As the single largest water-consuming industry, agriculture has
become a focal point for efforts to promote water conservation.
The drive for water use efficiency has become institutionalized
in agriculture through numerous federal, state and local
programs. Since the 1980s, some water districts serving
agricultural areas have developed extensive water conservation
programs to help their customers (From Aquapedia).
On the modern farm, soil sensors, well monitors and paperwork
abound. The trick is trying to keep all that data organized. To
that end, a Monterey County winegrape grower, Scheid Family
Wines of Greenfield, came up with its own system, first called
VitWatch, to digitize information previously recorded on paper.
Recent validation by state regulators of the effective and
sustainable management of Coachella Valley’s groundwater basins
speaks volumes about the importance of collaboration by local
water managers to protect our most important resource.
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
Farmers implementing conservation practices that improve soil
health aren’t just hoping for better crop yields, they’re
banking on them. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and
American Farmland Trust recently released case studies
highlighting the economic benefits of implementing soil health
Just a few months after completing the Drought Contingency Plan
for the Colorado River states, water managers in the southwest
will likely have to implement it starting in 2020. That’s
according to new projections for the levels of key reservoirs
in the southwestern river basin, and Arizona is first in line
to take water cutbacks.
The plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not been
released, but water-resource managers in the region said they
have been collaborating with government agencies and
environmental groups to develop voluntary agreements that would
accomplish the goals of the state board’s flows-only
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) proposal arose from a belief
that Utah has an unused share of the Colorado River and a fear
of water shortages stifling Washington County’s rapid
population growth. Although many leaders across the state say
southern Utah needs the LPP, this statement is not based on
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water
from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a
set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to
reduce the risk of a crash.
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its
projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key
reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona,
California and Mexico. After a wet winter, the agency is not
expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of
water. But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
California could be the canary in the coal mine. Over the next
decade, 40 U.S. states are expected to experience water
shortages, according to the U.S. Government Accountability
Office. The situation is serious, but California’s
entrepreneurs, who are seeking to boost supply and tame demand,
offer a glimmer of hope.
In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey,
80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious
threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a
concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as
our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these
statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California
A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern
Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared
camera to help researchers decide how much water they would
give the crops the next day.
The recently adopted Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) was an
important step toward addressing the Colorado Basin’s chronic
water shortages, but more work is needed to prepare for a
hotter, drier future. We talked to Doug Kenney, director of the
Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and
a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network,
about managing the basin for long-term water sustainability.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
Ivan Soto has aspired to produce research with a positive
impact on the public — not just to benefit the academic
community. … His research examines the power dynamics of
infrastructure and water politics through an environmental
history of southernmost California’s Imperial Valley along the
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
A partnership of state, local and conservation groups,
including Trout Unlimited, is engaged in a restoration effort
that could serve as a template for similar regions across the
West. Centered around the high plateau near Kremmling, a town
of about 1,400 people in northern Colorado about 100 miles west
of Denver, the partnership aims to make the river function
better for people and the environment.
What would happen if we ran out of water? For an increasing
number of people, that question is moving from a hypothetical
to a reality. New data from the World Resource Institute show
that a quarter of the world’s population is at high risk of
running out of water.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
Local land owners have an opportunity to get their irrigation
systems inspected free of charge as part of a program offered
across Northern California. Jay Thomas, engineering technician
for the Irrigation Training Facility at California State
University, Chico, said this program is part of a mobile
irrigation laboratory that services the growers of Northern
Ample water resources in northern areas of California are
balanced by huge demands from Central Valley agriculture and
the large populations in hotter, drier southern areas such as
Los Angeles and San Diego. California uses the most water of
any state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 9
percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
Holly Foster, whose family runs cattle in Butte and Plumas
counties, said her ranch lost power during a shutoff in June
that affected Butte, Napa, Solano, Yolo and Yuba counties. Her
cattle in Butte County are particularly vulnerable because she
relies on electricity to pump water from wells.
An important but not widely-publicized local planning process
reached a milestone with the July release of the draft
Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Eastern San Joaquin
Subbasin. This is the public’s first chance to see how
groundwater in this region may be managed for the next 20
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. … It’s a groundbreaking project for water management
in the county, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the
county’s water and resource management department.
Water resource management is key in Ventura County to help
address the perils local residents face from global warming,
such as flooding, drought and sea level rise. The preliminary
draft of the 2040 General Plan update on Water Resources
Element is so much more than an “update.”
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
Native seaweed has the potential to be cultivated in California
coastal waters and used to alleviate the effects of local ocean
acidification, according to a new study funded by NOAA’s
California Sea Grant.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
Over the past 18 months, the three Groundwater Sustainability
Agencies (GSAs) in the Merced Subbasin have worked together to
develop a Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that is
now available for public review and comment.
The heavy rains that hit the Central Coast this past winter are
keeping recreators at area lakes and reservoirs happy this
summer. However, the precipitation has done little to ease
concerns for a group fighting Monterey County over the water it
withdraws from Lake Nacimiento.
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency board will submit a
sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources in
2021 and begin to implement that plan in 2022-2024. The board
last week heard a presentation about funding options to pay for
the groundwater management plan — including fees, taxes or
assessments to customers — and specific projects to implement
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
California has grown from 10 million to at least 40 million
since 1950, making it necessary to move water over long
distances to where people live and work. Close to two thirds of
the state’s population is bunched in a few water-dependent
The report estimates there are a cluster of major California
crops that are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperature
changes: wine grapes, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, table
grapes, hay, oranges, cotton, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and
pistachios. Specifically, avocado production in California
could fall 40 percent by 2050 due to climate change factors.
More than 90% of U.S. wine comes from California, despite
growth in other states’ production, and it’s putting a strain
on the environment. Throughout the region, wine producers say
they’re striving to save water and use less pesticides, among
other measures aimed at sustainable growing, as they face the
challenges brought on by the advance of climate change.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.
Thoughtfully implementing state law that requires local water
users to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels within the
next two decades will … result in withdrawal of large amounts
of land from agricultural production and the loss of economic
benefits. But we can repurpose those lands to support large
scale storage and solar, as well as other renewable energy
technologies that can help decarbonize our electric grid and
create new jobs in the Central Valley.
High-tech firms like Ceres, Prospera, Farmers Edge, and the
Climate Corporation are using artificial intelligence to help
famers decide when to plant, water, spray, and harvest their
crops. As climate change worsens rainstorms in the Midwest and
drought in California, the technology could also help growers
navigate more severe and volatile weather.
Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique
moment. With a temporary fix to the river’s scarcity problem
recently completed, talk has begun to turn toward future
agreements to manage the water source for 40 million people in
the southwestern U.S. … Some within the basin see a window of
opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in
Gathering California water policy and decision-makers along
with groundwater stakeholders and users, the workshop gave
participants the opportunity to meet European Union (EU) water
specialists, exchange experiences and ideas, and compare
California and EU issues and solutions.
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
How can the short memory of the public maintain the long-term
commitments of water projects and conservation behaviors? On
one hand, California’s recent extended drought demonstrated
that the public water users could reduce their water use, but
can it be maintained permanently?
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of
directors took the first step Thursday to require all
groundwater wells in the valley to be registered by Oct. 1. …
That first step also included a pumping fee to pay for the
required groundwater sustainability plan due to the Department
of Water Resources by Jan. 31, 2020.
Groundwater pumping has caused stream flow in U.S. rivers to
decline by as much as half over the last century, according to
new research by a University of Arizona hydrologist that
strengthens the connection between groundwater and surface
The Friant Water Authority is confident a parallel canal is the
best solution. This new one will be built in a way that
prepares for subsidence. A new canal would also benefit from
the Ground Water Management Act of 2014, which will regulate
how much and when water is pumped out of the ground, preventing
what some believe is the main cause of subsidence.
The state drought plans move gingerly toward encouraging
transfers of water by using clever euphemisms that avoid any
mention of water marketing. … These euphemisms are tools that
usher in a new frontier in western water law that will increase
resilience in the face of droughts, floods and forest fires
fueled by climate change.
Key parts of the case were dismissed in April by U.S. District
Court Judge Jesus Bernal, who ruled that the tribe did not have
a claim of harm because it has always had enough water… Now,
the federal government intends to make its case that this
ruling should be reversed.
At the same time the snowpack is dwindling, droughts are
expected to become more severe. One example: scientists predict
a strong likelihood that the Colorado River Basin will
experience a megadrought of 20 to 50 years in duration during
More effective use of green water – rainfall stored in soil –
could mitigate irrigation demand for some of California’s most
important perennial crops. So say US researchers who simulated
13 years’ growth of alfalfa, grapes, almonds, pistachios and
walnuts under different irrigation strategies.
One evening, at a community center in the Sacramento Valley, a
teacher, a civil engineer, a tomato farmer and a local
foundation board member found themselves standing above a
table, feverishly competing to scoop the most glass beads from
a large, communal bowl. But there was a catch.
An Oregon-based sustainable certification organization, Salmon
Safe, encourages farms, vineyards, buildings and even golf
courses throughout Washington, Oregon, California and British
Columbia to mitigate their impacts on salmon habitat by doing
things like reducing pollution-heavy stormwater runoff. For a
brewery, that means getting its facilities certified or
sourcing ingredients from farms that have restored
salmon-inhabited streams and limited their use of water and
Scientists at UC Davis have developed five new types of the
berry set to hit the market this fall. … Researchers say
these new strawberries are the best of both worlds: the
strawberries will use less water, fertilizer and pesticides and
still produce more, healthier, higher-quality strawberries.
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
California Landscape Contractors Association’s Sandra Giarde
… points out that parts of California are already teetering
back on the edge of a drought again. Laws have yet to change
that were put into place to conserve water during the drought,
such as rules against hosing down concrete sidewalks. Those
bans will only slowly be lifted by each municipality over time,
if they’re even lifted at all.
Water hidden beneath the earth’s surface comprises 98% of the
planet’s fresh water. On average, this groundwater provides a
third of all total water consumed… Before we even start to
improve groundwater management, we must better understand and
measure it, says international groundwater expert Craig
Simmons, from Flinders University in Adelaide.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Following extensive technical review, DWR approved seven
existing groundwater management plans and two 10-year
sustainable yield analyses as alternatives under SGMA. One
existing groundwater management plan and five 10-year
sustainable yield analyses were not recommended for approval as
Groundwater overdraft is a major problem globally and has been
a persistent and growing problem in California for decades.
This overdraft is predominantly driven by the economic value of
water for agricultural production and cities.
Agricultural scientists across the globe including at Stanford
University and the University of California at Davis have in
recent years been making new discoveries showing that healthy
soil holds more carbon than previously thought and that good
soil management can serve as an important carbon sink.
Initially, farmers had been contracted $285 per acre/feet for
conserved water and the IID welcomed all participants. However,
due to the farmers’ innovation and ingenuity, the total
acre/feet saved the past three years exceeded the amount needed
for the QSA transfer.
The rebate for Malibu residents who remove grass landscaping
has been increased from $4 to $5 per square foot of turf
removed, the City of Malibu announced Monday. The incentive is
part of the Malibu Smart water conservation program offered by
the City of Malibu, County of Los Angeles and West Basin
Municipal Water District.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
Brokered in large part by rookie state senator for California’s
14 Senate District, Melissa Hurtado, the southern portion of
the Valley has gained tens of millions of dollars of investment
in drinking water, asthma mitigation, aging and disability
resource centers and Valley Fever research.
The Clovis City Council has approved landmark water deals with
the Fresno Irrigation District that officials say will secure
the city’s growth for decades to come. According to the Clovis
General Plan, the city expects 280,000 residents in 2083 — 2.5
times its 110,000 population. Plans call for Clovis to grow
northeast and southeast.
Update 2018 presents a vision for greater collaboration and
alignment among water sectors and institutions, sound
strategies, and long-term investments needed for the
sustainable management of the California’s water supply.
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
Keystone projects for the midcounty planning effort, mandated
by the state for all groundwater-dependent agencies, include
stormwater runoff management, Soquel Creek Water District’s
Pure Water Soquel advanced water treatment plant, and the city
of Santa Cruz’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental water
supply that would primarily make use of unused winter river
runoff, likely through new storage options.
They’ll use less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides –
and they will probably be cheaper. The Public Strawberry
Breeding Program at UC Davis just announced five new strawberry
varieties that will be on the market in the fall and are
expected to benefit farmers, sellers and consumers alike.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
The drought may be over, but Arcadia residents and businesses
must restrict their irrigation and water consumption yet again
this summer as the city’s mandatory water conservation program
continues to push through its first of eight phases.
An irrigation district may adopt and enforce reasonable rules
related to water service, and may terminate water delivery for
failure to comply with such rules, a California appellate court
ruled. Although this case involved an irrigation district, the
decision may also strengthen other water providers’ authority
to adopt and enforce rules relating to water service.
A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, reveals an
elegant formula to explain why some trees died and others
didn’t — and it suggests more suffering is in store for forests
as the climate heats up.
To better understand groundwater markets, attendees at the
meeting played a groundwater market game, which was developed
by the Environmental Defense Fund and the University of
Michigan to teach players about the challenges of managing
scarce groundwater resources.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
The Department of Water Resources released the final guidelines
for the Riverine Stewardship Program on July 1, 2019. The grant
program supports planning and implementation of projects that
restore streams, creeks, and rivers to enhance the environment
for fish, wildlife, and people.
The plan is historic: It acknowledges that southwestern states
need to make deep water use reductions – including a large
share from agriculture, which uses over 70% of the supply – to
prevent Colorado River reservoirs from declining to critically
low levels. But it also has serious shortcomings. It runs for
less than a decade. And its name suggests a response to a
Agricultural water suppliers must develop annual water budgets
and drought plans that meet requirements of recently enacted
legislation, and are meeting with state officials to comply
with the updated law—a process that could ultimately affect
water costs for California farmers and ranchers.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is an
historic opportunity to achieve long-term sustainable
groundwater management and protect drinking water supplies for
hundreds of small and rural low-income communities, especially
in the San Joaquin Valley.
Despite being on opposite sides of the immigration debate,
environmental groups who oppose border barriers generally
mirror cattle rancher John Ladd’s concerns about the river.
They say a wall or fence across the San Pedro could have
devastating consequences to its hydrology, as well as the
endangered species that call the river home.
We estimate that nearly 20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated
cropland in the valley has no access to surface water. … With
groundwater cuts looming and no other water supply to fall back
on, groundwater-only areas are on the front line of the effort
to bring basins into balance.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District’s pilot program,
set for testing later this summer or early fall, would allow
certain landowners to buy or sell groundwater to or from
another property owner within the district.
Marijuana growers are literally sucking salmon streams dry.
According to research that TU and partners cited for the
journal Bioscience, some forms of outdoor cultivation use an
average of 6 gallons per day per marijuana plant. … Their
combined water demand can easily exceed available streamflow in
the tiny tributaries salmon and steelhead rely on to survive
the long, hot summers typical of this region.
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
One of the vineyard owners hooked up to the city’s Purple Pipe
is anxiously waiting for the recycled water to begin flowing,
asking this week if he would need to begin tapping the Russian
River near his property to irrigate instead.
An important blueprint for the success of farming in the
Central Valley is being developed to present to California
government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done
to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The
blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business
due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Santa Barbara County’s water supply outlook has improved
significantly with a winter of strong rains, and this is
reflected in a noticeably fuller Lake Cachuma. However, the
effects of the years-long drought will take several years for
some water sources to recover…
Oscar Meinzer (1942) credits Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with
having advocated the infiltration theory slightly before
Palissy’s time, basing his theories on observations made when
he was in charge of canals in the Milan area. … Such a
scenario might explain why California DWR staff and like-minded
academics and nonprofits have all jumped on the bandwagon of
managed aquifer recharge.
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
Researchers have mapped the impact of groundwater pumping on
surface water in individual watersheds before. But it’s only
recently that computing power has improved enough to look at
groundwater’s interaction with surface water, known as
integrated modeling, on a scale as large as the United States.
The unusually wet winter (with an assist from new Colorado
River Drought Contingency Plan water reduction rules) has
substantially reduced the near-term scare-the-crap-out-of-me
risks on the Colorado River for the next few years, according
to new Bureau of Reclamation modeling.
The Newsom Administration and the State Legislature approved a
commitment of $70 million in the 2019-2020 State Budget for a
comprehensive series of innovative fish and wildlife habitat
enhancement actions identified in the collaborative Bay-Delta
Voluntary Agreement proposals. This is a significant, early
investment in the success of the Voluntary Agreements.
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
Greg Dion, Cal Fire’s regional urban forester for the San
Joaquin Valley, said Modesto used outdated research in
calculating the cost of buying, planting and maintaining the
5,000 trees. … Modesto also started planting trees while the
region still was in the grip of a devastating drought.
SGMA inevitably means less water for irrigating farms. … On
one path, the valley could become a patchwork of dusty barren
fields, serving a huge blow to the agriculture sector and rural
communities and further impairing already poor air quality. …
On another path, the valley could transform into a pioneering
agricultural region that not only puts food on our nation’s
plates but also supports thriving wildlife habitat, outdoor
recreation, soil health, groundwater recharge and flood
The update reported an excellent May in terms of Colorado River
Basin run-off, yet Central Arizona Water Conservation District
board members underscored that still-half-full reservoirs point
to the need for continued conservation.
The 2018-19 Solano County grand jury concluded that if treated
wastewater could be used to irrigate crops that saved water
would help meet the water needs of a growing population. …
The grand jury also had recommendations on plant efficiency and
taking advantage of other renewable energies and plant output,
such as using wind and solar power for plant operations…
In the long-term puzzle of ensuring that the Colorado River —
the main artery of the American West — provides water to the
millions of people in the basin who depend on it, the
challenges are mounting. Does 2019’s water stand a chance of
making a meaningful impact? Water experts say the answer is:
Sadly, not likely.
This week, a partnership of multiple agencies spanning three
counties along the Eel and Russian rivers will officially
launch a plan to take over operations of the Potter Valley
Project, a hydro-electric dam that affects the amount of water
in each river.
The Lower Basin will not drop into a Tier One shortage next
year because Lake Mead will almost certainly remain above 1,075
feet in elevation. At the same time, Mead will likely remain
under 1,090 feet. That triggers a Tier Zero shortage. “Under
Tier Zero conditions, Arizona takes a reduction of 192,000
acre-feet in its annual Colorado River entitlement,” said
Suzanne Ticknor, assistant general manager at the Central
Back in 1980, the Arizona Legislature launched urban Arizona
toward a secure water future by enacting the Groundwater
Management Act. Unfortunately, most of rural Arizona – that is,
outside the Phoenix-Tucson corridor – was largely ignored and
left to an uncertain future. That future has arrived. Water
shortages now threaten rural communities throughout the state.
Leaving more water in the Colorado River Basin could help
rivers resume their natural role. But amid this push for upper
basin residents to use less, Colorado’s booming Front Range
economy is driving cities in the opposite direction: of
manipulating rivers more by installing new dams, reservoirs and
Will Utah’s water supply catch up with the state’s rising
population, expected to double by 2065? It was one of the
several questions posed at Utah State University’s Research
Landscapes series focused on Utah’s waterscapes.
Upper Colorado River Basin water users are the most vulnerable
on the Western Slope in the event of a call required by an
interstate compact to curtail use, with much of that
vulnerability resting with entities that divert water from that
basin to the Front Range, new analysis shows.
The Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, divided into plans
for the river’s upper and lower basins, is the product of years
of interstate negotiations, business transactions and political
dealings. What, though, does it mean for Nevada and other
Western states as a whole?
Most of the seven states that get water from the Colorado River
have signed off on plans to keep the waterway from crashing
amid a prolonged drought, climate change and increased demands.
But California and Arizona have not, missing deadlines from the
The states that share the river completed a drought plan
earlier this year that brings them closer to living within
currently available supplies, and a new round of negotiations
on long-term management of the river is due to begin next year.
However, a new report warns that planning for gradually
declining water supplies, as difficult as that is, may not be
enough to adequately prepare for the future.
First adopted in 2013 amid drying wells over the basin, the
county offset ordinance put a theoretical moratorium on
agricultural pumping. But the policy is set to expire later
this year when North County leaders adopt a basin-wide
sustainability plan—even though that plan could take another
several years to fully take effect.
Overpumping groundwater poses a major threat to the
availability of a critical resource… A new dashboard tool,
created by affiliates from Stanford’s Water in the West
program, compares groundwater withdrawal permitting – a common
tool used by resource managers to limit groundwater pumping –
to help plan for a more sustainable future.
Earlier this month the governor’s Drought Interagency
Coordinating Group unanimously voted to inform the governor
that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should
continue. This means Arizona has been in a state of drought for
more than 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than
110 years of record keeping. Now that our drought has been
extended yet again, it leaves many to wonder what it will take
to get us out of this drought.
Once again, a big thirsty metropolis is looking at buying
Central Valley farmland with an eye toward boosting its water
supplies. And once again, neighboring farmers are nervous about
it. … And any proposal involving the movement of groundwater
from a rural area creates controversy, especially as farmers
begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Even though the Russian River watershed has received roughly
130 percent of the average rainfall this season, it is time to
discuss the impacts of overwatered landscapes as the dry
weather returns and irrigation controllers turn on.
As the Colorado River’s flow declines, water supplies in seven
states are imperiled by potential shortages. That includes
Arizona, which passed legislation outlining steps it would take
if water from the river continues to decrease. But what does a
water shortage mean for Phoenix?
It’s hard to respond effectively to a crisis when you don’t
have clearly defined priorities. This is true for sudden-onset
crises, like floods and wildfires, and also for slow-onset
crises, like droughts.
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Charles Wilkinson …
described the Western icon and one-armed Civil War veteran as a
complex character, a larger-than-life person and an early
visionary of wise water use in an arid West. Wilkinson spoke
recently with Western Water about Powell and his legacy, and
how Powell might view the Colorado River today.
It appears Solano County and Vallejo have avoided a potentially
costly state shift in the groundwater sustainability priority
for the Napa-Sonoma Lowlands. While the final decision by the
Department of Water Resources has not been made, the state
agency has for now backed off its proposal to increase the
priority status from very low to medium for the lowlands.
The Bureau of Reclamation updated its 2019 allocation for the
Central Valley Project South-of-Delta, increasing the westside
water allocation to 70 percent of the contract total. Said
Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant: “The late storms
provided an added boost to the already above average
precipitation for 2019. Snowpack throughout the state is still
about 150% of average for this time of year.”
The history of Traver, preserved in many books and archives, is
a study in land development, agriculture and irrigation. It
started when a civil engineer named Peter Y. Baker conceived a
plan to convert thousands acres of rangeland in northern Tulare
and southern Fresno counties into fields of wheat by diverting
water by canal from the Kings River.
A firm hired by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
is already in the initial phase to find sources of imported
water for the valley, according to a progress report delivered
at a Thursday board meeting. … Capitol Core Group, retained
in March, is looking at what water supply options are available
and how to secure funding to ultimately purchase and develop
infrastructure to deliver into the valley.
As the focus on infrastructure retakes center stage in
Washington, we hope lawmakers don’t overlook a prime
opportunity to invest in Western water and irrigation systems.
Here in the West, our dams, irrigation systems, canals and
other infrastructure — much of it more than a century old — are
past due for modernization.
Last fall, a team of researchers at the Public Policy Institute
of California (PPIC) studied the state’s response to the
extreme drought conditions, distilling their findings down to
four essential reforms that will better prepare the state to
adapt to the impacts of climate change. At the Association of
Water Agencies of Ventura County’s Annual Symposium held in
April of 2019, Ellen Hanak, Director of Public Policy Institute
of California’s Water Policy Center gave this recap of their
The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150
farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week,
where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water
officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the
goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County
Water Agencyand the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved
a plan to offset a fee that is likely to be imposed on
groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain… Under the plan,
the County and Sonoma Water would contribute up to $240,000
annually for three years to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a drought emergency
across nearly half the state. The drought declaration covers
the Olympic peninsula, the North Cascades, the eastern Cascades
and most of southwest Washington. It allows local governments
to tap into $2 million in state funding to respond to hardships
caused by the drought. … Snowpack is now at its fourth-lowest
level in the past 30 years.
I ran down a quick summary this morning of the relevant data,
comparing recent use with the cuts mandated under the DCP. It
shows that, at this first tier of shortage, permitted use is
less than the voluntary cuts water users have been making since
2015. In other words, all of the states are already
using less water than contemplated in this first tier of DCP
In 2016, California became the first state to pass legislation
regulating dairy methane, requiring the farms to cut their
manure emissions 40% by 2030. … Enter Neil Black. Black’s
company builds multimillion-dollar projects at the state’s
largest dairies to capture the gas.
To Eastern Sierra residents, in most years, annual run-off
means the streams and canals rise and pasture lands start to
green-up. For Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,
run-off is the city’s life’s blood… So, how do they figure it
out? Eric Tillemans, LADWP engineer, gave the Inyo County Board
of Supervisors a beginner’s course in Run-Off 101 at a recent
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to
investigate becoming a stakeholder in the Potter Valley
project, a massive water development in the Eel and Russian
river basins. … The idea is to protect the Russian River’s
water supply for Potter Valley residents while mitigating the
effects of the Scott Dam on Eel River fish populations.
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
The Colorado River just got a boost that’s likely to prevent
its depleted reservoirs from bottoming out, at least for the
next several years. Representatives of seven Western states and
the federal government signed a landmark deal on Monday laying
out potential cuts in water deliveries through 2026 to reduce
the risks of the river’s reservoirs hitting critically low
Mission Springs Water District alleged that Desert Water
Agency, which also provides water to more than 100,000 Palm
Springs and Cathedral City residents, made a board decision
that violated a previous settlement between the two agencies.
… Last month, the issue over groundwater management in Desert
Hot Springs picked up steam when a study group
formed by Mission Springs published a 16-page report that
lambasted Desert Water Agency’s actions…
There is a unique partnership happening in Arizona between
farmers, those involved in the malting process, and brewers
that is saving thousands of gallons of water from being taken
from the Verde River.
It takes more than one wet year to not only refill reservoirs
but also recharge aquifers and return moisture in parched soils
to normal levels. … All this upstream snowpack and rain is
predicted to boost Powell to 47% of capacity by the end of the
year, another three or four feet, but there’ll still be plenty
of the “bathtub ring” visible. It’s been 36 years since Powell
was full. It’s not likely it’ll ever fill again.
After months of tense, difficult negotiations, a plan to spread
the effects of anticipated cutbacks on the drought-stricken
Colorado River is nearing completion. On Monday,
representatives of the seven states that rely on the river will
gather for a formal signing ceremony at Hoover Dam, the real
and symbolic center of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Napa County’s latest watershed symposium came at a time when
tensions are high over how to protect trees and reservoirs in
the area’s mountains. Close to 200 people from various
backgrounds came to Copia on Thursday for an A-to-Z look at
what’s happening in the watersheds. Scientists, elected
officials, wine industry members and citizen activists all
The Colorado River — of which the Green is the biggest
tributary — is the main water source for 40 million people.
It’s already overallocated, and climate change is predicted to
shrink flows by up to 50 percent by the end of the century.
We’re finally coming to grips with those forecasts and
beginning to heed Powell’s century-and-a-half-old warnings. But
it’s taken drought and desperation to get us there, and we have
to do better.
Arizona relies on groundwater for about 40% of its water
supply, yet groundwater resources outside of the state’s
biggest urban areas are largely unprotected and unregulated…
HB 2467, a bill that passed in the Arizona House and currently
awaiting a final vote in the Senate, takes an important step
forward to address groundwater challenges in Mohave and La Paz
In the ceaseless conflict over how to use the state’s available
water — and maybe then some — a varied group of water users and
lawmakers sang a refrain older than Nevada: “Everyone is going
to court in the end.” … The ghosts of litigation — past,
present and future — loomed over the Thursday Senate Natural
Resources Committee hearing that stretched until 8 p.m. and
offered insight into why it’s so difficult to update Nevada
When you hear news about ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica,
an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, or a new
explanation for a wobble in Earth’s rotation, you might not
realize that all these findings may rely on data from one
Insisting the state made a commitment, a central Arizona
lawmaker and farmers he represents are making a last-ditch
pitch for $20 million from taxpayers to drill new wells and
water delivery canals. Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said Thursday
the farmers in Pinal County agreed to give up their right to
Colorado River water to help the state come up with a plan to
deal with the drought. In exchange they were given the right to
take additional water out of the ground.
The Western-San Bernardino and Orange County judgments, signed
April 17, 1969, helped establish five watermasters and settle
water rights throughout the watershed that supplies the water
agencies within San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.
The agreements settled decades of lawsuits over water rights…
Oregon Water Resources Department is in the process of
validating a call on Upper Klamath Lake tributaries, including
the Wood River, filed by senior water right holders — the
Klamath Tribes — on April 18. … Water users that irrigate can
call the watermaster’s office if they believe someone with a
junior water right to theirs is irrigating with water that
should be coming to them.
When asked about his priorities, California’s recently
appointed Natural Resources Secretary quickly rattles off a
range of topics: climate change; strengthening water supply
resilience; and building water capacity for communities,
agriculture, and the environment, among them.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at
using a “free” resource — rain water stored in the soil — and
found that optimizing its use could go a long way to help meet
demand for five California perennial crops. Their findings
appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Stakeholders throughout the Colorado River Basin just wrapped
up arduous negotiations on a drought plan. There’s little time
to rest, however. Stakeholders are expected to begin the even
more difficult task of hammering out sweeping new guidelines
for delivering water and sharing shortages that could
re-imagine how the overworked river is managed.
At the 28th California Water Policy conference held in April of
2019, a panel discussed how tribal lands and tribal
representatives, as independent nations, can be integrated into
SGMA implementation, what some of the obstacles to doing so
are, and how those hurdles might be transcended.
California Trout, Mendocino County Inland Water & Power
Commission, and Sonoma Water have officially put a foot forward
to explore a planning agreement for the project’s future. The
coalition is championing a “two-basin solution” that could
mitigate the effects of the Scott Dam on fish populations in
the Eel River while ensuring that the Russian River basin
doesn’t lose its water supply, which Potter Valley residents
have relied on for over 100 years.
Over the short life of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, Owens Valley has gone from medium to high and now low
priority. That prioritization would have had an impact three
years ago. Medium and high priority basins are required to form
an agency and sustainability plan; low basins are not.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
This river provides water for one-third of Latinos in the
United States. Latinos make up the bulk of agricultural workers
harvesting the produce this river waters. We boat, fish, swim
and recreate along its banks. We hold baptisms in its waters.
Therefore, it is critical to engage the growing Latino
population on water-smart solutions.
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
Five years ago, Deb Fallows and I made the first of what became
many visits to the farming town of Winters, California. …
When we first visited five years ago, the main question for the
area’s nut-tree farmers, and for California’s agricultural
economy as a whole, was whether the state’s drought-ravaged
water supplies could support such commercially valuable but
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
The DCP … provides assurance against curtailments for water
stored behind Hoover Dam. This is especially important for the
Southern California water agencies, whose ability to store
water in Lake Mead is crucial for managing seasonal demands.
Some significant challenges must still be addressed, however.
Because of the wet weather this winter, the district is
proposing to lower its Stage Two Drought Condition to a Stage
One Drought Condition, which would lift many mandatory drought
The lawsuit against the Fresno-based Westlands Water District
was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State
officials have for years maintained that raising the height of
the dam would violate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a
higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, in
violation of state law.
Estimates vary, and can change as the water year progresses,
but the Kern River basin, the rivers and streams that collect
the water that flows into Isabella Lake and downstream toward
Bakersfield, is estimated to be at 172 percent of normal,
possibly more. And all that ice and snow is starting to melt,
big time. Are local water managers ready?
The West is still in the midst of a long-term water shortage in
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, primary reservoirs that serve 40
million people. For that reason, the Upper Basin states —
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — have to also come up
with their own drought contingency plans. That means Colorado
might be heading into choppy waters as one of the requirements
of a drought contingency plan — demand management — could pit
communities and regions against each other …
In Ukiah Thursday, at least two dozen people who depend on the
Potter Valley Project for their farming operations gathered at
the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds to hear an update on the
facility’s future. “New information to come shortly, and a lot
of work still to do,” said Janet Pauli, chairwoman of the
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, a Joint
Powers Authority that is exploring the possibility of acquiring
the facility that Pacific Gas and Electric owns, but has
For rural communities in the central coast region of
California, the name “Harvard” does not connote excellence. For
these communities, where water is scarce and becoming scarcer,
it evokes greed and exploitation. As California takes its first
steps to regulate groundwater in the midst of a worsening water
crisis, Harvard’s endowment fund is investing millions into
vineyards that pump inordinate amounts of water from
California’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins.
A Q&A with Valerie Olson, assistant professor, and Emily
Brooks, post-doctoral researcher — both environmental
anthropologists at UC Irvine. They have a new project aimed at
getting a better understanding of how communities, particularly
the underserved, think about and use their water, and how the
agencies that provide water can better serve them.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could
provoke conflict. … But as the time for crafting a new set of
rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result will
be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
State Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia says he wants to
“facilitate” negotiations more than a decade early on a 99-year
compromise between the Imperial Irrigation District and a
Coachella water agency that spells out how IID provides
electric power to Coachella Valley. IID President Erik Ortega,
however, said he is not “comfortable” with Garcia’s sudden
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted
Tuesday to allow access across its lands for critically needed
state wetlands projects at the Salton Sea, designed to tamp
down dangerous dust storms and give threatened wildlife a
boost. In exchange, California will shoulder the maintenance
and operations of the projects, and the state’s taxpayers will
cover the costs of any lawsuits or regulatory penalties…
Before California’s Central Valley became known as an
agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest
expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North
America. … Much of that landscape has been transformed into
farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a
unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local
governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide
resources for a variety of wildlife.
By monitoring tiny changes to the Earth’s gravitational field,
the GRACE satellites have been pinpointing the distribution of
fresh water on our planet for almost two decades. But as Marric
Stephens explains, a new follow-on mission is also helping with
plans for a space-based gravitational-wave detector
In the past several years, Los Angeles-based Renewable
Resources Group has helped sell 33,000 acres of land to
California’s most powerful water agency, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. Documents obtained by Voice of
San Diego raise fresh questions about those deals. Now,
Renewable may be working on another deal that could rearrange
the distribution of water in California forever.
In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346
species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A
handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the
state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the
California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. … About a dozen
species are currently at risk of extinction, according to Dan
Applebee, an environmental scientist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the snowpack in the
Upper Basin is nearly 140% above average as of April 15 and it
forecasts that seasonal inflow to Lake Powell will be at 128%
of average. … “These developments may lessen the chance of
shortage in 2020,” Terry Fulp, BOR’s Lower Colorado regional
director, said in a prepared statement.
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of