Earth’s changing climate is not just causing increasingly
punishing droughts, intense wildfires, and extreme weather, it
could disrupt the world’s beer supply by as much as 16%. Now,
California scientists are brewing up solutions to the dilemma.
In Oakland’s Fruitvale district during Oktoberfest, Morgan Cox
brews and serves up all kinds of craft beers. On this day, he
is making a batch of his Kolsch-style Town Beer. … This batch
uses 20 bags of malted barley, fresh water, yeast, and just the
right amount of hops, the flowering part of the Humulus lupulus
plant that gives beer its bitter taste and aroma.
Microplastics have been found in the deepest recesses of the
ocean, atop Mount Everest, in fresh Antarctic snow, in our
blood and lungs and now, for the first time, in the
clouds. In a study published in Environmental
Chemistry Letters, researchers in Japan found
microplastics in mists that shrouded the peaks of Mount
Oyama and Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest
mountain. Researchers analyzed samples collected between
heights of 1,300 to 3,776 metres altitude and found nine
different types of polymers and one type of rubber, ranging in
size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres. They hypothesized that
the high-altitude microplastics could influence cloud formation
and possibly modify the climate.
The Department of the Interior today announced up to $328
million in funding opportunities available through President
Biden’s Investing in America agenda, a key pillar of
Bidenomics, to help communities address impacts of climate
change through water recycling, water storage and desalination
projects. The funds come primarily from the Bipartisan
Infrastructure Law’s WaterSMART and Small Storage programs, as
well as through annual appropriations, and the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. President
Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest
investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is
providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’
resilience to drought and climate change, including protecting
the short- and long-term sustainability of the Colorado River
Less than two months since Mammoth Mountain’s historic ski
season concluded, the first snowfall of the new season is
set to arrive in the Sierra Nevada. Weather models predict
a low-pressure system with Canadian roots will bring cool
temperatures and rain showers to the California coast and
Central Valley on Saturday. In the Sierra Nevada, the air is
expected to be cold enough for the first snowfall of the season
at Kirkwood Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and other high-elevation
Today marked the commencement of the highly anticipated Utah
Cloud Seeding Symposium at Snowbird Resort. The landmark event
proved to be a pivotal moment in the realm of weather
modification, bringing together leading experts, researchers
and stakeholders to explore the multifaceted world of cloud
seeding. … Utah has been cloud seeding since the early 1950s
to help augment the state’s water supply. Cloud seeding is a
low-cost, low-risk, non-structural method that can increase
water supply between 5-15% in seeded areas at a cost between
$10 -$15 per acre-foot for the additional water. In 2023, the
Utah Legislature allocated $12 million in one-time funding and
provided an annual budget of $5 million to expand the
Wildfires. Sea-level rise. Extreme heat. Drought. California is
already dealing with the consequences of climate change, and
our state’s future will be defined by how we adapt. To better
cover this vital story, the Los Angeles Times is launching a
new Climate California section. You can expect aggressive and
impactful reporting on climate change, the natural world,
health and science — and even more of the sophisticated,
ambitious and approachable coverage that has earned the Los
Angeles Times four Pulitzer Prizes in environmental journalism
in the last two decades. Climate California will include
coverage from our newly formed Environment, Health and Science
department, which includes existing Environment, Science and
Health reporters and several new contributors …
One of the weirder side effects of climate change is what
it’s doing to rainfall. While most people think about global
warming in terms of extreme heat—the deadliest kind of natural
disaster in the United States—there is also an increasing risk
of extreme precipitation. On average, it will rain more on
Earth, and individual storms will get more intense.
Intuitively, it doesn’t make much sense. But the physics is
clear—and highly consequential, given how destructive and
deadly floods already were before climate change.
Even if every Western dam stays in place, we’ll need to build a
mind-boggling number of solar fields, wind turbines,
lithium-ion batteries and long-distance electric lines to break
our fossil fuel addiction — and fast. … Start tearing down
dams, and the energy transformation gets even harder. In a
typical year, hydropower plants generate around 6% or 7% of
U.S. electricity. The lower that number gets, the more
sprawling solar and wind farms we’ll need to build.
… Are hydroelectric dams good or bad for the planet and
the people living on it?
More than 800 U.S. buildings certified as “sustainable” are at
extreme risk of flooding — and may have to be abandoned as the
planet continues to overheat. That’s because the U.S. Green
Building Council — an influential nonprofit that works to make
buildings more climate-friendly — has for years largely
overlooked the impact of extreme weather. Its point-based
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification
generally offers new building projects just four points out of
a possible 110 for taking steps to protect projects from
flooding. LEED certification is a big deal: It’s subsidized or
required by more than 350 local and state governments as well
as the General Services Administration, which manages the vast
federal building stock.
Last week, the U.N. hosted a summit on sustainable development,
including access to clean water. I have previously written
about declining water levels in the western U.S. and the use of
desalination to transform seawater into freshwater. Although
over 17,000 desalination plants are operating worldwide, there
are only about 325 in the U.S., with 45% in Florida, 14% in
California, and 9% in Texas. The reason they have not been more
widely adopted is traditionally, they are expensive to build
and use a lot of energy. Most of the desalination plants
operating today heat the salt water and pump it through
specialized membranes that separate the water from the
Colorado River managers [last week] decided to continue a water
conservation program designed to protect critical elevations in
the nation’s two largest reservoirs. The Upper Colorado
River Commission decided unanimously to continue the federally
funded System Conservation Program in 2024 — but with a
narrower scope that explores demand management concepts and
supports innovation and local drought resiliency on a
longer-term basis. … The System Conservation Program is
paying water users in the four upper basin states — Colorado,
New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — to voluntarily cut back with
$125 million from the Inflation Reduction Act. According to
Upper Colorado River Commission officials, nearly $16.1 million
was spent on system conservation in 2023.
We’re just days away from turning the page from summer to fall.
Drought in the United States expanded and intensified in Summer
2023, largely influenced by not only lack of precipitation, but
extreme heat and evaporative demand. While the number and size
of wildfires were relatively small in the western U.S. compared
to recent summers, unhealthy levels of smoke still poured into
the contiguous United States from record-breaking Canadian
wildfires, and a wildfire in dry Maui destroyed the town of
Lahaina. The maps below show how precipitation, temperature,
and evaporative demand influenced drought and wildfires across
the United States and Canada during Summer 2023.
In her groundbreaking book Water Always Wins: Thriving in an
Age of Drought and Deluge, environmental journalist and
National Geographic Explorer Erica Gies observes, “If water
were a category in a game of rock, paper, scissors, water would
beat them all every time.” At a time when drought, fire
and flood threaten countless lives, Gies talks to water experts
who are using cutting-edge science and traditional knowledge to
show how our relationship to water must change if we want to
survive. She takes the reader inside water projects ranging
from the marshlands of Iraq to the highlands of Peru, as well
as nearer to home in B.C. and California, uncovering a
breathtaking complexity we ignore at our peril. The result is a
riveting and engaging book that does for water what Suzanne
Simard has done for trees.
… Recent floods left more than a third of California’s table
grapes rotting on the vine. Too much sunlight is burning apple
crops. Pests that farmers never used to worry about are
marching through lettuce fields. Breeding new crops that can
thrive under these assaults is a long game. Solutions are
likely to come from an array of research fronts that stretch
from molecular gene-editing technology to mining the vast
global collections of seeds that have been conserved for
centuries. … Here’s a quick look at some of the most
Sept. 24 is World Rivers Day, first celebrated in 2005
following a declaration by the U.N. General Assembly that
2005-2015 would be the “Water for Life” decade. … Concern
about abuse and neglect of rivers has led to an international
movement to recognize rivers as living entities with
fundamental rights, entitled to legal guardians. … The
ability of America’s public health system to detect the
emergence and spread of diseases, or to mount timely responses
to them, is hampered by the lack of a national data system.
Post-pandemic, it’s one of the major priorities of public
health officials to change this.
… To better prepare and plan for a future with climate
extremes, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR)
has released the Public Review Draft of California Water Plan
Update 2023. … [The plan] focuses on three intersecting
themes: addressing the urgency of climate change, strengthening
watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management.
… public comments can be made through Oct. 19,
Astronomical fall begins Friday night, and autumn storms are
already knocking on California’s door. A major September storm
is forecast to bring heavy rains and strong winds to
Washington, Oregon and Northern California beginning Sunday
night. … The jet stream is forecast to strengthen across the
Pacific Ocean this weekend, pushing an atmospheric
river all the way from Japan to the western U.S.
Atmospheric rivers are ribbons of moisture that can ferry large
amounts of moisture thousands of miles through the sky.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says he isn’t surprised by a new report
showing that mitigating dust from the Great Salt Lake would
likely cost at least $1.5 billion in capital costs, but it
highlights why the state is “so passionate about getting more
water” into the drying lake. The Utah Office of the Legislative
Audit General released a report on the state’s “critical
vulnerabilities” this week, which notes Great Salt Lake dust
mitigation is “estimated to be at a minimum $1.5 billion in
capital costs with ongoing annual maintenance of $15 million,”
increasing in cost as more of the lakebed is exposed.
When the operator of the nation’s tallest dam applied for a new
federal permit in 2005, few expected the process to drag on for
more than a decade. It’s still not done. California’s Oroville
Dam is among a dozen major hydroelectric projects that have
been waiting over 10 years to receive a long-term permit from
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The sluggish process
is fueling uncertainty about the future of a key source of
clean power that has bipartisan support in Congress — but that
faces new challenges as the climate warms.
The past summer was the hottest ever in the Northern
Hemisphere. In fact, scientists announced last week that June,
July and August this year were the warmest on record globally,
confirming that the horrific heat waves in many places were as
awful as they seemed. But, as you’re probably already
aware, the summer didn’t bring record-breaking heat to
California. Some daily temperature records were broken in
July in Palm Springs, Anaheim and Redding, but overall, the
Golden State actually enjoyed its coolest summer since 2011.
Warm ocean waters from the developing El Niño are shifting
north along coastlines in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Along the
coast of California, these warm waters are interacting with a
persistent marine heat wave that recently influenced the
development of Hurricane Hilary. … In its September
outlook, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration forecast a greater than 70% chance for a strong
El Niño this coming winter. In addition to warmer water, El
Niño is also associated with a weakening of the equatorial
trade winds. The phenomenon can bring cooler, wetter conditions
to the U.S. Southwest and drought to countries in the western
Pacific, such as Indonesia and Australia.
Despite the name, “Community Disaster Resilience Zones” are not
local havens capable of withstanding storms and other extreme
weather. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better
known as FEMA, is spending billions in hopes that they can be.
The agency has identified nearly 500 such “zones,” swaths of
land generally covering several miles that are ill-prepared to
tolerate flooding, earthquakes, heat waves, wildfires,
landslides and other natural hazards. As extreme weather is
expected to continue shattering expectations and local records
— from downpours drenching Death Valley to hurricanes pummeling
California’s coastline — these areas will be prioritized for
additional funding for protective improvements.
[Editor's note: Scroll to fourth section of story
for water-related bills]A bill headed to
Newsom’s desk would ban the use of drinking water to irrigate
purely decorative grass that no one uses. Another bill approved
by lawmakers would allow cities to ban the installation of
artificial turf at homes, based on research showing that fake
grass can result in microplastics washing into streams and the
ocean. Assembly Bill 249 would tighten standards for lead
testing in schools’ drinking water. In the latest chapter
in San Diego County’s ongoing water drama, lawmakers approved a
bill that could make it harder for local water agencies to
withdraw from larger regional water authorities — but too late
to stop the contentious bureaucratic divorce already underway
in San Diego County due to high water costs. Assembly Bill
779 would tweak California’s work-in-progress groundwater rules
to “level the playing field for all groundwater users,
particularly small farmers and farmers of color,” according to
three UCLA law students who helped write the bill.
There’s a new hotspot in the world of geothermal energy: a
seemingly sleepy valley in Beaver County. Its secret? The
valley sits on top of bedrock that reaches temperatures up to
465 degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph Moore, who manages the Utah
FORGE research project, pointed across a dirt parking lot to a
well being drilled at the University of Utah’s subterranean
lab. … The mission of the FORGE project — which stands
for Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy —
isn’t to produce its own electricity. It’s to test tools and
techniques through trial and error and, in the process, answer
a big question: Can you pipe cool water through cracks in hot
underground rock and create a geothermal plant almost anywhere?
Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented
state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State
Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion
in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1,
2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for
projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought
emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water. The State
Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year
doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of
assistance provided just two years ago.
California is among the states that will share in more than $1
billion in federal funding to help plant trees in an effort to
mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials
announced last week. The Golden State will receive about $103
million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Forest Service … for tree planting and maintenance, urban
canopy improvements and other green efforts. The funding comes
from President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and
marks the act’s largest investment to date in urban and
community forests, officials said. … “This grant funding
will help more cities and towns plant and maintain trees, which
in turn will filter out pollution, reduce energy consumption,
lower temperatures and provide more Californians access to
green spaces in their communities,” read a statement from U.S.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about the program.
As the nation faces a future of increasing flooding, drought
and wildfires, millions of 60-pound rodents stand by, ready to
assist. Beavers can transform parched fields into verdant
wetlands and widen rivers and streams in ways that not only
slow surging floodwater, but store it for times of drought. …
Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor of physical geography at
the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities … who
spoke earlier this week at the first-ever Midwest Beaver
Summit, is part of a broader “beaver restoration” movement that
has gained ground in recent years with ecologists in Colorado
using simplified human-made beaver dams to encourage the
animals to recolonize waterways, and California passing a new
law encouraging nonlethal approaches to human-beaver conflicts.
The state of California filed a lawsuit against some of the
world’s largest oil and gas companies, claiming they deceived
the public about the risks of fossil fuels now faulted for
climate change-related storms and wildfires that caused
billions of dollars in damage, officials said
Saturday. The civil lawsuit filed in state Superior Court
in San Francisco also seeks creation of a fund — financed by
the companies — to pay for recovery efforts following
devastating storms and fires. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said
in a statement the companies named in the lawsuit — Exxon
Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP — should be held
El Niño — a weather pattern that can cause impacts around
the world — developed in summer and is expected to persist
through winter, long-term forecasters said Thursday. In
its latest monthly forecast, the federal Climate Prediction
Center said there’s a 95% chance El Niño will
continue through winter, January to March, and it will most
likely be strong, as opposed to weak or moderate. In
California, El Niño has near-celebrity status, as the state has
seen some epic wet winters when it has developed in the past,
but meteorologists say that the state has also seen dry or
normal precipitation in El Niño winters.
More than 11,000 people are now known to have died, with
thousands still missing, after Mediterranean storm Daniel made
landfall in Libya over the weekend. Inland areas were flooded,
as seen in Sentinel 2 images released by the European Union’s
space programme on Wednesday. Coastal settlements built near or
over alluvial fans and deltas of ancient Wadi — the Arabic term
traditionally referring to river valleys — were swept away. In
Derna alone, the worst affected city, the flood destroyed
two-thirds of all buildings and killed over 2,000 people.
… A “grey swan” is what experts describe as a
predictable, yet improbable, event with significant and
wide-ranging long-term impacts. Modern dams, reservoirs and
infrastructure to control floods are build to withstand
meteorological conditions as experienced in the last 100
years. -Written by David Bressan, a freelance geologist
working mostly in the Eastern Alps.
Summer of 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began
in 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of
Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The months of June, July, and
August combined were 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (0.23 degrees
Celsius) warmer than any other summer in NASA’s record, and 2.1
degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than the average summer between 1951
and 1980. August alone was 2.2 F (1.2 C) warmer than the
average. June through August is considered meteorological
summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This new record comes as
exceptional heat swept across much of the world, exacerbating
deadly wildfires in Canada and Hawaii, and searing heat waves
in South America, Japan, Europe, and the U.S., while likely
contributing to severe rainfall in Italy, Greece, and Central
It was the largest algal bloom on record and it took place in
June off the California coast. The planktonic algae made the
water look green while producing a toxin. Seals, sea lions and
dolphins eat fish that have eaten these algae, therefore
hundreds died as a result. … Using satellite data, Gierach
and other scientists created new ways to study the changes in
the ocean. … Satellites can even measure color and
temperature changes. A lot of the increase in algal bloom is
caused by what we dump into the ocean, runoff, fertilizer and
The wave of unusual disasters this summer now includes
Hurricane Lee, a storm that swelled from Category 1 to Category
5 in just 24 hours as it barreled toward Canada. It’s a prime
example of rapid intensification made worse by warming ocean
temperatures. It will add to what’s already been an exceptional
year of extreme weather. The US has set a new record for the
number of billion-dollar disasters in a year — 23 so far — in
its history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA). And this doesn’t even include the costs
from Tropical Storm Hilary in California or from the ongoing
drought in the South and Midwest, because those costs have yet
to be fully calculated.
Researchers have found a way to predict whether or not a forest
will survive based on drought conditions – information that can
help forest managers deal with climate change. The researchers
from the University of California Davis looked at a drought
that caused the loss of tens of millions of trees in the Sierra
Nevada forest from 2012 to 2015. In the early years, the trees
were doing fine, despite drought conditions. But by 2015, 80%
of them were essentially dead.
Outdoor watering accounts for roughly half of total water use
in Southern California’s cities and suburbs, and a large
portion of that water is sprayed from sprinklers to keep grass
green. Under a bill passed by state legislators this week,
California will soon outlaw using drinking water for some of
those vast expanses of grass — the purely decorative patches of
green that are mowed but never walked on or used for
recreation. Grass covers an estimated 218,000 acres in the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s six-county
area. Nearly a quarter of that, or up to 51,000 acres, is
categorized as “nonfunctional” turf — the sort of grass that
fills spaces along roads and sidewalks, in front of businesses,
and around parking lots.
California’s largest lake didn’t even exist 120 years ago, but
now it looms large over questions about how to manage the
Colorado River. Depending on who you ask, the Salton Sea is
either an important wildlife ecosystem or an environmental
disaster that’s ticking like a time bomb — 50% saltier than the
Pacific Ocean and a major source of dust as water recedes. The
Salton Sea Authority, an organization created 30 years ago to
work with the state of California to oversee comprehensive
restoration of the lake, filed an 11-page response to the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation to lend its voice to decisions about the
future of the Colorado River.
The lithium bonanza continues at the largest saline system
in the West, but a new company says it can harvest the mineral
in a way that doesn’t contribute to ecological
collapse. Waterleaf Resources, a subsidiary of
California-based Lilac Solutions, wants to siphon an
astounding 225,000 acre-feet from Utah’s Great Salt Lake,
asserting it will pump all the water back after removing its
lithium. The company uses an ion exchange technology that
washes brine through bead structures which absorb the lithium
minerals and flush out the rest of the water and its remaining
California will spend about $300 million to prepare a vast
groundwater and farming infrastructure system for the growing
impacts of climate change. California Department of Water
Resources announced Tuesday that it has awarded $187
million to 32 groundwater sub-basins, which store water for
future use that mainly flows from valuable snowmelt, through
the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant
Program. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced
Tuesday that California’s Department of Food and
Agriculture will award more than $106 million in grants to 23
organizations, which will design and implement new carbon
sequestration and irrigation efficiency projects.
Community leaders along the Mississippi River worried that dry
southwestern states will someday try to take the river’s water
may soon take their first step toward blocking such a
diversion. Mayors from cities along the river are expected to
vote on whether to support a new compact among the river’s 10
states at this week’s annual meeting of the Mississippi River
Cities and Towns Initiative, according to its executive
director Colin Wellenkamp. Supporters of a compact hope it will
strengthen the region’s collective power around shared goals
like stopping water from leaving the corridor.
Here is NOAA’s list of these 23 disasters, in chronological
order, along with their latest damage estimates. 1. California
Flooding ($4.6 billion): A parade of Pacific storms began just
after Christmas 2022 and lasted into March, dumping flooding
rain in parts of Northern California and the Central Valley, as
well as feet of record snowfall in parts of the Sierra and
Southern California high country. … 15. Late June Severe
Weather ($3.5 billion): This siege of storms from June
21-26 began in the High Plains, including destructive
hailstorms in Colorado, one of which injured almost 100
concertgoers near Denver, and a deadly tornado in
Himanshu Gupta knows full well the heavy toll climate change is
taking on agriculture. Growing up in India and eventually
working in public policy, he saw how the unpredictably late
monsoon season was damaging crops and worsening farmers’ lives.
… That eventually led him to co-found ClimateAi, a Bay
Area-based startup that aims to help farms and other businesses
prepare for a hotter, more disruptive climate using the power
of artificial intelligence. By harnessing machine learning
models, the company says its customers can anticipate and
prepare for climate risks to their supply chains and operations
over periods ranging from weeks to seasons.
While out enjoying an afternoon on one of Lake Tahoe’s sandy
beaches over the past few years, you might have noticed large
mats of decomposing algae washing up or floating nearby. The
lake’s famed blue waters are facing another threat while the
battles of climate change and invasive species wage on — and
it’s all very much connected. Nearshore algae blooms are
a burgeoning ecological threat to Tahoe. Not only do they
impact the experience for beachgoers, but they also degrade
water quality and, in some cases, pose a threat of
toxicity. Over the last 50 years, the rate of algal
growth has increased sixfold, according to U.C. Davis Tahoe
Environmental Research Center’s 2022 State of the Lake
Marin County’s two largest water suppliers say they have dam
safety strategies in place but intend to update their hazard
mitigation plans in the near future. The utilities were
responding to a Marin County Civil Grand Jury report urging the
agencies to prepare for more intense “atmospheric river” storms
caused by climate change. Both agencies are required to provide
responses under state law. The June report said the seven dams
managed by the Marin Municipal Water District and the one dam
managed by the North Marin Water District are in compliance
with regulatory standards.
With the nation beginning to transition from fossil fuels to
clean energy like solar and wind power, oil and gas companies
are beginning to plug their wells here. So local leaders are
looking for the next economic development opportunity. And they
may have found their solution—divert more Colorado River water
with a new dam and reservoir that will generate more
hydropower, irrigate more agriculture and store more water for
emergencies. They’re not alone in that
quest. Wyoming ranchers are pushing for a new
dam to be used for irrigation. Colorado has
some diversions already under construction, with more
proposed across the state, to help fuel growth. Across the
states of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River—Wyoming,
Colorado, Utah and New Mexico—new dams are rising and new
reservoirs are filling …
Climate solutions like solar panels and electric cars require
lots of minerals – copper, lithium, manganese. The U.S. plans
new mines for these metals across the West. But as NPR’s Julia
Simon reports, the country’s need for these metals can
sometimes collide with the region’s lack of water. … You
do have a miner in there. JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: On a
107-degree morning in the mountains east of Phoenix, a miner in
a hard hat peeps out of the top of an 11-foot-tall bucket.
Tyson Nansel, spokesperson for the Resolution Copper mine, says
the miner’s about to plunge… SIMON: …Where the copper
lies. To process it, the mine will use water – a lot, says
geologist James Wells, much of it from an area east of
Phoenix. JAMES WELLS: The equivalent of a brand-new city
of something like 140,000 people – that’s how much water we’re
Bill Leikam was reviewing footage from a wildlife camera he
placed along a Palo Alto creekbed recently when something
unfamiliar scampered across the screen. … Eventually, he
recognized the mysterious creature as a critically important
species that has long been missing from his beloved Baylands —
a mammal that California wildlife officials have hailed as a
“climate hero.” … For decades, developers,
municipalities and farmers focused on beavers as a problem that
required mitigation or removal. Now, the species known
as Castor canadensis is seen as offering myriad
benefits: It can help to mitigate drought and wildfires through
natural water management; it is considered a keystone species
for its ability to foster biodiversity; and it can restore
habitat through its ecosystem engineering.
In the 1980s, the Great Salt Lake in Utah covered an area
larger than Rhode Island. Now it has shrunk to less than half
that size. Without major changes in local water use, it’s
possible that it could dry up completely before the end of this
decade. “Right now, the Great Salt Lake is on life support,”
says Ben Abbott, an ecosystem ecologist at Brigham Young
University. The ecosystem could collapse even before the water
disappears. As the lake shrinks, the water is getting saltier,
making it harder for the brine shrimp that live there to
survive—and meaning that the 10 million birds that migrate
through the area may soon have nothing to eat. The shrinking
coastline means that former islands are now connected to land,
and wildlife face new predators; this year, pelicans that used
to raise young on one former island were forced to abandon it.
Grand Canyon National Park will get more than a quarter-million
dollars to remove invasive species and protect native species
of fish in the Colorado River. The funds come from the
Inflation Reduction Act and are part of a nationwide effort to
restore natural habitats and address climate change impacts.
Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir, dropped to
historically low levels last year due to climate change and
drought. This created viable breeding conditions and easier
passage through Glen Canyon Dam for high-risk invasive species
like smallmouth bass and green sunfish.
Tropical Storm Hilary arrived in San Diego on Aug. 20. It
rained all day, dropping at least two inches in most places.
“It was shocking, to be honest with you,” said Southern
California native and garden expert Nan Sterman. “Except for
the six years that I was in university and hanging out
afterward, I have lived my entire life in Southern California,”
Sterman said. “And I have never ever seen a summer rainstorm
like we saw a couple of weeks ago.” All that water, when the
local landscape should be hot and dry, made our plants act
pretty strange. Tipuana trees were blooming a second time.
Native plants like ceanothus were showing new growth when they
should have been dormant. Plant experts saw surprises all over
Californians know wildfires and earthquakes; hurricanes, not so
much. So when Tropical Storm Hilary inundated Southern
California in normally bone-dry August, it showed just how
exposed homeowners are to a growing financial risk from
unpredictable climate-driven flooding. Standard homeowners
insurance policies don’t cover flooding and fewer than 2% of
California households have flood insurance, even as
intensifying winter storms overflow rivers and levees, batter
the coast and drench the desert. As Hilary, the first tropical
storm to strike the Golden State in 84 years, passed over Palm
Springs on Aug. 20, it dumped nearly a year’s worth of rain in
a day on the desert community, causing widespread flooding in
the surrounding Coachella Valley.
By changing the climate, humans have doubled the magnitude of
drought’s impact on the availability of vegetation for
herbivores, including livestock, to eat in the greater Four
Corners region, according to a study published this summer in
the journal Earth’s Future. This is because increasing air
temperatures and increasing levels of evaporative demand – or
more water being soaked up into the atmosphere – stresses the
grasses and shrubs that livestock and many other herbivores
rely upon. Emily Williams, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at
the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of
California Merced, was the lead author of the study. At the
time, she was a doctoral student at the University of
California Santa Barbara.
A new but little-known change in California law designating
aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a
flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s
supply of groundwater. The change is buried in a sweeping state
budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier
for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for
storage underground. The obscure, seemingly
inconsequential classification of aquifers could have a
far-reaching effect in California where restoring depleted
aquifers has become a strategic defense against climate change
— an insurance against more frequent droughts and more variable
Historic amounts of federal money are flowing into the Bay Area
and California thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
(BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). How does your
organization or agency apply for some of it? … For
federal agencies without BIL and IRA announcement pages, we
recommend signing up for their newsletters—like “California
News Bytes” from the Bureau of Land Management—to help bring
possible opportunities to your inbox. Check the bureau or
agency websites that fall under the Department of the Interior,
such as the National Parks Service (BIL page, IRA page)
and the Bureau of Reclamation (BIL funding opportunities here,
and WaterSMART grants, a special program dedicated to
irrigation or water supply, can be found here), and Bureau
of Indian Affairs (BIL page).
Returning home, I feel my roots, strengthened by five
generations before me, dig deep into the land we have all
called home. … Exiting Parley’s Canyon to be truly home for
the first time in years, the valley is unfamiliarly rich and
green with life. Water has returned. … This year, the
runoff filled with a seldom seen sense of rage and power,
fueled by unprecedented snowfall. It sought the freedom of
countless streams meandering through meadows and tumbling
violently down steep granite canyons. As always, much of this
water comes together to form the Weber, Jordan and Bear River.
But, unlike most of the waters west of the continental divide,
it never reaches the Colorado River, let alone the Gulf of
California. -Written by John Dreyfous, a fifth-generation
So far, 2023 has been a wild year for weather. Flooding,
drought and hail have all made their way into the headlines -
not to mention the extreme high and low temperatures seen
throughout the seasons. While weather patterns have been
anything but predictable this year, Eric Snodgrass, Principal
Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, says America’s
heartland may start to see wetter weather conditions just in
time for fall. … Back in early June, scientists at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)
Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño
advisory, noting that El Niño conditions were present and
would likely strengthen into the fall and winter months.
… El Niño winters also bring better chances for
warmer-than-average temperatures across the northern tier of
Goats and sheep have proved their worth in devouring grasses
and other potentially flammable vegetation, all without
traditional mowing’s noise, pollution and, on hot days, risk of
igniting fires. In 2021, Cal Fire awarded more than $10 million
in grants for wildfire mitigation projects involving grazing.
North Bay residents likely have seen animals grazing on public
lands. Sonoma County Regional Parks use sheep and goats
seasonally for vegetation management at Helen Putnam, Laguna de
Santa Rosa Trail, Foothill, Cloverdale, Gualala and Maxwell
parks. Cows deploy at Taylor Mountain, Crane Creek, North
Sonoma Mountain and Tolay Lake parks. The parks agency notes
that properly conducted and monitored grazing benefits the
ecosystem by reducing invasive plant species, fertilizing the
soil and making grassland more permeable for recharging
groundwater, as well as reducing the risk of wildfire.
San Diego County’s fragile shoreline and vulnerable beachfront
properties could be in for a rough winter, according to the
California Coastal Commission, the National Weather Service and
some top San Diego scientists. “We are looking at an emerging
El Niño event,” staff geologist Joseph Street told the Coastal
Commission at its meeting Wednesday in Eureka. An El Niño is a
meteorological phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years.
The water temperature at the surface of the Central Pacific
Ocean along the equator warms a few degrees above its long-term
average, creating conditions for stronger, more frequent
seasonal storms across much of the globe.
Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to save the Great
Salt Lake as its water continues receding and its lakebed blows
dust. The case uses a legal concept that recently stifled plans
to turn Utah Lake into a private island development and, years
ago, stopped a salty lake from getting sucked dry in
California. A complaint filed in 3rd District Court on
Wednesday invokes the public trust doctrine, claiming the Utah
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has failed in its duty to
protect the largest saline ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere
for the benefit of its residents. While lawmakers and resource
managers have taken steps in recent years to bolster the
imperiled Great Salt Lake and the unique ecology it supports,
they must take more drastic steps to reduce Utahns’
overconsumption of water, the suit argues.
With California facing a hotter and drier future — punctuated
by bouts of extreme weather — state officials are moving
forward with a new framework for urban water use that could
require some suppliers to make cuts of 20% or more as soon as
2025. Many of the suppliers facing the harshest cuts are
located in the Central Valley and in the southeastern part of
the state — large, hot and primarily rural areas that have
historically struggled to meet conservation targets. … The
move marks a shift away from the one-size-fits-all approach
that has governed California water for years. If adopted, the
new rules would require the state’s more than 400 urban water
suppliers to come up with a new water-use budget every year
beginning in 2025. They could face hefty fines for failing to
comply or meet their targets.
A new but little-known change in
California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure”
promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that
increase the state’s supply of groundwater.
The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law,
enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners
and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.
As the Labor Day holiday weekend draws the summer to a close,
it’s been an unusually quiet season for fires across the
American west. Roughly 80,000 hectares (2m acres) have burned
across the country so far, according to the National
Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), roughly 61% less than the
10-year average for this time of year. The decrease has been
particularly pronounced in the fire-prone west, which has grown
accustomed to seeing swaths of their parched forests and
browning hillsides ignite but has largely been given a reprieve
from a summer of smoke-filled skies. … Well-timed
storms, including the unusual Tropical Storm Hilary, doused
southern California and other dry areas nearby, staving
off fire dangers that typically rise at the end of summer
and into autumn.
Searching 150 Best Quotes About Agriculture for something
appropriate to discuss The Future of Agriculture and Food
Production in a Drying Climate, this comment stood out — “At
the very heart of agriculture is the drive to feed the world.
We all flourish…or decline…with the farmer.” That core concept,
“the heart of agriculture”, resonated with Bobby Robbins, a
cardiologist by trade whose day job is President of the
University of Arizona in Tucson. Living in the Northern
Sonora Desert, Robbins has watched a changing climate threaten
food and agriculture systems in the arid Southwest. “The
agriculture industry needs innovative research-based solutions
to continue producing food year-round,” he said in announcing a
high-IQ Commission to tackle the job.
Roughly an hour from California’s Bay Area and less than a mile
from the Pacific Ocean, Kelli and Tim Hutton purchased a half
an acre property in the Central Coast town of Moss Landing last
summer. As with many others living in the area, they heavily
rely on their private well for water. After moving into the new
home with their newborn baby, the Huttons heard other residents
were concerned about high levels of saltwater intrusion, being
so near the ocean. Rising sea level and California’s whiplash
weather have been impacting their water table, with seawater
seeping in and causing pipes to corrode, making water
Wildfires and climate change are locked in a vicious circle:
Fires worsen climate change, and climate change worsens fires.
Scientists, including those at the World Resources Institute,
have been increasingly sounding the alarm about this feedback
loop, warning that fires don’t burn in isolation — they produce
greenhouse gases that, in turn, create warmer and drier
conditions that ignite more frequent and intense fires.
Last week, wildfire smoke prompted another round of unhealthy
air quality in California. Fires in Oregon and Northern
California sent smoke into Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay
Area. And it’s a global nightmare: This summer, world
temperatures hit an all-time high, the worst U.S. wildfire in
more than a century devastated Maui, a deadly fire in Greece
was declared Europe’s largest ever, and swaths of the Midwest
and Northeast have been blanketed by smoke from Canada’s forest
For years, environmentalists have argued that the Colorado
River should be allowed to flow freely across the Utah-Arizona
border, saying that letting water pass around Glen Canyon Dam —
and draining the giant Lake Powell reservoir — would improve
the shrinking river’s health. Now, as climate change increases
the strains on the river, this controversial proposal is
receiving support from some surprising new allies: influential
farmers in California’s Imperial Valley. In a letter to the
federal Bureau of Reclamation, growers Mike and James Abatti,
who run some of the biggest farming operations in the Imperial
Valley, urged the government to consider sacrificing the
Colorado’s second-largest reservoir and storing the water
farther downstream in Lake Mead — the river’s largest
California experienced triple the amount of average rainfall
within the first few months of 2023, leading to heavy plant
growth across the Central Coast. It even caused a super bloom
of wildflowers off of Highway 1 and 58, creating excitement for
locals and visitors alike. Months later, one of the Central
Coast’s biggest industries is grappling with the storms’
after-effects, as harvest season for vineyards is looking a lot
different this year. Walking through Paso Robles on a hot
August afternoon, it’s almost like the storms never happened.
The rolling hills at Tablas Creek Vineyard are lined with
healthy grapevines and olive trees.
Over the last 150 years, the effects of human activities such
as agriculture, mining, damming, logging, and overfishing have
led to declines in Pacific salmon species. For decades, efforts
have been made to help salmon persist through the challenges
they faced. Now climate change is adding to the suite of
challenges threatening the long-term viability of salmon and
the cultures, traditions and economies of the communities that
depend on them. In the Pacific Northwest, the populations
of many salmon species have declined significantly,
with some protected under the Endangered Species
Act. In Alaska, a place with historically healthy salmon
runs, the decline of some runs has caused tremendous hardship
America’s hydropower industry is hoping to reestablish some of
its former glory by making itself central to the nation’s
transition to clean energy—and it’s turning to Congress for
help. … Today, hydropower provides just a small fraction of
the nation’s electricity and is quickly being outpaced globally
by its clean energy rivals in new development. Now the
industry, with help from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers,
hopes to change that trend. … The bill has gained early
support from industry, environmental groups, Native tribes and
even the Biden administration. But it’s also getting pushback
from some advocates who say that expanding or extending the use
of hydropower could actually worsen climate change and hasten
Sudden shifts from drought conditions to heavy floods are
becoming more common in the U.S. as the climate changes, a
study has found. The findings were presented in a study
published in Communications Earth & Environment. … Over
time, from 1980 to 2020, researchers found that such whiplash
trends in the weather increased approximately a quarter of a
percent to 1 percent per year. These extreme shifts
in weather patterns have manifested in parts of the U.S.
recently, and in California in particular.
The largest wildfire currently burning in the United States is
raging in California’s densely forested northwest corner. The
Smith River Complex — actually a cluster of connected blazes —
covered a total of 79,000 acres and was only 7 percent
contained as of Wednesday evening. The fire began on Aug. 15
with a storm that scattered lightning strikes across the Six
Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County, just south of the
Oregon border. Since then, the fire has crossed into Oregon,
closed roads, forced power outages that lasted days, and
delayed the start of the school year for roughly 4,000 students
in Del Norte County’s public schools. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin
Newsom declared a state of emergency for the county, where the
air quality has been abysmal for days and hundreds of people
are still under evacuation orders.
… After facing a La Niña winter for three years straight and
getting doused with a wet and snowy winter last year, El Niño
is expected to take California on a different winter ride. …
The winter season, which officially begins Dec. 21, in Northern
California is forecast to have an equal chance of being below
or above normal precipitation, according to the
December-January-February [NOAA] outlook. It was published Aug.
17. “It’s a little uncertain,” [Tom Krabacher, professor of
geography at Sacramento State] said about El Niño’s effect on
rain in Northern California. “It can bring more rain or can
have a relatively normal rain.” He said this is because the
weather event shifts the storm tracks, pushing the rain farther
As global temperatures rapidly climb, humanity is seeing more
and more of the disastrous effects scientists warned us about:
fiercer heat waves, more intense wildfires, and heavier rain.
The extremes of the past few months are but a preview of the
ever-worsening pain we’ll endure if we don’t dramatically
reduce carbon emissions. … What’s made this summer so
bad? For one thing, the base layer of global warming makes
extreme summer heat both more common and more severe than it
normally would be. Plus, this summer the Pacific Ocean
transitioned from the cooler waters of La Niña into the warmer
waters of El Niño, which goes on to influence Earth’s climate
Workers across California are grappling with yet another
climate change-induced threat: a rapidly spreading fungus
that can land its unsuspecting victims with
prolonged flu-like symptoms, or far worse. The culprit is a
soil-dwelling organism called coccidioides, which is now
spreading the disease coccidioidomycosis — known as “Valley
fever” — farther and farther north of its Southwest origins.
Rather than spreading from person to person, Valley
fever results from the direct inhalation of fungal
spores — spores climate change is now allowing to flourish
in new places.
Ducks Unlimited and its scientific partners have several
studies planned or underway to study waterfowl and their
habitats in the Pacific Flyway. … The lack of floodplain
habitat for salmon and other migratory fish in the Sacramento
Valley in California has contributed to their decline. As a
result, there are proposals to manage floodplain habitats to
benefit fish. This study, led by a team in Ducks Unlimited’s
Western Region, will determine the effects of floodplain
reactivation for fish on waterfowl and Sacramento Valley
Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring
temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But
another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view.
Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s
water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of
America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are
being severely depleted. These declines are threatening
irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a
whole. The New York Times conducted a months-long examination
… In California, an agricultural giant and, like
Arkansas, a major groundwater user, the aquifers in at least 76
basins last year were being pumped out faster than they could
be replenished by precipitation, a condition known as
“overdraft,” according to state numbers.
Early this year, severe storms battered California, bringing
huge waves that damaged infrastructure and forced people away
from the coast. That may be the new norm, as climate change
fuels severe weather that is making waves bigger, according to
a study published this month. The study, published in the
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, uses nearly a century
of seismic records to show that mean winter wave heights, as
well as the frequency of big waves, have significantly
increased along California’s coast since the 1970s. In recent
decades, the number of waves taller than 16 feet has more than
doubled, according to the paper, which showed that the Aleutian
Low, an area of low pressure over the Aleutian Islands in
southwest Alaska, has also intensified, likely increasing
This year’s devastation in Maui and far-reaching smoke from
fires in Canada are hiding an anomaly as the wildfire season
approaches its usual peak: The U.S. is having one of its
lightest years for wildland fire in recent history. U.S.
wildfires burned 1.8 million acres as of [Last] Thursday,
according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s the
fewest in at least a decade to this point on the calendar, and
about one-third of the 10-year average of acres burned through
Aug. 24, the NIFC reported. … Last winter’s heavy snow
in the Sierra, and above-average precipitation throughout
California and Nevada in the past 12 months have spared the
region from big wildfires…
On a cloudy day on a crop farm north of Reno, Nev., Zach
Cannady tilts his head toward the sky and smiles. That’s
because it’s starting to rain, which wasn’t in the forecast.
… Cannady owns Prema Farms, a stone’s throw into California,
tucked in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. It grows a
colorful mix of crops – carrots, kale, peppers, onions, melons
and more. And harvests have been strong recently thanks to wet
winters and more frequent rain. But Cannady, who has a wife and
two kids, knows that can change fast in farming.
As Hurricane Hilary barreled toward Southern California last
week, the storm made international news as forecasters warned
of the possibility for life-threatening and catastrophic
flooding from heavy rains, especially in the mountains and
deserts. Officials issued the region’s first-ever tropical
storm watch — later upgraded to a warning — for a broad swath
of the Southland as the cyclone’s path grew more clear, likely
to become the first storm of that strength to hit the region in
decades. And although the system turned out to be historic for
Southern California — dumping record summer rainfall and
hitting tropical storm wind speeds recorded only twice in the
last century — weather officials say the situation was not
unheard-of for the region.
Weather in the desert seems mostly a dry subject. The
usual history of Palm Springs mostly starts in a dry spell at
the end of the 19th century when the little sprouting village
planted by John McCallum at the base of Mt. San Jacinto
desiccated and nearly perished despite all his efforts to bring
water from Tahquitz Canyon and Whitewater via extensive
flumes. The drought lasted some 11 years when the aptly
named Weather Bureau noted in 1901 a dying tropical cyclone
brought “two inches of rain to the mountains and deserts of
Southern California” ending the dry spell that nearly ended
Palm Springs itself. In the desert, when it finally rains, many
times, it pours. But perhaps the most famous and
influential deluge in the history of the Coachella Valley
didn’t occur here at all. In 1905, heavy rainfall in the
Colorado River basin caused the river to swell and eventually
breach a foolishly naïve Imperial Valley irrigation dike. -Written by Tracy Conrad, special to the Desert
Rebuilding State Route 37 to elevate it above water in the face
of rising sea levels got a welcome $155 million boost from the
$1.2 trillion U.S. infrastructure Law of 2021, the California
Transportation Commission announced this week. The two-mile
Marin County section of the 21-mile commuter artery that runs
alongside San Pablo Bay connecting Marin, Sonoma, Napa and
Solano counties marks the beginning of a larger $4 billion
project planned for the whole corridor. State transportation
officials say work is expected to start in 2027 and end two
years later. The $180 million project approved Aug. 18 by the
state’s transportation commission will raise the roadway by 30
feet over Novato Creek by 2029, well above the projected year
2130 sea-level rise.
The seas are rising. Humans have already pumped enough
greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to raise ocean levels up
to 2 feet by the end of the century, according to
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If we
do not curb our use of fossil fuels, we are looking at up to 7
feet. That rise could drive 2 billion people from
their homes and cost $14 trillion a year. And once the
seas go up, they will not fall — not on any human timescale.
But what if they could? On the subreddit AskScience, one user
proposed a potential solution: What if we took our excess
seawater and dumped it into Death Valley? The national park,
located in the Mojave Desert, reaches 282 feet below sea level
and used to be the site of a massive lake.
Wildfires raging in rugged pockets of California’s far north
have killed a Siskiyou County man and added particulate plumes
to smoke drifting toward the Bay Area from big Oregon
blazes. California fire map: Active fires in Northern
California including Smith River Complex California’s fire
season is here, and with temperatures rising, lightning weather
in the forecast and autumnal winds always a threat, it’s likely
to intensify over the next few months and threaten more
populated areas. Roughly 173,000 acres have burned so far
this season — up 24% from 139,000 this time last year, a
surprisingly mild season, but down nearly 80% from an average
of about 812,000 acres over the past five years, which included
three years of historic drought.
Last week, a massive marine heat wave sitting roughly 60 miles
off California’s coast oozed eastward, providing warm water
fuel for Hurricane Hilary and its historic trek north. It was a
worrisome development for researchers who have monitored this
warm mass for nearly a decade — and who are watching a
developing El Niño in the equatorial Pacific. Ever since the
“blob” appeared in the northeastern Pacific at the very end of
2013 — a massive marine heat wave that gripped the West Coast
for nearly two years in heat and drought; disrupting marine
ecosystems up and down the coast — a massive offshore heat wave
has appeared nearly every year (with the exception of 2017 and
2018); expanding in the summer and shrinking in the winter.
When you think about sources of planet-heating greenhouse
gases, dams and reservoirs probably aren’t some of the first
things that come to mind. But scientific research has
shown that reservoirs emit significant amounts of methane, a
potent greenhouse gas. It’s produced by decomposing plants and
other organic matter collecting near the bottom of reservoirs.
Methane bubbles up to the surface of reservoirs, and also
passes through dams and bubbles up downstream. Scientists call
these processes ebullition and degassing. …
[Experts] estimated that if [Sites] reservoir is built and
filled, it would annually emit approximately 362,000 metric
tons of emissions, measured as carbon dioxide equivalent.
California’s Sierra Nevada mountain used to have more meadows,
nearly three times as many. That’s according to a report
released earlier this month by the U.S. Forest Service’s
Pacific Southwest Research Station. Researchers used a subset
of artificial intelligence known as machine learning to
identify and map locations of these lost meadows, which have
disappeared over 150 years due to livestock grazing, mining,
road-building and wildfires. … In some instances, the
models expanded into areas where meadows were known to already
exist. Potential new meadows, or previously unrecognized areas,
were also identified and will now be used in the forest
service’s meadow restoration effort.
Climate scientists are bracing for potentially lengthy El Niño
and La Niña events, according to a new study revealing how the
underlying mechanism for climate variability is responding to
increased greenhouse gas emissions in unpredicted ways and
inducing El Niño-like conditions after volcanic eruptions. The
research published in Nature Wednesday details recently
discovered trends of the “Pacific Walker Circulation,” (PWC) an
atmospheric phenomenon relating to east-west circulation along
the equatorial Pacific. The pattern plays an atmospheric role
in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, the dominant mode of
global interannual climate variability that comprises two
phases: El Niño and La Niña.
Tropical storm Hilary drenched much of Southern California
before its remnants moved on to douse several Western states.
While some communities suffered severe flooding and mudslides,
most got a beneficial soaking. But experts say that given the
overall setup, the aftermath could have been much worse — and
both luck and preparation played a role in avoiding a more dire
outcome. … Thanks to California’s steep terrain, dense
population and vast area burned by wildfires over the past
several years, it probably takes less rain to cause serious
flooding in the state than in other locations typically hit by
hurricanes and tropical storms.
Some places in the U.S. are already struggling
with groundwater depletion, such as
California, Arizona, Nebraska and other parts of the
central Plains. … [Jonathan Winter, an associate professor of
geography at Dartmouth College and an author on a new
study on future U.S. irrigation costs and benefits] used a
computer model to look at how heat and drought might affect
crop production by the middle and end of this century, given
multiple scenarios for the emissions of warming greenhouse
gases. In places like California and Texas where “everyone is
dropping their straw into the glass” of groundwater, as Winter
put it, current levels of irrigation won’t be viable in the
long term because there isn’t enough water. But use of
irrigation may grow where groundwater supply isn’t presently an
The state received a significant boost to its efforts with
State Route 37 and San Pablo Bay last week with the infusion of
$155 million in federal funding. The California Transportation
Commission announced on Wednesday it formally allocated the
funds to elevate a key section of State Route 37 to guard
against future flooding on a vital regional corridor connecting
Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties and enhance habitat
connectivity for San Pablo Bay. The $180 million project will
raise the roadway by 30 feet over Novato Creek by 2029 — well
above the projected year 2130 sea-level rise. The $155 million
allocation comes from the federal Infrastructure Investment and
Jobs Act (IIJA) and is lauded by environmental groups and local
leaders who have been calling for investments to support the
long-term viability of state route 37.
Mitigating climate change and adapting to a warming planet
requires as many partners as we can muster. This includes
embracing nature as a key ally. Estimates suggest that
nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed
to keep climate warming below two degrees Centigrade. And,
nature, can help us prepare for the changes we are already
experiencing and know are coming. Many people appreciate that
if we plant more trees, they can both cool our cities and
absorb carbon. But, perhaps less well known are the many
benefits that beavers bring to the climate fight. Beavers are
ecological engineers whose ponds store carbon, improve water
quality, create habitat to support biodiversity, and help
reduce climate impacts.
Sci-fi writers have long conceived worlds in which extreme
weather events upend the lives of its inhabitants, but with
every passing, warming year, their scenarios feel more
prophetic. Last September, record-shattering temperatures
nearly broke the state’s power grid, and according to a Times
investigation, extreme heat waves are killing more Californians
than official records show. In the winter, after the driest
three-year period on record that dried up wells and forced
farmers to fallow fields, atmospheric river storms pummeled the
state. Farms flooded. Levees failed. For decades,
scientists have warned us that human-caused climate change
will produce a growing number of weather catastrophes. But
as the impact of global warming unfolds across the world,
events once expected to happen decades from now are already
In an otherwise warming planet, new research shows that the
ocean off California’s Central Coast may be a thermal refuge
for marine wildlife. Cal Poly associate professor Ryan Walter,
who teaches physics, and fourth-year physics student Michael
Dalsin analyzed temperature data gathered from 1978 through
2020 at a site just north of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
They found that while other areas of the world see sharp rises
in ocean temperatures and more frequent and more intense
heatwaves, the Central Coast hasn’t seen such intense
trends. The region still experiences marine heatwaves and
cold spells brought on by factors such as the ocean-wide
climactic patterns of El Niño and La Niña, but cold current
upwelling brought on by strong local winds helps maintain the
marine ecosystem along the Central Coast, according to a study
by Walter and Dalsin published on July 31.
When Adel Hagekhalil speaks about the future of water in
Southern California, he often starts by mentioning the three
conduits the region depends on to bring water from hundreds of
miles away: the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River
Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. As general manager of the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Hagekhalil
is responsible for ensuring water for 19 million people,
leading the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of drinking
water. He says that with climate change upending the water
cycle, the three existing aqueducts will no longer be
sufficient. … For Southern California to adapt,
Hagekhalil said, it will need to recycle more wastewater,
capture stormwater, clean up contaminated groundwater, and
design new infrastructure …
July was the hottest month in modern times. Now, August is
shaping up to be a month of extremes. In the United States
alone, a tropical storm swept across the Southwest, another
struck Texas, Maui burned, and a blistering heat dome sat atop
the middle of the country. In India, torrential rains triggered
deadly landslides, Morocco and Japan hit new heat records, and
southern Europe braced for another scorching heat wave. Those
extremes have also brought high-stakes tests for public
officials: Where public alerts and education worked, death and
destruction were minimized. Where they didn’t, the results were
catastrophic. Maui has so far recorded more than 100 deaths
from the blaze that started Aug. 8, and that number is
projected to rise.
In 2021, hydropower contributed 16% to total global electricity
production, whereas in the United States it accounted for only
about 6% of the total (although it was responsible for 31.5% of
electricity generated domestically from renewable sources),
according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That
small share of U.S. production could be higher: The 2016
Hydropower Vision Report, published by the U.S. Department of
Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), stated
that “U.S. hydropower could grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) of
capacity to nearly 150 GW by 2050.”
The sea has long inspired a human attraction, perhaps even a
compulsion, to be as close to the edge as possible. Its sheer
power captivates us, even on its most turbulent days, and we
can’t help but dream of calling the shore our own. To be out by
the surf, to sense the very limits of where land can go, to
feel the rise and fall of each wave like our own breath is to
reckon with a force so alive it feels otherworldly. But the
ocean is not “out there” beyond the shore, it is upon us,
carving away at the coast each day despite our best efforts to
keep the water at bay. We thought that with enough ingenuity we
could contain the sea, but the rising tide is proving
otherwise. Studying this confluence of land, people and sea has
kept Gary Griggs busy for much of his life.
Justices Ron Robie and Stacy Boulware Eurie are spearheading an
effort to educate California’s judiciary about climate change
and water issues. We asked them why they’ve taken on this
task—and what they hope to accomplish. You are leading the
judiciary’s efforts to train judges and justices on water and
climate. What does this entail, and why is it so important?
Justice Robie: I’ve taught classes on the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for about 20 years. Water is a
similar specialized area like CEQA, and more water cases are
being assigned to larger courts. It seemed logical that using
the CEQA model would be good for water.
A natural El Nino, human-caused climate change, a
stubborn heat dome over the nation’s midsection and
other factors cooked up Tropical Storm Hilary’s record-breaking
slosh into California and Nevada, scientists
figure. Cooked up is the key phrase, since hot water and
hot air were crucial in rapidly growing Hilary and then
steering the storm on an unusual path that dumped 10 months of
rain in a single weekend in normally bone-dry places. Nearly a
foot of rain fell in parts of Southern California’s
mountains, while cities smashed summertime records.
Tropical Storm Hilary made history Thursday, becoming the first
storm of its kind to enter California since 1997. The state
rarely sees landfalling tropical cyclones or hurricanes, thanks
to a confluence of cold water and unfavorable atmospheric
conditions off the coast. Experts say the occurrence will
likely remain relatively rare even as the climate
changes. But rising ocean temperatures mean the hurricanes
that do happen to make it up the coast may be stronger and more
damaging. On Sunday evening, Hilary brought extreme rainfall to
neighborhoods from San Diego to Los Angeles, trapping cars in
floodwaters and overwhelming drainage systems.
The morning sun was still rising over the shriveled wheat
fields, and the villagers were already worrying about another
day without water. Rainwater stored in the village well would
run out in 30 days, one farmer said nervously. The groundwater
pumps gave nothing, complained another. The canals, brimming
decades ago with melted snow from the Hindu Kush, now dry up by
spring, said a third. … Two years after its takeover of
Afghanistan, the Taliban is overseeing its first major
infrastructure project, the 115-mile Qosh Tepa canal, designed
to divert 20 percent of the water from the Amu Darya river
across the parched plains of northern Afghanistan. The
canal promises to be a game changer for villages like Ishfaq’s
in Jowzjan province.
In the wake of Hilary’s lashing of Southern California,
the region awoke Monday to lingering damage from the historic
storm.The first tropical storm to hit Los Angeles in 84 years
dumped record rainfall and turned streets into muddy,
debris-swollen rivers; downed trees and knocked out power for
thousands of residents; and closed schools across the
Southland. Hilary was downgraded to a post-tropical storm early
Monday, the National Hurricane Center said in an
advisory. But even in its weakened state, it was still
predicted to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding”
to parts of the southwestern U.S., the center said.
Flowers that haven’t been seen in years bloomed across Southern
California this spring after massive winter downpours, creating
not only colorful landscapes but a boon for conservationists
eager to gather desert seeds as an insurance policy against a
hotter and drier future. In the Mojave Desert, seeds from
parish goldeneye and brittlebush are scooped up by staff and
volunteers working to build out seed banks in the hope these
can be used in restoration projects as climate change pressures
desert landscapes. Already this summer, the York Fire burned
across the Mojave National Preserve, charring thousands of
acres in the fragile ecosystem including famed Joshua trees.
The states of the Lower Colorado
River Basin have traditionally played an oversized role in
tapping the lifeline that supplies 40 million people in the West.
California, Nevada and Arizona were quicker to build major canals
and dams and negotiated a landmark deal that requires the Upper
Basin to send predictable flows through the Grand Canyon, even
during dry years.
But with the federal government threatening unprecedented water
cuts amid decades of drought and declining reservoirs, the Upper
Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are
muscling up to protect their shares of an overallocated river
whose average flows in the Upper Basin have already dropped
20 percent over the last century.
They have formed new agencies to better monitor their interests,
moved influential Colorado River veterans into top negotiating
posts and improved their relationships with Native American
tribes that also hold substantial claims to the river.
This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.
Growing up in the shadow of the
Rocky Mountains, Andrew Schwartz never missed an opportunity to
play in – or study – a Colorado snowstorm. During major
blizzards, he would traipse out into the icy wind and heavy
drifts of snow pretending to be a scientist researching in
Decades later, still armed with an obsession for extreme weather,
Schwartz has landed in one of the snowiest places in the West,
leading a research lab whose mission is to give California water
managers instant information on the depth and quality of snow
draping the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
When the Colorado River Compact was
signed 100 years ago, the negotiators for seven Western states
bet that the river they were dividing would have ample water to
meet everyone’s needs – even those not seated around the table.
A century later, it’s clear the water they bet on is not there.
More than two decades of drought, lake evaporation and overuse of
water have nearly drained the river’s two anchor reservoirs, Lake
Powell on the Arizona-Utah border and Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
Climate change is rendering the basin drier, shrinking spring
runoff that’s vital for river flows, farms, tribes and cities
across the basin – and essential for refilling reservoirs.
The states that endorsed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 – and
the tribes and nation of Mexico that were excluded from the table
– are now straining to find, and perhaps more importantly accept,
solutions on a river that may offer just half of the water that
the Compact assumed would be available. And not only are
solutions not coming easily, the relationships essential for
compromise are getting more frayed.
With 25 years of experience working
on the Colorado River, Chuck Cullom is used to responding to
myriad challenges that arise on the vital lifeline that seven
states, more than two dozen tribes and the country of Mexico
depend on for water. But this summer problems on the
drought-stressed river are piling up at a dizzying pace:
Reservoirs plummeting to record low levels, whether Hoover Dam
and Glen Canyon Dam can continue to release water and produce
hydropower, unprecedented water cuts and predatory smallmouth
bass threatening native fish species in the Grand Canyon.
“Holy buckets, Batman!,” said Cullom, executive director of the
Upper Colorado River Commission. “I mean, it’s just on and on and
Managers of California’s most
overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s
landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable,
detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered
basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250
newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the
drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather
data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on
multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a
Momentum is building for a unique
interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern
California homes and business into relief for the stressed
Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a
river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being
shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water
This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to some 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Climate scientist Brad Udall calls
himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado
River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that
highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State
University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s
future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less
water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the
Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being
released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.
The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
For more than 20 years, Tanya
Trujillo has been immersed in the many challenges of the Colorado
River, the drought-stressed lifeline for 40 million people from
Denver to Los Angeles and the source of irrigation water for more
than 5 million acres of winter lettuce, supermarket melons and
Trujillo has experience working in both the Upper and Lower
Basins of the Colorado River, basins that split the river’s water
evenly but are sometimes at odds with each other. She was a
lawyer for the state of New Mexico, one of four states in the
Upper Colorado River Basin, when key operating guidelines for
sharing shortages on the river were negotiated in 2007. She later
worked as executive director for the Colorado River Board of
California, exposing her to the different perspectives and
challenges facing California and the other states in the river’s
Land and waterway managers labored
hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly
rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their
water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing
some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore
the state’s major floodplains.
Stretching 450 miles long and up to
50 miles wide, the Sierra Nevada makes up more than a quarter of
California’s land area and forms its largest watersheds,
providing more than half of the state’s developed water supply to
residents, agriculture and other businesses.*
Water is flowing once again
to the Colorado River’s delta in Mexico, a vast region that
was once a natural splendor before the iconic Western river was
dammed and diverted at the turn of the last century, essentially
turning the delta into a desert.
In 2012, the idea emerged that water could be intentionally sent
down the river to inundate the delta floodplain and regenerate
native cottonwood and willow trees, even in an overallocated
river system. Ultimately, dedicated flows of river water were
brokered under cooperative
efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments.
This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
Las Vegas, known for its searing summertime heat and glitzy casino fountains, is projected to get even hotter in the coming years as climate change intensifies. As temperatures rise, possibly as much as 10 degrees by end of the century, according to some models, water demand for the desert community is expected to spike. That is not good news in a fast-growing region that depends largely on a limited supply of water from an already drought-stressed Colorado River.
On average, more than 60 percent of
California’s developed water supply originates in the Sierra
Nevada and the southern spur of the Cascade Range. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
This tour ventured into the Sierra to examine water issues
that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and
throughout the state.
As California’s seasons become
warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water
rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the
reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of
the state’s water supply.
A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends
that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s
increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure
water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns
that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing
climate could require existing rights holders to curtail
diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open
opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River
Basin’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch.
The weather turned persistently dry. Water levels in the system’s
anchor reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead plummeted. A river
system relied upon by nearly 40 million people, farms and
ecosystems across the West was in trouble. And there was no guide
on how to respond.
Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.
Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows, canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of science attached to it. Snowpack, streamflow and tree ring data all influence the crucial decisions that guide water management of the iconic Western river every day.
Dizzying in its scope, detail and complexity, the scientific information on the Basin’s climate and hydrology has been largely scattered in hundreds of studies and reports. Some studies may conflict with others, or at least appear to. That’s problematic for a river that’s a lifeline for 40 million people and more than 4 million acres of irrigated farmland.
Sprawled across a desert expanse
along the Utah-Arizona border, Lake Powell’s nearly 100-foot high
bathtub ring etched on its sandstone walls belie the challenges
of a major Colorado River reservoir at less than half-full. How
those challenges play out as demand grows for the river’s water
amid a changing climate is fueling simmering questions about
This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
The islands of the western
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are sinking as the rich peat soil
that attracted generations of farmers dries out and decays. As
the peat decomposes, it releases tons of carbon dioxide – a
greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere. As the islands sink, the
levees that protect them are at increasing risk of failure, which
could imperil California’s vital water conveyance system.
An ambitious plan now in the works could halt the decay,
sequester the carbon and potentially reverse the sinking.
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.
The Colorado River is arguably one
of the hardest working rivers on the planet, supplying water to
40 million people and a large agricultural economy in the West.
But it’s under duress from two decades of drought and decisions
made about its management will have exceptional ramifications for
the future, especially as impacts from climate change are felt.
Many of California’s watersheds are
notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring
flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it
can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are
strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each
winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.
However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could
lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water
supply and flood protection capabilities.
It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends
of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water
districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the
state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it
can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems
and upend an agency’s finances.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years
of drought and the dramatic decline in water levels at the
river’s key reservoirs have pressed water managers to adapt to
challenging conditions. But even more extreme — albeit rare —
droughts or floods that could overwhelm water managers may lie
ahead in the Basin as the effects of climate change take hold,
say a group of scientists. They argue that stakeholders who are
preparing to rewrite the operating rules of the river should plan
now for how to handle these so-called “black swan” events so
they’re not blindsided.
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.
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.
This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
As stakeholders labor to nail down
effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado
River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is
increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times
The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving,
when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate
Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly
compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred
throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
Just because El Niño may be lurking
off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a
clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in
Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and
packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like
the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30,
2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter,
leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of
another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine,
water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will
learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine
water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts
downstream and throughout the state.
GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
Nowhere is the domino effect in
Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River,
and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of
California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now
as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan.
Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying
voice between its major water players, an effort you can read
more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.
Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Learn what new tree-ring studies in
Southern California watersheds reveal about drought, hear about
efforts to improve subseasonal to seasonal weather forecasting
and get the latest on climate change impacts that will alter
drought vulnerability in the future.
At our Paleo
Drought Workshop on April 19th in San Pedro, you will hear
from experts at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of
Arizona and California Department of Water Resources.
Dramatic swings in weather patterns
over the past few years in California are stark reminders of
climate variability and regional vulnerability. Alternating years
of drought and intense rain events make long-term planning for
storing and distributing water a challenging task.
Current weather forecasting capabilities provide details for
short time horizons. Attend the Paleo Drought
Workshop in San Pedro on April 19 to learn more about
research efforts to improve sub-seasonal to seasonal
precipitation forecasting, known as S2S, and how those models
could provide more useful weather scenarios for resource
Every day, people flock to Daniel
Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and
insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather.
Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the
Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the
term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe
the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the
West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from
California, intensifying the drought.
Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause
droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme
weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and
alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford
University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides
unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the
western United States. In a recent interview with Western
Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its
potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may
lie ahead for the state’s water supply.
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Evidence shows that climate change is affecting California with
warmer temperatures, less snowfall and more extreme weather
events. This guide explains the causes of climate change, the
effects on water resources and efforts underway to better adapt
to a changing climate. It includes information on both California
water and the water of the Colorado River Basin, a widely shared
resource throughout the Southwest.
Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s most beautiful yet vulnerable
lakes. Renowned for its remarkable clarity, Tahoe straddles the
Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles
wide in a granitic bowl high in the Sierra Nevada.
Tahoe sits 6,225 feet above sea level. Its deepest point is 1,645
feet, making it the second-deepest lake in the nation, after
Oregon’s Crater Lake, and the tenth deepest in the world.
Drought and climate change are having a noticeable impact on the
Colorado River Basin, and that is posing potential challenges to
those in the Southwestern United States and Mexico who rely on
In the just-released Winter 2017-18 edition of River
Report, writer Gary Pitzer examines what scientists
project will be the impact of climate change on the Colorado
River Basin, and how water managers are preparing for a future of
Rising temperatures from climate change are having a noticeable
effect on how much water is flowing down the Colorado River. Read
the latest River Report to learn more about what’s
happening, and how water managers are responding.
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges
facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent
drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water
managers and others are trying to face the future.
The atmospheric condition at any given time or place, measured by
wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and
precipitation. Weather changes from hour to hour, day to day, and
season to season. Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as
the average weather, during a period of time ranging from months
to thousands or millions of years.
Variations in the statistical analysis of the climate on all time
and space scales beyond that of individual weather events is
known as natural variability. Natural variations in climate over
time are caused by internal processes of the climate system, such
as El Niño, and
phenomena such as volcanic activity and variations in the output
of the sun.
California agriculture is going to have to learn to live with the
impacts of climate change and work toward reducing its
contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, a Yolo County walnut
grower said at the Jan. 26 California Climate Change Symposium in
“I don’t believe we are going to be able to adapt our way out of
climate change,” said Russ Lester, co-owner of Dixon Ridge Farms
in Winters. “We need to mitigate for it. It won’t solve the
problem but it can slow it down.”
California had its warmest winter on record in 2014-2015, with
the average Sierra Nevada temperature hovering above 32 degrees
Fahrenheit – the highest in 120 years. Thus, where California
relies on snow to fall in the mountains and create a snowpack
that can slowly melt into reservoirs, it was instead raining.
That left the state’s snowpack at its lowest ever – 5 percent on
April 1, 2015.
Because he relays stats like these, climate scientist Brad Udall
says he doesn’t often get invited back to speak before the same
audience about climate change.
This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past,
present and future of flood management in California’s Central
Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced
the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand.
Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from
California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood
Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they
discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood
protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic
flood management plan for the Central Valley.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater,
and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and
turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource
through various activities.
Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is
today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the
fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically
important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system,
there have been some critical events that had a profound impact
on California’s water history. These turning points not only
forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives
of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a
historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped
the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with
background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven
Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The
Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch
map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s
apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for
urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as
the most thorough explanation of California water rights law
available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing
in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation
ditch through the complex web of California water rights.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4
million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000
square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page
Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the
river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the
items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of
significant Colorado River events.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
explores the history and development of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery
system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes
the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP
brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing
uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta,
its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues
with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural
drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.
Climate change involves natural and man-made changes to weather
patterns that occur over millions of years or over multiple
In the past 150 years, human industrial activity has accelerated
the rate of change in the climate due to the increase in
greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide,
among others). Scientific studies describing this climate change
continue to be produced and its expected impacts continue to be
This printed issue of Western Water looks at California
groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by
local, regional and state management. For more background
information on groundwater please refer to the Foundation’s
Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.
This printed issue of Western Water This issue of Western Water
looks at climate change through the lens of some of the latest
scientific research and responses from experts regarding
mitigation and adaptation.
This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the
Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at
improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying
California’s long-term water supply reliability.
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues
associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the
water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of
whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they
might be provided.
This printed issue of Western Water explores the
historic nature of some of the key agreements in recent years,
future challenges, and what leading state representatives
identify as potential “worst-case scenarios.” Much of the content
for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth
panel discussions at the Colorado River Symposium. The Foundation
will publish the full proceedings of the Symposium in 2012.