Thousands of gallons of partially treated wastewater was
released from California Men’s Colony into Chorro Creek
Thursday morning, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health
department said… Approximately 33,000 gallons of wastewater
were released from the prison north of San Luis Obispo…
California is on track to build a $1 billion dam and create a
giant reservoir at Pacheco Pass that will dwarf the existing
reservoir and dam near Highway 152 east of Gilroy, with
construction beginning in 2024. New evidence from an
independent nationwide study of dam safety suggests a new
incentive for the project—safety…
According to a 111-page analysis by a group of financial
consultants and bankers released on Nov. 6, not only is a
buyout of the behemoth Cal Am feasible, it would also cause the
cost of water to drop significantly if the water utility was
replaced by a public agency.
It will cost Monterey Peninsula ratepayers about $574.5
million, all in, to acquire California American Water’s local
water system, but that cost can be covered in rate savings
under public ownership with some leftover to lower local
customers’ water bills.
With roughly two and a half months remaining before a
state-mandated deadline, local agencies overseeing critically
overdrafted groundwater basins are working to finalize
sustainability plans as required by a 2014 state law.
Cal Am Water’s experts may have seriously underestimated the
potential impact the company’s proposed desalination plant
would have on the existing water supply nearby, the staff of
the California Coastal Commission concluded in a report
released this week as a supplement to its exhaustive report on
the overall project.
A species of frog made famous by a Mark Twain short story has
delayed construction on Morro Bay’s new sewer plant, even
though the protected amphibian hasn’t been spotted anywhere on
the site in years.
A newly released study finds a public takeover of California
American Water’s local system is feasible. Voters ordered this
study with the approval of a local ballot measure, Measure J,
one year ago. The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
released the study Wednesday.
The executive director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation
District was admiring the restoration of 8,000 feet of the
Butano Creek stream channel, the largest and most ambitious of
a series of projects the district is spearheading to stop
chronic flooding, bring back endangered fish and restore 28
acres of degraded wetlands at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
Now is the time to focus on Pure Water Monterey and scrap the
desal plans. If 10 years from now the recycled water project
doesn’t do the trick, and there’s still a need for a desal
plant, we can be optimistic that future advances in technology
will make any desal option more environmentally-friendly and
LandWatch, the nonprofit environmental watchdog, has in effect
said it will support the city of Seaside’s Campus Town if the
project will obtain its 442 acre-foot water supply without
increasing groundwater pumping. Campus Town … proposes
building up to 1,485 housing units on 85 acres of former Army
land next to CSU Monterey Bay …
The county of San Luis Obispo announced plans to map the Paso
Robles Groundwater Basin. … People who live in Creston,
Shandon, and Whitely Gardens may see a low flying helicopter
towing a large hexagonal frame when work begins.
The City of Paso Robles recently celebrated the completion of
one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in
the city’s history, new Tertiary Treatment Facilities at the
City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Drinking water wells in two areas of San Luis Obispo County are
contaminated with potentially toxic “forever chemicals,”
according to recently released results of state water testing.
The local testing found that 15 wells in San Luis Obispo and
Atascadero had levels high enough to require notification to
water system governing boards.
Activists and local government officials across Monterey County
have banded together to fight a proposed desalination plant
that could double the cost of water for some residents and
endanger an aquifer that serves low-income communities.
It all starts with the water quality of the creek that runs
alongside Mission Plaza. The Central Coast Regional Water
Quality Control Board has determined the water is so
contaminated with fecal matter, the city has to do something
about it to prevent people from getting sick with E. Coli and
Los Padres ForestWatch has sued the Department of Interior, the
Bureau of Reclamation, and the Santa Maria Valley Water
Conservation District, charging that Twitchell Reservoir dam
operations are inflicting serious ongoing damage to the
steelhead trout, a federally endangered species, that rely on
the Santa Maria River.
Touting a shift in local politics and a preferable alternative,
more than two dozen area elected officials signed on to a
letter to the Coastal Commission calling for denial of the
California American Water desalination project.
In an update to the water district board of directors this
week, officials from both agencies described how Soquel Creek
will expand its distribution of city water to a greater part of
its service area this winter.
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
Morro Bay pushed through discussions about 17 possible
locations before it finally pinned down the South Bay Boulevard
and Highway 1 site for its water reclamation facility. But the
location is unacceptable to a group of residents who are
petitioning the city’s decision to purchase the site of the
Growing berries can be a water intensive proposition, with the
added challenge that prime growing regions are often located in
areas of high water stress: Eighty percent of Driscoll’s
acreage globally can be found in California and Mexico, regions
which coincide with significant water risks to businesses and
the communities in which they operate.
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
Groundwater management plans have been released for public
review by both the Salinas Valley and City of Marina
groundwater sustainability agencies … with no agreement
between the two agencies in place and California American
Water’s desalination project at the center of a dispute.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has called a halt to
work on the California American Water desalination plant
project, at least temporarily, while a California Coastal
Commission appeal challenging the project’s source wells is
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
Typical discussions about homelessness tend to focus on its
most obvious problem, a lack of shelter. What often gets left
out, though, are the tangential issues that arise from the
crisis. On Oct. 3, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality
Control Board set out to examine one such issue: the ways in
which homelessness and water quality intersect.
The project is the first of its kind to tap agricultural
run-off among a variety of wastewater sources for conversion
into potable, drinking water that would represent about a third
of the Monterey Peninsula’s new drinking water supply.
As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have
been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. … We are
now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource,
unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater
resources for both the next decade and future generations.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
Over 30 years, Cal Am’s Desal would cost $1.2 billion while the
Pure Water Monterey expansion would be only $190 million. But
the cost in dollars is not the only comparison that should be
made. The environmental cost comparison is also dramatic.
Santa Maria and several other Central Coast Water Authority
members are planning to claim an additional 12,214 acre-feet of
state water that was set aside decades ago. The move — which
would be funded by issuing a $42 million bond — would increase
Santa Maria’s annual right to state water from 17,820 to over
27,000 acre-feet each year.
The proposed water rates include a fixed meter charge per month
and a variable consumption charge per unit of water. The city
says most single family residences will see about a $15
increase in January of 2020. … The last rate increase was
approved by the city council five years ago, but he says a lot
has changed since then.
The project, called the Upper Salinas River Basin Conjunctive
Use Project, captures existing wastewater flows generated
within the eastside of the District and will return these flows
back to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. The
wastewater undergoes treatment and is then discharged into the
river alluvium that contains the Salinas River underflow
providing subsequent conveyance to district wells…
The Monterey Peninsula has gotten so good at conserving water
that there is no need to build a costly desalination plant for
decades – even if the region experiences unprecedented growth –
according to a report from the top executive at the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis
Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million
people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a
picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in
beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Over the last five years, more than 250 groundwater
sustainability agencies have formed to manage groundwater at
the local level and dozens of groundwater sustainability plans
are in progress. … So what do we still need to make the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act a success?
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
Sea otters are a keystone species in their native coastal
environments. They prey on small herbivorous sea creatures like
sea urchins, which can lead to more kelp and healthier seagrass
in an area. But after being hunted for their fur to near
extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, otter populations
along the California coast are still struggling.
Reaction has been predictably mixed to a new report that
concludes the Monterey Peninsula may be able to get by with
recycled water instead of desalinated water for the next two
decades and perhaps beyond.
Commissioners will decide later about whether the long-planned,
reconfigured Cambria Pines Apartments project (32
affordable-housing apartments and a manager’s unit) should move
forward, given Cambria’s current water-supply issues and other
Through a $3 million contract with the California State Water
Resources Board, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will
conduct a statewide drinking water needs analysis to identify
risks and solutions for water systems and private wells
throughout the state.
Completion and operation of the much-anticipated Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project have been delayed again and it
is now expected to miss another key water delivery deadline set
for the end of this year.
Farmers clearly appreciate the yields that fertilizers
facilitate, but many acknowledge that these chemicals are
tainting the land and water. Enter the Central Coast Wetlands
Group and the Coastal Conservation and Research, Inc. and their
new bioreactor designed to process agricultural runoff, turning
algae-bloom-triggering waste into benign nitrogen gas.
In 2012, California became the first state in the country to
declare that “Every human being has the right to safe, clean,
affordable and accessible water” when the state legislature
inserted that statement into its state water code. Now, a new
UCLA study finds, the state may be making progress on turning
that goal into a reality.
More than $670 million in water projects … are options under
a draft plan for helping get the Salinas Valley Basin to
sustainability by 2040. A draft Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability plan includes 13 projects ranging
from Salinas River invasive species eradication … to a
seawater intrusion barrier using a series of wells to head off
saltwater contamination …
A massive marine heat wave that caused record warming of ocean
waters off the West Coast five years ago, sending salmon
numbers crashing and malnourished sea lions washing up on
beaches across California and other Pacific states, is back,
scientists said Thursday.
With every passing week, California American Water clears more
hurdles as it sets out to build a desalination plant near
Marina. The most recent victory for the proponents of the $329
million project came on Aug. 28 at the California Supreme
The Paso Robles groundwater basin is one of three basins in the
state chosen to participate in a Stanford University study that
will deploy state-of-the-art aerial electromagnetic technology
to better understand its characteristics.
Under the plan, Seaside’s Bayonet & Black Horse golf course
would stop pumping the 450 acre-feet of drinking water it draws
every year from the area’s underground basin. Instead, the
greens would get irrigated using recycled water produced by
Pure Water Monterey, the advanced sewage treatment facility in
Marina that is slated to open this fall. The water that stays
in the basin would be made available to developers who want to
build in Seaside.
Many wild southern sea otters in California are infected with
the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, yet the infection is
fatal for only a fraction of sea otters, which has long puzzled
the scientific community. A study from the University of
California, Davis, identifies the parasite’s specific strains
that are killing southern sea otters, tracing them back to a
bobcat and feral domestic cats from nearby watersheds.
On the modern farm, soil sensors, well monitors and paperwork
abound. The trick is trying to keep all that data organized. To
that end, a Monterey County winegrape grower, Scheid Family
Wines of Greenfield, came up with its own system, first called
VitWatch, to digitize information previously recorded on paper.
A lot of money will soon be flowing into California communities
with contaminated drinking water thanks to the new Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Today at its meeting, the State
Water Board will talk about how to implement that $1.4-billion
program. One community that could use the help is north of Moss
California’s water regulator voted Tuesday to spend $1.3
billion over the next 10 years to provide safe drinking water
to communities throughout California. The money allocated by
the State Water Resources Control Board comes from the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund, created last month when Gov.
Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 200.
Arguing that Monterey County officials improperly ignored new
groundwater impact information and a viable, even preferable
recycled water alternative, Marina Coast Water District has
sued the county and California American Water over the county’s
narrow approval of Cal Am’s desalination plant permit.
The more than 1 million Californians without access to safe,
affordable drinking water may soon see money flowing for water
districts to regionalize, consolidate, install treatment, or
take other actions to improve water quality.
While wildfires have gotten much of the attention in California
as consequences of climate change, it’s really rising sea
levels that will likely wreak the most damage. With more than
25 million people living near the coast, some $150 billion
worth of property is at risk.
Released on Friday, the 15-page plan authored by water district
general manager Dave Stoldt outlines a recommended approach to
meet the district’s formal policy of pursuing public control of
all “water production, storage and delivery assets and
infrastructure,” as established by voter-approved Measure J.
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
In the past, California city planners have been largely
reactive, reconstructing boardwalks lashed by winter storms.
Now, with the long-term outlook for the coast coming into
focus, the California Coastal Commission is urging communities
from San Diego to Humboldt counties to revise their local
coastal programs to take comprehensive adaptive approaches…
Other than talking of a “planned retreat” from the water and
bluffs, local government has a hard time getting its head
around this crisis. Like so many of our regional problems —
traffic, homelessness, housing — each government unit feels
somewhat powerless on its own. And with no accountability, the
real work is negligible. Meanwhile, California crumbles.
A new category will be considered to allocate the resource to
accessory dwelling units as well. … With recent changes at
the state level regarding more flexible regulations enabling
the construction of accessory dwelling units, those have become
a more viable option to increase homes in the city and add
A feasibility analysis of a potential public buyout of
California American Water’s local water system will be delayed
a few months. But the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District will go ahead with a required written public ownership
California American Water is seeking to raise its Monterey area
average customers’ bills by nearly 18 percent over a three-year
period from 2021-2023. … Under the proposal, the “average”
Cal Am customer would see their monthly rates increase from
about $89.40 to $105.42 over the three-year period.
The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision earlier
this year to exempt portions of the Arroyo Grande Oil Field
from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
It turns out that the same structural problems that caused the
failure at Oroville Dam in February 2017 also exist at the
spillway of San Antonio Dam, just two miles north of Lake
Nacimiento and above the community of Bradley.
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
The heavy rains that hit the Central Coast this past winter are
keeping recreators at area lakes and reservoirs happy this
summer. However, the precipitation has done little to ease
concerns for a group fighting Monterey County over the water it
withdraws from Lake Nacimiento.
Researchers from Stanford University have developed an
affordable, durable technology that could harness energy
generated from mixing freshwater from seawater. Outlined in a
new paper … they suggest that this “blue energy” could make
coastal wastewater treatment plants energy-independent.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
It will cost about $189.5 million to complete the proposed
Interlake Tunnel project and the state-required Lake San
Antonio dam repairs, according to a county Water Resources
Agency report to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. And $162.5
million of that will have to be paid for by Salinas Valley
property owners through a special assessment as early as spring
New measurements taken in California’s Monterey Bay show that
it absorbs carbon dioxide emissions from the surrounding cities
and agricultural lands, making it more acidic. The finding is
reminiscent of the urban heat island effect, in which cities
tend to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding
Congress has reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery
Conservation and Management Act a few times over the years,
most recently in 2006. In the years since, efforts to revisit
the law have stalled out before netting any results. Now,
Congressmember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) plans to introduce
a bill to tackle the reauthorization within the next year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
Gathering California water policy and decision-makers along
with groundwater stakeholders and users, the workshop gave
participants the opportunity to meet European Union (EU) water
specialists, exchange experiences and ideas, and compare
California and EU issues and solutions.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved an exclusive
negotiating rights agreement with Cal Am for the Chualar,
Boronda and Pajaro sanitary sewer systems, and authorized
county Resource Management Agency director Carl Holm to
negotiate, execute, and implement the sale and transfer of the
systems. … The county has been seeking to sell the sewer
systems for years…
The “Water Justice Act” would invest nearly $220 billion in
clean and safe drinking water programs, with priority given to
high-risk communities and schools. As part of that, Harris’
plan would declare a drinking water infrastructure emergency,
devoting $50 billion toward communities and schools where water
How can the short memory of the public maintain the long-term
commitments of water projects and conservation behaviors? On
one hand, California’s recent extended drought demonstrated
that the public water users could reduce their water use, but
can it be maintained permanently?
The Soquel Creek Water District board met … voted unanimously
to approve an agreement with the city of Santa Cruz to build a
tertiary treatment plant for its Pure Water Soquel project
onsite at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, which also
will supply the water supply for the project.
More effective use of green water – rainfall stored in soil –
could mitigate irrigation demand for some of California’s most
important perennial crops. So say US researchers who simulated
13 years’ growth of alfalfa, grapes, almonds, pistachios and
walnuts under different irrigation strategies.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently
notified Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency that its Basin
Management Plan (BMP) was approved and considered functionally
equivalent to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
When Gov. Gavin Newsom called for constructing and maintaining
delivery systems to get water to at-risk communities in his
State of the State address, he received widespread support. But
the fight over funding for the project got divisive – and fast.
California Influencers this week answered one or both of the
following the questions: What are your thoughts regarding Gov.
Gavin Newsom and the Legislature’s decision to use money from
the state’s cap-and-trade funding to improve drinking water for
at-risk Californians? How can California best provide safe and
clean water for all of us?
Moving forward, we have an opportunity and an obligation to
build on this agreement by addressing the barriers that
confront small water systems that often have the most
difficulty delivering safe, clean water. As advocates and
organizers work to ensure that investments go to the
communities with greatest needs, the public health community
has the responsibility to step forward and align itself with
the struggle for water as a human right.
The Environmental Protection Agency rejected a petition by
environmental and public health groups Thursday to ban a widely
used pesticide that has been linked to neurological damage in
children, even though a federal court said last year there was
“no justification” for such a decision.
Scientists at UC Davis have developed five new types of the
berry set to hit the market this fall. … Researchers say
these new strawberries are the best of both worlds: the
strawberries will use less water, fertilizer and pesticides and
still produce more, healthier, higher-quality strawberries.
On June 28, the city of Lompoc received an inspection report
from the Environmental Protection Agency concerning an April
inspection of its wastewater discharge permit. … Seven
violations were noted. While some were technical, there were
also some violations aimed at the current political attitude of
three councilmen toward regulatory compliance.
While the San Simeon decision appeared quick and easy to make,
it had taken decades to get the issue to that point.
Commissioners and San Simeon representatives seemed equally
relieved to have finally come to an agreement that involves
getting within 10 years enough grant funds to move the plant
further from the coast.
Monterey County’s Nacimiento Dam safety program is seriously
deficient with an outdated program document, insufficient staff
and a long list of outstanding dam safety repairs and
maintenance estimated to cost more than $50 million that needs
to be addressed in short order.
Monterey County supervisors voted Monday to let California
American Water start construction on its desalination plant
even before the state Coastal Commission makes a decision on
the technology involved.
Keystone projects for the midcounty planning effort, mandated
by the state for all groundwater-dependent agencies, include
stormwater runoff management, Soquel Creek Water District’s
Pure Water Soquel advanced water treatment plant, and the city
of Santa Cruz’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental water
supply that would primarily make use of unused winter river
runoff, likely through new storage options.
The commission voted unanimously Thursday to proceed with the
new infrastructure plans. Project advocates said the site,
located more than 3 miles inland, was the type of plan the
commission wanted to see because it will keep the plant away
from the sea where it’s vulnerable to flooding, tsunamis and
Only 15 out of the thousands of desalination plants operating
today worldwide are powered by nuclear. A small one is at the
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in California, slated to be closed
soon. The plant could power several huge desalination plants
for decades that could desalinate its own cooling water,
removing the most commonly stated problem with the plant.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will decide July 15 if
California American Water will be permitted to build its $329
million desal plant. The supervisors will be hearing appeals
brought by Public Water Now and the Marina Coast Water District
challenging the county Planning Commission’s decision to allow
Cal Am to proceed with this seriously flawed venture. There are
some major problems with the proposed plant.
Bob Wieckowski was the only state senator to vote against Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s plan to clean up dirty drinking water in the
California’s poorest communities… To be clear, Wieckowski
thinks clean water is an important priority. His quibble is
that California will pay for it with revenue generated from the
state’s cap-and-trade auction.
What is at stake is the water supply for the Monterey
Peninsula. Consuming water drawn from the Carmel River is no
longer feasible, neither ecologically nor legally. But the
power to decide on an alternative supply is largely vested in
the hands of public officials from outside the region.
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is an
historic opportunity to achieve long-term sustainable
groundwater management and protect drinking water supplies for
hundreds of small and rural low-income communities, especially
in the San Joaquin Valley.
A decade-long debate over how and where to build the new Morro
Bay sewage treatment plant will come to head at a California
Coastal Commission meeting in San Luis Obispo on Thursday. …
The preferred site is located on about 15 acres of a 396-acre
property at the corner of Highway 1 and South Bay Boulevard.
The California Senate on Monday sent legislation to Gov. Gavin
Newsom that will spend $130 million a year over the next decade
to improve drinking water for about a million people. …
Newsom had proposed a tax on most residential water bills to
address the problem. Instead, the Senate approved a bill that
would authorize spending up to $130 million each year on the
state’s distressed water districts, with most of it coming from
a fund aimed at fighting climate change.
Pure Water Monterey, the highly touted recycled water project,
is in default on a water purchase agreement with California
American Water after failing to meet a Monday deadline for
delivering potable water even as the project’s costs rise amid
Legislative leaders reached a compromise with Newsom to take
some money out of a fund used to improve air quality and use it
for drinking water. … The state Assembly approved the
proposal on Friday by a vote of 67-0. It now heads to the state
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
Cal Am, two members of the Coastal Commission and two local
appellants are challenging the Marina city Planning
Commission’s March 7 denial of a coastal development permit for
the $329 million desal project, including seven slant source
water wells and associated infrastructure
Rising sea levels caused by climate change are prompting the
city of Monterey to prepare for a worst-case scenario, which
could include waves flooding Cannery Row, wreckage of
underground infrastructure and threats to our protected
Over 10 years, it would funnel $1.4 billion to the fund for
clean water solutions. The budget has been approved by the
California Legislature, but still needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
signature to pass. It also still needs trailer bills that
authorize some of the spending – including the drinking water
This segment contains two interviews: In the first, KVPR
reporter Kerry Klein sheds light on what this document says and
does, and shares how San Joaquin Valley residents have
responded. In the second, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback
explains some fracking basics, including what is and isn’t
known about the technique’s impact on the environment.
By the State Water Resources Control Board’s estimates, more
than a million Californians don’t have safe drinking water
flowing through the pipes into their homes. … As Gov. Gavin
Newsom prepares to send his revised $213 billion budget to the
legislature for approval, a trailer bill proposes that the
legislature appropriate $150 million a year to a Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Before the threat of rising seas was widely understood,
California created an agency to protect its famous beaches from
overdevelopment. Now the state Coastal Commission is pouring
resources into a war against the effects of climate change, and
it could lead toward the removal of oceanfront homes.
First adopted in 2013 amid drying wells over the basin, the
county offset ordinance put a theoretical moratorium on
agricultural pumping. But the policy is set to expire later
this year when North County leaders adopt a basin-wide
sustainability plan—even though that plan could take another
several years to fully take effect.
Sentinel Peak Resources has cleared an environmental hurdle
that could allow it to move forward with years-old plans to
increase drilling in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field — but whether
it will or not is still up in the air. The Environmental
Protection Agency granted Sentinel Peak Resources an aquifer
exemption on April 30, exempting portions of the aquifer under
the oil field from protections guaranteed by the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
A public meeting erupted into an impassioned rally in San Luis
Obispo Wednesday night as activists and local residents took
turns bashing a federal plan to resume leasing public land in
Central California to new oil and gas drilling, including
It is hard to fathom how the fifth-largest economy in the world
can settle for letting public water systems serve up
contaminated water. How will our economy continue to grow and
how will we attract new businesses and new workers if the state
can’t provide a basic human need?
The desalination plant would have seven wells sloping into the
ground and sucking up water underneath the dunes, removing the
salt, and sending it to cities on the Monterey Peninsula …
but not Marina. They wouldn’t get any of the desalinated water
because they’re not served by CalAm. Biala and other Marina
residents oppose the plant because they think it will cause
irreversible damage to their town’s ecosystems.
Called the Monterey Bay Opportunistic Beach Nourishment
Program, the plan entails hauling beach-quality sand from other
inland locations as a result of construction, development or
dredging projects. The sand would be added to stockpiles at
different locations and then be applied to dry sand areas above
high tide marks…
Dentists and public-health advocates are speaking out against
the city of Santa Maria’s decision to stop adding fluoride to
local tap water, calling the supplement a vital step for good
oral health. After hearing pleas at the start of the meeting
Tuesday night, the City Council asked staff to include the
possible restoration of fluoride as part of budget
deliberations set for June 18.
Monterey Peninsula voters last year passed Measure J, which
requires that the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
conduct a feasibility study to determine whether a public
buyout of California American Water is doable… Not only is
the MPWMD trying to keep the process behind the feasibility
study hidden, they’re doing it in such a Machiavellian way I’m
having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.
The Senate voted 37-1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would
create a fund dedicated to improving the state’s drinking
water. But the bill is clear the money could not come from a
new tax on water bills. Instead, Senate leaders have signaled
their intention to use $150 million of existing taxpayer money
These Chinook salmon didn’t swim down from the San Lorenzo
River, they were trucked from the Central Valley. From there,
they were tagged and released into Monterey Bay, thanks to The
Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.
The organization best known for backing a public takeover of
Cal Am’s local [Monterey Peninsula] water system filed an
appeal of the Planning Commission’s narrow approval of a permit
for the 6.4-million-gallon-per-day desal plant north of Marina
and associated infrastructure. The appeal argues the desal
project proposal fails to properly address several key details,
including groundwater rights, and calls for the county to
require a supplemental environmental review before considering
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer
Because of the pelting rains and accompanying windy conditions,
chardonnay and pinot noir grapes have the greatest chance to
suffer from shatter, the term used by vintners when a
grapevine’s delicate flowers don’t pollinate and develop into
The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield office is set to hold
a meeting Tuesday over a White House proposal that would expand
oil drilling and fracking on more than a million acres of
public land across the state. … The proposal includes 40 new
wells over the next 10 years on roughly 400,000 acres of public
land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate — land
where the surface is owned privately, but the mineral rights
beneath the ground are managed by the federal government.
On our August Edge of Drought Tour, we’re venturing into the
Santa Barbara area to learn about the water challenges and the
steps being taken to boost supplies. The region’s local surface
and groundwater supplies are limited, and its hydrologic
recovery often has lagged behind much of the state despite the
recent lifting of a drought emergency declaration following
this winter’s storms.
The idea was to count the reductions in water consumption
thanks to new irrigation sources, and count that water toward
the city’s water yearly water allowance. After that, the city
would make those excess water credits available for sale to the
residents and businesses that had languished on the city’s
water waiting list, sometimes for years.
This year 126 fish have been counted going over Los Padres Dam
on the Carmel River. The number may not sound high but it is up
from single digits in years past. Last year the count was 25
fish and during the peak of the drought, there were zero fish
years. “After five years of drought it’s really welcome news,”
said Brian Leneve with the Carmel River Steelhead Association.
Clean water is important, and there are a million people in the
Central Valley without access to it. But do we need a new tax
to pay for it? Maybe we don’t. Just last week, a state Senate
budget subcommittee eliminated Gov. Newsom’s recommendation for
a water tax and replaced it with a $150 million continuous
appropriation from the General Fund.
On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive
Order to promote increased oil and gas development… Then, in
April 2019, in response to the President’s order, the US Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) proposed opening up more than 1
million acres of public land in California’s Central Valley and
southern Central Coast to oil and gas production.
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)
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at
using a “free” resource — rain water stored in the soil — and
found that optimizing its use could go a long way to help meet
demand for five California perennial crops. Their findings
appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
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.
A four-year long restriction for new water connections has
ended in many parts of Nipomo. Last week, the Nipomo Community
Services District Board of Directors voted to proceed with an
upgrade to the supplemental water pipeline it has with Santa
Maria. … The additional water allows the NCSD to now accept
applications for new connections.
Atascadero residents will likely be paying more for wastewater
services starting in just a few months. The last time
wastewater rates were increased in Atascadero, President Bill
Clinton began began his first term in office and Seinfeld was
one of the most watched shows on television.
Because of the wet weather this winter, the district is
proposing to lower its Stage Two Drought Condition to a Stage
One Drought Condition, which would lift many mandatory drought
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
More than 725,000 acres of Central Coast land could be opened
up for oil and gas extraction under a new plan led by the Trump
administration. But due to local regulations — and economic
realities — Santa Cruz County land appears unlikely to be
affected even if the plan is approved.
We have learned over the last six years that the water need for
Santa Cruz to meet its own annual demand is 1.1 billion gallons
less than thought in 2014, when the two districts were pursuing
the desalination plant.
Coastal Commission staff on Monday reiterated to The Herald
that Cal Am can appeal the city’s denial under the state’s
Coastal Act because the city charges an appeal fee. They called
the city’s own rules “internally inconsistent” and noted the
Coastal Act’s regulations supercede local ones.
Elkhorn Slough has received a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of the Interior, which will be used to help restore
approximately 63 acres—about 83 football fields—of tidal
wetlands at the Slough. … Additional funds — equaling a $26.7
million — have been pledged by state and local governments,
private landholders, and conservation groups.
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.
The California Energy Commission is offering the city of San
Luis Obispo a $3 million loan to build a 261-kilowatt solar
photovoltaic system as well as a 264-kilowatt hydroelectric
generation system — both located at the city water treatment
plant on Stenner Creek Road behind Cal Poly. By generating its
own power at the treatment facility, SLO could earn savings of
$266,863 annually compared to its current power bill.
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.
Locking in a $3.2 million sale price, the Soquel Creek Water
District board will enter an initial five-month “option to
purchase” agreement to buy a nearly 2-acre parcel in Live Oak.
The purchase option period … is designed to give district
officials time to survey the 2505 Chanticleer Ave. land,
assessing its ability to serve as home to the proposed Pure
Water Soquel plant.
It was the best attended city council meeting that didn’t
happen. … But when everyone filed into City Hall, no
councilmembers were in sight. Only Assistant City Attorney
Deborah Mall appeared. She said Cal Am had withdrawn its appeal
at the last minute on April 29 and the council could not
proceed with a hearing.
The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a
widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain
development in babies, California officials said Wednesday. The
move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a
toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous
than previously thought.
No family should have to live in a community in which the water
that comes from their taps puts their children’s health at
risk. Over the last several years, the state has authorized
millions of dollars for emergency actions and one-time patches,
but has shied from doing what’s necessary to sustainably solve
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.
In the district’s “high-level” draft budget proposal for the
2019-2010 fiscal year projects a 4% increase in annual
spending, and includes a $45,000 operational savings secured
through cutting funding for water conservation and education
programs for the coming year.
Removal of the century-old dam is being watched closely around
the country as a potential model… In 2016, the first year
after it was removed, researchers found that no steelhead trout
swam past its former site to a tagging location seven miles
upriver. … So far this year, 123 steelhead have traveled
It’s been 35 years since new federal leases for drilling along
the Pacific Coast have been issued. … But while the practice
is banned in state waters, without federal legislation the
possibility for renewed production in waters more than 3 miles
from shore still remains. Richard Charter is a longtime ocean
protection advocate. He talked with KQED’s Brian Watt about the
Trump administration’s efforts to upend longstanding policy on
In one key respect, California is lagging behind many other
parts of the world. Climate change is causing drought and water
shortages everywhere, but California has been slow to adopt a
solution that over 120 countries are using: desalination.
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.
A wet winter is not necessarily good news regarding the
potential for wildfires in the summer, especially where summers
tend to be dry. This is because the extra precipitation can
lead to a more robust growth of grasses and other vegetation
that can become fuel for fires as they dry out.
County supervisors backed an ordinance that would regulate
alternative water treatment options for contaminated small
water systems on a trial basis amid public concerns regarding
the potential cost and complexity of the proposed rules.
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.
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
In the midst of the record-breaking California drought in 2014,
three Cal Poly students decided to use their senior project to
try to help stop water leaks. They began designing a device
that would monitor a consumer’s water usage during the month
and hoped it would inspire people to pay closer attention to
Cal Am announced it had been told by city officials its request
for the mayor and two council members to recuse themselves due
to alleged bias against the desal project would not be honored.
The company will now appeal the commission’s denial directly to
the Coastal Commission.
Citing long-running efforts to secure a new Monterey Peninsula
water supply and the state-imposed deadline for reducing
unauthorized water usage, the county Planning Commission
approved California American Water’s desalination plant north
of Marina on Wednesday.
Unusually high concentrations of carbon dioxide have been
blowing out to sea from Bay Area cities and agricultural areas,
raising concerns that the previously unknown infusions could
increase ocean acidity faster than climate change experts have
predicted, Monterey Bay scientists said this week.
Considered by many the key to long-running efforts to cut
unauthorized pumping from the Carmel River, California American
Water’s proposed desalination plant project is headed to the
Monterey County Planning Commission next week. On Wednesday,
the commission is set to conduct a public hearing on a combined
development permit for the proposed 6.4-million-gallon-per-day
Congressman Jared Huffman says the Water, Oceans and Wildlife
Subcommittee, which he chairs in the U.S. House of
Representatives, is finally getting to do things “we weren’t
allowed to do” for the past six years when Republicans
controlled the House. Things like protecting public lands,
making climate change part of all environmental programs,
trying to prevent offshore drilling and looking at the state of
the nation’s wildlife and fisheries.
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.
Cal Am is seeking California Public Utilities Commission
approval to start raising local customers’ rates by May 11 to
pay for the 7-mile pipeline from Seaside to Pacific Grove,
which is in operation and is designed to allow pumping of new
desalinated and recycled water sources from the Seaside basin
to local customers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An invasive bamboo-like species called arundo is encumbering
the natural ecology of the Salinas River and increasing flood
risk to nearby farmland. But the conservation agency charged
with protecting the area recently secured nearly $3 million
from state coffers for the purpose of fighting the invasion.
When you turn on a faucet on the Monterey Peninsula, you’re
consuming water that’s been illegally pumped from Carmel River.
Now, after more than two decades of this, scores of public
officials, utility executives and citizen advocates are working
– and sometimes fighting – to replace the region’s water supply
before state-mandated sanctions kick in. California American
Water is forging ahead with its plan: a desalination plant near
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
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.
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.
A self-imposed deadline to choose what path the city will
choose in securing its future water supply, even in times of
prolonged drought, is approaching. The Santa Cruz Water
Commission will take stock of its progress to enact an
ambitious water supply plan, reuniting with the 14-member
community panel that spent 18 tumultuous months crafting the
city’s water supply source blueprint.
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 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.
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