The Central Valley is a vital agricultural region that dominates
the center of California, stretching 40-60 miles east to west and
about 450 miles from north to south. It covers 22,500
square miles, about 13.7% of California’s total land area.
Key watersheds are located here: The Sacramento Valley in the
north, San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin to the south. In
addition, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers drain their
respective valleys and meet to form the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Bay Delta, which flows to the Pacific Ocean via the San Francisco
California American Water recently announced its end-of-year
investment total and system improvements for 2020. More than
$68 million total was invested on system upgrades and various
improvement projects in the communities we serve throughout the
year. These improvements come despite the complications and
challenges posed by COVID-19 public health emergency.
Marin County water districts are weighing the need for
mandatory conservation actions in the face of abnormally low
rainfall and what could be another prolonged drought. Marin’s
two largest suppliers — the Marin Municipal Water District and
the North Marin Water District — plan to begin with voluntary
conservation measures before considering more restrictive
options such as rationing and irrigation bans similar to those
of the 2014 drought.
The flood of state bills addressing sea level rise this year is
surging faster than the ocean itself, as legislators recognize
the urgent need to prepare for the consequences expected in the
Chico City Council unanimously voted to analyze and study the
current and future needs for the Chico Water Pollution Control
Plant (WPCP) to develop a regional sewer connection to
Paradise, according to the Town of Paradise. The connection
will be from a specified area in Paradise, called the Sewer
Service Area, and will include many parcels along Skyway,
Pearson, and Clark Road.
Unpaid water bills are piling up during the pandemic, as small
water providers in the central San Joaquin Valley teeter toward
a financial crisis that could affect drinking water quality and
affordability. More than 76,000 customers in Madera, Fresno,
Tulare and Kings counties are behind on their water bills for a
total debt of more than $15 million — according to the results
of a state survey of just a fraction of community water
systems. In reality, the collective debt is much larger. Small
community water systems, many already on shaky financial
footing, may need a bailout to keep safe and drinkable water
running at a price affordable to customers.
California Water Service (Cal Water) has announced temporary
leadership changes for its Oroville District. Evan Markey has
been named Interim District Manager, while previous District
Manager George Barber is serving as Interim Director of Field
Operations for the utility’s northern California region. Tavis
Beynon will continue to serve as the Interim District Manager
for the Chico District.
Reclamation maintains and operates over 8,000 miles of water
distribution systems that use, among other means, reservoirs
and canals to store and deliver water. Water lost to seepage
reduces the efficiency of the water delivery to the users and
can cause undermining/erosion, subgrade soil migration, adverse
vegetation growth, and even canal failure….This prize
competition seeks innovative solutions that can reduce the
costs and burdens associated with installation and maintenance
of seepage reduction methods, and improve durability in a range
of climatic conditions.
Paradise had geared up for disaster. The Butte County town had
an evacuation plan and emergency-notification systems.
Paradise, neighboring communities and the county had undertaken
“vegetation management” programs to reduce wildfire hazards.
Yet for all its preparation, Paradise wasn’t truly ready for
something like the Camp Fire. … The report comes as
California, struggling with drought-like conditions, confronts
another potentially difficult wildfire season.
Shortly after taking office two years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom
promised to deliver a massive compromise deal on the water
rushing through California’s major rivers and the
critically-important Delta — and bring lasting peace to the
incessant water war between farmers, cities, anglers and
environmentalists. … [C]oming to an agreement as promised
will require Newsom’s most artful negotiating skills. He’ll
have to get past decades of fighting and maneuvering, at the
same time California is continuing to recover from the worst
wildfire season in modern state history and a pandemic that has
since killed more than 42,000 state residents.
California almond farmers enjoyed record-breaking harvests over
the last five years, after production dipped in the wake of
2014’s historic drought. That year a chorus of headlines
vilified almonds for sucking up a gallon of water per nut,
though irrigation efficiency has been improving. Now, as
global temperatures rise, a caterpillar barely the size of a
paper clip may threaten California’s position as the world’s
leading producer of almonds, walnuts and pistachios.
A new set of winery wastewater guidelines will be imposed on a
statewide basis. The State Water Resources Control Board
recently adopted a general order regulating how wastewater will
be processed and discharged. … While the wine industry
is concerned with water quality issues, there is some concern
that a statewide mandate may not be the best approach to the
Curious about water rights in California? Want to know more
about how water is managed in the state, or learn about the
State Water Project, Central Valley Project or other water
infrastructure? Mark your calendars now for our virtual
Water 101 Workshop for the afternoons of April 22-23 to hear
from experts on these topics and more.
Cascadian Farm, a pioneering brand in the organic movement,
announced its commitment of $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy
to help rebuild farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. The
two-year investment will focus on partnering with farmers to
rebuild wildlife habitat and regenerate groundwater on more
than 25 million square feet, equal to 600 acres of farmland, in
this key sourcing region for the brand.
Tens of thousands of large dams across the globe are reaching
the end of their expected lifespans, leading to a dramatic rise
in failures and collapses, a new UN study finds. These
deteriorating structures pose a serious threat to hundreds of
millions of people living downstream…. In 2017, a
spillway collapsed at the 50-year-old Oroville Dam in
California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the evacuation
of around 180,000 people. The 770-foot dam is the highest in
the U.S. and, after repairs to the spillway, remains critical
to the state’s water supply.
An NBC Bay Area investigation found 30 out of 39 sewage
treatment plants located around San Francisco Bay Area are at
risk of flooding as sea levels rise due to climate
change. Four of those plants could flood with as little as
9.84 inches of sea level rise. That’s an amount that state
analysts say is a possibility by 2030. If and when that
happens, toilets won’t flush, and in some cases, sewage could
back up into homes, whether residents live in the hills or
along the coast.
While wetter streets and a greener White House may offer San
Franciscans some hope for the future, the situation remains
dire for salmon in the Tuolumne River. … [I]t’s hard not to
feel that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s water
policies are partially to blame. Californians are significantly
reducing or eliminating dependence on river water. But the
SFPUC continues to side with agricultural users to fight
limitations on the water it takes from the Tuolumne. -Written by Robyn Purchia, an environmental attorney,
blogger and activist
The volatility of stock market trading has made global
headlines over the past couple of weeks thanks to the frenzy
surrounding a US video games retailer. It’s a dizzying yarn of
Reddit vigilantes taking coordinated action to bankrupt hedge
funds that were short selling GameStop stocks, resulting in
rollercoaster share prices, trading restrictions and US
congressional hearings. It provides a stark illustration of the
absurdity of the stock market, and yet, late last year, the US
state of California decided to allow water to become a tradable
A California agricultural developer has agreed to pay a civil
penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act
(CWA) on property near the Sacramento River in Tehama County,
California. The developer must also preserve streams and
wetlands, effect mitigation, and be subject to a prohibitive
injunction, according to the Department of Justice. Roger J.
LaPant Jr. originally purchased the property in 2011 and sold
it in 2012 to Duarte Nursery Inc. which sold it that same year
to Goose Pond Ag Inc.
Sacramento, at least, is excited about Washington’s new climate
direction. Jared Blumenfeld and Wade Crowfoot head California’s
environmental protection and natural resources agencies,
respectively. Last week, they discussed with KQED’s Kevin Stark
what the change from the Trump to Biden administrations might
mean for California. … The president’s order to triple
protected land and waterways across the country should also
infuse the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land
Management with badly needed funds.
Migratory birds have followed the same flight patterns for
millennia, searching for abundant food resources. The journey
is often risky, and birds undergo harsh weather patterns—from
storms that can throw them off course to dry arid landscapes
that provide little to no food resources. A new study published
this week in Ornithological Applications found tens of millions
of birds depend on the river and wetland habitats weaved within
the Colorado River Delta and California’s Central Valley while
they make their journey across the dry western landscapes,
reports Corryn Wetzel for Audubon.
According to the U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment
of Global Water Security, by 2030 humanity’s “annual
global water requirements” will exceed “current sustainable
water supplies” by 40%, highlighting the importance of building
a water resilient future.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, we are
speaking with Sacramento Bee environment reporter Ryan Sabalow
about his five part investigation, Nothing Wild: California’s
relationship with the animal kingdom is broken. Can it be
fixed? Invasive grasses are causing fires to explode, thousands
of water birds are dying miserable deaths, and the sage grouse
is at risk of disappearing forever. Sabalow explores
California’s ecological crisis and our relationship with its
Flooding rains and record snow in California last week marked
another extreme swing of the state’s climate pendulum. The
widespread downpours triggered mudslides that damaged
homes and roads near some of the huge fire scars from last
summer, and also brought some of the water the state
will need to end a months-long hot and dry streak and
douse a record-setting wildfire season that extended into
January. ….It could get worse. Stronger atmospheric rivers
are part of California’s “whiplash” climate future…
In a year when California has only received approximately half
its average rainfall, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency
hosted a virtual public meeting to inform residents of the
Water Shortage Contingency Plan and gather community input
Thursday. The large amount of rain and snow that fell in recent
days were the result of the state’s first major atmospheric
river this winter, changing drought predictions, according to
Thomas Chesnutt, a consultant from A&N Technical Services.
However, according to data released Jan. 19, drought conditions
have returned to California, with much of Los Angeles County in
moderate drought conditions.
The California Department of Water Resources has secured $308
million in funding to pay for reconstruction and repair work
that has been done on the Oroville Dam’s spillways. The funds,
released by FEMA, are in addition to the $260 million that the
agency provided for repairs on the lower portion of the dam’s
main spillway. Repair work on the damaged emergency and main
spillways has been ongoing for nearly four years following
February 2017’s spillway crisis. The $308 million announced
Monday was at first rejected but later approved by FEMA
following an appeal from the DWR last year.
After a particularly wet week, Californians shouldn’t hang up
their snow shovels and raincoats just yet. Those in Southern
California should expect 1 to 8 inches of snow to fall in the
mountainous areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties between
late Tuesday and Wednesday night, said Kathy Hoxsie, a
meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, one-quarter to one-half of an
inch of rain is forecast to fall, with 3/4 inches expected in
the foothills, Hoxsie said.
While Global Warming only intensifies weather conditions, the
geological record shows that Megafloods have occurred in
California every century or two, likely triggered by
“atmospheric rivers” dumping a conveyor belt of drenching rains
out of the Pacific. The last Megaflood occurred in 1861-62,
flooding all western states, putting vast sections of
California underwater for months, ruining a quarter of the
state’s economy, and pushing California into near-bankruptcy.
Bruce Kamilos last week was hired to serve as the next general
manager of the Florin Resource Conservation District (FRCD),
which manages the Elk Grove Water District. Kamilos will
replace the district’s current General Manager Mark Madison,
who will retire on May 1.
Six years ago, in the middle of a crippling drought,
Californians were ordered to let their lawns turn yellow. They
put buckets in their showers to conserve. Scofflaws had to
attend “drought school.” Meanwhile, farmers throughout the
Central Valley had to idle many of their fields. This week’s
deluge left many Californians shoveling snow and splashing
through puddles as an “atmospheric river” swept the state. More
precipitation is in the forecast for next week. But experts
worry that without repeated downpours over the next two months,
the painful memories of the last drought could become reality
Wildfires and smoke have ravaged large parts of California, sea
level rise is threatening the golden coast’s viability and
drought is looming in the future. … But for the first
time in four years action on climate change is gaining momentum
on the federal level — President Joe Biden signed multiple
executive orders related to the crisis in his first week in
office. Meanwhile California has held ground on climate
policies as the Trump Administration rolled back environmental
rules and regulations.
Ten days ago the state set new heat records and brush fires
broke out. Burn areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains rekindled.
Then, over the last three days, a 2,000-mile-long filament of
water in the sky burst over the areas that last week sat brown
and smoking. Snow fell on peaks and even some lower hills in
the Bay Area. The California Department of Water Resources
Central Sierra snow measurement station jumped from 42 percent
of average to 62 percent of average.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has set aside the
county’s approval of California American Water’s desalination
plant project over its rationale for why the project’s benefits
would outweigh environmental impacts in a lawsuit brought by
the Marina Coast Water District. At the same time, the judge
rejected a bid by Marina Coast to require the county to conduct
additional environmental review for the project as a result of
new information and changed circumstances…
Today, 95% of the Central Valley’s historical floodplains are
cut off from the river by levees. Built in the early 1900s to
combat devastating floods, levees and bypasses were constructed
to corral mighty rivers and push water quickly through the
system. Even before invasive species, large rim dams, and Delta
water export facilities were introduced into the system, salmon
populations started to dramatically decline with the
construction of the levees. Simply put, the levees prevented
Chinook salmon from accessing their primary food source.
Nearly half of food grown in the United States gets thrown out.
More food is tossed once it reaches a household fridge than at
any other point in the supply chain. With every strawberry that
doesn’t get eaten comes the wasted water to grow it, the wasted
gas to transport it, the methane it emits while it rots, and
If you look deep into the eyes of a fish, it will tell you its
life story. Scientists from the University of California,
Davis, demonstrate that they can use stable isotopic analysis
of the eye lenses of freshwater fish—including threatened and
endangered salmon—to reveal a fish’s life history and what it
ate along the way. They conducted their study, published today
in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, through
field-based experiments in California’s Central Valley. The
study carries implications for managing floodplains, fish and
natural resources; prioritizing habitat restoration efforts;
and understanding how landscape disturbances impact fish.
Governor Newsom’s proposed budget includes funds for
agricultural programs designed to build climate resilience and
support farmers’ financial resilience and water security. We
talked to Karen Ross, secretary of the California
Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) about progress on
such programs, and what’s on the horizon.
Each spring and fall, an estimated 1 billion birds migrate
through the Pacific Flyway, which snakes down from Alaska,
along the West Coast of the United States and Mexico,
and into South America. … Now new research reveals what
has been long-suspected but never confirmed: California’s
Central Valley and the Colorado River Delta are hotspots for
North America’s migratory landbirds.
A new representative for the vacant Dublin San Ramon Services
District Board Division 5 will be appointed at the Tuesday,
Feb. 2 board meeting. Two members of the public applied for the
position, which represents Dublin residents east of Hacienda
Drive. Any applicants must live within the boundaries of the
district and the board short-listed five candidates. Four
finalists from that pool will be interviewed during the
meeting, which is set to begin at 6 p.m.
Californians have recently endured increasingly aggressive
wildfires, rolling power outages, and smoke-filled air for
days. Unless the state government changes course, we can
add water shortages to this list. … However, the dirty
little secret is that 50 percent of California’s water supply
is used for environmental purposes and is ultimately flushed
out into the Pacific Ocean, 40 percent goes to agriculture, and
only 10 percent goes for residential, industrial, commercial,
and governmental uses. -Written by Daniel Kolkey, a former judge and former
counsel to Governor Pete Wilson and board member of Pacific
A federal agency has ruled that the state can continue to seek
higher flows on the Tuolumne River than planned by the Modesto
and Turlock irrigation districts. The Jan. 19 ruling drew
cheers from environmental and fishing groups that have long
sought larger releases from Don Pedro Reservoir into the lower
San Francisco rightly prides itself on being an environmental
leader. Given this deep commitment to protecting the
environment, the city’s water agency — the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission — should be a leader in smart, sustainable
water policy. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. But
Mayor London Breed now has a once-in-a-decade chance to turn
the SFPUC in a new direction by appointing a progressive,
visionary new general manager who reflects the city’s values.
San Francisco’s Bay-Delta ecosystem and the Central Valley
rivers that feed it are in steep decline… -Written by John McManus, president of the Golden State
Salmon Association, and Kate Poole, the water lead for the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is delighted to announce
that Michelle Banonis has been selected as the organization’s
new Manager of Strategic Affairs. Banonis has over two decades
of experience in water, ecosystems, engineering, policy, and
law, and most recently served as the Assistant Chief Deputy
Director of the California Department of Water Resources where
she worked on water-related issues of statewide significance
with multiple interests.
The State Water Resources Control Board adopted a general order
for how wastewater is processed and discharged at winery
locations in an ongoing effort to safeguard groundwater and
surface water from wastewater discharges. The order protects
groundwater and surface water quality while giving wineries the
flexibility to select compliance methods that best fit their
site-specific situation, including tiering the compliance
requirements to the winery size and associated threat to water
The Trump administration left President Biden a dilemma in the
California desert: a plan to remove protections from millions
of acres of public lands and open vast areas to solar and wind
farms. Biden’s team could easily block the proposed changes,
which were slammed by conservationists as a last-gasp effort by
the outgoing administration to support private industry at the
expense of wildlife habitat and treasured landscapes….There
are also places to put solar and wind installations besides
intact habitat, including Central Valley farmland with
dwindling water supplies …
California’s wildfire threat could ease over the next few
weeks, with a series of storms bringing much-needed moisture
after heat and drought torched record acreage in the state. The
first downpour is already spreading across Northern California
Friday, and that will be followed by progressively stronger
systems through next week …
California’s tussle with federal authorities over water
operations will get a second look under the new administration
of President Joe Biden. The 46th president plans to sign a
number of executive orders, including one that instructs agency
heads to review actions taken under President Donald Trump that
“were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment,
unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in
the national interest.” On the list for both the departments of
Commerce and Interior is a review of new biological opinions
adopted in 2019 governing water delivery in California.
California Water Service (Cal Water) has completed a multiphase
infrastructure project in the Magnolia area of Stockton that
will keep critical water infrastructure in the area safe and
reliable. The upgrade will ensure customers, firefighters, and
nearby medical facilities continue to have the water they need
for their everyday and emergency needs.
The Colusa and Glenn Groundwater Authorities will host an
online workshop about a Well Monitoring Pilot Program the
agencies are implementing. The voluntary, non-regulatory
program will gather information about groundwater use in the
Colusa Subbasin while also providing participants with
near-real time access to information on well production and
groundwater levels at their wells, according to a press
A California agricultural developer has agreed to pay a civil
penalty, preserve streams and wetlands, effect mitigation, and
be subject to a prohibitory injunction to resolve alleged
violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on property near the
Sacramento River located in Tehama County, California, the
Justice Department announced today. Roger J. LaPant Jr.
purchased the property in this case in 2011 and sold it in
While they remain hopeful the rest of winter will provide much
more rain and snow, water resources managers in the Sacramento
Valley are preparing for the potential for a dry year. While
the prospect of a dry year is always jarring and challenging,
we have confidence in the experience and knowledge that our
water resources managers gained in 2014-15, and the strategies
this region has implemented since that time to prepare for a
There are temporary changes in leadership for Chico’s
California Water Service district as of Friday. Tavis Beynon
will be the interim district manager while previous District
Manager George Barber is serving as interim director of Field
Operations for the utility’s Northern California region.
California has lost more than 90% of its wetlands since the
arrival of European settlers. Wetlands play an increasingly
crucial role in absorbing excess water and protecting coastal
and inland communities from flooding. They also provide
critical habitat for wildlife, including a variety of species
found nowhere else on Earth, some of which are at risk of
blinking out of existence…. we’ve identified three critical
lessons California has to offer the world to improve
restoration on a global scale… -Written by Julie Rentner, president of River Partners, and
Manuel Oliva, CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science.
While farm receipts from 2018 to 2019 show an almost unchanging
total, beneath the surface, shifts in dominant crops have begun
to occur as growers face labor shortages and higher water
demand.Cumulatively, ag commissioners across Fresno, Tulare,
Kings and Madera counties report gross values in 2019 equaling
$19.41 billion, down from $19.45 billion in 2018.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe in Humboldt County argued before a
federal judge that no Trinity River water can be sent to
the Central Valley at the expense of the tribe’s fishery. The
main dispute is over whether to block the U.S. Department
of Interior from signing permanent water delivery contracts
with Valley agribusiness interests, including Westlands Water
District. Opponents say the real agenda is being driven by
environmental groups that don’t want extra money going towards
water storage projects, and they’re singling out Westlands
because of its name recognition.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, it was a
wake-up call for Bay Area Council members, who were glued to
coverage of the devastation from their tenth floor offices near
San Francisco’s Ferry Building… They asked themselves if the
disaster unfolding 3,000 miles away could strike here too.
[They] realized the answer was yes when they learned about the
Great Flood of 1862, the worst in California’s recorded
In this video, Elizabeth Martinez, of Lideres Campesinas—and a
resident of Kern County, California—talks about the fears and
challenges of living in a county with a long history of
violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Michele Roberts of
Environmental Justice Health Alliance and NRDC’s Kristi Pullen
Fedinick highlight their analysis of data from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency that confirms there is unequal
access to safe drinking water, based most strongly on race.
In the San Joaquin Valley, agricultural runoff from fertilizer
and manure leaches into groundwater, contributing to some of
the highest levels of nitrate pollution in community water
systems in the country. A new report shows Latino
neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by elevated
levels of nitrate, which advocates say is a result of a
historic pattern of racist policies at every level of
Southern Tulare County farmers inching toward a cliff of
groundwater restrictions that could dry up tens of thousands of
acres have joined with conservationists to potentially soften
their own landing and help improve wildlife habitat at the same
time. At least that’s the goal of the newly formed Tule Basin
and Water Conservation Trust.
California dairy farmers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars
each year trying to keep their cattle cool, as increasingly
high summer temperatures, driven by climate change, heat up the
country’s biggest dairy state. Cows are especially
sensitive to heat and produce less milk when they are
overheated, so farmers in California try to keep them cool
using shade, fans and sprinkler systems. But these cooling
systems use huge amounts of water and electricity, adding costs
and wasting resources in an already resource-stretched
Groundwater managers across the Central Valley striving to
attain sustainability for underground aquifers are largely
operating without a map. California’s 2014 Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act requires managers to attain
groundwater sustainability by 2042. However, critical knowledge
is lacking on where water flows from the Sierra Nevada
Mountains to recharge water supplies underground, and where
there are sites that could be used to enhance the recharge…
Almond trees shed leaves, grow woody tissue, and undergo other
processes similar to trees in a real forest. These all have
effects on carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrient cycles. These
characteristics can often mean that nutrients flow off of the
field. They can get into areas like groundwater aquifers, where
they can impact drinking water supplies for rural communities.
Join us as we guide you on a virtual journey through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
This virtual experience focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, the southern part of the vast region, which is facing challenges after years of drought, dwindling water supplies, decreasing water quality and farmland conversion for urban growth. The tour gives participants an understanding of the region’s water use and issues as well as the agricultural practices, including new technologies and water-saving measures.
Dairy producers will need to be mindful of enforcement actions
from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Paul Sousa of Western United Dairies said enforcement typically
occurs during the rainy season. Enforcement actions have been
taken on six California dairies.
As a rice farmer in Yolo County, Kim Gallagher should be used
to the sight of thousands of birds swarming her flooded fields
this time of year—but when she sees a flock take off,
scattering the sky with a confetti of fluttering wings, her
enjoyment is clear.
California tends to be wetter than normal during the El Niño
phase of ENSO, and dryer during the La Niña phase.
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation affects California
rainfall similarly. Since the two cycles run at different
rates, sometimes they compete and cancel each other out, but
when they are in synch, we get severe drought or inundation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken a dramatic
step to encourage communities to use environmentally friendly
features such as wetlands for flood protection instead of
building sea walls and levees.
Congress has given final approval to a bill that would take on
nutria, a giant rodent threatening waterways in the Central
Valley and beyond. … The measure, HR 3399, would provide $12
million to California and several other affected states for
nutria control, research and related efforts.
Californians are understandably focused on the wildfires that
have charred more than 3 million acres and darkened our skies –
forcing us to find masks that protect us from both COVID-19 and
smoke. But Californians should also pay attention to the
multiple hurricanes that have devastated the Gulf Coast this
season. These disasters have much in common.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt writes that
a “Grand Bargain” in California water is needed to end the
“political culture of deferral” and allow major water projects
to advance. On the contrary, what’s needed is an adult
regulator that will make hard choices that water users refuse
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
The San Francisco Bay-Delta is literally threatened from all
sides: rising sea levels from the ocean, disruptions to
sediment supply from upstream, and within the Bay-Delta itself,
development and other land use changes have left only a tiny
fraction (5%) of marshland untouched. … A recent study by
scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey used historical
streamflow and sediment data to predict what will happen to the
Bay-Delta under varying levels of climate change.
Americans support far more aggressive government regulation to
fight the effects of climate change than elected officials have
been willing to pursue so far, new research shows, including
outright bans on building in flood- or fire-prone areas — a
level of restrictiveness almost unheard-of in the United
States…in California and elsewhere, officials continue to
approve development in areas hit by fires.
This month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency detailed a
new program, worth an initial $500 million, with billions more
to come, designed to pay for large-scale relocation nationwide.
… On the other side of the country, California has told local
governments to begin planning for relocation of homes away from
Because the invasive 20-pound rodents pose a unique threat to
California’s wetlands, the state has expanded the Nutria
Eradication Program over the past year to a staff of 26 field
operatives 100% dedicated to exterminating the swamp rat.
Unlike just about everything else in the state, the war against
nutria has been almost entirely unaffected by the coronavirus
One survival bottleneck that needs opening for salmon and
steelhead in the Central Valley is predation by non-native
fish. There is a long list of non-native and native predators
from which native fish need protection. The best protection is
to minimize native-nonnative habitat interactions. That can
best come from adequate physical-geographical habitat and
habitat water quality for natives while minimizing non-native
With up to $4,058,220 available, the program provides economic
incentives to landowners or lessees who agree to manage their
properties in accordance with a management plan developed
through a consultation with biologists from California
Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Comprehensive Wetland Habitat
Program for a two-year period.
Completion of groundwater sustainability plans for California’s
most over-pumped basins was a major step toward bringing basins
into long-term balance, as mandated by the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. We talked to Trevor Joseph—the
first SGMA employee at the Department of Water Resources, and
now a member of a groundwater sustainability agency in the
Sacramento Valley—about next steps and possible pitfalls.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator John Kennedy
(R-La.) to introduce legislation to amend the Nutria
Eradication and Control Act. The legislation would authorize an
additional $6 million a year to increase assistance for states
that implement initiatives to eradicate the invasive species.
At the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta
Lead Scientist Dr. John Callaway updated the Council on the
latest scientific developments, discussing three papers that
highlight the multi-faceted approach that is needed to address
the Delta’s ecosystem; he also previewed upcoming events and
provided the By the Numbers Report.
Nearly 230 wildlife species depend on Sacramento Valley rice
fields for food and a resting place, including the giant
gartersnake, a threatened species. Although it has “giant” in
its name, this creature is, at most, five-feet long. These
snakes are heavily dependent on rice fields for their survival;
having lost most of their earlier habitat – traditional
Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not
just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to
entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport
nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land
animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey.
FEMA maps show that roughly 500,000 California properties are
at substantial likelihood of flooding, with a 1% chance of
being flooded in any given year. The study found that more than
twice that amount—1.1 million properties—are already at this
level of risk, and that an additional 150,000 properties will
join them in the next 30 years, mainly because of rising seas.
This brown bag seminar was part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. … The candidate
and presenter is Jessica Rudnick. Rudnick arrived at UC Davis
in 2016 after completing her master’s in ecology and has since
been a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis.
Earlier this year, the California Almond Board released a
report regarding the acreage of almond trees that have reached
bearing age and another with totals including young trees.
These reports paint a stark picture of an unsustainable
industry that threatens the Bay-Delta ecosystem and
California’s salmon fishing jobs.
California’s wild weather swings, from pounding rain to drought
and from fires to floods, are widely expected to worsen as the
climate warms. A new study shows just how severe things might
get, and it’s not pretty.
Sustainability plans developed by groundwater sustainability
agencies outline how water users can restore depleted water
sources. But fights have arisen and disputes about the
reliability of those water sources have come to light.
For 50 years, Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) have
unintentionally stifled conversations of flood risk. They have
encouraged property-owners and governments at all levels to
dwell on map details for one static event, rather than flood
risks for a range of events… Now, First Street Foundation has
released a new tool that can change how these conversations
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.
This brown bag seminar is part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. The position with
the Delta Stewardship Council will provide leadership in
advancing collaborative partnerships and initiatives and in
catalyzing and implementing social science research to inform
management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region of
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on California agriculture
was severe, unprecedented, and will continue to affect the
industry in the coming months and years. That’s the
sobering news from an economic study released last
week by Davis-based ERA Economics. [The report also
noted] Groundwater Sustainability Plan implementation
started earlier this year for critically overdrafted
groundwater sub-basins across the state and 2020 water supply
deliveries for ag are reduced, resulting in higher water costs.
Get ready… here comes the true California water cycle: It
begins with headlines and quotes warning of pending disaster
based on what could, might, maybe, or possibly happen over the
state’s water infrastructure.
Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife in the Central Valley just completed the final release
of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million
young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run
hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the
Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo
Bay and into a coastal net pen.
While the budget for next year has yet to be passed, the
Central Valley Water Quality Control Board is already taking
drastic steps to prepare for a significant reduction in
staffing. Farmers could face a potential fallout further down
the road. “All told, the board is looking at around a 30 to 35%
reduction in productivity,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer for the regional board, during a meeting Thursday.
With droughts inevitable, more farmers are switching from
almonds to pistachios, but not everyone is happy about
it. Around the Central Valley, as far north as Colusa but
mostly south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, pistachio
production is rapidly accelerating.
On May 7, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a
much-anticipated ruling in Modesto Irrigation District (MID) v.
Tanaka, (Super. Ct. No. 34-2011-00112886-CU-JR-GDS) holding
that the question of whether a landowner of noncontiguous real
property has a riparian right depends upon the intent of the
parties at the time of conveyance of the land, and such intent
may be inferred from extrinsic evidence.
Three environmental groups sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Wednesday to dispute the award of permanent federal water
contracts to water users supplied by the Central Valley
Project. The suit brought by the Center for Biological
Diversity, Restore the Delta and Planning and Conservation
League challenges the Trump administration’s moves to make
permanent 14 existing short-term Central Valley Project
contracts and ongoing work to convert dozens of others.
In letters addressed to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and
Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Association of California Water Agencies
is urging state and federal officials to rejoin talks on
voluntary agreements to address ecosystem needs in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
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.
Deep, throaty cadenced calls —
sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands,
farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each
year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the
Cosumnes River Preserve,
46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Shortly after taking office in 2019,
Gov. Gavin Newsom called on state agencies to deliver a Water
Resilience Portfolio to meet California’s urgent challenges —
unsafe drinking water, flood and drought risks from a changing
climate, severely depleted groundwater aquifers and native fish
populations threatened with extinction.
Within days, he appointed Nancy Vogel, a former journalist and
veteran water communicator, as director of the Governor’s Water
Portfolio Program to help shepherd the monumental task of
compiling all the information necessary for the portfolio. The
three state agencies tasked with preparing the document delivered
the draft Water Resilience Portfolio Jan. 3. The document, which
Vogel said will help guide policy and investment decisions
related to water resilience, is nearing the end of its comment
period, which goes through Friday, Feb. 7.
Time and time again seemingly well-intentioned initiatives and
repeated attempts to develop a comprehensive water management
solution have failed, despite cautionary tales. However, 2019
witnessed the horizon of a new initiative called the Voluntary
Agreements that could do what few, if any, past plans, efforts,
or reports could do – unite water management and develop
At a panel discussion hosted by California Natural Resources
Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the panelists discussed how by
spreading out and slowing down water across the landscape can
provide multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers to
cultivate the land during the spring and summer, and provide
habitat for fish and wildlife in the fall and winter months.
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
A climate research organization will offer access to a risk
model that predicts the probability of flooding for homes
across the United States, giving the public a look at the data
institutional investors use to gauge risk.
Californian almonds will benefit from a new public campaign
next week to capitalise on the explosion in plant-based
eating… However, the environmental reputation of the almond
sector is much less favourable. It was once labelled a
“horticultural vampire” by US magazine New Republic for its
perceived role in California’s most recent droughts.
While considerable progress has been made to improve flood
management in the Central Valley, the vast region still faces
significant flood risk. … It has been estimated that
California needs to spend at least $34 billion to upgrade dams,
levees, and other flood management infrastructure.
Accomplishing these upgrades within 25 years would mean
spending $1.4 billion per year—roughly twice the current level
These changes will be substantial, multi-faceted, and often
rapid. Some changes will be irreversible. Many changes are
inevitable. Some will say today’s Delta is doomed. It will be
important for California to develop a scientific program that
can help guide difficult policy and management discussions and
decision-making through these challenges.
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.
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
In this episode, we explore a carcinogen called 1,2,3
Tetracholorpropane, which ended up in the water below
California’s Central Valley. … We also hear from John Hadder
and Dr. Glenn Miller, with Great Basin Resource Watch, about
how some of the groundwater in Nevada became contaminated due
to mining operations near Yerington.
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.
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
Scientists examined 33 El Ninos — natural warming of equatorial
Pacific that triggers weather extremes across the globe — since
1901. They found since the 1970s, El Ninos have been forming
farther to the west in warmer waters, leading to stronger El
Ninos in some cases.
The initiative to establish an ecosystem marketplace began in
2017 with the Noble Research Institute, which started working
on developing protocols to verify carbon sequestration and
improved water quality…
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
When nitrogen-based fertiliser runs into water systems it can
result in toxic algae blooms, leading to oxygen depletion and
vast oceanic ‘dead zones’. Evidence suggests their use also
contributes to air pollution, increased rates of cancer and
reduced biodiversity, as well as emitting nitrous oxide – an
extremely potent greenhouse gas. … A team of scientists, led
by the University of California, Davis, has come up with a
five-step plan to tackle this two-sided problem.
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
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has
webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth
that could be mistaken for carrots. … The swamp rodents,
called nutria, are setting off alarms in California.
California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris
Scheuring said the strong 2019 water year should not distract
from “the public-policy issues that never go away in California
water.” Scheuring said he thinks water deliveries may remain
good for the next year or two, but farmers should be prepared
for another multiyear drought.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was once one of the lushest
marshlands in the state. The peat-rich soil made it an ideal
place for some of the state’s first farms to pop up. Today,
scientists are hacking their way through thick brush to see if
restoring these marshes is a way to reduce carbon dioxide in
A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent
carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for
money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his
district. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, hopes a hearing on his
bill will convince his colleagues that funding to stop invasive
nutria in California’s Central Valley is sorely needed …
The flood insurance program has been plagued for years by
outdated maps of at-risk flood zones and billions of dollars in
accumulating debt, compounded by rising sea levels and
increasingly powerful storms strengthened by warming oceans.
… The result is that insurance premiums fail to reflect the
true risks to properties…
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will host a
public comment session on California’s Water Future on
Thursday, September 5, 2019 in Fresno. … State agencies are
asking Californians to help shape a roadmap for meeting future
water needs and ensuring environmental and economic resilience
Farmers implementing conservation practices that improve soil
health aren’t just hoping for better crop yields, they’re
banking on them. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and
American Farmland Trust recently released case studies
highlighting the economic benefits of implementing soil health
In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey,
80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious
threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a
concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as
our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these
statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California
At his inaugural Speaker Series on July 15, California
Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot led a discussion
on restoring local wildlife species and habitats by
reactivating floodplains. The Secretary’s Speaker Series
provides a public discussion on emerging ideas and priorities
in the natural resources arena.
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
California is overdue for a mega-storm capable of drowning
coastal areas in 20ft (6m) of water at any moment. Experts are
preparing contingencies for wet weather so extreme it might
tear open a 300-mile-wide ocean across the US West coast. …
The devastation of such flooding could match the severity of
“big San Andreas earthquakes”, according to the USGS.
Most people would not associate flood insurance with the
protection of endangered species. But over the past decade, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been the target
of multiple lawsuits alleging that the agency has violated the
Endangered Species Act by not considering the impacts of its
flood insurance program on endangered species and their
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.
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?
As we are enter another hurricane season, the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) is on its 12th short-term extension
since September 30, 2017. And after having $16 billion in debt
forgiven, it remains $24.6 billion in debt (Horn 2019). Many
people are asking, how did we get here?
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
Agricultural scientists across the globe including at Stanford
University and the University of California at Davis have in
recent years been making new discoveries showing that healthy
soil holds more carbon than previously thought and that good
soil management can serve as an important carbon sink.
More than 25 threatened spring-run Chinook salmon have returned
to the San Joaquin River so far this year, the first spring-run
salmon to swim up the river in more than 65 years. On Battle
Creek to the north, at least 50 endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon reintroduced in 2018 have also returned — the first to
return to the creek since dams built in the early 1900s blocked
and damaged their habitat.
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
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.
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.
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.
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
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.
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
SGMA inevitably means less water for irrigating farms. … On
one path, the valley could become a patchwork of dusty barren
fields, serving a huge blow to the agriculture sector and rural
communities and further impairing already poor air quality. …
On another path, the valley could transform into a pioneering
agricultural region that not only puts food on our nation’s
plates but also supports thriving wildlife habitat, outdoor
recreation, soil health, groundwater recharge and flood
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
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
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.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
A congressional bill includes almost $14 million in funding for
water projects in the Central Valley and Northern California.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, said he was successful in working
the funding into an Energy and Water Development appropriations
bill that includes spending for infrastructure across the
In retrospect, it’s clear: We’ve misunderstood how rivers work.
They don’t follow wishful parameters of the Army Corps of
Engineers’ 100-year flood guidelines, or the routes we’ve
penciled in between levees, or even the climatic expectations
of the past. A national program that presumes we can
choreograph today the floods of tomorrow is fundamentally
flawed. It’s time to recognize that the rivers will have their
way. Therefore we need to get out of the way.
The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150
farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week,
where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water
officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the
goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions.
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.
As the focus on infrastructure retakes center stage in
Washington, we hope lawmakers don’t overlook a prime
opportunity to invest in Western water and irrigation systems.
Here in the West, our dams, irrigation systems, canals and
other infrastructure — much of it more than a century old — are
past due for modernization.
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
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.
Forecasts are calling for a stretch of wet weather across the
Western United States, especially in Northern California, so
meteorologists and emergency officials are keeping watchful
eyes on river gauges and radar reports. All it takes is one
thunderstorm parked over a snow-covered area to wreak havoc
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.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration officially pulled the plug
Thursday on the twin Delta tunnels, fullfilling Newsom’s pledge
to downsize the project to a single pipe as he attempts to
chart a new course for California’s troubled water-delivery
Although seven years of drought in California finally relented
this March, high heat and lack of water have caused a severe
decline in the health of some trees, with many now essentially
suspended between life and death, Sacramento-area arborist Matt
Local officials have put a renewed focus on making sure one of
the area’s crown recreational jewels – the San Joaquin River
Delta – is clear and operational. Over the weekend the
California Department of Boating and Waterways, in conjunction
with the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Office boating unit,
removed a sunken vessel from the San Joaquin River that has
been underwater for the past three years.
As California’s Central Valley grew into the nation’s leading
agricultural corridor, the region gradually lost almost all of
the wetlands that birds depend on during their migrations along
the West Coast. But a dramatic turnaround is underway in the
valley. Dozens of farmers leave water on their fields for a few
extra weeks each season to create rest stops for birds. The
campaign has not only helped salvage a vital stretch of the
north-south migration path called the Pacific Flyway but also
tested a fresh model for protecting wildlife.
In Solano County, near Sacramento, [Alex] Johnson is working on
what he says could be a model for parched ag regions around the
state. … Last month, working with IBM and a company
called SweetSense, Johnson’s team began deploying simple,
solar-powered sensors, originally developed to monitor creaky
groundwater pumps in East Africa. The sensors will be used to
detect how much water is flowing in real-time. … Farmers will
use that data to trade their water on (what else?) a blockchain
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
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.