Topic: Climate Change

Overview

Climate Change

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Water as part of the climate solution

The intersection of freshwater and climate is a frequently ignored but critical element of the climate problem, according to a new study from Sweden that explores the link and offers solutions that will help lower emissions.  Two years in the making, the study, “The Essential Drop to Reach Net-Zero: Unpacking Freshwater’s Role in Climate Change Mitigation,” published by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, identifies forests and freshwater wetlands as a crucial depository of carbon. More than 30 percent of estimated global carbon emissions are sequestered in wetlands. So the need to protect and restore them is urgent. 

Aquafornia news United Nations News

‘We cannot give up’ on the millions suffering in drought-stricken Horn of Africa, urges WFP official

Millions of people in the Horn of Africa – a region at the intersection of some of the worst impacts of climate change, recurring humanitarian crises and insecurity – are facing the driest conditions in four decades along with extreme food shortages. The top UN World Food Programme (WFP) official in the region, Michael Dunford, is warning that the situation there is likely to get worse before it improves. … He warned that famine is still a threat, and while WFP was watching the situation closely, “we may see before the end of this year, or perhaps early next, a declaration of pockets of famine in parts of Somalia. What scares me most is that until we have serious rains, the drought will continue, and we could see a situation [of possible famine] replicated in some of the neighboring countries as well.”

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Aquafornia news KQED

How the climate crisis is changing the Bay Area bird population

The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary in Western North America and a key link in the 4,000-mile Pacific Flyway, one of the primary migratory routes used by birds to move north and south across the continent. It’s a place where birds come to rest and refuel for their long trip, or breed and nest the next generation. But in the span of a few human generations, 90% of California’s wetlands have disappeared to development and agriculture, endangering migrating and local birds. Now drought and sea level rise are further diminishing important bird habitats. As climate change becomes a bigger threat to the Bay Area’s local and migratory birds, scientists and conservationists work to help habitats adapt to climate change to ensure bird’s futures.

Aquafornia news Smithsonian Magazine

A century ago, this water agreement changed the West. Now, the region is in crisis

The Colorado River has long been regarded as the “lifeline of the Southwest.” It supplies water to 40 million people in seven states, 29 Native American tribes and parts of Mexico. Farmers use it to irrigate nearly 5.5 million acres of agricultural land.  One hundred years ago this month, the signing of the Colorado River Compact laid the foundation for how water from the river is used today. But the signers of the 1922 agreement had no way of knowing what the future would bring. Decades of overuse because of faulty science and population growth—along with climate change—have all reduced the river’s flow and the water levels in the nation’s largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Now, the basin is facing a crisis.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Surplus and shortage—California’s water balancing act

After three years of virtual events, the PPIC Water Policy Center’s annual fall conference made a welcome return to an in-person format in Sacramento on Friday, November 18. The half-day event began with a welcome from PPIC Water Policy Center assistant director Caity Peterson and a presentation by senior fellow Jeffrey Mount. “The elephant in the room is that conditions have changed,” said Mount. “We’re no longer talking about some future existential threat….we have now moved into the era of the hot drought.” Hotter droughts, he said, coupled with a thirstier atmosphere, are testing California’s water system as never before. 

Aquafornia news The Revelator

Opinion: ‘Free water’ was never free, writes a historian of the American West

The West uses too much water. For such a simple problem, the obvious solution — use less — lies frustratingly out of reach. That inability to change may seem hard to understand, but the root of the problem becomes clearer if we consider the role of the West in the historical development of the United States: The purpose of our system of “free water” — heavily subsidized water for irrigation — was to provide opportunities to settlers. … With the New Deal, the Bureau of Reclamation came into its own: Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 as the world’s largest dam, served as a symbol for the country’s ability to conquer nature. Progressives championed desert reclamation at the turn of the century, but the federal government’s willingness to build infrastructure and give water away on extravagantly lenient terms was just as appealing for conservatives after World War II.
-Written by Revelator contributor Nate Housley.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

A massive effort – restoring the San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin River is a vital source of water for agriculture and the environment and it is also home to a unique program that hopes to restore native fish runs. It is a complex program and SJV Water was fortunate to take advantage of a tour offered through the Water Education Foundation Nov. 2-3 that helps break down the various aspects of restoration efforts. The restoration program is a nearly one billion dollar endeavor to restore spring-run Chinook salmon to the river which went extinct there after Friant Dam and other obstructions were built.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Climate change drives, hotter more frequent heat waves

As California awakens to the worsening risk of extreme climate events, researchers are shedding new light on last year’s anomalous and extreme Pacific Northwest heat wave. One study published this week said such heat waves could become 20 times more likely to occur if current carbon emissions continue unabated. … The nine-day event in late June and early July 2021 seared parts of Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, where Canada saw its highest temperature on record, 121.3 degrees. The heat wave claimed hundreds of lives, sparked several devastating wildfires and killed an estimated 1 billion sea creatures. … In California and other parts of the western United States, increasing heat, drought and aridification are contributing to long-term drying of soils, which means there’s less water to be evaporated into the air.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Ecosystems and rural communities bear brunt of drought

Drought, human-caused climate change, invasive species and a “legacy” of environmental issues are permanently altering California’s landscape and placing some communities and ecosystems at increasing risk, a panel of experts told water officials recently. Invasive species and decades of disruptions from massive land and water developments are partly responsible for a continuous decline in native California species, experts told the California Water Commission on Nov. 16. Also, rural communities, many of whom are lower income and rely on privately owned wells, are disproportionately contending with water contamination and scarcity amid recurring cycles of drought, experts said. 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Adapting to California’s “weather whiplash” with Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations

California already has one of the most variable climates in the United States, and it’s getting more extreme. Our “weather whiplash,” as it’s becoming known, is increasingly marked by long periods of warm, dry conditions punctuated by stronger and wetter atmospheric river storms. … Recognizing the influence of atmospheric rivers on California’s changing climate, Yuba Water is working with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego, the California Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others to implement Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations in the Yuba and Feather river watersheds. FIRO is a flexible water management strategy that uses improved weather and water forecasts …

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Monday Top of the Scroll: Colorado River users, facing historic uncertainty, are set to meet in Las Vegas next month

As Colorado River water users prepare to meet in Las Vegas next month, the reality they face is one of growing uncertainty with few simple options left on the negotiating table. The math is well understood: There are more demands for the river than there is water coming into its reservoirs.  But cutting back at the scale necessary — and on a voluntary basis — has proven painstakingly difficult this year as top officials from across the Colorado River watershed have failed to reach a settlement. If the cuts are inevitable based on physical realities, questions remain about what form they will take. Will they be voluntary? Mandatory? Both? And how would they be enforced?

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Aquafornia news Yale E360

How floating wetlands are helping to clean up urban waters

Five small islands roughly the size of backyard swimming pools float next to the concrete riverbank of Bubbly Creek, a stretch of the Chicago River named for the gas that once rose to the surface after stockyards dumped animal waste and byproducts into the waterway. Clumps of short, native grasses and plants, including sedges, swamp milkweed, and queen of the prairie, rise from a gravel-like material spread across each artificial island’s surface. A few rectangles cut from their middles hold bottomless baskets, structures that will, project designers hope, provide an attachment surface for freshwater mussels that once flourished in the river.

Aquafornia news Insider

Brain-eating amoeba infections are spreading across the US

In 2022, deadly brain-eating amoeba infections were recorded in states that had not seen the water-borne pathogen before. The amoeba Naegleria fowleri thrives in warm freshwater — mostly lakes and rivers, but it’s also been found in public splash pads. If inhaled up the nose, the microscopic creature can cause a devastating brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). In past years, this has meant that health officials in southern states spend their summers on the lookout for reports of mysterious brain infections. However, the amoeba’s geographic footprint has expanded as temperatures warm across the US. … The river runs along a similar latitude to the Lake of Three Fires, as well as a Northern California lake where officials believe a 7-year-old contracted the amoeba last year.

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Agronomic minute: Potential of on-farm groundwater recharge

Drought conditions and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) are putting a squeeze on California growers. Principal Analyst with the Almond Board of California, Jesse Roseman said efforts to improve statewide water storage and conveyance are underway. However, those are more long-term solutions to current water constraints. Implementing groundwater recharge projects in almond orchards presents a more immediate option for helping to address water issues in California. … Implementing groundwater recharge projects in orchards can require frequent communication with local irrigation districts and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Roseman explained that projects can often require new water rights, permits, and new conveyance. However, the efforts can prove exceptionally beneficial when surplus water is available.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: The Colorado River Compact at 100

On November 24, 1922, representatives of the seven Colorado River basin states—Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming—gathered in Santa Fe, N.M., to sign the Colorado River Compact, cementing into law a regime for dividing the river’s water. Without exception, these men were newcomers to a region inhabited since time immemorial by Native American Tribes. Two of them represented states just a decade old, none represented states more than 75-years-old, and their purpose was to enable colonial settlers to establish a foothold through irrigation-driven economic development.

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Aquafornia news ScienceDaily

New research: Limiting global warming now can preserve valuable freshwater resource

A research team has found that the Andean region of Chile could face noticeable snow loss and roughly 10% less mountain water runoff with a global warming of approximately 2.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels over the next three decades. The study also shows that what happens in the Andes could be a harbinger of what is to come for the California Sierra Nevada mountain range, and highlights the importance of carbon-mitigation strategies to prevent this from occurring. … Last year, a study co-led by Alan Rhoades and Erica Siirila-Woodburn, research scientists in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), found that if global warming continues along the high-emissions scenario, low-to-no-snow winters will become a regular occurrence in the mountain ranges of the western U.S. in 35 to 60 years.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: The troubled history—and uncertain future—of the Salton Sea

When an irrigation canal was breached in the early 1900s, the resulting flood created Southern California’s Salton Sea. It was a rare event that quickly created a beneficial presence in the Imperial Valley, as the lake provided recreation opportunities, tamped down dust, and became a stopover for birds on the Pacific Flyway. But now, with inflows declining, this hundred-year-old sea is drying up, and that’s having a host of negative consequences for wildlife and air quality in the region. We spoke with Kurt Schwabe—professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside and adjunct fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about some of the biggest issues facing the sea, as well as potential solutions.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: Delta Adapts – On the way to a multi-benefit climate adaptation strategy

An adaption strategy for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta must address and reduce climate change impacts in a way that meets the coequal goals, builds resilience for the future, and prioritizes the most vulnerable communities. Climate change is already altering the physical environment of the Delta, resulting in significant impacts on its people and resources that are only expected to worsen over time. The Delta Stewardship Council recognized the need to address climate change and completed the Delta Adapts Vulnerability Assessment in 2021, which is the first comprehensive study of projected climate hazards in the Delta and Suisun Marsh, identifying the people and resources most vulnerable to increased flood risk, extreme heat, drought, and wildfire smoke.

Aquafornia news Payson Roundup

Opinion: Native American tribes fight for water rights

The fierce struggle for water in a drought-stricken West continues to roil politics — and embroil a host of tribal water claims. The decades-long drought has dried up reservoirs and forced federal water cutbacks for the 40 million people in seven states who rely on the Colorado River for water. But it has also dramatically increased the stakes for the region in decades-old water claims by a host of tribes — including the Navajo and the White Mountain Apache. The Tonto Apache Tribe also has a decades-old claim to water from the Colorado River. Efforts to settle that claim with water from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir with a payment from the federal government to buy into Payson’s pipeline have been stalled for years — and missed out on a gush of federal pandemic and infrastructure aid to tribes.
-Written by contributor Peter Aleshire. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: The flow of California water policy – a chart

California water policy is often discussed and depicted as being impossibly complex.  In its essentials, it can be seen much more simply, as in the flow chart below.  Without extreme events (such as floods and droughts), the policy process would be simpler, but ironically less effective, and less well funded. … California’s remarkable water history shows that frequent extreme events have activated enough innovation and preparations over 170 years such that floods, droughts, and earthquakes are now much less threatening to California’s population and economy.  However, frequent failures have not yet motivated adequate preparation and management for ecosystems and rural water supplies.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought has pushed 100-year-old Colorado River Compact to the brink

100 years ago, Wyoming signed onto a deal to divide the water that flows through the Colorado River basin among seven states. It’s based on a formula — one likely based on mistaken beliefs about the river itself — that did not award extra credit for living in the mountains where the snow piles up. Instead, the states signed a compact allocating the water where it would readily be put to work. It meant the more populated states of California, Colorado and Arizona would get the biggest shares. … But more than two decades into a punishing drought that climate scientists say will likely intensify with more warming, the system can no longer supply everything that some 40 million people in a warming and drying region desire from it, or that grocers nationwide sell from its verdant fields. 

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Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Sustainability, water and recapture—understanding technology, environmental, and water rights concerns of aquifer storage and recovery

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, about 51 percent of the continental United States has been experiencing drought conditions in the summer of 2022. More than 70 percent of the western U.S. faces severe drought. The Colorado River basin supply is rapidly declining, and Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at critically low levels. Because of this, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has declared a Tier 2 water shortage on the Colorado River impacting seven western states that depend on water from the river. … In the U.S., more than 40 percent of the population relies on groundwater for its drinking water. Groundwater is also used for irrigation, domestic use, public use, and industrial and mining activities.

Aquafornia news 12news.com

Arizona water conspiracy theories will flow, experts warn

The driest grounds California ever experienced were perfectly fertile for conspiracy theories. The state was in the midst of its worst water crisis in over 1,200 years … Fear, anger and conspiracy beliefs were flowing in California when water wasn’t. The debunked “chemtrail” conspiracy theory was searched more in the state, and the nation as a whole, during the midst of the water cuts when compared to any other time before or after, Google Trends data shows. Arizona may be headed in the same direction. Researchers who study conspiracy theories said the state is ripe for new water-based misinformation to spread as the Southwest U.S. water crisis worsens. Those researchers also said understanding three reasons behind why the beliefs spread may be the key to preventing them.

Aquafornia news Daily Democrat

California plant rescue: The race to save precious wild seeds and sprouts

On a dirt road on a cool autumn morning, deep in the rugged backcountry of San Benito County, Alex Hubner bounces over boulders in his Toyota Tacoma truck, eyeing each passing plant like a bounty hunter seeking prey. He stops suddenly beside a lonely gray-green lump, its roots gripping the inhospitable serpentine soil like skeletal fingers. Crouching over the plant, Hubner takes a closer look. It’s a rare variety of sulfur buckwheat — past its prime, seeds scattered. … Based at UC Santa Cruz, Hubner and his wife, Lucy Ferneyhough, are collectors for California Plant Rescue, a state-funded consortium of botanical institutions that aims to find and conserve the botanical diversity of the Golden State … to store seeds and sprouts, each a modern-day Noah’s ark that could help protect against the permanent loss of rich, unique and irreplaceable lives.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Hidden riverbeds may be key to recharging aquifers

Thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age, rivers flowed from giant glaciers in the Sierra Nevada down to the Central Valley, carving into rock and gouging channels at a time when the sea level was about 400 feet lower. When the glaciers retreated, meltwater coursed down and buried the river channels in sediment. These channels left by ancient rivers lie hidden beneath California’s Central Valley. Scientists call them paleovalleys, or incised valley fill deposits. As much as 100 feet deep and more than a mile wide in places, they are filled with coarse-grained sand, gravel and cobbles. Because these paleovalleys are highly permeable, scientists have pointed to them as ideal pathways for water to quickly percolate down and recharge groundwater.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Controversial Monterey Bay desalination plant approved

The California Coastal Commission [Thursday night] approved another desalination plant, despite citing its high costs, risks to Monterey Bay’s environment and “the most significant environmental justice issues” the commission has faced in recent years.  The commission’s divided, 8-to-2 vote came after 13 hours of debate at a Salinas public hearing packed with several hundred people, plus more crammed into overflow space. Many of the 375 who signed up to speak opposed the project — some in tears. Much of the debate focused on the fairness of locating a for-profit company’s facility in the Monterey County city of Marina — which does not need the water and is home to designated disadvantaged neighborhoods. The expensive supply will flow to other communities, including the whiter, wealthy enclaves of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. 

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California winter looking like repeat of 2021 — dry and drought-plagued

As California enters a fourth year of drought, experts warn a likely drier-than-average winter means little relief for much of California and Nevada. Nearly 41% of California and 43% of Nevada is in extreme drought, according to the latest California-Nevada Adaptation Program report prepared by program manager Julie Kalansky. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that over the last month drought conditions have not changed very much. There was little to no precipitation throughout the region to start off the water year in October, though a system of storms in early November moistened the landscape and brought some snow to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  So far 2022 has been California’s driest and Nevada’s 8th driest in nearly 130 years of recordkeeping.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

In Arizona, one utility has a front row seat to Colorado River crisis

Tobyn Pilot took a few crunchy footsteps through the rough red dirt near the edge of a towering cliff. Pilot, an operator at the water plant in Page, Arizona, pulled out a hefty collection of keys and unlocked a tiny plywood-paneled shed just a few feet from the brink. The building is barely bigger than an outhouse, but it’s a pivotal part of keeping the taps flowing. … Hundreds of feet below, the Colorado River calmly chugged along. It’s here, on the dusty precipice, that water from that river is redirected into the Page’s city pipes. … Page pulls its water from Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir. It’s held back by the behemoth Glen Canyon Dam. Inside the dam, a pipe siphons water to Page as it passes from the reservoir to the river on the other side. Drought and steady demand have drained the reservoir to historic lows, putting Page’s drinking water system in jeopardy.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Agenda posted for Dec. 8 Winter Outlook Workshop in Southern California

Don’t miss our Winter Outlook Workshop on Dec. 8 in Irvine to hear an update on what might be in store for this water year, the latest improvements to snowmelt runoff forecasts and insight into whether La Niña conditions projected to persist into this winter really mean anything as a predictor in this new reality of climate whiplash. You will learn about what is and isn’t known in forecasting winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop predictive ability.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Climate-challenged California must learn to thrive with less water

California has long been a hub of innovation. But managing the increasing variability of our weather in an era of climate change will challenge even the best and brightest water and land managers. Conditions are changing fast—and they will keep changing. And the warmer, drier conditions are revealing some profound weaknesses in our water supply systems. As we argue in our new report, Priorities for California’s Water: Thriving with Less, even if we do everything right, water supplies are likely to decline. The grand challenge for 21st-century water management in California is learning to thrive with less.

Aquafornia news National Integrated Drought Information System

Report: Megadroughts in the common era and the Anthropocene

In recent years, severe droughts have affected many regions around the world, including western North America, Europe, East Africa, and China. In some cases, these events (and others) have been referred to as “megadroughts,” a term increasingly used in the media and scientific literature to refer to almost any extreme or impactful drought event. There is little consensus in the scientific community, however, on when a drought becomes a megadrought, nor is there any quantitative or established definition. A recently published paper by a team of international scientists synthesized information from the paleoclimate record, observations, and climate models to summarize our current understanding of megadrought dynamics around the world, from the last two thousand years to the end of the current century.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s first groundwater rules rub against SGMA

San Luis Obispo County has been restricting new groundwater wells in the Paso Robles subbasin for nearly a decade. Now county supervisors are hoping to tack on a carbon sequestration mandate.

Aquafornia news Nature

Analysis: Smarter ways with water

In just a few months this year, abnormally low water levels in rivers led China to shut down factories and to floods in one-third of Pakistan, killing around 1,500 people and grinding the country to a halt. A dried-up Rhine River threatened to tip Germany’s economy into recession, because cargo ships could not carry standard loads. And the Las Vegas strip turned into a river and flooded casinos, chasing customers away. … With mounting climate-fuelled weather disasters, social inequality, species extinctions and resource scarcity, some corporations have adopted sustainability programmes. One term in this realm is ‘circular economy’, in which practitioners aim to increase the efficiency and reuse of resources, including water — ideally making more goods (and more money) in the process.

Aquafornia news NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Blog: 5 things to know about how SWOT will look at the world’s water

On Dec. 12, NASA will launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite into Earth orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission is a collaborative effort between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) – with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency – that will survey water on more than 90% of the planet’s surface. The satellite will measure the height of water in Earth’s freshwater bodies and the ocean, providing insights into how the ocean influences climate change; how a warming world affects lakes, rivers, and reservoirs; and how communities can better prepare for disasters, like floods.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Why California wildfires burned far less this year

California is enjoying fewer extreme wildfires than it has in years, which experts attribute to a combination of summer rain, calm weather and increased forest management. As of Thursday, fires had blackened less than 363,000 acres throughout the Golden State. That’s far less than last year, when 2.5 million acres burned, and 2020, when fires torched a record 4 million acres. … But Ferguson and other experts warned that wildfires are now a year-round threat, largely thanks to climate change, which dries out vegetation and soil with record-breaking high temperatures and persistent drought.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Priorities for California’s water

In the last decade, California—along with the rest of the world—has entered a new phase of climate change. The changes that scientists predicted have started to arrive. California’s already variable climate is growing increasingly volatile and unpredictable: The dry periods are hotter and drier, and the wet periods—lately too few and far between—are warmer and often more intense. … The snowpack—that once-reliable annual source of water—is diminishing as temperatures rise. Water withdrawals during multiyear droughts are depleting the state’s reservoirs and groundwater basins. … This report considers the state of water in California: What changes are we seeing now, and what should we expect in the near future? 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

These SF projects work to protect Embarcadero from earthquakes

There are worlds of difference between a rotting structure at Fisherman’s Wharf, the iconic drama of the Ferry Building and the shadowed concrete underneath the Bay Bridge where two piers meet the aged Embarcadero seawall. What they share is a vulnerability to earthquakes and sea level rise along an artificial shoreline that’s more than a century old. They also have a common owner — the Port of San Francisco, which has the costly job of preparing that shoreline for a host of 21st century challenges where the learning curve seems to get steeper each year. Now, nearly four years after voters approved a $425 million bond to prepare the seawall and the structures along it for what the future might bring, the port has selected the first six projects to pursue. 

Aquafornia news Phys.org

World on fire: How do we adapt to a hotter planet?

Researchers around the globe agree: the Earth is getting warmer and warmer, extreme weather such as heat waves and long droughts increase the risk of wildfires. The group Wildfires in the Anthropocene at the Pufendorf Institute connects researchers from across Lund University who study fires from different perspectives: climate change, health, environmental security, fire safety and biodiversity. Every year, the wildfire season grows longer in California, fires in the Amazon and Australia are increasing dramatically and this summer, large fires took hold of southern Europe. These more extreme and unpredictable fires occur more frequently and are more difficult to fight.

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

News release: Superior Court of California reaffirms the Council’s broad authority as Delta stewards

For the second time since the Delta Stewardship Council’s establishment in 2010, its regulatory authority has been upheld by California’s judicial branch, clearing the way for the Council to continue to apply its expertise and exercise its broad authority in determining how to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Delta Reform Act. On November 4, the Superior Court of California ruled in favor of the Council regarding lawsuits filed by 17 parties challenging two amendments to the Delta Plan and the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: Sustainable techniques bring concrete results: making DWR infrastructure carbon-friendly

With Governor Newsom’s recent pledge to invest $8 billion in water infrastructure, carbon-friendly concrete is increasingly in the mix in Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) infrastructure projects. This includes efforts to modernize California’s largest water delivery system, the State Water Project (SWP). … The cement industry produces about 7% of carbon emissions globally (about double the emissions from global air travel.) Over half of these emissions are from the chemical alteration of materials during production. The remaining emissions are from the burning of fossil fuels to generate the high temperatures needed to make concrete.

Aquafornia news Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

New research: Global expansion of sustainable irrigation limited by water storage

Expansion of sustainable irrigation (i.e., using sustainable water resources to irrigate water-limited croplands) can increase food production, while neither depleting water stocks nor encroaching upon nature. Yet, there is a mismatch in timing of water availability and of irrigation needs in many geographies, necessitating temporary water storage. We quantify global volumes of water that requires temporary storage to be leveraged for an expansion of sustainable irrigation and discuss options to provide that storage. While dammed reservoirs are crucial for today’s irrigation, dams alone will not suffice to fully leverage sustainable water resources in the future and while creating major impacts on nature and people. This highlights the urgent need for alternative solutions to water storage and demand side approaches to food security.

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe, Ariz.

Is drought in Arizona and the Southwest the new normal?

Two decades of the Southwest megadrought have marked Arizona’s driest period in 1,200 years. With climate change in full swing, greenhouse emissions well above pledged targets and the state facing cutbacks to its share of dwindling Colorado River water, many wonder: Is drought the new normal? In an ideal world, drought would be as simple as the settings on a hair dryer: more heat, more evaporation. But it’s not an ideal world, and less so every day, thanks to climate change, rising water demand — and changing land use.

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Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

A new study finds beaver dams can boost water quality during a drought

The beaver dam showed up right in the middle of Christian Dewey’s research site. As the lead of a Stanford study, Dewey spent months looking at water quality along the Colorado River. This river is a water source for numerous states aside from Colorado, including Arizona, Utah and California.  The dam re-directed the study. In the end, researchers unearthed a surprising finding: the beaver dam played an important part in improving water quality in the river – so much so that in some areas, it’s mitigating water degradation caused by drought and climate change. Dewey observed the dam during the summer of 2018, a drought year for multiple states, including Colorado. Dewey said that when water levels are low, minerals tend to become concentrated in the river. This deterioration of water quality can have devastating ecological impacts. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Drought-stricken Mississippi River blocks key US port from the world

The Mississippi River — the immense, quiet highway that courses down the middle of America, moving critical food, wood, coal and steel supplies to global markets — is shrinking from drought, forcing traffic to a crawl at the worst possible time. With water levels at record lows, barges have run aground, causing traffic jams as boats wait for the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a path through the shallows. … This year has seen rivers across the US, Europe and China shrinking amid scarce rains and high heat. The vaunted Colorado River, caught in the Southwest’s worst drought in 1,200 years, has dwindled to the point where its major hydroelectric dams are in danger of shutting down, threatening the booming desert cities that rely on it. 

Aquafornia news Comstock's Magazine

Could agave spirits be a sustainable gold rush for California?

The bladed, Stegosaurus-looking plants that produce tequila might be associated with the deserts of Mexico, but researchers at UC Davis announced a $100,000 project in early September to study their viability in the state. Over the last eight years, Reynolds and several farmers have demonstrated that the crop can thrive on acres traditionally known for fruit, nuts and wine grapes. In an increasingly warm landscape, where severe droughts are predicted to be the norm and political battles over water are intensifying, agave could represent a game-changing possibility for the state. It’s generally dry-farmed in Mexico, meaning its water comes naturally from the sky for a few months, the rest of the year enduring the sun’s fiercest heatrays. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Nevada Conservancy

Blog: 2022 tree mortality event

As California wraps up a third consecutive dry year, dead and dying trees are adding splotches of orange and brown to many landscapes in California’s mountains this year. The discoloration of familiar alpine forests is the result of tree mortality due to drought, insects, or disease (everything other than wildfire) that is tracked through annual aerial surveys conducted by the U.S Forest Service. … Large-scale tree mortality is mainly driven by abnormally high temperatures and prolonged drought, as scarcity of water strains otherwise healthy trees.

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Aquafornia news LAist

Storm provides some drought relief, but water shortage prevails

The last few days of rain and snow provided some welcome relief, but don’t be fooled — the water shortage is far from over. That wet trend will have to continue if there’s to be any real dent in the ongoing drought. Burbank, LAX, Lancaster and other places in Los Angeles County broke some rainfall records, but when it comes to drought and much of the Southland’s drinking water supply, it’s the snowfall up north that really matters. … The Sierra mountains saw as much as four feet of snow over the last few days, according to the Central Sierra Snow Lab, a U.C. Berkeley research field station. When that snow melts, it’s siphoned into the reservoirs that supply most of L.A.’s water.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Register for Dec. 8 Winter Outlook Workshop in SoCal; 2023 Water Leader apps due Dec. 7; support Water Education through paycheck deductions

Register to join us Thursday, Dec. 8, for our Winter Outlook Workshop in Irvine. The past three-year span, 2019 to 2022, has officially been the driest ever statewide going back to 1895 when modern records began in California. With La Niña conditions predicted to persist into this winter, what can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2023? Does La Niña really mean anything for California or is it all washed up as a predictor in this new reality of climate whiplash, and has any of this affected our reliance on historical patterns to forecast California’s water supply? The event is ideal for anyone involved in managing water resources or simply interested in the topic  … Register here!

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Water is essence of carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration garners a lot of attention from those interested in climate change and sustainable agriculture. The piece that should be added to much of the conversation, however, is the relationship of water and carbon. “We should be considering that carbon sequestration and plant growth doesn’t happen without water,” says Nick Goeser, Principal and co-founder of Carbon A List … Goeser, who co-founded Carbon A List with Christophe Jospe, adds that raising public awareness that carbon sequestration and sustainability don’t happen without water is important.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Solano board supports moving Highway 37 plan forward

The Solano County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to Caltrans supporting the Highway 37 Interim Project for interim and long-term solutions to congestion and sea rise issues. One of those solutions, Supervisor Erin Hannigan said, will eventually be making the highway a toll road, which she said many of the motorists using Highway 37 have indicated they support if it means less congestion. “Due to current and projected traffic congestion and flooding of the (Highway 37) corridor, the region requires both an interim and long-term solution to address these pressing concerns, including balancing a variety of transportation needs with enhancing recreational opportunities and protecting and enhancing sensitive marshland habitats,” …

Aquafornia news Stanford News

New research: Beaver dams buffer rivers against climate extremes

As climate change worsens water quality and threatens ecosystems, the famous dams of beavers may help lessen the damage. That is the conclusion of a new study by Stanford University scientists and colleagues, publishing Nov. 8 in Nature Communications. The research reveals that when it comes to water quality in mountain watersheds, beaver dams can have a far greater influence than climate-driven, seasonal extremes in precipitation. The wooden barriers raise water levels upstream, diverting water into surrounding soils and secondary waterways, collectively called a riparian zone. These zones act like filters, straining out excess nutrients and contaminants before water re-enters the main channel downstream.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

NASA prepares mission to measure all of Earth’s water as multi-year drought bears down on California

With a multi-year drought bearing down on California and the West, there’s an intense focus on nearly every drop of water. But in a few weeks, we may begin to get a history making look at where that water is and where it’s going. Not just here, but around the entire planet. … Using technology, including a sophisticated form of radar, the satellite will survey and measure nearly all the water on the Earth’s surface, including lakes, rivers, reservoirs and the ocean itself. … Experts believe understanding flood patterns could help us recover and store valuable water that’s currently being lost. Perhaps diverting it into underground aquifers or reservoirs. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tiny, rural Allensworth takes on climate change with help from state grant

The state awarded $300,000 to the Allensworth Progressive Association, a local nonprofit, to “implement neighborhood-level projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and the environment and expand economic opportunity for residents,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The money will be used, in part, for planning flood control and infrastructure for wastewater management. … Funding comes from the state’s Transformative Climate Communities program, which awarded $96 million to 10 disadvantaged communities throughout the state last month. The projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64,000 metric tons, according to the press release.

Aquafornia news Fox KTVU - Oakland

California wildfires and drought: Where are we?

November is historically one of California’s worst months for deadly, wind driven mega wildfires. This year, there has been far less large runaway wildfires statewide, rainy conditions are to thank. … Mother nature has been kind to California so far this year, there have been fewer extreme heat spells, far fewer wind events, and more humidity. … But, California is still in a dangerous drought. The state’s six giant mega reservoirs, Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, New Melones, Don Pedro and San Luis, on average are only at 33%  capacity. Normally, all six are near 54%.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Draft report offers starkest view yet of U.S. climate threats

The effects of climate change are already “far-reaching and worsening” throughout all regions in the United States … The draft of the National Climate Assessment, the government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, provides the most detailed look yet at the consequences of global warming for the United States… As greenhouse gas emissions rise and the planet heats up, the authors write, the United States could face major disruptions to farms and fisheries that drive up food prices, while millions of Americans could be displaced by disasters such as severe wildfires in California, sea-level rise in Florida or frequent flooding in Texas.

Aquafornia news Communications Earth & Environment

New research: International demand for food and services drives environmental footprints of pesticide use

Over the past five decades, modern agriculture, driven by the Green Revolution, has achieved unprecedented high yields through irrigation and the extensive use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Unfortunately, this strategy of intensive food production is not currently sustainable because it deteriorates terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, depletes water resources, and contributes towards climate change. To date, efforts to quantify the environmental footprints of global production and consumption have covered a wide range of indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, biodiversity, nitrogen pollution, acidification, land use, and others, but they have largely missed to represent the environmental pressures exerted by pesticide use. 

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

New Mexico farmers face a choice: pray for rain or get paid not to plant

As the summer of 2022 began, 90 percent of New Mexico was in a severe drought. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history raged in the northern part of the state. Snowpack melted weeks early, leaving reservoirs throughout the Southwest running low. In late May, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the authority that manages water for agriculture in the Albuquerque Basin, announced that it would not be able to guarantee farmers any water past June. The outlook for farmers was dire. The conservation district had, over the previous two years, piloted programs to pay some farmers and landowners to stop farming and fallow their fields.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

The Great Salt Lake’s brine flies are in crisis mode. What does that mean for birds?

As the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink to unprecedented levels, a key component of its landscape and food web is missing. The lake is known for thick, black clusters of brine flies by the billions, which pupate in its salty water then gather in dense mats to reproduce on shore. The insectile masses occasionally gross out beachgoers, but the bugs are harmless to humans. Crucially, they provide a nutrient-rich feast for millions of migrating birds. This year, however, the fly swarms are gone. And something’s off about the few bugs that remain. Scientists say it’s a sign the lake’s ecological demise is here.

Aquafornia news Grist

Drought looms over midterm elections in the arid West

Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democratic senator from Arizona, is facing a strong reelection challenge from far-right Republican nominee Blake Masters, in a race that could be key for control of the Senate. Last month, during a televised debate between the two candidates, Masters went on the attack, criticizing Kelly’s positions on several issues.  Toward the end of the debate, after skewering Kelly on inflation and the border, Masters hit him on a more niche issue: federal water cuts on the Colorado River. … it is no surprise that drought has emerged as a key issue in the region ahead of this week’s midterm elections. Senators and representatives in close races have talked about drought in debates and campaign ads …

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

How can California boost its water supply?

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water. Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells. So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles? The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Lithium Valley: Hundreds comment on state panel’s draft report

At the tail end of another marathon Lithium Valley Commission meeting last Monday, Jared Naimark, an organizer for an environmental nonprofit called Earthworks, asked a question: “When will commissioners discuss the public comments that were received on the draft report?” But the nearly four-hour meeting was adjourned with both that question and earlier comments Naimark made left unanswered. … As the ”blue ribbon” commission pushes toward a self-imposed Dec. 1 deadline to submit its mandated report to the California Legislature with recommendations on the nascent but potential multi-billion dollar industry at the south end of the Salton Sea, it has received hundreds of comments, spanning a wide range of perspectives.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Opinion: A lost civilization reminds us to share the wealth and vote while we still can

After generations of Chacoans had painstakingly built the elaborate settlement that became the cultural and economic center of the people living in what’s now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, suddenly it was abandoned.  Obviously, no one survives to explain why, but theories abound. … Drought followed around 1100 and competition for scarce resources was rampant and brutal, leading to political and social upheaval. Mass graves reveal skeletons with clear evidence of blunt-force trauma, mutilation and burning of bodies.
-Written by Diane Carman, a Denver communications consultant. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: Assistant Secretary Trujillo highlights Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments for drought resilience in California

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo today wrapped a visit to California where she highlighted historic investments being made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to boost water infrastructure and tackle western drought. On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Trujillo joined state and local partners to commemorate the Water Replenishment District (WRD)’s 60 years of using recycled water for groundwater replenishment and to celebrate a $15.4 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for WRD’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program to help protect groundwater resources for 4 million people in the region. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

They used to call California ocean desalination a disaster. But water crisis brings new look

For decades, environmentalists have decried ocean desalination as an ecological disaster, while cost-savvy water managers have thumbed their noses at desal’s lofty price tag. But as the American Southwest barrels into a new era of extreme heat, drought and aridification, officials and conservationists are giving new consideration to the process of converting saltwater into drinking water, and the role it may play in California’s future. Although desalination requires significant energy, California’s current extended drought has revived interest in the technology. Experts are already experimenting with new concepts such as mobile desalination units and floating buoys, and at least four major plants will soon be operational along the state’s coastline.

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Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

State funds to address flooding in Calipatria

In 2012, residents of Calipatria’s east side woke up to water either all the way up to their doorstep or already inside their homes. A nearby canal had overflowed, sending water toward the Salton Sea due to what was being call a “100-year storm” that hit the Imperial Valley at the time…. To help stop the flooding from happening again, the city of Calipatria received $3.9 million in state Proposition 68 grand funds for the East Side Stormwater Drainage Improvement Project.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Dried up: Threats to Colorado snowpack pose risks far downslope

As unseasonable fall warmth bakes the Rocky Mountain hillsides, veteran snowmaker Tony Wrone has come to terms with the fact that these are no longer the winters of his youth….  Wrone said he is concerned that these conditions may repeat themselves, particularly because meteorologists have once again predicted a hot, dry fall…. When Wrone starts making snow this season in Aspen — less than 200 miles southeast of the Colorado River’s headwaters — he’ll be contributing to that river system’s core: the snowpack on which 40 million people across seven states depend. As snowfall has become more unpredictable, so has the amount — and timing — of runoff that feeds the Colorado River each spring.  

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Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

North Coast tribes get $750K for climate resiliency projects

About three-quarters of $1 million in federal funds is headed to three North Coast tribes to help build climate resiliency. On Wednesday, the Department of Interior announced $45 million in investments to tribal climate resilience projects across the country, including $4.2 million to support nine tribes in California. … The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed into law about a year ago and includes a host of funding to repair the country’s bridges, roads and railways. The law also included funds for climate projects, including millions in funds for Klamath River restoration projects, but nowhere near the amount of funding that would have been made available had the law’s companion bill, the Build Back Better Act, been passed.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

‘Our climate ally’: Why Utah scientists are enlisting beavers — yes, beavers — to fight wildfires, drought

Jay Wilde has worked on his Preston, Idaho, ranch just north of the Utah border for most of his life. Growing up, one of its biggest pests were beavers. … But after moving back in 1995, he experienced a major “paradigm shift.” With the help of Utah State University’s Beaver Ecology and Relocation Center, he opened his property as a haven for the species in 2015. Now, the area is home to over 200 beaver dams — which have increased the ranch’s creek flows and helped a vulnerable fish species thrive. … Utah State’s beaver relocation program re-homes an average of 75 beavers each year, restoring ecosystems where beavers have played a crucial role for thousands of years — all with support from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Former Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman to head Central Arizona Project

Former U.S. Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman will take over as general manager of the Central Arizona Project in the new year, one that promises to include pivotal interstate negotiations over conserving the Colorado River water that supplies the CAP canal. Burman led the Bureau of Reclamation during the Trump administration, a period in which the agency managing Colorado River water and dams helped broker a Drought Contingency Plan. In that plan, Arizona agreed to take less water from the system to prevent catastrophic losses later. Continued poor weather and overuse have since set off new talks about conserving more in an attempt to halt Lake Mead’s slide toward the point that the river no longer flows past it.

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Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: DWR’s risky prediction that CA’s future will be wetter

For years, scientists and State officials have warned of the need to prepare for a hotter, drier future as a result of climate change.  Earlier this year, Governor Newsom released his water supply strategy for the State needs to adapt to a hotter, drier future with climate change, explaining that “DWR estimates a 10% reduction in water supply by 2040 … consider[ing] increased temperatures and decreased runoff due to a thirstier atmosphere, plants, and soil.” Despite these public statements, the California Department of Water Resources’ publicly available modeling predicts that by 2040, climate change will increase runoff and make California wetter.  

Aquafornia news Forbes

Opinion: California’s water strategy – a marvelous action plan for our climate future

Too much climate change resource planning is rooted in the present — which means it’s not adaptive to the threats and (dare I say it?) opportunities of a future under climate change’s increasing extremes. But now California actually has a water supply plan that prepares for that future. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently released California Water Supply Strategy reflects an adaptive approach that takes the state much closer to securing water in an age of climate extremes — not by managing for increasing water scarcity, but by exploiting the opportunities climate change gives us to create water abundance.
-Written by John Sabo, Director of ByWater Institute at Tulane University.

Aquafornia news Sentinel Colorado

Search for solutions drives race to save Utah salt flats

In the Utah desert, a treeless expanse of pristine white salt crystals has long lured daredevil speed racers, filmmakers and social media-obsessed tourists. It’s so flat that on certain days, visitors swear they can see the curvature of the earth. … Research has time and again shown that the briny water in the aquifer below the flats is depleting faster than nature can replenish it. As nearby groundwater replaces the mineral-rich brine, evaporation yields less salt than historic cycles of flooding and evaporation left on the landscape.

Aquafornia news Roll Call

Tensions rise over drought-stricken Colorado River water use

As the Interior Department continues to delay implementing a program to reduce water consumption from the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin, tensions are thickening between the seven states with stakes in the watershed. Now, lawmakers in Congress are fanning the flames as Capitol Hill looks ahead to must-pass, biennial water legislation…. The letter [from Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, urging the Interior Department to withhold funding for Salton Sea reclamation in California] sets the stage for potentially fraught discussions on Capitol Hill as lawmakers turn to the Water Resources Development Act, a bill that reauthorizes key U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects, in the next year.

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Aquafornia news KNAU - Arizona Public Radio

Tribe seeks to adapt as climate change alters ancestral home

Raymond Naranjo sings for rain, his voice rising and falling as he softly strikes his rawhide-covered drum. The 99-year-old invites the cloud spirits, rain children, mist, thunder and lightning to join him at Santa Clara Pueblo, where Tewa people have lived for thousands of years on land they call Kha’p’o Owingeh, the Valley of the Wild Roses. “Without water, you don’t live,” says Naranjo’s son Gilbert … With unsettling speed, climate change has taken a toll on the the pueblo’s 89 square miles (230 square kilometers) that climb from the gently rolling Rio Grande Valley to Santa Clara Canyon in the rugged Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Heat is expected to get far more brutal in certain parts of California. People are still moving there in droves

Many of the fastest growing communities in California are in areas expected to face the highest temperature increases by the end of the century. … Across California, average summer temperatures have already risen by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1896, the cascading impacts of which have already begun playing out — extreme heat events, rising sea levels, heightened wildfire risk and more severe drought, just to name a few. … Some of them may not have sustainable water supplies that can withstand droughts or the energy capacity to shield people from heat during the hottest times.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Report: New report highlights key factors affecting State Water Project deliveries

As California enters a possible fourth dry year, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released its biennial report to help water managers better understand how key factors, like climate change and regulatory and operational considerations, affect the operation of the State Water Project (SWP) under historical and future scenarios. The State Water Project provides water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland throughout the state. In the State Water Project Final Delivery Capability Report 2021, there are estimates on the SWP’s water delivery capability for current and future conditions based on three major factors: The effects of population growth on … water supply and demand; State legislation intended to help maintain a reliable water supply; Impact of potential climate change-driven shifts in hydrologic conditions.

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Aquafornia news BBC Future

How Tucson, Arizona is facing up to a megadrought

In front of Val Little’s one-story, adobe home near downtown Tucson, in southern Arizona, a small but proud sign stands in the lawn. It reads: “This house harvests the rain.” Every couple of months, 68-year-old Little climbs up a short ladder to clear the leaves from her home’s gutters. … The downspout funnels the rainwater that falls on her rooftop into a 1,300-gallon (4,900-litre) plastic cistern in her backyard. She has two of them, and in late September both were almost full, fed by the abundant summer monsoon rains. Little is not alone. Over the past 15 years or so thousands of residents across Tucson, a mostly parched desert city where barely 12 inches (30cm) of rain falls in an average year, have turned to rainwater harvesting to meet some of their household needs. 

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Toxic algal bloom solution targets water from San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin River that passes Manteca and Lathrop just as it reaches the Delta is ground zero for yet another fight over water. This time it’s to reduce the growing threat of toxic algal bloom in the Delta that pose a threat to humans and pets alike. And if emergency petitions filed last month with the State Water Control Resources Board succeed, it will throw a major wrench into state efforts to deal with allocating dwindling water supplies as California enters its fourth year of drought.

Aquafornia news Denver Post

Colorado River conditions are worsening quicker than expected. Feds prepare to step in

Running out of time and options to save water along the drying Colorado River, federal officials said they’re considering whether to release less water from the country’s two largest reservoirs downstream to Arizona, California and Nevada. Without enough snow this winter, the water level at Lake Powell — the country’s second-largest reservoir — will drop below a critical level by next November, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Below that point, the Glen Canyon Dam will no longer be able to generate electricity and … no longer be able to send water downstream at all. Conditions on the Colorado River are worsening quicker than expected. … Colorado is heading into its third La Niña winter in a row, likely indicating below-average snowpack.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A third of southern Sierra forest lost to drought, wildfire

As climate change continues to transform California’s landscape in staggering and often irreversible ways, researchers have zeroed in on yet another casualty of the shift: the forests of the southern Sierra Nevada. Between 2011 and 2020, wildfires, drought and bark beetle infestations contributed to the loss of nearly a third of all conifer forests in the lower half of the mountain range, according to a recent study published in the journal Ecological Applications. Eighty-five percent of the southern Sierra’s high-density mature forests either lost density or became non-forest vegetation. The losses could have grave consequences for California wildlife, including protected species such as spotted owls and Pacific fishers that rely on mature tree canopies for their habitats.

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Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

California’s San Joaquin Valley looks to solar, not farming, as climate change worsens

California’s San Joaquin Valley will become increasingly difficult to farm as climate change intensifies. But with the right regulations and policies, the state’s multi-billion dollar agricultural belt could become something else — a clean energy powerhouse that the state desperately needs. At a panel event on Tuesday, energy professionals and community leaders gave a glimpse of the valley’s potential future — one where alfalfa fields give way to solar farms and carbon is sequestered beneath fallowed orchards. They also acknowledged how daunting an economic transition it would be.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Climate change is rapidly accelerating in California, state report says

Wildfires, drought, extreme heat and other effects of climate change are rapidly accelerating and compounding in California, according to a report from state scientists. The fourth edition of “Indicators of Climate Change in California,” released Tuesday, paints a stark picture of the escalating climate crisis and documents how global reliance on fossil fuels has had wide-ranging effects on the state’s weather, water and residents. Since the last update in 2018, weather extremes have intensified and become more erratic, officials said…. The warmer conditions have affected water availability in the state by causing more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, the report says.

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Aquafornia news Nature Geoscience

New research: Global water availability boosted by vegetation-driven changes in atmospheric moisture transport

Surface-water availability, defined as precipitation minus evapotranspiration, can be affected by changes in vegetation. These impacts can be local, due to the modification of evapotranspiration and precipitation, or non-local, due to changes in atmospheric moisture transport. However, the teleconnections of vegetation changes on water availability in downwind regions remain poorly constrained by observations. By linking measurements of local precipitation to a new hydrologically weighted leaf area index that accounts for both local and upwind vegetation contributions, we demonstrate that vegetation changes have increased global water availability at a rate of 0.26 mm yr−2 for the 2001–2018 period.

Aquafornia news Yale E360

Drought, fire, insects destroyed nearly a third of southern Sierra Nevada forest in last decade

In just 10 years, fires, drought, and insect infestations have devastated close to a third of forests in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, a new study finds. The region, which extends from Lake Tahoe in the north to the Sequoia National Forest in the south, has been hit by persistent drought, made more severe by climate change, which has left pines more vulnerable to wildfires and bark beetle infestations. From 2011 to 2020, 30 percent of conifer forests in the southern Sierra Nevada succumbed to these threats, according to an analysis of U.S. Forest Service data on tree cover, tree height, and the extent of recent wildfires.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Why desalination should be a California water priority

If the climate crisis is coming, the water crisis is already here.  As rice fields were fallowed in California, Lake Mead water levels almost sunk so low that Hoover Dam could no longer generate power … Thirty percent of the world population will face water shortages of some kind by 2025. … The water crisis will only be solved if we realize the once quixotic vision of desalination, turning seawater into freshwater. Today, roughly 18,000 desalination plants produce around 1% of the world’s freshwater, with production concentrated in regions of high water scarcity such as Israel and Australia. … The desalination process is so energy-intensive that desalination plants often require carbon-emitting power plants right next door, which can increase costs up to 10 times higher than groundwater.
-Written by Dr. Grayson Zulauf, a clean energy entrepreneur and CEO of Resonant Link.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Waterlogged wheat, rotting oranges: five crops devastated by a year of extreme weather

Just three crops – rice, wheat and corn – provide nearly half of the world’s calories. And this year rice had a particularly tough growing season. In California, rice farmers sowed the lowest number of seeds since the 1950s. According to the California Rice Commission, only 250,000 acres of rice will be harvested this year, about half of a typical season. … In August, the USDA forecasted that California would only grow 10.5m tons of tomatoes, down 10% from its estimates at the beginning of the year, as drought causes them to dry up on the vine. California usually produces about 30% of the world’s processing tomatoes – the tomatoes used in paste, sauce and ketchup. But researchers predict that the global supply of processing tomatoes could fall by 6% in the next 30 years due to climate change.

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Arizona’s water future will be decided on the 2022 ballot

Voters in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties on Nov. 8 will select new board members for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which oversees how Colorado River water is delivered through the Central Arizona Project. … The Southwest is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years. On top of that, Lake Mead sits at 1,046 feet above sea level, only 150 feet above the “dead zone” – the level where the Hoover Dam doesn’t have enough water to produce electricity. Central Arizona farmers already have endured steep cuts in water deliveries, and more pain is coming. The Central Arizona Water Conservation District election features 14 candidates competing for five seats on the CAWCD board.

Aquafornia news Audubon California

Blog: Shorebirds flock to the Salton Sea

If it wasn’t for the sun low on the horizon or the sparrows singing quickly from nearby shrubs, one would barely realize it was morning.  The heat along the Salton Sea, with some added humidity, already felt slightly oppressive.  Our shorebird survey route included the shoreline along the State of California’s Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) 4,100 acre wetland remediation project on the southwest corner of the Sea, near the New River mouth.  We found ourselves in a construction site, and after asking for access permission, were given hard hats and sent along our way to navigate a series of levees and dirt roads and look for birds.

Aquafornia news ABC 7 - Los Angeles

Can you have greener grass while using less water? UC Riverside researching new batch of water-saving grasses

We are living through the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years across the western states. Many can see the effects simply by looking at their front yard and the results of water restrictions in place, which are especially tough on grass not meant for desert climates. … UC Riverside has bred grass to better adapt to California’s climate for decades, but Baird’s team has hit on a new strain that might be the best yet. Known by their field names, 17-8 and 6-3, the two patches among hundreds require 50% less water than most lawns to stay green and healthy.

Aquafornia news Idaho Capital Sun

Even as drought forces water cutbacks, climate gets short shrift in midterm election

The streaks of white on the rock ringing the nation’s largest reservoir show how far its water levels have dropped since it was last full. Lake Mead and nearby Lake Powell, which send water to 40 million people in the Southwest, are at their lowest levels since they were filled in the 1930s as part of the Hoover Dam’s construction on the Colorado River.  The lake actually overflowed in 1983 and nearly hit capacity in 1999. Now, it’s at only 26% of its capacity — and losing altitude monthly as a decades-long drought brought on by a changing climate keeps it from replenishing the supply. Yet in a crucial U.S. Senate campaign primarily being waged a short drive away that could sway control of the chamber, the candidates are barely mentioning the disappearing water levels and the drought that’s causing it.

Aquafornia news Eel River Recovery Project

New release: Surprise finding shows coho surviving even in temperatures much warmer than optimum

The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) has monitored water temperature throughout the Eel River watershed, checked flow conditions and also documented fish life since 2012.  The group’s temperature monitoring program is driven by volunteer interest and energy, and streams surveyed include the South Fork Eel River and selected tributaries in southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino County.   In southern Humboldt, we have partnered with retired California Department of Fish and Game warden Larry Bruckenstein to monitor lower Sproul Creek where he and his wife Darcy reside, and the South Fork Eel downstream of Sproul Creek.  Bob and Barbara Froelich own land in Little Sproul Creek just upstream and are also ERRP monitoring partners.  

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

In southern France, drought, rising seas threaten traditions

For centuries people from across the region have observed Camarguaise bull festivities in the Rhone delta, where the Rhone river and the Mediterranean Sea meet. But now the tradition is under threat by rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts which are making water sources salty and lands infertile. At the same time, there are efforts by authorities to preserve more land, leaving less for bulls to graze. … During summers plagued by high temperatures and diminished rainfall, the sea water can reach up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the Rhone river. During a heat wave in August this year, the Raynaud family’s water pump in the Petite Rhone, an offshoot of the main river, began pumping salt water. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

In Nevada, a tribe and a toad halt a geothermal plant

After about a decade of grinding its way through the federal permitting process, Ormat, a geothermal company, was building a new power plant in Dixie Valley to produce renewable energy. … But soon came another legal snag. The company halted construction in August while federal agencies meet to discuss whether the project should move forward. The rugged, remote corner of Nevada’s Great Basin region found itself at the epicenter of a confrontation between some of President Biden’s, and the nation’s, most pressing priorities: renewable energy, wildlife conservation and Indigenous rights…. environmentalists and tribes are pressing the Biden administration to begin land and water protections at Dixie Valley and elsewhere. The administration’s decision could affect not just Ormat’s plans and this patch of Nevada but also projects and landscapes across the country.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Easing the drought: Answers are right in front of our eyes

With longer and more frequent droughts happening around the globe, technologies are advancing to help ease the effects of drought and bring fresh water to dry climates. Fog catching, desalination and atmospheric water harvesting are three techniques used to help mitigate water shortages around the globe. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California

With the nation’s two largest reservoirs continuing to decline, federal officials announced plans Friday to revise their current rules for dealing with Colorado River shortages and pursue a new agreement to achieve larger reductions in water use throughout the Southwest. The Biden administration announcement represents a renewed push to scale back water use along a river that has shrunk significantly in the face of a 23-year megadrought worsened by global warming. With water levels dropping at Lake Powell, the Interior Department said operators of Glen Canyon Dam may need to release less water, which would affect flows in the Grand Canyon and accelerate the decline of Lake Mead. 

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Aquafornia news Western Water

As climate change erodes Western snowpacks, one watershed tries a ’supershed approach’ to shield its water supply

The foundation of California’s water supply and the catalyst for the state’s 20th century population and economic growth is cracking. More exactly, it’s disappearing. Climate change is eroding the mountain snowpack that has traditionally melted in the spring and summer to fill rivers and reservoirs across the West. … California officials expect the state could lose 10 percent of its water supply by 2040 … Hoping to get ahead of that dismal forecast, managers of a major Sierra Nevada watershed east of Sacramento are replumbing their water systems to better handle bursts of rain instead of trickling snowmelt. Their “Supershed Approach” to replace the loss of the once-reliable snowmelt calls for climate adaptation projects that stretch from the headwaters of the American River west of Lake Tahoe, to the foothills and down to the valley floor in Sacramento.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: New US plan could lead to federal action on Colorado River

The Interior Department announced Friday that it will consider revising a set of guidelines for operating two major dams on the Colorado River in the first sign of what could lead to federal action to protect the once-massive but shrinking reservoirs behind them…. One of the options would allow the Interior Department’s U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to take unilateral action, as it threatened this summer when it asked states to come up with ways to significantly reduce their use beyond what they’ve already volunteered and were mandated to cut.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Beyond catastrophe: A new climate reality is coming into view

Just a few years ago, climate projections for this century looked quite apocalyptic…. Now, with the world already 1.2 degrees hotter, scientists believe that warming this century will most likely fall between two or three degrees….A little lower is possible, with much more concerted action; a little higher, too, with slower action and bad climate luck. Those numbers may sound abstract, but what they suggest is this: Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Drought expands east to the Mississippi river, where it’s really messing things up

Footprints, human and animal, dot stretches of the Mississippi River that have been underwater for as long as people remember, and eight barges have run aground this year. Rain has been scarce, with little prospect for more. Drought’s deadly fingers have moved east, from the dried-up wells of California’s Central Valley and into the American Midwest, where much of America’s food is grown, and even farther, into the Southeast. Its tentacles have parched parts of America’s most important river and now threaten a majority of the country — 52.7% by the U.S. Drought Monitor’s count, and 146 million people, 12 million more than a mere week ago. It’s the deepest national drought since 2012, and if nothing changes it’ll outpace that benchmark soon.

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Aquafornia news Eos

New study: U.S. streams are drying up

For millennia, communities throughout North America have adapted to the ebb and flow of waterways. Water infrastructure provides reservoirs for times of drought and flood control for instances of deluge…. Long-term shifts in streamflow could signal a fundamental change in climate that scientists believe the country’s infrastructure is not designed to endure. Unfortunately, such a trend is emerging. In the first comprehensive picture of streamflow in the United States, scientists reported that streams in the South and West have gotten drier in the past 70 years.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Friday Top of the Scroll: A decade of drought and fire killed a third of Sierra Nevada forests

Admirers of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains are familiar with the swaths of blackened trees flanking its sprawling green forest ranges. A new UC Berkeley study quantifies that devastation, finding nearly a third of southern Sierra conifer forests have died in the last decade. California has seen devastating bouts of drought and record-breaking wildfire events in the last several years…. Healthy forests support critical biodiversity and ecological function, like storing water that melts into our reservoirs. They also provide key carbon storage in our fight against the extreme weather dangers posed by climate change.

Aquafornia news Discover Magazine

Drought at Lake Powell reveals preserved world that was once lost

In recent years, droughts resulting from global climate change, as well as increased water usage, have meant that Lake Powell water levels are dwindling to lows not seen in decades — the reservoir is only 26 percent full, 180 feet below its high point. And below the water line, an entire world has been revealed. “We’re seeing where Indigenous people lived and also where they died,” says Stanfield. Once sacred to Indigenous populations, the low levels of Lake Powell are now revealing burial sites, pottery and even a 900-year-old ancient structure.

Aquafornia news 12 News - Phoenix

SRP: After Arizona’s megadrought ends, there wil be floods

Recent talks surrounding water in Arizona have stressed that “not having enough” is the main issue the state is facing. Salt River Project (SRP) officials made sure to speak about how they’re planning on combating the ongoing, historic megadrought at a recent conference.  But the utility company also stressed they’re preparing for an issue that only seems possible in the dreams of Arizonans: floods. Having too much water may actually be a problem central Arizona faces within the next decade, according to data presented at the conference.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

Experts predict California will see extremely rare La Niña event

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in its U.S. winter weather outlook that La Niña will make an appearance December through February for the third year in a row. It’s not unusual to see two consecutive winters marked by La Niña, but what U.S. forecasters are calling a ”triple dip” is uncommon. Going back some 70 years, this has occurred only two other times. … A big twist in this year’s forecast is that NOAA predicts La Niña will transition to what’s called ENSO neutral as early as February. In ENSO neutral, the equatorial waters are at average temperatures. A similar pattern occurred in 2016-17, when winter started dry but had a wet ending.

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Aquafornia news Albuquerque Journal

Rio Grande managers eye federal cash for western drought

With several billion dollars in federal money secured for drought-stricken western states, managers and officials on the Rio Grande are hopeful some will reach their communities and bring attention to the challenges facing one of North America’s longest rivers. Stretches of the river near Albuquerque went dry for the first time in 40 years in August, destroying critical habitat for endangered fish. … A main way the money will be spent in the Colorado River basin is to pay farmers to leave fields unplanted and free up the water that would otherwise be used. Southwestern cities and Native American tribes, who have their own rights to water, could also be paid to use less of their supply.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

As state seeks lifeline with Delta Tunnel, project draws concern for small Delta town

California has long had a mismatch. “Where the waterfalls and where the people are. Much of the water, about two-thirds, fall in the Sierra Nevada, but most of the population is in the Central Valley, the Bay Area, along the coast or in Southern California,” said Carrie Buckman, Environmental Program Manager with Delta Conveyance. … Pushing a pipeline plan, like the Delta Conveyance project, on many different occasions seemed dead in the water. The area referred to as the Delta goes from Sacramento to Tracy and the Bay Area to the ocean. Fifty percent of California’s water moves through these waterways.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Colorado part of proposed deal over beleaguered Rio Grande

New Mexico, Texas and Colorado have negotiated a proposed settlement that they say will end a yearslong battle over management of one of the longest rivers in North America, but the federal government and two irrigation districts that depend on the Rio Grande are objecting. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Tuesday announced that the states had brokered a deal following months of negotiations. While the terms remain confidential, his office called it “a comprehensive resolution of all the claims in the case.” … Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice and irrigation districts that serve farmers downstream of Elephant Butte reservoir argued that the proposal would not be a workable solution. 

Aquafornia news Navajo-Hopi Observer

Adapting to climate change on Hopi

Hopi Three Mesas (H3M) received a $100,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute for the creation of a climate change mitigation plan for Hopi. The money will be used to educate Hopi youth about climate change and the impacts to the Hopi agricultural growing season and corn farming. Hopi Three Mesas will select 10 youth, ages 12 to 18, to become climate stewards, develop an outreach campaign and learn about traditional Hopi corn farming. … The lack of available water, in addition to changing socioeconomic conditions, was mentioned as a leading cause for the decline in the ability to grow corn and other crops, the study found.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

2022 election: Water regulation and spending punctuate state and local ballots

Weeks before the November 8 election, national political debate centers on control of Congress. In rural southeastern Arizona, however, the kitchen table issue strikes closer to home. Voters in parts of Cochise and Graham counties will decide whether to join the state’s more populated districts and regulate groundwater extraction. Orchards, vineyards, and dairy farms have moved into this dusty corner of Arizona where large-scale irrigation has caused drinking water wells to go dry and the land to subside, damaging highways. … In California and New York, voters will be asked to approve multibillion-dollar bond and taxing measures to benefit air, land, and water. 

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Brain-eating amoeba-linked death highlights new climate risk

The death of a Nevada boy who contracted brain-eating amoeba after swimming in Lake Mead this fall is highlighting how climate change can fuel the spread of the usually rare infection. Naegleria fowleri, known colloquially as a brain-eating amoeba, lives in warm, fresh water and can enter the human body through the nose, traveling up to the brain, where it starts destroying tissue, causing an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis. Climate change-induced warming means the amoeba can now be present in areas of the country where it didn’t used to be, like in the north and west. It’s also extending the amoeba’s life span past the summer months.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Can saving a marsh also save this town from sea level rise?

Standing on the edge of a repurposed marina, at the end of a long wooden walkway that harked back to more prosperous times, Brenda Buxton took in the disorienting landscape. Directly before her were the remnants of an industrialized, salt-encrusted pond that stretched for what felt like miles. Here along the southernmost edges of San Francisco Bay, the water glimmered a strange tinge of red. Its flatness belied the threat of rising seas. … Saving a vanishing marsh — while also figuring out what to do with a community that would drown if its existence continued to be overlooked — takes decades if not generations, costs hundreds of millions of dollars and requires the ability to think so long-term and so large-scale that every step seems unprecedented.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

California forecast: More drought after driest three years on record

California is about to enter its wet season, when hopes are high for replenishing lowland rains and mountain snows after its three driest years on record. But, for the fourth year in a row, the state could languish in a drought that is having dire effects on its water resources. 10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint Last week, the National Weather Service projected another warm and dry winter for large parts of the state — with drought persisting or getting worse. Now, experts are sounding the alarm about what a fourth consecutive drought year could mean.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Send Mississippi River water to southwestern reservoirs? New analysis casts doubts.

As an environmental scientist, Roger Viadero had to scratch his head over news reports last summer of the thirsty demand in Palm Springs and Las Vegas, among other western cities, for water from the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The letters pages of the Palm Springs Desert Sun newspaper broke their own records for online traffic last June with readers’ proposals to siphon some 22 billion gallons of water per day from the Midwest. To solve the Southwest’s water crisis, the desert denizens wrote, a series of canals and reservoirs could pipe water from the flood-prone Mississippi River to the Colorado River, a supposed win-win for everyone.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

CA wildfires: Mosquito Fire near Foresthill 100% contained

The Mosquito Fire, which burned dozens of homes in the foothills east of Sacramento en route to becoming California’s largest wildfire this year, is officially fully contained, more than six weeks after it started. Crews boosted containment to 100% as of Saturday evening, the U.S. Forest Service said. The Mosquito Fire torched 76,788 acres, or 120 square miles, after sparking near the Oxbow Reservoir at Tahoe National Forest on Sept. 6. It jumped the Middle Fork of the American River twice – north to south, then south to north – in its first two weeks, and destroyed 78 buildings, most of them homes, while damaging 13 others.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Lake Mead could die if states don’t save enough water in 2023

The Gila River Indian Community announced in August that it would no longer leave part of its sizable Colorado River water allocation in Lake Mead, citing lack of progress on a deal to stop it from tanking. Two months later, the tribe became the first major Arizona player to take the feds up on a new offer to voluntarily leave water in the lake. … Credit the tribe for leading by example. But don’t expect much to change. Farmers must be on board to achieve this magnitude of savings, considering that agriculture uses the lion’s share of water in Arizona and across the Colorado River basin. Yet many are balking at the price the feds have put on the table.
-Written by Arizona Republic columnist Joanna Allhands.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: We must wake up to the world’s water crisis

Amid a tidal wave of bad news – from inflation and the war in Ukraine to climate change and divisive politics – there is one story that might trump all others in importance, and yet it receives the least sustained global attention: water.  We hear about water troubles, episodically. In between those times, we turn it on and turn it off. But pause and think: After Hurricane Ian, we watched in horror as homes and possessions floated down flooded streets in Florida … Periodically, our newscasts show firefighters in California evacuating people from their homes and trying to put out massive blazes with limited supplies, fighting climate change and heat. … America is not alone in its water nightmare. Outside the United States, the water picture gets even more grim.
-Written by Tara D. Sonenshine, the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Public Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Review: The Accidental Ecosystem by Peter S. Alagona

[D]espite the dramatic decline in wildlife across the country, many cities in the United States are now home to more wild animals than they have been during the past 150 years. Why? … even as cities had been transformed into concrete jungles filled with despair and desperation, urban planners were rethinking and changing their ideas about cities and began to make them more welcoming for their human residents. Parks were built. Trees planted. Urban pea-patches and gardening spaces became more common, and waiting lists of a decade or longer for one of these highly coveted spots sprung up. Local wildlife also benefitted: beginning in the 1970s, wildlife began to reappear in cities throughout the world.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s drought is upending migration for millions of birds

Millions of migratory birds fly south each year to winter in California, or continue beyond. … But this year, the ibis that arrived at the California-Oregon border from points north didn’t find the marshes and ponds they’re accustomed to, just a lot of dust and dried-up mud. … As California’s fall migration revs up, many birds will have to abandon familiar stops and make adjustments, often big ones, if they haven’t already, to adapt to a landscape stricken by drought. … Complicating matters,  [wildlife] refuges face the same problems that many cities and farms confront during dry times: not having priority claims on water.

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Aquafornia news Politico

United States of megadrought

Drought has engulfed large swaths of the country, threatening parts of the nation’s food and power supply. And it’s getting worse. More than 80 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing unusually dry conditions or full-on drought, which is the largest proportion since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking 20 years ago. Winter is expected to intensify and spread the dry conditions, killing crops and increasing fire risks in regions that don’t usually face such dangers, NOAA says. … California and the West are faring no better. The ongoing megadrought is expected to worsen … 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Beavers: The unlikely climate hero

Beavers were once ubiquitous in North America, with a population numbering in the hundreds of millions. Trapping and habitat loss decimated their population: There are just 10-15 million beavers in North America today. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently allocated money to support beaver restoration throughout the state, calling the beaver an “untapped, creative climate solving hero.” California native Joe Wheaton is a professor of riverscapes at Utah State University who leads teams working on beaver restoration. We asked him to tell us more about this unlikely climate hero and its role in restoring streams and meadows.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Innovative approaches for flood insurance affordability

People have been asking if Hurricane Ian will push the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) into an affordability crisis?  Some argue the NFIP is already there. Two weeks ago, the Greater New Orleans, Inc.’s Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance (CSFI) reported that NFIP’s new pricing strategy makes NFIP insurance premiums unaffordable. The report’s authors assert that increasing NFIP premiums and fees will lead to fewer households with flood insurance, and recommend slowing premium increases until an affordability program can be developed and funded. An examination of historical NFIP purchases by California households supports this assertion.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Review: Poison plastics are the climate-change catastrophe killing us on a micro scale

Journalist Matt Simon’s urgent new book “A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies” is classified as environmental science but could comfortably be labeled as horror. … Microplastics are so ubiquitous that they are in the very air we breathe. One study “calculated that each year the equivalent of 300 million water bottles fall on just 6 percent of [the U.S.] landmass.” … To what do those little bits add up? California alone expels 9 million pounds of microplastics a year, or the weight of 80 million rubber duckies. By 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh all the fish that reside there.

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Editorial: This is the first step to saving the Great Salt Lake

As the civil rights movement was rising in the United States in the 1960s, its leaders had an expression for what was happening. It went something like, “We’re not where we want to be. We’re not where we ought to be. But, thank goodness, we’re not where we used to be.” On paper, and in the papers, Utah is reaching such a point when it comes to solving the crisis of the shrinking Great Salt Lake. There is widespread realization that we cannot just sit back and wait for Mother Nature to refill the lake. We see that it will take human action, sustained and expensive, to stop the rapid shrinking that threatens not only its economic output and the birds and other wildlife that depend on its ecosystem, but also the lives and livelihoods of the millions of people who live near its shores.

Aquafornia news Vox

Where used electric vehicle batteries will end up

Recycling is often an overlooked but critical piece of a clean energy future. To address climate change, we’ll need to replace the fuels that run our homes, buildings, and vehicles with electricity powered by clean energy. Nowhere is this more important than in transportation, the US’s most polluting sector. The challenge is that each vehicle needs its own battery, complete with copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese, graphite, and lithium. … Two of those potential sites are in places like Nevada’s Thacker Pass, an open pit mine, and California’s Salton Sea basin, where there are large underwater deposits. 

Aquafornia news Earth.org

Summer 2022 will be one for the record books

There is no doubt that summer 2022 will be one for the record books, featuring one climate catastrophe after another. Sweltering weather, exceptionally intense wildfires, and cataclysmic floods: we have spent the last few months watching in disbelief as calamity after calamity unfolded in every corner of the world, causing unimaginable damage, claiming thousands of lives, and displacing millions of people. … California, an extremely fire-prone state, will forever remember the devastating wildfire that broke out in July in Yosemite National Park, home to nearly 500 iconic sequoia trees among the longest-living and tallest in the world.

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Aquafornia news The Mendocino Voice

‘A healthy ocean means a healthy fleet’: salmon, crab, kelp, and climate the focus of annual fisheries forum

Dispatches on the state of California’s fisheries this year have brought “a mix of some glimmers of better news, while still struggling with difficult issues,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Chuck Bonham summarized at the 49th Annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum on Wednesday afternoon. … Bonham said the 2021-2022 Coho salmon escapement — a metric used to determine the size and health of salmon stock — in our North Coast streams was about 20% higher than the long term average, making it the second highest year for salmon stock in the last two decades. But in the Central Valley, the 2022 fall run recreational Chinook harvest was about 50% less than last year’s, Bonham reported. 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Wildfire and drought resilience dollars often aren’t reaching rural communities, report finds

When major legislation like last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law provides funding for federal programs, money isn’t automatically appropriated to communities. State and local governments have to apply for grants, write project proposals, and manage construction projects. And that can be challenging for rural areas with limited staff capacity. The Center for American Progress published a pair of reports this month highlighting these challenges in the context of climate resilience, offering recommendations for how decision-makers can better design federal programs to be more inclusive of rural communities as disasters like wildfires and floods become more frequent.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Friday Top of the Scroll: NOAA sees no winter drought relief across parched West

Western states gripped by persistent drought are unlikely to see any relief in the coming months, as a third year of La Niña weather patterns reduces precipitation in that region, NOAA scientists predicted Thursday. According to the agency’s 2022-23 Winter Outlook, below-average rainfall and snowpack are expected in a wide stretch of the United States including Southern California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, the southern Plains, the Gulf Coast and much of the South.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘The U.S. dammed us up’: How drought is threatening Navajo ties to ancestral lands

Over the last three decades, the Navajo Nation – the largest Indigenous nation in the U.S. – has felt the impacts of a warming planet much earlier and more dramatically than other communities in the Southwest that have well-developed municipal infrastructure and abundant financial resources. Although people living in the reservation border towns of Flagstaff or Winslow have taken steps to cope with climate crisis by converting their yard to desert landscaping and installing air conditioning, [Candice] Mendez and many other Navajo families are in a full-on struggle to protect their livelihoods and traditional connections to their homeland.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Carbon from CA wildfires reverses climate change progress

California’s record-setting wildfires of 2020 destroyed 4.2 million acres of forest — and erased years of progress the state made on battling climate change. A study by researchers at UCLA and the University of Chicago says the 2020 wildfires released nearly 140 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That was nearly as much greenhouse gas emissions as all the passenger vehicles in California generate in a typical year. Put another way: Between 2003 and 2019, through a variety of measures, California managed to reduce annual carbon emissions by 71 million tons. The 2020 wildfire emissions doubled that figure, according to the study, which was published in the October issue of the academic journal Environmental Pollution.

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Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Blocked for decades, Chinook salmon are once again swimming in Shasta County tribe’s ancestral river

With a helicopter ride and a trip down Interstate 5, a remarkable effort is underway to save Califorina’s endangered salmon.  In Shasta County, The California Department of Fish & Wildlife, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe have partnered to try to reintroduce winter run Chinook to the McCloud River. In July and August, hatchery eggs were delivered – one round by helicopter – to the upper McCloud to be raised in river-fed incubators. The Winnemem Wintu have been fighting for the return of the Chinook since their path to and from the Pacific was blocked by the construction of Shasta Dam, 80 years ago.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

Fragile forests: Millions of California trees dying due to drought

In forests throughout the Golden State, trees are turning a dark shade of rust, succumbing to the impacts of the drought in a well-documented phenomenon known to forest scientists as tree mortality.  The problem first peaked in 2016 when the U.S. Forest Service released images from a statewide aerial survey, estimating 62 million trees died that year. Heavy rain and snowfall in 2017 gave the forests a new lease on life. But the climate keeps changing the terms of that lease. According to the Forest Service, 9.5 million trees died last year in California, mostly fir and pine. And scientists are concerned one more year of drought could lead to another mass die-off.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

California approves desalination project with another on deck

A California desalination project to bolster the region’s water supply has won state regulators’ approval, but a separate site faces what is expected to be a more contentious vote next month. The California Coastal Commission’s 11-0 vote to green-light the $140 million Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in Orange County’s Dana Point was a win for desalination advocates and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) plan to boost the state’s water supply that draws in part on the technology. “We believe that the project before you today, although not perfect, provides a solid example that we can use in planning for future desalination,” …

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Aquafornia news The Ukiah Daily Journal

Senate hearing Wednesday to discuss health of state’s salmon, kelp forests

On Wednesday, State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will convene the 49th annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum “which will be focused on some of the most critical environmental issues facing California,” his office announced. According to a press release, the forum will feature “some of the nation’s top fishery experts (providing) a much-anticipated update on California’s iconic salmon population amidst this historic drought, (as well as) an important briefing on where the (Dungeness crab) season stands. Also, there will be a first-of-its kind panel on the collapse of the Golden State’s kelp forest and what’s being done to bring the ‘redwoods of the sea’ back to life.”

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Aquafornia news The Week

The consequences of a plastic-filled world

Today, the world produces approximately 400 million tons of plastic waste per year. … Plastic contains lots of chemicals and additives making the material durable and flexible; however, plastic’s durability lasts far beyond the length of time humans use it … meaning essentially all plastic ever produced still exists somewhere on Earth, according to National Geographic. That is a staggering 9.2 billion tons of plastic. Much of this ends up in oceans and on coastlines endangering sea life. … While the media often shows images of fish strangled by six-pack rings or turtles accidentally eating plastic straws, a deeper problem is emerging: microplastics.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Kamala Harris sees a link between climate policy and rights

After a summer of national and global climate devastation, Vice President Kamala Harris made a stop at the Cowell Theater on Tuesday to tout Democrats’ progress on climate policy just weeks before the midterm elections. … The conversation [with podcasters Leah Stokes and Katharine Wilkinson for their show, “A Matter of Degrees,”] followed months of extreme weather events exacerbated by human-caused climate change, including deadly heat waves, hurricanes and floods, severe drought and a looming crisis on the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news USA Today

California wildfires of 2020 spiked greenhouse gas emissions: study

California’s catastrophic wildfires in 2020 put twice as much greenhouse gas emissions into the air as the state’s reductions in those same gases over nearly 20 years – erasing gains going back to 2003, according to a new study. It’s part of a positive feedback loop that’s very negative, say the researchers. “Climate change is creating conditions conducive to larger wildfires. And the wildfires are adding to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change,” said lead author Michael Jerrett, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. The historic megafires of 2020 released an estimated 127 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

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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.  

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman 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.

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.

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.

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

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 Douglas E. Beeman 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.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jenn Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
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 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.

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman 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.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Event included optional Delta Tour

One of our most popular events, Water 101 details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop gives attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource.

McGeorge School of Law
3285 5th Ave, Classroom C
Sacramento, CA 95817

‘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. 

Aquapedia background Lakes

Lake Tahoe

World-renowned for its crystal clear, azure water, Lake Tahoe straddles the Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles wide and hemmed in by Sierra Nevada peaks.

At 1,645 feet deep, Tahoe is the second-deepest lake in the United States and the 10th deepest in the world. The iconic lake sits 6,225 feet above sea level.

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.