 million under the Inflation
Reduction Act, will support the recovery, conservation and
resilience of Pacific salmon and steelhead in Alaska,
California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. This funding is part
of President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda,
which includes over $2 billion for fish passage investments
across the country.
Sitting high above the Colorado River, the Nankoweap Granaries
may be the best-known archaeological site within the Grand
Canyon, stopped at by nearly every commercial river trip. But a
new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has found that
hundreds of other archaeological sites up and down the Colorado
River, some thousands of years old, have been degraded by
nearly half a century of operation of the Glen Canyon Dam. In a
paper published this spring, researchers found that 68% of
archaeological sites along the river have been impacted by
increased erosion as a result of dam operations. That’s up from
2000, when surveys showed only 56% of sites had such impacts.
The study comes after researchers looked at 50 years of aerial
photography over sites and data collected over 30 years during
site visits and surveys.
Brown and Caldwell recently announced the addition of water
reuse technical leadership as Sandy Scott-Roberts joined the
firm as program management director to help California
communities tap into drought-proof drinking water sources.
Having spent most of her career at an internationally
recognized water district, Scott-Roberts has 20 years of
managing capital improvement projects, encompassing the
planning, design, and construction of water treatment
facilities, including pipelines, pump stations, recharge
basins, and injection wells. A career highlight includes
managing the final expansion of the 130 million gallons per day
Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s largest water
purification system for indirect potable reuse.
Currently, Fresno County has about 26 days per year when
temperatures are over 100 degrees. 30 years from now, we’re
expected to have nearly 43 triple digits days, according to the
First Street Foundation, which studies climate data. Experts
say this can have a drastic effect on our water system.
… ”The big, big change that we have seen is that
temperatures have warmed, on the order of about three degrees
Fahrenheit, that seems like a small number, but that warming
has two main effects on our water resources,” said UC Merced
Professor, PhD., John Abatzoglou. Abatzoglou explains the
increase in temperatures means the atmosphere and agricultural
systems need more water.
Climate change — and changing political winds — are prompting
shifts in strategy at California’s largest agricultural water
district. Westlands Water District, which occupies some 1,100
square miles of the arid San Joaquin Valley, is in the midst of
an internal power struggle that will determine how water fights
unfold across the state. After years of aggressively
fighting for more water, Westlands is making plans to live with
less. In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned in the valley, promising
to “open up the water” for farmers in the then-drought stricken
state. Its leaders are now sounding a more Biden-esque note:
They are planning to cover a sixth of the district with solar
panels to start “farming the sun” instead of thirsty crops like
almonds and pistachios.
Undocumented Californians affected by winter storms and floods
are slowly starting to receive money from a special relief
program the state launched for them two months ago. In June,
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced it plans to spend $95
million from the state’s Rapid Response Fund to help thousands
of flood victims recover from storm damage and financial
setbacks. The beneficiaries would be immigrants who don’t
qualify for federal emergency assistance or state unemployment
insurance because they are undocumented. More than 20
nonprofits have contracts with the Department of Social
Services to distribute the money. So far they have begun
handing out nearly $18 million to about 12,000 residents — but
it’s at an uneven pace.
The Water Education Foundation is
mourning the loss of its Board
President Mike Chrisman, the former California Natural
Resources Secretary whose family ties to the Foundation go back
to its founding in 1977.
Mr. Chrisman, of Visalia, died from complications of cancer
Tuesday, Oct. 11. He was 78.
“We are devastated to learn about Mike’s passing,” said Jenn
Bowles, the Foundation’s executive director. “He was a
wonderfully supportive board president who cared deeply about our
mission and was constantly offering to help. Among other things,
he served as a mentor to up-and-coming professionals in our
With 25 years of experience working
on the Colorado River, Chuck Cullom is used to responding to
myriad challenges that arise on the vital lifeline that seven
states, more than two dozen tribes and the country of Mexico
depend on for water. But this summer problems on the
drought-stressed river are piling up at a dizzying pace:
Reservoirs plummeting to record low levels, whether Hoover Dam
and Glen Canyon Dam can continue to release water and produce
hydropower, unprecedented water cuts and predatory smallmouth
bass threatening native fish species in the Grand Canyon.
“Holy buckets, Batman!,” said Cullom, executive director of the
Upper Colorado River Commission. “I mean, it’s just on and on and
As water interests in the Colorado
River Basin prepare to negotiate a new set of operating
guidelines for the drought-stressed river, Amelia Flores wants
her Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) to be involved in the
discussion. And she wants CRIT seated at the negotiating table
with something invaluable to offer on a river facing steep cuts
in use: its surplus water.
CRIT, whose reservation lands in California and Arizona are
bisected by the Colorado River, has some of the most senior water
rights on the river. But a federal law enacted in the late 1700s,
decades before any southwestern state was established, prevents
most tribes from sending any of its water off its reservation.
The restrictions mean CRIT, which holds the rights to nearly a
quarter of the entire state of Arizona’s yearly allotment of
river water, is missing out on financial gain and the chance to
help its river partners.
Martha Guzman recalls those awful
days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative
secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a
recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks
were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a
troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible
She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As
administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across
California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay
for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually
spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely
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
Trujillo has experience working in both the Upper and Lower
Basins of the Colorado River, basins that split the river’s water
evenly but are sometimes at odds with each other. She was a
lawyer for the state of New Mexico, one of four states in the
Upper Colorado River Basin, when key operating guidelines for
sharing shortages on the river were negotiated in 2007. She later
worked as executive director for the Colorado River Board of
California, exposing her to the different perspectives and
challenges facing California and the other states in the river’s
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
Managing water resources in the Colorado River Basin is not for the timid or those unaccustomed to big challenges. Careers are devoted to responding to all the demands put upon the river: water supply, hydropower, recreation and environmental protection.
All of this while the Basin endures a seemingly endless drought and forecasts of increasing dryness in the future.
Colorado is home to the headwaters
of the Colorado River and the water policy decisions made in the
Centennial State reverberate throughout the river’s sprawling
basin that stretches south to Mexico. The stakes are huge in a
basin that serves 40 million people, and responding to the water
needs of the economy, productive agriculture, a robust
recreational industry and environmental protection takes
expertise, leadership and a steady hand.
Shortly after taking office in 2019,
Gov. Gavin Newsom called on state agencies to deliver a Water
Resilience Portfolio to meet California’s urgent challenges —
unsafe drinking water, flood and drought risks from a changing
climate, severely depleted groundwater aquifers and native fish
populations threatened with extinction.
Within days, he appointed Nancy Vogel, a former journalist and
veteran water communicator, as director of the Governor’s Water
Portfolio Program to help shepherd the monumental task of
compiling all the information necessary for the portfolio. The
three state agencies tasked with preparing the document delivered
the draft Water Resilience Portfolio Jan. 3. The document, which
Vogel said will help guide policy and investment decisions
related to water resilience, is nearing the end of its comment
period, which goes through Friday, Feb. 7.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.
~John Wesley Powell
Powell scrawled those words in his journal as he and his expedition paddled their way into the deep walls of the Grand Canyon on a stretch of the Colorado River in August 1869. Three months earlier, the 10-man group had set out on their exploration of the iconic Southwest river by hauling their wooden boats into a major tributary of the Colorado, the Green River in Wyoming, for their trip into the “great unknown,” as Powell described it.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.