Topic: Climate Change


Climate Change

Aquafornia news KQED

See a map of Bay Area hazardous sites at risk from rising seas

More than 900 hazardous sites — power plants, sewage treatment plants, refineries, cleanup areas and other facilities — across California could be inundated with ocean water and groundwater by the end of the century, according to climate scientists at UCLA and UC Berkeley. … [UCLA’s Lara] Cushing and UC Berkeley’s Rachel Morello-Frosch, both environmental health scientists, last year launched an interactive tool, Toxic Tides, mapping California’s hazardous sites that could be inundated by sea level rise. … The researchers also used federal groundwater data to examine how rising ocean water would drive freshwater up from the ground.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: Another step toward climate apocalypse

We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave. Also a temperate heat wave and an Arctic heat wave, with temperatures reaching the high 80s in northern Norway. The megadrought in the Western United States has reduced Lake Mead to a small fraction of its former size, and it now threatens to become a “dead pool” that can no longer supply water to major cities. Climate change is already doing immense damage, and it’s probably only a matter of time before we experience huge catastrophes that take thousands of lives. And the Republican majority on the Supreme Court just voted to limit the Biden administration’s ability to do anything about it.
-Written by Paul Krugman, an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center.  

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Lithium Valley: Calif. Legislature approves per-ton lithium taxes, hefty development funds

California legislators voted late Wednesday to impose flat taxes on lithium producers…. The fees were fiercely contested by two start-ups that lobbied for a sales tax approach, but supported by energy giant Berkshire Hathaway’s renewables arm. Officials noted the fees — along with $400 million in state funds that were authorized for infrastructure, planning and environmental reviews — could bring sorely needed improvements and steady revenues to the state’s impoverished, often overlooked southeastern corner. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office was closely involved in negotiations on the package, and he is expected to sign it into law.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

To avoid blackouts, California may tap fossil fuel plants

Looking to avoid power blackouts, California may turn to the one energy source it’s otherwise desperate to get rid of: fossil fuels. A sweeping energy proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday puts the state in the business of buying power to ensure there’s enough to go around during heat waves that strain the grid. But some critics say the method of getting there is at odds with the state’s broader climate goals, because it paves the way for the state to tap aging gas-fired power plants and add backup generators fueled by diesel…. Newsom’s solution centers on creating a “strategic reliability reserve” run by the Department of Water Resources.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Supreme Court restricts EPA’s authority to mandate carbon emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a major blow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change. The decision by the conservative court majority sets the stage for further limitations on the regulatory power of other agencies as well. By a vote of 6 to 3, the court said that any time an agency does something big and new – in this case addressing climate change – the regulation is presumptively invalid, unless Congress has specifically authorized regulating in this sphere. At issue in the case were rules adopted by the Trump and Obama administrations and aimed at addressing the country’s single-largest carbon emissions problem – from coal-fired power plants.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State water funding to help upgrade mountain systems

A sliver of state money will help upgrade drinking water systems in eastern Fresno County mountain communities that have been plagued by both drought and devastating wildfires. The money is part of an overall $300 million in Department of Water Resources funding aimed at drought impacts. In Fresno County, the Sierra Resource Conservation District was awarded $525,000 to upgrade technology for five community groundwater systems in the mountains.  The five water systems were all impacted by the 2020 Creek Fire, one of California’s biggest wildfires, which burned nearly 380,000 acres in the Sierra Nevadas. 

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Bill moves forward to lock more carbon in the soil

California has seen a lot of proposals to reduce carbon emissions; now a plan to scrub existing pollution is moving forward in the Legislature. Assembly Bill 2649, which just passed the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Wednesday, sets a big goal: to remove 60 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year by 2030, all by harnessing nature. Ellie Cohen, CEO of the Climate Center, a statewide advocacy group, said the plan to sequester more carbon in the ground will slow climate change and help the environment. “It helps us to hold more water when it does rain,” Cohen outlined. “It helps to replenish groundwater. It supports biodiversity …”

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

CA Gov. Newsom pushes controversial energy package

Continuing his crusade to fortify California’s troubled electricity grid, Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing last-minute legislation that would give the state authority to streamline approvals for new energy projects — and potentially prolong the lives of the state’s last remaining nuclear plant and a group of aging fossil fuel plants in Southern California. Environmentalists denounced a pair of budget trailer bills — AB 205 and SB 122 — that would give the state Department of Water Resources and California Energy Commission broader powers to bring new projects online quickly.

Aquafornia news Christian Science Monitor

Drinking water in short supply? There’s a solution in the air

High above the Pacific Ocean, tucked in the steep contours of mountainous Malibu, [David Hertz and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz] supply their house, pool, and network of firefighting hoses with water harvested from the air.  The couple use their property – dubbed Xanabu – as a demonstration site for atmospheric water generation. … Globally, 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. This urgency is driving support for innovations in atmospheric water generation to address the two biggest hurdles to widespread use: scaling it up, and making it accessible – and affordable – to people in regions that need it most.  

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Extreme heat, drought will permanently scar California and its social fabric

Unprecedented dryness across the western United States is meeting with increasingly warm temperatures to create climate conditions so extreme that the landscape of California could permanently and profoundly change, a growing number of scientists say. The Golden State’s great drying has already begun to reduce snowpack, worsen wildfires and dry out soils, and researchers say that trend will likely continue, along with the widespread loss of trees and other significant shifts. Some say what’s in store for the state could be akin to the conditions that drove people thousands of years ago to abandon thriving cities in the Southwest and other arid parts of the world as severe drought contributed to crop failures and the crumbling of social norms.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

California dairy uses lots of water. Here’s why it matters.

When we picture California agriculture, we tend to think of almond and citrus orchards and the massive tracts of strawberry and lettuce fields that we can see from the highways dividing the western part of the state from the east. But dairy is, in fact, king. There are an estimated 1.7 million cows living on dairy farms in California, and the industry brought in $7.5 billion in 2020, including $2 billion in export sales. And because most people in the state don’t see the abundance of dairy farms—most of them function like feedlots surrounded by fields of feed crops such as alfalfa and corn growing nearby—they may not be aware of the fact that they use millions of gallons of water a day.

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Aquafornia news Time

Meet the siblings making hydropower that protects ecosystems

Hydropower is the world’s biggest source of renewable energy, generating about 16% of the global electricity supply. And it will continue to play a key role as the world looks to meet net-zero targets, not least of all because, like a battery, it can store massive amounts of energy for later and quickly release it in moments of peak demand. But despite being better for the climate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that renewable energy sources can have a negative impact on the environment. Just 37% of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing—without any human-made dams, reservoirs, or other structures controlling how and when the water moves … 

Aquafornia news Petaluma Argus-Courier

Opinion: Drought is our new normal

As California’s multi-year droughts become longer, hotter and more frequent, communities like Petaluma will need to work much harder to adapt to this new reality. That’s according to John Shribbs, president of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and a longtime science teacher at Casa Grande High School, who says that scientists warned us for decades that the dramatically rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels would spawn more destructive wildfires, longer droughts, more intense heat waves, ongoing sea level rise and collapsing ecosystems.
-Written by the Argus-Courier’s former publisher John Burns.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Ring the alarm – Today’s water crisis isn’t a fire drill

News headlines in mid-June captured what Audubon’s Western Water team knows well: the Colorado River Basin and Great Salt Lake are in trouble—both facing historically unprecedented risks. Both may be headed towards ecological disasters, years in the making, the result of a pernicious combination of climate change aridifying the region and water management that does not adequately prioritize the environment. In the Colorado River Basin and at Great Salt Lake, warming temperatures and declining river flows threaten people and nature. And, we know there’s significant quality wildlife and bird habitat still worthy of attention and investments.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Pipelines? Desalination? Turf removal? Arizona commits $1B to augment, conserve water supplies

The Colorado River’s precipitous decline pushed Arizona lawmakers to deliver Gov. Doug Ducey’s $1 billion water augmentation fund — and then some — late Friday, their final night in session. Before the votes, the growing urgency for addressing the state’s oncoming water shortage and the long timeline for approving and building new water projects nearly sank the legislation. 

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

The Bay Area has avoided a major fire so far. The weather report holds the answer for why

For a moment, the first week of summer looked like the prelude to a vicious fire season in the Bay Area, with blazes ripping through the hillsides south of Livermore and the ridges bordering Port Costa. But firefighters managed to quash these fires quickly, aided by tame winds and a landscape still moist enough to keep the flames from spreading fast. … From June 19 through June 27, Cal Fire battled 14 major fires across the state that torched 10 acres or more, nine of them in the greater Bay Area region stretching from Sonoma County to the San Joaquin Valley in the east and south to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Aquafornia news Greenbiz

Will water pricing be the next carbon pricing?

The price of water — essential for human life, nature, communities and businesses — is often subsidized, reflecting a commonly held belief that everyone should have abundant access to clean water…. In the Western United States, cutbacks to one of the Southwest’s most important watersheds, the Colorado River, are imminent and possibly economically crushing to farmers … California agriculture lands are straining to access groundwater that used to be plentiful. … Some companies that want to stay one step ahead of the pressing water crisis are adopting strategies that set higher internal prices on water than what they actually pay to their local utility or municipality.  

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

‘Where there’s bodies, there’s treasure’: A hunt as Lake Mead shrinks

They appeared to be just a couple of special-education teachers, freed up by Flag Day, out for a morning of bass fishing on Lake Mead. Matt Blanchard and Shawn Rosen had settled into their 18-foot motorboat, put beers on ice and waited their turn at the last functioning boat launch on this rapidly disappearing body of water. It wasn’t until the old Bayliner was chugging away that Rosen mentioned an ulterior motive for their mid-June excursion.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Newsom plans to keep lights on in CA — with fossil fuels

A controversial plan from Gov. Gavin Newsom would reshape how business is done on the California power grid…. State lawmakers could vote as early as Wednesday night on the polarizing legislation, whose text was revealed late Sunday. The bill would give the Department of Water Resources unprecedented authority to build or buy energy from any facility that can help keep the lights on during the next few summers — including polluting diesel generators and four gas-fired power plants along the Southern California coast that were originally supposed to close in 2020 but were rescued by state officials.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Opinion: Congress must act to save CA’s giant sequoias from wildfire

Turns out bipartisan cooperation in Washington, D.C. isn’t completely dead, after all. It just requires a tall miracle. Giant sequoias were considered virtually invulnerable to wildfire. That view abruptly changed over the past two years when nearly a fifth of the world’s largest trees perished in wildfires that devastated the southern Sierra Nevada. With more lethal blazes feared imminent, urgent action was needed. Help arrived Thursday in the form of the Save Our Sequoias Act, introduced by 28 bipartisan House members including California Democrats Scott Peters and Jim Costa and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
-Written by Marek Warszawski, a columnist for The Fresno Bee.

Aquafornia news Grist

June heat waves smash records across the globe

It’s just a few days into summer, and heat waves have already toppled records across the globe, from the Russian Arctic to the muggy Gulf Coast. With July and August — usually the hottest summer months — still to come, the early extreme heat offers a grim picture of summer’s growing danger. … According to a recent survey, a little more than half of Americans say they have been personally affected by extreme heat. That number is much higher in California, where 71 percent of the survey respondents say it has affected their lives, whether through climbing electricity bills or declining health. After this summer, it may spike higher still.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Chili peppers, coffee, wine: how the climate crisis is causing food shortages

Huy Fong Foods, the southern California company that produces 20m bottles of sriracha annually, has experienced a low inventory of red jalapeño chili peppers in recent years made worse by spring’s crop failure. The cause? Severe weather and drought conditions in Mexico. … California’s record-setting wildfires in 2020 severely affected harvest and the hazardous air quality threatened large portions of the state’s wine grape crop. Napa Valley winemakers are being forced to take extreme action, such as spraying sunscreen on grapes and irrigating with treated wastewater from toilets and sinks, in order to survive – and some vineyards won’t.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Feds seek ideas on how to manage a drier Colorado River

For many decades, the Colorado River was managed with the attitude that its water levels would remain roughly stable over time, punctuated by alternating wet and dry periods. But in the face of possibly the river’s driest period in 1,200 years, a new approach is now needed to managing the river’s reservoirs — one that can account for “deep uncertainty” about future climate and runoff conditions, says the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. And for the next two months, the bureau wants to hear from the public about how it should go about operating reservoirs including Lake Mead, Lake Powell and other parts of the river system under such conditions.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Researchers hope new tools can forecast rainfall or wildfire season severity months in advance

In the parched southwestern United States, few forecasts are as important as the future height of Lake Mead, which tells federal authorities how much water to release to the 20 million people living downstream of the giant reservoir. This year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is testing out a new tool it hopes will make those projections a little better: A model that can predict — months in advance — the summer rainfall associated with the North American Monsoon. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Drought and bark beetles threaten bristlecone pine trees

Forest pathologist Martin MacKenzie strode forward on a narrow path through California’s mythic bristlecone pine forest in the White Mountains near the Nevada border, methodically scanning gnarled limbs for the invaders that threaten the lives of some of the world’s oldest trees. … Now, scientists say, these living symbols of longevity, strength and perseverance may be at an evolutionary crossroads. Hotter droughts and bark beetles are for the first time in recorded history killing bristlecones, according to a recent study published in the scientific journal Forest Ecology and Management.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Arizona to spend $1 billion seeking new water sources

Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to sign legislation as early as this week to spend $1 billion looking for long-term sources of new water for Arizona. State lawmakers finally lined up the votes for the plan Friday, the last day of their 2022 session. … The plan requires that 75% of the funding be spent to acquire water from outside of the state, which could include building a plant to desalinate water from the Sea of Cortez in Sonora. State officials have also mentioned exploring the possibility of a pipeline from the Mississippi River. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Heat wave in Southern California prompts safety warning

A heat advisory was issued for inland areas of Southern California for Sunday and Monday, with temperatures in many areas hitting the triple-digit mark. Highs will reach 95-105 degrees in the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Antelope valleys as well as inland Orange County and part of the Inland Empire. Most coastal areas are expected to remain relatively cool. … Downtown Los Angeles will see highs in the low 90s on Monday, or about 10 degrees above normal. Further inland, the highs will be closer to 15 degrees above normal, Dumas said.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: As summer begins, thinking about our drought problem – empathy

In the rainless season we call summer in California, images of shrinking bodies of water have a way of looming large. After more than 22 years of drought compounded by warmer temperatures, Lake Mead and Lake Powell — water sources that are vital to life in the Southwest — have declined to their lowest levels since they were filled. The two reservoirs now sit at just 28 percent of capacity. But now, I don’t have climate change on my mind. Instead, I’m thinking about another reservoir that’s nearly empty: our reservoir of empathy.
-Written by Steven P. Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, a San Diego-based group working to create solutions to challenging issues, including intolerance and incivility. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Tree rings show Colorado River Basin drought could get much worse

What two stooped and warped sentinels in the Great Basin are telling us is a scary story, with a twist of possible redemption.  Approximately 1,800 years after popping out of the ground as seedlings, live bristlecone pines are still talking to us nearly 2 millennia later. … Rings from trees that were alive in the west’s Great Basin in the second century A.D. show a devastating 24-year drought back then that makes our current 22-year Western drought look positively moist, the research shows. The tree rings and other evidence from caves and bogs show the drought cut 32% from the average flow of the Colorado River at Lees Ferry, in northern Arizona near the beginning of the Grand Canyon. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wildfires caused by humans are more dangerous, studies find

The sheer acreage consumed by fire in California in recent years is numbing: more than 2.5 million acres last year, and 4.3 million acres the year before that. Already in 2022, before peak fire season has descended upon this drought-parched state, fire has burned nearly 17,000 acres. Yet not all fires are equal. New research from UC Irvine shows that fires caused by human activity — be it arson, a neglected campfire, sparking electrical equipment or ill-conceived gender reveal parties — spread faster, burn hotter and destroy more trees than those caused by lightning strikes.

Aquafornia news High Country News

In the wake of fires and floods

The simple truth is that farmers, collectively, are the thirstiest Colorado River gulpers by far. It’s no wonder then that Patrick O’Toole, a Wyoming rancher and president of the Family Farm Alliance, feels like he and his compatriots have a target painted on their backs. He warned that taking water off the farm will send food production overseas and devastate family farms, large and small. … What he didn’t say is that a lot of those farmers aren’t raising food; they’re growing alfalfa and other hay crops, and an awful lot of that hay gets shipped overseas. But whether we’re talking about fields of alfalfa or potatoes being fallowed, real people will be forced to pay the price of a changing climate.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Even in a ‘megadrought,’ some eye new or expanded Colorado River dams

Even as a persistent drought strangles the Colorado River and threatens the viability of giant reservoirs and dams erected decades ago, Western states and local governments are eyeing more projects to tap the flow of the 1,450-mile river and its tributaries. Whether those potential new reservoirs or other diversions would further tax an already overwhelmed system, or actually help states and municipalities adapt to a changing climate while making better use of their dwindling supplies, is a point of contention between environmentalists and water managers. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Water is flowing again in Mexico’s dry Colorado River Delta

Beside a canal that runs through farmland, rushing water roared through an irrigation gate and flowed down a concrete culvert toward a wetland fringed with cottonwoods and willows. For decades, so much water has been diverted to supply farms and cities that the Colorado River has seldom met the sea and much of its delta in Mexico has been reduced to a dry riverbed, with only small remnants of its once-vast wetlands surviving. Over the past eight weeks, water has been flowing in parts of the delta once again, restoring a stretch of river in Mexico where previously there had been miles of desert sand.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Column: Summertime is no cure for the environmental blues

News about the environment rarely is good these days, but a string of grim developments locally, regionally and internationally cast a particular pall over the otherwise sunny arrival of summer. Beaches from Imperial Beach north to Coronado were closed because of sewage discharges from Tijuana. The Colorado River’s reservoirs are so low that severe water cuts are on the horizon for much of the southwestern United States. And another climate conference, this one in Germany, pretty much went nowhere. All of this is bad, though all is not lost.
-Written by U-T columnist Michael Smolens.

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Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Opinion: California’s water supply goes beyond the current drought

After being repeatedly told to conserve, most Californians realize we have been in a drought for several years and that water supplies are running dangerously low as summer approaches. What most Californians do not realize is that we are now in a full-fledged water supply crisis, and almost every aspect of daily lives, community health, and our state’s economy will continue to be impacted by the inadequacy of California’s water system, policies, and insufficient supply. With worsening and changing hydrologic conditions, California’s existing water system is failing to meet the needs of our state.
-Written by Craig Miller, the General Manager at Western MunicipalWater District; and Paul Helliker, the General Manager at San Juan Water District.

Aquafornia news Good News Network

How fog nets are making water abundant in arid Africa – and may be useful in California

During the Moroccan desert summertime drought, fog nets are being used to provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people in remote mountain villages. Now villagers can irrigate agricultural fields, turning desertified land back into green gardens, all thanks to mathematician and businessman Aissa Derhem. … The drought-affected state of California, which has already borrowed water-saving strategies from India, could utilize these nets along the coastlines of San Francisco, Oakland, Point Reyes, Monterrey, and Santa Barbara.

Aquafornia news Ceres Courier

State bans commercial, industrial grass watering

With California in a serious water drought, and the state ban on the watering of grass at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, some businesses in Ceres are faced with the prospect of letting their grass die or having to replace it. The turf watering ban took effect on June 16 and does not apply to residential properties but will apply to the non-functional turf maintained by homeowners’ associations. The ban also does not apply to watering turf used for recreational or other community purposes, such as parks and schools. The new rule will impact the grass strips in front of McDonald’s, Starbucks, professional offices and more.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Why wildfires in California are more dangerous in summer and fall

It’s almost July, which is typically the beginning of California’s fire season. You’ve probably heard that wildfires in the Golden State have increasingly become a year-round danger, no longer limited to a few months a year. But even still, the start of the traditional summer-and-fall fire season brings a slew of heightened risks for us to contend with. … By the time summer arrives, California has typically gone months without rain, and warm weather has left vegetation bone-dry. So the fires that erupt then tend to burn hotter and faster — and are harder to control.

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Aquafornia news Axios

Water conservation grants go to western states

The Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced nearly $26 million in funds for water and energy efficiency grants in Western states. The grants, paid for under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will go toward conserving local water supplies amid the severe drought in the West. Why it matters: Most of the West is mired in drought conditions, particularly the Southwest, where a megadrought dating back more than two decades is the most severe such event in at least 1,200 years.

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Aquafornia news Newsweek

California: Lake Oroville water-level photos show extreme drought impact

Droughts in California have led Lake Oroville’s water levels to drop dramatically, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Photos show quite how drastically the water level in the lake has dropped: in 2019, the lake water sits right up by the treeline, while now, there is a significant amount of bank between the water and the trees. In 2021, the lake, which is north of Sacramento, nearly dried up entirely.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

What’s next for the governor’s plan to replumb the Delta?

California water officials are poised to release the first environmental review of a controversial project to replumb the Delta — a plan in the works for decades that has alternately been called a water grab or a critical update to shore up state supplies.  Known as the Delta Conveyance Project, a tunnel supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom would take water from the Sacramento River and bypass the vast Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, funneling the flows directly to pumps in the south Delta or straight to Bethany Reservoir at the northern end of the California Aqueduct.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: State must act now to head off future floods

As a result of our warming climate, Stockton and San Joaquin Valley communities face a growing risk of disastrous flooding in coming years. California’s budget surplus gives us an important opportunity for a major investment in climate-smart flood solutions. Why make flood investments a priority during a drought? Preparing for future floods is like saving for retirement: Building flood management projects takes years. If we don’t start now, we may not be ready when the next big flood arrives.
-Written by Mike Machado, a farmer in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a former state senator and the author of flood policy reform legislation. 

Aquafornia news Modern Farmer

What the future of almonds looks like in a dry California

In 2021 alone, the 7,600 almond farmers in the state grew nearly three billion pounds of almonds, making it the state’s most valuable crop.  But now, facing extreme weather events, shrinking water resources and rising costs, some farmers are leaving almonds behind, opting to put their efforts behind in-demand crops such as canning tomatoes, garlic or onions. In fact, this year’s almond harvest is expected to drop from last year’s, with drought and frost damage two of the main reasons for the dip.

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Aquafornia news The Tribune

Opinion: The Colorado River Compact hasn’t aged well

The Colorado River Compact turns 100 this year, but any celebration is damped down by the drying-up of the big reservoirs it enabled. The Bureau of Reclamation’s “first-ever” shortage declaration on the river acknowledges officially what we’ve known for years: the Compact and all the measures augmenting it, collectively known as The Law of the River, have not prevented the river’s over-development. 
-Written by George Sibley, a contributor to Writers on the Range, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively discussion about Western issues. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Oceanside gets $5.2 million for long-awaited flood control project

Oceanside will get $5.2 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to renew the long-stalled San Luis Rey River Flood Protection Project, which will protect homes and businesses along the river, reduce insurance costs, and provide sand for the city’s starving beaches. The money will help pay for sediment removal, vegetation management and levee improvements along the lower 5 miles of the river to safeguard against the level of flooding likely to occur at least once every 250 years, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano.

Aquafornia news Audubon

The Great Salt Lake is too big—and too important—to fail

Utah’s [Great Salt Lake] and wetlands are disappearing as farms and communities divert the rivers that flow into the basin. … In 2021 the lake’s southern end hit a record low, and this year, it could drop even lower. More than half its volume has evaporated, and in areas the shoreline has receded miles. … These benchmarks, combined with an ongoing megadrought wringing the West dry, have recently spurred a flurry of new laws, policies, and programs aimed at slowing the decline of the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, a haven for millions of birds representing hundreds of species.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: It’s high time to put a lid on plastics

Plastic waste is the legacy we are leaving our children. It is everywhere: In remote alpine lakes, in deep sea trenches, and even inside us. Studies show we consume up to a credit-card worth of plastic every week. The latest stunning research has found microplastics in every single sample of freshly fallen Antarctic snow. Meanwhile, the production of plastics is warming the planet. In 2019, the Center for International Environmental Law estimated the production and end-of-life management of plastics globally contributes the equivalent of 850 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
-Written by Betty Yee, controller of California and a member of the California Ocean Protection Council. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Congress wants to save California’s giant sequoias from worsening wildfires. Here’s the plan

California’s fire-ravaged sequoia groves have left scientists and forest managers scrambling to ensure a future for the world’s largest trees. Over the past two years, nearly a fifth of all giant sequoias, once considered virtually immune to wildfire, burned so badly they died. Fire experts fear more lethal blazes are imminent. This week, the effort to protect the cherished trees turns to Congress. In a rare show of bipartisanship, California’s Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield plan to introduce the Save our Sequoias Act, a bill that would provide money and support to restore and help fire-proof the venerable giants.

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Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

What La Niña means for California’s summer

While the lingering La Niña climate pattern is expected to bring soaking storms and strong hurricanes to parts of the U.S., it’s a different story here in California. La Niña is favored to stick around through the end of the year … Sometimes La Niña splits California in two, bringing lots of rain to Northern California and drought to Southern California. This year … a dry La Niña winter and spring have left 99.8% of California suffering drought conditions. Now it’s summer, California’s driest season, and drought conditions are only expected to worsen. NOAA is predicting a hotter-than-average summer for the entire state, which will further deplete reservoirs and dry up already parched land even more.

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Aquafornia news Scientific American

Skies are sucking more water from the land

Drought is typically thought of as a simple lack of rain and snow. But evaporative demand—a term describing the atmosphere’s capacity to pull moisture from the ground—is also a major factor. And the atmosphere over much of the U.S. has grown a lot thirstier over the past 40 years, a new study in the Journal of Hydrometeorology found. Evaporative demand … does not simply creep upward alongside climate warming; it increases exponentially, says study lead author Christine Albano, an ecohydrologist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno. “With a one- to two-degree rise in temperature, we’re getting much larger increases in evaporative demand.”

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR inducted into the Climate Leadership Awards Hall of Fame in recognition of work to address climate impacts

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) was one of two public agencies to be inducted into the first-ever Climate Leadership Awards Hall of Fame at the national Climate Leadership Conference for its ongoing work to address California’s changing climate and evolving water management challenges. DWR joined 28 organizations in the Hall of Fame including Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America, UPS, Ford Motor Company, and Microsoft.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Fire risk is so extreme in this Bay Area neighborhood that just one home in flames could be catastrophic for the region

Homes nestled in the Oakland hills sit among oak woodland trees and shrubs, an enclave from city life. But the dense vegetation and steep terrain mean such communities could be in great peril over the dry summer — if even a single house catches fire on a windy night, the result could be catastrophic for the region, fire officials say. … Plenty of green spaces across the Bay Area are at high fire risk, but the extreme danger is concentrated in the Oakland hills. The community has about 25,000 homes. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

After a cool weekend that brought snow flurries to Tahoe, a heat wave is coming. Here’s what to expect in Bay Area

Bay Area residents should enjoy the cool weekend while they can — after chilly and breezy temperatures Friday, conditions will warm up to well above normal by the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service. … But early next week, Bay Area residents can leave the jackets at home — daytime highs are expected to jump up from below or near normal this weekend to 10 to 18 degrees above normal at next week’s peak on Tuesday.

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Aquafornia news Escalon Times

New Delta protections part of House water infrastructure bill

Members of the House of Representatives last week voted to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA). Area Congressman Josh Harder successfully fought to include four critical Central Valley water programs in this bipartisan legislation, including $200 million for water infrastructure in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and new requirements for the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Delta from harmful algal blooms.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Unusual, weak storms keep pushing into Northern California

Over the past several weeks, Northern California has been on a weather roller coaster, with a series of weak late-season storms interrupting the periods of hot, dry weather that are more typical of June. Case in point: After last week’s mini heat wave sent inland temperatures soaring into the 100s, a storm system from the Pacific Northwest delivered a potent dose of cold and thunderstorms to the mountains and farthest reaches of the Golden State, especially along the coast.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

California considers ‘carbon farming’ as a potential climate solution. Ardent proponents, and skeptics, abound

Starting with funds received from the state of California in 2017, Solidarity Farms began incorporating practices that improve soil and help suck carbon out of the atmosphere, like spreading compost and reducing tilling on fields, rather than applying fertilizer or plowing. The farm applied for the money after the devastating heat. It was a shot, they hoped, at making the farm more resilient to the changing environment. Any potential carbon sequestration would be an added benefit. Now, California legislators are considering promoting those same types of practices on more farms, by establishing an overall greenhouse gas reduction target for the state’s “natural, working, and urban lands.”

Aquafornia news CNN

Southwest drought persisted as Yellowstone flooded

The West saw an aspect of the climate crisis play out this week that scientists have warned of for years. In the middle of a prolonged, water shortage-inducing megadrought, one area, Yellowstone, was overwhelmed by drenching rainfall and rapid snowmelt that — instead of replenishing the ground over a matter of weeks or months — created a torrent of flash flooding that ripped out roads and bridges and caused severe damage to one of the country’s most cherished national parks. In the meantime, drought conditions persisted in the Southwest, where water is desperately needed to replenish the country’s largest reservoirs, and provide relief to regions tormented by record-setting wildfires.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Stubborn La Niña may stick around for a rare third year

A stubborn La Niña climate pattern in the tropical Pacific is likely to persist through the summer and may hang on into 2023, forecasters say. La Niña has been implicated not only in the unrelenting drought in the U.S. Southwest, but also in drought and flooding in various parts of the world, including ongoing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. If La Niña persists into the fall and winter, it would be only the third time since 1950 that the climate pattern has continued for three consecutive winters in the Northern Hemisphere, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said last week.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Opinion: Tribal Nations must be at the table to find water solutions

In southwestern Colorado, multiple years of hot and dry conditions have drained many of our reservoirs. This year we expect that a section of the Pine River, which runs through the heart of the Southern Ute Reservation, will run completely dry due to dry conditions and irrigation diversions by Tribal and non-Tribal irrigators. Unfortunately, what’s happening with the Pine River is becoming all too common across the Colorado River Basin and the West. Scientists have concluded that the ongoing severe drought conditions we’re facing are primarily due to climate change.
-Written by Celene Hawkins, the Colorado and Colorado River Tribal Engagement Program director for The Nature Conservancy; and Lorelei Cloud, of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and Council Member for the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council. 

Aquafornia news Time

To survive drought, California should learn from Cape Town

Cape Town may have been the first major modern city to come within days of running out of water, but it will not be the last. According to the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, almost half the global population will experience “severe water stress” by 2030 as a result of population growth and climate change. That means less water for food production, prompting the United States to pronounce water scarcity a national security issue earlier this month. Most recently, California has been feeling the squeeze as the western U.S. experiences its worst drought in over 1,000 years.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Mark your calendars for the foundation’s fall programs including water leaders reunion

Mark your calendars now for our full schedule of fall programs, including a reunion of our Water Leaders graduates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program as well as the in-person return of our 38th annual Water Summit. Our fall programming also includes tours exploring California’s two largest rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, to learn more about infrastructure, the impacts on farms and habitat from a third year of drought and salmon restoration efforts. Check out the details below to learn more about these fall programs.

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Opinion: State should step in to protect Joshua trees

Our state is widely viewed as a climate leader, but California never has protected a single plant or animal under its endangered species law because of the threat of climate change. That could change today (Wednesday, June 15), when the state’s Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to decide whether to list western Joshua trees under the California Endangered Species Act. Commissioners could decide to safeguard Joshua trees, offering proof of California’s commitment to fighting climate change and ensuring that the iconic plant survives for future generations.
-Written by Brendan Cummings, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity.  

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Biologists try to save ancient fish as Colorado River fades

Barrett Friesen steers a motorboat toward the shore of Lake Powell, with the Glen Canyon Dam towering overhead. Pale “bathtub rings” line the canyon’s rocky face, starkly illustrating how water levels have slumped in the second-largest U.S. reservoir amid rising demand and a multi-year drought. The Utah State University graduate student and colleagues are on a mission to save the humpback chub, an ancient fish under assault from nonnative predators in the Colorado River. 

Aquafornia news Desert Research Institute

New research: Study explores uncertainties in flood risk estimates

Flood frequency analysis is a technique used to estimate flood risk, providing statistics such as the “100-year flood” or “500-year flood” that are critical to infrastructure design, dam safety analysis, and flood mapping in flood-prone areas. But the method used to calculate these flood frequencies is due for an update, according to a new study by scientists from DRI, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Colorado State University. Floods, even in a single watershed, are known to be caused by a variety of sources, including  rainfall, snowmelt, or “rain-on-snow” events in which rain falls on existing snowpack.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Why toxic algae blooms are on the rise across California — and expected to get worse

Rising temperatures and stagnant water generally signal trouble for human life, but they make for a great environment for the bright, blue-green scum often found in lakes, rivers and reservoirs that flourishes and blooms in hot weather. These scum blooms, known as harmful algal blooms, are natural parts of the ecosystem, but can also release toxins that sicken or even kill people and animals. They’re becoming more common as temperatures rise and water systems are starved and disrupted, threatening not only public and wildlife health, but the state’s water supply…

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Continued drought brings another year of high mortality rates for salmon returning to the ocean

Conservationists are concerned about winter-run Chinook salmon as the population continues to dwindle in lingering drought years. This past winter marked the third in a row with below-average rainfall and snowfall in many spots, leading to lower water levels in major rivers. … Arnold Ammann is part of a team of scientists that tracks the salmon as they move downstream in March and April. He said this year, only 4% of about 500,000 fish survived the entire journey.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

The cruelest summer yet? California is facing drought, heat, power outages and fires — all at once

Summer officially begins next week — and in California, it may be a cruel one. Even with the upheaval of the pandemic mostly behind us, the menace of drought and rising temperatures is threatening to derail the return to normal. This year’s extraordinarily dry, warm weather, which is expected to continue in the coming months, is stoking fears of a multitude of problems: increasing water restrictions, extreme heat, power outages, wildfire and smoke — potentially all of the above in one vicious swoop. … Already in California, climate volatility, as palpable as it’s been, has joined the list of reasons people cite for wanting to move away, after soaring home prices, high taxes and traffic.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Major water cutbacks loom as shrinking Colorado River nears ‘moment of reckoning’

As the West endures another year of unrelenting drought worsened by climate change, the Colorado River’s reservoirs have declined so low that major water cuts will be necessary next year to reduce risks of supplies reaching perilously low levels, a top federal water official said Tuesday. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said during a Senate hearing in Washington that federal officials now believe protecting “critical levels” at the country’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — will require much larger reductions in water deliveries. … The needed cuts, she said, amount to between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet next year.

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Energy from dairy cow manure? The idea has hit the big time in Stanislaus and Merced

PG&E is about to get some of its gas from the manure of tens of thousands of dairy cows in and near Stanislaus County. Aemetis Inc. held a gathering Friday, June 10, at a new plant in Keyes that will process methane piped in from 60 dairy farms in the area. The $380 million project will reduce climate-harming emissions for both PG&E and the farmers. The latter also will get modest payments from Aemetis, helpful in a business beset by tight profit margins.  Aemetis contractors will employ several hundred people as the company builds out the system by 2025. And it will add about 10 permanent workers to the 75 already at the Keyes site, which has made ethanol from corn since 2011. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Wildfires erupt in Arizona and California in foreboding sign of intense summer

Scorching temperatures and desperately dry conditions set the stage for the rapid spread of several explosive wildfires that erupted over the weekend, forcing evacuations in California and Arizona. The blazes are among dozens that have broken out across the US south-west early in the summer, including a ferocious fire in New Mexico that became the worst in the state’s history. Officials say it’s a foreboding sign of what is shaping up to be another intense year of fire. … Roughly 60% of California is categorized in extreme drought … the conditions are 40% drier than they were at this time of year in 2016 – one of the driest years on record in the region.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

The Colorado River: Where the West quenches its thirst

The Colorado River begins in the Rocky Mountains, collecting snowmelt as it meanders through an alpine valley. Across a vast swath of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, the river grows as it takes in major tributaries: the Gunnison, the Dolores, the Green and others. The Colorado River Basin encompasses more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states and northern Mexico. … Water diverted from the river flows from taps in Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas and throughout much of Southern California, supplying nearly 40 million people. About 70% of the water diverted from the river in the U.S. is used for agriculture … The region’s heavy use of the river is colliding like never before with the climate, which is growing hotter and drier.

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Opinion: Dams, a key part of state infrastructure, must be kept safe

We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature for taking bold action last year to fund climate resilience and related water infrastructure in the fiscal year 2021-’22 state budget. In light of the current budget surplus, funding for climate resilience and water infrastructure should remain a key priority for investment in California. Dedicating a small fraction of the state’s budget surplus dollars for safety and climate resilience projects at existing dams in the state budget would be a prudent step for the governor and Legislature.
-Written by Dave Eggerton, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies; and Michael Quigley, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Overworked California firefighters struggle with PTSD, suicide

For firefighters battling California wildfires, these emotional injuries are a workplace hazard. Longer and more intense fire seasons have taken a visible toll on the state, leaving a tableau of charred forests and flattened towns. But they’ve also fueled a silent mental health crisis, including an alarming rise in post-traumatic stress disorder among the ranks of Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting service. Fifty-four California firefighters have died in the line of duty since 2006, according to the Cal Fire Benevolent Foundation, and nationally, more than 3,000 firefighters have died from job-related injuries and illnesses since 1990.

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Aquafornia news Axios

U.S. heat wave: 100 million face weather alerts in South ahead of shift East

Nearly 100 million people are facing heat warnings and advisories across the U.S. this week due to an early season heat wave that saw high-temperature records set from California to Texas over the weekend. The latest: At least three wildfires ignited in drought-stricken Southern California on Sunday, per NBC News. San Bernardino County’s Sheep Fire, which ignited Saturday, has swollen to 990 acres in size and was 5% contained, according to Inciweb. Blazes also erupted in drought ravaged Arizona and New Mexico, which has already been hit by a series of devastating fires this year that resulted in President Biden approving a disaster declaration in May.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Conference highlights deficiency of models for drought situations

As the drought in California and across much of the western United States enters another summer season, several experts participated in a conference hosted by the California Department of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation on Thursday to discuss issues of how modeling precipitation can impact decisions made by policymakers. One of the main takeaways of the conference was that the current modeling programs are not effective as they should be in helping water districts, state water agencies and federal departments in planning water distributions. 

Aquafornia news California Globe

Legislation to increase penalties against cannabis farms for water theft and pollution

Illegal cultivation of marijuana became the focus of law enforcement over the past few years as farms mushroomed throughout the state, often creating massive environmental damage through their use of fertilizers and pesticides and the illegal diversion of water. … The bill, SB 1426, include fines and possible jail time for tapping into a water conveyance or digging an un-permitted well.  By including violations of the Fish and Game Code for polluting waters and harming wildlife, it also targets the harm done by fertilizers and pest control chemicals, like carbofuran.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: A treacherous California fire season made more dangerous by drought, water restrictions

Southern California is facing a potentially treacherous wildfire season this year, as climate change, drought and extreme heat conspire to bake vegetation and prime the landscape for burning, officials say. … Officials in recent years have been sounding the alarm about the state’s changing conditions, with wildfires across the West growing hotter, faster and harder to fight due to increasing heat and dryness. Last year, more than 2.5 million acres burned in California — including the 960,000-acre Dixie fire, the state’s second-largest blaze on record. This year, fuel moisture levels — or the amount of water in the vegetation — is at least four months ahead of where it should be in terms of dryness …

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: $193 million in grant funding now available for water infrastructure and resilience projects

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the Grant Program Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Package for approximately $193 million in grant funding to help local agencies advance water infrastructure and resilience projects. This critical statewide funding will support projects such as water desalination, wastewater treatment, water conservation, and groundwater recharge as California plans for a fourth year of drought.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Editorial: California should buy some water rights

If Californians want to ensure that there is water available for endangered salmon and other wildlife, then Californians ought to pay for that water. That’s exactly what some lawmakers want to do. The yearslong drought is upending how Californians live and think about the environment around them. … The state can’t easily step in and demand that a farmer give up his or her water to protect river flows for fish. A farmer or rancher with senior rights can, however, voluntarily sell them. Some Democrats in the state Senate therefore have proposed spending $1.5 billion to buy water rights from any willing sellers.

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Aquafornia news The Pew Charitable Trusts

Blog: To protect and restore rivers, states can use ‘outstanding’ policy designation

For millennia, healthy, free-flowing rivers across the U.S. have helped people, wildlife, and habitats thrive. But today, too many of those rivers are blocked by dams or threatened by pollution, development, and climate change. Fortunately, state and Tribal governments can use a policy tool to help protect and restore waterways. June is National Rivers Month, making it an ideal time for those officials to list more of our country’s rivers as “Outstanding.” … Nevada is home to some spectacular freshwater, from Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake to Marys River—home to native Lahontan cutthroat trout—and the thermal springs of the Muddy River, which support wildlife found nowhere else in the world. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio: 

Colorado’s water future could look more like Arizona’s. That means a lot less snow and water for the Colorado River. 

Parts of Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states could be facing a water future that more closely resembles Arizona, new federal research finds. The drier and warmer conditions could mean less snow accumulates in the mountains of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and melts into a water system that feeds the Colorado River, researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Earth and Environmental Sciences division found. Warmer temperatures have already contributed to a 20 percent drop in the flow of the Colorado River since the 1900s, which supplies millions of people across the West with water and hydroelectric power. 

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Aquafornia news Modern Farmer

The past, present and future of the West’s water woes

The American West, excepting the Pacific Northwest, has a very bad combination of precipitation factors for sustaining human life. The first is simply that it doesn’t rain very much; Los Angeles receives, averaged over the past 100 years, somewhere just north of 14 inches of rain per year. New York City gets between 40 and 50 inches per year. … [T]he West experiences long periods of absolutely zero rain, followed by a few weeks of rain that can be incredibly intense. So, even those annual precipitation numbers are misleading for, say, agriculture, which needs consistent water. It also means that the West is very prone to extreme floods…

Aquafornia news Engineering News Record

Where parched California is finding new water sources

Los Angeles is able only to consistently draw from 41 of 115 wells in the San Fernando Basin, a collection of regional underground aquifers that currently provide about 10% of city water supply. This has caused a 50% reduction in its historical groundwater supply. But the LA Dept. of Water and Power says the basin has the potential to provide as much as 21% of city water. As a result, the department is working with federal and state officials, potentially responsible polluted site owners and a slew of engineering and construction firms on multiple remediation projects to return a more significant portion of groundwater supply to the drinking water system.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Kamala Harris emerges as Team Biden’s water warrior

Vice President Kamala Harris has become a key figure in the Biden administration’s water agenda. The vice president last week announced a major new Biden administration initiative to ensure global water security as climate change threatens drinking water supplies, although details of the plan remain scarce. … Democratic insiders see international water security as a likely choice for the vice president to take on, given her increased visibility on the global stage and her own experience working on drought and water issues in California as attorney general and senator.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Scientists find the Colorado River was blighted by a worse drought in the 2nd century

While the current drought afflicting the Colorado River Basin is the worst since federal scientists began keeping records, a new study using paleoclimatic data discovers it is not the worst drought in the region’s recent geological history.  Researchers at the Bureau of Reclamation published the study Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters, a peer-reviewed geoscience journal. They used paleoclimatic evidence like tree rings and indicators in bogs and caves to reconstruct stream flows; the researchers found evidence of a devastating drought that struck the Colorado River Basin in the second century.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Forest thinning proposal fuels controversy at Big Bear Lake

For decades, thousands of acres of undeveloped public forest on the northern side of Big Bear Lake have been regarded as the cherished “wild side” of the mountain resort, just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. But worsening drought, the U.S. Forest Service warns, has turned the bucolic landscape into a tinderbox that poses a direct threat to a San Bernardino Mountains community that hosts 5,500 year-round residents, but swells to more than 100,000 between July 4 and Labor Day. Now, to reduce the fire risk, the agency is seeking approval for one of the largest forest thinning operations ever conducted in Southern California …

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Managing salinity in the California Delta in a changing climate

The Delta is an intricate network of waterways, canals, and sloughs connecting the Sierra Nevada watershed with the San Francisco Bay.  It is considered the hub of California’s water supply, supplying fresh water to two-thirds of the state’s population and millions of acres of farmland.  It is also the largest freshwater tidal estuary on the west coast, providing important habitat for birds along the Pacific Flyway and the fish that live in or migrate through the Delta.  However, increasing drought and sea level rise make it more challenging for water managers to meet the freshwater needs of all who rely on the Delta.  

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Why is almost no one planning for a future without Lake Mead?

You’d think that, given how dangerously low Lake Mead is getting, we’d have a good idea of what life might look like without that water. Yet few major players are modeling for a future without Colorado River water – or even a future in which we are asked to live on markedly less of it. Ironically, the deeper the lake plunges, the more reluctant water managers seem to be about fleshing out the worst-case scenario. That’s a mistake.
-Written by Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic columnist.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

If the California wine industry wants to survive, it must use less water

Notwithstanding the 2 inches of rain the North Bay got last weekend, we are still in a severe drought. A lack of water affects all of our lives here; California just ordered cities including San Francisco to stop pumping water from rivers and creeks. But it presents existential questions for California agriculture, including wine, as climate change intensifies our state’s drought cycle. If wine is to have a future here, it has to figure out how to reduce its water consumption.

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Aquafornia news Scientific American

Carbon credits versus the “big gulp”

Steve Deverel gazes out over a levee on the San Joaquin River to a buoy where half a dozen sea lions are barking. It’s a loud reminder that even here, 50 miles inland, some of California’s most productive farmland lies perilously close to the Pacific Ocean. At any moment, a weak spot in the more than 1,000 miles of earthen levees protecting islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta could unleash a salty deluge, threatening not just crops, but the drinking water for as many as 27 million Californians.

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Aquafornia news National Geographic

Goats may help prevent wildfires in California as drought worsens

Native to Eurasia, the black mustard plant outcompetes [California's] native vegetation because it grows profusely and its roots generate biochemicals that stop the seeds of other plants from germinating. Its growing season makes it a particular menace: It thrives in the spring and can grow to eight feet high, only to die and turn to dangerous tinder by early summer. … Prior to fire seasons in the past, land managers traditionally relied on herbicide and human labor to thin plants and brush to reduce fuel load, the amount of flammable material that can burn in a fire. But access to mountain terrain in southern California can be challenging … That’s why more people in California are turning to a four-legged solution: Goats.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

More than 22 million in Southwest brace for dangerous heat

Dangerous and potentially deadly heat will settle over the Southwestern United States for the next several days, with temperatures in some locations expected to break records and exceed 110 degrees. More than 22 million people in California, Nevada and Arizona are under some sort of heat-related alert through at least part of the weekend, the National Weather Service said. … It’s going to be dry and very hot. An excessive heat warning was in effect through Sunday night for the San Diego area, where temperatures were forecast to reach 117 degrees. 

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Aversion to dams leads Legislature to stall a minor irrigation bill

Coastal lawmakers blocked a Central Valley Republican over fears his measure could lead to massive dam failures throughout California…

Aquafornia news Gizmodo

Colorado will look like a different state by 2080

Colorado is going to become hotter, dryer, and a lot less skiable in just a few decades, according to new research. The study, published in Earth and Space Science, used climate models to forecast the future of snow in Colorado, finding that the state is set to lose 50% to 60% of its snow by 2080, thanks to climate change-related drought conditions. Nearby states Wyoming and Utah are also likely to become less snowy and more arid, too.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Arizona prepares to break open its Water Bank

In late April 1996, Lake Powell sat at an elevation of 3,673 feet — just 27 feet below its maximum capacity. At that time of plenty, Arizona lawmakers worried that the state wasn’t using its full share of Colorado River water. Instead of potentially ceding those flows to California, the state opened a kind of liquid piggy bank, storing away a share of its water for an uncertain future. In the first year of operations, the Arizona Water Banking Authority set aside 300,000 acre-feet of water. After 25 years, its savings balance — stored underground in facilities across the state — has grown to 3.75 million acre-feet.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

A growing movement to reclaim water rights for indigenous people

In recent years, the hashtag #LandBack has surfaced across Indigenous platforms to signify a need to reclaim ancestral landscapes and protect the sacred and cultural resources they contain. Across the American Southwest, however, there has been an even deeper call to action: “We can’t have #LandBack without #WaterBack” reads the poster material for the Pueblo Action Alliance’s #WaterBack campaign. Between Arizona and New Mexico alone, 43 federally recognized tribes call the desert landscape home. However, their ways of life have been challenged by centuries of colonization and resource exploitation, resulting in large cities siphoning water from reservations … 

Aquafornia news The Denver Channel

Scientists, agriculturalists sound alarm for federal action on Western drought

The federal government needs to take quick and decisive actions and work through regional, state and local partnerships to address the worsening drought and water conditions in Colorado and the West, a panel of water scientists and agriculturalists told a Senate subcommittee chaired by Colorado’s Michael Bennet Tuesday. … The megadrought in the West is the worst it has been in 1,200 years, scientists have determined. [Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District] said there is only about 34% of storage capacity left in the reservoirs along the river, and that hotter temperatures in the area have exacerbated the drought and water shortages.

Aquafornia news New York Times

As the Great Salt Lake dries up, Utah faces an ‘environmental nuclear bomb’

If the Great Salt Lake, which has already shrunk by two-thirds, continues to dry up, here’s what’s in store: The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop. Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous.  

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: California orders thousands of farms and cities, including San Francisco, to stop pumping water during drought

In one of the most far-reaching efforts to protect California’s water supplies this year, state regulators on Tuesday ordered thousands of farmers, irrigation districts and municipal water agencies, including the city of San Francisco, to stop making draws from rivers and creeks. The move, which comes amid a third year of the California drought, forces water users, from individual landowners to utilities serving tens of thousands of people, to turn to alternative sources of water, if they have it.

Aquafornia news CNN

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: As California’s big cities fail to cut their water use, rural communities are already tapped out

Gary Biggs’ family hasn’t had water coming out of their private well for over a decade, after a multi-year drought and overpumping by agriculture and industry. Now, the eight-acre farm in West Goshen, California, which Biggs passed down to his son, Ryan, in the 1970s, is parched and fallow. His son and granddaughter carry in water from sources to drink and shower. They go to town to wash their clothes, Biggs says. In recent years, the family has gone from relying on water from cisterns provided by government programs, which they say tastes terrible, to hauling water containers to and from neighbors’ homes — neighbors who are willing to share what they have left.

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Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

SLO County energy storage project proposes new reservoirs

As the prospect of a floating offshore wind energy development off San Luis Obispo County’s coast gets ever closer, energy storage developers are taking a good look at their prospects in the region. One company has proposals for pumped storage projects that involve moving water between reservoirs to generate electricity — which would call for three new reservoirs to be built along the Central Coast. Walnut, California-based Premium Energy Holdings LLC sent four preliminary permit applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at the end of March for the projects. 

Aquafornia news The Denver Post

Colorado will lose half its snow, drying out, becoming more like Arizona, federal scientists conclude

Parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are drying out due to climate-driven changes in stream flows, and these states will shift to become more like the most arid states of the Southwest, federal researchers found in a scientific study published this week. The lead author of the study said Colorado will experience a 50% to 60% reduction in snow by 2080…. For Colorado and surrounding “upper [Colorado River] basin” states, the scientists projected wide shrinking of snow, leading to less spring snow melting followed by decreasing water in streams, especially in the Rocky Mountains. 

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: How active stewardship could protect California’s forests from extreme wildfire

UC Berkeley professor Scott Stephens, a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network, has spent over 30 years studying wildfire in California. He spoke with us recently about what it will take to preserve the state’s forests in an era of increasingly catastrophic wildfires. … Even small fires now can pose threats to life and property. Are we in a new phase of climate change? There’s no doubt that climate change is having an impact, but I estimate that climate change is no more than 25% of the problem. I think it’s 75% forest structure—I don’t have a paper to back that up, that’s just my intuition from working in this field for 30 years.

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - San Diego

May gray, June gloom: Marine layer’s impact on California’s coast

If you’ve spent your life in California, you’ve heard it dozens of times: A friend or family member bemoans a cloudy summer beach day or picnic, blaming “June gloom” or “May gray” for blotting out the sun. You may have even heard “no-sky-July” or “Fogust” … Why do low clouds and fog hang around amid otherwise beautiful weather, making for these dreary summer days at the coast? The answer is a combination of high pressure, ocean winds and the temperature difference between the water and land, according to the National Weather Service.

Aquafornia news BBC News

Drought-stricken US warned of looming ‘dead pool’

[Lake Mead's] water level is now so low that bodies of murder victims from decades back, once hidden by its depths, have surfaced. … While the dead bodies are fuelling talk about Las Vegas’ mob past, water experts warn of even more worrisome consequences. If the lake keeps receding, it would reach what’s known as “dead pool” – a level so low the Hoover Dam would no longer be able to produce hydropower or deliver water downstream.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

California coastal town deals with prospect of no water

Nestled along the Central Coast, Cambria is a picturesque town … Cambria has also been running out of water for nearly four decades and — like many spots along the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County — it does not have a permanent solution in the offing. The unincorporated town of more than 5,000 people is dependent wholly on two creeks, the Santa Rosa and San Simeon, for its water supply. As climate change ramps up, those creeks are drying out more rapidly and more frequently.  

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Ancient tree rings show Fresno, CA region’s drought history

The San Joaquin River watershed is amid its third consecutive year of below-normal precipitation. But three dry years are merely a drop in the bucket (pardon the pun) compared to a historical record that, thanks to climate reconstructions using tree rings, stretches back more than 1,100 years in the region. Scientists estimate that since the year 900 – when California was inhabited only by Native American tribes and centuries before it became a land of agricultural bounty – the region now known as the central San Joaquin Valley has endured 35 periods of sustained drought lasting at least four years … 

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.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

New report finds S.F.’s biggest development project ignores huge climate change risk: rising contamination

Rising seas caused by climate change could ultimately expose thousands of people to hazardous chemicals at San Francisco’s biggest redevelopment project — and the city is unprepared for the risks, according to a new grand jury report. … [T]he San Francisco civil grand jury report warns that groundwater could carry dangerous buried substances to the surface as the water table rises at the site, which was contaminated decades ago with heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive substances. The result could be catastrophic “for health, for environmental safety, and for the resilience of future development,” the report notes.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Dr. Peter Moyle: Delta fishes – Introduction to a dynamic fauna

Dr. Peter Moyle is a distinguished professor emeritus and Associate Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis.  He has studied the ecology and conservation of fishes in freshwater and estuarine habitats in California for over 50 years. At the February meeting of the Delta Independent Science Board, Dr. Moyle provided an overview of Delta fish, explaining why some fishes have become overabundant and others are headed for extinction, all while being participants in a novel ecosystem. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

Blog: It’s all linked to climate change

Climate change interacts with droughts in many ways. Some regions are experiencing warmer, drier conditions than they have in the past, leading to less rainfall (meteorological drought) or snowpack (snow drought). Over time, this can cause water sources like lakes, streams, and underground aquifers to dry up (hydrological drought). This, in turn, can lead to water shortages in human communities (socioeconomic drought) and agricultural systems (agricultural drought). It can also damage plant and animal communities in the region (ecological drought).

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Stellantis will buy lithium produced at Salton Sea by controlled thermal resources

A major electric vehicle manufacturer has inked a 10-year deal with a company operating at the south end of the Salton Sea for battery-grade lithium hydroxide, a huge boost for nascent production in an area that has long struggled with unemployment and pollution. Controlled Thermal Resources’ Hells Kitchen … subsidiary is pushing to scale up commercial production of lithium from geothermal brines, utilizing renewable energy and steam to produce batter-grade lithium products in an integrated, closed-loop process, eliminating the need for more environmentally damaging evaporation brine ponds, open pit mines, and fossil-fueled production.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Could the Colorado River Compact adapt to go with the flow?

Dwindling flows in the Colorado River Basin are stirring discussions about whether a 100-year-old agreement that governs how that water is divided needs to be overhauled. But there may be another option: don’t rewrite the law, instead reinterpret it. Despite its status as the cornerstone of the “Law of the River” — the various agreements that dictate how the water is managed between seven basin states and Mexico — some key provisions in the Colorado River Compact remain unsettled.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Hunter’s Point could face ‘toxic soup’ of contaminants due to climate change

Plans to redevelop the Hunters Point Shipyard, a 638-acre Superfund site on San Francisco’s southeastern shore, have been in the works for decades but have stalled numerous times due to scandal, the continual discovery of toxic materials and years of neglect. Now, one of the largest redevelopment proposals in San Francisco’s history faces a new threat: climate change. Rising sea levels are poised to seep into groundwater in low-lying areas, including Hunter’s Point, a former Naval shipyard and radiological research laboratory, and turn once-buried chemicals into what environmental activists call “a toxic soup” of mobilized contaminants.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: Dairy farmers are working to address climate issues

Each year we use the month of June to recognize our dairy farm families and the delicious, nutritious foods they help bring to the table. On the heels of Earth Day, we are leaning into the topic of dairy sustainability for this year’s Dairy Month celebration to showcase California dairy’s commitment to slowing climate impacts. Our state remains one of only two major global regions to establish a statutory mandate to reduce methane from the dairy sector and is on track to meet its ambitious target of a 40% reduction in manure methane by 2030.
-Written by John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board.

Aquafornia news National Geographic

Climate change is coming for your pizza sauce

Weather problems affect agriculture all the time. But climate change is intensifying the challenges, making it harder to grow beloved foods like tomatoes. The effects are sometimes obvious, like the heat wave (made 150 times more likely by climate change), but also manifest more subtly: The climate-exacerbated ongoing drought has left growers far short on water, for instance. Warming winters are allowing pests and diseases to nose farther and farther north into new tomato territory.

Aquafornia news CNBC

Why hydropower is the world’s most overlooked renewable

Hydropower is by far the largest renewable worldwide, producing over twice as much energy as wind, and over four times as much as solar. And pumping water up a hill, aka “pumped storage hydropower”, comprises well over 90% of the world’s total energy storage capacity.  But in spite of hydropower’s outsize impact, we don’t hear much about it in the U.S. While the past few decades have seen wind and solar plummet in price and skyrocket in availability, domestic hydropower generation has remained relatively steady, as the nation has already built hydropower plants in the most geographically ideal locations.

Aquafornia news Politico

The state lawmaker all in on lithium

Eduardo Garcia is all in on lithium. As a state lawmaker representing some of California’s poorest and most polluted areas, he’s become a leading advocate for lithium recovery from the Salton Sea, a highly saline inland body of water in his Imperial Valley district. The region is a hotbed for geothermal energy production, and the process of extracting lithium from naturally occurring geothermal brine could be the cleanest method yet of capturing the critical mineral. … The state projects the Salton Sea could hold enough lithium to supply current global demand …

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Harris unveils White House plan to tackle water scarcity as national security priority

Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday unveiled a White House plan to tackle water security as a foreign policy priority in light of ever tightening global water supplies. The plan pledges U.S. leadership in the efforts to ensure there is enough water to support food supplies and healthcare systems….. In many farming regions around the world, from India to California, groundwater is being depleted by heavy pumping, leaving declining water reserves in aquifers…. As a “daughter of California,” Harris recalled her own experience growing up amid an extreme drought and watching the Oakland Hills landscape “turning from green to brown.”

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to sign up & ‘Get Ahead of the Storms’ at June 9 workshop in Southern California
Event to be held in Irvine

With our reliance on historical patterns to forecast California’s water supply becoming increasingly unreliable, what new science, models and technology are being brought to bear on efforts to ‘get ahead of the storms’ and improve drought management? Don’t miss your opportunity to find out at our special one-day workshop June 9 in Irvine, Making Progress on Drought Management: Improvements in Seasonal Precipitation Forecasting

You’ll learn about the latest advancements in sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting — weather predictions from two weeks to a season ahead — and how these predictions can improve management of water infrastructure including dams, flood storage and reservoirs to ensure water is available for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes.

Aquafornia news EurekAlert!

New research: The history of Lake Cahuilla before the Salton Sea

Today, the Salton Sea is an eerie place. Its mirror-like surface belies the toxic stew within. Fish skeletons line its shores and the ruins of a once thriving vacation playground is a reminder of better days. But long before agricultural runoff bespoiled the Salton Sea, the lakebed it now occupies was home to a much larger body of water known as Lake Cahuilla. The lake was six times the area of the Salton Sea and once covered much of Mexicali, Imperial and Coachella valleys. 

Aquafornia news Politico

California farmers’ tequila dreams

How bad is California’s drought? Bad enough to make farmers turn to tequila. About 40 farmers and distillers gathered last week at an inaugural agave symposium at the University of California, Davis, to explore the prospects of growing agave in California and making alcohol from it. Stuart Woolf, who grows almonds, pistachios and tomatoes, has a 1.5-acre test plot of about 900 agave plants at his farm on the southwest side of the Central Valley. … [I]t uses far less water than those crops. In Mexico it often isn’t irrigated at all. Early estimates are that agave in California can thrive on less than 1.5 inches of water per acre per year, compared with 48 inches for almonds.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Native American tribes secure spots on the Colorado nonprofit water policy board for the first time

The Colorado Water Congress has voted to expand its board to include representatives of Native American tribes for the first time. The water congress was created in the late 1950s by then-Gov. Steve McNichols and Attorney General Duke Dunbar, to bring the entire water community together as a group to make recommendations to state leaders about water issues that needed to be addressed in Colorado.  Executive Director Doug Kemper said the nonprofit group has about 350 organizations as members, ranging from water utilities like Denver Water to agricultural and environmental groups.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

California gears up for a new composting law to cut methane emissions and enrich soil

California’s jurisdictions have begun reducing organic wastes under a new composting law that takes effect in 2025, changing the landscape of waste management and making compost more accessible to farmers and cities alike. Senate Bill 1383, passed in 2016 to curtail emissions of methane and other “super pollutants,” requires local governments in California to reduce the amount of green waste (food scraps and yard trimmings) sent to the landfill by 75 percent before 2025. … [U]sing compost for farming … helps farmers reduce their water usage. Introducing more organic material into soil via compost helps soil retain water, and cools soil temperature. 

Aquafornia news The Conversation

A.I. and machine learning are improving weather forecasts, but they won’t replace human experts

A century ago, English mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson proposed a startling idea for that time: constructing a systematic process based on math for predicting the weather. … Richardson tried to write an equation that he could use to solve the dynamics of the atmosphere based on hand calculations. … A century later, modern weather forecasts are based on the kind of complex computations that Richardson imagined – and they’ve become more accurate than anything he envisioned. … For example, a forecast of heavy rainfall two days in advance is now as good as a same-day forecast was in the mid-1990s. 

Aquafornia news Nevada Public Radio

Former Southern Nevada Water Authority chief ‘very worried’ about Lake Mead level

Lake Mead, the lifeblood of the West, is at an all-time low. And just this week, officials said it will fall by one-third of its current level by the end of 2023. Inch by inch, the lake is falling…. The falling lake level was anticipated, but how fast it’s dropping is the current problem. For Pat Mulroy, that means she’s “very worried.” She led the Southern Nevada Water Authority for nearly 30 years, and now she’s the senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy at the UNLV Boyd School of Law.

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Aquafornia news California Municipal Utilities Association

Report: CMUA policy paper identifies Big and Bold actions to refocus California water management

While California is experiencing record-setting dry conditions and the state needs aggressive conservation to get through the summer, a new policy paper from CMUA presents ideas for taking Big and Bold actions that can effectively address demand management and also ensure the long-term resiliency of our water supply. Pressured by severe drought and other intensifying climate change impacts, California’s aging water infrastructure and facilities will not be able to keep pace, and changes are necessary to adequately serve the state’s population and environmental and agricultural needs.

Aquafornia news Hakai Magazine

The hatchery crutch: How we got here

Today, wild salmon populations are struggling in the Pacific Northwest of North America. And yet, there are more salmon in the North Pacific Ocean than there were a century ago … The capacity of the ocean is a question of immediate concern. There are at least 243 hatcheries strung along salmon habitat from California to Alaska and more feeding fish into the North Pacific via hatcheries in Russia, Japan, and South Korea.

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Aquafornia news CNN

Disaster upon disaster: Wildfires are contaminating the West’s depleting water with ashy sludge

Officials in Las Vegas, New Mexico, had barely finished battling the massive Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak wildfire earlier this month before they had to point their defenses toward another threat: the ash-filled erosion that could pollute their water…. Megafires aren’t just burning down homes, trees and wildlife in the West. They’re also destabilizing the soil. When it rains, thousands of tons of charred sediment flow into rivers and reservoirs used for drinking water…. “It’s literally like tasting dirt,” said Andy Fecko, general manager at the Placer County Water Agency in Auburn, California, a city that sits between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Delta water crisis linked to California’s racist past, tribes and activists say

Tribes and environmental groups are challenging how the state manages water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a major source for much of California, arguing the deterioration of the aquatic ecosystem has links to the state’s troubled legacy of racism and oppression of Native people. A group of activists and Indigenous leaders is demanding that the state review and update the water quality plan for the Delta and San Francisco Bay, where fish species are suffering, algae blooms have worsened and climate change is adding to the stresses. 

Aquafornia news & the West

Weighing the consequences of losing carbon-free energy in California

Old environmental arguments over the consequences of nuclear power had seemed almost resolved in California. Antinuclear sentiment was intensified by the 33-year succession of accidents, from Three Mile Island in 1978 to Chernobyl in 1986 to Fukushima in 2011, severely diminished their appeal. California was getting ready to wave goodbye to its last nuclear plant. Up Close We explore the issues, personalities, and trends that people are talking about around the West. The political realities of 2022 and the need to reduce carbon emissions might change things.

Aquafornia news High Country News

Unprecedented fire, wind and snowmelt in the Southwest

It is mid-May, and a couple of days ago, the Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico reached 299,565 acres in size, surpassing the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire as the state’s largest wildfire on record. … It is mid-May, and a dozen other fires have already charred tens of thousands of acres across the West … It is mid-May, and the spring winds have been relentless … It is mid-May, and the temperature in Phoenix has reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit two days in a row.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Heat and drought shape Southern California’s summer outlook

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is Monday. What’s in store for the upcoming season of beach days and barbecues in Southern California? To start with, it will be dry. That’s not just because California’s Mediterranean climate means rain mostly falls during a few wet winter months, but because the state is in its third year of drought…. Major reservoirs statewide were at 76% of average levels this week, with the long, hot summer months still ahead….This month, 59.64% of the state is categorized as being in extreme drought, the second-worst category, with just 0.18% in exceptional drought — but then this is May, not July.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Agenda now posted for special June 9 workshop in Southern California on precipitation forecasting & drought management

California’s vast network of surface water reservoirs is designed to hold carryover storage from year to year to ensure water is available for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes during dry months and years. But climate change has begun to affect our reliance on historical weather patterns to predict California’s water supply, making it even more difficult for water managers to manage drought conditions and placing a greater emphasis on better precipitation forecasting at longer lead times. Learn about efforts being made to ‘get ahead of the storms’ through new science, models and technology at our special one-day workshop June 9 in IrvineMaking Progress on Drought Management: Improvements in Seasonal Precipitation Forecasting.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Residents question collateral from Unaweep Canyon hydropower plan

A few months ago, [Paul] Ashcraft and several of his neighbors at the highest point in Unaweep Canyon saw a plan proposed by Xcel Energy to build a hydro power plant that will help the company reach its renewable energy goals. The plan put a 75-foot dam holding back the edge of an 88-acre reservoir in Ashcraft’s front yard. The proposal also puts his neighbors’ homes and Colorado 141 underwater. The plan would move water between a reservoir on BLM land on top of the cliffs and a reservoir on private land on the valley floor.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

PG&E is beginning to bury its electrical power lines

Etched in dirt, a narrow furrow is the only clue that the grasslands of Lime Ridge Open Space will soon be restored to their original splendor, cleared of dangerous power lines that could ignite nearby subdivisions. The undergrounding project, costing $3.75 million a mile, represents the beginning of a 10,000-mile-long effort by Pacific Gas and Electric to bury the state’s distribution lines to cope with the growing risk of winds and wildfires linked to global warming. The utility long resisted calls to bury its power lines as being too costly. 

Aquafornia news Discover Magazine

La Niña lives! — and that’s bad news

For two winters in a row, La Niña has steered desperately needed rain and snow storms away from the U.S. Southwest, exacerbating a decades-long drought that has shriveled reservoirs and spurred horrific wildfires. Now, hopes that the climate pattern would relent and allow moisture to rebound next winter have suffered a serious blow. La Niña — Spanish for “the girl” — persisted through April, and there’s a 61 percent chance she’ll stick around for a third winter, according to the latest monthly update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Aquafornia news The San Francisco Examiner

As Bay Area faces prolonged drought, recycling and desalination are the only two real options

Despite being surrounded by water, Bay Area residents are routinely told during dry years to take shorter showers, let lawns brown and slow the rush of water from their taps. But as climate change prolongs drought and challenges local water supply, regional water managers are warning that none of those actions will be enough. Many say the time has come to invest in technically feasible, though politically and environmentally complicated alternatives like purifying wastewater and sucking salt out of seawater to bolster stores.

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: The reservoirs under our feet

When you picture water storage, a water tower on slanted stilts imposed upon a blue sky or a concrete reservoir piping water to the city might come to mind. The issue of water storage has become a high priority as regions such as California experience severe multi-year drought and are impacted by overextraction from aquifers. … The most climate resilient and long-term strategies to address water shortage lie at our feet, in the meadows that anchor our rivers headwaters and floodplains that extend across the broad lower river valleys.

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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.


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.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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

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.


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.