Topic: Climate Change

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Climate Change

Aquafornia news Audubon California

News release: New model maps a resilient SF Bay future through climate-smart seagrass restoration

Audubon California and partners released their San Francisco Bay Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model, a powerful new tool that highlights future-resilient locations within the bay most suitable for restoration of eelgrass, a linchpin species for long-term bay health. The project was developed as a collaboration between Audubon California, Merkel & Associates, Inc., and Dr. Katharyn Boyer (Interim Director, Estuary and Ocean Science Center, San Francisco State University), funded by a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council. … San Francisco Bay hosts an estimated 17% of California’s eelgrass. Eelgrass (Zostera marina) plays a critical role in the marine food web and bay ecosystem. Not only does it provide home and food to a vast quantity of marine life, including waterbirds like Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, and Western Grebes - its dense growth along the seafloor traps sediment and substrate, a crucial factor in preventing coastal erosion. 

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Fish in the forest

When Allison Dodds hit the slopes at June Mountain Ski Resort this past winter the mountain looked a little different than it had in past years. Not only was there extra snow from 2023’s historic precipitation, but there was also extra space between the trees, making it easier for her to maneuver (and shred) her way down the mountain. Why the extra space?  Over the past two years, CalTrout and Inyo National Forest have been working together to restore and remove infested and dead whitebark pine trees on June Mountain. Dodds works as a Project Manager for CalTrout’s Sierra Headwaters region, and she leads the June Mountain Forest Health Project. After a century of fire suppression, forests across the state have become densely packed and overloaded with dead wood that is primed to burn intensely and causes fires to spread quickly. 

Aquafornia news Yale E360

How a solar revolution in farming is depleting world’s groundwater

There is a solar-powered revolution going on in the fields of India. By 2026, more than 3 million farmers will be raising irrigation water from beneath their fields using solar-powered pumps. With effectively free water available in almost unlimited quantities to grow their crops, their lives could be transformed. Until the water runs out. The desert state of Rajasthan is the Indian pioneer and has more solar pumps than any other. Over the past decade, the government has given subsidized solar pumps to almost 100,000 farmers. Those pumps now water more than a million acres and have enabled agricultural water use to increase by more than a quarter. But as a result, water tables are falling rapidly. There is little rain to replace the water being pumped to the surface. In places, the underground rocks are now dry down to 400 feet below ground. 

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Caltrans looking at addressing PCH flooding issues near Bolsa Chica wetlands

Pacific Coast Highway closing during high tides or heavy rainstorms near the Bolsa Chica wetlands is a common problem for drivers in the area, and Caltrans officials say they are looking to address the flooding problems in the future. When asked if Caltrans had plans to address the flooding concerns along that stretch of road at a recent Huntington Beach City Council meeting, Caltrans District 12 Asset Manager Bassem Barsoum said officials are working on a plan. Storms earlier this month forced a 93 hour closure of the road in town to traffic. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Researchers warn of a catastrophic collapse of ocean current

Scientists are sounding the alarm that a crucial component of the planet’s climate system is in gradual decline and could one day reach a tipping point that would radically alter global weather patterns. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is a system of ocean currents that circulate water in the Atlantic Ocean like a conveyor belt, helping to redistribute heat and regulate global and regional climates. New research, however, warns that the AMOC is weakening under a warming climate, and could potentially suffer a dangerous and abrupt collapse with worldwide consequences. … Considering the AMOC is the workhorse of the Atlantic, the consequences of such a collapse would result in “hugely chaotic changes in global weather patterns” that extend far beyond the Atlantic, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA who was not involved in the study.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Coloradans could spend $2.5B replacing water-hungry grass

One of Colorado’s leading urban water conservation strategies — turf replacement — could require up to $2.5 billion to save 20,000 acre-feet of water, according to a recent report commissioned by the state’s top water policy agency. Colorado communities are facing a drier future with water shortages and searching for ways to cut down water use. … This turf-focused strategy has gained new momentum since 2020 and 2021, when the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin became shockingly apparent (to more than just water experts) as two enormous reservoirs, lakes Mead and Powell, fell to historic lows.

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Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

CSU Monterey Bay team studies water from the sky

In October, CSU Monterey Bay received a $1.13 million grant from the U.S. Geological Survey to support their ongoing role in a project called OpenET. The tool uses satellites to calculate how much water is lost to the air after being applied to farmland. “There are still gaps in the information and understanding between how much water we need and how much we are actually using,” said Dr. AJ Purdy, a senior research scientist at CSUMB working on the project. “This project fills a big gap.” OpenET uses satellites from NASA, USGS, and others to measure evapotranspiration, or the amount of water that evaporates from soil combined with the water that transpires through plants — traveling from the roots and evaporating off the leaves. The satellites measure reflectance — energy from the sun that bounces off the Earth, which hits the satellites in different wavelengths that correspond to color. OpenET measures plant coverage, so it looks for green.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Wildfires are killing California’s ancient giants. Can seedlings save the species?

On a late autumn day, a team of forestry workers spreads out among the burned trunks of giant sequoia trees. The 1,000-year-old trees in the grove are dead but still standing, killed in an extreme wildfire that raced through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In the shadow of one of the trees, the crew gets to work, pulling tiny, 4-inch seedlings out of bags clipped to their belts and tucking them into the dirt. … Over only two years, about one-fifth of all giant sequoias have been killed in extreme wildfires in California. The numbers shocked ecologists, since the enormous trees can live more than 2,000 years and have evolved to live with frequent, low-intensity fires in the Sierra Nevada. Recent fires have burned bigger and more intensely than sequoias are accustomed to, a result of the way humans have changed the forest. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Club magazine

A tale of two sea level rise solutions

On a mid-winter morning in central California, Alyson Hunter and Bruce Delgado gathered at the Marina State Beach parking lot, the sea raging in the distance. Heavy rolling waves gushed toward shore, crumbling before the dune. The temperature was in the high 40s, though the morning sun was strong and the air was nearly still.  … Without a coordinated state-wide plan for sea level rise, however, cities and towns have arrived at vastly different approaches to their shared problem. This lack of coordination along the coast could present additional challenges down the line, sparing certain areas at first but ultimately worsening the impacts of sea level rise for more economically and environmentally vulnerable communities.

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Aquafornia news Scripps News

Protests erupt as Mexico City could run out of water this summer

It has been far too dry for far too long in Mexico as a combination of drying reservoirs and increasing population has caused concerns of a water crisis.  According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of Mexico, including areas around and to the north of Mexico City, are in a long-term drought. … Local media reports that reservoirs could completely be out of water by late August if conditions don’t improve. … Elizabeth Carter, an assistant professor of civil engineering and earth sciences at Syracuse University … notes … that the U.S engineering projects in rivers that feed many of Mexico’s northern freshwater sources run dry before reaching Mexico. She cites the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, and the Central Arizona Project (Colorado River) as examples. 

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

What is the status of the Hell’s Kitchen lithium project near Salton Sea?

A local community health organization and a national environmental group said they are negotiating with the developer of the Hell’s Kitchen lithium and geothermal power projects and have won an extension of at least 15 days to appeal Imperial County approvals of Controlled Thermal Resources’ first phase construction near the Salton Sea. ”Comite Civico del Valle and Earthworks have reached an agreement with CTR to extend the filing deadline for litigation and we are currently in negotiations,” Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle based in Brawley, said in a statement Thursday. Earthworks, headquartered in Washington, D.C., focuses on helping communities end fossil fuel use while ensuring a safe and equitable transition to clean energy.

Aquafornia news Berkeley Lab News Center

New study: Air pollution hides increases in rainfall

We know that greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide should increase rainfall. The emissions heat the atmosphere, causing a one-two punch: warmer oceans make it easier for water to evaporate, and warmer air can hold more water vapor, meaning more moisture is available to fall as rain. But for much of the 20th century, that increase in precipitation didn’t clearly show up in the data. A new study led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) finds that the expected increase in rain has been largely offset by the drying effect of aerosols – emissions like sulfur dioxide that are produced by burning fossil fuels, and commonly thought of as air pollution or smog. 

Aquafornia news Oregon State University

New study: Cooler, wetter parts of Pacific Northwest likely to see more fires, new simulations predict

Forests in the coolest, wettest parts of the western Pacific Northwest are likely to see the biggest increases in burn probability, fire size and number of blazes as the climate continues to get warmer and drier, according to new modeling led by an Oregon State University scientist. Understanding how fire regimes may change under future climate scenarios is critical for developing adaptation strategies, said the study’s lead author, Alex Dye. Findings were published today in JGR Biogeosciences. … Forests in all of the affected areas are linchpins of multiple socio-ecological systems in the Northwest, Dye said, meaning more fire will likely put pressure on everything from drinking water sources and timber resources to biodiversity and carbon stocks.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

New study: Hilary was not a tropical storm when it entered California, yet it had the same impact, study shows

Former Hurricane Hilary was actually no longer a tropical storm but essentially had the same impact when its destructive remnants entered California last August, according to a new National Hurricane Center report. Damage from Hilary was estimated at $900 million in the United States. Three deaths were directly related to the storm, including two in Mexico and one that occurred in California when a woman was washed away in her home. Hurricane Hilary moved north off Mexico’s Pacific coast and weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall in northern Baja California in Mexico, where its center became less defined as it encountered mountainous terrain and other atmospheric conditions, the report said.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: State report identifies future desalination plants to meet statewide water reliability goals

As California continues to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, the State must work to identify future sources of safe, reliable water for all. This week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a report identifying future planned desalination projects to help meet the brackish water supply goals identified in California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future. As a key strategy in the Water Supply Strategy, desalination is the process of removing salts and minerals from brackish water and seawater to produce water suitable for drinking water, irrigation and other supply needs. Brackish water is a mix of freshwater and saltwater and occurs in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. In 2020, over 100,000 acre-feet of brackish water was desalinated for drinking water, which was two-thirds of the desalinated water produced and used in California.

Aquafornia news Desert Research Institute

News release: A new tool can help protect California and Nevada communities from floods while preserving their water supply

At the dawn of the new year in 1997, the Truckee River transformed. The winter season had thus far been great for snow, but when a subtropical storm from near the Hawaiian Islands rolled in, it carried with it unseasonably warm rain. The warm rainfall combined with snowmelt to swell the rivers, with the Truckee burying much of downtown Reno under water. Two people were killed amidst the nearly $1 billion disaster, and it wasn’t the first nor the last time that warm rains triggered severe flooding in the area. These types of storms, called “rain-on-snow” storms, can produce river flows 50-80% higher than typical spring snowmelt. Nevada cities nestled against the dramatic peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains are at particularly high risk from these storms: Reno and Carson City have records of flooding linked to these storms as early as 1862 and as recent as 2017. 

Aquafornia news Fast Company

This California county could be the key to U.S. lithium mining. But there’s a catch

In the quest to bolster domestic lithium production, a county in Southern California is emerging as a crucial player. The Salton Sea, a salty lake located in Imperial County three hours east of Los Angeles, contains some of the world’s largest lithium deposits. According to a Department of Energy report published last November, there are approximately 18 million tons of lithium here—enough to meet the demand for 375 million EV batteries, significantly more than all EVs currently on American roads. But there’s a catch. Extracting lithium from the Salton Sea involves a special extraction method that hasn’t been proven yet, leaving uncertainty about its commercial viability.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Colorado River water supply a serious problem for most Nevadans, poll says

More than 70 percent of Nevadans consider water supply and lowering river levels a serious issue, but only a little more than half believe climate change is, a Colorado College poll released Wednesday shows. Water continues to be a hot-button issue for voters who are looking for leaders who can best address diminishing water availability as the Colorado River faces historic challenges. Nevada, the driest state in the nation, is second only to Arizona among Western states for concern about water. … Though water appears to be at the top of most Nevadans’ priority lists, only 56 percent of state residents feel climate change is an extremely or very serious problem.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Louisiana wetlands are undergoing an ‘ecosystem collapse,’ scientists say

Rapidly rising seas are wreaking havoc on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, and could devastate three-quarters of the state’s natural buffer against hurricanes in the coming decades, scientists found in a study published Thursday. The new research documents how a sudden burst of sea level rise over the past 13 years — the type of surge once not expected until later this century — has left the overwhelming majority of the state’s coastal wetland sites in a state of current or expected “drowning,” where the seas are rising faster than wetlands can grow. … The news is dire for a state that has already lost over 2,000 square miles of wetland area since 1932, bringing the ocean ever closer to New Orleans and other population centers and leaving them more vulnerable to storms.

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Uinta Basin oil shale proposal ends, but Utah is still interested in developing

Another company has given up on trying to develop oil shale in the Uinta Basin, faced with legal battles, environmental concerns and money going down the drain. Estonia’s national energy company announced that it was wrapping up its fruitless oil shale venture in Utah at the end of last month. Estonia Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev said that the company’s project in Utah was “neither profitable nor promising” in a news release. … Oil shale is a hard sedimentary rock that can be heated to release synthetic crude oil. It’s a thirsty and expensive process that threatens air quality, water quality and endangered species, and exacerbates global warming, according to nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust staff attorney Michael Toll.

Aquafornia news What's Up News

Atlantic Ocean is headed for a tipping point − once melting glaciers shut down the Gulf Stream, we would see extreme climate change within decades, study shows

Superstorms, abrupt climate shifts and New York City frozen in ice. That’s how the blockbuster Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation and the catastrophic consequences. While Hollywood’s vision was over the top, the 2004 movie raised a serious question: If global warming shuts down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is crucial for carrying heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes, how abrupt and severe would the climate changes be? Twenty years after the movie’s release, we know a lot more about the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation. Instruments deployed in the ocean starting in 2004 show that the Atlantic Ocean circulation has observably slowed over the past two decades, possibly to its weakest state in almost a millennium. 

Aquafornia news San Mateo Daily Journal

Pacifica’s coast contending with climate change

The coastal town of Pacifica is toeing a fine line, balancing Coastal Commission regulations on sea-level rise and erosion, which favors strict remodel standards and minimizing armoring in threatened areas, with residents’ desire to protect property and homes with physical barriers and redevelopment. Scientists refer to a gradual pullback from the coastal shoreline to move development out of harm’s way as “managed retreat” — a term the Pacifica City Council rejected outright when preparing a 2020 draft of their Local Coastal Land Use Plan, a document which regulates land use, resource protection and development along the coast.

Aquafornia news Aspen Public Radio

New study: Research shows that wildfires can have major impacts on snowpack

Winter snowpacks are an important source of water in the West, and their size can impact fire seasons. But researchers are finding that wildfires themselves can impact snowpack. Bright, white fresh snow has a high albedo, meaning it reflects much of the sun’s light. But wildfires, which are increasing in size and frequency, can substantially reduce the reflective power of snow for years. Blazes can also burn off the tree canopy, exposing snow to more sun. “Following a fire, snow disappears four to 23 days earlier and melt rates increase by up to 57%,” reads the opening of a 2022 paper that University of Nevada Reno geography professor Anne Nolin co-authored. A 2023 paper she also co-authored looked at burns in California and had similar findings.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Flood damage raises alarms about California’s next ‘disaster insurance gap’

For many Southern Californians, [flooding and landslides are] the new normal. Homes once prized for hillside views and apartment complexes on low-lying urban streets alike are increasingly under threat from severe flooding, mudslides and heavy winds. Wildfires and earthquakes have long been the focus of concern, but the consequences of wet storms are only now beginning to generate similar levels of alarm. The Rivases [a family in West Hills] had renters insurance when they lived in a house a few doors down. But when they moved in November, they couldn’t get a policy because of the location. What’s been called the “disaster insurance gap” has become an increasingly dire concern in recent years. Even those who have insurance but live in imperiled places are often unable to secure sufficient policies to protect their residences and belongings.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Years after a Newsom order, California is finally set to ban oil and gas fracking

Nearly three years after Gov. Gavin Newsom directed it, California’s oil and gas industry regulator kickstarted a process to outright ban hydraulic fracturing, the fossil fuel extraction method known as ‘fracking.’ Fracking permits have not been issued in the state since 2021, but environmentalists celebrated the move as a win in the fight against climate change. Oil industry groups called it yet another example of regulatory overreach and argued it could lead to higher oil prices. … As the practice exploded in the mid-2000s, research gave fracking a reputation for pollution and public health dangers. Fracking not only is water intensive, it releases potent greenhouse gases such as methane and benzyne and can contaminate groundwater basins with chemical additives.

Aquafornia news NBC - Bay Area

Lawmakers propose measure they believe would save Bay from future flooding

Lawmakers want Californians to have the chance to vote on a new measure they believe would save the Bay from future flooding. On Friday, lawmakers and climate advocates on the Peninsula proposed a vote to help protect people, homes and businesses near the water. “Low-lying communities are all at risk but the impacts of sea level rise will soon be felt by all residents of the Bay Area,” said Assemblymemebr Damon Connolly. Specifically, they’re pushing for a $16 billion climate resiliency bond. It covers many issues, including wildfire prevention, and clean energy – but it would also fund some of the projects that non-profit Save the Bay says are urgently needed.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: Carbon capture in Montezuma Wetlands is a dangerous plan

Last May, a Bay Area company curiously named Montezuma Wetlands submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build a “CarbonHub” in Solano County’s Montezuma Wetlands. According to the proposal, the project would involve drilling a well for carbon injection and establishing an extensive expansion of submerged pipelines across San Francisco Bay. Almost immediately the project rightfully came under fire from our organization and many others due to the reality that such a venture would threaten public health, degrade the local environment and stall legitimate climate action. Indeed, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) — the process of trapping and storing climate pollution before it enters the atmosphere — has never worked in the real world and, in an ironic twist, has mostly been embraced by major polluters who see it as a way to claim they are cleaning up their act without changing anything.
-Written by Chirag Bhakta, California director of Food & Water Watch​.

Aquafornia news Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation publishes overview of Colorado River evaporation history

The Bureau of Reclamation today published an overview of historical natural losses along the lower Colorado River. The Mainstream Evaporation and Riparian Evapotranspiration report looks at water surface evaporation, soil moisture evaporation, and plant transpiration. It will be used by Reclamation as a source of data as it manages regional water operations and to improve the agency’s modeling efforts. … The report provides an overview of average mainstream losses from both river and reservoir evaporation, as well as the evaporation and transpiration associated with vegetation and habitats along the river. The report states that approximately 1.3-million-acre feet of losses occur annually along the lower Colorado River mainstream. Based on data from 2017 to 2021, approximately 860,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water is lost to evaporation occurring annually from Lake Mead to the border with Mexico. A further 445,000 acre-feet is lost to evaporation and transpiration from natural vegetation and habitats.  

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Western US lawmakers push to protect watersheds from impacts of wildfires

A bipartisan team of lawmakers from Colorado and Utah are urging Congress to help safeguard the nation’s watersheds by considering a new bill aimed at expediting the cleanup of contamination caused by wildfires. The Watershed Protection and Forest Recovery Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), would accelerate watershed recovery efforts on federal land, while also protecting private property and water resources downstream. 

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Aquafornia news CNN

Friday Top of the Scroll: ‘Super El Niño’ is here, but La Niña looks likely. What’s in store for the coming months

The current El Niño is now one of the strongest on record, new data shows, catapulting it into rare “super El Niño” territory, but forecasters believe that La Niña is likely to develop in the coming months. …  But this so-called super El Niño’s strength won’t last long – it has reached its peak strength and is headed on a downward trend, said Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist with the Climate Prediction Center. … A La Niña watch is now in effect, meaning conditions are favorable for a La Niña to form within the next six months, according to a forecast released by the CPC Thursday.

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Aquafornia news Stanford Magazine

The weather man: Daniel Swain studies extreme floods. And droughts. And wildfires. Then he explains them to the rest of us.

The moment Daniel Swain wakes up, he gets whipped about by hurricane-force winds. “A Category 5, literally overnight, hits Acapulco,” says the 34-year-old climate scientist and self-described weather geek, who gets battered daily by the onslaught of catastrophic weather headlines: wildfires, megafloods, haboobs (an intense dust storm), atmospheric rivers, bomb cyclones. Everyone’s asking: Did climate change cause these disasters? And, more and more, they want Swain to answer. … His ability to explain science to the masses—think the Carl Sagan of weather—has made him one of the media’s go-to climate experts. He’s a staff research scientist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability who spends more than 1,100 hours each year on public-facing climate and weather communication, explaining whether (often, yes) and how climate change is raising the number and exacer­bating the viciousness of weather disasters.

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Aquafornia news NIDIS

New study: Climate change isn’t producing expected increase in atmospheric moisture over dry regions

The laws of thermodynamics dictate that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, but new research has found that atmospheric moisture has not increased as expected over arid and semi-arid regions of the world as the climate has warmed. The findings are particularly puzzling because climate models have been predicting that the atmosphere will become more moist, even over dry regions. If the atmosphere is drier than anticipated, arid and semi-arid regions may be even more vulnerable to future wildfires and extreme heat than projected. The authors of the new study, led by the U.S. National Science Foundation National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), are uncertain what’s causing the discrepancy.

Aquafornia news NPR

California sea otters are protecting their coastal habitat from excess erosion

The California sea otter, once hunted to the edge of extinction, has staged a thrilling comeback in the last century. Now, a team of scientists has discovered that the otters’ success story has led to something just as remarkable: the restoration of their declining coastal marsh habitat. “To me, it’s quite an optimistic message,” says Christine Angelini, a coastal ecologist at the University of Florida and one of the authors of the study published in the journal Nature. It’s a demonstration, she says, “that the conservation of a top predator can really enhance the health and the resilience of a system that’s otherwise under a large portfolio of stress.” … Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay, California is the second largest estuary in the US. For decades, it was falling apart. ”They opened up a new harbor in the 1940’s that created this full permanent opening to the ocean,” says Brent Hughes, a marine ecologist at Sonoma State University. “And so all this new tidal energy was eroding away the marshes.”

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

SLO Beaver Brigade celebrates the semiaquatic rodent’s contributions to local ecosystems on Feb. 10 in Atascadero

Starting Feb. 10, beavers will have more eyes on them as the SLO Beaver Brigade and the Atascadero City Council team up to celebrate their contributions to California’s ecosystem. Beginning at 9 a.m. at the De Anza Trailhead in front of the Atascadero wastewater treatment facility, the Central Coast organization will unveil a new interpretive panel. SLO Beaver Brigade Executive Director Audrey Taub told New Times that two new interpretive panels and kiosks along the Juan Bautista De Anza Trail will display information on beaver habits. … Taub said these wetlands are a refuge for the local animals and serve as firebreaks for cities and towns along the Salinas River. To help fund these new interpretive panels, Taub said SLO Beaver Brigade received a Whale Tail Grant of a little more than $40,000 from the California Coastal Commission.

Aquafornia news Yale Environment 360

As use of A.I. soars, so does the energy and water it requires

Two months after its release in November 2022, OpenAI’s ChatGPT had 100 million active users, and suddenly tech corporations were racing to offer the public more “generative A.I.” Pundits compared the new technology’s impact to the Internet, or electrification, or the Industrial Revolution — or the discovery of fire. Time will sort hype from reality, but one consequence of the explosion of artificial intelligence is clear: this technology’s environmental footprint is large and growing. A.I. use is directly responsible for carbon emissions from non-renewable electricity and for the consumption of millions of gallons of fresh water, and it indirectly boosts impacts from building and maintaining the power-hungry equipment on which A.I. runs. As tech companies seek to embed high-intensity A.I. into everything from resume-writing to kidney transplant medicine and from choosing dog food to climate modeling, they cite many ways A.I. could help reduce humanity’s environmental footprint. 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

How one of the nation’s fastest growing counties plans to find water in the desert

Like many places across the West, two things are on a collision course in Utah’s southwest corner: growth and water. Washington County’s population has quadrupled since 1990. St. George, its largest city, has been the fastest-growing metro area in the nation in recent years. And projections from the University of Utah say the county’s population — now at nearly 200,000 people — could double again by 2050. The region has essentially tapped out the Colorado River tributary it depends on now, the Virgin River. So, the big question is: where will the water for all those new residents come from? … The district’s 20-year plan comes down to two big ideas: reusing and conserving the water it already has.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A.’s flood-control system survived epic storm. But it’s losing battle with climate change

Los Angeles County’s Byzantine flood control system has thus far absorbed near-record precipitation — a feat that officials say was made possible by extensive preparations, including the massive dredging of key debris basins and clearing of storm drains in areas deemed most susceptible to flooding. But as the most intense period of rain passed into history Monday, the concern among local engineers and officials was whether flood infrastructure built over the last 100 years and based on 20th century hydrologic records can continue to keep up with increasingly frequent extreme weather events propelled by climate change. … From Sunday and into Monday, the sprawling network of 18 dams, 487 miles of flood-control channels, 3,300 miles of underground storm drain channels and dozens of debris basins managed to steer countless gallons of water and flowing debris away from communities in historic flood plains.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

The fingerprints on Chile’s fires and California floods: El Niño and warming

Two far-flung corners of the world, known for their temperate climates, are being buffeted by deadly disasters. Wildfires have killed more than 120 people as they swept the forested hillsides of Chile, and record-breaking rains have swelled rivers and triggered mudslides in Southern California. Behind these risks are two powerful forces: Climate change, which can intensify both rain and drought, and the natural weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which can also supersize extreme weather. In California, meteorologists had been warning for days that an unusually strong storm, known as an atmospheric river, was gathering force because of extraordinarily high Pacific Ocean temperatures.

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Aquafornia news KJZZ - Phoenix

Cattle are a part of Arizona’s history. Climate change, overgrazing concerns cloud their future

When you drive through parts of rural Arizona, it’s hard to imagine that cattle ranchers once came here for the grass. But Eduardo Pagan, a history professor at Arizona State University, says the state looked different a couple of centuries ago. … Cattle ranching helped shape rural Arizona into what it is today. It was one of the five C’s that once formed the backbone of the state’s economy, along with copper, citrus, cotton and climate.  But many ideas we have about the history of grazing are wrong, and researchers say that cattle have emerged as a major driver of climate change. Conservationists say it’s time to re-examine grazing on public lands. … Ranching has changed the way wildfire moves across the landscape. Ranching also helped introduce invasive plants, as new grasses were planted to offset overgrazing. Grasslands have been turned into deserts. Streambeds that once nourished shady cottonwoods and willows bake in the sun after cows eat the young trees. Wildfires burn bigger and hotter. 

Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

Extracting lithium in Imperial Valley: What are the costs to environment, health, culture?

Trillions of dollars worth of lithium could be bubbling up from the ground in the Imperial Valley, which is one of the hottest and poorest areas of California. Lithium ion batteries power everything from cell phones to electric cars, and they store power generated from solar and wind farms when it’s not sunny or windy. Tapping the so-called “white gold” officially began a little over a week ago. Charles Zukoski, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science at USC and host of the podcast series Electric Futures, tells KCRW that the advantage of a lithium ion battery, as opposed to a sodium ion battery, is that it has higher energy density. It’s the best technology currently available for electric cars, he emphasizes. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As climate hazards converge, health risks rise in California

State health officials know that extreme heat can cost lives and send people to the hospital, just like wildfire smoke. Now, new research finds that when people are exposed to both hazards simultaneously — as is increasingly the case in California — heart and respiratory crises outpace the expected sum of hospitalizations compared to when the conditions occur separately. … The study joins a growing body of research about the intersection of different climate risks. Last month, California-based think-tank the Pacific Institute published a report about how converging hazards — including wildfires, drought, flooding, sea level rise and intensifying storms — are harming access to drinking water and sanitation in California and other parts of the world. The deadly 2018 Camp fire in Butte County impacted an estimated 2,438 private wells, the report said.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Utah legislature takes aim at rights of nature movement

Lawmakers in Utah are advancing legislation aimed at stopping a growing “rights of nature” movement that has coalesced around efforts in the state to save the Great Salt Lake, which is drying up as a combination of climate change, development and agriculture drain on its freshwater sources.  With activists promoting legislation recognizing that the Great Salt Lake has a right to exist, lawmakers in Utah’s House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit state and local governments from granting “legal personhood” to lakes and other bodies of water, animals and plants, among nature’s other constituents. The bill also prohibits governments in the state from granting legal personhood to artificial intelligence. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

The planet is dangerously close to this climate threshold. Here’s what 1.5°C really means

The alarm bells are loud and clear. Federal and international climate officials recently confirmed that 2023 was the planet’s hottest year on record — and that 2024 may be even hotter. With a global average temperature of 58.96 degrees, Earth in 2023 was within striking distance of a dangerous limit: 2.7 degrees of warming over the preindustrial period, or 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. … [E]ach additional degree — or even tenth of a degree — of warming will have impacts beyond those already occurring, including increased tree mortality, biodiversity loss, worsening wildfires, longer heat waves, extreme rainfall and heavy floods.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

News release: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awards over $1.3 million to protect and restore coastal wetlands and build coastal resiliency in California

As part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to conserve and restore coastal wetlands, the Service is awarding more than $1.3 million to support two projects in Marin County to protect, restore or enhance over five acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program … Partners will contribute $1.3 million in additional funds to support these projects in California. These grants have wide-reaching benefits for the local economy, people and wildlife – using nature-based solutions to boost coastal resilience, stabilize shorelines and protect natural ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news Desert Review

Commentary: The commonsense thinking behind the Imperial Valley’s water rights

Last week, we briefly reviewed the history of how the Imperial Valley claimed and leveraged its water for the good of the nation, cementing its water rights in 1901, long before the major urban growth in the late 20th century and beyond. Those rights were vindicated with other laws and agreements over the decades to come, but the first major stamp of approval came in 1922 with the Colorado River Compact between six of the seven states which relied on the Colorado River. In recent years, however, some accusations have been making the rounds claiming that the Law of the River, including the 1922 Compact, should be overruled because more water was allocated among the states than the typical flow. The original legal guidelines, the critics claim, had no consideration of climate change, and now we need to rewrite the laws to take it into account.
-Written by columnist Brett Miller.

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Aquafornia news Geographical

Global effort to save endangered river dolphins

Dolphins and porpoises, with their playful antics, sociability and cute looks, have to be one of the world’s best-loved animals. They are, of course, intimately associated with the world’s oceans, so it can come as a surprise to many to learn that there are a number of species of dolphins and porpoises living in rivers hundreds of kilometres from the nearest salty water. Naturally shy creatures, the world’s river dolphins and porpoises are far less known and understood than their marine cousins, but one thing that scientists are unanimous in their agreement on is that they are in serious peril. It’s thought that since the 1980s, the combined population of the world’s river dolphins has crashed by 73 percent. Living in the rivers of fourteen countries (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru and Venezuela), there are six species of river dolphin and porpoise. And, as a keystone species, their presence helps to keep a river system healthy.

Aquafornia news Fresh Water News

New study: Colorado’s shortgrass prairies could face a new dust bowl as extreme droughts become more common

What remains of the stunning shortgrass prairie of eastern Colorado is at even more risk of die-off than previously thought, threatened by increasingly common extreme droughts. The same fate awaits many of the world’s pastures and shrublands, but the impact could be worse in Colorado because shortgrass prairies exist in drier environments. That’s according to a newly published research paper that for the first time has modeled the impact of extreme droughts on different grass and shrublands across the globe. … Deep droughts in the past have only occurred every 100 years or so. That rarity has made them difficult to study. So the researchers, using historic records, found old sites on six continents that had experienced an extreme one-year drought. They then built special structures to apply water, mimicking rainfall. On roughly half of the sites extreme drought conditions were created and analyzed, while others created less extreme drought conditions.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Making sense of the floods in San Diego

The media coverage of the floods in San Diego last week has been breathless—and for good reason. High waters carried cars for miles, people were wading through chest-deep waters, and many low-income communities bore the brunt of the flooding. But was this actually a 1000-year flood? We looked to PPIC research network member Brett Sanders and PPIC Water Policy Center senior fellow Jeffrey Mount to untangle truth from fiction. 

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Aquafornia news USA Today

Water crisis in West: It wasn’t always this hot, dry, study says

Cities scorching in 110 degree heat for days as water reserves dry up — that’s life in the West now. But new research confirms the region hasn’t always seen this devilish combination of extreme heat and blistering drought. Scientists have reviewed 500 years of data to determine that the past 100 years have been both abnormally hot and dry — giving them new confidence that the droughts and record heat waves plaguing the region are fueled by climate change. There’s a term for what’s going on: A “hot drought.” That means they now believe the region has been hit with heat and drought “unprecedented in frequency and severity” when compared to the past 500 years.

Aquafornia news Berkeley Lab News Center

New study: Rising sea levels could lead to more methane emitted from wetlands

As sea levels rise due to global warming, ecosystems are being altered. One small silver lining, scientists believed, was that the tidal wetlands found in estuaries might produce less methane – a potent greenhouse gas – as the increasing influx of seawater makes these habitats less hospitable to methane-producing microbes. However, research from biologists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley indicates that these assumptions aren’t always true. After examining the microbial, chemical, and geological features of 11 wetland zones, the team found that a wetland region exposed to a slight amount of seawater was emitting surprisingly high levels of methane – far more than any of the freshwater sites. Their results, now published in mSystems, indicate that the factors governing how much greenhouse gas is stored or emitted in natural landscapes are more complex and difficult to predict than we thought.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Turf is out. Native grasses are in. Here are 4 lush low-water options

Tearing out your lawn can be a tough decision, especially if you have children or dogs who love to roll and play. Or — no judgment here — maybe you just enjoy the visual serenity of a swath of green in a region where the hills go brown in the summer. The good news is there are low-water, lushly green native lawn alternatives to tall fescue, the most popular water-guzzling king of turf grasses. … Native grasses usually require less water than traditional turf lawns because their roots grow much deeper — up to 10 feet deep in some cases — allowing them to find water stored in the ground and weather longer periods of drought. They’ve also adapted by going dormant during certain parts of the year, like Bermuda, a warm-season grass, which does fine in hot summer months but turns brown during the winter.

Aquafornia news NPR

Climate change is causing extreme heat and droughts to overlap more

Take a period of limited rainfall. Add heat. And you have what scientists call a ‘hot drought’ – dry conditions made more intense by the evaporative power of hotter temperatures. A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, Wednesday, finds that hot droughts have become more prevalent and severe across the western U.S. as a result of human-caused climate change. … For much of the last 20 years, western North America has been in the grips of a megadrought that’s strained crop producers and ecosystems, city planners and water managers. Scientists believe it to be the driest period in the region in at least 1,200 years. They reached that determination, in part, by studying the rings of trees collected from thousands of sites across the Western U.S.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Why Southern Nevada water officials are gearing up for a rough 2024

In states dependent on the dwindling Colorado River, planning is key. That’s what the Southern Nevada Water Authority does every year with the release of its Water Resource Plan, which serves as a yearly check-in for how conservation measures are faring amid low water availability. The authority’s board approved the plan at its January meeting. The authority is a coalition of the region’s government entities in charge of securing water resources for the state in the long term. Such a task is further complicated by Nevada’s small allowance of Colorado River water and historic lows in Lake Mead, which supplies about 90 percent of the state’s water. Last year’s weather offered a reprieve from Nevada’s extremely dry and hot climate, but the valley’s water managers are gearing up for a more intense 2024. 

Aquafornia news YourCentralValley.com

Over $500K awarded to the Water Institute at Fresno State

A $569,000 grant was awarded to the California Water Institute’s Research and Education Division at Fresno State for a project that addresses drought and flooding by planning for sustainable use of surface groundwater, officials announced on Wednesday. Officials say the grant was awarded by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The project, “Climate Resiliency through Regional Water Recharge in the San Joaquin Valley,” will educate rural communities on groundwater recharge and establish a collaborative response team, as well as a plan for effective floodwater management, ensuring vulnerable communities are prioritized.

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

What are the odds that extreme weather will lead to a global food shock?

… Water shortages cause significant social disruption as populations vie for limited vital resources. The number of countries able to maintain a sustainable level of output shrinks dramatically, the global economy contracts at an accelerating pace, and political tensions rise as countries look to maintain food security. …A 2023 report by insurance giant Lloyd’s explores the odds of such a scenario, using weather data from the past 40 years and a crop model combined with a water-stress model to measure the economic impact of a sustained period of extreme weather.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Commentary: The lithium revolution has arrived at California’s Salton Sea

I’m finally convinced: California’s Imperial Valley will be a major player in the clean energy transition. After a dozen years of engineering, permitting and financing, the Australian firm Controlled Thermal Resources is ready to start building a lithium extraction and geothermal power plant at the southern end of the Salton Sea, more than 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Friday near the shore of the shrinking desert lake. -Written by Sammy Roth, LA Times climate and energy columnist.

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Aquafornia news Reuters

Climate change drives Amazon rainforest’s record drought, study finds

Climate change is the main culprit for a record drought in the Amazon rainforest that has drained rivers, killed endangered dolphins and upended life for millions of people in the region, according to a study released on Wednesday. Global warming made the drought 30 times more likely, drove extreme high temperatures and contributed to lower rainfall, according to the analysis by World Weather Attribution, an international group of scientists. The study focused on June to November last year. The drought that hit all nine Amazon rainforest countries – including Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru - is expected to worsen in 2024 after the rainy season begins to recede in May, scientists told Reuters last year. 

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Aquafornia news Newsweek

New Study: Western US seeing extreme weather ‘unprecedented’ in 500 years

Droughts in the Western U.S. have risen to an “unprecedented” level since the 16th century, a new study has revealed. “Hot drought” refers to concurrent drought conditions that are stretching across the country, largely because of climate change. The study from multi-institutional researchers, published in the journal Science, found that these severe conditions have been increasing in not just severity but how often they have occurred over the past 100 years. To get these findings, lead author Karen King and colleagues combined summer temperatures in the U.S. from 1553 to 2020 by analyzing tree rings, which show temperature changes through soil moisture. They discovered that the past 20 years in the Western U.S. have been the hottest in over five centuries.

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Aquafornia news California Water Commission

Report: Potential state strategies for protecting communities and fish and wildlife in the event of drought

… To ensure California’s communities and environment have sufficient water during times of drought, the state needs to continue to adapt to “weather whiplash” – extreme weather that swings from intense drought to large floods in a short period of time. Being able to endure the next severe drought is dependent upon making forward-looking water management decisions during non-drought years. While the impacts of severe or prolonged drought may be felt across all sectors of California, small, rural communities and the natural environment are particularly vulnerable to drought.

Aquafornia news KNAU - Arizona Public Radio

Earth Notes: The San Juan River

The headwaters of the San Juan River originate in the snow-capped peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains. Along its journey, the river is joined by numerous tributaries as it flows through the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, eventually merging with the Colorado River deep within the sandstone walls of Glen Canyon. The river has witnessed many events, from Paleo big game hunters pursuing megafauna, to early Mormon pioneers settling the area, to modern-day river runners, including Indigenous guides, who row boats through sacred lands and waters. Along the river’s shores, various songbirds, Canada geese and great blue heron nest among the cottonwoods and coyote willows. Bighorn Sheep also dwell within the steep canyons, appearing as sandstone ghosts, cascading from ledge to ledge down to the river. For Indigenous peoples, the San Juan River is considered a spiritual entity, enabling life and the continuation of humanity.

Aquafornia news Nature Communications

New study: Greenhouse gas emissions from US irrigation pumping and implications for climate-smart irrigation policy

Irrigation reduces crop vulnerability to drought and heat stress and thus is a promising climate change adaptation strategy. However, irrigation also produces greenhouse gas emissions through pump energy use. To assess potential conflicts between adaptive irrigation expansion and agricultural emissions mitigation efforts, we calculated county-level emissions from irrigation energy use in the US using fuel expenditures, prices, and emissions factors. Irrigation pump energy use produced 12.6 million metric tonnes CO2e in the US in 2018 (90% CI: 10.4, 15.0), predominantly attributable to groundwater pumping. Groundwater reliance, irrigated area extent, water demand, fuel choice, and electrical grid emissions intensity drove spatial heterogeneity in emissions. … Previous studies have estimated on-farm irrigation pump energy use at 158 PJ nationally and 136 PJ for electricity use in the Western USA, in close agreement with our estimates. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Are dams good or bad?

… Letting rivers flow free has long been a core principle of the environmental movement. But as I reported after a trip to Idaho last year, some environmentalists are reevaluating their stance on dams, given that hydroelectric turbines don’t contribute to climate change. The more dams stay up, the fewer solar and wind farms we’ll need to build to replace fossil fuels. Don’t get me wrong: There are still plenty of folks dedicated to tearing down dams and restoring free-flowing rivers. But the discussion is more complicated than it once was. The activists working to breach Glen Canyon Dam must contend with electric utilities who say the power it produces is crucial for providing reliable, affordable, climate-friendly energy.
-Written by Sammy Roth, LA Times climate columnist.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California just released a major new report on sea level rise. Here’s how bad it could get

A new scientific model provides more certainty about how much ocean levels could rise in California in the next 30 years and predicts slightly less rising in some scenarios than previously thought. But the predictions still show grave threats to California, where 70% of the population lives near the coast. Statewide, sea levels are due to rise by an average of 0.8 feet (9.6 inches) by 2050 compared to a baseline of 2000, according to the draft report. … The new report also went into detail about how groundwater levels will rise along with sea levels, which can spread contaminants in the soil and threaten underground infrastructure. It could also make levees that are being planned to hold back flooding ineffective, said Kristina Hill, an associate professor at UC Berkeley and director at its Institute of Urban and Regional Development. 

Aquafornia news UC Merced

New study: Having a mix of tree heights enhances drought resilience in Sierra Nevada forests

In a paper published in Nature Communications, UC Merced Professor Roger Bales, collaborating with an international team, found that the height of neighboring trees strongly influenced whether a given tree survived California’s record 2012-15 drought. Using high-resolution maps developed from aircraft flights before and after the drought, the team determined the fate of more than 1 million conifer trees in the southern Sierra. They found that trees overshadowed by taller neighbors were less likely to suffer drought stress and die, mostly due to reduced sunlight and thus lower growth and water demand. A forest with a similar number of trees, but of more-uniform height, whether large or small, lacks this shading by neighbors, and is more vulnerable to competition for water and drought stress.

Aquafornia news Stanford University

New study: Clusters of atmospheric rivers are costlier than expected

Early in 2023, a series of storms dumped record-breaking amounts of rain and snow across California. Flooding, power outages, and mudslides from the deluge resulted in 21 deaths and over $3 billion in losses. The deluge resulted from streams of water vapor in the sky known as atmospheric rivers, which paraded over California one after another. In all, nine atmospheric rivers hit California between Dec. 26, 2022, and Jan. 17, 2023. New research from Stanford University suggests back-to-back atmospheric rivers, which are likely to become more common because of climate change, bring particularly severe damages. The study, published Jan. 19 in Science Advances, shows that atmospheric rivers arriving in rapid succession cause three to four times more economic damage than they would have individually by drenching already-saturated soils and increasing flood risks.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Woman in Tasmania wins ‘World’s Ugliest Lawn’ contest

For years, yard work was at the bottom of Kathleen Murray’s to-do list. She had intended to buy a lawn mower and finally trim the overgrown acres surrounding her home on the island of Tasmania. But as a single mom raising four children, there were always more pressing matters. … Wallabies and kangaroos would feast on the grass in the middle of the night … Quill-covered echidnas and rodent-like bandicoots dug tunnels … Parrots and blue-tongue lizards paid visits, too. …The result … earned her the title of “World’s Ugliest Lawn.” … Water scarcity has been a growing problem in recent decades as populations have boomed in areas with limited water supplies, said Jay Lund, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California at Davis. That has led officials in dry areas, such as California and Australia, to restrict the amount of water used for landscaping.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

‘Not out of the woods’: Lake Mead water levels projected to drop by 2025

Lake Mead, the source of almost 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water, is expected to near 2022’s historic low by the end of 2025, this month’s Bureau of Reclamation projection shows. Based on the most likely scenario for Colorado River inflow, federal scientists predict the reservoir will dip to 1,044 feet in December 2025 — just 4 feet higher than the lowest level seen since it was first filled, which was about 1,040 feet in July 2022. Forecasts that go out further in the future allow for a larger margin of error, and climate conditions largely dictate Colorado River flows. In addition to an estimate on the most probable inflow scenario, the agency releases estimates for a maximum and minimum inflow into the reservoir.

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Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

San Diego could be first to float solar on drinking water

A south San Diego water district is thinking about powering itself with energy from the sun. Leaders at Sweetwater Authority, which serves National City, western Chula Vista and Bonita, hired a contractor to study how floating solar panels on its namesake reservoir could reduce its budget. If successful, Sweetwater could be the first drinking water reservoir in the United States to host renewable energy of this kind.   

Aquafornia news California Water Commission

News release: Water Commission presents statewide strategies for protecting communities, fish and wildlife during drought

The California Water Commission today approved a white paper that contains potential strategies to protect communities and fish and wildlife in the event of drought. The white paper is in support of Water Resilience Portfolio Action 26.3, and will be shared with the Secretaries for Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, and Food and Agriculture, who requested the Commission’s engagement on this topic. 

Aquafornia news Valley Voice

Tule River Tribe reintroducing beavers to Tulare County

Some time this spring, beavers will return to the ancestral lands of the Tule River Tribe in the Southern Sierra Nevada. It will be a moment tribal leaders have spent a decade preparing for, hoping the once thriving and now missing aquatic rodent can help return the forest’s natural drought resistance … Beaver dams naturally filter silt that otherwise clogs streams, while creating wetlands that preserve water on the land for longer periods. As beavers were wiped out, the waterways no longer reached ancient floodplains. This has led to increasing pollution and erosion, as well as more flooding and drought.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

The vital relationship between water and wine

A Thursday presentation at VinCo, the annual grape growing and winemaking conference, from the Colorado River District highlighted how drought and hotter temperatures will affect Colorado’s agriculture industry. Dave Matters, Colorado River District director of science and interstate matters, said local temperatures in the Grand Valley and western Colorado have increased by as much as 4.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895. Each degree of temperature increase results in 3% to 9% reduction in streamflow, he said. … The hotter temperatures and drier weather are causing states to pursue solutions to use less water, Kanzer said. Much of the water used in the seven Colorado River Basin states is consumed by agriculture.

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Aquafornia news KSUT - Ignacio, Colorado

Climate change is shriveling critical snowpacks across the Mountain West, study finds

In the Mountain West, strong snowpacks keep ski resorts in business, allowing them to maintain snow and ice through spring. When snowpacks melt, the water fills rivers and reservoirs, providing water to communities for drinking and farming. Big snowpacks also alleviate drought conditions, reducing the risk of wildfire. Several snowpacks, however, are shrinking across the region and beyond due to climate change, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. Researchers at Dartmouth College studied 40 years of snowpack data from more than 160 Northern Hemisphere watersheds and landscapes that channel snowmelt and rainfall into a reservoir. They found roughly 20% of them have climate-driven snowpack loss. In the Mountain West, which includes the Colorado River, Rio Grande, and Great Salt Lake watersheds, areas where snowpacks have shrunk between 20% and 30%.

Colorado River Shortages Drive Major Advances in Recycled Sewage Water Use
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Phoenix, Southern California betting on purified sewage to fill drinking water needs

After more than two decades of drought, water utilities serving the largest urban regions in the arid Southwest are embracing a drought-proof source of drinking water long considered a supply of last resort: purified sewage.

Water supplies have tightened to the point that Phoenix and the water supplier for 19 million Southern California residents are racing to adopt an expensive technology called “direct potable reuse” or “advanced purification” to reduce their reliance on imported water from the dwindling Colorado River.

Tribes Gain Clout as Colorado River Shrinks
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Tribes hold key state-appointed posts for first time as their water rises in value

A CAP canal in North PhoenixThe climate-driven shrinking of the Colorado River is expanding the influence of Native American tribes over how the river’s flows are divided among cities, farms and reservations across the Southwest.

The tribes are seeing the value of their largely unused river water entitlements rise as the Colorado dwindles, and they are gaining seats they’ve never had at the water bargaining table as government agencies try to redress a legacy of exclusion.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

California Water Plan

Every five years the California Department of Water Resources updates its strategic plan for managing the state’s water resources, as required by state law.

The California Water Plan, or Bulletin 160, projects the status and trends of the state’s water supplies and demands under a range of future scenarios.

Western Water Nick Cahill California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

New California Law Bolsters Groundwater Recharge as Strategic Defense Against Climate Change
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Designates Aquifers 'Natural Infrastructure' to Boost Funding for Water Supply, Flood Control, Wildlife Habitat

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA 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.

Upper Colorado River States Add Muscle as Decisions Loom on the Shrinking River’s Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Upper Basin States Seek Added Leverage to Protect Their River Shares Amid Difficult Talks with California and the Lower Basin

The White River winds and meanders through a valley.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.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2024
Field Trip - March 13-15

SOLD OUT – Click here to join the waitlist!

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamExplore 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 is the focus of this tour.

Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
7830 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89123
Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

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.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

In One of the Snowiest Places in the West, A Scientist Hunts for Clues to the Sierra Snowpack’s Future
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Central Sierra Snow Lab Manager Andrew Schwartz Aims to Help Water Managers Improve Tracking of Snowpack Crucial to California's Drought-Stressed Water Supply

Photo of Andrew Schwartz, manager and lead scientist at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory.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 Antarctica.  

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.

As Colorado River Flows Drop and Tensions Rise, Water Interests Struggle to Find Solutions That All Can Accept
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Chorus of experts warn climate change has rendered old assumptions outdated about what the Colorado River can provide, leaving painful water cuts as the only way forward

Photo shows Hoover Dam’s intake towers protruding from the surface of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where water levels have dropped to record lows amid a 22-year drought. 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.

A Colorado River Veteran Moves Upstream and Plunges into The Drought-Stressed River’s Mounting Woes
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Chuck Cullom, a longtime Arizona water manager, brings a dual-basin perspective as top staffer at the Upper Colorado River Commission

Chuck Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. 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 on.”

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.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 groundwater basin.

As Drought Shrinks the Colorado River, A SoCal Giant Seeks Help from River Partners to Fortify its Local Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Metropolitan Water District's wastewater recycling project draws support from Arizona and Nevada, which hope to gain a share of Metropolitan's river supply

Metropolitan Water District's advanced water treatment demonstration plant in Carson. 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 agencies.  

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

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
Western Water Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Drought and climate change are raising concerns that a century-old Compact that divided the river’s waters could force unwelcome cuts in use for the upper watershed

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir that has seen its water level plummet after two decades of drought. 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.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

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

A Colorado River Veteran Takes on the Top Water & Science Post at Interior Department
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tanya Trujillo brings two decades of experience on Colorado River issues as she takes on the challenges of a river basin stressed by climate change

Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science 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 other crops.

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 Lower Basin.

California Spent Decades Trying to Keep Central Valley Floods at Bay. Now It Looks to Welcome Them Back
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Floodplain restoration gets a policy and funding boost as interest grows in projects that bring multiple benefits to respond to climate change impacts

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.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra NevadaStretching 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-Starved Colorado River Delta Gets Another Shot of Life from the River’s Flows
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Despite water shortages along the drought-stressed river, experimental flows resume in Mexico to revive trees and provide habitat for birds and wildlife

Water flowing into a Colorado River Delta restoration site in Mexico.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.

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

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.

As Climate Change Turns Up The Heat in Las Vegas, Water Managers Try to Wring New Savings to Stretch Supply
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Rising temperatures are expected to drive up water demand as historic drought in the Colorado River Basin imperils Southern Nevada’s key water source

Las Vegas has reduced its water consumption even as its population has increased. 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.

Tour Nick Gray

Headwaters Tour 2023
Field Trip - June 21-22 (optional whitewater rafting June 20)

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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. 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.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

Milestone Colorado River Management Plan Mostly Worked Amid Epic Drought, Review Finds
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Draft assessment of 2007 Interim Guidelines expected to provide a guide as talks begin on new river operating rules for the iconic Southwestern river

At full pool, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. but two decades of drought have dramatically dropped the water level behind Hoover Dam.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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta By Gary Pitzer

Is Ecosystem Change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Outpacing the Ability of Science to Keep Up?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Science panel argues for a new approach to make research nimbler and more forward-looking to improve management in the ailing Delta

Floating vegetation such as water hyacinth has expanded in the Delta in recent years, choking waterways like the one in the bottom of this photo.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.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

The Colorado River is awash in data vital to its management, but making sense of it all is a challenge
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Major science report that highlights scientific shortcomings and opportunities in the Basin could aid water managers as they rewrite river's operating rules

The Colorado River threading its way through a desert canyon near Lee Ferry, Arizona. 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.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

Questions Simmer About Lake Powell’s Future As Drought, Climate Change Point To A Drier Colorado River Basin
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A key reservoir for Colorado River storage program, Powell faces demands from stakeholders in Upper and Lower Basins with different water needs as runoff is forecast to decline

Persistent drought in the Colorado River Basin combined with the coordinated operations with Lake Mead has left Lake Powell consistently about half-full. 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 Powell’s future.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

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. 

Can Carbon Credits Save Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Islands and Protect California’s Vital Water Hub?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: An ambitious plan would use carbon credits as incentives to convert Delta islands to wetlands or rice to halt subsidence and potentially raise island elevations

Equipment on this tower measures fluctuations in greenhouse gas emissions for managed wetlands on Sherman Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Meet the Veteran Insider Who’s Shepherding Gov. Newsom’s Plan to Bring Climate Resilience to California Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Former journalist Nancy Vogel explains how the draft California Water Resilience Portfolio came together and why it’s expected to guide future state decisions

Nancy Vogel, director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program, highlights key points in the draft Water Resilience Portfolio last month for the Water Education Foundation's 2020 Water Leaders class. 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.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

Can a Grand Vision Solve the Colorado River’s Challenges? Or Will Incremental Change Offer Best Hope for Success?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: With talks looming on a new operating agreement for the river, a debate has emerged over the best approach to address its challenges

Photo of Lake Mead and Hoover DamThe 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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Can a New Approach to Managing California Reservoirs Save Water and Still Protect Against Floods?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pilot Projects Testing Viability of Using Improved Forecasting to Guide Reservoir Operations

Bullards Bar Dam spills water during 2017 atmospheric river storms.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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources Gary PitzerDouglas E. Beeman

As Wildfires Grow More Intense, California Water Managers Are Learning To Rewrite Their Emergency Playbook
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Agencies share lessons learned as they recover from fires that destroyed facilities, contaminated supplies and devastated their customers

Debris from the Camp Fire that swept through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise  in November 2018.

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Understanding Streamflow Is Vital to Water Management in California, But Gaps In Data Exist
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A new law aims to reactivate dormant stream gauges to aid in flood protection, water forecasting

Stream gauges gather important metrics such as  depth, flow (described as cubic feet per second) and temperature.  This gauge near downtown Sacramento measures water depth.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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

Could “Black Swan” Events Spawned by Climate Change Wreak Havoc in the Colorado River Basin?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Scientists say a warming planet increases odds of extreme drought and flood; officials say they’re trying to include those possibilities in their plans

Runoff from what some describe as an "epic flood" in 1983 strained the capacity of Glen Canyon Dam to convey water fast enough.  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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

How Private Capital is Speeding up Sierra Nevada Forest Restoration in a Way that Benefits Water
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: A bond fund that fronts the money is expediting a headwaters restoration project to improve forest health, water quality and supply

District Ranger Lon Henderson with Tahoe National Forest points toward an overgrown section of forest within the Blue Forest project area. 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, stream-choking mudflows. 

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. 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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.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.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

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. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.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.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.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 imported water.

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.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.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:

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Colorado River Stakeholders Draft a Drought Plan, the Margin for Error in Managing Water Supplies Narrows
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Climate report and science studies point toward a drier Basin with less runoff and a need to re-evaluate water management

This aerial view of Hoover Dam shows how far the level of Lake Mead has fallen due to ongoing drought conditions.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 ahead.

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 cause.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)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.

Announcement

Can El Niño Tell Us Anything About What’s Ahead for Water Year 2019?
Learn what is and isn't known about forecasting Water Year 2019 at Dec. 5 workshop in Irvine

Nimbus Dam winter releasesJust 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 predictive ability.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Gary Pitzer

New Leader Takes Over as the Upper Colorado River Commission Grapples With Less Water and a Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission

Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River CommissionAmy 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.

Headwaters Tour 2018

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.

Headwaters tour participants on a hike in the Sierra Nevada.

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.
Announcement

Annual Water Summit to Focus on Critical Issues from the Headwaters to the Delta
Registration now open for Sept. 20th event in Sacramento; some sponsorship opportunities still available

Our annual Water Summit, being held Sept. 20, will feature critical conversations about water in California and the West revolving around the theme: Facing Reality from the Headwaters to the Delta. 

As debate continues to swirl around longer-term remedies for California’s water challenges, the theme reflects the need for straightforward dialogue about more immediate, on-the-ground solutions.

Domino Effect: As Arizona Searches For a Unifying Voice, a Drought Plan for the Lower Colorado River Is Stalled
EDITOR'S NOTE: Finding solutions to the Colorado River — or any disputed river —may be the most important role anyone can play

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 California.

Announcement

Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman to be Keynote Speaker at Water Summit
Registration now open for Sept. 20th event in Sacramento

Reclamation Commissioner Brenda BurmanBrenda Burman, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, will give the keynote lunch address at our 35th annual conference, the Water Summit, to be held Sept. 20 in Sacramento.

The daylong event will feature critical conversations about water in California and the West revolving around the theme: Facing Reality from the Headwaters to the Delta.

Tour

Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

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 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.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Announcement

Learn What New Tree-Ring Studies Reveal about Drought Patterns in Southern California
Also hear about efforts to improve weather forecasting, drought preparedness at April 19th workshop in San Pedro

University of Arizona research professor removes tree core sample from bigcone Douglas fir tree.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.

Announcement

Learn About Efforts to Improve Weather Forecasting at San Pedro Drought Workshop
Agenda for April 19 event just posted; check out other topics, speakers

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 managers.

Announcement

Improve Drought Preparedness By Digging into the Past at April 19th Workshop in San Pedro
Learn new details about historic droughts in Southern California watersheds and how they provide insight on water management today

Cracked dirt as in a droughtCalifornia’s 2012-2016 drought revealed vulnerabilities for water users throughout the state, and the long-term record suggests more challenges may lie ahead.  

An April 19 workshop in San Pedro will highlight new information about drought durations in Southern California watersheds dating back centuries.

‘Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,’ Climate Change and the Future of California’s Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Climate scientist Daniel Swain

Daniel SwainEvery 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. 

Headwaters Tour 2019
Field Trip - June 27-28

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. 

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

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
Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources
Published 2017

Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources

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

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.

Announcement

River Report Examines Climate Change Impact on Colorado River Basin

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 the river.

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 increasing scarcity.

River Reports

Winter 2017-18 River Report
A Warmer Future and Increased Risk

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.

Western Water Magazine

The Colorado River: Living with Risk, Avoiding Curtailment
Fall 2017

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. 

Aquapedia background

Weather

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.

Aquapedia background

Natural Variability

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.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Climate Change Impacts Here to Stay for California Farmers, Grower Says

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 Sacramento.

“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.”

Aquapedia background

Meadows

While less a scientific term than a colloquial one, meadows are defined by their aquatic, soil and vegetative properties.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Average Sierra Nevada Winter Temps at Record Highs
Scientist Brad Udall says climate pattern is new normal for California

Brad Udall

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.

Western Water Magazine

Is California’s Water Supply Resilient and Sustainable?
January/February 2015

This issue looks at sustainability and resiliency and what the terms mean for California’s water.

Video

Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

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.

Video

A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

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.

Video

Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

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.

Video

Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

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.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

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.

Maps & Posters Colorado River Bundle

Colorado River Basin Map
Redesigned in 2017

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

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 management approach.

Publication Colorado River Basin Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River
Updated 2018

Cover page for the Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River .

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
Updated 2021

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).

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

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.

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources

Climate Change

California Department of Water Resources snow survey in the Sierra Nevada.

Climate change involves natural and man-made changes to weather patterns that occur over millions of years or over multiple decades.

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 assessed.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

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.

Western Water Magazine

Two States, One Lake: Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue
September/October 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses some of the issues associated with the effort to preserve and restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

Western Water Magazine

Adjusting to the New Reality: Climate Change in the West
July/August 2013

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.

Western Water Magazine

Meeting the Co-equal Goals? The Bay Delta Conservation Plan
May/June 2013

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.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

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 California.

Western Water Magazine

How Much Water Does the Delta Need?
July/August 2012

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.

Western Water Magazine

Solving the Colorado River Basin’s Math Problem: Adapting to Change
November/December 2011

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.

Western Water Magazine

The Colorado River Drought: A Sobering Glimpse into the Future
November/December 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Colorado River drought, and the ongoing institutional and operational changes underway to maintain the system and meet the future challenges in the Colorado River Basin.

Western Water Magazine

Making the Connection: The Water/Energy Nexus
September/October 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.

Western Water Magazine

A Significant Challenge: Adapting Water Management to Climate Change
January/February 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines climate change – what’s known about it, the remaining uncertainty and what steps water agencies are talking to prepare for its impact. Much of the information comes from the October 2007 California Climate Change and Water Adaptation Summit sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and DWR and the November 2007 California Water Policy Conference sponsored by Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

A Significant Challenge: Adapting Water Management to Climate Change
January/February 2008

Perhaps no other issue has rocketed to prominence in such a short time as climate change. A decade ago, discussion about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the connection to warming temperatures was but a fraction of the attention now given to the issue. From the United Nations to local communities, people are talking about climate change – its characteristics and what steps need to be taken to mitigate and adapt to the anticipated impacts.

Western Water Magazine

An Inconvenient Future? Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change
September/October 2006

This issue of Western Water looks at climate change and its implications on water management in a region that is wholly dependent on steady, predictable wet seasons to recharge supplies for the lengthy dry periods. To what degree has climate change occurred and what are the scenarios under which impacts will have to be considered by water providers? The future is anything but clear.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

An Inconvenient Future? Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change
Sept/Oct 2006

The inimitable Yogi Berra once proclaimed, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” While the Hall of Fame baseball player was not referring to the weather, his words are no less prophetic when it comes to the discussion of a changing climate and its potential impacts on water resources in the West.