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).
The dominant water issue facing our community and every
community in California today is the insecurity of the water
supply. The California Legislature is facing up to the serious
need to take less water from the surface and groundwater for
human use to preserve wildlife habitats and industries such as
fishing. Both depend upon water filling the streams and
waterways that ultimately find their way to the ocean.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado,
and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000
acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s
the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river.
These projects are in different stages of permitting and
funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the
river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,
alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality
Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and
Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to
suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a
thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts
a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake
Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage
declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in
the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with
flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average
during the runoff season.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan
for Western states to take less water from the overburdened
Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long
process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven
states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from
Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a
hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal
Attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia
on Tuesday vehemently opposed the Trump administration’s
proposal to roll back a regulation known as Waters of the
United States, a move they said would end federal oversight of
15 percent of streams and more than half of the nation’s
What the state requires our community to do is challenging.
Land development, population growth and climate change make
planning for the future very complicated. The new state law
requires us to face these challenges and work together as a
community to create a plan.
A bill moving through the state legislature looks to make
repairs and enhancements to the Friant-Kern Canal. Senate Bill
559 was authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado, representing the
14th Senate District, and was co-authored by several other San
Joaquin Valley lawmakers. The legislation recently advanced
through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
with a vote of 7 to 0.
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation,
who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and
federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy
conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t
available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of
this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think
that sets the stage for that to happen.”
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan
resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress
has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado
River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we
work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest
challenges facing our nation today.
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
The tall, bamboo-like plants clustered in dense thickets along
sections of the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley have long
attracted the attention of those who have strolled in that
area. Green and stately with long, sword-like leaves, they
belong to a species known as Arundo donax, or more commonly,
giant cane. … But the plant is a nuisance and local officials
have decided to do something about it.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
2019 marks the sixth straight winter that scientists from
NASA/JPL have been flying over portions of the Sierra range,
using light-detection and ranging lasers called lidar to map
and decode the snowpack. The Airborne Snow Observatory program,
or ASO, is based on technology that NASA has been using for
years to look at Mars and other planets.
A team of Stanford University researchers believe they have
identified the best way to replenish the shrinking aquifers
beneath California’s Central Valley. … The study from
Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences,
published in the journal Water Resources Research, found that
unless action is taken, the ground in that region will sink
more than 13 feet over the next 20 years.
Prior to the installation of the system, the rain garden was
hardpan dirt, allowing all the rainwater—contaminated and
polluted with oil, gas, sediment, cigarette butts and plastic
wrappers—to drain directly into Orrs Creek and the Russian
River. The new garden is 3- to 5-feet deep and composed of
carefully constructed layers of soil and rock, allowing the
water to be cleaned mechanically and biologically filtering the
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on
Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for
his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water
issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated
on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct
was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to
meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct
will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12
months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion
Even as winter and early-spring storms have filled reservoirs
to the brim and piled snow on Sierra Nevada mountaintops, state
and federal officials say they’re limited in how much water
they can send south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
While California recovers from the worst drought in state
history, a myriad of impacts resulting from climate change
threaten Southern California’s imported water supply. As a
shadow of drought hangs over the region, this documentary
explores the dire consequences of inaction that lie ahead.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton
Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will
inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and
taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well
water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed
away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an
alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost
other groundwater users far less overall.
The end of California’s drought, announced last month amid one
of the rainiest winters in memory, could offer a surprising
benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne West Nile
virus. Longer term, however, more severe droughts associated
with climate change could contribute to an increase in the
number of infections in the state and nationally.
Statewide leaders in agriculture recently launched an
initiative to clean oilfield wastewater for use in arid Western
states, hoping to reduce the region’s carbon footprint and
improve the lives of ranchers and farmers.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver
at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation —
rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the
Klamath Project this summer and fall.
Let’s face it, the 2018-2019 water year has been awesome! …
Even with this great news, the California Department of Water
Resources says, “the days of taking water for granted is over.”
Niki Woodard is the Deputy Assistant Director for California
Department of Water Resources and she believes the small steps
we take at home add up and can make a huge difference for our
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
When Babbitt speaks, people take notice, and he didn’t
disappoint before a packed house at the annual Anne J.
Schneider Lecture April 3 in Sacramento, offering thoughts on
some of California’s thorniest water issues and proposing a
Bay-Delta Compact, a kind of grand bargain to end persistent
conflict surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state
ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first
phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project
based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part
of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from
Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward
servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and
other capital costs associated with getting the project ready
More than a decade in the making, a new state definition of
wetlands will likely take effect early next year—as will
procedures intended to protect them from dredge-and-fill
activities. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted
final amendments to the state wetland policy last week, after
including changes that moved it closer to its original intent
of limiting its application to agriculture.
While flooding is clearly a problem, the extra vegetation that
thrives can lead to another problem. A hotter-than-average
summer – such as one fueled by climate change – can cause
vegetation to dry out faster. With all this natural kindling in
place, it doesn’t take much to start a fire.
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused
land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out
sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and
damaging infrastructure. … New research from Stanford
University suggests a way to map precisely where and how to use
groundwater recharge to refill the aquifers and stop the
Activities that remove vegetation and disturb the soil are the
most harmful. “Things like energy exploration and development
can do some of that as well as off-highway vehicles,” Duniway
said. He said livestock overgrazing is another culprit, as well
as droughts and wildfires. Climate models predict those
conditions will only get worse.
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought
pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said
Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.”
… IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm
commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal
funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
At its core, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council exists to
ensure that the town of Borrego Springs survives and benefits
from the groundwater sustainability plan process. To that end,
BVSC members are taking a more creative look at the town as the
hospitality hub for the state park, relying on a geotourism
program from National Geographic, and aggressively trying to
buy out 70% of water from farmers.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a
drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of
shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White
House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to
protect water users from deep losses and keep the
reservoirs and river healthy.
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre
feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working
with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park
Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre
feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than
the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
Among other ramifications, the new procedures largely duplicate
(and in some respects are inconsistent with) federal
procedures, but add a significant new layer to the already
byzantine regulatory process for permitting projects that
involve fill of federal and state waters and wetlands.
Under the Clean Water Act, states are allowed to enforce rules
more stringent than federal standards. On Tuesday, the State
Water Resources Control Board adopted rules that largely mirror
the federal regulations the Trump administration plans to
repeal. California’s new rules had been in the works since
2008, but the process took on added urgency when the Trump
administration announced its intention to relax federal
Tehama and Butte counties teamed up Friday to host a Northern
Sacramento Valley forum on sustainable groundwater held at
Rolling Hills Casino. … The forum was a chance to look at
neighboring agencies and see similarities and differences as
well as how they are progressing in the planning, Fulton said.
It was a place to connect with the agency in their area so they
would know where to go if they had questions.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater
aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the
North Coast. … People who live in rural areas rely almost
exclusively on groundwater, and while cities in Sonoma County
get most of their water from the Russian River, groundwater
provides a critical back-up source that is used during droughts
or in emergencies.
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate
dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast
it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for
lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control
Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands
and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their
current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of
the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced
that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to
divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any
time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the
water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense
because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as
streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
Klamath Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit against
Reclamation in federal court in Medford. Klamath Water Users
Association will follow suit in a separate legal filing,
jointly with Klamath Drainage District, Shasta View Irrigation
District, Tulelake Irrigation District and individual farmers
Rob Unruh and DuVal. Limitation to water supply stem from
protections in the biological opinion for endangered sucker in
Upper Klamath Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
It might be tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our
labors, especially given all the rain and snow this winter. But
our work is not done. In fact, the San Diego County Water
Authority’s board leadership will ask the board of directors to
consider options to leverage the investments we have made in
decades past to meet the challenges and opportunities of
decades to come.
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before
the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas
Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online
and in print that brought together different parts of the
newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a
planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource
that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
Mention of climate change may still provoke skepticism in other
sectors, but in California’s agriculture industry, the
discussion is less about whether disruption is coming than it
is about how farmers will adapt. A consensus appears to have
emerged that extreme weather conditions — drought and flooding,
hotter summers and milder winters — will increase competition
for irrigation water such that some crops now produced in the
Central Valley may no longer be economically feasible in the
Almost everyone who flies into San Francisco or San Jose
airport has seen it — a vibrant patchwork quilt of colorful
water. … As part of a huge effort called the South Bay Salt
Pond Restoration Project, the Cargill salt company has freed
almost 16,000 acres of their salt ponds.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental
Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality
standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. …
“The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA
misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined
almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin
McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the
public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who
may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water
Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with
the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April
15, there’s no time to lose.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix
on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the
Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning
fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive
fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes
Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the
This post provides an overview of our recommendations for
actions the State Water Resources Control Board can take
before, during, and after droughts to make water rights
administration and oversight more timely, fair, and effective.
… Here are five actions the Board can take to build on past
gains and its institutional knowledge from past drought
For years, the desert town of Borrego Springs has been living
on borrowed time, drawing more water from the ground than its
rains replace. But a reckoning is near. In March, a nearly
1,000-page draft report was released outlining how the
community must and will reduce its water use by a staggering
74.6 percent between now and 2040.
Unfortunately, the thing that almost always lingers on after an
adverse event such as a prolonged drought is government’s heavy
hand in regulations and mandates that are hastily put together
in an attempt to mitigate the drought and get us through it.
After 10 hours, 12 minutes and more than five dozen public
speakers, supervisors … increased requirements for preserving
trees and replacing cut-down ones for vineyards and other
development in watershed areas, but decided against a complete
ban on projects on ground steeper than 30 percent.
One video follows Matthew Sligar on a “typical 14-hour workday”
during the planting season. Another offers a step-by-step
explanation of how rice is planted in Butte County. In others,
he takes viewers on virtual tractor rides and demonstrates
important tools, like his autonomous agriculture drone. Sligar
doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, either, such as
weed and pest control management and water usage.
PG&E’s announcement it would no longer seek a new license
to operate the complex set FERC’s “orphan project” process in
motion… Prospective licensees have until July 1 to file
applications with FERC. … A new licensee must be able to pay
for the continued maintenance and operation of all project
facilities and be capable of monitoring and complying with
regulatory requirements arising from the project’s impacts.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December
to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction
of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue
voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw
this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the
executive director, and many of the activist staff.
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a
complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior
to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights
perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy
choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address
this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from
farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome
cannabis growers with open arms.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits
against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River
tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to
learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court
battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own
lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Current water sharing proposals fail to achieve the balance
needed to restore our salmon runs. Meanwhile, additional
massive increases in Delta diversions are planned by the Trump
administration under these agreements, which would make
conditions for salmon even worse. This is a formula for
extinctions and the end of salmon fishing in California. There
is no support for this proposal among fishermen or
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial
Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal
legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were
left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water
Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss
California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the
recent drought and the future of its water wars.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced
legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of
water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S.
West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul
Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the
chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states
signed on as co-sponsors.
In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which included a
program designed to preserve the nation’s dwindling wetlands.
This federal program has never been wholly successful in
achieving that goal. … California has the ability to fill
this alarming regulatory gap, at least here in the Golden
The City Council approved a regional plan for managing the
area’s groundwater resources, which brings a measure of local
control and to qualify for state funds for water-related
projects. … California City is one of three primary
stakeholders in the document, with the Antelope Valley-East
Kern Water Agency and the Mojave Public Utility District. These
three entities are the major water providers in the region
covered by the plan.
Parts of Sonoma Valley … have seen a persistent decline in
groundwater levels over the last decade – and it may be
expanding. These chronic declines, based on data from the USGS
and the Sonoma County Water Agency, indicate that groundwater
withdrawals are occurring at a rate exceeding the rate of
replenishment within the deeper aquifer zones of southern
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued
Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate
billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other
struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control
Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help
steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley
farmers and a handful of cities.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a
water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB
headquarters in Santa Rosa.
Nearly 2 million acres designated as critical habitat for three
imperiled frog species survived a court challenge Wednesday by
California farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service had
designated the land in 2016 under the Endangered Species Act to
protect two high-altitude species — the mountain yellow-legged
frog and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog — as well as
Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the
2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the
change wasn’t uniform. According to research from UCLA and
Columbia University, large areas of the northern part of the
state were not severely affected, while Southern California
became much browner than usual.
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is
showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the
feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging
groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry
Chula Vista residents looking to conserve water now have
another reason to keep an eye out for a leaky faucet, with the
city announcing its participation in the 2019 National Mayor’s
Challenge for Water Conservation at a City Council meeting on
March 26. The challenge, which is put on by the Wyland
Foundation, is entering its eighth year of existence, and this
will be the first year Chula Vista partakes.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of
shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On
Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency
Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who
crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate
subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both
chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would
allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late
last week that eight organizations have received a total of
$1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help
in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas
identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were
given priority for the grants.
This is a very worthy cause. But needed improvements can easily
be paid for with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus
or with the billions in approved state water bonds. Imposing a
first-ever tax on something as basic as water is a horrible
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California
agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of
crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a
price, however, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in
the county and elsewhere in California have left some aquifers
severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less
than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects
groundwater for the long term yet ensures that Kern County’s
economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action
on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River,
which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and
Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got
a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee
that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll
introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
“The community is miserably divided,” said Napa County
Supervisor Diane Dillon during a meeting on Tuesday. Dillon and
her four fellow board members were tasked with crafting and
approving the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, a
controversial new law that seeks to conserve trees and forested
areas while improving water quality for the many creeks that
feed the Napa River.
A California law that passed in 2014 gave local control to
agencies to manage their groundwater. The Glenn Groundwater
Authority – created in 2017 – is an agency that was formed
under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to regulate
groundwater at a local level. … The GGA was created by
forming a joint exercise of powers agreement which was signed
by nine local agencies. The purpose is to be the groundwater
sustainability agency for the Glenn County portion of the
After a seven-year drought finally came to an end this winter,
California has been hit with a deluge of vibrant greenery and
super blooms. But we’re still keeping an eye out for how to
make our own backyards more sustainable and water-friendly.
The winter’s rainy weather is finally starting to clear, and
Long Beach is looking to the sunny months ahead by expanding a
program to motivate residents to transform their yards into
drought-tolerant gardens. The city’s Lawn-to-Garden turf
removal program, which first launched in 2010, has received new
funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California and will use it to implement changes.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in
more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for
dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought
agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step
toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for
implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a
strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has
left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea,
California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the
case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on
to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if
they change their minds. But with or without IID’s
participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran
environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his
in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its
Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
The state of California declared the drought is over – but
don’t touch your sprinkler programming. Los Angeles Mayor Eric
Garcetti says the city is not easing watering restrictions
because the next “drought is right around the corner,” and
conservation is “the new normal.”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and
Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought
contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from
Congress to implement it.
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before
the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing
additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While
the administration found the deal would not have a significant
impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection
of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it
will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a
drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where
alfalfa is king. … Massive industrial storehouses line the
southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of
stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not
cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands.
Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
France and California face a common challenge of managing
overdraft in intensively exploited aquifers. As of 2018, large
areas of France and California have overexploited groundwater
(see maps below). And both regions have passed landmark
groundwater legislation, the Loi sur l’Eau et les Milieux
Aquatiques (LEMA) of 2006 in France and the Groundwater
Sustainable Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 in California.
The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted
Thursday to start exploring the feasibility of a
demand-management program as part of a larger effort to manage
falling water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and avoid
violating the Colorado River Compact.
Because the Green is the biggest tributary of the Colorado
River system, the amount of water available for the divvying is
decided by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement that
delineated how much water was in the Colorado River Basin and
how it should be split up. … It’s a rigid framework for a
system that’s inherently variable…
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on
unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the
secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River
Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a
watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to
California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help
nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve
spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry.
The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings
contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms
grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District, Santa Clara County Board
of Supervisors and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority all
recognize the importance of curbing urban sprawl, encouraging
farm-to-fork enterprises, and providing open space for urban
dwellers through various policies. However, well-meaning
changes may have unintended consequences, putting these goals
It’s inevitable. Every year, big swaths of California will
burn. The question now that spring is here is how bad it will
be. If recent history is any guide, this year’s wildfire season
could be grim, despite a new push by state officials to keep
flames at bay. For all of its lush redwood forests and
snow-capped peaks, most of the Golden State is semi-arid… And
a shifting climate has been delivering ever hotter summer
According to a map released March 14 by the U.S. Drought
Monitor, the state is exhibiting no areas suffering from
prolonged drought… If that doesn’t wet your whistle, the
snowpack is about 140 percent of average for this time of year,
says the state Department of Water Resources. So, how do you
convince people they still need to conserve and not water
their lawns every day?
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most,
it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of
the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir.
But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images
associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we
really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to
shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal
An interview with Don Hankins, professor of geography and
planning at Chico State and a Plains Miwok traditional cultural
practitioner. He has spent his academic career working on water
and fire issues in California, with a focus on applied
traditional Indigenous stewardship.
Field D-17 on the Bowles Farming Company’s ranch in
California’s Central Valley is dry and unplanted when I visit
it with Emery Silberman in the spring. … Mounted there, he
shows me, is a small piece of equipment from a company called
WaterBit that’s designed to provide more granular control of
conditions in the field … to save on valuable resources like
water and fertilizer.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed
all departments to stop using a popular weed killer until more
is known about its potential health and environmental effects.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended the moratorium on
glyphosate — a main ingredient in the herbicide brand Roundup.
The current wet winter, on the other hand, is like getting a
new position with a great salary but little job security. The
money’s nice, but after seven years of unemployment, there’s a
backlog of debts to pay. And the cash could stop coming at any
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150
million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion
— the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as
much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem
section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about
$400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal
adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced
the most subsidence.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea
this week to promise that this time, things will be different
and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water
body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin
Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the
lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime
experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to
family members who still live in the area, as well as the
communities around the lake.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet
shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting
that the Trump administration is now pushing federal
legislation that would eliminate public health and
environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part
of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new
environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an
emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers
with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater
problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing
Three times now, Escondido has proposed building a large
recycled water treatment plant on lots along Washington Avenue,
first near its eastern terminus, the second time in the middle
of the city, and now near the western end of the street. …
The water plant is needed to divert used water from being
dumped into the ocean and to bring less expensive,
higher-quality recycled water to avocado farmers in the eastern
and northern parts of the city.
Over 147 million trees in California forests have died over the
last eight years. Most of these forests are near the southern
Sierra Nevada, which shows an increasing threat to iconic
California landmarks like the Sequoia and Yosemite national
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting
state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of
farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The
bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water
supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair
subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources,
the Public Policy Institute of California and the Water
Education Foundation will join regional water managers and
federal agency representatives at the daylong event, “Moving
Forward Together: From Planning to Action Across the Watershed“
at Cal State Fullerton.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver
more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those
changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this
interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer
about why, and what’s at stake.
Napa Valley’s annual groundwater checkup concluded that water
levels in a majority of monitoring wells were stable in spring
2018, despite a drop in overall groundwater storage following a
subpar rainy season.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project
allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019
water year. The California Department of Water Resources
announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70
percent for most state water contractors. The department
transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern
County Water Agency.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north
shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about
what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about
the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here.
The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop
at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the
public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to
the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement
to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to
Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal.
The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs
that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay
the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s
The often shown symbol of the California drought, Santa Barbara
County, with nearly dry water reservoirs and dead lawns for an
estimated eight years, is now declaring itself out of the
emergency crisis. The decision was made Tuesday morning by the
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
According to new research, the San Joaquin Valley aquifer in
the Central Valley shrank permanently by up to 3 percent due to
excess pumping during the sustained dry spell. Combined with
the loss from the 2007 to 2009 drought, the aquifer may have
lost up to 5 percent of its storage capacity during the first
two decades of the 21st Century, according to … a new study
published in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid
Beginning in the 19th century, technological developments were
opening our access to groundwater as advancements in drilling
for extracting petroleum were spun off and developed for the
water well industry. Still, even into the 1940s, most pumping
reached only shallow depths of less than 30 feet, removing
water at modest rates. That changed radically after World War
II … Today, a little more than a half-century later, the
world gets about 35 percent of its fresh water this way, making
it a sizable—and quite new—development in world history.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1
Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan,
which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years
because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation
District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern
corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal
government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the
Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
While high drama plays out in nations across the planet,
California has also been having a bit of drama — torrential
rains turning communities into isolated islands up north,
mudslides and flooding down south. So, it seems to make sense
that state officials have officially declared the latest
drought to be over, finished, soaked.
Candice Meneghin serves on the board of the Fillmore and Piru
Basins (FPB) Groundwater Sustainability Agency as an
environmental representative for the Santa Clara River
Environmental Groundwater Committee. … She spoke to Clean
Water Action’s communications manager about her work
representing environmental interests in the Groundwater
Sustainability Plan (GSP) process.
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could
affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join
forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into
Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
Water is coming out from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River.
The dam is at about 82 percent of capacity, and the warm
weather is melting the mountain snow. Michael Jackson, area
director for the Bureau of Reclamation, says the flow out of
the dam is being increased. Flood releases don’t usually start
until April, so the extra water is good news for valley
growers, with extra irrigation water available.
Political leaders responsible for the Paso Robles Groundwater
Basin are launching discussions about which
multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the
aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them. In the
future, the basin, which serves much of Paso Robles wine
country, could start receiving water from the State Water
Project, Lake Nacimiento, and/or the Salinas Dam.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River.
Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river
to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year,
according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an
old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of
protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key
part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot
concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams
California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit
their natural surroundings and communities.
The view from my window here in central California is of a
front lawn almost as dried out as the fairways at Carnoustie,
Scotland. Like many of my neighbours I’m concerned about
climate change and with it the exorbitant price of water. After
my monthly bill tripled, I decided it was time for a new
strategy. I shut down the sprinkler system and tested a new
aesthetic. To my delight, I discovered that brown is beautiful.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of
migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific
Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They
are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed
and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in
Nature’s Scientific Reports.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more
water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a
unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and
ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to
For the first time in eight years, California is drought-free.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, which uses data
from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of
the most northern and southern counties are still “abnormally
dry,” but the state has no drought conditions to show. Could
the drought’s end mark the return of practices such as
excessive lawn-watering? Not necessarily.
Full and rising reservoirs from this winter’s storms have the
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors poised to terminate
the drought-caused emergency declaration, although South Coast
purveyors are worried a water shortage will persist for an
extended time, according to a county staff report.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation
for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural
water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55
percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and
farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the
healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s
announcement is a disappointment.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency
plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is
pushing legislation that would exempt its work from
environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what
has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought
negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health
and ecological disaster.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her
energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado
River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the
Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a
different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take
the helm of the United States section of the International
Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that
oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start
serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping
millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when
a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
A sprawling stretch of salt ponds on the western edge of San
Francisco Bay, once eyed for the creation of a virtual
mini-city, is back at the center of debate over regional
development after the Trump administration this month exempted
the site from the Clean Water Act.
Thanks to a wet winter across the state, the entirety of
California is free of drought for the first time since 2011,
according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Thursday update. Don’t
confuse that with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2017
announcement that the statewide drought had officially ended.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states
… ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River
Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial
Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s
simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of
basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can
be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work
together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food
bill and for years it has given support to farming communities.
It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working
North County political leaders responsible for the health of
the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions
about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help
solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for
Sacramento law makers have shown little interest in helping the
Valley solve its water problems yet the only path forward is to
get them to take interest in the area that grows most of the
state, and the nation’s food. A panel discussion last Wednesday
at the Citrus Showcase, an industry conference for growers
hosted by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM),
discussed the looming deadline for local governments to comply
with the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA).
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in
better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting
ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers.
What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to
understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital
resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our
Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced
a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get
$20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado
River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate
Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook
argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the
drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a
massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the
eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan
from proceeding, and its board president called the latest
development a violation of California environmental law.
But Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
others in a working group are finalizing new documents to
remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River
basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over
35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January —
coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the
project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely
following what happens next.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an
important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The
remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a
management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is
two years overdue and still months away from completion. The
Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating
faster than it’s being replaced…
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative
oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared
its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month
after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project
proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public
Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath
Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many
Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and
commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where
84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River
and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in
excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County
supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the
effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community
Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
Local officials have received an OK to divert more water into
Lake Casitas, years after prolonged drought conditions shrunk
the reservoir to historic lows. But the new measures were in
effect just a matter of days and just for one storm.
California’s Central Valley is already the bread basket for the
nation. But now a new Oakdale company — in partnership with the
University of California, Davis — wants to help make it the
hemp capital of the country. The California Hemp Corporation
was formed by Oakdale residents Jeff McPhee and Kent Kushar
last year… “We want to grow hemp up and down the San Joaquin
Valley, just like every other one of our crops,” McPhee said.
“This crop will change California.”
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana
face similar water challenges. California is better known for
having too little water and Louisiana too much – both
challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting
wet winter weather led both states last week to release
significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to
prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to
build climate-resilient communities across the country.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark
Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder
more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead
from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed
on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the
multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board
took the step over the objections of the Imperial
Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest
allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to
California this year, you might not expect drought preparations
to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need
to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a
blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for
the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in
California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and
I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked
by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour
the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get
airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already
suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
This particular California winter has unfolded in good news/bad
news fashion. Courtesy of a string of recurring atmospheric
rivers, potent storms have caused flooding, power outages and
canceled flights. But they have also lifted all but a thin
slice of the state near the Oregon border completely out of
The Trump administration released its 2020 budget request on
Monday, proposing major cuts to federal government spending.
While the cuts are unlikely to become reality — Congress has
rejected many of Trump’s previous requests — the budget is an
important signal of the administration’s priorities and
suggests a major funding fight in October.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to
shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board
voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the
drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water
than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation
District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal
government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem
to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin
Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate
water game, the words are inextricably linked.
A process is underway that’s extremely important, and likely to
be way over most of our heads. The Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act was passed in 2014, which set deadlines for
local agencies to come up with plans to manage the water
beneath them “… without causing undesirable results.”
San Luis Obispo County supervisors are exploring what it’d take
to bolster the county’s authority in issuing groundwater well
permits. Following a report about groundwater conditions in the
Adelaida region of the North County on Feb. 26, the Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to have its staff look at how it
could increase the level of review and discretion the county
has over approving or denying well applications.
Much of the United States could be gripped by significant water
shortages in just five decades’ time, according to predictions
made in a new study. … In the researchers’ projections, water
supply is likely to be under threat in watersheds in the
central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central
Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South
(especially Florida) and the Midwest.
The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of
groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation
wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to
pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves
available to cope with future droughts. Groundwater overdraft
has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional
infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if
dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any
water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson,
Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the
doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water
managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought
Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce
water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a
reliable water supply.
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan
for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning
up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada
and five other Western states sent a letter to California on
Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their
concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the
so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
Political disputes, interstate suspicion and funding concerns
have long been a fact of life when it comes to the Colorado
River. Those same factors now are delaying a final agreement on
how to handle drought in the river basin. But, at least none of
the states involved has called out its navy. Arizona did that
85 years ago to prevent completion of Parker Dam, the concrete
structure on the Colorado River that backs up Lake Havasu on
the border between California and Arizona.
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least
4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from
Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something
unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra
Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point
that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about
1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials
would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as
would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using
the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern
Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far
from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of
variables, including the community’s rates of growth and
conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
(Last in the paper’s Water
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in
2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more
water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in
a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds
of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural
economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his
promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water
supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity
of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera
County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop
Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in
Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and
the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include
farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the
state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which
requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground
Environmentalists and rural water users expressed broad support
last week for a bill that would create small water reserves in
aquifers across Nevada. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by
Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Nev., aims to
prevent regulators from issuing more rights to water than there
is water available, an issue already playing out in more than
100 groundwater basins.
As droughts intensify and the snowpacks diminish, California
will need creative solutions to provide enhanced water supplies
for urban use and agriculture. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratories are working on addressing these problems,
focusing on groundwater recharge, low-cost desalination, and
energy efficient purification.
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new
forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s
largest community continue to rely on a single source of water
to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the
most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the
river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more
than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in
Heavy rains this winter will help replenish groundwater
aquifers and benefit projects that use excess surface water to
recharge groundwater basins. At the California Department of
Water Resources, planners focus on a voluntary strategy known
as Flood-MAR, which stands for “managed aquifer recharge.” The
strategy combines floodwater operations and groundwater
management in an effort to benefit working landscapes, and
could also aid local groundwater agencies as they implement the
state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Former Interior Secretary and Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt
will be the distinguished speaker at the 2019 Anne J. Schneider
Memorial Lecture on April 3 at the Crocker Art Museum in
downtown Sacramento. Babbitt’s talk is titled “Parting the
Waters — Will It Take a Miracle?”
People interested in state-mandated plans to manage local
groundwater can get an update Thursday evening in Chico. …
The meeting 6-8 p.m Thursday at the Masonic Family Center, 1110
W. East Ave., is focused on a newly approved planning area that
includes Chico and Durham, and stretches north and west to the
Tehama County line and the Sacramento River, and south and east
to Butte Valley and the northern border of the Western Canal
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management
can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct
or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The
stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the
North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action
about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community
involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater
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.
The big fear in the world of water management is that this big
gulp of wet weather will lead some Californians to think that
the drought is dead. … In a few weeks, the state’s Department
of Water Resources will be sending out its new water-saving
messages, and Niki Woodard, who is No. 2 in the department’s
public affairs office, sizes up how her department can navigate
around that waterlogged state of mind.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s
to come. Scientists predict that California’s total
precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but
it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as
rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more
very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the
need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure.
Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in
Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin
recommended that the county Board of Supervisors terminate its
proclamation of a local emergency due to drought conditions,
which has been renewed every 60 days since January 2014. South
Coast water agencies don’t like the messaging of ending the
drought emergency, and said they have ongoing drought impacts,
including water shortages, and will need customers to keep