Drought— an extended period of limited or no precipitation— is a
fact of life in California and the West, with water resources
following boom-and-bust patterns.
No portion of the West has been immune to drought during the last
century and drought occurs with much greater frequency in the
West than in other regions of the country.
Most of the West experiences what is classified as severe to
extreme drought more than 10 percent of the time, and a
significant portion of the region experiences severe to extreme
drought more than 15 percent of the time, according to the
National Drought Mitigation Center.
Experts who have studied recent droughts say a drought occurs
about once every 10 years somewhere in the United States.
Droughts are believed to be the most costly of all natural
disasters because of their widespread effects on agriculture and
related industries, as well as on urbanized areas. One of those
decennial droughts could cost as much as $38 billion, according
to one estimate.
Because droughts cannot be prevented, experts are looking for
better ways to forecast them and new approaches to managing
droughts when they occur.
Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for much of the
U.S. this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
… Drier-than-average conditions are most likely for
Louisiana, parts of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and
Oklahoma as well areas of northern and central California.
Imperial County is seeking to declare a public health
emergency at the Salton Sea … aiming to force Gov. Gavin
Newsom and federal officials to free up emergency funds
and take immediate action to tamp down dangerous dust.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
In an update to the water district board of directors this
week, officials from both agencies described how Soquel Creek
will expand its distribution of city water to a greater part of
its service area this winter.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The coming winter is likely to be dry in California, and
drought conditions may begin to emerge in the central part of
the state, federal climate experts warned Thursday. But
forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration also said weather patterns are fickle this year,
and there’s no clear sign that another prolonged drought like
the one that squeezed California earlier this decade will
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
Growing berries can be a water intensive proposition, with the
added challenge that prime growing regions are often located in
areas of high water stress: Eighty percent of Driscoll’s
acreage globally can be found in California and Mexico, regions
which coincide with significant water risks to businesses and
the communities in which they operate.
Audubon California’s Salton Sea Program Director Frank Ruiz
served as the guide for this trip. Ruiz says the Salton
Sea is receding at an alarming rate, about 6-inches a year,
exposing toxic lake bed which is evident from the air.
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
When California’s historic five-year drought finally relented a
few years ago the tally of dead trees in the Sierra Nevada was
higher than almost anyone expected: 129 million. … But some
trees did survive the test of heat and drought. Now, scientists
are racing to collect them, and other species around the globe,
in the hope that these “climate survivors” have a natural
advantage that will allow them to better cope with a warming
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
The ample rainfall in Marin County this past water year has
acted as a double-edged sword. While the storms that touched
down in the winter and spring filled reservoirs and moistened
vegetation, they also created more fire fuel that is now
beginning to fully dry out during what firefighters are calling
a critical period in the fire season.
Deadly fires across California over the past several years have
shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and
safety issue. Health effects from fires close to or in
populated areas range from smoke exposure to drinking water
contaminated by chemicals like benzene to limited options for
the medically vulnerable. These kinds of threats are becoming
major, statewide concerns.
The Ventura City Council approved a $200 million-plus plan
Monday that will give the city more drinking water and greatly
reduce the treated wastewater its sewer plant releases into the
Santa Clara River estuary. The big-ticket item in the city’s
plan is a new plant that will take wastewater that once went
into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards…
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
The reasons are twofold. First, a big Sierra snowpack (the
fifth largest since 1950) meant a larger allocation via the
California State Water Project – a 75 percent allocation (which
is really bigger than it sounds – it’s a big allocation).
Second, Met’s become much more nimble in conserving water and
juggling the various supplies within its service territory.
Lake Mendocino made it through a typically long, hot summer
with an abundance of water and now, thanks to an ongoing
experiment with high-tech weather forecasting, the reservoir
can retain more water through the winter, benefiting people,
fish and farmers along the Russian River.
In Arizona, the mountainous city of Flagstaff normally gets 8.3
inches of rain in monsoon season but had 2.08 inches — the
driest in more than 120 years of record keeping. The Grand
Canyon airport, Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Nation and Show Low
also had record low rainfall.
Kings County’s groundwater management will begin a 20-year
transformation in 2020. Five local groundwater agencies
presented more information behind the groundwater
sustainability plan in a public outreach meeting Thursday
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has called a halt to
work on the California American Water desalination plant
project, at least temporarily, while a California Coastal
Commission appeal challenging the project’s source wells is
The court denied the petitioner’s challenge, which questioned
the validity of the county’s Environmental Impact Report,
according to the Statement of Decision. Crystal Geyser
purchased the former Coca Cola water bottling facility on Ski
Village Drive in 2013 with hopes of bottle sparkling spring
water and eventually producing Juice Squeeze drinks there.
The number of wildfires burning across the western United
States over the past 6 decades has been steadily increasing,
and those fires are growing larger and more severe, especially
in mountain areas where more than 65% of clean water resources
for the West’s 75 million people originate. What happens when
fires intersect water resources is the subject of two new
papers in Hydrological Processes.
Arizona’s top water official presented new long-term
projections Friday showing that Pinal County doesn’t have
enough groundwater to provide for the fast-growing area’s
cities, farms and many planned subdivisions over the coming
While Southern Californians appreciate the work that’s needed
to provide a consistent water supply, most people carry on with
their busy lives as long as water comes out of the taps.
Because water pipelines are out of sight, they are also mostly
out of mind. But try to imagine for a moment a day when water
didn’t just flow from the faucets.
In its effort to establish a new, drought-proof source of water
that could serve a half-million Southern California homes, the
Metropolitan Water District on Thursday, Oct. 10 unveiled a $17
million pilot plant that will bring wastewater to drinkable
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
Drainage in Southern California was built around getting storm
water to the ocean quickly, but we now know that slowing down
these flows and encouraging water to soak into the groundwater
basin is preferable.
California’s largest inland lake, the Salton Sea, lies in the
Imperial and Coachella valleys. The lake, which is more than 50
percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean, is becoming more salt
than water because it’s essentially evaporating. The lake and
the area that surrounds it — once hotspots for tourism and
wildlife — have essentially become ghost towns.
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
For the first time in five years, Tustin is looking at passing
along those increases to consumers through a rise in rates.
Early next year, the City Council will vote on a multi-year,
incremental rate hike. If council members approve the staff
proposal, rates almost immediately will increase 6% per year
for five years.
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the
No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year
drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s
recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western
end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their
farming or let fields go fallow.
Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet
broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique
opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively
integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit
water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
Whenever I visit my hometown of Orange County, California, I
get to sip some of the purest drinking water in the US. The
quality is sometimes hard to spot, since many drinking-water
contaminants are odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the
human eye. Even in cities where the water is contaminated with
lead, residents have reported that their taps are crystal
clear. But in Orange County, the water is actually as clean as
Areas under Clean Water Act, or CWA, jurisdiction are not
prohibited from being filled for development, but if developed,
the act does require federal oversight, permitting and full
mitigation for any loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Removing CWA protections would likely make the 1,400-acre salt
pond site more profitable to develop, and thus more difficult
to purchase for tidal marsh restoration.
Hotter-burning wildfires are transforming California’s forests,
and not for the better. A new study from UC Davis finds
high-intensity fires leave fewer trees and a less diverse
population of plants behind. … Those intense fires transform
forest into shrubland. And according to Richter, the more
frequent and the larger the area burned at these high-severity
sites, the larger the shrub fields left behind.
Over the past decade, state and federal agencies have continued
to publish peer reviewed scientific research that largely
strengthens our understanding of how the volume, timing,
temperature, and quality of water – and the operations of
existing dams and water diversion facilities, including the
state and federal water projects – adversely affect salmon and
other fish and wildlife.
In July of 2015, California’s forests began to crumple. Parched
from more than three years of severe drought, trees died in
droves, transforming entire swaths of the Sierra Nevada from
vibrant green to dull, lifeless red. … But as Mukesh Kumar
and his colleagues would discover, California’s trees had
sounded a subtle death knell long before they breathed their
The loss of oyster reefs in the bay has affected its entire
ecosystem. Oysters are natural filter feeders, filtering out
small sediments and contaminants in the water. The unclean
water has made it difficult for underwater grass to grow,
reducing habitats for fish. The California Shellfish Initiative
… works to advance local restoration plans for the bay,
partnering with the California Coastal Conservancy to rebuild
its native oyster reefs and wetlands.
The ambitious tree-planting project falls under the purview of
Rachel Malarich, the city’s forest officer—a job that was just
created in August to “oversee the growth of Los Angeles’ urban
forest” as part of Garcetti’s Green New Deal. … The project
will grow what’s already the largest urban forest in the
country, making what happens in Los Angeles an important model
for other cities looking to go green.
For E. Joaquin Esquivel, California has made great strides in
fighting climate change and transitioning to a cleaner energy
sector. Now, he said, it’s water’s turn. “Water, I think, is
ready for that moment,” said Esquivel, the chairman of the
California State Water Resources Control Board who took over
from longtime chair Felicia Marcus in February.
As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have
been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. … We are
now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource,
unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater
resources for both the next decade and future generations.
Here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by
several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability
agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture. So
rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed…
The project is the first of its kind to tap agricultural
run-off among a variety of wastewater sources for conversion
into potable, drinking water that would represent about a third
of the Monterey Peninsula’s new drinking water supply.
On a biological scale, 20 years is like the blink of an eye —
if not faster. But for San Francisco marine biology
researchers, 20 years is priceless in what it can tell about
the changing nature of the bay’s wildlife, especially in the
face of a changing climate.
Scientists have increasingly found that loss of property and
life from fire is overwhelmingly the result of precariously
placed housing in and bordering wildland areas — residential
developments that are, themselves, a major driver sparking
Katie Fyhrie, a grower at Cloverleaf Farm in Davis, Calif.,
worries that the farm won’t be able to keep producing stone
fruits—which depend on the timing and duration of winter
chill—in the long-term. … With that in mind, Fyhrie and her
team have started growing elderberries.
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and
unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers,
policymakers and the public better understand growing practices
since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became
legal for recreational use.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
Based on the most detailed data they have available, the East
Kaweah has a supply of 125,000 acre feet per year of ground
water available for use without threatening overdraft. However,
Hagman notes that the East Kaweah has overdrafted their portion
of the basin by 28,000 acre feet on average, per year.
Western Municipal Water District, which provides water to
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Rancho California
Water District in southwest Riverside County, won a court
challenge from two excessive water users to share their higher
costs with those who efficiently conserve their water usage and
save on their water bills.
Bird populations in the Mojave Desert have collapsed over the
last century, and now scientists say they know why: The
animals’ bodies can’t cope with the hotter and drier weather
brought on by global warming.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
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.
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
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.
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
PG&E has installed more than 600 weather stations at
locations all across the Sierra foothills in Northern
California and plans to more than double that in the next three
years. … The weather stations provide multiple sets of eyes
on an area that has very dry vegetation with a real danger of
wildfires. They also give PG&E a better handle on when it
may be necessary to de-energize the power lines.
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
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..
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.
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
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.
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.
The Antelope Valley Watermaster gave preliminary approval to
the first two water storage agreements to come before the Board
tasked with overseeing the 2015 court settlement that set
limits on groundwater pumping for users across the Valley.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
We all know it’s important to conserve water, but are we still
in a drought? California water officials say “no!” But a number
of residents in Selma got a notice on their door telling them
we are in a drought and that’s why stage 3 water restrictions
are in place.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The tropical Pacific Ocean probably won’t be particularly warm
or cool this winter, climatologists said Thursday, depriving
forecasters of their best clue to how much snow will pile up in
the Cascade Range and the rest of the Northwest.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
When the next drought rolls around, and it will, we could be
sitting pretty with healthy trees and landscapes using less
water from the Sierra than we do now. How could we accomplish
this? The answer is graywater, defined in California as the
discharge from laundry wash water, showers, and bathroom sinks.
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.
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.
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