Topic: Climate Change


Climate Change

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Warming planet’s cold beer supply threatened by climate strain on hops, barley, water

Earth’s changing climate is not just causing increasingly punishing droughts, intense wildfires, and extreme weather, it could disrupt the world’s beer supply by as much as 16%. Now, California scientists are brewing up solutions to the dilemma. In Oakland’s Fruitvale district during Oktoberfest, Morgan Cox brews and serves up all kinds of craft beers. On this day, he is making a batch of his Kolsch-style Town Beer. … This batch uses 20 bags of malted barley, fresh water, yeast, and just the right amount of hops, the flowering part of the Humulus lupulus plant that gives beer its bitter taste and aroma.

Aquafornia news Brockville Recorder & Times

Researchers find microplastics in clouds for the first time

Microplastics have been found in the deepest recesses of the ocean, atop Mount Everest, in fresh Antarctic snow, in our blood and lungs and now, for the first time, in the clouds. In a study published in Environmental Chemistry Letters, researchers in Japan found microplastics in mists that shrouded the peaks of Mount Oyama and Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain. Researchers analyzed samples collected between heights of 1,300 to 3,776 metres altitude and found nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber, ranging in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres. They hypothesized that the high-altitude microplastics could influence cloud formation and possibly modify the climate.

Aquafornia news U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: Biden-Harris Administration makes $328 million available for drought and climate resiliency projects

The Department of the Interior today announced up to $328 million in funding opportunities available through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, a key pillar of Bidenomics, to help communities address impacts of climate change through water recycling, water storage and desalination projects. The funds come primarily from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s WaterSMART and Small Storage programs, as well as through annual appropriations, and the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change, including protecting the short- and long-term sustainability of the Colorado River System.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

First snow of season expected in Sierra Nevada this weekend

Less than two months since Mammoth Mountain’s historic ski season concluded, the first snowfall of the new season is set to arrive in the Sierra Nevada. Weather models predict a low-pressure system with Canadian roots will bring cool temperatures and rain showers to the California coast and Central Valley on Saturday. In the Sierra Nevada, the air is expected to be cold enough for the first snowfall of the season at Kirkwood Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and other high-elevation ski resorts.

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Aquafornia news Utah Division of Water Resources

News release: Utah holds its first cloud seeding symposium

Today marked the commencement of the highly anticipated Utah Cloud Seeding Symposium at Snowbird Resort. The landmark event proved to be a pivotal moment in the realm of weather modification, bringing together leading experts, researchers and stakeholders to explore the multifaceted world of cloud seeding. … Utah has been cloud seeding since the early 1950s to help augment the state’s water supply. Cloud seeding is a low-cost, low-risk, non-structural method that can increase water supply between 5-15% in seeded areas at a cost between $10 -$15 per acre-foot for the additional water. In 2023, the Utah Legislature allocated $12 million in one-time funding and provided an annual budget of $5 million to expand the program. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Times launches Climate California

Wildfires. Sea-level rise. Extreme heat. Drought. California is already dealing with the consequences of climate change, and our state’s future will be defined by how we adapt. To better cover this vital story, the Los Angeles Times is launching a new Climate California section. You can expect aggressive and impactful reporting on climate change, the natural world, health and science — and even more of the sophisticated, ambitious and approachable coverage that has earned the Los Angeles Times four Pulitzer Prizes in environmental journalism in the last two decades. Climate California will include coverage from our newly formed Environment, Health and Science department, which includes existing Environment, Science and Health reporters and several new contributors …

Aquafornia news Wired

Why rain is getting fiercer on a warming planet

One of the weirder side effects of climate change is what it’s doing to rainfall. While most people think about global warming in terms of extreme heat—the deadliest kind of natural disaster in the United States—there is also an increasing risk of extreme precipitation. On average, it will rain more on Earth, and individual storms will get more intense.  Intuitively, it doesn’t make much sense. But the physics is clear—and highly consequential, given how destructive and deadly floods already were before climate change.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Tearing down dams could save Western rivers — and also make climate change worse

Even if every Western dam stays in place, we’ll need to build a mind-boggling number of solar fields, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries and long-distance electric lines to break our fossil fuel addiction — and fast. … Start tearing down dams, and the energy transformation gets even harder. In a typical year, hydropower plants generate around 6% or 7% of U.S. electricity. The lower that number gets, the more sprawling solar and wind farms we’ll need to build. … Are hydroelectric dams good or bad for the planet and the people living on it?

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Aquafornia news Politico

‘Green’ buildings face a flood of doubts

More than 800 U.S. buildings certified as “sustainable” are at extreme risk of flooding — and may have to be abandoned as the planet continues to overheat. That’s because the U.S. Green Building Council — an influential nonprofit that works to make buildings more climate-friendly — has for years largely overlooked the impact of extreme weather. Its point-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification generally offers new building projects just four points out of a possible 110 for taking steps to protect projects from flooding. LEED certification is a big deal: It’s subsidized or required by more than 350 local and state governments as well as the General Services Administration, which manages the vast federal building stock.

Aquafornia news American Council on Science and Health

Blog: Innovation abounds – Floating cows and vertical farms  

Last week, the U.N. hosted a summit on sustainable development, including access to clean water. I have previously written about declining water levels in the western U.S. and the use of desalination to transform seawater into freshwater. Although over 17,000 desalination plants are operating worldwide, there are only about 325 in the U.S., with 45% in Florida, 14% in California, and 9% in Texas. The reason they have not been more widely adopted is traditionally, they are expensive to build and use a lot of energy. Most of the desalination plants operating today heat the salt water and pump it through specialized membranes that separate the water from the salts. 

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Colorado River managers vote to continue conservation program, with tweaks, in 2024

Colorado River managers [last week] decided to continue a water conservation program designed to protect critical elevations in the nation’s two largest reservoirs. The Upper Colorado River Commission decided unanimously to continue the federally funded System Conservation Program in 2024 — but with a narrower scope that explores demand management concepts and supports innovation and local drought resiliency on a longer-term basis. … The System Conservation Program is paying water users in the four upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — to voluntarily cut back with $125 million from the Inflation Reduction Act. According to Upper Colorado River Commission officials, nearly $16.1 million was spent on system conservation in 2023. 

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Aquafornia news

Blog: Summer 2023 in review – A look back at drought across the US in 10 maps

We’re just days away from turning the page from summer to fall. Drought in the United States expanded and intensified in Summer 2023, largely influenced by not only lack of precipitation, but extreme heat and evaporative demand. While the number and size of wildfires were relatively small in the western U.S. compared to recent summers, unhealthy levels of smoke still poured into the contiguous United States from record-breaking Canadian wildfires, and a wildfire in dry Maui destroyed the town of Lahaina. The maps below show how precipitation, temperature, and evaporative demand influenced drought and wildfires across the United States and Canada during Summer 2023.

Aquafornia news The Tyee

Author interview: Why we need a ‘slow water’ movement

In her groundbreaking book Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge, environmental journalist and National Geographic Explorer Erica Gies observes, “If water were a category in a game of rock, paper, scissors, water would beat them all every time.” At a time when drought, fire and flood threaten countless lives, Gies talks to water experts who are using cutting-edge science and traditional knowledge to show how our relationship to water must change if we want to survive. She takes the reader inside water projects ranging from the marshlands of Iraq to the highlands of Peru, as well as nearer to home in B.C. and California, uncovering a breathtaking complexity we ignore at our peril. The result is a riveting and engaging book that does for water what Suzanne Simard has done for trees.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Meet the climate-defying fruits and vegetables in your future

… Recent floods left more than a third of California’s table grapes rotting on the vine. Too much sunlight is burning apple crops. Pests that farmers never used to worry about are marching through lettuce fields. Breeding new crops that can thrive under these assaults is a long game. Solutions are likely to come from an array of research fronts that stretch from molecular gene-editing technology to mining the vast global collections of seeds that have been conserved for centuries. … Here’s a quick look at some of the most promising.

Aquafornia news

Blog: Warming climate, human impacts make better data about rivers essential

Sept. 24 is World Rivers Day, first celebrated in 2005 following a declaration by the U.N. General Assembly that 2005-2015 would be the “Water for Life” decade. … Concern about abuse and neglect of rivers has led to an international movement to recognize rivers as living entities with fundamental rights, entitled to legal guardians. … The ability of America’s public health system to detect the emergence and spread of diseases, or to mount timely responses to them, is hampered by the lack of a national data system. Post-pandemic, it’s one of the major priorities of public health officials to change this.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Report: California Water Plan 2023 – Navigating climate challenges with equity and resilience

… To better prepare and plan for a future with climate extremes, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the Public Review Draft of California Water Plan Update 2023. … [The plan] focuses on three intersecting themes: addressing the urgency of climate change, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management. … public comments can be made through Oct. 19, 2023.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: Atmospheric river-fueled storm is headed to California

Astronomical fall begins Friday night, and autumn storms are already knocking on California’s door. A major September storm is forecast to bring heavy rains and strong winds to Washington, Oregon and Northern California beginning Sunday night. … The jet stream is forecast to strengthen across the Pacific Ocean this weekend, pushing an atmospheric river all the way from Japan to the western U.S. Atmospheric rivers are ribbons of moisture that can ferry large amounts of moisture thousands of miles through the sky.

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Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

Why Cox isn’t surprised with $1.5B price tag to mitigate Great Salt Lake dust

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says he isn’t surprised by a new report showing that mitigating dust from the Great Salt Lake would likely cost at least $1.5 billion in capital costs, but it highlights why the state is “so passionate about getting more water” into the drying lake. The Utah Office of the Legislative Audit General released a report on the state’s “critical vulnerabilities” this week, which notes Great Salt Lake dust mitigation is “estimated to be at a minimum $1.5 billion in capital costs with ongoing annual maintenance of $15 million,” increasing in cost as more of the lakebed is exposed.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Hydropower delays pose grid threat as permits lapse

When the operator of the nation’s tallest dam applied for a new federal permit in 2005, few expected the process to drag on for more than a decade. It’s still not done. California’s Oroville Dam is among a dozen major hydroelectric projects that have been waiting over 10 years to receive a long-term permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The sluggish process is fueling uncertainty about the future of a key source of clean power that has bipartisan support in Congress — but that faces new challenges as the climate warms.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

The summer of 2023 was California’s coolest in more than a decade

The past summer was the hottest ever in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, scientists announced last week that June, July and August this year were the warmest on record globally, confirming that the horrific heat waves in many places were as awful as they seemed. But, as you’re probably already aware, the summer didn’t bring record-breaking heat to California. Some daily temperature records were broken in July in Palm Springs, Anaheim and Redding, but overall, the Golden State actually enjoyed its coolest summer since 2011.

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Aquafornia news NASA

Blog: Water-watching satellite monitors warming ocean off California coast

Warm ocean waters from the developing El Niño are shifting north along coastlines in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Along the coast of California, these warm waters are interacting with a persistent marine heat wave that recently influenced the development of Hurricane Hilary. … In its September outlook, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast a greater than 70% chance for a strong El Niño this coming winter. In addition to warmer water, El Niño is also associated with a weakening of the equatorial trade winds. The phenomenon can bring cooler, wetter conditions to the U.S. Southwest and drought to countries in the western Pacific, such as Indonesia and Australia.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California tops FEMA’s new list of areas vulnerable to weather disasters. What does it mean for the Bay Area?

Despite the name, “Community Disaster Resilience Zones” are not local havens capable of withstanding storms and other extreme weather. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, is spending billions in hopes that they can be. The agency has identified nearly 500 such “zones,” swaths of land generally covering several miles that are ill-prepared to tolerate flooding, earthquakes, heat waves, wildfires, landslides and other natural hazards. As extreme weather is expected to continue shattering expectations and local records — from downpours drenching Death Valley to hurricanes pummeling California’s coastline — these areas will be prioritized for additional funding for protective improvements.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California just passed these climate and environment bills

[Editor's note: Scroll to fourth section of story for water-related bills] A bill headed to Newsom’s desk would ban the use of drinking water to irrigate purely decorative grass that no one uses. Another bill approved by lawmakers would allow cities to ban the installation of artificial turf at homes, based on research showing that fake grass can result in microplastics washing into streams and the ocean. Assembly Bill 249 would tighten standards for lead testing in schools’ drinking water. In the latest chapter in San Diego County’s ongoing water drama, lawmakers approved a bill that could make it harder for local water agencies to withdraw from larger regional water authorities — but too late to stop the contentious bureaucratic divorce already underway in San Diego County due to high water costs. Assembly Bill 779 would tweak California’s work-in-progress groundwater rules to “level the playing field for all groundwater users, particularly small farmers and farmers of color,” according to three UCLA law students who helped write the bill.

Aquafornia news KUER - Salt Lake City

How rural southwest Utah is proving the potential of renewable geothermal energy

There’s a new hotspot in the world of geothermal energy: a seemingly sleepy valley in Beaver County. Its secret? The valley sits on top of bedrock that reaches temperatures up to 465 degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph Moore, who manages the Utah FORGE research project, pointed across a dirt parking lot to a well being drilled at the University of Utah’s subterranean lab. … The mission of the FORGE project — which stands for Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy — isn’t to produce its own electricity. It’s to test tools and techniques through trial and error and, in the process, answer a big question: Can you pipe cool water through cracks in hot underground rock and create a geothermal plant almost anywhere?

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: State Water Board delivers $3.3 billion to California communities to boost drought resilience and increase water supplies

Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water. The State Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California gets $100 million to plant trees and combat heat

California is among the states that will share in more than $1 billion in federal funding to help plant trees in an effort to mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials announced last week. The Golden State will receive about $103 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service … for tree planting and maintenance, urban canopy improvements and other green efforts. The funding comes from President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and marks the act’s largest investment to date in urban and community forests, officials said. … “This grant funding will help more cities and towns plant and maintain trees, which in turn will filter out pollution, reduce energy consumption, lower temperatures and provide more Californians access to green spaces in their communities,” read a statement from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about the program.

Aquafornia news Seattle Times

At beaver summit, role of hefty rodents praised in climate change fight

As the nation faces a future of increasing flooding, drought and wildfires, millions of 60-pound rodents stand by, ready to assist. Beavers can transform parched fields into verdant wetlands and widen rivers and streams in ways that not only slow surging floodwater, but store it for times of drought. … Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor of physical geography at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities … who spoke earlier this week at the first-ever Midwest Beaver Summit, is part of a broader “beaver restoration” movement that has gained ground in recent years with ecologists in Colorado using simplified human-made beaver dams to encourage the animals to recolonize waterways, and California passing a new law encouraging nonlethal approaches to human-beaver conflicts.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

California lawsuit says oil giants deceived public on climate, seeks funds for storm damage

The state of California filed a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, claiming they deceived the public about the risks of fossil fuels now faulted for climate change-related storms and wildfires that caused billions of dollars in damage, officials said Saturday. The civil lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in San Francisco also seeks creation of a fund — financed by the companies — to pay for recovery efforts following devastating storms and fires. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement the companies named in the lawsuit — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP — should be held accountable.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

A strong El Niño is likely this winter: What that means for California

El Niño — a weather pattern that can cause impacts around the world — developed in summer and is expected to persist through winter, long-term forecasters said Thursday. In its latest monthly forecast, the federal Climate Prediction Center said there’s a 95% chance El Niño will continue through winter, January to March, and it will most likely be strong, as opposed to weak or moderate. In California, El Niño has near-celebrity status, as the state has seen some epic wet winters when it has developed in the past, but meteorologists say that the state has also seen dry or normal precipitation in El Niño winters.

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Aquafornia news Forbes

Opinion: Dams and flood controls ‘not ready’ for a more extreme climate

More than 11,000 people are now known to have died, with thousands still missing, after Mediterranean storm Daniel made landfall in Libya over the weekend. Inland areas were flooded, as seen in Sentinel 2 images released by the European Union’s space programme on Wednesday. Coastal settlements built near or over alluvial fans and deltas of ancient Wadi — the Arabic term traditionally referring to river valleys — were swept away. In Derna alone, the worst affected city, the flood destroyed two-thirds of all buildings and killed over 2,000 people. … A “grey swan” is what experts describe as a predictable, yet improbable, event with significant and wide-ranging long-term impacts. Modern dams, reservoirs and infrastructure to control floods are build to withstand meteorological conditions as experienced in the last 100 years.
-Written by David Bressan, a freelance geologist working mostly in the Eastern Alps.

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Aquafornia news NASA

News release: NASA announces summer 2023 hottest on record

Summer of 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The months of June, July, and August combined were 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (0.23 degrees Celsius) warmer than any other summer in NASA’s record, and 2.1 degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than the average summer between 1951 and 1980. August alone was 2.2 F (1.2 C) warmer than the average. June through August is considered meteorological summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This new record comes as exceptional heat swept across much of the world, exacerbating deadly wildfires in Canada and Hawaii, and searing heat waves in South America, Japan, Europe, and the U.S., while likely contributing to severe rainfall in Italy, Greece, and Central Europe.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

NASA scientists use new tool to track harmful algal blooms across the world, including SoCal

It was the largest algal bloom on record and it took place in June off the California coast. The planktonic algae made the water look green while producing a toxin. Seals, sea lions and dolphins eat fish that have eaten these algae, therefore hundreds died as a result. … Using satellite data, Gierach and other scientists created new ways to study the changes in the ocean. … Satellites can even measure color and temperature changes. A lot of the increase in algal bloom is caused by what we dump into the ocean, runoff, fertilizer and climate change.

Aquafornia news Vox

Fall weather extremes will be hit hard by El Niño and climate change

The wave of unusual disasters this summer now includes Hurricane Lee, a storm that swelled from Category 1 to Category 5 in just 24 hours as it barreled toward Canada. It’s a prime example of rapid intensification made worse by warming ocean temperatures. It will add to what’s already been an exceptional year of extreme weather. The US has set a new record for the number of billion-dollar disasters in a year — 23 so far — in its history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And this doesn’t even include the costs from Tropical Storm Hilary in California or from the ongoing drought in the South and Midwest, because those costs have yet to be fully calculated. 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Researchers can now predict when drought will kill a forest

Researchers have found a way to predict whether or not a forest will survive based on drought conditions – information that can help forest managers deal with climate change. The researchers from the University of California Davis looked at a drought that caused the loss of tens of millions of trees in the Sierra Nevada forest from 2012 to 2015. In the early years, the trees were doing fine, despite drought conditions. But by 2015, 80% of them were essentially dead.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California is moving to outlaw watering some grass that’s purely decorative

Outdoor watering accounts for roughly half of total water use in Southern California’s cities and suburbs, and a large portion of that water is sprayed from sprinklers to keep grass green. Under a bill passed by state legislators this week, California will soon outlaw using drinking water for some of those vast expanses of grass — the purely decorative patches of green that are mowed but never walked on or used for recreation. Grass covers an estimated 218,000 acres in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s six-county area. Nearly a quarter of that, or up to 51,000 acres, is categorized as “nonfunctional” turf — the sort of grass that fills spaces along roads and sidewalks, in front of businesses, and around parking lots.

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Aquafornia news KLAS - Las Vegas

Salton Sea obligations cited in letter as government formulates Colorado River plan

California’s largest lake didn’t even exist 120 years ago, but now it looms large over questions about how to manage the Colorado River. Depending on who you ask, the Salton Sea is either an important wildlife ecosystem or an environmental disaster that’s ticking like a time bomb — 50% saltier than the Pacific Ocean and a major source of dust as water recedes. The Salton Sea Authority, an organization created 30 years ago to work with the state of California to oversee comprehensive restoration of the lake, filed an 11-page response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to lend its voice to decisions about the future of the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

New lithium company wants billions of gallons from Great Salt Lake, but says it will put it all back

The lithium bonanza continues at the largest saline system in the West, but a new company says it can harvest the mineral in a way that doesn’t contribute to ecological collapse. Waterleaf Resources, a subsidiary of California-based Lilac Solutions, wants to siphon an astounding 225,000 acre-feet from Utah’s Great Salt Lake, asserting it will pump all the water back after removing its lithium. The company uses an ion exchange technology that washes brine through bead structures which absorb the lithium minerals and flush out the rest of the water and its remaining minerals.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California ponies up $300 million to prepare groundwater infrastructure for climate change

California will spend about $300 million to prepare a vast groundwater and farming infrastructure system for the growing impacts of climate change. California Department of Water Resources announced Tuesday that it has awarded $187 million to 32 groundwater sub-basins, which store water for future use that mainly flows from valuable snowmelt, through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced Tuesday that California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will award more than $106 million in grants to 23 organizations, which will design and implement new carbon sequestration and irrigation efficiency projects. 

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Aquafornia news AP News

Dry states taking Mississippi River water isn’t a new idea. But some mayors want to kill it

Community leaders along the Mississippi River worried that dry southwestern states will someday try to take the river’s water may soon take their first step toward blocking such a diversion. Mayors from cities along the river are expected to vote on whether to support a new compact among the river’s 10 states at this week’s annual meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, according to its executive director Colin Wellenkamp. Supporters of a compact hope it will strengthen the region’s collective power around shared goals like stopping water from leaving the corridor. 

Aquafornia news

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: 2023 a record number of US billion-dollar disasters

H​ere is NOAA’s list of these 23 disasters, in chronological order, along with their latest damage estimates. 1. California Flooding ($4.6 billion): A parade of Pacific storms began just after Christmas 2022 and lasted into March, dumping flooding rain in parts of Northern California and the Central Valley, as well as feet of record snowfall in parts of the Sierra and Southern California high country. … 15. Late June Severe Weather ($3.5 billion): This siege of storms from June 21-26 began in the High Plains, including destructive hailstorms in Colorado, one of which injured almost 100 concertgoers near Denver,​ and a deadly tornado in Matador, Texas.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Artificial intelligence climate forecast could help supply chain management

Himanshu Gupta knows full well the heavy toll climate change is taking on agriculture. Growing up in India and eventually working in public policy, he saw how the unpredictably late monsoon season was damaging crops and worsening farmers’ lives. … That eventually led him to co-found ClimateAi, a Bay Area-based startup that aims to help farms and other businesses prepare for a hotter, more disruptive climate using the power of artificial intelligence. By harnessing machine learning models, the company says its customers can anticipate and prepare for climate risks to their supply chains and operations over periods ranging from weeks to seasons.

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun

The wrong kind of blooms: Climate change, invasive clams are fueling algae growth on Lake Tahoe

While out enjoying an afternoon on one of Lake Tahoe’s sandy beaches over the past few years, you might have noticed large mats of decomposing algae washing up or floating nearby. The lake’s famed blue waters are facing another threat while the battles of climate change and invasive species wage on — and it’s all very much connected.  Nearshore algae blooms are a burgeoning ecological threat to Tahoe. Not only do they impact the experience for beachgoers, but they also degrade water quality and, in some cases, pose a threat of toxicity.  Over the last 50 years, the rate of algal growth has increased sixfold, according to U.C. Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center’s 2022 State of the Lake Report. 

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water suppliers respond to dam safety criticism

Marin County’s two largest water suppliers say they have dam safety strategies in place but intend to update their hazard mitigation plans in the near future. The utilities were responding to a Marin County Civil Grand Jury report urging the agencies to prepare for more intense “atmospheric river” storms caused by climate change. Both agencies are required to provide responses under state law. The June report said the seven dams managed by the Marin Municipal Water District and the one dam managed by the North Marin Water District are in compliance with regulatory standards. 

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

California Water Plan

Cover page of draft California Water Plan Update 2023

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

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

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

As the Colorado River declines, some upstream look to use it before they lose it

With the nation beginning to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy like solar and wind power, oil and gas companies are beginning to plug their wells here. So local leaders are looking for the next economic development opportunity. And they may have found their solution—divert more Colorado River water with a new dam and reservoir that will generate more hydropower, irrigate more agriculture and store more water for emergencies. They’re not alone in that quest. Wyoming ranchers are pushing for a new dam to be used for irrigation. Colorado has some diversions already under construction, with more proposed across the state, to help fuel growth. Across the states of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River—Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico—new dams are rising and new reservoirs are filling …

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Aquafornia news NPR

Mines for climate-friendly technologies face growing water scarcity in the West

Climate solutions like solar panels and electric cars require lots of minerals – copper, lithium, manganese. The U.S. plans new mines for these metals across the West. But as NPR’s Julia Simon reports, the country’s need for these metals can sometimes collide with the region’s lack of water. … You do have a miner in there. JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: On a 107-degree morning in the mountains east of Phoenix, a miner in a hard hat peeps out of the top of an 11-foot-tall bucket. Tyson Nansel, spokesperson for the Resolution Copper mine, says the miner’s about to plunge… SIMON: …Where the copper lies. To process it, the mine will use water – a lot, says geologist James Wells, much of it from an area east of Phoenix. JAMES WELLS: The equivalent of a brand-new city of something like 140,000 people – that’s how much water we’re talking about.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Baby beaver sighting inspires hope for California comeback

Bill Leikam was reviewing footage from a wildlife camera he placed along a Palo Alto creekbed recently when something unfamiliar scampered across the screen. … Eventually, he recognized the mysterious creature as a critically important species that has long been missing from his beloved Baylands — a mammal that California wildlife officials have hailed as a “climate hero.” … For decades, developers, municipalities and farmers focused on beavers as a problem that required mitigation or removal. Now, the species known as Castor canadensis is seen as offering myriad benefits: It can help to mitigate drought and wildfires through natural water management; it is considered a keystone species for its ability to foster biodiversity; and it can restore habitat through its ecosystem engineering.

Aquafornia news Fast Company

What will it take to save the Great Salt Lake?

In the 1980s, the Great Salt Lake in Utah covered an area larger than Rhode Island. Now it has shrunk to less than half that size. Without major changes in local water use, it’s possible that it could dry up completely before the end of this decade. “Right now, the Great Salt Lake is on life support,” says Ben Abbott, an ecosystem ecologist at Brigham Young University. The ecosystem could collapse even before the water disappears. As the lake shrinks, the water is getting saltier, making it harder for the brine shrimp that live there to survive—and meaning that the 10 million birds that migrate through the area may soon have nothing to eat. The shrinking coastline means that former islands are now connected to land, and wildlife face new predators; this year, pelicans that used to raise young on one former island were forced to abandon it.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Radio

Grand Canyon gets funds to protect native species

Grand Canyon National Park will get more than a quarter-million dollars to remove invasive species and protect native species of fish in the Colorado River. The funds come from the Inflation Reduction Act and are part of a nationwide effort to restore natural habitats and address climate change impacts.  Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir, dropped to historically low levels last year due to climate change and drought. This created viable breeding conditions and easier passage through Glen Canyon Dam for high-risk invasive species like smallmouth bass and green sunfish.

Aquafornia news KPBS Public Media

San Diego plants act like it’s spring again after August drenching

Tropical Storm Hilary arrived in San Diego on Aug. 20. It rained all day, dropping at least two inches in most places. “It was shocking, to be honest with you,” said Southern California native and garden expert Nan Sterman. “Except for the six years that I was in university and hanging out afterward, I have lived my entire life in Southern California,” Sterman said. “And I have never ever seen a summer rainstorm like we saw a couple of weeks ago.” All that water, when the local landscape should be hot and dry, made our plants act pretty strange. Tipuana trees were blooming a second time. Native plants like ceanothus were showing new growth when they should have been dormant. Plant experts saw surprises all over town.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Climate change means Californians need flood insurance now, too

Californians know wildfires and earthquakes; hurricanes, not so much. So when Tropical Storm Hilary inundated Southern California in normally bone-dry August, it showed just how exposed homeowners are to a growing financial risk from unpredictable climate-driven flooding. Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding and fewer than 2% of California households have flood insurance, even as intensifying winter storms overflow rivers and levees, batter the coast and drench the desert. As Hilary, the first tropical storm to strike the Golden State in 84 years, passed over Palm Springs on Aug. 20, it dumped nearly a year’s worth of rain in a day on the desert community, causing widespread flooding in the surrounding Coachella Valley.

Aquafornia news The Journal

Report examines impacts of climate change on drought, vegetation in Four Corners area

By changing the climate, humans have doubled the magnitude of drought’s impact on the availability of vegetation for herbivores, including livestock, to eat in the greater Four Corners region, according to a study published this summer in the journal Earth’s Future. This is because increasing air temperatures and increasing levels of evaporative demand – or more water being soaked up into the atmosphere – stresses the grasses and shrubs that livestock and many other herbivores rely upon. Emily Williams, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of California Merced, was the lead author of the study. At the time, she was a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Aquafornia news Western Water

Friday Top of the Scroll: New California law bolsters groundwater recharge as strategic defense against climate change

A new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater. The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground. The obscure, seemingly inconsequential classification of aquifers could have a far-reaching effect in California where restoring depleted aquifers has become a strategic defense against climate change — an insurance against more frequent droughts and more variable precipitation.

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Aquafornia news Bay Nature

How do I get my hands on these “Wild Billions,” anyway?

Historic amounts of federal money are flowing into the Bay Area and California thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). How does your organization or agency apply for some of it? … For federal agencies without BIL and IRA announcement pages, we recommend signing up for their newsletters—like “California News Bytes” from the Bureau of Land Management—to help bring possible opportunities to your inbox. Check the bureau or agency websites that fall under the Department of the Interior, such as the National Parks Service (BIL page, IRA page) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BIL funding opportunities here, and WaterSMART grants, a special program dedicated to irrigation or water supply, can be found here), and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIL page).

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Long-term commitments could save the Great Salt Lake

Returning home, I feel my roots, strengthened by five generations before me, dig deep into the land we have all called home. … Exiting Parley’s Canyon to be truly home for the first time in years, the valley is unfamiliarly rich and green with life. Water has returned. … This year, the runoff filled with a seldom seen sense of rage and power, fueled by unprecedented snowfall. It sought the freedom of countless streams meandering through meadows and tumbling violently down steep granite canyons. As always, much of this water comes together to form the Weber, Jordan and Bear River. But, unlike most of the waters west of the continental divide, it never reaches the Colorado River, let alone the Gulf of California.
-Written by John Dreyfous, a fifth-generation Utahn.​

Aquafornia news Dairy Herd

What an El Niño event could mean for fall weather

So far, 2023 has been a wild year for weather. Flooding, drought and hail have all made their way into the headlines - not to mention the extreme high and low temperatures seen throughout the seasons. While weather patterns have been anything but predictable this year, Eric Snodgrass, Principal Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, says America’s heartland may start to see wetter weather conditions just in time for fall. … Back in early June, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño advisory, noting that El Niño conditions were present and would likely strengthen into the fall and winter months. … El Niño winters also bring better chances for warmer-than-average temperatures across the northern tier of the country.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Editorial: Keep goat herds on grazing duty

Goats and sheep have proved their worth in devouring grasses and other potentially flammable vegetation, all without traditional mowing’s noise, pollution and, on hot days, risk of igniting fires. In 2021, Cal Fire awarded more than $10 million in grants for wildfire mitigation projects involving grazing. North Bay residents likely have seen animals grazing on public lands. Sonoma County Regional Parks use sheep and goats seasonally for vegetation management at Helen Putnam, Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, Foothill, Cloverdale, Gualala and Maxwell parks. Cows deploy at Taylor Mountain, Crane Creek, North Sonoma Mountain and Tolay Lake parks. The parks agency notes that properly conducted and monitored grazing benefits the ecosystem by reducing invasive plant species, fertilizing the soil and making grassland more permeable for recharging groundwater, as well as reducing the risk of wildfire.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

El Niño is coming this winter. The question is, will it be a whopper?

San Diego County’s fragile shoreline and vulnerable beachfront properties could be in for a rough winter, according to the California Coastal Commission, the National Weather Service and some top San Diego scientists. “We are looking at an emerging El Niño event,” staff geologist Joseph Street told the Coastal Commission at its meeting Wednesday in Eureka. An El Niño is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years. The water temperature at the surface of the Central Pacific Ocean along the equator warms a few degrees above its long-term average, creating conditions for stronger, more frequent seasonal storms across much of the globe.

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Groups sue Utah, trying to save Great Salt Lake with the public trust doctrine

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to save the Great Salt Lake as its water continues receding and its lakebed blows dust. The case uses a legal concept that recently stifled plans to turn Utah Lake into a private island development and, years ago, stopped a salty lake from getting sucked dry in California. A complaint filed in 3rd District Court on Wednesday invokes the public trust doctrine, claiming the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has failed in its duty to protect the largest saline ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere for the benefit of its residents. While lawmakers and resource managers have taken steps in recent years to bolster the imperiled Great Salt Lake and the unique ecology it supports, they must take more drastic steps to reduce Utahns’ overconsumption of water, the suit argues.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Sweeping California water conservation rules could force big cuts in some areas

With California facing a hotter and drier future — punctuated by bouts of extreme weather — state officials are moving forward with a new framework for urban water use that could require some suppliers to make cuts of 20% or more as soon as 2025. Many of the suppliers facing the harshest cuts are located in the Central Valley and in the southeastern part of the state — large, hot and primarily rural areas that have historically struggled to meet conservation targets. … The move marks a shift away from the one-size-fits-all approach that has governed California water for years. If adopted, the new rules would require the state’s more than 400 urban water suppliers to come up with a new water-use budget every year beginning in 2025. They could face hefty fines for failing to comply or meet their targets.

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

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

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater.

The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

California escaped deadly wildfires this summer. The danger isn’t over yet

As the Labor Day holiday weekend draws the summer to a close, it’s been an unusually quiet season for fires across the American west. Roughly 80,000 hectares (2m acres) have burned across the country so far, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), roughly 61% less than the 10-year average for this time of year. The decrease has been particularly pronounced in the fire-prone west, which has grown accustomed to seeing swaths of their parched forests and browning hillsides ignite but has largely been given a reprieve from a summer of smoke-filled skies. … Well-timed storms, including the unusual Tropical Storm Hilary, doused southern California and other dry areas nearby, staving off fire dangers that typically rise at the end of summer and into autumn.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Research results: Producing food in a drying climate

Searching 150 Best Quotes About Agriculture for something appropriate to discuss The Future of Agriculture and Food Production in a Drying Climate, this comment stood out — “At the very heart of agriculture is the drive to feed the world. We all flourish…or decline…with the farmer.” That core concept, “the heart of agriculture”, resonated with Bobby Robbins, a cardiologist by trade whose day job is President of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Living in the Northern Sonora Desert, Robbins has watched a changing climate threaten food and agriculture systems in the arid Southwest. “The agriculture industry needs innovative research-based solutions to continue producing food year-round,” he said in announcing a high-IQ Commission to tackle the job.

Aquafornia news CNN

These five cities could be one natural disaster away from a catastrophic water crisis

Roughly an hour from California’s Bay Area and less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean, Kelli and Tim Hutton purchased a half an acre property in the Central Coast town of Moss Landing last summer. As with many others living in the area, they heavily rely on their private well for water. After moving into the new home with their newborn baby, the Huttons heard other residents were concerned about high levels of saltwater intrusion, being so near the ocean. Rising sea level and California’s whiplash weather have been impacting their water table, with seawater seeping in and causing pipes to corrode, making water undrinkable.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Wildfire smoke and climate change: 4 things to know

Wildfires and climate change are locked in a vicious circle: Fires worsen climate change, and climate change worsens fires. Scientists, including those at the World Resources Institute, have been increasingly sounding the alarm about this feedback loop, warning that fires don’t burn in isolation — they produce greenhouse gases that, in turn, create warmer and drier conditions that ignite more frequent and intense fires.  Last week, wildfire smoke prompted another round of unhealthy air quality in California. Fires in Oregon and Northern California sent smoke into Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. And it’s a global nightmare: This summer, world temperatures hit an all-time high, the worst U.S. wildfire in more than a century devastated Maui, a deadly fire in Greece was declared Europe’s largest ever, and swaths of the Midwest and Northeast have been blanketed by smoke from Canada’s forest fires. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: As Colorado River shrinks, California farmers urge ‘one-dam solution’

For years, environmentalists have argued that the Colorado River should be allowed to flow freely across the Utah-Arizona border, saying that letting water pass around Glen Canyon Dam — and draining the giant Lake Powell reservoir — would improve the shrinking river’s health. Now, as climate change increases the strains on the river, this controversial proposal is receiving support from some surprising new allies: influential farmers in California’s Imperial Valley. In a letter to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, growers Mike and James Abatti, who run some of the biggest farming operations in the Imperial Valley, urged the government to consider sacrificing the Colorado’s second-largest reservoir and storing the water farther downstream in Lake Mead — the river’s largest reservoir.

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Aquafornia news KCBX - Central Coast

“It’s not going to be an easy one”: Central Coast vineyards to see late harvest after winter storms

California experienced triple the amount of average rainfall within the first few months of 2023, leading to heavy plant growth across the Central Coast. It even caused a super bloom of wildflowers off of Highway 1 and 58, creating excitement for locals and visitors alike. Months later, one of the Central Coast’s biggest industries is grappling with the storms’ after-effects, as harvest season for vineyards is looking a lot different this year. Walking through Paso Robles on a hot August afternoon, it’s almost like the storms never happened. The rolling hills at Tablas Creek Vineyard are lined with healthy grapevines and olive trees.

Aquafornia news U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Blog: New challenges in the struggle to save Pacific salmon

Over the last 150 years, the effects of human activities such as agriculture, mining, damming, logging, and overfishing have led to declines in Pacific salmon species. For decades, efforts have been made to help salmon persist through the challenges they faced. Now climate change is adding to the suite of challenges threatening the long-term viability of salmon and the cultures, traditions and economies of the communities that depend on them. In the Pacific Northwest, the populations of many salmon species have declined significantly, with some protected under the Endangered Species Act. In Alaska, a place with historically healthy salmon runs, the decline of some runs has caused tremendous hardship and concern.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Green groups are divided over a proposal to boost the nation’s hydropower. Here’s why

America’s hydropower industry is hoping to reestablish some of its former glory by making itself central to the nation’s transition to clean energy—and it’s turning to Congress for help. … Today, hydropower provides just a small fraction of the nation’s electricity and is quickly being outpaced globally by its clean energy rivals in new development. Now the industry, with help from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, hopes to change that trend. … The bill has gained early support from industry, environmental groups, Native tribes and even the Biden administration. But it’s also getting pushback from some advocates who say that expanding or extending the use of hydropower could actually worsen climate change and hasten ecological degradation.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Study: Sudden shifts from drought to floods are getting more common in the U.S.

Sudden shifts from drought conditions to heavy floods are becoming more common in the U.S. as the climate changes, a study has found. The findings were presented in a study published in Communications Earth & Environment. … Over time, from 1980 to 2020, researchers found that such whiplash trends in the weather increased approximately a quarter of a percent to 1 percent per year. These extreme shifts in weather patterns have manifested in parts of the U.S. recently, and in California in particular.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

A cluster of wildfires is burning in California’s northwest corner

The largest wildfire currently burning in the United States is raging in California’s densely forested northwest corner. The Smith River Complex — actually a cluster of connected blazes — covered a total of 79,000 acres and was only 7 percent contained as of Wednesday evening. The fire began on Aug. 15 with a storm that scattered lightning strikes across the Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County, just south of the Oregon border. Since then, the fire has crossed into Oregon, closed roads, forced power outages that lasted days, and delayed the start of the school year for roughly 4,000 students in Del Norte County’s public schools. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the county, where the air quality has been abysmal for days and hundreds of people are still under evacuation orders.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Will Northern California see another stormy winter this year? Here’s what experts predict

… After facing a La Niña winter for three years straight and getting doused with a wet and snowy winter last year, El Niño is expected to take California on a different winter ride. … The winter season, which officially begins Dec. 21, in Northern California is forecast to have an equal chance of being below or above normal precipitation, according to the December-January-February [NOAA] outlook. It was published Aug. 17. “It’s a little uncertain,” [Tom Krabacher, professor of geography at Sacramento State] said about El Niño’s effect on rain in Northern California. “It can bring more rain or can have a relatively normal rain.” He said this is because the weather event shifts the storm tracks, pushing the rain farther south.

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Aquafornia news Wired

This brutal summer in 10 alarming maps and graphs

As global temperatures rapidly climb, humanity is seeing more and more of the disastrous effects scientists warned us about: fiercer heat waves, more intense wildfires, and heavier rain. The extremes of the past few months are but a preview of the ever-worsening pain we’ll endure if we don’t dramatically reduce carbon emissions. … What’s made this summer so bad? For one thing, the base layer of global warming makes extreme summer heat both more common and more severe than it normally would be. Plus, this summer the Pacific Ocean transitioned from the cooler waters of La Niña into the warmer waters of El Niño, which goes on to influence Earth’s climate globally. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

‘Valley fever’ fungus surging northward in California as climate changes

Workers across California are grappling with yet another climate change-induced threat: a rapidly spreading fungus that can land its unsuspecting victims with prolonged flu-like symptoms, or far worse. The culprit is a soil-dwelling organism called coccidioides, which is now spreading the disease coccidioidomycosis — known as “Valley fever” — farther and farther north of its Southwest origins. Rather than spreading from person to person, Valley fever results from the direct inhalation of fungal spores — spores climate change is now allowing to flourish in new places.

Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

News release: Ducks Unlimited’s scientific studies will help conserve Pacific Flyway waterfowl, habitats

Ducks Unlimited and its scientific partners have several studies planned or underway to study waterfowl and their habitats in the Pacific Flyway. … The lack of floodplain habitat for salmon and other migratory fish in the Sacramento Valley in California has contributed to their decline. As a result, there are proposals to manage floodplain habitats to benefit fish. This study, led by a team in Ducks Unlimited’s Western Region, will determine the effects of floodplain reactivation for fish on waterfowl and Sacramento Valley waterfowl hunting.

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Aquafornia news New York Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: America is draining its groundwater like there’s no tomorrow

Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view. Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a whole. The New York Times conducted a months-long examination … In California, an agricultural giant and, like Arkansas, a major groundwater user, the aquifers in at least 76 basins last year were being pumped out faster than they could be replenished by precipitation, a condition known as “overdraft,” according to state numbers.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Waves along California’s coast are getting bigger, study says

Early this year, severe storms battered California, bringing huge waves that damaged infrastructure and forced people away from the coast. That may be the new norm, as climate change fuels severe weather that is making waves bigger, according to a study published this month. The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, uses nearly a century of seismic records to show that mean winter wave heights, as well as the frequency of big waves, have significantly increased along California’s coast since the 1970s. In recent decades, the number of waves taller than 16 feet has more than doubled, according to the paper, which showed that the Aleutian Low, an area of low pressure over the Aleutian Islands in southwest Alaska, has also intensified, likely increasing storms. 

Aquafornia news E&E News

A season of contradictions for wildfire

This year’s devastation in Maui and far-reaching smoke from fires in Canada are hiding an anomaly as the wildfire season approaches its usual peak: The U.S. is having one of its lightest years for wildland fire in recent history. U.S. wildfires burned 1.8 million acres as of [Last] Thursday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s the fewest in at least a decade to this point on the calendar, and about one-third of the 10-year average of acres burned through Aug. 24, the NIFC reported. … Last winter’s heavy snow in the Sierra, and above-average precipitation throughout California and Nevada in the past 12 months have spared the region from big wildfires…

Aquafornia news KSUT Public Radio - Four Corners Public Radio

From wildfires to workloads, Western farmers face more stress and mental health issues

On a cloudy day on a crop farm north of Reno, Nev., Zach Cannady tilts his head toward the sky and smiles. That’s because it’s starting to rain, which wasn’t in the forecast. … Cannady owns Prema Farms, a stone’s throw into California, tucked in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. It grows a colorful mix of crops – carrots, kale, peppers, onions, melons and more. And harvests have been strong recently thanks to wet winters and more frequent rain. But Cannady, who has a wife and two kids, knows that can change fast in farming.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Was Hurricane Hilary overhyped?

As Hurricane Hilary barreled toward Southern California last week, the storm made international news as forecasters warned of the possibility for life-threatening and catastrophic flooding from heavy rains, especially in the mountains and deserts. Officials issued the region’s first-ever tropical storm watch — later upgraded to a warning — for a broad swath of the Southland as the cyclone’s path grew more clear, likely to become the first storm of that strength to hit the region in decades. And although the system turned out to be historic for Southern California — dumping record summer rainfall and hitting tropical storm wind speeds recorded only twice in the last century — weather officials say the situation was not unheard-of for the region.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: Palm Springs history – Stormy weather in the dry desert over the years

Weather in the desert seems mostly a dry subject.  The usual history of Palm Springs mostly starts in a dry spell at the end of the 19th century when the little sprouting village planted by John McCallum at the base of Mt. San Jacinto desiccated and nearly perished despite all his efforts to bring water from Tahquitz Canyon and Whitewater via extensive flumes.  The drought lasted some 11 years when the aptly named Weather Bureau noted in 1901 a dying tropical cyclone brought “two inches of rain to the mountains and deserts of Southern California” ending the dry spell that nearly ended Palm Springs itself. In the desert, when it finally rains, many times, it pours.  But perhaps the most famous and influential deluge in the history of the Coachella Valley didn’t occur here at all.  In 1905, heavy rainfall in the Colorado River basin caused the river to swell and eventually breach a foolishly naïve Imperial Valley irrigation dike.
-Written by Tracy Conrad, special to the Desert Sun.  

Aquafornia news Sonoma Index-Tribune

Highway 37 gets federal funding boost to lift it above rising sea levels

Rebuilding State Route 37 to elevate it above water in the face of rising sea levels got a welcome $155 million boost from the $1.2 trillion U.S. infrastructure Law of 2021, the California Transportation Commission announced this week. The two-mile Marin County section of the 21-mile commuter artery that runs alongside San Pablo Bay connecting Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties marks the beginning of a larger $4 billion project planned for the whole corridor. State transportation officials say work is expected to start in 2027 and end two years later. The $180 million project approved Aug. 18 by the state’s transportation commission will raise the roadway by 30 feet over Novato Creek by 2029, well above the projected year 2130 sea-level rise.

Aquafornia news WBUR - Boston

Listen: Would flooding Death Valley offset sea level rise?

The seas are rising. Humans have already pumped enough greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to raise ocean levels up to 2 feet by the end of the century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If we do not curb our use of fossil fuels, we are looking at up to 7 feet. That rise could drive 2 billion people from their homes and cost $14 trillion a year. And once the seas go up, they will not fall — not on any human timescale. But what if they could? On the subreddit AskScience, one user proposed a potential solution: What if we took our excess seawater and dumped it into Death Valley? The national park, located in the Mojave Desert, reaches 282 feet below sea level and used to be the site of a massive lake.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Heat is driving deadly wildfires in California’s far north. When will Bay Area feel impacts?

Wildfires raging in rugged pockets of California’s far north have killed a Siskiyou County man and added particulate plumes to smoke drifting toward the Bay Area from big Oregon blazes.  California fire map: Active fires in Northern California including Smith River Complex California’s fire season is here, and with temperatures rising, lightning weather in the forecast and autumnal winds always a threat, it’s likely to intensify over the next few months and threaten more populated areas.  Roughly 173,000 acres have burned so far this season — up 24% from 139,000 this time last year, a surprisingly mild season, but down nearly 80% from an average of about 812,000 acres over the past five years, which included three years of historic drought.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Marine heat wave off California helped fuel Hurricane Hilary

Last week, a massive marine heat wave sitting roughly 60 miles off California’s coast oozed eastward, providing warm water fuel for Hurricane Hilary and its historic trek north. It was a worrisome development for researchers who have monitored this warm mass for nearly a decade — and who are watching a developing El Niño in the equatorial Pacific. Ever since the “blob” appeared in the northeastern Pacific at the very end of 2013 — a massive marine heat wave that gripped the West Coast for nearly two years in heat and drought; disrupting marine ecosystems up and down the coast — a massive offshore heat wave has appeared nearly every year (with the exception of 2017 and 2018); expanding in the summer and shrinking in the winter.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Would a new reservoir give off lots of greenhouse gases?

When you think about sources of planet-heating greenhouse gases, dams and reservoirs probably aren’t some of the first things that come to mind. But scientific research has shown that reservoirs emit significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It’s produced by decomposing plants and other organic matter collecting near the bottom of reservoirs. Methane bubbles up to the surface of reservoirs, and also passes through dams and bubbles up downstream. Scientists call these processes ebullition and degassing. … [Experts] estimated that if [Sites] reservoir is built and filled, it would annually emit approximately 362,000 metric tons of emissions, measured as carbon dioxide equivalent.

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

U.S. Forest Service restoring Sierra Nevada meadows lost to fire

California’s Sierra Nevada mountain used to have more meadows, nearly three times as many. That’s according to a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. Researchers used a subset of artificial intelligence known as machine learning to identify and map locations of these lost meadows, which have disappeared over 150 years due to livestock grazing, mining, road-building and wildfires. … In some instances, the models expanded into areas where meadows were known to already exist. Potential new meadows, or previously unrecognized areas, were also identified and will now be used in the forest service’s meadow restoration effort.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Multiyear El Niño and La Niña events likely to increase, researchers say

Climate scientists are bracing for potentially lengthy El Niño and La Niña events, according to a new study revealing how the underlying mechanism for climate variability is responding to increased greenhouse gas emissions in unpredicted ways and inducing El Niño-like conditions after volcanic eruptions. The research published in Nature Wednesday details recently discovered trends of the “Pacific Walker Circulation,” (PWC) an atmospheric phenomenon relating to east-west circulation along the equatorial Pacific. The pattern plays an atmospheric role in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, the dominant mode of global interannual climate variability that comprises two phases: El Niño and La Niña. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Why Hilary didn’t cause more damage in California

Tropical storm Hilary drenched much of Southern California before its remnants moved on to douse several Western states. While some communities suffered severe flooding and mudslides, most got a beneficial soaking. But experts say that given the overall setup, the aftermath could have been much worse — and both luck and preparation played a role in avoiding a more dire outcome. … Thanks to California’s steep terrain, dense population and vast area burned by wildfires over the past several years, it probably takes less rain to cause serious flooding in the state than in other locations typically hit by hurricanes and tropical storms.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Climate change may force more farmers to consider irrigation

Some places in the U.S. are already struggling with groundwater depletion, such as California, Arizona, Nebraska and other parts of the central Plains. … [Jonathan Winter, an associate professor of geography at Dartmouth College and an author on a new study on future U.S. irrigation costs and benefits] used a computer model to look at how heat and drought might affect crop production by the middle and end of this century, given multiple scenarios for the emissions of warming greenhouse gases. In places like California and Texas where “everyone is dropping their straw into the glass” of groundwater, as Winter put it, current levels of irrigation won’t be viable in the long term because there isn’t enough water. But use of irrigation may grow where groundwater supply isn’t presently an issue.

Aquafornia news Times Herald Online

Funding coming to elevate Highway 37

The state received a significant boost to its efforts with State Route 37 and San Pablo Bay last week with the infusion of $155 million in federal funding. The California Transportation Commission announced on Wednesday it formally allocated the funds to elevate a key section of State Route 37 to guard against future flooding on a vital regional corridor connecting Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties and enhance habitat connectivity for San Pablo Bay. The $180 million project will raise the roadway by 30 feet over Novato Creek by 2029 — well above the projected year 2130 sea-level rise. The $155 million allocation comes from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and is lauded by environmental groups and local leaders who have been calling for investments to support the long-term viability of state route 37.

Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Partnering with beavers to adapt to climate change

Mitigating climate change and adapting to a warming planet requires as many partners as we can muster. This includes embracing nature as a key ally. Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed to keep climate warming below two degrees Centigrade. And, nature, can help us prepare for the changes we are already experiencing and know are coming. Many people appreciate that if we plant more trees, they can both cool our cities and absorb carbon. But, perhaps less well known are the many benefits that beavers bring to the climate fight. Beavers are ecological engineers whose ponds store carbon, improve water quality, create habitat to support biodiversity, and help reduce climate impacts. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California is working on solutions to worsening climate change. Will they be enough?

Sci-fi writers have long conceived worlds in which extreme weather events upend the lives of its inhabitants, but with every passing, warming year, their scenarios feel more prophetic. Last September, record-shattering temperatures nearly broke the state’s power grid, and according to a Times investigation, extreme heat waves are killing more Californians than official records show. In the winter, after the driest three-year period on record that dried up wells and forced farmers to fallow fields, atmospheric river storms pummeled the state. Farms flooded. Levees failed. For decades, scientists have warned us that human-caused climate change will produce a growing number of weather catastrophes. But as the impact of global warming unfolds across the world, events once expected to happen decades from now are already here.

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Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Central Coast CA is refuge from climate change, study says

In an otherwise warming planet, new research shows that the ocean off California’s Central Coast may be a thermal refuge for marine wildlife. Cal Poly associate professor Ryan Walter, who teaches physics, and fourth-year physics student Michael Dalsin analyzed temperature data gathered from 1978 through 2020 at a site just north of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. They found that while other areas of the world see sharp rises in ocean temperatures and more frequent and more intense heatwaves, the Central Coast hasn’t seen such intense trends. The region still experiences marine heatwaves and cold spells brought on by factors such as the ocean-wide climactic patterns of El Niño and La Niña, but cold current upwelling brought on by strong local winds helps maintain the marine ecosystem along the Central Coast, according to a study by Walter and Dalsin published on July 31.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Southern California’s ‘water doctor’ pushes for transformation to adapt to climate change

When Adel Hagekhalil speaks about the future of water in Southern California, he often starts by mentioning the three conduits the region depends on to bring water from hundreds of miles away: the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. As general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Hagekhalil is responsible for ensuring water for 19 million people, leading the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of drinking water. He says that with climate change upending the water cycle, the three existing aqueducts will no longer be sufficient. … For Southern California to adapt, Hagekhalil said, it will need to recycle more wastewater, capture stormwater, clean up contaminated groundwater, and design new infrastructure …

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Extreme weather hits around the world as global temperatures rise

July was the hottest month in modern times. Now, August is shaping up to be a month of extremes. In the United States alone, a tropical storm swept across the Southwest, another struck Texas, Maui burned, and a blistering heat dome sat atop the middle of the country. In India, torrential rains triggered deadly landslides, Morocco and Japan hit new heat records, and southern Europe braced for another scorching heat wave. Those extremes have also brought high-stakes tests for public officials: Where public alerts and education worked, death and destruction were minimized. Where they didn’t, the results were catastrophic. Maui has so far recorded more than 100 deaths from the blaze that started Aug. 8, and that number is projected to rise.

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Aquafornia news Eos

A holistic approach to hydropower data

In 2021, hydropower contributed 16% to total global electricity production, whereas in the United States it accounted for only about 6% of the total (although it was responsible for 31.5% of electricity generated domestically from renewable sources), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That small share of U.S. production could be higher: The 2016 Hydropower Vision Report, published by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), stated that “U.S. hydropower could grow from 101 gigawatts (GW) of capacity to nearly 150 GW by 2050.”

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Does the story of the California coast have to end in disaster?

The sea has long inspired a human attraction, perhaps even a compulsion, to be as close to the edge as possible. Its sheer power captivates us, even on its most turbulent days, and we can’t help but dream of calling the shore our own. To be out by the surf, to sense the very limits of where land can go, to feel the rise and fall of each wave like our own breath is to reckon with a force so alive it feels otherworldly. But the ocean is not “out there” beyond the shore, it is upon us, carving away at the coast each day despite our best efforts to keep the water at bay. We thought that with enough ingenuity we could contain the sea, but the rising tide is proving otherwise. Studying this confluence of land, people and sea has kept Gary Griggs busy for much of his life. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Educating the judiciary on water and climate change

Justices Ron Robie and Stacy Boulware Eurie are spearheading an effort to educate California’s judiciary about climate change and water issues. We asked them why they’ve taken on this task—and what they hope to accomplish. You are leading the judiciary’s efforts to train judges and justices on water and climate. What does this entail, and why is it so important? Justice Robie: I’ve taught classes on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for about 20 years. Water is a similar specialized area like CEQA, and more water cases are being assigned to larger courts. It seemed logical that using the CEQA model would be good for water.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

How a mix of natural and human-caused factors cooked up Tropical Storm Hilary’s soggy mess

A natural El Nino, human-caused climate change, a stubborn heat dome over the nation’s midsection and other factors cooked up Tropical Storm Hilary’s record-breaking slosh into California and Nevada, scientists figure. Cooked up is the key phrase, since hot water and hot air were crucial in rapidly growing Hilary and then steering the storm on an unusual path that dumped 10 months of rain in a single weekend in normally bone-dry places. Nearly a foot of rain fell in parts of Southern California’s mountains, while cities smashed summertime records. 

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Aquafornia news E&E News

How climate change shaped California’s first tropical storm in decades

Tropical Storm Hilary made history Thursday, becoming the first storm of its kind to enter California since 1997. The state rarely sees landfalling tropical cyclones or hurricanes, thanks to a confluence of cold water and unfavorable atmospheric conditions off the coast. Experts say the occurrence will likely remain relatively rare even as the climate changes. But rising ocean temperatures mean the hurricanes that do happen to make it up the coast may be stronger and more damaging. On Sunday evening, Hilary brought extreme rainfall to neighborhoods from San Diego to Los Angeles, trapping cars in floodwaters and overwhelming drainage systems.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Taliban’s massive canal to bring water to Afghanistan’s parched plains

The morning sun was still rising over the shriveled wheat fields, and the villagers were already worrying about another day without water. Rainwater stored in the village well would run out in 30 days, one farmer said nervously. The groundwater pumps gave nothing, complained another. The canals, brimming decades ago with melted snow from the Hindu Kush, now dry up by spring, said a third. … Two years after its takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban is overseeing its first major infrastructure project, the 115-mile Qosh Tepa canal, designed to divert 20 percent of the water from the Amu Darya river across the parched plains of northern Afghanistan. The canal promises to be a game changer for villages like Ishfaq’s in Jowzjan province. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday’s Top of the Scroll: Hilary leaves massive flooding, mudslides, upheaval across Southern California

In the wake of Hilary’s lashing of Southern California, the region awoke Monday to lingering damage from the historic storm.The first tropical storm to hit Los Angeles in 84 years dumped record rainfall and turned streets into muddy, debris-swollen rivers; downed trees and knocked out power for thousands of residents; and closed schools across the Southland. Hilary was downgraded to a post-tropical storm early Monday, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. But even in its weakened state, it was still predicted to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” to parts of the southwestern U.S., the center said.

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Aquafornia news NBC - Bay Area

California’s big bloom aids seed collectors as climate change and wildfires threaten desert species

Flowers that haven’t been seen in years bloomed across Southern California this spring after massive winter downpours, creating not only colorful landscapes but a boon for conservationists eager to gather desert seeds as an insurance policy against a hotter and drier future. In the Mojave Desert, seeds from parish goldeneye and brittlebush are scooped up by staff and volunteers working to build out seed banks in the hope these can be used in restoration projects as climate change pressures desert landscapes. Already this summer, the York Fire burned across the Mojave National Preserve, charring thousands of acres in the fragile ecosystem including famed Joshua trees.

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

The White River winds and meanders through a valley.The states of the Lower Colorado River Basin have traditionally played an oversized role in tapping the lifeline that supplies 40 million people in the West. California, Nevada and Arizona were quicker to build major canals and dams and negotiated a landmark deal that requires the Upper Basin to send predictable flows through the Grand Canyon, even during dry years.

But with the federal government threatening unprecedented water cuts amid decades of drought and declining reservoirs, the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are muscling up to protect their shares of an overallocated river whose average flows in the Upper Basin have already dropped 20 percent over the last century.

They have formed new agencies to better monitor their interests, moved influential Colorado River veterans into top negotiating posts and improved their relationships with Native American tribes that also hold substantial claims to the river.

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

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

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

Photo of Andrew Schwartz, manager and lead scientist at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory.Growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Andrew Schwartz never missed an opportunity to play in – or study – a Colorado snowstorm. During major blizzards, he would traipse out into the icy wind and heavy drifts of snow pretending to be a scientist researching in Antarctica.  

Decades later, still armed with an obsession for extreme weather, Schwartz has landed in one of the snowiest places in the West, leading a research lab whose mission is to give California water managers instant information on the depth and quality of snow draping the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

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

Photo shows Hoover Dam’s intake towers protruding from the surface of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where water levels have dropped to record lows amid a 22-year drought. When the Colorado River Compact was signed 100 years ago, the negotiators for seven Western states bet that the river they were dividing would have ample water to meet everyone’s needs – even those not seated around the table.

A century later, it’s clear the water they bet on is not there. More than two decades of drought, lake evaporation and overuse of water have nearly drained the river’s two anchor reservoirs, Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border and Lake Mead near Las Vegas. Climate change is rendering the basin drier, shrinking spring runoff that’s vital for river flows, farms, tribes and cities across the basin – and essential for refilling reservoirs.

The states that endorsed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 – and the tribes and nation of Mexico that were excluded from the table – are now straining to find, and perhaps more importantly accept, solutions on a river that may offer just half of the water that the Compact assumed would be available. And not only are solutions not coming easily, the relationships essential for compromise are getting more frayed.

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

Chuck Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. With 25 years of experience working on the Colorado River, Chuck Cullom is used to responding to myriad challenges that arise on the vital lifeline that seven states, more than two dozen tribes and the country of Mexico depend on for water. But this summer problems on the drought-stressed river are piling up at a dizzying pace: Reservoirs plummeting to record low levels, whether Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam can continue to release water and produce hydropower, unprecedented water cuts and predatory smallmouth bass threatening native fish species in the Grand Canyon. 

“Holy buckets, Batman!,” said Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. “I mean, it’s just on and on and on.”

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

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

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

Metropolitan Water District's advanced water treatment demonstration plant in Carson. Momentum is building for a unique interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern California homes and business into relief for the stressed Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water agencies.  

Tour Nick Gray

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

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to some 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

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

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir that has seen its water level plummet after two decades of drought. Climate scientist Brad Udall calls himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.

Tour Nick Gray

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

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139

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

Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science For more than 20 years, Tanya Trujillo has been immersed in the many challenges of the Colorado River, the drought-stressed lifeline for 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and the source of irrigation water for more than 5 million acres of winter lettuce, supermarket melons and other crops.

Trujillo has experience working in both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River, basins that split the river’s water evenly but are sometimes at odds with each other. She was a lawyer for the state of New Mexico, one of four states in the Upper Colorado River Basin, when key operating guidelines for sharing shortages on the river were negotiated in 2007. She later worked as executive director for the Colorado River Board of California, exposing her to the different perspectives and challenges facing California and the other states in the river’s Lower Basin.

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

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.

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

Sierra Nevada

The Sierra NevadaStretching 450 miles long and up to 50 miles wide, the Sierra Nevada makes up more than a quarter of California’s land area and forms its largest watersheds, providing more than half of the state’s developed water supply to residents, agriculture and other businesses.*

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

Water flowing into a Colorado River Delta restoration site in Mexico.Water is flowing once again to the Colorado River’s delta in Mexico, a vast region that was once a natural splendor before the iconic Western river was dammed and diverted at the turn of the last century, essentially turning the delta into a desert.

In 2012, the idea emerged that water could be intentionally sent down the river to inundate the delta floodplain and regenerate native cottonwood and willow trees, even in an overallocated river system. Ultimately, dedicated flows of river water were brokered under cooperative efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

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

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.

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

Las Vegas has reduced its water consumption even as its population has increased. Las Vegas, known for its searing summertime heat and glitzy casino fountains, is projected to get even hotter in the coming years as climate change intensifies. As temperatures rise, possibly as much as 10 degrees by end of the century, according to some models, water demand for the desert community is expected to spike. That is not good news in a fast-growing region that depends largely on a limited supply of water from an already drought-stressed Colorado River.

Tour Nick Gray

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

On average, more than 60 percent of California’s developed water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada and the southern spur of the Cascade Range. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

This tour ventured into the Sierra to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state.

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

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

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

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

At full pool, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. but two decades of drought have dramatically dropped the water level behind Hoover Dam.Twenty years ago, the Colorado River Basin’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch. The weather turned persistently dry. Water levels in the system’s anchor reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead plummeted. A river system relied upon by nearly 40 million people, farms and ecosystems across the West was in trouble. And there was no guide on how to respond.

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

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

Floating vegetation such as water hyacinth has expanded in the Delta in recent years, choking waterways like the one in the bottom of this photo.Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.

Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

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

The Colorado River threading its way through a desert canyon near Lee Ferry, Arizona. Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows, canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of science attached to it. Snowpack, streamflow and tree ring data all influence the crucial decisions that guide water management of the iconic Western river every day.

Dizzying in its scope, detail and complexity, the scientific information on the Basin’s climate and hydrology has been largely scattered in hundreds of studies and reports. Some studies may conflict with others, or at least appear to. That’s problematic for a river that’s a lifeline for 40 million people and more than 4 million acres of irrigated farmland.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

Persistent drought in the Colorado River Basin combined with the coordinated operations with Lake Mead has left Lake Powell consistently about half-full. Sprawled across a desert expanse along the Utah-Arizona border, Lake Powell’s nearly 100-foot high bathtub ring etched on its sandstone walls belie the challenges of a major Colorado River reservoir at less than half-full. How those challenges play out as demand grows for the river’s water amid a changing climate is fueling simmering questions about Powell’s future.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

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

Equipment on this tower measures fluctuations in greenhouse gas emissions for managed wetlands on Sherman Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.The islands of the western Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are sinking as the rich peat soil that attracted generations of farmers dries out and decays. As the peat decomposes, it releases tons of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere. As the islands sink, the levees that protect them are at increasing risk of failure, which could imperil California’s vital water conveyance system.

An ambitious plan now in the works could halt the decay, sequester the carbon and potentially reverse the sinking.

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 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

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

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. 

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s most beautiful yet vulnerable lakes. Renowned for its remarkable clarity, Tahoe straddles the Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles wide in a granitic bowl high in the Sierra Nevada.

Tahoe sits 6,225 feet above sea level. Its deepest point is 1,645 feet, making it the second-deepest lake in the nation, after Oregon’s Crater Lake, and the tenth deepest in the world.


River Report Examines Climate Change Impact on Colorado River Basin

Drought and climate change are having a noticeable impact on the Colorado River Basin, and that is posing potential challenges to those in the Southwestern United States and Mexico who rely on the river.

In the just-released Winter 2017-18 edition of River Report, writer Gary Pitzer examines what scientists project will be the impact of climate change on the Colorado River Basin, and how water managers are preparing for a future of increasing scarcity.

River Reports

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

Rising temperatures from climate change are having a noticeable effect on how much water is flowing down the Colorado River. Read the latest River Report to learn more about what’s happening, and how water managers are responding.

Western Water Magazine

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

This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future. 

Aquapedia background


The atmospheric condition at any given time or place, measured by wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and precipitation. Weather changes from hour to hour, day to day, and season to season. Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the average weather, during a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years.

Aquapedia background

Natural Variability

Variations in the statistical analysis of the climate on all time and space scales beyond that of individual weather events is known as natural variability. Natural variations in climate over time are caused by internal processes of the climate system, such as El Niño, and phenomena such as volcanic activity and variations in the output of the sun.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

California agriculture is going to have to learn to live with the impacts of climate change and work toward reducing its contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, a Yolo County walnut grower said at the Jan. 26 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.

“I don’t believe we are going to be able to adapt our way out of climate change,” said Russ Lester, co-owner of Dixon Ridge Farms in Winters. “We need to mitigate for it. It won’t solve the problem but it can slow it down.”

Aquapedia background


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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

Brad Udall

California had its warmest winter on record in 2014-2015, with the average Sierra Nevada temperature hovering above 32 degrees Fahrenheit – the highest in 120 years. Thus, where California relies on snow to fall in the mountains and create a snowpack that can slowly melt into reservoirs, it was instead raining. That left the state’s snowpack at its lowest ever – 5 percent on April 1, 2015.

Because he relays stats like these, climate scientist Brad Udall says he doesn’t often get invited back to speak before the same audience about climate change.

Western Water Magazine

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

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


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

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.

Maps & Posters Colorado River Bundle

Colorado River Basin Map
Redesigned in 2017

Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

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


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Publication Colorado River Basin Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River
Updated 2018

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

The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.


Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project explores the history and development of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

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

Climate Change

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

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

In the past 150 years, human industrial activity has accelerated the rate of change in the climate due to the increase in greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, among others). Scientific studies describing this climate change continue to be produced and its expected impacts continue to be assessed.

Western Water Magazine

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

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

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

This printed issue of Western Water This issue of Western Water looks at climate change through the lens of some of the latest scientific research and responses from experts regarding mitigation and adaptation.

Western Water Magazine

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

This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying California’s long-term water supply reliability.

Western Water Magazine

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

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

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

This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they might be provided.

Western Water Magazine

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

This printed issue of Western Water explores the historic nature of some of the key agreements in recent years, future challenges, and what leading state representatives identify as potential “worst-case scenarios.” Much of the content for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth panel discussions at the Colorado River Symposium. The Foundation will publish the full proceedings of the Symposium in 2012.