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.
Despite cost increases and weather-related delays, construction
of the 1.6 billion-gallon Trampas Canyon Reservoir in south
Orange County is well underway and officials continue pointing
to long-term savings to be gleaned by reducing the need for
imported water. … Construction costs have soared from the
2016 estimate of $56 million to $83 million today…
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
Spring has come to California and drought-resistant plants are
a good option for residents looking to add some new plants.
These drought-resistant plants can help save money, because
they require less water.
In the DCP, there was no consideration of deeper conservation,
no consideration of mechanisms to shift our state to less
thirsty crops, and no consideration of what kind of development
is sustainable. There was no consideration of our other rivers
and the need for ecological flows.
Crystal Geyser Water Company of Calistoga has partnered with a
nonprofit watershed conservation group for the protection and
restoration of forested watersheds and natural sources of
drinking water. … The partnership has created a new
initiative, called Spring for Life, and was announced April 16.
As the Inland area dries out from this winter’s soaking,
residents might be tempted to crank up their lawn sprinklers,
and wash the dust off their driveways, but not so fast, water
officials say. All that rain has done little to erase the
deficits in local groundwater basins which are at historic lows
thanks to two decades of drought.
As a full Tuolumne River flowed behind them, a diverse set of
government leaders and water stakeholders gathered alongside
Congressman Josh Harder Wednesday afternoon in Modesto to unite
under one important cause: protecting water in the Central
Governor Newsom last month declared a wildfire state of
emergency in California. The governor’s action’s followed a Cal
Fire report that more than half of the state’s wildlands – 25
million acres – face a very high or extreme fire threat,
placing hundreds of nearby communities at risk.
In Solano County, near Sacramento, [Alex] Johnson is working on
what he says could be a model for parched ag regions around the
state. … Last month, working with IBM and a company
called SweetSense, Johnson’s team began deploying simple,
solar-powered sensors, originally developed to monitor creaky
groundwater pumps in East Africa. The sensors will be used to
detect how much water is flowing in real-time. … Farmers will
use that data to trade their water on (what else?) a blockchain
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, thinks there is a better way to
find water solutions for California’s Central Valley and to
stop squandering water in wet years that’s needed in dry years.
His bipartisan water legislation unveiled Wednesday promises
federal support for storage and innovation projects to address
shortages that too often plague Valley agriculture and
North America is not a snow globe, and as the real globe warms,
one trend is clear: winter is shrinking and snow is melting. In
the last 50 years alone, the frozen mantle that caps the
Northern Hemisphere in the dark months has lost a million
square miles of spring snowpack. …Coastal ranges like the
Sierras and Cascades, where winter temperatures hover close to
the freezing point, are most at risk.
Last month the U.S. Drought Monitor declared California
drought-free for the first time since 2011, thanks to a series
of winter storms. But the long-term prognosis is for more
droughts and severe weather, which will profoundly affect state
agriculture. While farmers and lawmakers are taking notice, few
see an immediate threat.
A federal judge has dismissed portions of a yearslong lawsuit
brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against
the Coachella Valley’s local water districts, ruling against
the tribe’s attempt to quantify its rights to groundwater. The
judge ruled Friday that the tribe’s access to water has not
been sufficiently harmed to adjudicate the matter.
A report from a citizen advisory committee in Desert Hot
Springs is asking lawmakers in Sacramento to “re-work” a state
law, which went into effect in 2015, that allowed the Desert
Water Agency in Palm Springs to take over management authority
of the groundwater distributed by the Mission Springs Water
District, to people living in Desert Hot Springs and
surrounding areas. John Soulliere, MSWD’s Public Affairs
Officer, says his district has been “hijacked”…
On April 9 after three years and two unsuccessful ballot
measures — Measure C failed by a razor-thin margin in June —
the Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved
greater protections for native woodlands from development and
buffer zones for watersheds. But the contentious path to the
Water Quality and Tree Protection ordinance vote may not be the
last word from supporters and opponents of tougher rules, from
inside and outside the wine business.
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
The 80 homes that make up Tooleville nestle against the mighty
Friant-Kern Canal, thousands of gallons of fresh water flowing
each day past the two-street town. But none of that water can
help Tooleville’s decades-old problem of contaminated water,
chronicled at the start of this decade in a three-part series
by The Bee on the San Joaquin Valley water crisis. Nearby
Exeter might, though, giving a rise of newfound hope.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
For the first time in more than 380 weeks, the state has not
had a square foot in drought territory… But there’s a hidden
drought affecting local groundwater basins, which have not
recovered fully from the 2011-16 drought. So Rialto Mayor
Deborah Robertson is calling on residents and businesses to
take a water conservation pledge, despite mountain peaks still
topped with snow on the horizon.
For some, like almond grower Jose Robles of Modesto, climate
change was an afterthought, if that. That’s something they talk
about in Sacramento, he says, not where he lives and works. But
in December, the ground under Robles’ almond trees was a carpet
of green, full of mustard plant and clover. … His neighbors
really don’t understand it.
The problem with Kirman is that it does not have a place where
the trout can spawn naturally. There is no stream running into
or out of the lake where the trout could find moving water to
spawn. That means the fishery was and is entirely dependent on
plants of fingerlings or subcatchables from the Department of
Fish and Wildlife hatcheries. And that is a big problem.
Considered by many the key to long-running efforts to cut
unauthorized pumping from the Carmel River, California American
Water’s proposed desalination plant project is headed to the
Monterey County Planning Commission next week. On Wednesday,
the commission is set to conduct a public hearing on a combined
development permit for the proposed 6.4-million-gallon-per-day
California’s inability to compromise and work together has put
a big question mark on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Plan. And that directly impacts Arizona’s ability to
proactively plan for our new, drier water future.
California’s seven-year dry spell may be over, but there will
be another drought somewhere in the country this year—and every
year. … There are lots of water-saving ideas floating around,
but two of the best ways are to replace water-wasting
appliances and fixtures and to modify your lifestyle and
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an
important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists
working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million
people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed
five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed
that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since
2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money
came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by
California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat
to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But
Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources,
said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003
to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the
area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial,
long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While
politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has
drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the
thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
The current five members of the Montecito Water Board ran as
slate candidates in 2016 and 2108, and they won election
largely on the promise of recycling treated wastewater for
irrigation. A group of wealthy donors poured $200,000 into
their campaigns. Yet the new board seems in no hurry to get the
Congressman Jared Huffman says the Water, Oceans and Wildlife
Subcommittee, which he chairs in the U.S. House of
Representatives, is finally getting to do things “we weren’t
allowed to do” for the past six years when Republicans
controlled the House. Things like protecting public lands,
making climate change part of all environmental programs,
trying to prevent offshore drilling and looking at the state of
the nation’s wildlife and fisheries.
Some 22,000 California American Water customers in Thousand
Oaks, Newbury Park and Camarillo are getting far lower rate
increases than the company proposed in 2016, saving several
million dollars a year combined. Thousand Oaks officials said
this week that instead of being hit with a 32.1% hike over
three years that the company wanted to impose and which the
city actively opposed, customers only got a fraction of that.
In SB1, State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins provides a
compelling case to protect California’s air, navigable water,
drinking water and workers. … However, despite our
recognition that some in our state feel recent administrative
rulings and legislative changes to federal law may not be the
right prescription for California, we believe this legislation
is overbroad, duplicative and unworkable.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the
Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The
$3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam
Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that
provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million
in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s
reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant
attention. (First of two parts.)
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado,
and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000
acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s
the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river.
These projects are in different stages of permitting and
funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the
river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
I am standing where stream flow begins, in a nameless tributary
of the Russian River to the east of Hopland, California. This
particular spot and location has been a grazing livestock
ranch, primarily sheep, going back more than 100 years. This is
one of thousands of spots in the watershed where water comes to
the surface, joins in a channel, and starts its path
In an effort to end Thousand Oaks’ near total reliance on
imported water, public works staff is asking the City Council
to commit $16.6 million over the next two years to build a
groundwater treatment plant at the city’s publicly owned golf
course. The Los Robles Greens Golf Course Groundwater
Utilization Project—which will be offset with an estimated $6
million in State Water Project (Prop. 1) grants—is the single
most expensive item on the city’s proposed $97-million 2019-21
capital improvement program budget…
The dominant water issue facing our community and every
community in California today is the insecurity of the water
supply. The California Legislature is facing up to the serious
need to take less water from the surface and groundwater for
human use to preserve wildlife habitats and industries such as
fishing. Both depend upon water filling the streams and
waterways that ultimately find their way to the ocean.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,
alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality
Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and
Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to
suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a
thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of
the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades.
… But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling
(relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end
with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan
for Western states to take less water from the overburdened
Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long
process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven
states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from
Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a
hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts
a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake
Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage
declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in
the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with
flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average
during the runoff season.
Wade Crowfoot, California’s new Natural Resources Secretary,
recently delivered a keynote address at Los Angeles Business
Council’s annual Sustainability Summit. He focused on the
economic, social and environmental challenges the state and
localities are addressing in response to a new climate normal;
on prioritizing new wildfire and water supply & stormwater
policies; and, commended the city of Los Angeles for its
ambitious climate actions.
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
The extent of the latest crisis unfolding in Paradise is yet
unknown: The deadly fire may also have contaminated up to 173
miles of pipeline in the town’s water system with
cancer-causing benzene and other volatile organic compounds, or
VOCs. Preliminary results have shown contamination in about a
third of the lines tested, though only about 2 percent of the
entire system has been sampled.
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan
resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress
has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado
River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we
work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest
challenges facing our nation today.
A bill moving through the state legislature looks to make
repairs and enhancements to the Friant-Kern Canal. Senate Bill
559 was authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado, representing the
14th Senate District, and was co-authored by several other San
Joaquin Valley lawmakers. The legislation recently advanced
through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
with a vote of 7 to 0.
What the state requires our community to do is challenging.
Land development, population growth and climate change make
planning for the future very complicated. The new state law
requires us to face these challenges and work together as a
community to create a plan.
Currently, the city has two significant environmental impact
reports, which CEQA requires, making their way through the
development process. One is for a plan to build a 7-mile
pipeline to tap into Ventura’s long-held investment in state
water. … The other project would capture effluent from
Ventura’s wastewater treatment plant, treat it and turn it into
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation,
who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and
federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy
conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t
available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of
this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think
that sets the stage for that to happen.”
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct
was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to
meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct
will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12
months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled his proposed budget
for fiscal year 2020 on Thursday, saying it includes the
highest infrastructure investment in the city’s history. …
The budget includes an infrastructure investment of $715.8
million, an increase of nearly 300% over the $179.4 million
infrastructure allocation in the city’s fiscal year 2014 budget
… More than half of that is earmarked for the city’s Pure
Water program, which aims to recycle sewage into drinking
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez
and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are
the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton
Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key
positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics
program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that
critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a
multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and
thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s
already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary,
he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the
Researchers say the end of California’s drought could offer a
surprising benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne
West Nile virus. Drought is the most important weather-related
factor that affects the rate of West Nile infection, scientists
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on
Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for
his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water
issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated
on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
California should consider a wide range of policies and law
changes to tackle the state’s wildfire crisis — including
controversial revisions to state liability laws and potentially
breaking up PG&E — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. The ideas
come in a 58-page report — the work of a “strike team” the
governor created 60 days ago — that Newsom unveiled Friday.
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
The Yosemite toad is considered endangered, and its numbers are
falling. Scientists say the amphibian chytrid fungus is one
reason, but climate change also may contribute to some pools
drying up before tadpoles mature.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
Besides choking out much-loved natives such as the golden
poppy, which is the state flower, Ward’s weed is a wildfire
hazard. Each year it dies off and turns into a brown mass of
thin, dry brush, like a tiny tumbleweed, that can go up in
flames with a spark.
Drought’s expanse over the Lower 48 states of the U.S. dropped
to a 21st century record low in early April, according to one
analysis. … You almost have to squint to see areas that are
in drought, including a few patchy areas of the South from
South Carolina to Alabama to Texas, a swath of New Mexico, and
the north Cascades of Washington state.
A team of Stanford University researchers believe they have
identified the best way to replenish the shrinking aquifers
beneath California’s Central Valley. … The study from
Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences,
published in the journal Water Resources Research, found that
unless action is taken, the ground in that region will sink
more than 13 feet over the next 20 years.
2019 marks the sixth straight winter that scientists from
NASA/JPL have been flying over portions of the Sierra range,
using light-detection and ranging lasers called lidar to map
and decode the snowpack. The Airborne Snow Observatory program,
or ASO, is based on technology that NASA has been using for
years to look at Mars and other planets.
The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had
an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new
study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s
notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s
efforts to clear the skies.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton
Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will
inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and
taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous
While this season has stood out in many people’s minds as
noteworthy and painstakingly rainy, “it’s just a normal year,”
said Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist with Golden Gate
Weather Services. The city measured similar rainfall totals as
recently as 2016-17.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network
of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm.
Instead of the food crops grown all around this site,
Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for
birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only
receives water a couple times a year.
While California recovers from the worst drought in state
history, a myriad of impacts resulting from climate change
threaten Southern California’s imported water supply. As a
shadow of drought hangs over the region, this documentary
explores the dire consequences of inaction that lie ahead.
The end of California’s drought, announced last month amid one
of the rainiest winters in memory, could offer a surprising
benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne West Nile
virus. Longer term, however, more severe droughts associated
with climate change could contribute to an increase in the
number of infections in the state and nationally.
Statewide leaders in agriculture recently launched an
initiative to clean oilfield wastewater for use in arid Western
states, hoping to reduce the region’s carbon footprint and
improve the lives of ranchers and farmers.
Eldorado Irrigation District staff said the proposed
improvements and replacements are needed because the existing
equipment does not allow selective temperature withdrawal at
multiple elevations for the benefit of downstream fisheries. In
addition the existing pumps and boosters have reached the end
of their useful life, having undergone multiple repairs over
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well
water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed
away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an
alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost
other groundwater users far less overall.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
The State Water Board was given the power to force a larger,
better run utility to absorb a smaller neighbor that
consistently fails to deliver clean water. They would like
South Kern to connect to Bakersfield’s system, which serves
high-quality water to 144,000 people. … The three sides have
been in negotiations for two and a half years, a struggle
between one of the largest cities in California’s Central
Valley, state officials, and two tiny water suppliers that is
the first significant test of the four-year-old statute.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver
at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation —
rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the
Klamath Project this summer and fall.
While flooding is clearly a problem, the extra vegetation that
thrives can lead to another problem. A hotter-than-average
summer – such as one fueled by climate change – can cause
vegetation to dry out faster. With all this natural kindling in
place, it doesn’t take much to start a fire.
This bill calls for $150M in funding over the next ten years
from the state’s General Fund to conduct laser surveys via ten
airplane trips over the Trinity Alps and the Sierra Nevada each
year. They would also fly over hydrologic areas that drain to,
or supply water to, certain major reservoirs and lakes.
Over the past 50 years, hydrology has experienced a revolution
in theory, technical application, and interdisciplinary
collaboration. … But as impressive as these technological
advancements are, the hydrological revolution owes as much to a
shift in culture.
When you turn on a faucet on the Monterey Peninsula, you’re
consuming water that’s been illegally pumped from Carmel River.
Now, after more than two decades of this, scores of public
officials, utility executives and citizen advocates are working
– and sometimes fighting – to replace the region’s water supply
before state-mandated sanctions kick in. California American
Water is forging ahead with its plan: a desalination plant near
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill
following pressure from conservationists, American Indian
tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from
remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the
bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate
to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages
their concerns about the pipeline.
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state
ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first
phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project
based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part
of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from
Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward
servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and
other capital costs associated with getting the project ready
Let’s face it, the 2018-2019 water year has been awesome! …
Even with this great news, the California Department of Water
Resources says, “the days of taking water for granted is over.”
Niki Woodard is the Deputy Assistant Director for California
Department of Water Resources and she believes the small steps
we take at home add up and can make a huge difference for our
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused
land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out
sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and
damaging infrastructure. … New research from Stanford
University suggests a way to map precisely where and how to use
groundwater recharge to refill the aquifers and stop the
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought
pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said
Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.”
… IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm
commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal
funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
Activities that remove vegetation and disturb the soil are the
most harmful. “Things like energy exploration and development
can do some of that as well as off-highway vehicles,” Duniway
said. He said livestock overgrazing is another culprit, as well
as droughts and wildfires. Climate models predict those
conditions will only get worse.
The city says the above-average rainfall this winter improved
water supplies. Based on current water supply forecasts, the
city believes it has enough supply to meet demands through
2021. On Tuesday, the City Council ended its Stage Three
Drought Emergency, lifting drought water use regulations. The
City Council first enacted the Stage Three Drought Emergency in
2015, requiring 25 percent water conservation initially.
Now that spring is here and the sun is finally out, Bay Area
residents are already reminiscing over what a rainy winter it
was, one of the wettest in recent memory, with many more
downpours than normal. Or was it? Not according to weather
All this reliance on an overallocated river has left its final
hundred miles as the ultimate collateral damage. Since the
early 1960s, when Glen Canyon Dam impounded the river near
Page, Arizona, it has rarely reached the Pacific Ocean. The
thread is frayed beyond recognition, leaving no water for the
That’s the last thing they should do, experts say, and it
explains why munipical drought restrictions — three-day weekly
lawn-watering, recycled water for ornamental fountains, water
served in restaurants only upon request — have not and will not
For the millions of Californians who live and work far from the
Delta, it can be easy to overlook the splendor of the largest
estuary in western North America. Whether you are one mile or
hundreds of miles from the Delta, however, all Californians
have a stake in the survival and preservation of this fragile,
dynamic ecosystem that is also the keystone of the state’s
water supply system.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s
long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas
are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from
the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County.
Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its
water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That
stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President
Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid.
Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very
different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
… Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating
San Jose Water, the local water company, recently sent out a
public notice saying it wants to impose a year-long surcharge
beginning this summer. The reason? To recover what it described
as an “under-collection” of more than $9 million in fixed
costs. … In other words, thank you for following the rules
and limiting your water usage, but that’s hurt our bottom line,
so we’ll be sending you a bill.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a
drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of
shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White
House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to
protect water users from deep losses and keep the
reservoirs and river healthy.
The wetland is fed by a concrete canal that removes drainage
water from American farms across the border in Arizona. … But
there’s a problem. As the Colorado River basin heats up and
dries out like climate projections predict, Juan Butrón-Méndez
is concerned people will stop thinking of the water that flows
to the wetland as waste, find a way to use it and, in turn,
harm the Ciénega.
At its core, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council exists to
ensure that the town of Borrego Springs survives and benefits
from the groundwater sustainability plan process. To that end,
BVSC members are taking a more creative look at the town as the
hospitality hub for the state park, relying on a geotourism
program from National Geographic, and aggressively trying to
buy out 70% of water from farmers.
Two pieces of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House
of Representatives will help more communities modernize their
water management strategies to include water recycling and we
urge Congress to pass them.
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre
feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working
with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park
Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre
feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than
the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
Journey through a scenic landscape as we explore an area of
California dealing with persistent threats to its water
supply and quality, and learn what solutions are being
Although Santa Barbara County recently lifted
its drought emergency declaration after this winter’s
storms replenished local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic
recovery often has lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
It is a region particularly prone to drought, wildfires and
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Specifically, the Feather River Recovery Alliance is asking
FERC to not reissue a license to the state Department of Water
Resources to operate the Oroville Dam until terms of the
agreement are renegotiated, including a new recreation plan.
The group says it received 6,469 local signatures on the
Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel testified Thursday
that lack of water has been killing crops and livestock – and,
essentially, the tribe’s economy – and things will only get
worse if federal funding is allowed to lapse. That’s why Manuel
joined officials from other tribes, utilities and advocacy
groups to urge passage of a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva,
D-Tucson, that would make permanent a federal fund used to help
the government meet its obligations under legal settlements
over water-rights issues.
Our predecessors settled in a valley bordered by mountains that
increase the rainfall and help store water as melted snow
underground. They also experienced drought and, in response,
they thoughtfully set aside thousands of acres of land needed
to capture and replenish the primary source of the water they
Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is
blessed with water. The very names associated with the most
prominent places and businesses in the desert, such as the
Oasis Hotel, Mineral Springs Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells,
Palm Springs, Snow Creek, and Tahquitz River Estates, all
conjure up pretty images of water. But the early story of
desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque: it quite
literally can be seen as a history of ditches.
Klamath Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit against
Reclamation in federal court in Medford. Klamath Water Users
Association will follow suit in a separate legal filing,
jointly with Klamath Drainage District, Shasta View Irrigation
District, Tulelake Irrigation District and individual farmers
Rob Unruh and DuVal. Limitation to water supply stem from
protections in the biological opinion for endangered sucker in
Upper Klamath Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
New research finds that climate change is putting stress on
wetlands in the West’s Great Basin and that is putting pressure
on bird populations navigating the Pacific Flyway. Changing
water conditions linked to climate change are impacting the
wetland habitats that waterbirds rely on. The basin includes
most of Nevada and parts of Utah, Arizona, Oregon and the
eastern edge of California.
Tehama and Butte counties teamed up Friday to host a Northern
Sacramento Valley forum on sustainable groundwater held at
Rolling Hills Casino. … The forum was a chance to look at
neighboring agencies and see similarities and differences as
well as how they are progressing in the planning, Fulton said.
It was a place to connect with the agency in their area so they
would know where to go if they had questions.
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate
dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast
it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for
lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control
Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands
and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their
current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of
the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
Officials met in Imperial Beach Friday to discuss the sewage
pollution that continues to plague South Bay shorelines —
shuttering beaches more than 100 days every year. The event was
billed as an “inaugural dialogue,” which in the future will
include a host of other binational issues, including climate
change and commerce.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced
that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to
divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any
time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the
water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense
because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as
streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
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. … People who live in rural areas rely almost
exclusively on groundwater, and while cities in Sonoma County
get most of their water from the Russian River, groundwater
provides a critical back-up source that is used during droughts
or in emergencies.
City officials approved a plan for a new groundwater
sustainability project, hoping it will be a solution to
increase the supply of groundwater and find a place for excess
effluent water coming to the Tehachapi Waste Water Treatment
Plant. The benefits will not appear for decades, when the
project is complete.
This week California’s State Water Resources Control Board
adopted important new rules to protect the state’s remaining
wetlands resources. Enacted after over a decade of Board
hearings, workshops and deliberation, those rules are overdue,
welcome and critically necessary. Their adoption is
particularly timely now, given the Trump Administration’s
wholesale assault on and erosion of federal programs designed
to protect our nation’s wetlands under the federal Clean Water
Two of the four plants are scheduled to close by 2025. The fate
of the third rests upon a longshot bid to keep it open beyond
2022. … Navajo Generating Station was built as part of a
federal effort to bring water to Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.
Power from the plant was used to pump water up and out of the
Colorado River and across the desert. The federal government
still owns a stake in NGS through the Interior Department.
It might be tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our
labors, especially given all the rain and snow this winter. But
our work is not done. In fact, the San Diego County Water
Authority’s board leadership will ask the board of directors to
consider options to leverage the investments we have made in
decades past to meet the challenges and opportunities of
decades to come.
L.A.’s love affair with swimming pools has lasted for
generations, and for good reason. Summers are sunny, winters
are mild, and many luxury listings flaunt an indoor-outdoor
lifestyle where backyards are as crucial as any living room or
kitchen. A recent report from Redfin says they might not be a
bad investment, either.
Almost everyone who flies into San Francisco or San Jose
airport has seen it — a vibrant patchwork quilt of colorful
water. … As part of a huge effort called the South Bay Salt
Pond Restoration Project, the Cargill salt company has freed
almost 16,000 acres of their salt ponds.
The Amended Plan … has touched off a series of lawsuits due
to its controversial unimpaired flow requirements for the Lower
San Joaquin River and its tributaries … The Federal
Government’s lawsuits challenge the Amended Plan by asserting
that it fails to comply with CEQA and congressional mandates
that control the operation of the New Melones Dam, which is
part of the federally run Central Valley Project (CVP).
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before
the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas
Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online
and in print that brought together different parts of the
newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a
planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource
that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
Mention of climate change may still provoke skepticism in other
sectors, but in California’s agriculture industry, the
discussion is less about whether disruption is coming than it
is about how farmers will adapt. A consensus appears to have
emerged that extreme weather conditions — drought and flooding,
hotter summers and milder winters — will increase competition
for irrigation water such that some crops now produced in the
Central Valley may no longer be economically feasible in the
So just what would a one-tunnel project look like? A workshop
for Metropolitan Water District board members compared a single
tunnel project at both 3000 cfs and 6000 cfs to the California
WaterFix project, looking at water delivery capability, the
ability to divert stormwater flows, water quality benefits,
reverse flows, seismic events, and project costs.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix
on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the
Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning
fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive
fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes
Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the
The Escondido City council has decided to move forward with
building a recycled water treatment plant off Washington
Avenue, in the western part of the city in an industrial area
where, unlike two other locations, there aren’t any residents
nearby to complain. The council on Wednesday unanimously
approved spending $3 million for initial engineering, design
and pre-construction costs.
Four months after the Camp fire destroyed the northern
California towns of Paradise and Magalia, city council members
in the neighboring town of Chico voted this week to declare a
climate emergency that threatens their lives and well-being.
Crystal Geyser initially announced its intention to open the
facility to bottle fruit juices with much fanfare in 2013.
However, legal challenges have so far foiled its plans. The
Winnemem Wintu Tribe and WATER (We Advocate Thorough
Environmental Review) have filed two lawsuits to prevent the
project, both of which are moving through the court system.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental
Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality
standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. …
“The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA
misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined
almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin
McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
Construction starts this month on a $1.5 million test well to
show whether desalinated groundwater could supplement the
drinking water supply for 86,000 customers of the Olivenhain
Municipal Water District. The district serves parts of
Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach and
neighboring communities, and relies almost entirely on water
imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a
complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior
to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights
perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy
choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address
this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from
farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome
cannabis growers with open arms.
For years, the desert town of Borrego Springs has been living
on borrowed time, drawing more water from the ground than its
rains replace. But a reckoning is near. In March, a nearly
1,000-page draft report was released outlining how the
community must and will reduce its water use by a staggering
74.6 percent between now and 2040.
Unfortunately, the thing that almost always lingers on after an
adverse event such as a prolonged drought is government’s heavy
hand in regulations and mandates that are hastily put together
in an attempt to mitigate the drought and get us through it.
As Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld oversees the state’s efforts to
fight climate change, protect air and water quality, regulate
pesticides and toxic substances, achieve the state’s recycling
and waste reduction goals, and advance environmental justice.
… Blumenfeld joined TPR for an exclusive interview to discuss
the administration’s priorities…
After 10 hours, 12 minutes and more than five dozen public
speakers, supervisors … increased requirements for preserving
trees and replacing cut-down ones for vineyards and other
development in watershed areas, but decided against a complete
ban on projects on ground steeper than 30 percent.
This post provides an overview of our recommendations for
actions the State Water Resources Control Board can take
before, during, and after droughts to make water rights
administration and oversight more timely, fair, and effective.
… Here are five actions the Board can take to build on past
gains and its institutional knowledge from past drought
In an era of high population growth and sprawling urban and
wildland development, fire and flood disaster officials have to
plan in advance for post-fire problems… One strategy
California and Colorado are working on is to build political
alliances that combine forestry, water and land issues so that
lawmakers at the state and even the federal level are provided
with a more powerful, holistic view of the problems.
Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson issued a city-wide challenge to
residents to pledge to be water wise during the month of April,
as part of a non-profit national service campaign to see which
leaders can best inspire their residents to make a series of
informative and easy-to-do online pledges to use water more
efficiently. Two years ago the City of Rialto came in fifth
place on its first try.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December
to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction
of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue
voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw
this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the
executive director, and many of the activist staff.
Most winters, [firefighter Mike] Morello would be working on
several of these forest treatment projects, especially prior to
the bulk of the Sierra winter snowfall. But throughout late
December and most of January, Morello was sitting at home. He
got to spend more time with his kids, but because he was one of
the thousands of Forest Service workers to be furloughed, he
couldn’t spend time in the woods, trying to prevent the next
Sierra town from becoming Paradise, California, where 85 people
died in November of last year.
To prepare for the dry years that will come again as well as an
uncertain future, healthy mountain watersheds will be key to
our water supply. While the importance of forests to these
watersheds is well known, new research suggests that meadows
are valuable too. Meadows are like sponges, soaking up snowmelt
in the spring and releasing it through the dry season.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced
legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of
water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S.
West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul
Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the
chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states
signed on as co-sponsors.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits
against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River
tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to
learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court
battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own
lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water
Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss
California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the
recent drought and the future of its water wars.
Under a veil of trying to protect the vast California desert,
SB307 focuses squarely on the Cadiz Water Project aiming to
trap it in another state-run permitting process promoted by
special interests who have challenged the Cadiz Project for
more than a decade.
The use of public art to bring about social change created the
interactive art event called the “Bombay Beach Biennale” on the
shores of the Salton Sea. Organizers hope to bring attention to
the long-ignored environmental issue facing the region, once
one of the premier tourist destinations in Southern California.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial
Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal
legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were
left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
Precious water is vanishing into thin air at the Colorado
River’s two largest reservoirs, and scientists are only now
learning the true scale of the problem. Building on ongoing
research at Lake Mead, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
Nevada’s Desert Research Institute have teamed up on a new
study using remote sensors on floating platforms at Lake Powell
to pinpoint how much water is lost to evaporation.
Before we can begin to address our water supply issues in the
Ventura River watershed, we must first recognize the problem,
and realize we need to work together to solve it. Accordingly,
I am pleased to report that the watershed’s water leaders have
agreed to come together to collaborate on developing a new
sustainable approach to managing the watershed for the future.
Decay festers all around at the Salton Sea, the vast inland
lake in Southern California that once hosted beauty pageants
and boat races in its tourist heyday. … But new life is
moving into the breach. At Bombay Beach, artists drawn by the
cheap prices and surreal setting have been snapping up lots and
crumbling buildings as gallery spaces.
Eastern Municipal Water District officials celebrated
groundbreaking today for EMWD’s third water treatment facility
at its complex serving Menifee and Perris on Murrieta Road. The
plant will significantly increase the amount of drinkable water
for the area…by removing salt from brackish groundwater basin
water and exporting the salt through a regional brine line.
As a result of California’s outdated water infrastructure and
persistent droughts, some elected leaders are shifting the
focus to investing in seawater desalination to help address the
state’s water crisis. While less than half a dozen desalination
plants currently exist in the state, the idea is gaining
momentum and greater support at the state level.
As farmers plant their 2019 crops, hopeful for an abundant
harvest, they are unknowingly battling history. Past wildfires
and other tree loss in California will likely interfere with
U.S. food crops, based on emerging results of our own and
colleagues’ research. … Deforestation could cause millions of
dollars in lost agricultural production throughout the U.S. But
policy and practice still fail to recognize the interdependence
of our wild and cultivated lands.
The City Council approved a regional plan for managing the
area’s groundwater resources, which brings a measure of local
control and to qualify for state funds for water-related
projects. … California City is one of three primary
stakeholders in the document, with the Antelope Valley-East
Kern Water Agency and the Mojave Public Utility District. These
three entities are the major water providers in the region
covered by the plan.
On Saturday officials held a grand opening ceremony for the
$44-million Albion Riverside Park — the city’s newest
greenspace. The triangular six-acre site next to the L.A. River
at Spring Street includes playing fields, walking trails,
restrooms, playgrounds, parking and an outdoor fitness center.
But the park will also do double-duty as a giant filter to
clean storm drain water before it flows in the adjacent L.A.
Parts of Sonoma Valley … have seen a persistent decline in
groundwater levels over the last decade – and it may be
expanding. These chronic declines, based on data from the USGS
and the Sonoma County Water Agency, indicate that groundwater
withdrawals are occurring at a rate exceeding the rate of
replenishment within the deeper aquifer zones of southern
A self-imposed deadline to choose what path the city will
choose in securing its future water supply, even in times of
prolonged drought, is approaching. The Santa Cruz Water
Commission will take stock of its progress to enact an
ambitious water supply plan, reuniting with the 14-member
community panel that spent 18 tumultuous months crafting the
city’s water supply source blueprint.
San Diego water customers will soon pay $6 to $13 more a month
to fund the first part of the city’s new recycled water
project, according to a newly released estimate. The city is
working on a multibillion-dollar plan to purify enough sewage
to provide a third of the city’s drinking water by 2035.
If it seems that wildfires are burning nearly all the time
these days, that there’s no longer a definable fire season in
California, you’re right. Fourteen of the 20 most destructive
fires in state history have occurred since 2007, and California
has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago.
The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other
Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade
the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have
been better served – and made more believable – by a show of
good faith rather than a show of force.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of
shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On
Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency
Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who
crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate
subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both
chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would
allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
Antioch’s plan to build a long-awaited brackish desalination
plant got a major boost this week when the City Council
officially accepted a $10 million state grant that will pay
toward design and construction. The city’s grant was one of
three statewide to be awarded in March 2018 from the Department
of Water Resources for desalination projects under Proposition
Despite the abundant water year we’ve had, though, over the
long term climate change is transforming our snowpack and will
make no-snow snow surveys more common in the future. Not only
is climate change making good snow years like this one less
likely, it’s also changing what good snow years mean for our
water resources. And that’s going to mean a very different
April snow survey in the future.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a
water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB
headquarters in Santa Rosa.
TPR interviewed Martha Davis, a co-author on the Sustainable
Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa
Ana River Watershed report, about the potential for landscaping
changes to capture stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve
water quality. … Davis also comments on California water
policies under the new Governor Newsom administration. A brief
excerpt of the report follows the interview.
Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the
2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the
change wasn’t uniform. According to research from UCLA and
Columbia University, large areas of the northern part of the
state were not severely affected, while Southern California
became much browner than usual.
Chula Vista residents looking to conserve water now have
another reason to keep an eye out for a leaky faucet, with the
city announcing its participation in the 2019 National Mayor’s
Challenge for Water Conservation at a City Council meeting on
March 26. The challenge, which is put on by the Wyland
Foundation, is entering its eighth year of existence, and this
will be the first year Chula Vista partakes.
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is
showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the
feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging
groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry
The city is suiting up for construction of a new facility later
this year that will purify recycled water to create a new,
local source of drinking water for residents by 2022. Pure
Water Oceanside is a water purification system that aims to
reduce the city’s reliance on imported water, improve
groundwater resources, increase local water supply and
strengthen the city’s resiliency to drought and climate change
in an environmentally sound process.
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued
Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate
billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other
struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control
Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help
steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley
farmers and a handful of cities.
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is one step closer
to a decision on whether to approve ERG’s oil drilling and
production plan. It would include developing and operating more
than 200 new oil production wells in the Cat Canyon area. At
recent planning commission meetings, dozens of people have
shown up both in support and opposition to the project.
Supporters say it will increase jobs in the area, while
opponents express concern for the environment.
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Whitewater rafting businesses are holding out hope of getting a
safe landing area near the Ward’s Ferry bridge over the
Tuolumne River, as a condition of relicensing the Don Pedro
hydroelectric project. At a Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission hearing Tuesday in Modesto, speakers said an
existing takeout for rafts on the Tuolumne, upstream from Don
Pedro Reservoir, is under water because of dam operations. And
the options for getting boats out of the water are not safe.
“The community is miserably divided,” said Napa County
Supervisor Diane Dillon during a meeting on Tuesday. Dillon and
her four fellow board members were tasked with crafting and
approving the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, a
controversial new law that seeks to conserve trees and forested
areas while improving water quality for the many creeks that
feed the Napa River.
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California
agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of
crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a
price, however, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in
the county and elsewhere in California have left some aquifers
severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less
than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects
groundwater for the long term yet ensures that Kern County’s
economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Here, the city of Santa Cruz’s water department is in its third
round of testing a plan to pump water underground, into the
Purisima Aquifer to rest the area’s wells and hopefully provide
a new reservoir of water storage—one that could supplement Loch
Lomond, the city’s current reservoir up in the Santa Cruz
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action
on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River,
which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and
Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got
a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee
that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll
introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late
last week that eight organizations have received a total of
$1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help
in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas
identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were
given priority for the grants.
The Camp Fire, the blaze that all but wiped Paradise off the
map last fall, heralds something new for all of us—a state of
affairs that out-going governor Jerry Brown characterized as
the “new normal” (and later, the “new abnormal”): larger,
costlier, more frequent wildfires in the state than ever
before, burning almost year-round.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in
more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for
dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought
agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step
toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for
implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a
strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has
left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea,
California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the
case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on
to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if
they change their minds. But with or without IID’s
participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton
A California law that passed in 2014 gave local control to
agencies to manage their groundwater. The Glenn Groundwater
Authority – created in 2017 – is an agency that was formed
under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to regulate
groundwater at a local level. … The GGA was created by
forming a joint exercise of powers agreement which was signed
by nine local agencies. The purpose is to be the groundwater
sustainability agency for the Glenn County portion of the
The Millview County Water District will receive a $3 million
loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
program to help secure access to its wells. According to the
USDA, the money will be used to help the water district
“purchase property to gain access to its water source.
Currently, Millview does not own the water rights to the four
well sites, making it difficult to service the wells if there
are any issues with them, such as contamination.”