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.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry. The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. … Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands. Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
“Right now our basin, fortunately, is at 98 percent full,” said Carol Mahoney, Manager of Integrated Water Services for Zone 7, the water supply and flood control agency that serves Livermore and the Amador Valley. “We actually manage the groundwater basin in such a way that we’re always replenishing the water that we’re taking out and we’ve been doing that for 40 years.”
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150 million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion — the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about $400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced the most subsidence.
The current wet winter, on the other hand, is like getting a new position with a great salary but little job security. The money’s nice, but after seven years of unemployment, there’s a backlog of debts to pay. And the cash could stop coming at any time.
The idea of a recycled water plant project has been around for more than 10 years, with the original idea coming from the community. Through the years, staff has looked at various locations, including a combined project with Naval Base Coronado, and determined the golf course location to be the best choice.
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to 2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the drought.
In the month since Governor Newsom announced that he does not support a dual-tunnel Delta water supply conveyance, activity in the more than 20 state and federal lawsuits challenging California WaterFix and other administrative approval processes related to the “twin tunnels” has slowed or been briefly stayed. The stays reflect the uncertainty surrounding the project in light of the Governor’s comments…
Since 2009, the Israeli company Watergen has been developing and implementing a technology that extracts clean water from thin air. It all comes down to perfecting a basic science. … When a devastating string of wildfires swept California in November, the company used its generator to provide fresh water to local police and firefighters on the ground.
Four months after the deadliest wildfire in California history, Gov. Gavin Newsom is declaring a statewide emergency to speed up fire prevention efforts. Citing “extreme peril” to life and property, Newsom’s Friday morning executive order will fast-track the state’s tree clearing and other forest management work.
Over 147 million trees in California forests have died over the last eight years. Most of these forests are near the southern Sierra Nevada, which shows an increasing threat to iconic California landmarks like the Sequoia and Yosemite national forests.
The stations monitor meteorological conditions over the water and estimate evaporation using four primary methods: eddy covariance, energy balance, aerodynamic bulk mass transfer, and the combination of energy balance and aerodynamic. Data from the stations are transmitted back to the research team via a web portal for real-time monitoring.
California American Water has notified the state Public Utilities Commission it does not plan to pursue a Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal, at least for now, arguing that its proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project is still on schedule and noting an absence of detailed information on the proposal, as well as an apparent increase in the cost of the recycled water project.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer about why, and what’s at stake.
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Water Education Foundation will join regional water managers and federal agency representatives at the daylong event, “Moving Forward Together: From Planning to Action Across the Watershed“ at Cal State Fullerton.
Napa Valley’s annual groundwater checkup concluded that water levels in a majority of monitoring wells were stable in spring 2018, despite a drop in overall groundwater storage following a subpar rainy season.
The only Monterey Peninsula city with its own desalination plant is looking to install new intake wells to help balance the salinity levels and increase output to the 300-acre-foot-per-year design capacity of the almost 10-year-old Sand City desalination facility. The plant, which is owned by Sand City and is operated by California American Water, is currently running at 200 acre-feet per year.
The Desert Research Institute, Averyt said, is engaged in research looking at long-term and short-term climate change, where the impact of human-caused warming is clear. Researchers with DRI have looked at ice cores from Greenland to map out long-term climate trends. At the same time, other researchers are looking at more immediate trends through the Western Regional Climate Center, which provides contemporary climate data for the 11 contiguous western states.
Timothy Quinn, a California water policy expert, joined Stanford’s Program on Water in the West as a Landreth Visiting Fellow this past winter. Quinn, who has been deeply involved in California water policy for the last thirty years … took time out for a Q&A with Water in the West on his current and past work.
South Coast agencies purchased more than 27,000 acre-feet of supplemental water during four drought years to make up for lowered allocations from Lake Cachuma and the State Water Project, and for most of those deals, payback includes water in addition to money. Agencies’ so-called “water debt” means that when the city of Santa Barbara purchased from the Mojave Water Agency last year, for example, it was committing to paying back 1 acre-foot of water for every 4 acre-feet it purchased.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019 water year. The California Department of Water Resources announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70 percent for most state water contractors. The department transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern County Water Agency.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea this week to promise that this time, things will be different and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to family members who still live in the area, as well as the communities around the lake.
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing surface water.
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic drought.
Three times now, Escondido has proposed building a large recycled water treatment plant on lots along Washington Avenue, first near its eastern terminus, the second time in the middle of the city, and now near the western end of the street. … The water plant is needed to divert used water from being dumped into the ocean and to bring less expensive, higher-quality recycled water to avocado farmers in the eastern and northern parts of the city.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting that the Trump administration is now pushing federal legislation that would eliminate public health and environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here. The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to ensure community involvement in water management decision-making.
Addressing concerns that include floods, droughts, wildfires and state regulations on river flow, two state officials advised farmers and ranchers to remain engaged in those and other natural-resources issues. At the California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento last week, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot said his top priorities include water and wildfire protection.
The often shown symbol of the California drought, Santa Barbara County, with nearly dry water reservoirs and dead lawns for an estimated eight years, is now declaring itself out of the emergency crisis. The decision was made Tuesday morning by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Past droughts have stress-tested California’s water management institutions, and some of the vulnerabilities they revealed still linger today. Given that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of future droughts, recognizing and addressing institutional vulnerabilities is critical.
We’re having one of the best rainfall seasons in years, with drought conditions easing for much of the state. But one of the nation’s leading oceanographers says there’s much more involved before the impacts of the drought are completely gone, and that it could take years to replenish groundwater supplies.
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation…
Candice Meneghin serves on the board of the Fillmore and Piru Basins (FPB) Groundwater Sustainability Agency as an environmental representative for the Santa Clara River Environmental Groundwater Committee. … She spoke to Clean Water Action’s communications manager about her work representing environmental interests in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) process.
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. … Things are done by an aging book. We are not adapting our management based on testing new hypotheses collaboratively advanced by stakeholders who are willing to celebrate the results regardless of outcome.
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state officials about their progress addressing the many issues related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states called the Great Basin. A warming climate has made that migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study.
Beginning in the 19th century, technological developments were opening our access to groundwater as advancements in drilling for extracting petroleum were spun off and developed for the water well industry. Still, even into the 1940s, most pumping reached only shallow depths of less than 30 feet, removing water at modest rates. That changed radically after World War II … Today, a little more than a half-century later, the world gets about 35 percent of its fresh water this way, making it a sizable—and quite new—development in world history.
It is interesting to go to water district meetings and see diametrically opposite sides using the same arguments they have used for years. No one is changing what they say even though an election changed the political landscape quite a bit. … But there are things we can do to intelligently frame the discussion of what is feasible — based on our actual needs.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
While high drama plays out in nations across the planet, California has also been having a bit of drama — torrential rains turning communities into isolated islands up north, mudslides and flooding down south. So, it seems to make sense that state officials have officially declared the latest drought to be over, finished, soaked.
Political leaders responsible for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them. In the future, the basin, which serves much of Paso Robles wine country, could start receiving water from the State Water Project, Lake Nacimiento, and/or the Salinas Dam.
Ventura has released reports detailing the environmental impacts of two sizable projects expected to increase the city’s water supply and reliability… One involves tapping into the city’s long-held investment into state water. The other project would capture effluent from Ventura’s wastewater treatment plant, treat it and turn it into drinking water.
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow packs and filling reservoirs.
The view from my window here in central California is of a front lawn almost as dried out as the fairways at Carnoustie, Scotland. Like many of my neighbours I’m concerned about climate change and with it the exorbitant price of water. After my monthly bill tripled, I decided it was time for a new strategy. I shut down the sprinkler system and tested a new aesthetic. To my delight, I discovered that brown is beautiful.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to offer.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55 percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s announcement is a disappointment.
A pending transfer in ownership of the Contra Costa Canal will allow for upgrades in its water quality and safety, but it could also make for changes for hikers and cyclists along some of its trails. A bipartisan package of public lands bills President Donald Trump signed Tuesday moves the Contra Costa Water District a step closer to gaining ownership of the aging Contra Costa Canal system.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit their natural surroundings and communities.
The city of Oceanside is receiving more than $2.6 million in federal funding to increase its local water supply and to reduce brine discharge into the ocean. The city will receive $2.623 million in funding from the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART’s Desalination Construction Projects under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), subject to federal appropriations.
Full and rising reservoirs from this winter’s storms have the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors poised to terminate the drought-caused emergency declaration, although South Coast purveyors are worried a water shortage will persist for an extended time, according to a county staff report.
For the first time in eight years, California is drought-free. According to the United States Drought Monitor, which uses data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of the most northern and southern counties are still “abnormally dry,” but the state has no drought conditions to show. Could the drought’s end mark the return of practices such as excessive lawn-watering? Not necessarily.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River. Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year, according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
As an uncontrollable wildfire turned the California town of Paradise to ash, air pollution researcher Keith Bein knew he had to act fast: Little is known about toxic chemicals released when a whole town burns and the wind would soon blow away evidence. He drove the roughly 100 miles to Paradise … only to be refused entrance under rules that allow first responders and journalists – but not public health researchers – to cross police lines.
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
Poseidon is a bad deal for ratepayers. The study by the experts at MWDOC ranked Poseidon dead last among local water projects based on cost. Even after demanding a $400 million subsidy financed by Southern California water users, Poseidon’s water is still overpriced, costing twice per gallon as much as some of the conservation, recycling and rainwater projects already in development around our region.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states … ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster.
Thanks to a wet winter across the state, the entirety of California is free of drought for the first time since 2011, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Thursday update. Don’t confuse that with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2017 announcement that the statewide drought had officially ended.
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food bill and for years it has given support to farming communities. It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working poor.
North County political leaders responsible for the health of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them.
A week after the Marina Planning Commission unanimously rejected a key desalination project permit, California American Water has filed an appeal of the decision to the Marina City Council. On Wednesday, Cal Am filed the appeal to the council, arguing the planning commission erred in its denial of a coastal development permit for parts of the proposed desal project.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take the helm of the United States section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
Local officials have received an OK to divert more water into Lake Casitas, years after prolonged drought conditions shrunk the reservoir to historic lows. But the new measures were in effect just a matter of days and just for one storm.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders came together March 7 to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with providing California residents and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water. Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying water.
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers. What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get $20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
The water within the Paradise Irrigation District is clean. The trouble is, the infrastructure within the district may not be, according to Paradise Irrigation District’s Kevin Phillips. “The water is clean but some of the pipes are contaminated, that’s why (contamination) is so random,” he said. “One service line can be contaminated, but the one next door isn’t. If the water were contaminated, then it would be everywhere.”
When an atmospheric river meets mountainous terrain like the Sierra Nevada, the water vapor condenses and becomes rain or snow. Strong atmospheric rivers can bring about floods and landslides, but the water and snowpack they leave behind provide California with 25 to 50 percent of its yearly precipitation in just a few days.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over 35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January — coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely following what happens next.
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan from proceeding, and its board president called the latest development a violation of California environmental law. But Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others in a working group are finalizing new documents to remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
It won’t arrive in time for this wet winter, but hopes are rising that Central Valley politicians will soon deliver on one of their top political goals in recent years: investment in California water storage. Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project toward a series of reservoir projects, as well as repairs to a canal serving Kern County farmers.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is two years overdue and still months away from completion. The Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating faster than it’s being replaced…
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where 84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
Sacramento law makers have shown little interest in helping the Valley solve its water problems yet the only path forward is to get them to take interest in the area that grows most of the state, and the nation’s food. A panel discussion last Wednesday at the Citrus Showcase, an industry conference for growers hosted by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM), discussed the looming deadline for local governments to comply with the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA).
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust, about this impending challenge.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.
Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and a disappearing snowpack were part of a scary story told to SCV Water Agency officials recently as they learned the effects of climate change over the next 100 years. … The latest climate assessment was intended to advance “actionable science” that would serve the growing needs of state and local-level decision-makers from a variety of sectors.
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana face similar water challenges. California is better known for having too little water and Louisiana too much – both challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting wet winter weather led both states last week to release significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to build climate-resilient communities across the country.
California has faced an unprecedented series of mega-wildland fires over the past decade – some of the most destructive and deadly in American history. On Wednesday, a joint hearing of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee will review residential development in some of the Golden State’s most fire prone regions and how state and local governments can keep residents safe in communities that are within the Wildland Urban Interface.
Santa Monica will experience more frequent droughts and coastal flooding, hotter temperatures and poorer air quality as the world’s climate changes throughout the next century. However, officials said the city’s geography and the City of Santa Monica’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) will shield residents from some of the impacts of climate change. The plan, released last month, describes how the city will ensure residents have affordable water during droughts, contain sea level rise and deal with high heat days.
A proposal to add 187 new steam-injected oil wells and a new natural gas pipeline in West Cat Canyon will be considered by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission when it meets Wednesday in Santa Maria. Project opponents have said they intend to stage a demonstration outside and speak against the project that would have significant impacts on biological, surface water and groundwater resources and would increase noise, according to the environmental impact report.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to California this year, you might not expect drought preparations to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
California’s Central Valley is already the bread basket for the nation. But now a new Oakdale company — in partnership with the University of California, Davis — wants to help make it the hemp capital of the country. The California Hemp Corporation was formed by Oakdale residents Jeff McPhee and Kent Kushar last year… “We want to grow hemp up and down the San Joaquin Valley, just like every other one of our crops,” McPhee said. “This crop will change California.”
This particular California winter has unfolded in good news/bad news fashion. Courtesy of a string of recurring atmospheric rivers, potent storms have caused flooding, power outages and canceled flights. But they have also lifted all but a thin slice of the state near the Oregon border completely out of drought.
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate water game, the words are inextricably linked.
It’s a growing problem many say cannot be solved by firefighters alone. Enter the Cal Poly W.U.I. F.I.R.E Institute. It stands for the Wildland Urban Interface Fire Information Research and Education Institute. Turner is working with Cal Poly staff like forest management professor Chris Dicus to create a collaborative space for research, training, and outreach.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton Sea.
Every spring, a group called the Pacific Fishery Management Council gets together and looks at the salmon forecasts from the Puget Sound all the way down to the Sacramento River in California….The Sacramento River runs are expected to rebound a bit, but the Klamath and Columbia River forecasts are lower than last year.
A process is underway that’s extremely important, and likely to be way over most of our heads. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was passed in 2014, which set deadlines for local agencies to come up with plans to manage the water beneath them “… without causing undesirable results.”
Recycled water’s been such a good deal for Orange County, the water district is spending $140 million to expand its capacity to purify wastewater by 30 percent. It starts in Fountain Valley where the water district operates a 24-acre facility that takes sewage fom the sanitation plant next door and converts it into millions of gallons a day of pure H2O. OC Water District President Shawn Dewane said the cost is 30 percent cheaper than imported water.
Much of the United States could be gripped by significant water shortages in just five decades’ time, according to predictions made in a new study. … In the researchers’ projections, water supply is likely to be under threat in watersheds in the central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South (especially Florida) and the Midwest.
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in 2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of the process.
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth and conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River. (Last in the paper’s Water Question series.)
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada and five other Western states sent a letter to California on Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors are exploring what it’d take to bolster the county’s authority in issuing groundwater well permits. Following a report about groundwater conditions in the Adelaida region of the North County on Feb. 26, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have its staff look at how it could increase the level of review and discretion the county has over approving or denying well applications.
Months of record rain and snowfall has officially lifted the Central Valley — and much of the state — out of official drought conditions. Just 1 percent of California is experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s a far cry from 2014 when 54 percent of the state was in severe drought. With the drought declared dead in California, will Tulare County cities begin to ease restrictions on residential watering?
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a reliable water supply.
There’s still a lot scientists don’t know about the yin-yang interaction between fire and water. Of particular interest is better understanding how the heat intensity of wildfires changes the the water content of burned soil. The science behind such work is known as hydrology, which studies the properties, distribution and circulation of water on or below the earth’s surface.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon a common frustration among many valley Republicans that billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves available to cope with future droughts. Groundwater overdraft has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the state.
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least 4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about 1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come from?
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders came together Thursday to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with providing California residents and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water. Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying water across the Golden State.
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife. Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the land has been taken over by large commercial farms and vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40 billion endowment.
As droughts intensify and the snowpacks diminish, California will need creative solutions to provide enhanced water supplies for urban use and agriculture. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories are working on addressing these problems, focusing on groundwater recharge, low-cost desalination, and energy efficient purification.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation Thursday to repurpose federal funding for the high-speed rail project. The Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act would take funding from the high-speed rail project and use it for water infrastructure projects in California and the West… McCarthy’s proposed legislation is cosponsored by every Republican member of the California Congressional Delegation.
Environmentalists and rural water users expressed broad support last week for a bill that would create small water reserves in aquifers across Nevada. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Nev., aims to prevent regulators from issuing more rights to water than there is water available, an issue already playing out in more than 100 groundwater basins.
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground water.
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and sparkling coastline.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Rules enacted a decade ago that were intended to protect California’s iconic salmon and Delta smelt populations aren’t working and federal agencies are now in the process of modernizing them, this time using much better science.
More than 300 communities across the state and one out of every four schools in the Central Valley lack access to safe drinking water, according to the state Water Board. … Responding to the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for a new water tax. If the proposal passes, the levy will generate $110 million in annual revenue. But some Californians – many working directly with the state’s water authorities – oppose the plan. They say there are better ways to raise the money needed than taxing tap water.
Yes, it’s caused traffic jams, power outages and even some floods. But there’s a big ray of good news behind all the rain that California has been receiving this year. Soaked by relentless storms, California as of this week has less land area in drought status than at any time in the last seven years.
In November, a wall of flames fueled by dry forests and wooden structures tore through this Sierra foothill town like the dogs of Hell. … Beneath the blast furnace heat that incinerated buildings and vehicles above ground, an intricate network of drinking water pipes below the surface became so contaminated with toxic chemicals that many are unusable. The extent of the damage and exactly how the poisons accumulated in the pipes of Paradise and in the smaller, neighboring districts served by Del Oro Water Company is not known.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant by 2035 signals an end to the era of addressing water shortages by importing water from far-flung places and initiates a long-anticipated era of reusing locally available supplies. The shift will require L.A. residents to understand both the necessity of the plan and the technology that will produce safe water.
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s largest community continue to rely on a single source of water to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in a series.)
Conditions are right for spectacular blooms throughout the California desert this year, experts say. The benefits of rain are endless, especially in Southern California, where drought-like conditions often persist for months on end. Thanks to this year’s significant rainfall, the annual wildflower blooms are set to be quite spectacular, according to Jorge Moreno, information officer for California State Parks.
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads, railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
A recently completed study on the cost effectiveness and financial risk of proposals to meet water supply demands through 2050 concludes that the controversial Poseidon desalination project in Huntington Beach would produce more water than the Orange County basin needs and cost ratepayers far more than alternatives such as recycling and capturing rainwater.
Lawmakers in Colorado want the U.S. state to study the potential of blockchain technology in water rights management. Republican senator Jack Tate, along with representatives Jeni James Arndt (Democratic) and Marc Catlin (Republican), filed senate bill 184 on Tuesday, proposing that the Colorado Water Institute should be granted authority to study how blockchain technology can help improve its operations.
After a months-long delay, key negotiators say Congress is closing in on a deal to pass a disaster relief package, including billions in funding for California wildfire recovery that has been hanging in limbo. Still, it remains unclear when any bill will advance, and lawmakers say political fights have been holding up the process.
People interested in state-mandated plans to manage local groundwater can get an update Thursday evening in Chico. … The meeting 6-8 p.m Thursday at the Masonic Family Center, 1110 W. East Ave., is focused on a newly approved planning area that includes Chico and Durham, and stretches north and west to the Tehama County line and the Sacramento River, and south and east to Butte Valley and the northern border of the Western Canal District.
For California’s salmon fishermen, the downstream effects of political decisions in Washington are too obvious to ignore. It’s not merely a question of profit for us. We are the stewards of the public fisheries resources who rely on their long-term health for our existence. The viability of our future can be challenged by who is in power in Washington, no matter who they are.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the North Coast. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds creeks and streams. Humans tap into aquifers through wells used for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses.
Deadly severe wildfires in California have scientists scrutinizing the underlying factors that could influence future extreme events. Using climate simulations and paleoclimate data dating back to the 16th century, a recent study looks closely at long-term upper-level wind and related moisture patterns to find clues.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and that’s changing bird populations.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by overturning those two laws.
Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin recommended that the county Board of Supervisors terminate its proclamation of a local emergency due to drought conditions, which has been renewed every 60 days since January 2014. South Coast water agencies don’t like the messaging of ending the drought emergency, and said they have ongoing drought impacts, including water shortages, and will need customers to keep conserving water.
One of the key challenges facing newly formed local government agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability. To help local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West examines how four special districts in California have used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater. These case studies provide valuable insights on the development and implementation of performance metrics and will be important in guiding local agencies.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s to come. Scientists predict that California’s total precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure. Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in the future.
Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250 million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility that began in last week’s storm. The three-day deluge pushed more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant. It was the highest inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.
Gov. Gavin Newsom should immediately allow the thinning of vegetation on almost 94,000 acres of state land in a bid to keep more than 200 communities safe, California fire officials said Tuesday as they released a list of the state’s 35 most critical fuel-reduction projects.
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper. After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of electricity, they must fix the problems.
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater Sustainability Plans.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April 3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams, reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.
The big fear in the world of water management is that this big gulp of wet weather will lead some Californians to think that the drought is dead. … In a few weeks, the state’s Department of Water Resources will be sending out its new water-saving messages, and Niki Woodard, who is No. 2 in the department’s public affairs office, sizes up how her department can navigate around that waterlogged state of mind.
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s just two weeks for them to do that.
Days after Imperial Irrigation District officials said there had been a breakthrough in negotiations with federal officials to commit to the restoration of the Salton Sea in a mammoth Colorado River drought plan, a top federal official offered a different assessment. … The Reclamation statement said it’s up to IID to decide when they want to join the drought plan, indicating a possible avenue for them to join later that would not stymie the entire agreement.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the Hyperion plant by 2035 signals an end to the era of addressing water shortages by importing water from far-flung places and initiates a long-anticipated era of reusing locally available supplies. The shift will require L.A. residents to understand both the necessity of the plan and the technology that will produce safe water.
The problem started on Feb. 17, when Paonia’s water operators noted a loss of water in a 2 million gallon storage tank. A team went out looking for a leak, but could not locate it. As the leak continued, the town’s water system lost enough pressure that the state of Colorado imposed a boil order. In response, town officials declared a state of emergency.
Dr. Ellen Bruno is an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist in quantitative policy analysis at UC Berkeley. Her research evaluates the effectiveness of different policy instruments for improving the management of our increasingly scarce water resources.
Scientists found that wet winter weather, historically a predictor of more modest California fire seasons, is no longer linked to less damaging fires. The link between more rain and less fire fell apart thanks to modern fire management and accelerating climate change, the study said. “It’s going to be a problem for people, for firefighters, for society,” said study co-author Alan Taylor, a Pennsylvania State University geography professor.
Working under a less-than-four-year deadline, Soquel Creek Water District is fine-tuning the ‘where’ of its planned water recycling plant construction. On Tuesday, district officials will recommend the board split the Pure Water Soquel project between two sites, with tertiary treatment at the city of Santa Cruz’s Wastewater Treatment Facility and advanced purification at the controversial new site in Live Oak.
A spectacular snowpack and a series of storms in the San Joaquin Valley are bringing smiles to valley farmers’ faces. On Friday, the Fresno Irrigation District started moving water to farms in the cities of Fresno, Clovis, and their surrounding ag land. While this isn’t an early start compared to typical years, the water is especially welcome after several drought years.
About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single groundwater well for water. The whole tribe now wants access to the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water, Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water. Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a bill that could make it happen.
Just months before the Woolsey Fire, Las Virgenes Mutual Water District had joined CalWARN, a mutual assistance system set up for water utilities. General manager Dave Pedersen had heard about it from a neighboring agency. Before dawn Nov. 9, the district requested emergency generators. Within a few hours, they had gotten a response.
If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011 to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage. In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies: the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain.
San Diego County remains one of the few parts of the state to still be labeled as abnormally dry, according to the drought monitor. While rainfall this winter has already exceeded average, the region is still recovering from a severe deficit in precipitation, and researchers say impacts to vegetation and reservoirs linger. Still, the San Diego region, which imports nearly 80 percent of its water, has more than adequate supplies to meet urban and agricultural demands.
The current dilemmas boil down to this: As the state punishes cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle for environmental degradation, it is simultaneously pursuing an aqueduct project in the Central Valley that environmental groups claim will cause ecological harm of massive proportions. This project stands to benefit the “big ag” industry, which California’s newly legal cannabis companies are increasingly participating in.
After three difficult years when Chinook salmon population numbers were down and fishing opportunities were limited, commercial fishermen are hoping the upcoming season will be better. “What we’re seeing is a better forecast of salmon in the ocean this year than we saw last year,” said Harry Morse, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Think California should build a lot more dams to catch these deluges? Forget it. … There’s one dam being planned north of Sacramento in Colusa County that makes sense: Sites. There are also some dam expansion projects that could work. But California is already dammed to the brim. Every river worth damming has been. And some that weren’t worth it were dammed anyway.
Climate change plus population growth are setting the stage for water shortages in parts of the U.S. long before the end of the century, according to a new study in the AGU journal Earth’s Future. Even efforts to use water more efficiently in municipal and industrial sectors won’t be enough to stave off shortages, say the authors of the new study. The results suggest reductions in agricultural water use will probably play the biggest role in limiting future water shortages.
One tunnel or two, neither idea adds a drop of the water to needs of the nearly 40 million people who call California home. The tunnels simply divert existing water supplies while putting in severe jeopardy the largest freshwater estuary west of the Mississippi River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that juts into the western edge of Stockton. Clearly, there must be better solutions. Three approaches leap to mind: storage, conservation and desalination.
The top state agencies that manage water and wildlife resources in California submitted a package of voluntary agreements with water districts to the State Water Resources Control Board on Friday, as an alternative to controversial flow requirements approved in December for the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. … The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts issued statements Friday in support of the tentative agreements.
Four new voting members, each appointed by representatives of the Delta region, would be added to the Delta Stewardship Council if a bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier becomes law. … Frazier introduced Assembly Bill 1194 this week. It would increase the voting membership of the council to 11 members.
Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a special board meeting late Friday that the federal Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought contingency plan package include restoration of the Salton Sea. They said federal officials will write a strong letter of support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea, which is California’s largest inland water body.
Oceanside announced it will receive a $2.6 million federal grant to build two more of the wells that the city has used for more than 20 years to supply a portion of its drinking water. The wells pump brackish water from what’s called the Mission Basin, an area near the airport, the old swap meet property and the San Luis Rey River. The city filters the water using the same reverse osmosis process used on a much larger scale in Carlsbad to desalinate seawater.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, working with Republican Doug LaMalfa of the First District, have introduced the Sites Reservoir Protection Act to support building the reservoir and other water infrastructure in the Central Valley. The act, also known as House Resolution 1453, would direct the Bureau of Reclamation to complete a feasibility study for the project in Colusa and Glenn counties.
There is water here in the Mojave Desert. A lot of it. Whether to tap it on a commercial scale or leave it alone is a decades-old question the Trump administration has revived and the California legislature is visiting anew. … Soon after the 2016 election, the Trump transition team included Cadiz as No. 15 on its priority list of “emergency and national security” projects. Less than a year later, the administration exempted the project from a federal review that the Obama administration required because of the federal land involved in the pipeline construction.
California’s Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland body of water, formed when a dam broke. It stayed alive fed by agricultural water runoff. Today, it’s water supply is slowing, and the sea is drying up and losing its place as a fishing and recreation hotspot. But … the Salton Sea is finding new life as haven for artists.
The winter wonderland conditions are in stark contrast to what they were a year ago, when the outlook for California’s reservoirs looked bleak. Sierra snowpack was at 19 percent of historical levels and many parts of the state were experiencing drought conditions. “Right now we’re not concerned about drought at all,” Pete Fickenscher, a senior hydrologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Service, said.
It’s a treasure that is all too easy for Palo Alto to take for granted — an abundant supply of pristine water that flows from the Sierra Nevada snowpacks and passes through the Hetch Hetchy system before splashing out of local showers and faucets. Palo Alto is one of 25 cities that belong to the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which manages the member cities’ supply agreement with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. … Even so, the cities don’t always know which projects they’re helping to fund.
The aging, leaking Combie Canal, a concrete flume located along a steep hillside above the Bear River, received the OK for a nearly $20 million replacement Wednesday. The canal is a “critical piece of infrastructure” that serves two water treatment plants, Nevada Irrigation District staff say, with more than half of the district’s flows for deliveries made through the nearly 50-year-old system.
Yuba Water Agency is presenting a collaborative framework to the State Water Resources Control Board today, a detailed plan to improve fish and wildlife habitat conditions in the San Francisco/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary watershed (Bay-Delta), including fisheries enhancement measures on the lower Yuba River.
Arizona state water regulators have confirmed that here may not be enough water underground for dozens of planned developments in Pinal County, new subdivisions that, if built, would bring more than 139,000 homes. That finding is based on data the Arizona Department of Water Resources has compiled that shows a long-term groundwater shortage in the area is possible. The data … raises red flags about growthand the water supply in one of the fastest growing parts of the state.
California is drenched and its mountains are piled high with snow amid a still-unfolding winter of storms that was unimaginable just a few months ago. Drought conditions have almost been eliminated, hills blackened by huge wildfires are sporting lush coats of green, and snow has fallen in the usually temperate suburbs of Southern California. … The California Department of Water Resources reported Thursday that the Sierra snowpack is now 153 percent of average to date.
Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain endangered fish populations.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive. Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has insight as to why those involved with the project are still optimistic.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced the Sites Reservoir Protection Act Thursday to provide federal support for the building of Sites Reservoir and other water infrastructures in the Central Valley. The act, also known as House Resolution 1453, would direct the Bureau of Reclamation to complete a feasibility study for the project Colusa and Glenn counties.
Plans to give Nevada’s top water official more flexibility to wade into water rights disputes got a rough reception in the state Legislature. Farmers, conservationists and American Indians from Nevada and Utah turned out in opposition to the proposals in two bills. No one spoke in support of measures critics say would direct more water toward urban and suburban development at the expense of farming, ranching and the environment in rural valleys.
We hope the move by MWD — which in 2016 had played hardball of its own by linking its support of the Colorado River drought plan to federal and state support of a Delta water project — doesn’t again sidetrack true federal involvement at the Salton Sea.
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
California has been blessed with a wet winter this year. That’s been good news for the California plants, animals, and humans that rely on water to survive and recreate. But lots of precipitation now doesn’t necessarily mean that California will have lots of water when it needs it. That’s because what matters is not only how much water we get, but when and how we get it.
To help build leadership capacity and acquire water management tools for valley communities, Self-Help Enterprises invites water board members and staff, water leaders, and residents from rural communities to participate in the 2019 Rural Communities Water Managers Leadership Institute. The six-month program is scheduled for March through August, with sessions held one Saturday per month at Self-Help Enterprises in Visalia.
With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.
Winter storms have blanketed the mountains on the upper Colorado River with snow. But even this year’s above-average snowpack won’t be nearly enough to make up for the river’s chronic overallocation, compounded by 19 years of drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests of the community.
Local groundwater regulatory agencies set up under 2014 legislation in California are discussing future rationing schemes with irrigators as they scramble to submit long-term aquifer sustainability plans to the state by a deadline of early next year. Local regulators are discussing a combination of new supplies and land-use conversions, says David Orth, a principal at the Fresno-based New Current Water and Land, LLC, a strategic planning firm.
What a difference a winter can make. On Jan. 1, three-quarters of California was in drought. Just eight weeks later, however, a succession of storms have washed drought conditions away from all but a splotch at the far north edge of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the region’s main economic driver and predominant water user. Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the region.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado River – and keep up with any of our tours and events – through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through March 1.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water south for agriculture and urban users.
Mono County hasn’t won the war, but it did win the first battle in its lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s decision to withdraw water allotments to its Long Valley area grazing leases. Last Friday, the Alameda County civil court indicated LADWP’s request to dismiss the suit was overruled.