Climate change involves natural and man-made changes to weather
patterns that occur over millions of years or over 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).
Scientific studies describing this climate change continue to be
produced and its expected impacts continue to be assessed.
In California, the California Environmental Protection Agency has
found temperatures have risen by about 1.5 degrees since 1895.
Looking ahead, temperatures could rise by 2.7 degrees and its sea
levels by 55 inches in the next 40 years, according to the
California Energy Commission and the California Natural Resources
Agency. These are among the ongoing issues the state faces as it
grapples with climate change.
Already, California is confronting rising demand for water and
diminishing supplies. At the same time, the state’s water
infrastructure such as levees is increasingly aging and in
disrepair—conditions expected to be made worse by climate change.
Lake Powell’s long decline may be on hiatus after this year’s
snowy winter, but activists still are raising concerns that
climate change could render Glen Canyon Dam inoperable. This
time, they are taking their concerns to court, asking a federal
judge to invalidate the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 20-year
operating plan for the towering dam..
A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing
groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall
as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical
to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to
energy production. … In watersheds such as California’s
Central Valley, the Midwestern U.S.’s high plains, the Upper
Ganges and the Indus in South Asia, groundwater is already
On the heels of a severe drought and years of water rationing,
a longstanding plan to provide recycled water for the vast lawn
at the Santa Barbara Cemetery is finally gaining some momentum.
At a joint committee meeting this week, members of the
Montecito Water and Sanitary District boards and staffs
tentatively agreed to collaborate on recycled water for the
California’s most recent drought lasted many long, parched
years… There was plenty of suffering to go around, but some
vineyards fared less terribly than others—historic parcels east
of San Francisco, in Contra Costa County, for example. Planted
at the turn of the last century by Italian, Portuguese, and
Spanish immigrants, they rely on a technique called dry farming
rather than irrigation.
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
We now have an opportunity to build on the successful Arizona
process that led to the DCP signing. Arizona is stronger
together. And that will serve us well as we work toward the
next step – maintaining a stable, healthy Colorado River system
as we face a hotter and drier future.
California isn’t in an official drought and under mandatory
water conservation, but climate change means that saving water
is always crucial. That’s why a recent announcement should not
go unnoticed: The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation
District won state approval to deliver recycled water to
agricultural and habitat conservation land in the southern part
of the county.
Over 30 years, Cal Am’s Desal would cost $1.2 billion while the
Pure Water Monterey expansion would be only $190 million. But
the cost in dollars is not the only comparison that should be
made. The environmental cost comparison is also dramatic.
The Palmdale Water District extended its contract with the Los
Angeles County Sanitation District 20 for recycled water, as
projects for this water have been delayed for circumstances
beyond their control.
From mandatory drought restrictions to billions of dollars’
worth of drought-proofing projects, San Diego and the entire
West has for years had a complicated relationship with its
water – and it’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper any
The proposed water rates include a fixed meter charge per month
and a variable consumption charge per unit of water. The city
says most single family residences will see about a $15
increase in January of 2020. … The last rate increase was
approved by the city council five years ago, but he says a lot
has changed since then.
Santa Maria and several other Central Coast Water Authority
members are planning to claim an additional 12,214 acre-feet of
state water that was set aside decades ago. The move — which
would be funded by issuing a $42 million bond — would increase
Santa Maria’s annual right to state water from 17,820 to over
27,000 acre-feet each year.
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
By century’s end, Sacramento is expected to feel much like
Tucson or even Phoenix, Arizona, according to the state’s 2018
Climate Assessment for the Sacramento Valley. Daily
temperatures are projected to rise 10 F in the valley by 2100,
and the number of days topping 104 F are on track to increase
from four days a year to 40.
A new “green infrastructure” project under construction along
the western side of the block is designed to slow down that
process by detoxing the water through soil and plants and
pumping a purified product back out to the creek. The project,
a whopping seven years in the making, is part of a $4 million,
Water vending machine companies compete aggressively to sell
water outside of supermarkets and pharmacies at an incredible
markup. The industry is only lightly regulated – last year the
California Department of Public Health inspected just two
machines in San Diego County.
A coalition of river and coastal defenders have won a major
victory against the State Water Resources Control Board,
securing an order that requires the board to meet the statutory
deadlines for its list of impaired waterways in California. The
lawsuit focused on the board’s violations of the Clean Water
Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act…
Recently, authority over many streams, pools, and lakes in the
United States reverted from the federal government to the
states. The Trump administration repealed the 2015 “Waters of
the United States” rule, under which the federal government
claimed authority to regulate virtually any body of water it
When you look at a farm, do you think about nutrient rich soils
or cover crops growing between rows? When you look at a marsh,
do you see the submerged layers of sediment created by years of
plant litter piling up? Probably not. But those parts of
well-managed agricultural lands and wetlands store a lot of
carbon, and that’s increasingly important as climate change is
forcing society to consider ways to lower carbon emissions…
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
Bakersfield residents deserve a round of applause, at least in
terms of the city’s water usage. So far in 2019, city residents
have saved 3,348 acre feet of water compared to 2013
quantities. Cumulatively, the city has cut water usage by
nearly 12 percent since 2013, an average year before drought
struck the state.
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
Jaime Jahncke, a marine biologist with Point Blue Conservation
Science, which is headquartered in Petaluma, said the concern
is that another long-lasting warm water episode could do
serious harm to an already fragile ecosystem. “We’re going into
a blob and we don’t know what’s happening next,” said
The final of six yearly Comprehensive Monitoring Reports
performed by The Bay Foundation based on detailed scientific
monitoring data prove the Project wholly succeeded in meeting
its goals, performance standards and success criteria, and
requires no supplemental work.
The project, called the Upper Salinas River Basin Conjunctive
Use Project, captures existing wastewater flows generated
within the eastside of the District and will return these flows
back to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. The
wastewater undergoes treatment and is then discharged into the
river alluvium that contains the Salinas River underflow
providing subsequent conveyance to district wells…
A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less
than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon
National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado
River and the endangered fish habitat it protects.
The river is carrying year-round flows down a stretch on the
Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier District that until recently
was dry for more than 70 years except after big rains. And
here, unlike through downtown Tucson, the water is once again
coming up from the aquifer naturally — not being added
artificially through effluent.
In an effort to widen the use of a nearly limitless — but
expensive — source of water for California and other places
worldwide that are prone to shortages, Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory has been selected to lead a $100 million
project aimed at bringing down the cost of desalination.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority rolled out
concepts for an administrative structure that could eventually
cement the new agency as an independent entity — should money
ever be found to fund them.
It did not escape Stewart Resnick’s attention that, after some
unusual winter weather in 2015, his pistachio crop took a 70%
hit. He couldn’t miss it when, for several years, his
heat-blasted oranges came in smaller and less prodigiously than
in the past. California’s persistent drought could not be
ignored, either, by the man reputed to be the biggest farmer in
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis
Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million
people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a
picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in
beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Over the last five years, more than 250 groundwater
sustainability agencies have formed to manage groundwater at
the local level and dozens of groundwater sustainability plans
are in progress. … So what do we still need to make the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act a success?
Utah’s proposed Lake Powell pipeline will cost less to build
and be easier to permit under a decision announced Wednesday to
cut major hydropower components from the controversial project
that would move 86,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to St.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new
plan to reduce water temperatures for endangered fish in the
Upper Klamath and Lost River watersheds, though it could come
at a price for farmers and ranchers.
On the Changala family farm in Tulare County, the past and
future are separated by a dirt road and a barbed-wire fence. On
the south side sits a wheat field. On the north, a solar farm,
built three years ago, sending electricity to thousands of
Southern Californians. Alan Changala sees little difference
between the two.
When the Coachella Valley became a hub of tourism in the 20th
century, spas and resorts were built around springs, whose
unusually lithium-rich waters were touted as therapeutic. There
are more than 20 such establishments in the 30 square miles
that make up Desert Hot Springs, one of which is the
recently-refreshed Two Bunch Palms resort.
If the battle against climate change has a front line, the
shore of San Francisco Bay might be it. At the County Parks
Marina in Alviso, trucks rolled in like an armored column,
delivering tons of dirt that will eventually be used to build a
4-mile-long sea wall.
Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about
to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink
agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of
acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other
non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change,
meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
The Santa Fe Irrigation District board recommended moving
forward with a new five-tier rate structure for its proposed
three percent water rate increase. The board is expected to
make a final decision on the rates by January 2020 to ensure
the financial stability of the district and meet its objectives
of equity across customer classes and encouraging conservation.
As populations in the West rise, managers of our precious water
supplies have to figure out how to deal with increasing demand
in the midst of climate change. In Southern Nevada, we rely on
the Colorado River. But the Truckee River is the lifeline in
Northern Nevada, and climate change is affecting them in a much
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
This is supposed to be a beautiful beach, but instead it looks
like a disaster area because a sea wall built about a decade
ago to protect homes has failed. Now property owners are
spending millions to fix it.
The lawsuit … argues that the changes undertaken by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries
Service are unlawful. Endangered species protections are
bedrock environmental law, and California leaders warned that
less protection will leave threatened species at risk of
extinction. California is leading the suit along with
Massachusetts and Maryland. Altogether, 17 states have signed
on, along with New York City and the District of Columbia.
At the August meeting of the California Water Commission, Karla
Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR),
spoke to the commissioners about the Department’s strategic
plan and the work underway on the Delta conveyance project,
which she noted nests into the strategic plan as a key feature
of what needs to be done to modernize the State Water Project.
Arctic ice is melting faster than expected and is contributing
to a global climate crisis that will include stronger storms,
longer droughts and an alarming increase in the marine heat
waves that recently ravaged the ocean ecosystem along the West
Coast, an international panel revealed Wednesday.
California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris
Scheuring said the strong 2019 water year should not distract
from “the public-policy issues that never go away in California
water.” Scheuring said he thinks water deliveries may remain
good for the next year or two, but farmers should be prepared
for another multiyear drought.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bay Area
conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency
Tuesday for failing to protect Redwood City’s salt ponds under
the Clean Water Act, a decision they say will harm the San
Francisco Bay ecosystem.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was once one of the lushest
marshlands in the state. The peat-rich soil made it an ideal
place for some of the state’s first farms to pop up. Today,
scientists are hacking their way through thick brush to see if
restoring these marshes is a way to reduce carbon dioxide in
NRDC just released two analyses that look at how state water
pollution control and public health officials deal with one of
the most significant causes of nitrogen and phosphorus
pollution and one of the most important effects of nitrogen and
Starting next January, the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act will require farmers to gradually rein in the amount of
groundwater they pump from their wells. It could devastate the
economy of the entire San Joaquin Valley. In a region where
agriculture is king — and the ability to extract the water
beneath one’s soil has been practically a birthright — a
difficult reckoning is coming.
Lawns cool the air, reduce urban heat-island effect, remove
pollutants, and provide play spaces. … From a design
standpoint, they make uncluttered views, provide background and
contrast for flowers, and create our outdoor living spaces.
Historically, lawns provided all those benefits at high cost,
literally and environmentally.
It’s been nearly a decade since California ordered coastal
power plants to stop using seawater for cooling, a process that
kills fish and other marine life. But now state officials may
extend the life of several facilities that still suck billions
of gallons from the ocean each day.
An improved understanding of cannabis cultivators’ water use
practices is a particularly pressing need. Given the propensity
of cannabis growers to establish farms in small, upper
watersheds, where streams that support salmonids and other
sensitive species are vulnerable to dewatering, significant
concerns have been raised over the potential impacts of
diverting surface water for cannabis cultivation.
Because harmful algae blooms have increased significantly over
the past 40 years and are now found in every state in the
country, NRDC set out to find out how states are tracking this
growing menace and how (and whether) states are educating and
warning the public of the threats posed by toxic algae. … To
our dismay, 16 states reported no data at all.
A white egret delicately dips its beak into a small puddle. A
mother otter and pups dive and roll in a clear, still pool.
Tiny minnows dart in the shady shallows. And all of this takes
place a stone’s throw from backyards and byways. Our local
creeks and streams are literal rivers of life flowing through
Sonoma County communities.
Trucking juvenile hatchery salmon downstream is often used in
the California Central Valley to reduce mortality during their
perilous swim to the ocean. But is it all good? Researchers …
published an article in Fisheries this month exploring the
history and implications of salmon trucking in a changing
Total and per-capita water use in Southern Nevada has declined
over the last decade, even as the region’s population has
increased by 14%. But water use among the biggest water users —
some of the valley’s wealthiest, most prominent residents — has
Free water is available to Needles residents who happen to live
in one of the areas the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has
determined to have earned prior perfected water rights (PPR):
Well-drilling, pumping, piping and treating not included.
Neighbors within an area must agree on an equitable plan for
distribution of the water.
By any reckoning, the steelhead trout won a significant legal
victory this week, along with CalTrout and the Environmental
Defense Center, which have been arguing the case for two
decades. But it remains uncertain exactly how much more water
will have to be released downstream from Lake Cachuma to create
a habitat wet enough along the main stem of the Santa Ynez
River for the federally endangered fish to wage a meaningful
Individual members of any species can vary dramatically,
something tied to genetic differences. That diversity comes in
handy when environmental conditions change. The drought, heat
and beetle outbreaks in recent years put extreme pressure on
sugar pines, creating a natural experiment that weeded out all
but the toughest.
In an effort to open the spigot on recycled water in the
region, Palo Alto and Santa Clara Valley Water are exploring a
deal that would send the city’s wastewater to a treatment plant
elsewhere in the county, where it would be treated, transformed
into potable water and potentially resold to the city for its
residents and businesses.
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
The regulation called for a particulate matter filter on diesel
engines based on the vehicle’s model year. The filters can be
used for up to eight years, but they had to be installed by
Jan. 1, 2014. … “Our whole town of Acton and Agua Dulce are
basically going to be out of water with no means to get water
to you guys,” Amber Demyen, owner of Acton Water Co. …
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
When water is diverted from rivers, the remaining water moves
more slowly and warms more easily. Algae and bacteria thrive in
warm, stagnant water and are more likely to grow in excess,
increasing the chances of a HAB event.
While farm and private property interests cheered,
environmental groups last week bemoaned the Trump
administration finalizing the repeal of the controversial
“Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, rule. We see little to
cheer or jeer at this point, as the repeal is hardly the final
chapter in a dispute that has stretched on for nearly 10 years.
A dozen kayakers paddled down the tree-lined, sandy-bottomed
Los Angeles River in late August, running their hands through
sycamore and willow leaves and gliding over carp and steelhead
trout as traffic noise from the nearby 405 Freeway buzzed
Most farmers haven’t heard about the recent report from the UN,
even though it deals with climate change and land use and
features agriculture prominently. But we don’t need to read the
science — we are living it.
Reaction has been predictably mixed to a new report that
concludes the Monterey Peninsula may be able to get by with
recycled water instead of desalinated water for the next two
decades and perhaps beyond.
Our beaches, bays and waterways are central to who we are as
San Diegans and to our unique way of life. But in a heavily
urbanized region clean water doesn’t just happen; it takes hard
work and stewardship.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
There is not enough water to support important wetlands and
springs in a semi-arid desert ecosystem that straddles the
Nevada-Utah border if all permitted and proposed groundwater
rights are put to use, according to a U.S. Geological Survey
study of the Snake Valley. There also may not be enough
groundwater to satisfy the desires of the Las Vegas area, whose
water agencies have eyed the valley for decades…
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Dr. Jim Cloern is a recently retired senior scientist emeritus
at the US Geological Survey who has spent his career learning
how estuaries respond to human activities and variability of
the climate system. In this brown bag seminar, Dr. Cloern gives
specific examples of how local, regional, and global scale
processes affect the San Francisco Bay and Delta.
From New York City to coastal California, a poison-producing
living slime is overtaking waterways and shorelines, killing
pets, ravaging tourism markets and making its way into local
drinking water. So far this year, algae has been implicated in
dog deaths and illness in California, Georgia, North Carolina
Every degree of warming is expected to worsen what, in many
ways, is already a crisis for the state’s multibillion-dollar
agricultural industry. And a crisis here is a problem
everywhere, given that California produces 50% of the nation’s
fruits and vegetables and 90% of its nut crops.
Recent years have brought severe droughts that have forced
farmers to become more efficient with water use. With nearby
Silicon Valley teeming with the promise of efficiency and
data-fueled intelligence, a natural relationship between
technology and agriculture has developed.
Last week, the Legislature acted to thwart President Donald
Trump on water matters by passing a bill to essentially
pre-empt the execution of federal environmental law. The
Metropolitan Water District opposed Senate Bill 1 because it
would have unleashed rounds of state-federal litigation, and
would have likely brought 13 years of effort to a halt. Gov.
Gavin Newsom has signaled he plans to veto the measure.
After years of scientific progress, regulatory wrangling,
political ups and downs, and searching for the money, San Diego
is getting ready to get to work on a multi-part,
multibillion-dollar project that will eventually provide a
third of the city’s drinking water.
Anthony Myint vividly recalls the moment he encountered the
idea that would shift his life’s path. In 2014, the San
Francisco chef and his wife and business partner, Karen
Leibowitz, visited California carbon ranching pioneer John Wick
at Nicasio Native Grass Ranch in Marin County.
State officials have ordered increased water flows on the Santa
Ynez River in Santa Barbara County to protect steelhead trout,
which are endangered in Southern California. The State Water
Resources Control Board action follows two decades of legal
efforts to address long-term declines in native fish
populations in the Santa Ynez.
From flooded neighborhoods and roads to disappearing beaches
and crumbling bluffs, Orange County faces a range of drastic
losses as a result of rising sea levels, according to a
presentation to the state Coastal Commission on Friday.
Commissioners will decide later about whether the long-planned,
reconfigured Cambria Pines Apartments project (32
affordable-housing apartments and a manager’s unit) should move
forward, given Cambria’s current water-supply issues and other
The Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency … discussed
reasons why the area will reduce pumping in the future to meet
its sustainability goals as it moves toward 2040. Cities can
expect considerable pumping fee increases per acre-feet of
water and can have far-reaching effects on the local economy.
Through a $3 million contract with the California State Water
Resources Board, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will
conduct a statewide drinking water needs analysis to identify
risks and solutions for water systems and private wells
throughout the state.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has more non-native species
than native ones, and its estuary is considered the most
invaded in the world. We talked to Jim Cloern—an emeritus
scientist with the US Geological Survey and an adjunct fellow
at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about this challenge.
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Most Californians turn on their taps without thinking about
where the water comes from or if that flow might trickle out
someday. They may not realize how local, state, and even
federal water managers work together to ensure a steady water
supply now and in the future.
A concerted effort to put a $4 billion bond measure for safe
drinking water, drought preparation, wildfire prevention, and
climate resilience on the March 2020 ballot in California died
quietly in the state legislature last week. But the bond
measure proposal will rise again early in the new year…
Here’s a weird fact: There is no industry standard for how much
water a cannabis plant requires. Four gallons a day? Six?
Growers are left to ask their friends, look at possibly-dicey
web sites, and experiment for themselves. Growers of tomatoes
or corn, meanwhile, can easily find such information by looking
it up on the USDA’s web site, or asking their local extension
An intensifying marine heat wave in the northeastern Pacific
Ocean has triggered government warnings about harm to salmon
and other fisheries along the U.S. West Coast, and it’s raising
concerns about hurricane risks to the Hawaiian islands and
wildfire risks in California.
Steelhead trout … trapping is taking place in an undisclosed
portion of Gaviota Creek in Goleta where the water is drying
up. There are more than a dozen barriers that restrict the
movement of the fish when they get trapped below them.
There’s a lot to like about the Bay Area’s efforts to prepare
for sea level rise: the collaborative efforts, the detailed
studies and, laudably, the voters who are willing to tax
themselves with an eye to future needs. But if the long-term
threat is as grim as scientific projections indicate, local
experts say the region needs to respond with increased urgency
— an urgency that is at odds with the Bay Area’s often
cumbersome decision-making processes.
Something is amiss on Sherman Island, a whale-shaped swath of
farm and grazing land at the confluence of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers. If you don’t know what ails the place, it
might be hard to pinpoint the problem.
For San Franciscans … there are new worries for the city.
Fires now burn more regularly across the Sierra Nevada as well
as coastal mountain ranges. The flames may ruin plans for
weekend getaways to Yosemite or deliver noxious smoke to the
Bay Area. And locals may start to reach for air masks as
dangerously smoky days become more common.
The state’s moves open up more opportunities for extension of
drinking water service, operations and maintenance for domestic
wells, and even demands action for Salton Sea conservation. The
myriad issues east valley residents face are exacerbated by the
public health impacts of the receding Salton Sea.
Salmon and steelhead that were once abundant in this great
watershed are now at risk of extinction, a preventable disaster
that can be averted by moving forward with the planned removal
of four aging hydroelectric dams. While the Klamath River was
once the third-largest salmon producer on the west coast, its
fish runs have been declining for decades.
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
The city of South Gate plans to transform a weedy and rutted
field overlooking an industrialized stretch of the Los Angeles
River into a sylvan retreat boasting a nursery for rare native
fish that thrived before the explosive growth of Southern
California after World War II.
Heather Hansman’s new book Downriver: Into the Future of Water
in the West explores the water emergency with remarkable calm
and even-handedness. She focuses on a single river, the Green
River, where ranchers, frackers, rafters, fishermen, and
urbanites all fight for their share of the water, while
contending with Byzantine state policies.
The groundbreaking ceremony was decades in the making for the
North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Plant, which aims to
convert brackish water from the Calleguas Creek watershed into
potable water for the city of Camarillo.
The Metropolitan Water District’s new rebate program is still
about removing grass, but it has a tighter focus on improving
the looks and sustainability of our collective front yards. And
it pays $2 for every square foot of lawn you remove, even more
in some areas where local water agencies supplement the rebate.
Efforts to increase recycled water use in California got a
significant boost this week with the State Water Board’s
issuance of an order authorizing the Sacramento Regional County
Sanitation District’s program to deliver an average of 45
million gallons per day of recycled water from the Sacramento
Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant …
Completion and operation of the much-anticipated Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project have been delayed again and it
is now expected to miss another key water delivery deadline set
for the end of this year.
The three-year Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program
(SCPP) started out modestly, with just 15 participating farms
and ranches the first year, but grew quickly as farmers
realized they could earn passive income for changing their
irrigation patterns, turning off the water they diverted from
the river earlier in the year when it carries more snowmelt,
and—in a few cases—fallowing some fields all together.
Because there are moral, aesthetic, and legal obligations to
provide fish with water in streams, biologists like me often
get asked the question “Just how much water do the fish need,
anyway?” This, of course, is the wrong question…
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
The project would build a new dam and expanded reservoir on the
North Fork of Pacheco Creek that could hold 140,000 acre-feet
of water, a substantial increase from the 5,500-acre-foot
capacity of the existing reservoir built 80 years ago.
It didn’t take long for the completion of the Drought
Contingency Plan to create value to Arizona and the Colorado
River Basin. Its focus on stabilizing Lake Mead and creating
incentives to “bank” water in the reservoir already are paying
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.
If we don’t manage groundwater pumping, levels of groundwater
as well as rivers and streams will decline, compromising the
wildlife, farms and cities that depend on them. By managing our
groundwater with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, we
are plugging leaks in the system.
In 2015, the Board of Supervisors gave initial approval to a
$58 million shoreline protection program to protect SFO from
sea-level rise. But on Wednesday, the board’s Budget and
Finance Committee approved an updated program that will now
cost $587.1 million. City officials attributed the increase to
new sea-level rise estimates and guidelines issued by the State
The flood insurance program has been plagued for years by
outdated maps of at-risk flood zones and billions of dollars in
accumulating debt, compounded by rising sea levels and
increasingly powerful storms strengthened by warming oceans.
… The result is that insurance premiums fail to reflect the
true risks to properties…
The Trump administration, under Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt, is finalizing plans to rip up restrictions on
diverting Northern California water to its friends in the
agricultural industry in the dry western San Joaquin
Valley. However, some of the state’s biggest water
districts oppose SB 1, hoping Trump administration efforts will
translate into increased water diversions.
The new marine heatwave, which started spreading out from the
Gulf of Alaska in June and now covers much of the Pacific
Ocean, has not yet fully become The Blob 2, particularly in
California. Which means the effects, too, might not be as dire
as last time.
The common reed, Phragmites australis, is one of the most
invasive plants in the world, and its numbers are widespread in
Suisun Marsh. … Phragmites can change ecosystem structure by
increasing tidal habitat elevations and reducing overall
habitat quality, including disturbing the food chain by driving
out native plants in the Delta that support wildlife such as
waterfowl and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
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.
In March, newly-elected Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger)
proposed a $400 million windfall to finance repairs for the
canal under Senate Bill 559… But the bipartisan bill, much
like canal it was designed to fix, is sunk — for now. The bill
failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote before the Sept. 13
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the
bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego,
acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from
consideration until next year.
A California State University, Monterey Bay professor will
receive a substantial grant from the Defense Department to find
methods to harness fog. … The DoD is interested in the study
… which may be useful for military personnel in remote foggy
Although its target was narrow — it was designed to undercut
the capacity of Cadiz, Inc. to pump annually upwards of 16
billion gallons of groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County
and sell it to ever-thirsty Southern California — the
legislation may prove to be far-reaching in its consequences.
On Thursday, the Trump administration plans to scrap the
Obama-era definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United
States” under the Clean Water Act, returning the country to
standards put in place in 1986. … EPA Administrator Andrew
Wheeler said the administration will finalize a new definition
for which water bodies deserve federal protection within a
matter of months…
Water managers across the state face new and more extreme
challenges as the climate warms—from balancing the sometimes
conflicting needs of urban, agricultural, and environmental
water users to reducing risks from fires, floods, and droughts.
We talked to Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County
Water Agency, about how his agency is approaching these
challenges comprehensively, at the scale of the entire
A major groundwater sustainability study was approved by the
Butte County Board of Supervisors which will look at different
aspects into future water allocations and conservation in Butte
County, including the possibility of building a pipeline from
Paradise to Chico.
In a new effort to balance California’s water needs, Gov. Gavin
Newsom has directed state agencies to prepare a water plan
known as the California Water Resilience Portfolio that
includes “a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient
The blue ocean has turned a rusty red in Manhattan Beach — but
what is causing this change in color? The red tide, as it’s
called, is from an algal bloom, according to Valerie Hill,
administrative and development director at the Roundhouse
Aquarium off the Manhattan Beach Pier.
We cannot advance the fight for environmental quality by
declaring that all science stopped on a specific date. If it’s
dumb for the President to close his eyes to science, it’s
dumber for us to follow him down that rabbit hole.
Presently, three (Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Diego) of the
top ten most populous cities in the US–home to about 7 million
people–are within ‘extremely high’ water stress regions. …
Twenty years from now, another four cities (New York, Chicago,
San Antonio, and San Jose) may experience such conditions.
The mass of unusually warm water, known officially as the
Northeast Pacific Marine Heatwave of 2019, is the second
largest in 40 years. Experts say it is behaving in the same way
and is on a trajectory to be as strong as the infamous blob
that disrupted the entire West Coast ocean ecosystem from 2014
The state’s drought response was seen by some as an
overwhelming success and by others as an unprecedented, and
possibly illegal, invasion of local water suppliers’
management… Through analyzing the practical outcomes of the
state’s drought response, the overall experience can be
distilled into what worked and what didn’t.
Of all the chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas that will determine
Paradise’s recovery from the Camp Fire, water may be the most
critical. To rebuild, the town needs water from the Paradise
Irrigation District. To survive, PID needs the town to rebuild.
One can’t happen without the other, and it’s been tough to
figure out how it’s going to work.
Forecasts of strong winds in Southern California this week have
heightened concerns that the state’s fire season, tame in its
early stages compared to the devastation of last year,
could swing into destructive, even deadly mode.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
According to a draft of the Utah Regional Water Conservation
Plan, the Lower Colorado River South region … is slated to
reduce water use 14%, to 262 gallons per capita by 2030 and
ultimately 22%, with 237 gallons per capita by 2065. … New
laws and ordinances may be passed to help enforce reduced water
“We never were a people that would fight fire,” said William
Tripp, the Karuk Tribe’s eco-cultural restoration specialist.
“We worked with fire. Fire was inevitable and still is and
forever will be on this landscape and many landscapes like it.”
That’s why the Karuk Tribe is making the use of fire a central
component of its climate adaptation plan.
Wildfires in California leave behind acres of scorched land
that make snowpack formation easier and more water runoff
downstream from the Sierra Nevada to basins in the Central
Valley, increasing the amount of water stored underground.
That’s the finding from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory, who discovered that blazes in some parts
of the state could result in more water availability.
Utilities typically turn to groundwater to make up for surface
water depleted by drought. University of Arizona hydrology
professor Laura Condon is using computer models to predict what
climate change will do to the availability of groundwater. She
is exploring a series of “what if” scenarios on how to respond
to water shortages.
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
The board easily approved a cooperation agreement with Butte
County and the California Water Service Company on an Intertie
feasibility study. … The intertie helps Paradise Irrigation
District restore revenue lost when the Camp Fire destroyed
about 90 percent of its customers.
The city of Ukiah made its first delivery of recycled water
through its extensive Purple Pipe system this week, putting
about 2 million gallons of water reclaimed from local sinks,
showers and toilets into an irrigation pond just south of the
Ukiah Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant.
More than $670 million in water projects … are options under
a draft plan for helping get the Salinas Valley Basin to
sustainability by 2040. A draft Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability plan includes 13 projects ranging
from Salinas River invasive species eradication … to a
seawater intrusion barrier using a series of wells to head off
saltwater contamination …
The water beneath a large swath of Phoenix isn’t fit to drink.
A plume of toxic chemicals has tainted the groundwater for
decades, and it’s now at the center of a bitter fight over how
the aquifer should be cleaned up and what should happen to the
water in the future.
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
Tucson’s below average rainfall for August, which is typically
the wettest month during monsoon season, might mean it’s time
to face the music and prepare for a potential short-term
drought, according to local weather experts.
A team of scientists has successfully teased out the influence
of human-caused climate change on wintertime precipitation over
the last century, showing that the warming climate altered
wintertime rainfall and snowfall across the Northern
Groundwater in Ventura County had a severe talk about
reductions as the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency held
its fourth workshop about the future. The proposed new plan
will commence in 2020 and will start slow but will ramp up and
reduce groundwater pumping in the area significantly.
However, this is brackish water. For a few months we will see
it in the Colorado below Morelos Dam, reminding us of the river
that once flowed there. It is agricultural drainage that comes
from farms in southwestern Arizona that use the Colorado River
to irrigate in the desert.
Over the past 200 years, California has lost 97% of its wetland
habitat. The Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, part of the UC’s
Natural Reserve System, represents about 3% of what remains of
California’s coastal wetlands. Due to a century of draining for
land use and land development, the marsh has dwindled to 230
Recently, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion
on the future of California water featuring Secretary Wade
Crowfoot, Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, and
State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre.
According to a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson,
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has identified existing
groundwater wells construction contractors can use. In
addition, the contractor has proposed drilling new wells along
the border for the wall project. Currently, the construction
contractor estimates needing about 84,000 gallons of water per
day for the project.
DWR is currently overseeing five habitat restoration projects
in Suisun Marsh. In October 2019, one of these projects, the
Tule Red Tidal Habitat Restoration Project – which converts
approximately 600 acres of existing managed wetland into tidal
habitat – is expected to finish construction.
A massive marine heat wave that caused record warming of ocean
waters off the West Coast five years ago, sending salmon
numbers crashing and malnourished sea lions washing up on
beaches across California and other Pacific states, is back,
scientists said Thursday.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t go through something, go
around it. And at an estimated cost of $357 million, the Friant
Water Authority is contemplating a 30-mile parallel canal to
circumvent the portion of the Friant Kern Canal that has been
negatively affected by subsidence.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
As a region, Humboldt County has the “highest rate of relative
sea level rise” on the United States’ West Coast, according to
data compiled by the county’s planning and building department.
The data indicate that even one meter of sea level rise would
top nearly 60% of the structures protecting Humboldt Bay’s
Nevada and Arizona, concerned that a 20-year drought has dried
up much of the river, are trying to rein in water use in an
effort to save the disappearing river. The river’s water levels
next year are projected to be just below the threshold of 1,090
feet laid out in the Drought Contingency Plan that was signed
earlier this year…
In the Sacramento River near Redding this spring, water
districts, government agencies and others collaborated to
construct the Market Street Gravel Project to benefit fish. …
Reclamation District 108 Deputy Manager William Vanderwaal said
that to complete the $429,000 project, 12,000 tons of gravel
were placed into the river and developed as new spawning
habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
At its Aug. 5 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously
approved a letter of support for California Water Service’s
effort to eliminate water suppliers’ liability due to
wildfires. California Water Service, which operates Visalia and
22 other municipal water systems throughout the state, says the
threat of legal action against water suppliers is “arcane”
legal reasoning and could actually put water users at risk.
When Omar Yaghi was growing up in Jordan, outside of Amman, his
neighborhood received water for only about 5 hours once every 2
weeks. … At a meeting last week here, in another area
thirsting for freshwater, Yaghi, a chemist at the University of
California, Berkeley, reported that he and his colleagues have
created a solar-powered device that could provide water for
millions in water-stressed regions.
A new study by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory uses a numerical model of an important watershed in
California to shed light on how wildfires can affect
large-scale hydrological processes, such as stream flow,
groundwater levels, and snowpack and snowmelt. The team found
that post-wildfire conditions resulted in greater winter
snowpack and subsequently greater summer runoff as well as
increased groundwater storage.
Crowfoot oversees a sprawling agency of 19,000 employees
engaged in the stewardship of the state’s forests and natural
lands, rivers and waterways, coast and ocean, fish and wildlife
and energy development. Now in its 36th year, the Water Summit
features a variety of policymakers, experts and stakeholders
discussing important topics in water across California and the
A high-profile series of dog deaths has awakened the public to
the growing problem of toxic algal blooms, spurred by rising
temperatures and pollution. The blooms are emerging as a
national, not just regional, concern, according to preliminary
data reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
With every passing week, California American Water clears more
hurdles as it sets out to build a desalination plant near
Marina. The most recent victory for the proponents of the $329
million project came on Aug. 28 at the California Supreme
The Bonneville Power Administration, the independent federal
agency that sells the electricity produced by the dams, is
careening toward a financial cliff. BPA is $15 billion in debt,
facing a rapidly changing energy market increasingly dominated
by wind and solar and a desperate need to maintain aging
infrastructure that’s expected to cost $300 million to maintain
and upgrade by 2023.
For perhaps the first time in 80 years the California State
Lands Commission … faced a decision this summer between
competing ideas for the same parcel. The commission staff
announced at the end of August that it will enter negotiations
to lease a shoreline parcel for a park in Burlingame,
potentially shaping the way the lands commission considers sea
level rise in its decision-making, and the way the Bay
shoreline is developed in the future.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order to develop
a comprehensive strategy for making the state’s water system
climate-resilient. … In a related study
published earlier this year, Stanford researchers
Newsha Ajami and Patricia (Gonzales) Whitby examined
effective strategies to rising water scarcity concerns.
A few years ago, Paul Kehmeier did something unusual: He
decided not to water about 60% of his fields. He was one of a
few dozen farmers and landowners in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah,
and New Mexico who volunteered for a pilot program meant to
test out a new water-conservation strategy: Paying farmers to
temporarily leave their fields dry, to save the Colorado River.