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.
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.
The new administration has signaled a shift in water policy by specifically talking about turning salty water potable after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would support only a single tunnel as part of the project known as WaterFix. … But talking up desalination is much easier than making it a reality. In the four years since California updated its desalination regulations, none of the eight applications for new or expanded facilities has been approved. Meanwhile, the costs for the projects keep rising and the state has few details about its plans.
The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The district says if the federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the money, it won’t sign off on a multistate plan to preserve the river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.
All eyes have been on the Colorado River recently with headlines across the west announcing the progress – or lack thereof – of the efforts of the seven basin states to reach agreement on the Drought Contingency Plan. So is the Colorado River in crisis? At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Brad Udall’s keynote presentation focused on answering that question.
Hundreds of thousands of threatened red coho and hook-jawed Chinook salmon used to swim here, nearly 200 miles from where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. … But by the 2000s, their numbers had dwindled to just a few dozen adults each year. Since size largely determines whether juvenile fish survive, conservation organizations have been interested in this particular property, which includes the entire 2.2-mile length of the Big Springs Creek and 7.5-miles of the Shasta River, for decades.
The most eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant in the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be Manteca’s by the time 2020 rolls around. Not only is the treated water returned to the San Joaquin River meeting the latest standards established by the state for water quality, but within six months or so methane gas — a major byproduct of the treatment process that typically has to be burned — will no longer contribute to valley air quality issues.
The Pismo Beach City Council wants to build a $28 million facility that will purify Pismo Beach and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District wastewater and inject it into the Santa Maria groundwater basin. If completed, it will prevent salt water from seeping into one of South County’s water sources and provide more water to South County residents.
The wildfire that swept through Northern California this past November was one of the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history. … While it may take a long time for these communities to rebuild after these natural disasters, what is often missed is how the forest will rebuild itself. It turns out forests are struggling to come back, and climate change might have something to do with it.
A comprehensive bill addressing ocean concerns will call for improving the quality of ocean water and wetlands, better salmon habitats, and rules that would protect whales from being hit by ships. … Other potential legislation ranges from a move to end the practice of pumping treated sewage into the ocean to a law that would eliminate most paper shopping receipts to a smoking ban on all California state beaches.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is researching how cannabis cultivators who divert water from Mattole River streams might be impacting the river’s fish and insect populations… By fall 2019, the researchers will publish findings on the full environmental effects of cannabis grows. While the research is intended to “support efforts to establish” sustainable cultivation levels, the study’s main focus is analysis, said department representative Janice Mackey.
On their to-do list is determining how to spread costs from wildfires in “an equitable manner” and considering whether the state should create a special find to cover wildfire costs. They face a tricky task with an array of competing interests, chief among them how to balance wildfire costs between utilities, their shareholders and their customers.
For the next 75 days, Cindy Berglund will be traveling around Southern California in her motor home, lugging rain barrels with her. Last weekend, her company, Rain Barrels International, joined with the city’s Office of Sustainability to offer a free class on rainwater harvesting. More than 80 people signed up in advance for the class at Recreation Park but the presentation ended up being to a standing room only crowd.
Since 2006, California has been releasing periodic reports on how the state should adapt to the potential impacts of climate change. The most recent report is unique in that it also looks at key climate risks from a regional perspective. Our news director Alice Daniel recently spoke with Joshua Viers, a watershed scientist at UC Merced and one of the authors of the San Joaquin Valley assessment.
A dominate weather pattern featuring a southward dip in the jet stream, or upper-level trough over the western U.S., has allowed a series of precipitation-rich storm systems to track through the region, especially over the last month.
With stepped-up stormwater capture programs, the Pacific Institute said in a 2014 study, Southern California and the Bay Area could boost the state’s water supply by 420,000 acre-feet annually. That’s enough water to meet the needs of 300,000-400,000 people.
This year, the water agency plans to inform farmers and the community about not only the amount of water the Tuolumne River Watershed has received so far this year, but also will provide information regarding the final license application for Don Pedro, which first began eight years ago, and the ongoing legal battle surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to implement 40 percent unimpaired flows along the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for the betterment of fish.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s General Manager notified the region’s water board on Wednesday that she is retiring. Maureen Stapleton has held the top job at the agency for more than two decades. She led the Water Authority through the complicated settlement negotiations surrounding the Colorado River. Stapleton also encouraged projects like the Carlsbad Desalination plant as a way to diversify the region’s water supply.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new governor had their backs. But water policy in California is never that easy.
Now stripped of its once vast wetlands and nearly sucked dry from the overpumping of groundwater during the West’s increasingly common droughts, the fertile valley is in need of a reboot: Its aquifers have shrunk and the remaining water is often contaminated with nitrate and salts. Citing a new water law that will have major effects on water suppliers and farmers, experts are calling for an “all hands on deck” approach to fixing the valley’s water woes.
Arizona’s efforts to finish a Colorado River drought plan are moving forward after leaders of the Gila River Indian Community announced that they will proceed with their piece of the deal. … The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona Project Canal, and it has offered to kick in some water to make the drought agreement work.
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local reservoirs.
Three property owners in Shasta County face thousands of dollars in fines due to violations involving cannabis grows. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the fines over water quality violations at two properties one in Ono, the other near Cottonwood Creek.
Dated Feb. 20, 2019, and addressed to the Indian Wells Valley Ground Water Authority Board of Directors, the letter states that it is intended as a formal communication that “Commander Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW), in consultation with U.S. Navy commands located within the Indian Wells Valley, deems groundwater resources as the number one encroachment concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.”
Overall, the total number of birds in the study area increased during the drought period and the models project similarly high numbers in response to warmer future climate conditions. … However, many of the species that benefit from increased temperature were also sensitive to high water deficit and tree mortality. Thus, their positive response to increasing temperatures could be offset by drought or habitat change.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction heading out to sea?
In 2014 Santa Monica embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. … The switch has been accomplished through an extensive plan that encompasses small measures like toilet replacements, household rain harvest barrels and aggressive conservation to large measures like cleaning up contaminated groundwater, capturing street runoff and recycling water.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale last week introduced SB 307, which seeks to ensure “that any future water transfers from groundwater basins underlying desert lands do not adversely affect the California desert’s natural or cultural resources,” according to a bill fact sheet.
Although ending groundwater overdraft will bring long-term benefits, it entails near-term costs. We find that only about a quarter of the Valley’s groundwater deficit can be filled with new supplies at prices farmers can afford. The rest must come from managing demand. We estimate that ending the overdraft will require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production.
NRDC is sponsoring legislation this year by Senator Hertzberg and Senator Wiener (SB 332, the Local Water Reliability Act) designed to help sustain water reliability and protect the environment. … The bill challenges water supply agencies and wastewater treatment plant operators to undertake a joint effort to plan and implement a conservation and discharge reduction strategy that reduces wasteful and polluting discharges to the ocean by 95% in 20 years.
The furrows in a 60-acre patch of dirt on Rodney and Tiffany Shedd’s Arizona farm still hold cotton scraps from last year’s crop. This year, that patch will stay barren for the first time in recent memory, thanks to the decline in Colorado River water for farms across Pinal County, one of America’s cotton-growing centers.
In another sign Southern California is having its wettest winter in years, Mystic Lake has risen again in the rural, agricultural valley between Moreno Valley and San Jacinto. The ephemeral body of water was largely absent the past decade
Lake Oroville, currently at 773-foot elevation, could rise to 780-785 feet by the end of the month based on current projections. DWR and crews with Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for the spillways construction project, would remove equipment from the main spillway if the lake elevation reached 780 feet.
February storms have almost eliminated drought conditions from California. The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that just over 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level of dryness. Just under 30 percent is classified as abnormally dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or severe drought.
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and find out what the next generation of integrated water management planning looks like.
The city currently has six groundwater pumping stations that were used during the drought. But the stations have the ability to pump water back into the aquifer as well. The Folsom Dam currently has three gates open to release enough water so it has room to capture flood water. Roseville Utility officials say it’s just the right time to do a larger scale test of its water injection strategy.
At a Town Hall Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) told the large crowd filling nearly every available seat in the Ukiah Valley Conference Center about a possible future for the Potter Valley Project that would remove the controversial dam, but preserve the water supply the Ukiah Valley has depended on for more than a century.
The Pismo Beach City Council wants to build a $28 million facility that will purify Pismo Beach and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District wastewater and inject it into the Santa Maria groundwater basin. If completed, it will prevent salt water from seeping into one of South County’s water sources and provide more water to South County residents.
Noting the Klamath River’s history as the West Coast’s third-largest salmon-producing river, the City Council’s letter states that they believe a “free-flowing Klamath will revitalize” both the commercial and recreational fisheries, creating jobs and bringing revenue to the community.
In December, the city began delivering recycled water through its purple pipeline to the Tulare Irrigation District (TID) following approval by the Department of Drinking Water (DDW). Under an agreement signed in 2013, the city is obligated to deliver 11,000 acre feet of recycled water to TID per year in exchange for 5,500 acre feet of surface water used to recharge the city’s groundwater. Since 2016, the city has received enough surface water from TID to off set one year of groundwater pumping for the entire city.
One week after an atmospheric river storm pounded Northern California, causing flooding, mudslides and traffic headaches, another one appears to be forming in the Pacific and is set to arrive early next week. Computer models show the storm hitting Monday or Tuesday, with the North Bay and parts of California farther north taking the brunt, although that could change, experts say.
Southern California has been emerging from its most recent drought cycle thanks to one of the wettest winters the long-parched southern half of the Golden State has experienced in years — 18 trillion gallons of rain have fallen in February alone. … But don’t expect these storms to come to the rescue when — not if — more intense droughts return to the region.
In Paradise, California, thousands of residents are trying to cope with disruption and displacement resulting from November’s devastating Camp Fire. Children attend school in a repurposed hardware store, where counselors try to help them manage their trauma. Meanwhile, amidst millions of tons of toxic debris, finding safe and stable housing is a challenge. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.
If the Trump administration wanted to increase California’s water supply by the most cost-effective means possible, it would immediately drop its attempt to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet. It would instead put $1.5 billion — the cost of the proposed Shasta enlargement, in 2019 dollars — toward a completely different approach to water supply: watershed and forest restoration.
The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s also not just because of a Southern California irrigation district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to shore up the dying Salton Sea.
As we all know, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have had lots and lots and lots of rain this winter. So much rain, in fact, that this week, Southern California Edison announced they’re lifting mandatory conservation requirements for residents and businesses on Catalina Island. … Water rationing on Catalina Island began in 2014, when residents were asked to adopt mandatory conservation efforts.
At our current rate of climate change, many cities in western Oregon could come to feel a lot like the Central Valley of California over the next 60 years. A new analysis looking at climate projections for urban areas across the United States and Canada predict substantial changes in local temperatures and precipitation rates for Northwest cities.
A single tunnel would perform almost as well as two tunnels, particularly when operated in tandem with the existing pumps in the south Delta. It would cost substantially less. And it would give assurances to environmental groups and Delta residents that the project would not create the large impacts many fear. Environmental groups should take this opportunity to sign on to a new approach for managing the Delta.
San Diego’s water department is going through the second major shakeup in less than a year. At least five senior officials are out, including one who once tried to waive off an audit of the city’s troubled “smart” meter program. In January 2018, the department’s assistant director, Lee Ann Jones-Santos, said auditing the city’s effort to replace 280,000 water meters might make that $70 million program look bad.
When people need more water, they often build dams to increase supply. But can dams increase water use in an unsustainable way, leading communities to live beyond their water means? That appears to often be the case, according to the authors of a recent paper in Nature Sustainability. Las Vegas is a textbook case.
When operating, Sites Reservoir will provide significantly more water during drier periods, to become a new drought-management tool to address California’s water management challenges into the 21st century and beyond. Innovative and environmentally sound, Sites Reservoir will provide water to enhance the environment when it can provide greater benefits and provide a resilient and reliable supply of water for our communities, farms and businesses.
Drought has long been a part of California’s history. There is archeologic evidence that shows periods of below-normal rainfall have lasted for more than 50 years in the past. A Cal Poly professor is looking back at those so-called mega-droughts to see what we might be able to learn about the area’s climate in the future.
We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry events in California—and of rapid transitions between the two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection infrastructure.
Under the fee structure, there are two types of water use: agricultural and “all others.” Ag users will be assessed a $4.79/acre fee and other users will be assessed $2.26 per service connection. (Ag accounts for more than 90 percent of the pumping from the basin.) The new fees are part of California’s effort to regulate groundwater, which has historically been treated as a “pump as you please” resource, not subject to the same restrictions as surface water, like the Carmel River that largely supplies the Monterey Peninsula.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000 acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
It’s shaping up as a wetter-than-usual winter in California, putting to rest fears of another drought hitting anytime soon. Depending on where you live, though, you will still likely face some limitations on how much you can water your lawn this summer.
A letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein could have helped lead to Felicia Marcus’s ouster as State Water Resources Control Board chair last week. Surprised? Don’t be: The moderate Democratic senator has a long alliance with Central Valley ag.
Rising temperatures can lower flow by increasing the amount of water lost to evaporation from soil and surface water, boosting the amount of water used by plants, lengthening the growing season, and shrinking snowpacks that contribute to flow via meltwater. … The researchers found that rising temperatures are responsible for 53% of the long-term decline in the river’s flow, with changing precipitation patterns and other factors accounting for the rest.
When growth skyrocketed in Phoenix and the East Valley during the 1990s and 2000s, housing developments started replacing decades-old farms. Now, it’s the west side’s turn. In 2000, Maricopa County had 510 square miles of agricultural land and 180 square miles of residential land west of Interstate 17. By 2017, farmland had dropped to 350 square miles while agricultural residential land grew to cover 280 square miles, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Newsom has embraced an idea that has previously failed to gain traction in Sacramento: new taxes totaling as much as $140 million a year for a clean drinking water initiative. Much of it would be spent on short- and long-term solutions for low-income communities without the means to finance operations and maintenance for their water systems. … But the money to change that — what’s being called a “water tax” in state Capitol circles — is where the politics get complicated.
What may be the nation’s largest dam removal project—delayed for years by regulatory and legal disputes of a utility, stakeholders and states over licensing and environmental permits—now may have new momentum after a hard-hitting January federal appeals court ruling. Kiewit Infrastructure West, Granite Construction and Barnard Construction are shortlisted for the $400-million project to design and deconstruct four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon.
A federal environmental analysis recommends relicensing the Don Pedro hydroelectric project and accepts a Modesto and Turlock irrigation district plan for well-timed flows to boost salmon in the Tuolumne River. The flows, combined with other measures to assist spawning and outmigrating young salmon, would commit less water to the environment than a State Water Resources Control Board plan that’s unpopular in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
When 2019 started, California’s snowpack was at 67%. Now it’s at over 136% and rising. The atmospheric rivers that are dumping rain along coastal California are also dumping massive amounts of snow in the state’s Sierra Nevada.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey steered away from the term “climate change” in order to garner political support for the state’s Colorado River drought plan, he indicated Friday in an interview with a Pima Community College newspaper. In that interview, he also avoided making any connection between climate change and the “drier future” (his preferred phrase) that Arizona faces. His omission bordered on a denial of the established links between the two.
As Californians, I believe we must look west to the Pacific Ocean, where seawater desalination offers a proven, climate change-resilient solution. No longer do we need verification from Israel, the Middle East and Australia, where desalination facilities have literally helped save lives and fend off debilitating droughts due of climate change. Now, we can look much closer to home — in San Diego.
A landslide that dumped about 6 million cubic yards of rock and debris across California Highway 1 near near Big Sur, California, in May 2017 was the result of drought followed by deluge, a team of scientists say. … The researchers determined that water replaces air in the tiny spaces between soil particles, which greatly increased the pressure on those particles, speeding up the rate of collapse.
The Coachella Valley Water District has overhauled and modernized its IT infrastructure, as part of a $16 million capital improvement plan that will improve data management, simplify payments and boost conservation.
At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields” through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields that had fish in them.
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable, and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that balance.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office continues to operate under the 2013 Biological Opinion while a new document is being created, along with the court-ordered injunction in place to guide the Klamath Project.
The City of Ventura and its water customers have relied on the Ventura River as a primary source of drinking water for more than a century. Today, however, the region’s water supply is changing as the Ventura River watershed faces new, complex challenges. To protect our local water resources and safeguard the watershed for the future, we must change our approach to managing it now.
This failure is twofold. First, the DCP has limited provisions for actually conserving water — only $2 million for groundwater conservation programs in active management areas. … Second, the DCP fails to address conservation for Arizona’s rivers, streams and springs, even in the face of warming and drying trends.
The Metropolitan Water District last week re-upped its turf-removal program, providing greater incentives for homeowners to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants. In Utah, the state’s Division of Water Resources is encouraging residents to use more water so it can justify spending $3 billion on a pipeline that will take more water from Lake Powell… This tale of two states brings up an interesting question: Is water conservation de rigueur or passé?
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said … the agency intends to work constructively with the Newsom administration on developing a WaterFix project “that addresses the needs of cities, farms and the environment.” But Kightlinger expressed frustration that the project will be delayed even more.
Colorado will launch a far-reaching $20 million conservation planning effort this spring designed to ensure the state can reduce water use enough to stave off a crisis in the drought-choked Colorado River Basin.
In increasingly arid regions such as the western U.S., water managers are learning that careful management and restoration of watershed ecosystems, including thinning trees and conducting prescribed burns, are important tools in coping with a hotter, drier climate.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a management approach that integrates flood control, environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management” approach.
Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that El Niño — the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, with weather consequences worldwide — has officially arrived. El Niño typically peaks between October and March, so it’s pretty late in the season for a new one to form. This year’s El Niño is expected to remain relatively weak, but that doesn’t mean this one won’t be felt — in fact, its cascading consequences already in motion.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
At long last, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta twin-tunnels boondoggle is dead. Good riddance. Gov. Gavin Newsom made that official Tuesday during his State of the State address, calling instead for a smaller, single-tunnel approach that would include a broad range of projects designed to increase the state’s water supply. Bravo. It’s a refreshing shift from Gov. Jerry Brown’s stubborn insistence that California spend $19 billion on a project that wouldn’t add a drop of new water to the state supply.
Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites. The powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … is nearly as big an investor in Sites as all of the Sacramento Valley farm districts combined. Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to contribute another $4.2 million to help plan the project.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
Two experts from Stanford’s Water in the West program explain the potential impacts on the future of water in California of the proposed plan to downsize the $17 billion Delta twin tunnels project. … Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Stanford’s Water in the West program, and Timothy Quinn, the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Water in the West, discussed the future of water in California and potential impacts of a tunnel system.
Salinas Valley farmers would cover the bulk of administrative costs for a state-mandated groundwater sustainability agency charged with balancing use and recharge in the agriculture-rich region under a proposal to be considered Thursday. Farmers would pay about 90 percent of the Salinas Valley Basin groundwater sustainability agency’s proposed $1.2 million annual budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year or about $1.08 million through a $4.79 per acre annual “regulatory” fee under the proposal, while public water system customers would contribute about $120,000 per year through a $2.26 annual fee.
Metropolitan’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday (Feb. 12) to double the rebate the agency offers for replacing turf, increasing it to $2 a square foot of grass removed. The board also adopted other changes to make it easier to participate in the program.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy led his California colleagues in sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting a substantial initial water supply allocation to Central Valley Project contractors using authorities under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Additionally, he and his colleagues from California also sent a letter to the California Department of Water Resources calling for an increase to the existing water supply allocation to State Water Project contractors given current hydrological conditions.
Farmers, water managers and government agencies agree: Groundwater sustainability is critical for California. But achieving it could bring significant changes to the state’s agricultural landscape, according to speakers at a Sacramento gathering of water professionals.
The wet weather broke a daily rainfall record in Sacramento, with 1.6 inches of rain recorded at the Sacramento Executive Airport over 24 hours. But the state’s network of flood-control dams and levees appeared to handle the deluge without major problems. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Wednesday morning for the Sacramento Valley, and it was expected to remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday as heavy and moderate rainfall was forecast to continue through Thursday.
If you try to figure out the total water stored in the Sierras, you run into a methodological wall. There’s no good way to get there directly. Starting about two decades ago, a small group of scientists suggested a new solution: What if they could measure the water cycle from space?
Assembly Bill 533 exempts any rebates, vouchers, or other financial incentives issued by a local water agency or supplier for expenses incurred to participate in a water efficiency or storm water improvement program from state or corporate income tax.
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to decommission them.
The hottest and driest summers in state history have occurred within the last 20 years … Her bill, if passed, would allocate $2 million in funding from the Office of Planning and Research for a competitive grant program designed to develop “specified planning tools for adapting to climate change in the agricultural sector.”
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move water from the north to the south. “Let me be direct about where I stand,” Newsom said. “I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
Three new directors representing the cities of Fullerton and Santa Ana, and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency were seated today on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
American Canyon will continue looking to the proposed, massive Sites reservoir in Colusa County to someday help slake its thirst. The city of about 20,000 residents is the only Napa County city without a local reservoir. It depends on the state’s North Bay Aqueduct that pumps water out of Barker Slough, a dead-end slough in the Solano County portion of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Lawmakers from both parties said the bill’s most important provision was to permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. The program expired last fall after Congress could not agree on language to extend it.
In a recent paper, Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and co-authors argue that investments made over the years to fortify the city’s supply with additional imported water have not solved LA’s water shortages. … The paper asserts that LA could become water self-reliant by strategically investing in local supplies, and offers several concrete strategies for improving LA’s water security.
Climate change is fundamentally transforming the way we manage water in the Western U.S. The recent Fourth California Climate Change Assessment lays out the many pressures facing water managers in California in detail. One key take-away of that Assessment is that past climate conditions will not be a good proxy for the state’s water future, and smarter strategies are needed to manage California’s water.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of agricultural lands.
Of the handful of speakers at the California Water Service hearing Tuesday, none supported the proposed rate increases for Chico, objecting to high costs, compensation to high-level executives and profit made by shareholders.
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board. … Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus. … Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells contaminated with nitrates.
Ominous predictions about the desert lake’s ecological collapse are beginning to occur. You can see this sea up close during our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, when we will visit the fragile ecosystem and hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea.
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not interested in engaging in water settlement discussions. However, we are very interested in discussions that will protect and enhance our treaty resources.
Two years after California’s historic drought came to an end, the sweeping die-off of the state’s forests has slowed, yet vast tracts of dry, browning trees continue to amplify the threat of wildfire, federal officials reported Monday. About 18.6 million trees died in 2018, mainly the result of dehydration and beetle infestation, according to new estimates from the U.S. Forest Service. That pushes the total number of dead since 2010, shortly before the five-year drought began, to 147 million. It’s a toll not seen in modern times.
Back in 2015, the city of San Diego expected it would get about a third of its drinking water from recycled sewage within 20 years and could do so for about $3 billion in construction costs. Now, the city is looking to spend no less than $4.8 billion and perhaps as much as $9 billion on the project, according to city financial documents, including previously undisclosed internal estimates from the Public Utilities Department.
Of the 517 groundwater basins and subbasins in California, local agencies submitted 43 requests for basin modifications for either scientific or jurisdictional reasons. … In the draft decision, DWR approved 33, denied seven, and partially approved three modification requests.
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing freshwater supply.
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm is expected to pummel Northern California starting Tuesday night and deliver heavy rain, gusty winds, downed trees, power outages and rough driving conditions Wednesday and Thursday. … The storm should bring up to 5 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada, forecasters said. The National Weather Service announced flash-flood and high-wind warnings for the Bay Area, along with Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the farmers had hired him to oppose.
Scientific monitoring in the Pacific Ocean, using buoys to take seawater temperatures, screeched to a halt when the government recently shut down for 35 days. But those efforts to monitor El Nino, the warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns, are just some of the shutdown’s impacts on science that Kevin Trenberth describes.
Cove, which is launching later this month, is packaged in a bottle made from a biopolymer called PHA. If the bottle ends up in a compost bin or landfill–or even the ocean–it will fully biodegrade. … The company, which is a public benefit corporation, has guidelines that say it won’t source from areas that are currently in a drought.
Don’t be fooled by the precipitation, the snowpack, the wildflowers. When winter ends, it’s unlikely that California’s iconic landscape will sustain the moisture to withstand the 100-degree summer and fall. … State fire officials are already amassing new aircraft that drop thousands of gallons of bright red flame retardant. Emergency responders are pre-positioning fire crews in high-threat areas even before a fire starts.
The new report, “Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed,” explores how landscape conversion on commercial and industrial properties can reduce water use, increase stormwater capture and groundwater recharge, improve water quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use.
An effort is underway to hire a full-time watershed coordinator focused on forest management projects in the Yuba River Watershed and a grant from the Yuba Water Agency could help. … The coordinator would work with public and private landowners to plan and coordinate projects within the watershed, including a biomass facility in Camptonville and a forest health project in the north Yuba Watershed.
The problem with Felicia Marcus is that she never stopped working for the environmental movement. Yes, she’s paid by the state to represent all Californians as chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. Yet, she has utterly failed in her duties to the state, treating this job as an extension of her old one – attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID is putting in play: A demand that the federal government provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered Salton Sea.
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
About 1 million Californians can’t safely drink their tap water. Approximately 300 water systems in California currently have contamination issues ranging from arsenic to lead to uranium at levels that create severe health issues. It’s a disgrace that demands immediate state action.
As PG&E Corp. plunged into bankruptcy last month, S&P Global Ratings slashed credit grades almost to junk status for California’s two other big electric utilities, owned by Sempra Energy and Edison International, and said they could go lower. The reason: inverse condemnation. Under the state’s view of this legal doctrine, utilities can be held liable for any fires sparked by their equipment, even if they follow every safety rule.
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous ecological transition is occurring this winter.
Just over half the city’s infrastructure needs are in the city’s Public Utilities Department, which is responsible for sewage, water and the city’s ambitious water recycling program, Pure Water. The city expects to have all the money it needs in those areas because they are funded by water and sewer rates. The picture is far less rosy for infrastructure that has less reliable revenue sources. The city is short $719.8 million for stormwater infrastructure — by far the biggest unfunded capital need in the city.
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
While unfamiliar to many consumers, dry farming is an age-old practice that entails carefully managing soils to lock winter rainfall into the top layers until it’s time to begin growing crops during the spring and summer. As little as 20 inches of rain – roughly the same amount that the Central Coast receives each winter on average – can sustain crops in the months without rainfall, with no need to add any extra water.
Water sustainability continues to be a complex issue and will require young, innovative minds to tackle it. This was the theme of the 2019 Innovators High Desert Water Summit, held Friday at High Desert Church. Hosted by the Mojave Water Agency, the event was titled “How Generation Z Will Save the Future of Water in California.” About 320 students, parents, and teachers from schools all over San Bernardino County attended.
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least $1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The river was already virtually tapped out last century, and continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely caused a ripple.
In the event that water elevation decreases below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown, the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through Feb.15.
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends.
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern California communities. … About two dozen protesters are standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border. They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision was in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the protections of a listed species.
Questions about financial liability and concerns over weighted votes among member agencies of the Central Coast Water Authority prompted the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to take no action on transferring the state water contract to that joint-powers agency. … CCWA has been trying to have the contract reassigned since it was formed in 1991, but the Department of Water Resources would not agree to the request because it was unclear if a joint-powers agency could levy a property tax if a member defaulted on financial obligations.
For the first time, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and collaborating institutions have documented the transition of a stable, slow-moving landslide into catastrophic collapse, showing how drought and extreme rains likely destabilized the slide. The Mud Creek landslide near Big Sur, California, dumped about 6 million cubic yards (5 million cubic meters) of rock and debris across California Highway 1 on May 20, 2017.
According to the government, the proposed rule is also consistent with the statutory authority granted by Congress, legal precedent, and executive orders. Notably, the proposed definition would eliminate the process of determining whether a “significant nexus” exists between a water and a downstream traditional navigable water.
Even with the onslaught of rainy weather, the U.S. Drought Monitor states San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County remain in a moderate drought. On Wednesday, the UC Cooperative Extension held a workshop in Solvang titled “Weather, Grass, and Drought: Planning for Uncertainty.”
For every one of the nearly two dozen people who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday in Arcata, removing the dams is both necessary and overdue. Fishing populations have been depleted and stretches of the river have become toxic because it doesn’t flow freely, attendees said at the D Neighborhood Center public hearing. Members of various state agencies, including the state Division of Water Rights and the state Water Resources Control Board, listened and took notes. The agencies’ draft EIR is the latest step in a process spanning many years.
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency plan.
In 70 years, San Francisco as we know it could look drastically different. Gentrification, development and the other forces of urban change we fret about may be mere trifles compared to the drastic effects of climate change, including the rise of sea levels and erosion, scientists say. By 2100, rising sea levels could displace more than 480,000 people along the California coast and result in property losses upwards of $100 billion if no preventative measures are taken, according to a 2009 study by the California Climate Change Center.
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in July 2018.
Imagine Lake Tahoe with no snow year round. Every winter storm that reaches the basin brings only rain. No skiing. No snowboarding. No winter sports of any kind. … A dramatic decline in the Sierra Nevada snowpack will be felt the most in Northern California by mid century, according to a study published in December 2018 by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous state.
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the Central Valley.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12 decision have touched off debate on what exactly could restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon populations and what it will cost for Central Valley communities.
The rain and even a bit of snow keep on coming. Except for a 10-day dry spell at the end of January, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a series of drenching winter storms that have watered gardens, fueled waterfalls, recharged reservoirs, and diminished the possibility of the ever-dreaded drought. In fact, all of California has been slammed with an onslaught of unsettled weather unleashing heavy snow and rain.
Sponsor one of the largest one-day water conferences in Southern California with key decision-makers from across the watershed. Be recognized as an industry leader; gain exposure for your organization; receive complimentary conference tickets. At the conference you will be provided an exhibit space, which offers the chance to network and discuss ideas and opportunities with conference attendees during the morning and afternoon networking sessions.
They are giant conveyor belts of water in the sky, moisture-rich storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean a few times a year to fill California’s reservoirs… But distinguishing a good atmospheric river storm — a modest one that can help end a drought — from a catastrophic one that can kill people has been elusive. On Tuesday, that changed, as scientists published the first-ever scale to rank the strength and impact of incoming atmospheric rivers, similar to the way hurricanes are classified.
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31 deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and California.
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license begin this week, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board. The license surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release, the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most influential customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee. The chair is the result of a long career championing environmental protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome added responsibility.
A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal Friday that would require new construction contracts to be reviewed by the Legislature. The Legislative Delta Caucus says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the project should require more scrutiny from both the public and lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the ocean unimpeded.
San Diego is in the midst of spending roughly $3 billion on a massive new water treatment system, but city officials can’t or won’t tell customers how that will affect their water bills. New water recycling plants will eventually purify enough sewage to provide a third of the city’s drinking water. In December, Voice of San Diego asked the city to estimate how much customers’ bills will increase because of the Pure Water project. The city, after weeks of delay, finally declined last week to offer any estimate because “there is no simple calculation” they could perform.
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved extending the contract for water imported from Northern California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping for the Antelope Valley.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later extraction and use by California American Water for its Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a key part of the proposed replacement water supply portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s Carmel River pumping cutback order.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with massive river rights has yet to sign off on the agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should impose cuts.
A new $50 million California American Water pipeline is officially in use. According to Cal Am engineering manager Chris Cook, the pipeline began conveying water from the Carmel River to the Seaside basin as part of the aquifer storage and recovery program last week, allowing the company to start reversing the historic flow of water from northward to southward and save money and energy in the process.
The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
The rise of wind and solar power, coupled with the increasing social, environmental and financial costs of hydropower projects, could spell the end of an era of big dams. But even anti-dam activists say it’s too early to declare the demise of large-scale hydro.
The strongest Pacific storm of the season will lash California through Saturday with high winds, feet of Sierra snow, and heavy rain that could trigger flash flooding, debris flows and rockslides. If that wasn’t enough, another colder storm is waiting in the wings behind this first system.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
By this time next year, 21 critically over-drafted groundwater basins in California must submit plans to the state’s Department of Water Resources for how to bring their basins back into balance. With this major deadline looming, it’s crunch time for water managers and their consultants – some of whom will begin releasing draft plans in the next six to eight months seeking required public comments.
There’s one tempting proposition for western water managers currently feeling the pressure to dole out cutbacks to users due to the region’s ongoing aridification — inducing clouds to drop more snow. The practice showed up in a recent agreement among Colorado River Basin states, and investment is expanding, with water agencies in Wyoming and Colorado for the first time putting funds toward aerial cloud seeding, rather than solely relying on ground-based generators.
These red-state GOP governors are not taking aim at greenhouse-gas emissions like their blue-state Republican counterparts. Still, environmentalists should not dismiss their momentum on water. In several states won by Trump, water, literally a chemical bond, is also proving a bond that brings disparate people, groups, and political parties together around shared concerns for the Everglades, the Great Lakes, the Colorado River, and other liquid life systems.
Twenty-three early to mid-career water professionals from across California have been chosen for the 2019 William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class, the Water Education Foundation’s highly competitive and respected career development program. The class will spend the year examining the impact wildfires have on the supply and quality of water resources in California.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the 1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado River drought management plans… And it has been the administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project California says it doesn’t want.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a “statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for removal in the golden state.
New snow measurements to be taken Thursday are expected to confirm that snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are on par with the long-term average, thanks to a series of storms that thrashed California in January. Those results may sound pretty ho hum, but getting to average is a pretty big thing in today’s topsy turvy world of snow analysis, where the absence of pending disaster due to too little snow is something to celebrate.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean? Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come down?