Investigating historic debris flows is paramount to get insight
on which areas of Santa Cruz County could be at risk this
coming winter and beyond. California Geological Survey
scientists working with Santa Cruz County, and the U.S.
Geological Survey, are tracking what triggers debris flows
using drones, rain gauges and cameras.
A recent exchange of letters between a public utility and a
state water authority highlights the continued stalemate in the
effort by the Monterey Peninsula to develop a new water supply
and end the overdrafting of the Carmel River.
Fewer properties over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin will be
subject to severe water restrictions after the San Luis Obispo
County Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 17 to revise the
basin’s “area of severe decline,” eliminating roughly 37,000
“King tides are about one-to-two feet higher than an average
tide, and it turns out that is about what we expect to see in
California in the next few decades from sea level rise,” said
Annie Cohut Frankel of the California Coastal Commission. “We
invite the public to look at how these high tides are impacting
our public beaches, our beach access ways, wetlands, roads and
other coastal infrastructure.”
California American Water has re-filed its desalination project
permit application less than two months after withdrawing it on
the eve of a special Coastal Commission meeting. While the
company made changes to its desal project proposal in the
re-filed application, it has not yet met with Marina city
officials to resolve the issues prompting the city to oppose
Local leaders, farmers and others in the Central Valley report
additional progress in addressing salinity in surface water,
and salt and nitrates in groundwater, in compliance with a
program adopted last fall by the State Water Resources Control
Desertification is dawning on the Central Coast, according to
University of California, Santa Cruz ecology professor Barry
Sinervo, and the impact can be seen in the disappearance of a
uniquely giant and talkative amphibian from a southern Monterey
County site: the Pacific giant salamander.
In a critical step for the proposed public takeover of
California American Water’s Monterey-area water system, the
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s board of
directors on Thursday night certified the final environmental
impact report for the effort.
It’s little surprise California American Water’s proposed
desalination project and the fate of a public buyout effort
aimed at acquiring the company’s local water system are at the
core of the contests for two seats on the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District board of directors…
The report analyzes the environmental effects of Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District’s proposed buyout and
operation of the 40,000-customer Cal Am-owned system within the
district boundaries, including the proposed
6.4-million-gallon-per-day desalination plant and
After about six months of construction, Morro Bay’s new water
reclamation facility is well underway — and it remains
politically divisive this election season, with three
candidates talking about halting or undoing the project, which
is the largest-ever infrastructure project in city history.
The Soquel Creek Water District is pleased to announce that its
low-interest loan from the US Environmental Protection Agency
has been approved, to be used toward construction of the Pure
Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion
Prevention Project. The loan, up to a maximum of $88.9 million
at an interest rate of 1.34%, is part of the Water
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funding program.
A letter posed an excellent question to the Soquel Creek Water
District – a question that comes up often in the community. To
paraphrase: with the Mid-County groundwater basin in a state of
critical overdraft, why is development that adds water users to
the already over-burdened water system allowed to continue?
It would be an understatement to say our community has a lot on
its plate these days. Between the wildfires, COVID-19 and its
impact on human lives, not to mention our local economy, it’s
hard to imagine having more issues requiring our focus. And yet
one of the most important issues facing our community – our
water supply – is in a critical stage and needs public
engagement and attention.
From the time when the pioneers first arrived, water, or the
lack of it, was a major problem for the valley. The first water
system was started by Reuben Hart, who came to the United
States from Derbyshire, England, first settling in New Jersey
with his brother, Thomas.
Last week on these pages, you heard the President of California
American Water explain their rationale for withdrawing their
application for a desalination plant from the California
Coastal Commission the day before their Sept. 17 hearing. What
he didn’t tell you is that there is a feasible alternative
project that has less environmental impact, is more socially
just, and would be less costly to ratepayers
When governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into law in September 2014, he said that
“groundwater management in California is best accomplished
locally.” With the first round of plans made available for
public comment this year, it appears that, while the state
certainly ceded control to local management agencies, those
same agencies have prioritized the interests of big agriculture
and industry over small farmers and disadvantaged communities.
The violations stretch from June 2015 to June 2020 and involve
effluent discharges, monitoring and reporting, operation and
maintenance, pretreatment, and fats, oils and greases,
according to an administrative order on consent issued by EPA
After years spent developing this project and making
adjustments to respond to stakeholder concerns, it became
obvious that we needed to take more time to address objections
raised by the community of Marina — namely that our project
would be built in their backyard without them receiving any
benefit from it.
For years, a stretch of Chorro Creek near Hollister Peak ran
through active farmland, where its flow was diverted for
irrigation and its banks were shored up by levees, blocking the
water’s natural access to its floodplain. … After nearly two
decades of planning and fundraising, the Estuary Program and
its partners recently completed a major restoration of the
State and local agencies are continuing to work to implement
the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. With SGMA’s
far-reaching implications, Ph.D. candidate at UC Merced, Vicky
Espinoza has created a bilingual video series to help provide a
better understanding of the impact of SGMA and generate more
This proposal by California American Water has become one of
the most complicated and fraught issues to come before the
California Coastal Commission, whose long-awaited vote on
Thursday could determine not only the contentious future
of water on the Monterey Peninsula — but also the role of
government in undoing environmental inequity.
The Monterey Peninsula is about to find out if a long-term
water supply will become a reality on Thursday as California’s
Coastal Commission is scheduled to hear the application for a
permit to build the desalination source water wells. The Farm
Bureau believes the permit is necessary to secure a reliable
water supply for Peninsula residents and businesses.
The most pressing risk is debris that could clog the San
Lorenzo River near River Street and Highway 1 where water
enters the city’s system, said Santa Cruz Water Director
Rosemary Menard. The San Lorenzo River is the city’s largest
water source. It represents about 45% of the water supply.
Expansion of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project is
the best option for the Monterey region to meet its future
water supply needs. Unfortunately, California American Water
Co., a private water supplier, is discrediting the project in
hopes of getting approval for their much more costly, oversized
and environmentally harmful groundwater desalination project…
Drivers entering town these days pass a sign with an urgent
message: Do not drink or boil the tap water in your home. It
may not be safe. This town in the heart of the Santa Cruz
Mountains is the latest California community to grapple with
water problems because of a wildfire.
Nine months after the Coastal Commission conducted its first
hearing on California American Water’s proposed desalination
project, commission staff has again recommended denial of the
project in favor of a Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal.
In California, Monterey Regional Waste Management District and
its neighbor, wastewater treatment plant Monterey One Water,
have entered a somewhat unusual relationship with unique
benefits to each. And the relationship has payoffs for its
shared customers too.
A main water pipeline in the San Lorenzo Valley was destroyed
by a wildfire burning in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The
San Lorenzo Valley Water District lost 4.5 million gallons of
water after this 5-mile long pipe melted from intense heat. The
district shut off its water supply throughout the Valley except
to Boulder Creek.
In the new study, researchers modeled the effects of rising sea
level along the entire California coastline. While results
varied with local topography, the study indicates rising sea
levels could push inland water tables higher, resulting in
damage to infrastructure and increased severity of flooding.
The two agencies inked a partnership last year to undergo the
study, which will collect and analyze data on the water supply,
land uses, and groundwater flow over the mostly rural region
west of Highway 101—north to Lake Nacimiento and south to
When Brent Hughes started studying the seagrass beds of
California’s Elkhorn Slough, he was surprised by what he found.
In this highly polluted estuary, excessive nutrients from
agricultural runoff spur the growth of algae on seagrass
leaves, which kills the plants. Yet in 2010, Hughes noticed the
seagrass beds were thriving. It did not make sense.
In his Aug. 2 Herald commentary, Grant Leonard claimed that Cal
Am’s proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project would be
a win-win for both Castroville, a disadvantaged community, and
Carmel, which is on the other side of the economic spectrum.
Some things challenge that claim.
The state will suffer dire long-term consequences if lawmakers
set aside concerns about rising seas to focus solely on
COVID-19, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warned
Monday. Sea level rise will likely put at least $8 billion in
property underwater by 2050, and could affect tens of thousands
of jobs and billions in gross domestic product, according to
studies cited by the office. Sea level rise and related
flooding and erosion … also pose threats to water treatment
plants, roads, marinas, ports and railways.
A Lompoc religious nonprofit is accusing a Wyoming-based
organic farm and cannabis company of stealing water it uses to
grow food and blocking access to a well on a neighboring
parcel, despite a decades-old legal agreement allowing them to
do so, according to a lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County
With a new water supply delayed by state regulatory agencies
and political infighting, the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District board has asked the state water board not
to impose Carmel River water reductions due to an inevitable
violation of an approaching river cutback order milestone…
Last rainfall season was a big one for the Central and South
Coasts, with above average rainfall for many drought impacted
local communities. … But, could we be headed back to a
drought year? There are some early indications it’s a
possibility, with a nearly 50-50 chance of us being impacted by
a “La Niña” pattern of cooler ocean water in the Western
Almost exactly 25 years after being ordered to stop illegally
pumping water from the Carmel River, the Monterey Peninsula
will have to beg state officials for another extension. On July
20, the board of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District voted unanimously to send a letter to the State Water
Resources Control Board acknowledging the failure to make
progress on developing a new water supply.
Between Jan.8, 2017 and April 19, 2017, the company discharged
4,634,245 gallons of process wastewater and/or polluted
stormwater from two mushroom growing facilities located in
Royal Oaks into the tributary. The wastewater contained
ammonia, excessive nutrients, and suspended and floating
material, which can harm water quality and aquatic habitat.
Media coverage portrayed stakeholders as limited to major
economic interests, such as agriculture, the study found. And
while SGMA legislation requires disadvantaged communities to be
a stakeholder in all planning documents, such communities were
largely absent from newspaper reports.
The net pen program allows the young fish to leapfrog what
would be a 250-mile river journey to the ocean, where the
salmon would face thousands of water pumps, reverse currents in
the Delta, and the chance of poor water quality and a
procession of predators…
With support from EDF, four UC Santa Barbara graduate students
have developed a new mapping tool for California’s Central
Valley to identify the best locations for groundwater recharge
to secure these bonus benefits. The tool, called Recharge for
Resilience, is available online and also can be downloaded by
users with more technical expertise.
A fire in Paso Robles on June 22 destroyed two homes, damaged
nine others and forced a third of the city to evacuate. The
nonfatal wildfire started in a small stretch of the Salinas
River, in an area where city officials consider dry grasses and
brush an ongoing fire danger. Now, Paso Robles and the regional
water board have agreed on an emergency plan to clear out the
Don’t drink the water in the Del Monte area of Monterey, the
Monterey County Health Department and California American Water
announced this morning, Wednesday, July 8. A water main break
on Aguajito Road on Tuesday evening is the culprit, according
to notifications from Monterey County and California American
Over the years, many government agencies have transitioned from
the “rainfall year” to a “water year” designation. Hydrologists
define a water year as the 12-month period that starts Oct. 1
and continues through Sept. 30 the following year. The state’s
water managers and hydrologists tend to like the water year
designation because October usually has the least amount of
stream and river flows, and it tends to center on the months in
which California receives most of its rainfall.
California American Water officials are defending the company’s
proposed desalination project in response to the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District’s move last month to
formally oppose it at the Coastal Commission in favor of a
proposed recycled water expansion.
Signing off on a historic deal with its wealthiest — and
thirstiest — neighbor, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-0
to ship a supply of the city’s drinking water to Montecito
every year for the next 50 years, rain or shine.
“We are extremely alarmed by this proposal, especially during
this period of economic crisis,” wrote Carolyn Larson in a
letter to the Goleta Water District, protesting the rate hikes
voted in on June 23. Public outcry against the water rate
increase proposed by the district reached a fever pitch, but
ultimately too few protested to rescind the proposal
It seems some are willing to wait forever for a new water
supply. After 25 years of failure, they still trust Cal Am to
come up with a solution. But the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District is clearly done waiting. Last Monday, the
district board withdrew its support for Cal Am’s proposed desal
Two days after a Paso Robles vegetation fire escaped the
Salinas Riverbed and destroyed two homes, 35th District
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham slammed regional water officials
in a letter alleging that regulators had “stymied” city efforts
to clear the river of flammable vegetation.
For the first time, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District has formally expressed opposition to the California
American Water desalination project, backing the proposed Pure
Water Monterey recycled water project expansion instead… At
the same time, the district took another step toward potential
acquisition of Cal Am’s Monterey water system with the release
of a draft environmental impact report on the proposed public
To a large extent, the fate of several multi-million dollar
water projects on the Monterey Peninsula is in the hands of the
California Coastal Commission. The question is whether the
commission will grant a development permit for a desalination
plant proposed by California American Water…
Water agencies in California typically include water recycling
in their water supply portfolios, but the ones that serve
smaller populations may not be able to implement full-blown
reuse programs all at once. The City of Paso Robles, home to
approximately 30,000 residents, shows it’s possible to build
water resilience without building an advanced purification
The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) in 2014, granted the state official oversight authority
of groundwater. … A new paper published in Society and
Natural Resources, examines how the state’s ongoing involvement
helped shape current policies by looking at the 120-year
history of California’s role in groundwater management…
USGS spokesman Paul Laustsen said the May 21 incident along
Pilarcitos Creek was just the most recent vandalism of the Half
Moon Bay stream gage. The vandalism only stopped the flow of
data for two days; the gage has since been replaced. He said
equipment vandalism is a big prob-lem for the agency all across
Recognizing the recovery of Coho salmon in central California’s
streams and rivers as a high priority, the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife is collaborating with NOAA’s
National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, and other partner agencies and non-governmental
organizations to develop and implement recovery actions. The
tricky part is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to
saving the species.
Thousands of people in Marina are being blocked from full
representation on the board of a regional water agency, a
casualty of a larger battle over the water future of the
Monterey Peninsula. The agency is Monterey One Water, and it is
responsible for treating sewage.
Paso Robles has an oversupply of wine grapes, according to
growers and winemakers. That’s an existing problem that’s been
exacerbated by COVID-19. … According to Jerry Lohr, owner of
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and some others in the wine
industry, there’s never been a better time to talk about
creating a fallowing program for the North County region, which
overlies the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.
A Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal has narrowly survived
another attempt to shelve it indefinitely even as the main
recycled water project struggles with operational and cost
issues that have further postponed its water delivery date and
hampered its capacity.
Over email, local water activists concocted a secret plan to
derail a vote that would potentially kill one water project and
bolster the prospects of another. The idea was to stage a
“filibuster” of the Monterey One Water board meeting scheduled
for Tuesday, May 26.
In April, during the first full month of the lockdown, water
demand on the Monterey Peninsula dropped by 15 percent compared
to the same month a year ago, according to data provided to the
Weekly by local water regulators.
Monterey Peninsula water officials Monday allocated additional
water for a portion of a major Monterey housing project that
promises to bring scores of new affordable units to a city in
desperate need of housing for its beleaguered workforce.
For decades, sediment buildup in California’s Butano Creek
caused an array of issues for both fish and people. It flooded
roads and local communities, prevented steelhead and coho
salmon from migrating, and contributed to substantial die-offs
of fish. In October 2019, the NOAA Restoration Center and
partners finished a $7 million effort to remove the sediment
and restore the creek.
The board of Monterey One Water recently voted not to certify a
supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) for an
expansion of Pure Water Monterey. While the expansion was a
technical concept that might provide additional water for the
Peninsula, the Board action injected some much-needed clear
thinking and foresight into a critical topic for the Monterey
In March, the California Department of Water Resources released
a nearly completed draft report on the risk of water shortage
in rural areas and the drought vulnerability of small systems.
… Across the state, Monterey County is among the most
vulnerable counties, with one of the largest numbers of highly
impacted rural communities, according to the report. Also, the
county’s small water systems are on average the 13th most
vulnerable out of those of 58 counties.
In principle, evaluating the adequacy of these plans to achieve
sustainability should also be simple: Does the anticipated
reduction in pumping plus increase in recharge equal or exceed
the basin’s long-term rate of overdraft? In practice, however,
it’s not so simple.
These activists say farmers unfairly dominated groundwater
sustainability meetings and ultimately steered the planning
process in their favor. If the plans are accepted and
implemented, they warn, farmers will keep pumping water at
unsustainable rates. “All the plans we’ve looked at are going
to cause wells to go dry,” said Amanda Monaco, the water policy
coordinator for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District officials have
requested the Monterey One Water board certify the Pure Water
Monterey expansion project supplemental environmental impact
report within 30 days and is withholding more than $600,000
representing part of its share of the environmental review.
The Lake Nacimiento water pipeline, which delivers supplemental
drinking water to several local communities including the city
of San Luis Obispo, has been out of commission since September
after leaks were discovered in a segment of the 45-mile pipe
that traverses the Salinas River.
A proposed Pure Water Monterey expansion at the center of a
contentious debate over the future of the Monterey Peninsula’s
water supply hit a huge roadblock on Monday night, leaving its
future in serious doubt.
In February 2020, the Water Board adopted new, lower Response
Levels for PFOA and PFOS of 10 ppt and 40 ppt, respectively.
Four of wells previously sampled under the Water Board’s order
now had had PFOA levels above this newly adopted Response Level
of 10 ppt. Atascadero Mutual Water Company immediately took
these wells out of service.
Amid continuing debate over the role the proposed Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project expansion will play in the
Monterey Peninsula’s water supply, the proposal has reached a
key stage. On Monday, the Monterey One Water board is scheduled
to consider certifying a final supplemental environmental
impact report for the expansion project…
The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency has been working
toward sustainable management of the Pajaro Valley’s water
resources. At the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, General
Manager Brian Lockwood discussed the projects and programs the
Agency is implementing as they work towards achieving
In many areas of the Central Valley and Central Coast, decades
of intensive agriculture has resulted in groundwater too
polluted to drink, and wells that have gone dry from
over-pumping. More than one million people in these regions
lack a source of clean water in their homes. This is a hardship
even in the best of times, but it puts communities at extremely
high risk during this time of crisis.
Federal and regional operators of Southern California’s
Twitchell Dam lost their bid to dismiss claims the dam causes
unlawful killing of endangered steelhead trout, but they won’t
face an emergency injunction restricting their operations, a
federal judge ruled Friday.
From the safety of their coronavirus shelters, the water
warriors of the Monterey Peninsula carry on the fight, and so
can you. … The environmental merits of removing the local
water system from private ownership and placing it under the
control of a government agency will be discussed in a virtual
public scoping meeting on April 21 at 5pm, via Zoom video
From the safety of their coronavirus shelters, the water
warriors of the Monterey Peninsula carry on the fight, and so
can you. … The environmental merits of removing the local
water system from private ownership and placing it under the
control of a government agency will be discussed in a virtual
public scoping meeting on April 21 at 5pm, via Zoom video
Since this year marked the first since 1862 that not a single
drop of rain fell in Santa Cruz County during the month of
February, efforts to sustainably manage water were at the
forefront of the conversation. The symposium kicked off with an
introduction from County Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who
discussed the ongoing work to develop sustainable groundwater
Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in
California spent months putting together plans to show how they
will achieve balance in about 20 years. Now, after submitting
those plans to the state in January, groundwater sustainability
agencies (GSAs) must figure how to pay for them.
A full environmental review of a proposed public buyout of
California American Water’s local water system is underway
despite the coronavirus pandemic that a top Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District official says has slowed work on the
Sierra Ryan is a water resources planner with the County of
Santa Cruz. In this presentation from the Groundwater Resources
Association‘s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms. Ryan tells
the story of how the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency
balanced the various perspectives, authorities, and
interpretations of the DWR regulations in writing the portion
of their Groundwater Sustainability Plan that pertained to the
depletion of interconnected surface water.
Most of the 6,000 gallons of crude oil that was spilled into
the Cuyama River in Santa Maria has been contained. … A
tanker truck carrying more than 6,000 gallons of crude oil
overturned and crashed into the Cuyama River east of Santa
Maria on Saturday, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire
The Pajaro Valley enjoys a temperate microclimate, in part
because it is situated at the hip of Monterey Bay. … But the
Pajaro Valley is different from the rest of the big ag regions
in California. The loamy soil isn’t irrigated with massive
surface water infrastructure like in the Central Valley.
Both water companies that serve Salinas will halt all water
shutoffs during the state of emergency brought on by the
COVID-19 pandemic. Salinas has a large population of
hospitality workers that commute to the Monterey Peninsula
daily; the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit
by the coronavirus as health officials urge “social distancing”
and the closure of large gatherings. As such, many residents
may find themselves short on funds as the pandemic wears on.
The City of Morro Bay is getting a $62 million loan from the
Environmental Protection Agency to replace its aging wastewater
treatment plant. The new facility will be located near the
intersection of South Bay Blvd. and Highway 1.
A settlement was reached Wednesday in a federal lawsuit filed
by an environmental group accusing Pacific Coast Energy Co. of
illegally discharging polluted water from an Orcutt oil
facility into northern Santa Barbara County waterways and
threatening endangered species.
A multi-partner water recycling project is helping Monterey,
Calif., stabilize and replenish its dwindling groundwater
supply. The project could serve as a model for shrinking
aquifers in other regions of the country.
People on both sides of the oil argument met Wednesday night in
Santa Maria, sharing their opinions about the future of oil
drilling on the Central Coast. The meeting was one of 10 that
the California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy
Management Division (CalGEM) is hosting.
Seawater intrusion in the Salinas Valley continues to seep into
the deeper aquifers, according to the latest Monterey County
Water Resources Agency data, even as the overall rate of
seawater intrusion continues slowing down.
California’s coast is truly a treasure for residents and
visitors alike. Sadly, rising seas are washing away our beach,
and for every inch of sand lost, our opportunities for joy —
and our economic future — similarly shrink.
At a time when Del Mar, Pacifica and other coastal cities are
fighting to defend their homes and roads from the rising sea,
Marina has embarked on a path less traveled. Here in this Army
turned university town, residents are learning how to adjust
with the ocean as the water moves inland.
A long-planned Pajaro River flooding prevention project has
secured its first federal funding for engineering and design.
Earlier this week, Rep. Jimmy Panetta announced that the Pajaro
River Flood Risk Reduction Project had been provided $1.8
million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2020 work plan
Cal Am’s request calls for raising water rates to increase
revenue by about $8.4 million in the Monterey district to cover
new capital investment, increased labor costs, and higher
administrative and operations expenses, driving the “average”
local customer’s bill from about $89.40 to about $105.78 over
the three-year period from 2021-2023.
As the county reports advances in water protection and
conservation technologies, water use continues to remain lower
that previous years, the Santa Cruz County Water Resources
Management Status Report shows.
California American Water has received a 90-day extension of
the deadline for the Coastal Commission to consider the
company’s desalination project permit application, effectively
allowing commission staff about four more months to complete
Landowners, politicians, legal experts and concerned citizens
packed the Agricultural Center Conference Room to weigh the
benefits and pitch solutions to problems within the two main
proposals, either a bond measure or a pay-as-you-go tax
increase. After hours of presentations and discussion, the Jan.
31 meeting came to no definitive conclusion on which option
would be best.
Pure Water Monterey has finally secured a critical final state
approval and is poised to begin delivering potable recycled
water to the Seaside basin by mid-February. After an all-day
inspection of the $126 million recycled water project’s
advanced water purification facility by a nine-member team on
Tuesday, the state Division of Drinking Water signed off both
verbally and by email.
The plan, put together with the help of Carollo Engineers,
Inc., lays out a 20-year road map of projects needed to
maintain and improve the city’s reservoirs, water tanks, wells,
underground pipes and pump stations.
Coastal Commission staff has recommended California American
Water withdraw and resubmit a coastal development permit
application involving the company’s proposed Monterey Peninsula
desalination project, which would likely postpone a hearing on
the desal permit and a pending appeal until September at the
The multi-year, multi-agency effort to transform the lower
landscape of the Carmel River into a natural floodplain took a
massive step forward Jan. 28 when the Monterey County Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the project’s final
environmental impact report.
Eight years after the regional desalination project fell apart,
the legal battle over its unraveling appears to be nearing a
conclusion. A proposed settlement has been reached among the
parties involved… It was presented on Monday in the San
Francisco Superior Court overseeing the long-running lawsuit.
January 31 is a big day for California water. It’s the day when
21 critically overdrafted groundwater basins must submit plans
to the state for how they will bring their groundwater demand
in line with available supplies over the next 20 years.
The City Council passed a resolution to make a formal request
of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District that it
allocate additional water to develop affordable housing. …
Most of the Peninsula is under a moratorium for additional
water hook-ups following the cease-and-desist order instituted
in 1995 when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered
California American Water to stop over-pumping the Carmel
The city of Santa Maria is set to begin a native-plant
restoration project on about 150 acres of city-owned land in
the Santa Maria Riverbed, a spokesman announced Wednesday. The
work is slated to begin this week, east of the Highway 101
The groundwater sustainability plan approved Jan. 9 features a
slew of solutions like eradicating thirsty reeds invading the
watershed, and proposed pumping limits that could lead to the
fallowing of some farmland. Also envisioned are a “wall”
against seawater and possibly a new desalination plant that
would dwarf the project being pursued by the Monterey
Peninsula’s water utility, California American Water.
California increased its efforts Friday to keep the federal
government from allowing oil and gas drilling on more than 1
million acres of public land, suing to block the Trump
administration from issuing new permits in the central part of
Praising progress on a long-awaited Pajaro River flood
prevention project, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors
reviewed a proposed regional flood prevention agency that would
oversee construction and operation of the $393.7 million
initiative. By a unanimous vote, the county board directed
staff to finalize a joint powers agreement at the center of the
proposed Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency.
Innovative efforts to accelerate
restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the
benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water
agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires.
Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of
California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address
persistent challenges facing the Colorado River.
These were among the issues Western Water explored in
2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed
The city has a five-year plan for its initial removals of
sedimentation, and city officials forecast spending a total of
about $1.65 million. According to a 2016 city report, removing
the sediment would deepen the lake and create community
benefits that include enhancing wildlife habitat, critical for
threatened steelhead trout and local and migratory birds, as
well as recreational opportunities…
The F-Pipeline Project will construct pipelines to provide
supplemental water service to approximately 700 acres of
coastal farmland on the seaward side of San Andreas Road. …
The purpose is to further reduce groundwater pumping to halt
seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft while keeping
agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
According to Monterey One Water general manager Paul Sciuto,
the best-case scenario now is the much-anticipated $126 million
recycled water project would be able to start delivering water
to the basin by early February, about a month later than the
most recent previous estimate…
Conserving water while training firefighters might seem like an
oxymoron. But the DRAFTS Pump Pod, essentially a specially
designed trailer designed to capture and reuse water, will
provide a vital role in teaching cadets how to use hoses,
manage hose lines and learn nozzle reaction so they can serve
the community after graduation…
Nobody likes to look out to the Pacific Ocean and see oil
derricks on the horizon. That’s why California wisely banned
new offshore oil drilling 50 years ago. But in Monterey County,
coastal views are limited by a relic of a bygone era: a giant,
industrial sand plant right on the dunes between Highway One
and the ocean.
One of the major problems LandWatch cites is a lack of water on
former Fort Ord property which the city hopes to develop in the
future, according to court documents. Two parcels, identified
as sites 1 and 1A, are located over the Salinas Valley
Groundwater Basin, considered overdrafted and already
experiencing seawater intrusion.
A project in the Salinas Valley aims to remove contaminants
like phosphate from the water at a lower cost using much less
energy. … Partnering with the city of Salinas and the
wastewater treatment facility, the project aims to remove
phosphates efficiently and recycle water for groundwater
recharge and irrigation water to farmers.
The nearly $4 million project, assisted with $3.4 million in
state grants and a $1 million match from Pajaro Valley Water,
is expected to further reduce groundwater pumping in the area,
so as to halt seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft
while keeping agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
The Department of Defense recently awarded a $266,589 grant to
a California State University Monterey Bay professor to
continue his research into fog. Reporter Michelle Loxton spoke
with Daniel Fernandez about how this grant will take his
research to the next level.
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District officials have
agreed to move forward with detailed analysis and planning for
a potential public acquisition and ownership of California
American Water’s local water system. On Monday, the water
district board unanimously approved spending up to $1.24
million on work by a team of consultants to prepare the
district to make a formal offer for the Cal Am system…
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
California’s coastal waters are acidifying twice as fast as the
rest of the oceans, a study published Monday shows. And some of
California’s most important seafood — including the spiny
lobster, the market squid and the Dungeness crab — are becoming
Nitrogen pollution, largely from burning fossil fuels,
industrial agriculture and wildfire can reduce drinking water
quality and make air difficult to breathe. Thanks to a $1.1
million grant from the National Science Foundation, we will
soon have a better understanding of how much nitrogen arid
ecosystems can absorb before they produce negative effects.
During the 2019 Flood Prevention Authority Legislative
Conference, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a
cost-benefit analysis in support of what is estimated to be
about a $394 million project, an effort which would reduce
significant flood risk to the city of Watsonville, Pajaro in
Monterey County and adjacent agricultural areas…
On Monday, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
board is set to consider approving $1.24 million on consultants
to prepare for a potential vote by the summer on a resolution
of necessity to acquire Cal Am’s local system.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
Calling it a move to resolve a dispute between agencies that
could endanger local groundwater management efforts, the Board
of Supervisors agreed Wednesday to form a groundwater
sustainability agency for the Cemex sand mining plant site.
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
When will the San Simeon services district end its 31-year ban
on issuing new water connections? Members of the San Simeon
Community Services District board of directors took initial
steps toward that goal on Nov. 13, unanimously authorizing the
preparation of a major report about lifting the longtime
moratorium on new water connections in the tiny town.
In my current research, I have been studying the implementation
of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known
as SGMA, in California. SGMA is one of the world’s
largest-scale policy experiments on collective action to manage
natural resources. At the same time, pervasively disparate
access to water resources in the Central Valley made SGMA the
perfect case study to test some of the power asymmetry theories
I have been working on with my colleagues.
The 20-year groundwater plan, required by state law, aims to
bring the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin back into balance.
Between 1981 and 2011, the 684-square-mile aquifer serving 29
percent of San Luis Obispo County residents and 40 percent of
its agriculture lost 369,000 acre-feet of water.
Frogs are delaying another wastewater treatment facility
project, this time at the South San Luis Obispo County
Sanitation District in Oceano. The South SLO County Sanitation
District members are working to upgrade the nearly 50 year old
facility, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is
concerned construction could impact the California red-legged
frog, a species on the verge of being endangered.
There’s a war over the future of water on the Monterey
Peninsula and it’s taking place in the board chambers of half a
dozen state and local government entities. It’s also taking
place on social media and in the press.
And as in other parts of the United States, black migrants were
met with Jim Crow-style racism: “Whites Only” signs, curfews
and discriminatory practices by banks. Often, the only places
black families could settle were on arid acres on the outskirts
of cultivated farmland — places like Teviston… Today, the
legacy of segregation in the Central Valley reverberates
underground, through old pipes, dry wells and soil tainted by
shoddy septic systems.
A recent settlement between Monterey County, Monterey County
Water Resources Agency, and a coalition of Salinas Valley
farmers brings an end to a protracted legal battle over
reservoir operations during drought conditions.
Three times as much mercury has been found in mountain lions in
the Santa Cruz Mountains than in their inland brethren, and the
likely culprit is coastal fog, a first-of-its-kind study by UC
Santa Cruz has found. The fog is apparently pulling mercury out
of the ocean and dripping it over the coastal mountains…
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
In what has become an all-too-familiar occurrence, three water
projects designed to serve the Monterey Peninsula have again
experienced delays, including the Pure Water Monterey recycled
water project and its proposed expansion, and California
American Water’s proposed desalination project.
The pricetag for recycled drinking water just got less
expensive for Mid-County customers. The State Water Resources
Control Board unanimously approved a $50 million grant for
Soquel Creek Water District’s pending Pure Water Soquel
Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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 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?