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.
More rain and snow area headed to Northern California on
Tuesday, although the storm won’t be nearly enough to make up
for what’s been a relatively dry January. … The Department of
Water Resources’ precipitation index was at 63 percent of
normal for the Valley and Sierra. The Sierra snowpack is 82
percent of normal.
The deaths of the trees, some of which lived through the rise
and fall of hundreds of empires, caliphates and kingdoms – not
to mention the inauguration of every US president – have
shocked researchers in their speed and novelty.
The landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA,
requires some of the state’s thirstiest areas form local
“Groundwater Sustainability Agencies” and submit long-term
plans by Jan. 31 for keeping aquifers healthy. Together, those
plans will add up to a big reveal, as groundwater managers
finally disclose how badly they believe their aquifers are
Inside the dome on top of the Penitencia Water Treatment plant
in San Jose is the first permanent x-band weather radar system
in the Bay Area. “The radar system that you see up there is
collecting crucial data as we speak,” said Norma Camacho, CEO
of Valley Water.“ Camacho joined the San Francisco P.U.C.,
Sonoma Water and other partners in unveiling the new system,
which will improve weather forecasting across the region.
As Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration attempt to
establish a comprehensive and cohesive water policy for the
state, officials are seeking public input on the draft water
resilience portfolio released earlier this month. The document
was issued in response to Newsom’s April 2019 executive order
directing his administration to inventory and assess a wide
range of water-related challenges and solutions.
While Newsom has been forced to address climate change on many
fronts during the past year – think wildfires, blackouts and
automobile standards – the state’s myriad water challenges must
remain a priority. Our state’s water system is decades old and
needs to be re-envisioned for a new era.
UC Merced researchers outline solutions to the severe wildfire
problems in California’s mountain forests and closely linked
water resource challenges in a documentary premiering on KVIE,
the Sacramento affiliate of PBS, later this month. The new film
“Beyond the Brink: California’s Watershed” highlights the
critical need to reverse a century of fire suppression in
Sierra Nevada forests…
Last year, with those recent calamities haunting the state,
officials took some unprecedented steps to avert a devastating
repeat. Did they work? Well, judging by the results tallied at
the end of the year, something went right.
The fires raging in Australia present a sadly recognizable
scenario, a new normal that, after two years of devastating
wildfires in California, we in the United States have become
all too familiar with. Policies intended to return forests to a
more “natural” state with less proactive human management have
created disastrous conditions…
Severe droughts have happened simultaneously in the regions
that supply water to Southern California almost six times per
century on average since 1500, according to new research. The
study is the first to document the duration and frequency of
simultaneous droughts in Southern California’s main water
sources—the Sacramento River basin, the Upper Colorado River
Basin, and local Southern California basins.
Californian almonds will benefit from a new public campaign
next week to capitalise on the explosion in plant-based
eating… However, the environmental reputation of the almond
sector is much less favourable. It was once labelled a
“horticultural vampire” by US magazine New Republic for its
perceived role in California’s most recent droughts.
Right now, the April-July runoff is supposed to be 82% of
average. That compares to 145 % of average in 2019, the
second-best runoff season in the past 20 years, says the
federal Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. Despite last
year’s excellent river flows, most experts also say the
Colorado still faces long-term supply issues…
Every year since 2014, I have petitioned the State Water
Resources Control Board to end the widespread practice of
irrigation, especially of cattle pastures, outside the legal
irrigation season. So far, however, State Water Board staff
have not taken effective action to end the illegal water use
and the resulting degradation of Scott River stream
Because the amount of groundwater pumped out far exceeds what
is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s
groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining
healthy groundwater basins.
As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to
meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to
achieve sustainability. … At ACWA’s fall conference, a panel
discussed the legal framework, different types of groundwater
rights, lessons learned from existing groundwater production
allocation programs, and potential pitfalls …
Along with long-term drought and climate change, the
overcommitment of the Colorado River is a big reason why Lake
Mead has dropped to historic levels in recent years. Fixing it
could be a big problem for Arizona.
Farm organizations welcomed a new water planning document from
state agencies while they analyzed the document’s proposed
strategies. Titled the California Water Resilience Portfolio
and released last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration
described the document as an effort to guide water management
in a way that works for people, the environment and the
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on
Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from
pumping too much from underground basins. … Officials said
the plan also lays out efforts to try to recharge groundwater —
in other words, replace water sucked out from underground.
Consistent with the science developed over the last three
decades, the Newsom administration is pursuing comprehensive,
watershed-wide solutions that address the numerous factors that
limit the abundance of native fish in the Delta. These types of
solutions are the ones that are most likely to achieve the
state’s co-equal goals of the 2009 Delta Reform Act…
California will impose new limits on water usage in the
post-drought era in the coming years — but a claim that
residents will be fined $1,000 starting this year if they
shower and do laundry the same day isn’t true. It wasn’t true
when the state’s new conservation laws were enacted in 2018,
and it isn’t true now — despite a recent report on a Los
Angeles television station …
Citing a lack of action by Congress and the Trump
administration, a group of California Democrats said it’s up to
the state to continue fighting the “existential” threat of
climate change by simultaneously cutting greenhouse gas
emissions and improving the standard of living for low-income
communities and people of color.
These changes will be substantial, multi-faceted, and often
rapid. Some changes will be irreversible. Many changes are
inevitable. Some will say today’s Delta is doomed. It will be
important for California to develop a scientific program that
can help guide difficult policy and management discussions and
decision-making through these challenges.
In the early years of the 20th century, leaders across the West
had big dreams for growth, all of which were tied to taking
water from the Colorado River and moving it across mountains
and deserts. In dividing up the river, they assigned more water
to users than the system actually produces.
Governor Newsom’s administration recently released a draft
Water Resilience Portfolio plan… This plan also emphasizes
diverse relatively precise policy initiatives for state
agencies, often in support of local and regional water
problem-solving and with some aspirations to bring state
agencies together. It is a good read, clearly reflecting
intense and diverse discussions over several months.
State agencies on Friday released a draft water resilience
portfolio with a suite of recommended actions to help
California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising
temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure
and other challenges.
Another water war is getting underway. This time we are not
fighting California. It’s a family feud right here in Arizona.
Urban versus rural. Phoenix and Tucson ganging up on the rural
communities along the Colorado River in western Arizona.
The city of Chino Hills was named with three other entities in
a class-action lawsuit filed Dec. 17 in San Bernardino Superior
Court by the Natural Resources Defense Council for not
submitting a water conservation report required by the state
for three consecutive years. The other entities were San
Bernardino County, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands.
The Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada need
to cut total water use by 18% from their 2000-2018 average to
bring Lakes Mead and Powell into a long-term state of balance,
says Brian Richter. Richter is president of the nonprofit group
Sustainable Waters and a former director and chief scientist
for the Nature Conservancy’s Global Water program.
Farmers for decades have used huge machines to plant, grow and
harvest their crops, but more and more Arizona farmers today
are using tiny, remote-controlled aircraft to boost yields and
save water and money.
California is at a water crossroads. We can continue our
costly, 100-year-old pattern of trying to find new water
supplies, or we can choose instead to focus on smarter ways of
using – and reusing – what we already have.
California is increasing regulations on groundwater. For many
farmers in the state, it is a step too far. The law’s critics
say it could lead to a loss of half a million acres of farmland
in California’s Central Valley. As Kerry Klein of member
station KVPR in Fresno reports, some farmers are so worried,
The Department of Defense recently awarded a $266,589 grant to
a California State University Monterey Bay professor to
continue his research into fog. Reporter Michelle Loxton spoke
with Daniel Fernandez about how this grant will take his
research to the next level.
The nearly $4 million project, assisted with $3.4 million in
state grants and a $1 million match from Pajaro Valley Water,
is expected to further reduce groundwater pumping in the area,
so as to halt seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft
while keeping agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
Climate change is already affecting water management across the
state. Small rural communities with ongoing drinking water
challenges are especially vulnerable to greater extremes
brought on by a warming climate. We talked to Jan Coppinger, a
special district administrator from Lake County, about how the
county’s small water systems have dealt with an especially
devastating string of natural disasters.
Environmental groups, tribes and upstream water users in
California yesterday sought to block a permanent water delivery
contract between the Interior Department and the Westlands
Water District. At issue is a proposed deal between Westlands,
an agricultural powerhouse in California’s San Joaquin Valley,
and the Bureau of Reclamation in which Westlands pays off its
debt to the government to guarantee deliveries in perpetuity
without future contract renewals.
The supervisors authorized the disbursal from the Coachella
Valley Air Quality Enhancement Fund to help pay for the planned
north end restoration of the 360-square mile lake, which will
include the establishment of a lagoon to overlay exposed playa
and mitigate the resulting atmospheric impacts.
In theory, a demand management program would pay users to
conserve in the midst of a crisis in order to boost the river’s
big reservoirs. How it would work, who would participate and
how it would be funded are still unanswered questions. Another
concern is how to make the program equitable — so it doesn’t
burden one user over another.
House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple
possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may
vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior
Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to
send more water to his district.
Federal water managers are about to start reexamining a
12-year-old agreement among Western states that laid down rules
for dealing with potential water shortages along the Colorado
River. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he asked the
Bureau of Reclamation to start the review at the beginning of
2020, rather than by the end of 2020, which is the deadline
under the existing agreement.
In a recent exclusive interview, U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Sonny Perdue told Western Farm Press that the low-interest loan
will help fund projects associated with the off-stream storage
site in western Colusa County. … “The USDA is putting up
almost $500 million in rural development funds,” Perdue said.
A mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University has
developed a new, micro-thin material to make membrane water
desalination even better. Amir Barati Farimani, with fellow
researchers Zhonglin Cao and Vincent Liu, has calculated how
much better his metal organic framework (MOF) works than the
traditional membrane method.
This isn’t just a problem for Mexico. These growers are the
custodians of rare varieties of maize that may hold the secret
to more sustainable agriculture. If they lay down their tools,
their crops could begin to vanish.
Federal water managers are about to start reexamining a
12-year-old agreement among Western states that laid down rules
for dealing with potential water shortages along the Colorado
River. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he asked the
Bureau of Reclamation to start the review at the beginning of
2020, rather than by the end of 2020, which is the deadline
under the existing agreement.
The Colorado River is arguably one
of the hardest working rivers on the planet, supplying water to
40 million people and a large agricultural economy in the West.
But it’s under duress from two decades of drought and decisions
made about its management will have exceptional ramifications for
the future, especially as impacts from climate change are felt.
Every other year we hold an
invitation-only Colorado River Symposium attended by various
stakeholders from across the seven Western states and Mexico that
rely on the iconic river. We host this three-day event in Santa
Fe, N.M., where the 1922 Colorado River Compact was signed, as
part of our mission to catalyze critical conversations to build
bridges and inform collaborative decision-making.
With a low rumble from a large pipe, water began flowing into a
dirt basin at 25th Street West and Elizabeth Lake Road Thursday
morning, christening the Upper Amargosa Creek Recharge Project
and marking the debut of a new water storage endeavor in the
Valley. Inside the basin, water flowed from holes in a round
structure to begin flooding the bottom, where it will begin to
percolate through the soil to the aquifer beneath.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
States in the U.S. West that have agreed to begin taking less
water next month from the drought-stricken Colorado River got
praise and a push for more action Thursday from the nation’s
top water official. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman told federal, state and local water managers that
abiding by the promises they made will be crucial to ensuring
that more painful cuts aren’t required.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said
Wednesday that Nevada has been a national leader in water
conservation by reducing demand on the Colorado River and
investing in infrastructure over the past two decades. In Las
Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual
conference, Burman declined to say, however, whether she sees
Nevada’s share of the river’s water increasing…
Dr. Michael Kiparsky is the founding director of the Wheeler
Water Institute within the Center for Law, Energy, and
Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law. In this
presentation from the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Dr.
Kiparsky discussed a pilot project in the Pajaro Valley
designed to incentivize private landowners to do groundwater
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will start taking less water from
the Colorado River in January as a hard-fought set of
agreements kicks in to reduce the risk of reservoirs falling to
critically low levels. The two U.S. states agreed to leave a
portion of their water allotments in Lake Mead under a deal
with California called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Plan, or DCP…
Environmentalists who had high hopes Gavin Newsom would lead
the way to sustainable water use in the San Joaquin Valley are
waking up to the knowledge that the new governor isn’t going to
be any more effective than the old governor. Sustainability is
just too big a lift.
There are two things already baked into the desert’s cake
guaranteed to inject a bit of what ails the rest of the state —
the full flowering of the regulatory scheme mandated by the
state’s 2014 Groundwater Sustainability Act and reductions in
Colorado River allocations made necessary by a drying Colorado
River Basin that is already badly over allocated.
Dr. Rachel Johnson is a research biologist with the NOAA’s
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Davis with over 15
years’ experience working on various aspects of conservation
and fisheries biology. In this presentation from the 2019 State
of the Estuary conference, Dr. Johnson discussed the importance
of developing a holistic framework among aquatic ecosystems and
Pummeled by fires, drought and floods, California’s Democratic
primary voters put fighting climate change at the top of their
list of issues for the next president to tackle. Nearly half of
likely Democratic primary voters call the issue the No. 1
priority for the next president, according to a new statewide
Tijuana and Rosarito residents may have gotten a brief reprieve
from scheduled water shut-offs, but the delivery of water
throughout Baja California is a vulnerable system in need of
urgent repairs, state and water officials stressed this week.
Farmers are worried… Some feel angry, even betrayed by
lawmakers and the environmental groups that have pressured them
into what they see as ever-tightening regulations on the ag
industry. While many disagree with SGMA, most do acknowledge
that California’s unrestricted groundwater use has been
Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for
many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to
develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is
accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big
farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign
agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped
up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.
The bitter drought validated scientists’ warnings that despite
longstanding endangered species protections, the state’s
outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in
the face of climate change. … A report released Thursday by
the Public Policy Institute of California recommends the state
stop prioritizing individual species recovery plans and adopt
holistic management methods that improve entire freshwater
The planned downtown Palm Springs entertainment arena, like
many desert projects, is a thirsty one, requiring almost 12
million gallons of water each year to accommodate an American
Hockey League affiliate team and other visitors.
Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across
earthquake country between Northern California and San
Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually,
just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank
account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is
operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw
water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water
Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can
be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered
In her address to the State of the Estuary conference, Felicia
Marcus spoke about the connections of the Delta to all
Californians and the importance of working together and more
broadly to solve the challenging problems before us.
With the new strategy, land management agencies will increase
the pace and scale of restoration actions, including forest
thinning, prescribed fire, and meadow, aspen, and stream
restoration. It will also provide a science-based framework to
guide continued forest and watershed restoration over the next
Following a string of utility-sparked wildfires that have
killed scores of Californians and destroyed billions in
property, the former top regulator of California’s electric
grid says it’s time for sweeping change — a public takeover of
Pacific Gas & Electric and possibly other private utilities,
which would be transformed into a state power company.
In my current research, I have been studying the implementation
of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known
as SGMA, in California. SGMA is one of the world’s
largest-scale policy experiments on collective action to manage
natural resources. At the same time, pervasively disparate
access to water resources in the Central Valley made SGMA the
perfect case study to test some of the power asymmetry theories
I have been working on with my colleagues.
I assumed the different local water agencies were in regular
contact with their customers about important issues like
groundwater and that they would be happy to take advantage of
the opportunity to educate the public about what was happening
with SGMA. I learned that that was not the case. This is not a
subject that engages people who don’t already have some reason
to be concerned about it.
The 20-year groundwater plan, required by state law, aims to
bring the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin back into balance.
Between 1981 and 2011, the 684-square-mile aquifer serving 29
percent of San Luis Obispo County residents and 40 percent of
its agriculture lost 369,000 acre-feet of water.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
California is by far the United States’ most populous state, as
well as its largest agricultural producer. Increasingly, it is
also one of the country’s most parched places. But Edgar Terry,
a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura County, just outside Los
Angeles, thinks he has a key to reversing worsening water
stress: establishing tradeable rights to shares of
fast-depleting groundwater aquifers.
California’s water policy community continues to be embroiled
on how best to manage what remains of California’s native
aquatic ecosystems, particularly for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta and its tributaries. One aspect of this controversy is
the dedication and use of habitat and flow resources to support
As conventional wisdom has it, the states were relying on bad
data when they divided up the water. But a new book challenges
that narrative. Turn-of-the-century hydrologists actually had a
pretty good idea of how much water the river could spare, water
experts John Fleck and Eric Kuhn write in Science be Dammed:
How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.
They make the case that politicians and water managers in the
early 1900s ignored evidence about the limits of the river’s
The list of bases cited by the report was not limited by
geographical area and ranged from Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina in the
East to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and Camp
Pendleton, California in the West.
Last year, the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise,
California, and burned a Christmas tree farm to the ground. The
fire occurred just months after three other Christmas tree
farms were wiped out in Northern California.
The California Department of Water Resources announced an
initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020
calendar year. According to a DWR announcement, the initial
allocation is based on several factors, such as conservative
dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to
meet water supply and environmental demands.
For three years, residents of the unincorporated San Bernardino
County desert town have used twice-a-month shipments of bottled
water because local wells were no longer meeting state
standards for drinking water. … That changed in September,
when work finished on a new pipeline that pulls clean water
from a well 4 miles away in Yucca Valley.
And as in other parts of the United States, black migrants were
met with Jim Crow-style racism: “Whites Only” signs, curfews
and discriminatory practices by banks. Often, the only places
black families could settle were on arid acres on the outskirts
of cultivated farmland — places like Teviston… Today, the
legacy of segregation in the Central Valley reverberates
underground, through old pipes, dry wells and soil tainted by
shoddy septic systems.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
A new federal program hopes to fill knowledge gaps on how water
moves through the headwaters of arguably the West’s most
important drinking and irrigation water source. The U.S.
Geological Survey announced the next location for its Next
Generation Water Observing System will be in the headwaters of
the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. It’s the second watershed in
the country to be part of the program…
A constellation of factors has primed California to burn big:
more development in the forests, undergrowth that’s no longer
cleared out by natural fires—and, importantly, climate change,
which has been drying out the land and making fires bigger and
the fire season longer.
Orange County has long been recognized as a worldwide leader
for developing state-of-the-art, environmentally sensitive new
water supply technology, and we are not resting on our laurels.
… This month, it was announced that the Huntington Beach
Seawater Desalination Plant will receive $585 million in credit
assistance under the EPA’s WIFIA program.
Aside from advanced economies and Mediterranean climates that
sustain long growing seasons, California, Spain and Australia
share an intermittent feature that reshapes their overburdened
water systems every time it rears its ugly head: drought.
Should we worry about a drought yet? Yes, this is California,
where droughts and flood can happen in any year, and sometimes
in the same year… No, not especially anyway, because …
there is not strong correlation between October-November
precipitation and total water year precipitation.
Native American tribes, environmentalists, state and federal
agencies, river rafters and others say they have significant
concerns about proposals to dam a Colorado River tributary in
northern Arizona for hydropower.
In the forecast stretching from Tuesday through Friday are
plummeting temperatures, hurricane-force gusts that could reach
or exceed 100 mph in some locations, giant waves of up to 37
feet, as much as four feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and
heavy rain in lower elevations between San Diego and Salem.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
The complaint filed in court on Nov. 19 asks the court to
“impose a ‘physical solution’ amongst nine groundwater users in
the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin (“Basin”) to preserve
and protect the Basin’s water supply, the investment-backed
expectations of agriculture, and the economy that is dependent
upon that supply.”
A district that recharges renewable water supplies to allow new
housing development brings in about $13.4 billion a year in
economic benefits, says a study written for a homebuilders’
group. … The report goes against the grain of
recommendations made over the years by academics,
environmentalists and others to limit enrollment of new
subdivisions in the district, saying that could cause a major
economic setback for the state.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
El Niños have become more intense in the industrial age, which
stands to worsen storms, drought, and coral bleaching in El
Niño years. A new study has found compelling evidence in the
Pacific Ocean that the stronger El Niños are part of a climate
pattern that is new and strange.
The study demonstrated the following: big legislative reforms
in water management in these three areas have always come about
as a consequence of important droughts. … One of the main
differences lies in how water ownership is managed and how the
market is regulated in this field.
Water shutoffs aren’t uncommon in the growing cities of Tijuana
and Rosarito. But they’re rarely announced beforehand, and
they’re often isolated to certain neighborhoods after pipes or
pumps fail. Earlier this month, however, Tijuana officials
announced that it was planning wide-ranging shutoffs for the
next two months, in an attempt to replenish a vital reservoir
that is perilously low.
A reservoir and water dam project aiming to store recycled
water is on track, according to water management officials. The
Santa Margarita Water District gave a tour of the Trampas
Canyon Reservoir and Dam on Saturday, Nov. 16. Construction
began in January 2018 and is expected to finish by 2020.
Known as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the
approach centers on using the latest forecast technology to
plan for the arrival of atmospheric rivers. Those are the
torrents of moisture in the sky that barrel into California
from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are critical to the
state’s water supply, accounting for as much as half of its
annual precipitation. But they can also cause catastrophic
Despite a winter storm forecast to hit the Bay Area soon,
California may be headed for another drought. The National
Weather Service’s latest drought forecast, released Thursday,
shows that California is likely to develop a drought between
now and the end of the February, with abnormally dry conditions
covering most of the state.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Many of California’s watersheds are
notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring
flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it
can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are
strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each
winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.
However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could
lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water
supply and flood protection capabilities.
Sarah Heard is Director of Conservation Economics & Finance
with the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy… At the
Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, Ms. Heard gave this presentation on the Fox Canyon
Groundwater Market in Ventura County, the first groundwater
market since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
The pricetag for recycled drinking water just got less
expensive for Mid-County customers. The State Water Resources
Control Board unanimously approved a $50 million grant for
Soquel Creek Water District’s pending Pure Water Soquel
Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention
West Basin Municipal Water District took the next steps Monday
toward building a desalination facility in El Segundo, a
project that has drawn fierce opposition from conservation
groups — including some who staged a rally before the meeting.
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is hitched to so many things.
Our estuary is a critical habitat for fish and wildlife, home
to millions of people, and the hub of our state’s water
delivery system. From the Sierra Nevada to the mouth of the San
Francisco Bay, what happens in one part of the Delta watershed
affects the entire estuary.
A private company and the town of Queen Creek are proposing a
water deal that would leave 485 acres of farmland permanently
dry near the Colorado River and send the water used
on that land to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb. The company
GSC Farm LLC is seeking to sell its annual entitlement of 2,083
acre-feet of Colorado River water — about 678 million
gallons — to Queen Creek for a one-time payment of $21
Seeking to fortify the city against future droughts, the Palo
Alto City Council endorsed on Monday a long-term agreement with
Santa Clara Valley Water District and Mountain View to build a
salt-removal plant in the Baylands and then transfer the
treated wastewater south.
It’s been warmer than normal. It’s been drier than normal. For
most of the region, it hasn’t rained more than a sprinkle or a
brief thunderstorm here or there in about six months. Northern
California weather has done a relatively quick 180 in 2019.
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
Nevada’s director of the Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources said Nevada has already reached the point of
“critical mass” or the breaking point when it comes to the
problem of water scarcity. … “We are up against that much
strain in our water resources across the state,” Director Brad
When the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority technical
and policy advisory committees reviewed a draft sustainability
plan, it left many with questions and criticisms. The plan may
also leave uncertainty for the valley’s agricultural industry.
They face the brunt of the plan’s water sustainability
requirements when the plan is implemented…
Ambiguity exists in the language of the river’s foundational
document, the Colorado River Compact. That agreement’s language
remains unclear on whether Upper Basin states, where the
Colorado River originates, are legally obligated to deliver a
certain amount of water over a 10-year period to those in the
Lower Basin: Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Water rates have not increased in Newport Beach since 2014. If
approved, starting Jan. 1, water rates will increase 7.4% each
year until 2024. After 2024, the proposal calls for water rates
to rise by 2.5% each year until 2029. The average household …
can expect a $3.38 per month increase in its water bill for the
first year, according to a staff report.
The Coachella Valley Water District on Monday approved taking
on outside financing for what is believed to be the first time
in its 101-year history for a $40 million pipeline to bring
more Colorado River water to the region’s farmers, freeing up
valuable groundwater for other uses.
The first storm of the season is set to roll into Southern
California this week, bringing rain and the potential for snow
at higher elevations, but the area isn’t completely in the
clear for fire danger, weather officials said Monday.
Since 2009, the water level has dropped 7.3 feet a year in one
of two SaddleBrooke Ranch wells and 1.7 feet a year in the
other, says the Arizona Water Co., a private utility serving
the development. This is one of many suburban developments
surrounding Tucson where underground water tables are falling
and are likely to fall much farther over the next century,
state records show.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority is proposing a 10-year
marketing deal with the future Las Vegas Raiders that will pay
the NFL franchise more than $30 million in tax dollars over the
next decade, enabling the agency to use team logos and place
advertising in the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
Groundwater in Tulare County, especially in Porterville, has
been a hot topic of discussion for quite sometime. As
groundwater levels have begun to subside, a viable and woking
plan to maintain the groundwater has been state mandated, and
the implementation of this plan is set to be put in action by
January 31, 2020. But what exactly is the plan, and who is at
A proposed desalination plant in El Segundo could soon be one
step closer to reality. The West Basin Municipal Water District
will hold a special meeting in Carson on Monday, Nov. 18, where
the board will weigh whether to certify an Environmental Impact
Report for the proposal. … The board has not yet selected a
company to build the proposed plant, which could cost more than
Sasha Gershunov, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at
UC San Diego, is one of the nation’s experts on atmospheric
rivers. ARs are one of the planet’s most extreme weather
events, he said, and their impact on the state is both good and
bad. They’re a critical source of water for the Golden State’s
bountiful agriculture, thick forests and ecosystems, snowpack
and drinking supplies, dropping 50% to 60% of the entire
state’s annual precipitation.
The recent rash of fires, like the drought that preceded it,
has sparked a new wave of pessimism about the state’s future.
But the natural disasters have also obscured the fact the
greatest challenge facing the state comes not from burning
forests or lack of precipitation but from an increasingly
dysfunctional society divided between a small but influential
wealthy class and an ever-expanding poverty population.
California’s drought-prone hills and valleys are on the verge
of another troubling dry spell. The U.S. government’s Drought
Monitor on Thursday classified more than 80% of California as
abnormally dry because rain has eluded the state for most of
the fall. Forecasting models, meanwhile, suggest little change
in the near future.
The problem in the 1920s was neither the lack of good science
nor the inability of decision-makers to understand the basin’s
hydrology. … In an era driven by politics of competition for
a limited supply of river water and federal dollars, those
decision-makers had the opportunity to selectively use the
available science as a tool to sell their projects and vision
for the river’s future to Congress and the general public.
It will cost Monterey Peninsula ratepayers about $574.5
million, all in, to acquire California American Water’s local
water system, but that cost can be covered in rate savings
under public ownership with some leftover to lower local
customers’ water bills.
The intensity of wildfires in places like California are a
symptom of climate change, experts say, but the whiplash effect
poses a different set of problems for humans and natural
systems. Researchers project that by the end of this century,
the frequency of these abrupt transitions between wet and dry
will increase by 25 percent in Northern California and as much
as double in Southern California if greenhouse gasses continue
The Arizona Department of Water Resources is working on
revising a model based on outdated assumptions and incomplete
data that have perpetuated the myth that Pinal County is facing
a water shortage. In fact, Pinal County has plenty of water for
today, tomorrow and 100 years from now.
The streamlined permitting process is an important component of
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, as it
may assist Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in more
efficiently obtaining the necessary water rights to divert and
recharge water during high flow events.
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Scientists are breeding the trees that survived California’s
historic drought to make the forests of tomorrow more
resilient. A greenhouse full of 10,000 baby trees descended
from 100 of those survivors will eventually be planted around
the Lake Tahoe area. The researchers hope efforts like this can
buy ecosystems time to adapt to the planet’s rapidly changing
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
Arizona’s portion of the Drought Contingency Plan became a
unique example in the basin of tribal leaders asserting
themselves in broader discussions about the river’s management.
… With the drought plan done, some tribal leaders say their
water rights can’t be ignored any longer.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
Normally between Oct. 1 and mid-November, if historical
averages are any guide, the Bay Area has received nearly 2
inches of rain, and Los Angeles and Fresno each have received
about an inch. But so far this year? None.
Matt Dessert does not want to sue San Diego, nor does he want
to start a legal battle with the state of California. But the
growing threat to Imperial County’s air quality may leave
Dessert, an officer with the county Air Pollution Control
District, with little choice.
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
Here’s the nut: Water supply in the Colorado River could drop
so far in the next decade that the ability of the Upper
Colorado River Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New
Mexico – to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in
Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
Much of California enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate where
the weather typically swings like a pendulum from warm, dry
summers to cool, wet winters. … While the pendulum has
always swung here, there’s evidence that its swings are now
getting more dramatic, and anyone who’s lived here in the last
few years has seen it firsthand.
Five of the seven water-stressed western states along the
Colorado River—Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and
Wyoming—don’t yet track how they use their limited water in any
kind of systematic, accessible way, teeing up potential
shortages as the region dries.
On September 10, 2019, at the 34th Annual WateReuse Symposium
in San Diego, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a
draft National Water Reuse Action Plan for public
comment—containing 46 proposed actions, to be accomplished by a
mix of federal, state, private, local and private stakeholders,
in order to promote 10 strategic objectives.
The revamped and expanded plant is expected to be operational
in spring 2021 and will do so with a new name — The Rosamond
CSD Water Reclamation Plant — to better describe its ultimate
purpose. In addition to handling the community’s wastewater
disposal, the plant will recharge the underlying groundwater
basin, providing additional groundwater for the District to
Cal Am Water’s experts may have seriously underestimated the
potential impact the company’s proposed desalination plant
would have on the existing water supply nearby, the staff of
the California Coastal Commission concluded in a report
released this week as a supplement to its exhaustive report on
the overall project.
How do we mitigate the “yuck factor” that many people have
about reclaimed water use, when it’s been proven safe and
effective elsewhere? These concerns were discussed at
GreenerBuilder 2019, USGBC’s conference in the Pacific region,
hosted in San Francisco, where industry experts from across the
state led a panel discussion on tactics to improve onsite water
One year after the devastating Camp Fire sparked, a diverse
group of land, water and environmental managers who have not
always seen eye to eye announced … a plan to reduce the risk
of catastrophic wildfire in the North Yuba watershed. The
announcement Thursday includes a Memorandum of Understanding
… to thin and restore 275,000 acres of forest on a pace and
scale that will prioritize community safety, forest health and
Here’s the scariest part: What’s happening in California is not
an isolated problem. From saltwater-ravaged tunnels in New York
to flooding in Houston to water loss along the Colorado River,
it is clear that we did not design our infrastructure and
communities to manage our new climate realities. While Congress
and statehouses across the country debate how much to spend on
traditional repairs and maintenance, we ignore a more
fundamental question: What will it take to redesign our entire
approach to infrastructure for an era of climate insecurity?
The creation of the JPA marks a key milestone in moving forward
the project that will create a new, local, sustainable and
drought-proof drinking water supply using state-of-the-art
technology to purify East San Diego County’s recycled water.
It is the forgotten killer when compared to our increasingly
frequent climate calamities, but the virulent pathogen known as
sudden oak death remains active and is spreading death so fast
it could destroy California’s coastal forest ecosystem, UC
Berkeley scientists reported Thursday. The deadly microbe has
now established itself throughout the Bay Area and has spread
along the coast from Monterey to Humboldt County…
Based on DWR’s own documents, it appears that an aerial snow
observator is the most important science- and data-focused
program that needs to be expanded statewide, so that the
integral aquifer recharge program can play its role in Governor
Newsom’s Water Resiliency Portfolio.
Starting Monday, authorities in Tijuana and Rosarito will
ration water for the next two months because of a limited
supply, according to the Baja California Public Service
Commission. Roughly 140,000 households and business in the
border cities will go without water service for up to 36 hours
every four days.
Dr. Geeta Persad is a senior climate scientist with the Climate
and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. … In
this presentation from the 2019 State of the Estuary
conference, Dr. Persad discussed the ways in which climate
change is going to fundamentally transform how, when, and where
California gets its water and how those changes will have
profound impacts for the state and for the San Francisco
estuary in particular.
El Dorado Irrigation District has been making preparations for
these power shutoffs since 2018. After analyzing areas in our
system that would need to be bolstered in the event of
large-scale power outages — pump stations or other facilities
without backup power — we asked the EID Board of Directors to
approve $800,000 to purchase generators that could be utilized
across our 220-square-mile service area.
October 2019 ended up being a shut-out in the precipitation
department in many regions–yielding the 10th driest October on
record in over 100 years of record-keeping. More significantly,
though: this extremely dry and relatively warm pattern has now
persisted into November, and appears likely to continue for at
least another 10 days.
In response to concerns about power outages, wildfires and the
water used to put them out, local water officials unveiled
details of an emergency plan Tuesday, explaining how SCV Water
is prepared for emergencies.
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
The Kincade Fire, the year’s largest, has burned more than
77,000 acres of Sonoma County’s chaparral. Sage, shrubs,
coastal live oak and madrones spot the grassy woodlands. Sure,
there are areas with forest canopies here, but they are not
nearly as thick as in the Sierra. Now that it’s about 88%
contained, fire scientists say that strong winds, not forest
fuel, drove the Kincade’s growth.
Casting climate change as a direct threat to California’s water
security, a panel of experts on Tuesday said the state must
plan for the “new normal” by modernizing water infrastructure
before the next great disaster.
With drought becoming a more frequent and lasting longer,
scientists have really been booking it to try to find potential
solutions for crops. … A new possibility comes from
researchers at the University of California, Riverside, in the
form of a chemical that triggers plants to stop growing—and
start storing water.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken to making public statements almost
daily about PG&E’s shortcomings. Yet some elected officials
and other experts believe the state itself — specifically the
Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the company —
should take some blame for the PG&E crisis. These critics
say the commission hasn’t been aggressive enough about cracking
down on PG&E’s safety flaws.
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
In places like San Diego and Dubai, where freshwater is scarce,
humans turn to machines that pull the salt out of seawater,
transforming it into clean drinking water. … Many researchers
are working to improve the technology so it can reach more
people — and address climate change without contributing to it.
The latest extreme blaze in California, known as the Kincaid
Wildfire, has burned tens of thousands of acres, prompted the
evacuation of thousands of residents, and consumed more than
100 structures. And naturally, as with any widespread
catastrophe, there have been significant impacts on regional
water treatment operations.
Wildfire risk will remain substantial in much of California
through at least this month, the National Interagency Fire
Center said Nov. 1 in its monthly National Significant Wildfire
Potential Outlook. Risk will persist into December in some
Now is the time to focus on Pure Water Monterey and scrap the
desal plans. If 10 years from now the recycled water project
doesn’t do the trick, and there’s still a need for a desal
plant, we can be optimistic that future advances in technology
will make any desal option more environmentally-friendly and
The board of directors of land-based salmon producer Nordic
Aquafarms approved the company’s proposed investment plans to
pursue a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farm
in Humboldt County, California… Nordic Aquafarms will receive
financial incentives from a California county government to
move forward with its land-based facilities in Humboldt County.
According to the Drought Monitor, almost one-fifth of
California is either abnormally dry or in moderate drought, as
of the end of October. … Three months ago, only 4.32% of
California was abnormally dry…
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
Officials who oversee a water district exempt from state
regulation work and live at a brothel owned by the public face
of the world’s largest industrial park, raising questions about
whether governmental powers such as eminent domain are being
wielded by a private entity.
LandWatch, the nonprofit environmental watchdog, has in effect
said it will support the city of Seaside’s Campus Town if the
project will obtain its 442 acre-foot water supply without
increasing groundwater pumping. Campus Town … proposes
building up to 1,485 housing units on 85 acres of former Army
land next to CSU Monterey Bay …
For the past three years, countries and companies around the
world have looked to California as a counterweight to the Trump
administration’s aggressive dismantling of efforts to combat
climate change. But this past week, as wildfires burned across
the state — fires that scientists say have been made worse by a
changing climate — and as at least five large carmakers sided
with President Trump’s plan to roll back California’s climate
pollution standards, the state’s status as the vanguard of
environmental policy seemed at the very least diminished.
The Gold Rush might have ended 140 years ago, but its ethos of
extraction still dominates California. It’s not just the
farmers adding tens of thousands of acres of orchards and
vineyards in a state famous for drought. It’s the developers
building new subdivisions across Northern and Southern
California—houses marching out to the chaparral, hill and
forest, straight into the path of wildfire.
To authors of a new, highly critical study, Arizona’s system of
groundwater management encourages urban sprawl. But to an
official and lobbyist for a homebuilders group, the system
encourages construction of affordable housing.
In order to keep up with the state’s underground water recharge
laws, sooner or later, local water rates will likely need to
increase. That was the message local water management officials
gave in a joint presentation at the Oct. 21 Selma City Council.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100
million research grant to the National Alliance for Water
Innovation (NAWI) to lead an Energy-Water Desalination Hub.
Meagan Mauter explains how this very large and potentially
transformative project will work, and Stanford’s role in the
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
Babbitt spoke at a conference of county supervisors from across
Arizona Tuesday, calling for new legislation that would give
county officials the authority to manage groundwater. He said
while the 1980 law has had “a lot of success” in managing
groundwater in urban areas from Phoenix to Tucson, its main
flaw has been leaving groundwater pumping unregulated in rural
parts of the state.