An aquifer is a geologic formation that stores, transmits, and
yields significant quantities of water to wells or springs.
Aquifers come in two types. Some are formed in the space between
porous materials such as sand, gravel, silt or clay and are known
as alluvial aquifers or unconfined aquifers. However, in many
places in California, there are aquifers beneath a rock layer
that does not allow water to permeate in measurable amounts.
These are known as confined aquifers.
Confined aquifers under pressure are known as artesian aquifers.
This pressure can push water to the surface, which when drilled
are called artesian wells.
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
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
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…
A nearly four-year investigation into how a chemical known to
cause cancer showed up in more than a dozen rural wells by the
San Luis Obispo County Airport has finally concluded with an
alleged culprit. Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control
Board investigators say that Noll Inc., a machine shop on
Thread Lane, is responsible for the trichloroethylene (TCE)
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.
California must defend our scarce and sacred resources … The
legislation, authored by Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside,
authorizes state agencies to conduct independent review of the
Cadiz project, restoring safeguards eliminated at the federal
level and ensuring any pumping from underneath Mojave Trails
and protected desert lands is sustainable.
Like everyone else in Santa Clara Valley who uses wells,
farmers will see their groundwater production charges go up 6.8
percent this year. But unlike the others, they’ll continue to
receive substantial subsidies. In approving the increased
charges for well users, the Santa Clara Valley Water District
board left intact for at least two years the current structure
that allows farmers to pay only 6 percent of the amount
residents and businesses pay.
A brackish water study conducted by consulting firm Aqualogic
has predicted three potential areas that can be tapped for
brackish water extraction in the Indian Wells Valley. … The
brackish water project has the potential to help expand local
supplies if the water is properly treated and brine removed.
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.
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 U.S. Geological Survey studied the land and the water and,
in 2002 … concluded that the proposed pumping would far
exceed the rate of natural refill. The National Park Service
submitted comments in 2012 stating that Cadiz’s estimates are
“3 to 16 times too high.” The Geological Survey, in 2017,
reported that there was no information to lead it to change its
2002 conclusions. … And that ought to have been the end of
The 1,700-acre off-the-grid health retreat, where clothing is
optional in the pools, went up for sale quietly last year for
$10 million. Now, the property near Williams (Colusa County) is
officially listed with Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
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?
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
The water that irrigates Santa Clara Valley’s last farms comes
dirt cheap for growers who pump it out of the ground. They pay
just a fraction — 6 percent — of the amount residents and
businesses in the valley must pony up for their well water. The
rest of the cost for farmers’ water is subsidized, mostly from
revenue the Santa Clara Valley Water District receives through
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.
According to an engineering investigation released by the San
Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District on March 7, the
Bunker Hill Basin, which stores the groundwater used by the San
Bernardino Valley, remains 570,718 acre-feet below full water
storage following the 2017-18 water year. … The water year
brought a reported 56 percent of average annual precipitation
and 161,708 acre-feet of groundwater production.
A more than five-year moratorium on leasing land in California
for oil and gas development will be coming to an end with a May
9 Interior Department plan to open up about 725,000 acres
across the state’s Central Coast and the Bay Area for drilling.
The decision comes just two weeks after the Trump
administration released its plan to reopen more than 1 million
acres of public land and federal mineral estate in eight
counties in Central California to fracking.
Oil companies may have more space to build injection wells in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field if the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) approves a potential recommendation from various
state agencies. … If the EPA approves expanding the exempted
area, class 2 injection wells could be built over almost the
entire oil field boundary, according to maps prepared by DOGGR.
These wells are used to dispose of fluids associated with oil
and gas production.
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.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
Newsom … said he would announce his administration’s detailed
strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor
was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say
if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic
fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of
high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California issued a decision … finding that the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians lacked standing to seek
adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved
groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.
A multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against Calistoga over
water rights has been dismissed on appeal. The California Court
of Appeal on April 29 rejected Debbie R. O’Gorman’s $10 million
lawsuit against the city,
U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials will visit San
Luis Obispo later this month to take public comment on a
pending federal plan to grow oil and gas production on public
lands in Central California.
The California Department of Water Resources has announced
draft basin prioritization for 57 groundwater basins recently
affected by basin boundary changes under the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. For more than 75 percent
of these basins, the results are a confirmation of
prioritizations established in 2015.
Groundwater levels throughout most of the Coachella Valley have
increased significantly over the past decade, according to an
annual analysis released today by the local water district. …
The report documents “significant increases” in groundwater
levels in the range of 2-50 feet in the past decade in
most of the Indio Subbasin, located under the cities of
Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert,
Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella…
As the Inland area dries out from this winter’s soaking,
residents might be tempted to crank up their lawn sprinklers,
and wash the dust off their driveways, but not so fast, water
officials say. All that rain has done little to erase the
deficits in local groundwater basins which are at historic lows
thanks to two decades of drought.
A 174-page environmental report released by the U.S. Interior
Department will expedite new extraction on roughly 1 million
acres of Central and Southern California, primarily in the
historical oil fields around Bakersfield and the deep petroleum
deposits near Santa Barbara but potentially in the Sierra
Nevada as well.
As a full Tuolumne River flowed behind them, a diverse set of
government leaders and water stakeholders gathered alongside
Congressman Josh Harder Wednesday afternoon in Modesto to unite
under one important cause: protecting water in the Central
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
ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s
Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above
them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know
where this type of remedy will be most effective.
A report from a citizen advisory committee in Desert Hot
Springs is asking lawmakers in Sacramento to “re-work” a state
law, which went into effect in 2015, that allowed the Desert
Water Agency in Palm Springs to take over management authority
of the groundwater distributed by the Mission Springs Water
District, to people living in Desert Hot Springs and
surrounding areas. John Soulliere, MSWD’s Public Affairs
Officer, says his district has been “hijacked”…
A federal judge has dismissed portions of a yearslong lawsuit
brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against
the Coachella Valley’s local water districts, ruling against
the tribe’s attempt to quantify its rights to groundwater. The
judge ruled Friday that the tribe’s access to water has not
been sufficiently harmed to adjudicate the matter.
Drought isn’t the only danger to our water supply, as we have
discovered in the last few weeks. Deep under the ground, our
life-saving aquifers have been filling up from the rain. But on
the Oxnard Plain, oil drilling threatens what we’re working so
hard to protect.
Regulatory efforts to protect groundwater quality in western
Kern are forcing two of the county’s largest oil producers to
spend many millions of dollars over the next several years
moving or reworking dozens of disposal wells and other critical
Ten-acre Albion Riverside Park can get a lot done. The green
infrastructure built into the park can clean the stormwater
that goes through it, capture pollutants and release it into
groundwater basins. The price tag on the park is about $40
million. The new park sits on the old Downey Recreational
Center and the Swiss Dairy site, bringing new athletic fields
and more to the community.
For the first time in more than 380 weeks, the state has not
had a square foot in drought territory… But there’s a hidden
drought affecting local groundwater basins, which have not
recovered fully from the 2011-16 drought. So Rialto Mayor
Deborah Robertson is calling on residents and businesses to
take a water conservation pledge, despite mountain peaks still
topped with snow on the horizon.
While you may have heard about the Trump administration’s
attempts to narrow the scope of Waters of the United States
(WOTUS), California is expanding its regulations, including
broadening the definition of wetlands subject to permitting
requirements. … Projects impacting California surface waters
and wetlands that are outside federal jurisdiction will now
need state authorization under new and more expansive
The last thing California needs is another tax. But that’s what
Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed – a regressive water tax that
will hit financially challenged Californians hardest. … Yet
California’s taxpayers have been working so hard they have
showered the state with a $22 billion surplus. Spending a
fraction of that would take care of the clean water problem.
In an effort to end Thousand Oaks’ near total reliance on
imported water, public works staff is asking the City Council
to commit $16.6 million over the next two years to build a
groundwater treatment plant at the city’s publicly owned golf
course. The Los Robles Greens Golf Course Groundwater
Utilization Project—which will be offset with an estimated $6
million in State Water Project (Prop. 1) grants—is the single
most expensive item on the city’s proposed $97-million 2019-21
capital improvement program budget…
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
EPA won’t regulate any pollution to surface waters that passes
through groundwater. … If pollution travels through
groundwater, EPA says, it “breaks the causal chain” between a
source of pollution and surface waters. That could affect
regulation of pollution from a variety of sources, including
seepage from coal ash and manure management ponds, sewage
collection systems, septic system discharges, and accidental
spills and releases.
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.
U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said on Monday she
would ban all fossil fuel extraction on federal land and in
coastal waters, setting herself apart from a crowded field of
Democratic hopefuls who have made climate change a central
campaign issue but have yet to outline specific policies.
The main target of the order is Section 401 of the Clean Water
Act, which grants states the power to certify that construction
projects will not harm water quality. … The order directs the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states and
tribes about whether Section 401 guidance should be modified.
Some state organizations have expressed firm opposition to the
administration’s attempt to supersede state permitting
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.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
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.
Should the governor want to do away with fracking, he could
issue an emergency order placing a moratorium on it. But the
public hasn’t heard from Newsom on the issue as he has laid out
his initial priorities, and his staff did not answer questions
from CALmatters about his current leanings.
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.
“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.
The State Water Board was given the power to force a larger,
better run utility to absorb a smaller neighbor that
consistently fails to deliver clean water. They would like
South Kern to connect to Bakersfield’s system, which serves
high-quality water to 144,000 people. … The three sides have
been in negotiations for two and a half years, a struggle
between one of the largest cities in California’s Central
Valley, state officials, and two tiny water suppliers that is
the first significant test of the four-year-old statute.
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
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
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill
following pressure from conservationists, American Indian
tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from
remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the
bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate
to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages
their concerns about the pipeline.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our predecessors settled in a valley bordered by mountains that
increase the rainfall and help store water as melted snow
underground. They also experienced drought and, in response,
they thoughtfully set aside thousands of acres of land needed
to capture and replenish the primary source of the water they
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.
City officials approved a plan for a new groundwater
sustainability project, hoping it will be a solution to
increase the supply of groundwater and find a place for excess
effluent water coming to the Tehachapi Waste Water Treatment
Plant. The benefits will not appear for decades, when the
project is complete.
Construction starts this month on a $1.5 million test well to
show whether desalinated groundwater could supplement the
drinking water supply for 86,000 customers of the Olivenhain
Municipal Water District. The district serves parts of
Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach and
neighboring communities, and relies almost entirely on water
imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
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
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
The water tax will require a two-thirds vote in each house.
Democrats have that and a little to spare. Still, the governor
will need to use all his power of cajolery and coercion to win
passage of any tax increase.
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.
A new rule goes into effect today that will help protect
California’s groundwater. … The new standards for oilfield
injection are some of the strongest in the nation. They require
stricter permitting standards, regular mechanical integrity
testing and routine pressure monitoring – all necessary
ingredients for safeguarding groundwater.
Under a veil of trying to protect the vast California desert,
SB307 focuses squarely on the Cadiz Water Project aiming to
trap it in another state-run permitting process promoted by
special interests who have challenged the Cadiz Project for
more than a decade.
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.
Hermosa Beach City Council has scrapped a large stormwater
infiltration project slated for the southern end of city’s
greenbelt, after more than a year of opposition from residents.
City officials will look for a new home for the project, meant
to ultimately reduce bacteria in the Santa Monica Bay, but
could potentially forfeit nearly $3.1 million in grant funding
from the State Water Resources Board.
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
Armed with a recent court ruling that climate change must be
considered in decisions to open federal land to oil and gas
drilling, conservationists shot the opening volley Thursday in
what promises to be a protracted legal battle over the future
of fracking and oil drilling in Northern California.
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.
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.
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
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
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is one step closer
to a decision on whether to approve ERG’s oil drilling and
production plan. It would include developing and operating more
than 200 new oil production wells in the Cat Canyon area. At
recent planning commission meetings, dozens of people have
shown up both in support and opposition to the project.
Supporters say it will increase jobs in the area, while
opponents express concern for the environment.
Brown and former first lady Anne Gust Brown, in their first
public appearance since he left office in January, spoke to
about 100 attendees about the daunting challenges they face
living on a self-sustaining farm: installing solar panels for
power, collecting water from a well, and tending to an olive
Despite the abundant water year we’ve had, though, over the
long term climate change is transforming our snowpack and will
make no-snow snow surveys more common in the future. Not only
is climate change making good snow years like this one less
likely, it’s also changing what good snow years mean for our
water resources. And that’s going to mean a very different
April snow survey in the future.
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.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.
Here, the city of Santa Cruz’s water department is in its third
round of testing a plan to pump water underground, into the
Purisima Aquifer to rest the area’s wells and hopefully provide
a new reservoir of water storage—one that could supplement Loch
Lomond, the city’s current reservoir up in the Santa Cruz
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.
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
The Millview County Water District will receive a $3 million
loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
program to help secure access to its wells. According to the
USDA, the money will be used to help the water district
“purchase property to gain access to its water source.
Currently, Millview does not own the water rights to the four
well sites, making it difficult to service the wells if there
are any issues with them, such as contamination.”
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
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.
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 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.
He announced Wednesday his plans to charge water customers an
extra amount ranging from 95 cents to $10 a month — money that,
combined with fees on animal farmers, dairies and fertilizer
sellers, he projects would raise $140 million a year that could
be put toward testing wells, aiding public water systems and
treating contaminated water. The amount paid would depend on
the size of one’s water meter.
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
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.
“Right now our basin, fortunately, is at 98 percent full,” said
Carol Mahoney, Manager of Integrated Water Services for Zone 7,
the water supply and flood control agency that serves Livermore
and the Amador Valley. “We actually manage the groundwater
basin in such a way that we’re always replenishing the water
that we’re taking out and we’ve been doing that for 40 years.”
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.
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.
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to charge California water customers up
to $10 per month to help clean up contaminated water in
low-income and rural areas, but he will face resistance from
some legislative Democrats hesitant to impose new taxes. …
Newsom wants to combine it with fees on animal farmers, dairies
and fertilizer sellers to raise about $140 million per year.
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
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler
says that unsafe drinking water — not climate change — poses
the greatest and most immediate global threat to the
environment. In his first network interview since his
confirmation last month, Wheeler told CBS News chief Washington
correspondent Major Garrett that while the administration is
addressing climate change, thousands are dying everyday from
unclean drinking water.
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
We’re having one of the best rainfall seasons in years, with
drought conditions easing for much of the state. But one of the
nation’s leading oceanographers says there’s much more involved
before the impacts of the drought are completely gone, and that
it could take years to replenish groundwater supplies.
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.
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.
Environmental groups and local residents are sounding alarms
that proposed drilling projects would triple onshore oil
production in Santa Barbara County — to which the oil industry
says, “What’s wrong with that?”
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
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.
Manteca is preparing to spend $14.3 million to make sure ground
water from five wells meet higher standards implemented by the
state of California when it comes to acceptable levels of
1,2,3-Trichloroprane — a Shell Oil and Dow Chemical product
used in certain soil fumigants area farmers used between 1950
and 1980 — that is found in drinking water.
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the
background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges
in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for
growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water
District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow
packs and filling reservoirs.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
A project offering to triple Santa Barbara County’s oil
production continues stirring debate. Environmentalists believe
a proposal to add dozens of oil wells in Cat Canyon could
trigger the next oil spill and contaminate the Santa Maria
Groundwater Basin, while supporters insist it would boost the
local economy by adding jobs and tax revenue.
A proposal to add 187 new steam-injected oil wells and a new
natural gas pipeline in West Cat Canyon will be considered by
the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission when it meets
Wednesday in Santa Maria. Project opponents have said they
intend to stage a demonstration outside and speak against the
project that would have significant impacts on biological,
surface water and groundwater resources and would increase
noise, according to the environmental impact report.
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.
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.”
Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and a disappearing
snowpack were part of a scary story told to SCV Water Agency
officials recently as they learned the effects of climate
change over the next 100 years. … The latest climate
assessment was intended to advance “actionable science” that
would serve the growing needs of state and local-level
decision-makers from a variety of sectors.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
In this edition of In Depth we take on two water topics. First,
there’s growing concern that a lot of the rainwater we’ve been
getting is just going down the drain and out to sea. We plumb
the depths of California’s water system to find out where it’s
coming up short and what can be done to fix it. Then, new
research suggests that the historical link between wet winters
and less severe fire seasons has broken down. We discuss why
even in the rainiest of years, we still can’t count out
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
Months of record rain and snowfall has officially lifted the
Central Valley — and much of the state — out of official
drought conditions. Just 1 percent of California is
experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S.
Drought Monitor. That’s a far cry from 2014 when 54 percent of
the state was in severe drought. With the drought declared dead
in California, will Tulare County cities begin to ease
restrictions on residential watering?
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
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
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama
Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central
Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife.
Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and
featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing
wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the
land has been taken over by large commercial farms and
vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that
have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely
investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the
University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40
More than 300 communities across the state and one out of every
four schools in the Central Valley lack access to safe drinking
water, according to the state Water Board. … Responding to
the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for a new water tax.
If the proposal passes, the levy will generate $110 million in
annual revenue. But some Californians – many working directly
with the state’s water authorities – oppose the plan. They say
there are better ways to raise the money needed than taxing tap
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together Thursday 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
water across the Golden State.
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.
The Crossroads Open Space soccer field in Santa Maria is filled
with water thanks to the most recent storm. Located on S.
College Dr., the field also serves as a basin to collect storm
runoff. The city says the water will soak into the ground,
recharging the groundwater basin.
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. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They
aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled
areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals
benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds
creeks and streams. Humans tap into aquifers through wells used
for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses.
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
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.
Residents of Allensworth, a historic town established by a
former slave, have struggled with clean water access for
decades. … The community’s water system comes from two
blended wells, serving 521 residents with 156 connections. A
chlorination process removes most harmful bacteria, but the
water still tests high for arsenic, a known carcinogen that
damages the kidneys.
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
One of the key challenges facing newly formed local government
agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish
and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability. To help
local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West
examines how four special districts in California have
used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.
These case studies provide valuable insights on the development
and implementation of performance metrics and will be important
in guiding local agencies.
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
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.
Dr. Ellen Bruno is an Assistant Cooperative Extension
Specialist in quantitative policy analysis at UC Berkeley. Her
research evaluates the effectiveness of different policy
instruments for improving the management of our increasingly
scarce water resources.
If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers
and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011
to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage.
In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a
project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies:
the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain.
About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single
groundwater well for water. The whole tribe now wants access to
the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water,
Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water.
Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a
bill that could make it happen.
There is water here in the Mojave Desert. A lot of it. Whether
to tap it on a commercial scale or leave it alone is a
decades-old question the Trump administration has revived and
the California legislature is visiting anew. … Soon after the
2016 election, the Trump transition team included Cadiz as
No. 15 on its priority list of “emergency and national
security” projects. Less than a year later, the administration
exempted the project from a federal review that the Obama
administration required because of the federal land involved in
the pipeline construction.
The winter wonderland conditions are in stark contrast to what
they were a year ago, when the outlook for California’s
reservoirs looked bleak. Sierra snowpack was at 19 percent of
historical levels and many parts of the state were experiencing
drought conditions. “Right now we’re not concerned about
drought at all,” Pete Fickenscher, a senior hydrologist at
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather
Oceanside announced it will receive a $2.6 million federal
grant to build two more of the wells that the city has used for
more than 20 years to supply a portion of its drinking water.
The wells pump brackish water from what’s called the Mission
Basin, an area near the airport, the old swap meet property and
the San Luis Rey River. The city filters the water using the
same reverse osmosis process used on a much larger scale in
Carlsbad to desalinate seawater.
Arizona state water regulators have confirmed that here may not
be enough water underground for dozens of planned developments
in Pinal County, new subdivisions that, if built, would bring
more than 139,000 homes. That finding is based on data the
Arizona Department of Water Resources has compiled that shows a
long-term groundwater shortage in the area is possible. The
data … raises red flags about growthand the water supply in
one of the fastest growing parts of the state.
Plans to give Nevada’s top water official more flexibility to
wade into water rights disputes got a rough reception in the
state Legislature. Farmers, conservationists and American
Indians from Nevada and Utah turned out in opposition to the
proposals in two bills. No one spoke in support of measures
critics say would direct more water toward urban and suburban
development at the expense of farming, ranching and the
environment in rural valleys.
For years, firefighters and airfield crews trained to ward off
flames by spraying thousands of gallons of foam fire
suppressants, which eventually seeped into groundwater and
could threaten to contaminate the Columbia River and a well
field that supplies drinking water to the city of Portland.
Recent testing uncovered high levels of an unregulated class of
harmful chemicals at two different sites in Northeast
Betting on water is a risky endeavor. Experts on water in
Arizona say that while it’s easy to start speculating on water,
cashing out is not. Would-be profiteers have to buy water or
land with rights to it. They have to work within the thicket of
laws and regulations governing water in Arizona and contend
with the fraught politics of Western water. The ability to
store water underground has also given rise to a market-like
system in Arizona in which people talk about diverse portfolios
and asset acquisitions.
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
Mono County hasn’t won the war, but it did win the first battle
in its lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and
Power’s decision to withdraw water allotments to its Long
Valley area grazing leases. Last Friday, the Alameda County
civil court indicated LADWP’s request to dismiss the suit was
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region
and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in
a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of
the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the
region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.
Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water
supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s
because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints
on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need
in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local
Since 2006, California has been releasing periodic reports on
how the state should adapt to the potential impacts of climate
change. The most recent report is unique in that it also looks
at key climate risks from a regional perspective. Our news
director Alice Daniel recently spoke with Joshua Viers, a
watershed scientist at UC Merced and one of the authors of the
San Joaquin Valley assessment.
Now stripped of its once vast wetlands and nearly sucked dry
from the overpumping of groundwater during the West’s
increasingly common droughts, the fertile valley is in need of
a reboot: Its aquifers have shrunk and the remaining water is
often contaminated with nitrate and salts. Citing a new water
law that will have major effects on water suppliers and
farmers, experts are calling for an “all hands on deck”
approach to fixing the valley’s water woes.
The cheering is for a governor who has brought attention to a
problem that’s almost unfathomable in wealthy urban regions. No
Californian in 2019 should have to endure third-world
drinking-water conditions. But there’s ample reason to give the
governor the raspberries, too. That’s because Newsom’s solution
comes right out of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “you
never want a serious crisis go to waste” playbook.
Last July, career EPA officials were set to unveil their plan
to complete a long-awaited health review of the toxic metal
hexavalent chromium, but more than half a year later, the plan
is still under wraps … The setback — revealed in emails
obtained by E&E News — was part of a broader slowdown of
chemical reviews ordered by EPA leadership, according to an
Dated Feb. 20, 2019, and addressed to the Indian Wells Valley
Ground Water Authority Board of Directors, the letter states
that it is intended as a formal communication that “Commander
Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW), in consultation with U.S. Navy
commands located within the Indian Wells Valley, deems
groundwater resources as the number one encroachment
concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions
enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.”
With stepped-up stormwater capture programs, the Pacific
Institute said in a 2014 study, Southern California and the Bay
Area could boost the state’s water supply by 420,000 acre-feet
annually. That’s enough water to meet the needs of
After concluding Greka Energy improperly stored hazardous waste
at its facility near Santa Maria, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the company to conduct
sampling to determine whether its operations resulted in
contaminated local soil and groundwater.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of
the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were
enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new
governor had their backs. But water policy in California is
never that easy.
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in
Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the
top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts
on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and
find out what the next generation of integrated water
management planning looks like.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Assemblywoman Laura
Friedman, D-Glendale last week introduced SB 307, which seeks
to ensure “that any future water transfers from groundwater
basins underlying desert lands do not adversely affect the
California desert’s natural or cultural resources,” according
to a bill fact sheet.
In December, the city began delivering recycled water through
its purple pipeline to the Tulare Irrigation District (TID)
following approval by the Department of Drinking Water (DDW).
Under an agreement signed in 2013, the city is obligated to
deliver 11,000 acre feet of recycled water to TID per year in
exchange for 5,500 acre feet of surface water used to recharge
the city’s groundwater. Since 2016, the city has received
enough surface water from TID to off set one year of
groundwater pumping for the entire city.
Although ending groundwater overdraft will bring long-term
benefits, it entails near-term costs. We find that only about a
quarter of the Valley’s groundwater deficit can be filled with
new supplies at prices farmers can afford. The rest must come
from managing demand. We estimate that ending the overdraft
will require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated
cropland out of production.
The city currently has six groundwater pumping stations that
were used during the drought. But the stations have the ability
to pump water back into the aquifer as well. The Folsom Dam
currently has three gates open to release enough water so it
has room to capture flood water. Roseville Utility officials
say it’s just the right time to do a larger scale test of its
water injection strategy.
If the Trump administration wanted to increase California’s
water supply by the most cost-effective means possible, it
would immediately drop its attempt to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5
feet. It would instead put $1.5 billion — the cost of the
proposed Shasta enlargement, in 2019 dollars — toward a
completely different approach to water supply: watershed and
As we all know, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have had
lots and lots and lots of rain this winter. So much rain, in
fact, that this week, Southern California Edison announced
they’re lifting mandatory conservation requirements for
residents and businesses on Catalina Island. … Water
rationing on Catalina Island began in 2014, when residents were
asked to adopt mandatory conservation efforts.
Southern California has been emerging from its most recent
drought cycle thanks to one of the wettest winters the
long-parched southern half of the Golden State has experienced
in years — 18 trillion gallons of rain have fallen in February
alone. … But don’t expect these storms to come to the
rescue when — not if — more intense droughts return to the
Under the fee structure, there are two types of water use:
agricultural and “all others.” Ag users will be assessed a
$4.79/acre fee and other users will be assessed $2.26 per
service connection. (Ag accounts for more than 90 percent of
the pumping from the basin.) The new fees are part of
California’s effort to regulate groundwater, which has
historically been treated as a “pump as you please” resource,
not subject to the same restrictions as surface water, like the
Carmel River that largely supplies the Monterey Peninsula.
A controversial oilfield wastewater disposal operation east of
Bakersfield has been shut down amid a years-long regulatory
crackdown and opposition by environmental activist
organizations. The Jan. 3 closure … puts an end to a
practice regional water quality regulators say threatened to
foul Bakersfield’s water supply through a slow process of