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.
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.
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outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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 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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In case of an emergency such as an earthquake or wildfire, one
key element that could be disrupted, and for an extended
period, is water. To that end, area water agencies and
government officials gathered Wednesday in Lancaster as the
Greater Antelope Valley Water Emergency Coalition to discuss
preparations and resources available in case of water
disruptions in an emergency.
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
The sponge-like nanomaterial … is designed to be used in
existing dehumidifiers, where it can help HVAC systems save
energy at the same time that it offers a new source of water.
… A large mall in Southern California may be one of the first
to pilot the system.
The State Water Board is central to addressing many of
California’s major water challenges, including protecting water
quality for drinking and for the environment, addressing
drought and water conservation, and managing the allocation of
surface water. We talked to Sean Maguire, a civil engineer who
was appointed to the board by former governor Brown in December
2018, about priority issues.
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Called WEDEW (wood-to-energy deployed water), it is a
collaboration between Skysource and ALL Power Labs and uses
local biomass gasification… It converts the biomass into
biochar, hot humid air and electricity. Water is condensed out
of the hot humid air in a process that mimics the way clouds
are formed (the hot humid air hits cold air and forms droplets
of rain) and stored in a tank
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
It’s never too early to start educating youngsters on the
importance of conserving water. Fifth-graders at Manzanita
Elementary School got a first-hand look at the process of
making water clean, during the Palmdale Water District’s
“Imagine a Day Without Water” event.
EDF created an online story map … to provide a more holistic
view of groundwater supplies and challenges in the seven-state
Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, New
Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming), drawing from recent
research. Here are four key highlights from the story map that
demonstrate the importance of groundwater and the challenges of
groundwater management in the arid West:
Adam Livingston is the Director of Planning and Policy at the
Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT). … Clean Water Action’s
Communication’s Manager, Nina Foushee, interviewed Adam about
the role of land trusts in sustainable groundwater management.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
After years of negotiations, the Montecito Water District is
closing in on a deal to buy 1,430 acre-feet of water from the
City of Santa Barbara, every year for the next 50 years. …
The city would produce the extra supply at its $72 million
desalination plant, at a yearly cost to Montecito of $4.3
Activists and local government officials across Monterey County
have banded together to fight a proposed desalination plant
that could double the cost of water for some residents and
endanger an aquifer that serves low-income communities.
Dismal grades for polluted groundwater and water bodies like
the Los Angeles River brought down the overall average grade in
the 2019 Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Environmental Report
Card for Los Angeles County on Water.
Investors are starting to pay more attention to water shortages
and how to turn them into long-term investments. Water-related
exchange-traded funds attracted more money in the nine months
through September than in any full year since 2007, data
compiled by Bloomberg show.
Prescribed burns have to become a central component of forest
management if humans want to effectively battle the climate
crisis, the vice chairman of the Yurok Tribe told members of
Congress on Tuesday.
Desalinated seawater is the lifeblood of Saudi Arabia, no more
so than at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology,
an international research center that rose from the dry, empty
desert a decade ago. … Desalination provides all of the
university’s fresh water, nearly five million gallons a day.
But that amount is just a tiny fraction of Saudi Arabia’s total
The East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Water Agency is racing
the clock when it comes to meeting the state’s requirements by
next year but the message is this: Those who use groundwater
will have to prepare for the possibility of pumping 10 percent
less than they have in the past, beginning as soon as next
The health of North America’s largest estuary, the San
Francisco Estuary, is showing some signs of improvement, but
much of the historic damage caused to the massive watershed has
either not improved or worsened, according to a new report.
It was on the Colorado River that González, now 82, taught her
children, just like her parents and grandparents taught her, to
fish with canoes and traps made from willow trees which
flourished on the riverbanks. Now, the river stops at the
US-Mexico border and the lakes are dry and native vegetation is
confined to reforestation projects.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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 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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.