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.
Californians, your yard sprinklers are about to get a little
bit more expensive. The good news is, your water bill is about
to get cheaper. California on Wednesday officially adopted new
regulations which are estimated to save more than 400 million
gallons of water per day within 10 years, enough to supply San
Diego, the second largest city in the state.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its
projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key
reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona,
California and Mexico. After a wet winter, the agency is not
expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of
water. But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
A new tool from the World Resources Institute for assessing
water stress around the globe is shedding much-needed light on
a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for fresh
water. But an article surveying the data assembled by WRI for
the digital New York Times this week missed the mark in
describing California’s situation, where water use tops all
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
Butte County, California Water Service and Paradise Irrigation
District are kicking off the lengthy process on a project to
pipe water from Paradise to Chico. The project would seek to
restore some viability to PID, which lost most of its customers
after the Camp Fire. It would also reduce demands on the
groundwater basin currently used for water in Chico to boost
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act has presented some challenges, however it appears the
overall process is progressing smoothly overall. Supervising
Engineering Geologist with the Department of Water Resources,
Steven Springhorn noted that the stakeholders have been
diligent in adhering to the timeline established by the
California could be the canary in the coal mine. Over the next
decade, 40 U.S. states are expected to experience water
shortages, according to the U.S. Government Accountability
Office. The situation is serious, but California’s
entrepreneurs, who are seeking to boost supply and tame demand,
offer a glimmer of hope.
In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey,
80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious
threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a
concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as
our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these
statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern
Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared
camera to help researchers decide how much water they would
give the crops the next day.
The tactic is considered one of the best ways to prevent the
kind of catastrophic destruction that has become common from
wildfires, but its use falls woefully short of goals in the
U.S. West. A study published in the journal Fire in April found
prescribed burns on federal land in the last 20 years across
the West has stayed level or fallen despite calls for more.
The recently adopted Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) was an
important step toward addressing the Colorado Basin’s chronic
water shortages, but more work is needed to prepare for a
hotter, drier future. We talked to Doug Kenney, director of the
Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and
a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network,
about managing the basin for long-term water sustainability.
The existing standard for indoor residential water use is 55
gallons per day per person. On January 1, 2025, the standard
decreases to 52.5 gallons per capita per day. Then, on January
1, 2030, the standard drops to 50 gallons per person per day.
So, how much is 50 gallons per day?
The Delta smelt is practically extinct in the wild already. So
could the Delta be repopulated by taking up the farmers’ offer
to “hatch and repopulate the fish,” as Jack Fowler says in
National Review? That certainly sounds like common sense!
Except that the Delta smelt war has never really been about the
Delta smelt at all.
The proposed changes to Clean Water Act permitting rules,
announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
would limit the amount of time states and tribes can take to
review new project proposals… It also would limit states to
considering only water quality and allow the federal government
to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in
The upcoming groundwater recharge project will improve existing
facilities and build new facilities to capture surface runoff
from the Santa Margarita River. When water flows are high, the
runoff would recharge groundwater basins on Camp Pendleton.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s
costs, and the fact that it would submerge 1,245 acres of oak
woodlands… But the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a San
Jose government agency that provides water to 1.9 million
Silicon Valley residents, says the reservoir is needed to store
more water as insurance against California’s next drought.
The proposal would upend long-held environmental practices that
have been in place since 1970, and make it easier for timber
harvesting and bulldozing forest roads in all 20 of
California’s federal forests…
A new report from a Portland-based economics firm, which says
the removal of dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington
would have broad financial benefits, is getting pushback from
local politicians in the Tri-Cities area.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
What would happen if we ran out of water? For an increasing
number of people, that question is moving from a hypothetical
to a reality. New data from the World Resource Institute show
that a quarter of the world’s population is at high risk of
running out of water.
Between 1901 and 2016, temperatures increased across the
Southwest, with the greatest upturns in California and
Colorado. … Meanwhile, growing population, aging
infrastructure, and groundwater depletion are also compounding
long-standing water scarcity issues in the region. These
mounting pressures have a bevvy of potential implications, from
human health and ecological function, to food and energy
In recent years, algae blooms – actually microscopic bacteria
called cyanobacteria – have erupted in hundreds of lakes
nationwide, putting at risk Americans whose drinking water
comes from those lakes, or who swim, ski or fish in them. If
ingested, microcystins can cause adverse health effects in
people and animals, ranging from skin rashes to serious illness
and even death.
During the past 107 years, daily air temperatures measured in
Tahoe City have increased. The average daily maximum
temperature has risen by 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit, and the
average daily minimum temperature has risen by 4.43 degrees.
According to the report, the number of days when air
temperatures averaged below freezing has declined by about 30
days since 1911, though year-to-year variability is high.
Ivan Soto has aspired to produce research with a positive
impact on the public — not just to benefit the academic
community. … His research examines the power dynamics of
infrastructure and water politics through an environmental
history of southernmost California’s Imperial Valley along the
In a newly published study, my colleagues and I analyze
year-to-year variations of future snowpack to see how
frequently western states can expect multiple years in a row of
snow drought, or very low snow. We find that if climate change
continues relatively unabated, consecutive years with snow
drought conditions will become much more common…
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimated the chances of
neutral conditions sticking through the winter at about 55%. An
El Nino has a 30% percent chance of returning, while La Nina
has a 15% chance of forming, according to the center.
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
A partnership of state, local and conservation groups,
including Trout Unlimited, is engaged in a restoration effort
that could serve as a template for similar regions across the
West. Centered around the high plateau near Kremmling, a town
of about 1,400 people in northern Colorado about 100 miles west
of Denver, the partnership aims to make the river function
better for people and the environment.
Local land owners have an opportunity to get their irrigation
systems inspected free of charge as part of a program offered
across Northern California. Jay Thomas, engineering technician
for the Irrigation Training Facility at California State
University, Chico, said this program is part of a mobile
irrigation laboratory that services the growers of Northern
California’s Secretary of Environmental Protection Jared
Blumenfeld joins Forum to discuss how the state is responding
to the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks and what
he sees as the state’s top priorities and challenges.
As the Tejon Tribe casino makes its way through the regulatory
process, concerns have been raised over the impact the complex
will have on the county’s groundwater. However, county
officials believe the casino may actually use less water than
the farms that currently occupy the planned site just south of
Bakersfield. But questions do remain …
Whenever the price of other water goes up, desalinating Pacific
waters becomes more enticing. It will become more so if the
price of filtering minerals out of salt water drops. But if the
price and availability of fresh water remains reasonable, as it
surely will be this year, desal stays in the back seat.
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District reported more
than 20 billion gallons of water captured, a new record for
captured groundwater recharge. … This is a 30-year record
with 1987 being the last year this much groundwater was stored
into the region’s aquifers. Prior to that, 20 billion gallons
of storage had not been achieved since the late 1940s.
Ample water resources in northern areas of California are
balanced by huge demands from Central Valley agriculture and
the large populations in hotter, drier southern areas such as
Los Angeles and San Diego. California uses the most water of
any state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 9
percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
The general rule of thumb had been that El Niño years — when
the sea surface in a region off the coast of Peru is at least 1
degree Celsius warmer than average — tend to have more
rainfall, and La Niña years, when that region is 1 degree
Celsius cooler than average, tend to have less rain. But that
simple rule of thumb doesn’t always hold true.
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. … It’s a groundbreaking project for water management
in the county, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the
county’s water and resource management department.
New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely
high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is
on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and
Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found.
California ranks second, followed by Arizona, Colorado and
Hiding and waiting is a great strategy as long as droughts are
temporary. But as our climate becomes warmer, increased
evaporation will make it effectively ever drier, and rainfall
will arrive ever less predictably at the right time of year.
Native plants will thus face long-term increases in water
stress, often exacerbated by intensified fire and shifts in
their delicate coexistence with exotic species.
For five years or so, German-born, San Francisco-based
photographer Thomas Heinser has made a study of the state’s
scarred landscapes. His images, shot from the open side of a
helicopter, focus on the after-effects of drought, wildfire,
and human profit.
Water resource management is key in Ventura County to help
address the perils local residents face from global warming,
such as flooding, drought and sea level rise. The preliminary
draft of the 2040 General Plan update on Water Resources
Element is so much more than an “update.”
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. The project involves analysis of well logs, and hopes
to expand the analysis using magnetics and a grid to fill in
holes in the data.
Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced last week the
selection of Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC to perform
restoration work after the proposed removal of four Klamath
dams, and on Monday, KRRC announced it had filed with Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission the answers to a plethora of
questions brought forward by a Board of Consultants in December
One year from its initiation of the design-build process for
the Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant,
East Valley Water District (EVWD) Board of Directors reviewed
the project’s considerable progress and adopted a few
modifications during a July 24 meeting. … The project will
construct a wastewater recycling plant capable of treating up
to 10 million gallons per day.
Two of the most basic questions about biodiversity are “what is
it?”, which is the focus of taxonomists, and “where is it?”,
which is the realm of biogeographers. Understanding basic
patterns in the biogeography of an urban area is the focus of a
partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County. We call our project
Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA).
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
A new federal management plan for the Klamath River is proving
to be a disaster for salmon, a lawsuit alleges. The Yurok Tribe
and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the
National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday because the new
plan has led to drought-level flows in the lower Klamath River
and an increase in salmon with a potentially lethal parasite…
One hundred and fifty years ago, a group of explorers led by
Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell set out to document the
canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It was the first trip
of its kind. To commemorate the journey, a group of scientists,
artists and graduate students from the University of Wyoming
called the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition
has been retracing his steps this summer.
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with a Montana
Republican to craft a bill that would expedite logging and
other forest management projects near electrical transmission
lines and roads in an effort to head off catastrophic
wildfires. The bill is also aimed at slowing or stopping
lawsuits that block logging projects on federal land.
Jeff Urban, a staff scientist who specializes in new materials
for energy storage and conversion at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular
Foundry, a Department of Energy nanoscience research facility,
explains what forward osmosis is and how Berkeley Lab is
addressing the challenges.
Kevin Hunt, general manager for Central Basin Municipal Water
District, said his agency needs the $600,000-plus the fee will
raise to balance its $10 million budget. The water wholesaler
has significant money problems because of decreasing water
Close to one thousand Los Angeles Zoo bred mountain
yellow-legged frogs and tadpoles will be released into a
tributary to Cooper Canyon, located in the Angeles National
Forest. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Los Angeles Zoo, and Forest Service will release the
tadpoles Aug. 14 …
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
Like many communities throughout California, Carpinteria faces
sustained and historic drought conditions. … In response to
the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin to be used for various needs,
including potable drinking water.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
California American Water is seeking to raise its Monterey area
average customers’ bills by nearly 18 percent over a three-year
period from 2021-2023. … Under the proposal, the “average”
Cal Am customer would see their monthly rates increase from
about $89.40 to $105.42 over the three-year period.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors last
week approved a contract to study the viability of a new
regional water conveyance system that would deliver water from
the Colorado River to San Diego County and provide multiple
benefits across the Southwest. The $1.9 million contract was
awarded to Black & Veatch Corporation for a two-phase study.
Native seaweed has the potential to be cultivated in California
coastal waters and used to alleviate the effects of local ocean
acidification, according to a new study funded by NOAA’s
California Sea Grant.
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
Over the past 18 months, the three Groundwater Sustainability
Agencies (GSAs) in the Merced Subbasin have worked together to
develop a Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that is
now available for public review and comment.
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
To mow or not to mow? This question is at the heart of a
nationwide movement against lawns and in favor of more
sustainable landscapes. These ten homeowners and garden
enthusiasts created unique, beautiful lawnless yards—and you
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency board will submit a
sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources in
2021 and begin to implement that plan in 2022-2024. The board
last week heard a presentation about funding options to pay for
the groundwater management plan — including fees, taxes or
assessments to customers — and specific projects to implement
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
The heavy rains that hit the Central Coast this past winter are
keeping recreators at area lakes and reservoirs happy this
summer. However, the precipitation has done little to ease
concerns for a group fighting Monterey County over the water it
withdraws from Lake Nacimiento.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
What happens when the farmer’s source of water is tapped out?
They look for it elsewhere. This could become a major problem
as their adaptation to climate change only exacerbates another
major impact from climate change—water scarcity.
The water cycle is the movement of water on the planet — from
falling as precipitation, such as rain, ice or snow, to being
absorbed in the soil or flowing into groundwater and streams
and then being evaporated to start all over again. Research by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey shows water has been
moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages of
the cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
The report estimates there are a cluster of major California
crops that are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperature
changes: wine grapes, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, table
grapes, hay, oranges, cotton, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and
pistachios. Specifically, avocado production in California
could fall 40 percent by 2050 due to climate change factors.
Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is
progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of
the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina
Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and
David Orth with New Current Water and Land.
Water is key to everything in California. If you have control
of water in sufficient amounts you control your destiny. There
are three things on the horizon that city leaders had best pay
heed before they buy into the PG&E model regarding critical
and essential utilities and go for the money in the here and
now while ignoring long term consequences.
The center, being built at North Natomas Regional Park, will
feature the city’s first 50-meter competition pool with 13
diving boards and lanes. It will also feature a 25-meter pool,
four water slides, a shallow kids’ pool, and a kids’ rope
course and play area…
By 2030, the Carpinteria Valley Water District estimates that
on a dry year, the deficit could be as high as 1,550 acre
feet—enough to fill 775 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or serve
the average yearly use of 6,200 local households. In response
to the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin…
Jennifer Gilden, the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s staff
officer for outreach, habitat and legislation, said the ocean
conditions are improving, though the Chinook salmon population
has yet to fully recover. Unfortunately, it is likely marine
heatwaves are only going to increase in frequency and intensity
in the coming years, according to a body of research on the
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… A holistic approach to habitat restoration doesn’t rely on
a single silver bullet solution, but applies a comprehensive
set of actions that rely on collaboration
Water is the lifeblood of the Sacramento Valley. Yet, the best
methods for storing and using the precious resource are often
elusive. A new water system in operation in Roseville treats
underground aquifers like a bank, making deposits in times of
surplus for withdrawal in times of drought.
The project’s ocean-friendly technology has won praise from the
same environmentalists fighting a desalter plant proposed by
Poseidon Water for Huntington Beach, one of several things that
distinguish the south county plant from the more controversial
project to the north. … But the price tag is steep for a
district that serves a relatively modest population of 35,000,
just over 1% of the county.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.
More than 90% of U.S. wine comes from California, despite
growth in other states’ production, and it’s putting a strain
on the environment. Throughout the region, wine producers say
they’re striving to save water and use less pesticides, among
other measures aimed at sustainable growing, as they face the
challenges brought on by the advance of climate change.
High-tech firms like Ceres, Prospera, Farmers Edge, and the
Climate Corporation are using artificial intelligence to help
famers decide when to plant, water, spray, and harvest their
crops. As climate change worsens rainstorms in the Midwest and
drought in California, the technology could also help growers
navigate more severe and volatile weather.
Katy Delaney pointed to an open patch of sediment at the base
of the canyon. A year ago, pools of cool water gleamed under
the sun and frogs basked on their banks. Now, a trickle of
water lazed through the mud. And the California red-legged
frog, whose fate had consumed eight years of Delaney’s life,
was nowhere to be seen.
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has been occurring on a nationwide
scale wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12
million well-drilling records from state and local agencies
across the country.
Just how much Manteca’s treated wastewater is worth to
agricultural users served by the Delta Mendota Canal that are
often at the mercy of fish flows diversions and drought that
reduces their Central Valley Project allocations may be
determined in the coming year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
When the population collapses, like it did between 2013 to
2016, the effects ripple across the ecosystem. Brown pelicans
struggled to reproduce and those that did abandoned their
chicks. Thousands of sea lion pups were found malnourished and
dehydrated on California’s beaches. These effects may be
exacerbated by humans, especially when high fishing rates
remain when stocks are in decline. California anchovies are
almost exclusively sold abroad as food for fish farms and bait
Thoughtfully implementing state law that requires local water
users to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels within the
next two decades will … result in withdrawal of large amounts
of land from agricultural production and the loss of economic
benefits. But we can repurpose those lands to support large
scale storage and solar, as well as other renewable energy
technologies that can help decarbonize our electric grid and
create new jobs in the Central Valley.
Described in a comprehensive new study published Wednesday in
the journal Science Advances, scientists now understand the
causes of the megadroughts common during the medieval period.
With climate change, they predict more megadroughts in the
If you’ve read stories about the disaster afflicting Flint,
Michigan, you are probably grateful we still have good drinking
water in Humboldt County. But the agency that provides water to
a majority of county residents is increasingly worried about
the future and going head-to-head with the county Planning and
Building Department to protect water quality.
The Coleman National Fish Hatchery is expecting good returns of
their fish in the foreseeable future after a few lean years of
comebacks. … Mother Nature worked with the hatchery this year
providing high water levels and spring storms, said Galyean.
When nature was not working in the hatchery’s favor was during
the recent drought.
During our Edge of Drought Tour Aug. 27-29, we’ll visit an
atmospheric river observatory in Santa Barbara that
specifically monitors the meteorological phenomenon and also
visit Lopez Lake to hear from the County of San Luis Obispo on
their cloud seeding efforts.
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
The embattled utility, which sought bankruptcy protection in
January with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities for the
deadly California wildfires of 2017 and 2018, plans to have at
least 600 weather stations operating in high-risk fire areas of
its 70,000-square-mile territory by the year’s end.
Close to $3 million worth of water has rushed down the Santa
Clara River over the past several weeks to recharge groundwater
basins in the Oxnard Plain. The release was part of a deal
between the United Water Conservation District and Fox Canyon
Groundwater Management Agency to help recharge aquifers still
struggling after years of drought.
After a few horrific years of extreme wildfires, California has
been taking steps to reduce future risks with new programs,
increased funding, and new policy efforts. We talked to Van
Butsic—a land use scientist at UC Berkeley and an adjunct
fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about these efforts.
Gathering California water policy and decision-makers along
with groundwater stakeholders and users, the workshop gave
participants the opportunity to meet European Union (EU) water
specialists, exchange experiences and ideas, and compare
California and EU issues and solutions.
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique
moment. With a temporary fix to the river’s scarcity problem
recently completed, talk has begun to turn toward future
agreements to manage the water source for 40 million people in
the southwestern U.S. … Some within the basin see a window of
opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in
The state drought plans move gingerly toward encouraging
transfers of water by using clever euphemisms that avoid any
mention of water marketing. … These euphemisms are tools that
usher in a new frontier in western water law that will increase
resilience in the face of droughts, floods and forest fires
fueled by climate change.
The Trump Administration last year proposed to combine the
responsibilities of both the NMFS and the USFWS under one
federal roof. This would promote more efficient, effective, and
coordinated management of all ESA responsibilities for
anadromous and freshwater fish in Western watersheds, from the
highest reaches of our headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.
How can the short memory of the public maintain the long-term
commitments of water projects and conservation behaviors? On
one hand, California’s recent extended drought demonstrated
that the public water users could reduce their water use, but
can it be maintained permanently?
A new study looked at more than half a century of well depth
trends to gain new insights into the management of the critical
resource. … The team found that, between 1950 and 2015,
across most of the country, groundwater users are drilling
wells deeper and deeper. But well depths did not increase
everywhere … which means that, in some places, wells might
The Friant Water Authority is confident a parallel canal is the
best solution. This new one will be built in a way that
prepares for subsidence. A new canal would also benefit from
the Ground Water Management Act of 2014, which will regulate
how much and when water is pumped out of the ground, preventing
what some believe is the main cause of subsidence.
The Soquel Creek Water District board met … voted unanimously
to approve an agreement with the city of Santa Cruz to build a
tertiary treatment plant for its Pure Water Soquel project
onsite at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, which also
will supply the water supply for the project.
Groundwater pumping has caused stream flow in U.S. rivers to
decline by as much as half over the last century, according to
new research by a University of Arizona hydrologist that
strengthens the connection between groundwater and surface
A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district’s
request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta
Dam to Fresno County. Westlands Water District, based in
Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home
county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta
The Natural Resources Agency, California EPA, and California
Department of Food and Agriculture want the public’s input on
how best to manage and deal with an uncertain water supply in
the future. It seems every new administration in Sacramento
must deal with water issues in California that never seem to
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of
directors took the first step Thursday to require all
groundwater wells in the valley to be registered by Oct. 1. …
That first step also included a pumping fee to pay for the
required groundwater sustainability plan due to the Department
of Water Resources by Jan. 31, 2020.
As a small business owner who leads fishing tours for anglers
from within and beyond the region, I understand that taking
these dams out may lead to a short-term dip in business. But
the long-term benefits of dam removal outweigh the near-term
costs to my family and my livelihood.
The project is a part of the restoration of salmon habitat
stemming from the Central Valley Improvement Act and will take
place on the left bank of the Sacramento River at the East Sand
Slough… It reconnects the East Sand Slough to the Sacramento
River during minimal flows by excavating the main channel and
The city’s evolving relationship with water is the subject of
the Historical Society of Long Beach’s new exhibit “Water
Changes Everything.” The free exhibit, which opened Friday and
runs through June 2020, shows how “water has determined the
history of Long Beach,” said Kaye Briegel, the long-time board
member who helped put the show together.
More effective use of green water – rainfall stored in soil –
could mitigate irrigation demand for some of California’s most
important perennial crops. So say US researchers who simulated
13 years’ growth of alfalfa, grapes, almonds, pistachios and
walnuts under different irrigation strategies.
After objections from the public and lengthy discussions,
Ramona Municipal Water District Board of Directors approved
four types of rate increases recommended by staff. … Water
rates have not been adjusted for three years.
The latest update of the California Water Plan was released
this past week. You may not have heard the news. You may not
even know there is a California Water Plan. And that’s just
fine, because it doesn’t mean a darn thing.
Key parts of the case were dismissed in April by U.S. District
Court Judge Jesus Bernal, who ruled that the tribe did not have
a claim of harm because it has always had enough water… Now,
the federal government intends to make its case that this
ruling should be reversed.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently
notified Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency that its Basin
Management Plan (BMP) was approved and considered functionally
equivalent to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
Nearly 7,000 customers who live in the old Sativa Water
District complained for months about murky brown water with a
foul odor coming from their pipes. … Los Angeles County,
which now has control of the water district, is taking old
wells offline and connecting them to a neighboring water
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it’s been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is
approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter
left enough water to potentially last through three summers of
At the same time the snowpack is dwindling, droughts are
expected to become more severe. One example: scientists predict
a strong likelihood that the Colorado River Basin will
experience a megadrought of 20 to 50 years in duration during
The new study capitalized on the unique data set available from
Yosemite’s Illilouette Basin, which is the only watershed in
the U.S. West with a restored fire regime where enough
hydrological data have been collected to allow model
validation. The results demonstrate how large-scale forest
restorations may affect water resources, a topic of
considerable interest across much of the region.
A long-awaited Montecito Water District rate study, planned for
release this May, will not be finished until later this year,
officials said this week. The study can’t proceed until the
district finishes negotiating the terms of an agreement for
buying into Santa Barbara’s desalination plant.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom called for constructing and maintaining
delivery systems to get water to at-risk communities in his
State of the State address, he received widespread support. But
the fight over funding for the project got divisive – and fast.
Winter-run Chinook’s need for cool temperatures has meant
recent catastrophic losses when temperatures got too high, but
a few recent studies have altered our understanding of this
species’ temperature tolerance. This new knowledge may allow
water managers to actually release less cold water overall,
while still improving winter-run survival.
For around 20 years, Los Angeles has shipped a large portion of
“biosolids” from its toilets to fertilize a farm it owns just
west of Bakersfield. Bakersfield, in return, has been providing
an annual load of 18,000 acre-feet of free water to the farm.
However, after passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, the value of treated wastewater increased.
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
District Fire Chief Todd McNeal, who proposed the project, said
the draft point will allow firefighters to pull raw water from
the reservoir during an emergency and take pressure off the
Scientists at UC Davis have developed five new types of the
berry set to hit the market this fall. … Researchers say
these new strawberries are the best of both worlds: the
strawberries will use less water, fertilizer and pesticides and
still produce more, healthier, higher-quality strawberries.
State Department of Water Resources officials emphasized they
aren’t claiming well water use is harming the subterranean
reservoir beneath the Napa Valley floor. Rather, they said a
more than 1,000-page basin report submitted by Napa County
doesn’t allow them to make a judgement.
One evening, at a community center in the Sacramento Valley, a
teacher, a civil engineer, a tomato farmer and a local
foundation board member found themselves standing above a
table, feverishly competing to scoop the most glass beads from
a large, communal bowl. But there was a catch.
Residents of a small Southern California desert community hit
hard by this month’s big earthquakes no longer need to boil tap
water. San Bernardino County authorities announced Wednesday
the boil-water notice for Trona and neighboring areas has been
lifted and citizens do not need to rely on bottled water.
California Landscape Contractors Association’s Sandra Giarde
… points out that parts of California are already teetering
back on the edge of a drought again. Laws have yet to change
that were put into place to conserve water during the drought,
such as rules against hosing down concrete sidewalks. Those
bans will only slowly be lifted by each municipality over time,
if they’re even lifted at all.
Water hidden beneath the earth’s surface comprises 98% of the
planet’s fresh water. On average, this groundwater provides a
third of all total water consumed… Before we even start to
improve groundwater management, we must better understand and
measure it, says international groundwater expert Craig
Simmons, from Flinders University in Adelaide.
A coalition of 55 environmental, fishing, and water policy
groups has written Gov. Gavin Newsom, backing his Water
Portfolio planning process, and announcing that they plan to
take an active part with their own proposals for the plan.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Following extensive technical review, DWR approved seven
existing groundwater management plans and two 10-year
sustainable yield analyses as alternatives under SGMA. One
existing groundwater management plan and five 10-year
sustainable yield analyses were not recommended for approval as
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
If PG&E shuts down power as part of its plan to prevent
fires in northern California, the water will keep flowing in
the Valley, thanks to Zone 7 Water Agency’s preparations. …
Zone 7 has two plants for water treatment and distribution …
Both have backup generators in case power stops. Each has
a three-day supply of fuel, but the agency also has contracts
with other generator suppliers who can each roll out at least
three days of juice.
The Desert Water Agency board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to move from
at-large to elections by division, or district, beginning in
November 2020. The move comes nearly eight months after a
Mailbu law firm asked the agency to switch in order to comply
with the California Voting Rights Act.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday nominated a longtime
water-resources expert for a seat on the Metropolitan Water
District Board of Directors. Tracy Quinn serves as the
California director of water efficiency for the Natural
Resources Defense Council and has almost two decades of water
The rebate for Malibu residents who remove grass landscaping
has been increased from $4 to $5 per square foot of turf
removed, the City of Malibu announced Monday. The incentive is
part of the Malibu Smart water conservation program offered by
the City of Malibu, County of Los Angeles and West Basin
Municipal Water District.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
Groundwater overdraft is a major problem globally and has been
a persistent and growing problem in California for decades.
This overdraft is predominantly driven by the economic value of
water for agricultural production and cities.
The Clovis City Council has approved landmark water deals with
the Fresno Irrigation District that officials say will secure
the city’s growth for decades to come. According to the Clovis
General Plan, the city expects 280,000 residents in 2083 — 2.5
times its 110,000 population. Plans call for Clovis to grow
northeast and southeast.
Update 2018 presents a vision for greater collaboration and
alignment among water sectors and institutions, sound
strategies, and long-term investments needed for the
sustainable management of the California’s water supply.
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that 30 projects will
receive $5.1 million from the Desalination and Water
Purification Research Program to develop improved and
inexpensive ways to desalinate and treat impaired water.
Brokered in large part by rookie state senator for California’s
14 Senate District, Melissa Hurtado, the southern portion of
the Valley has gained tens of millions of dollars of investment
in drinking water, asthma mitigation, aging and disability
resource centers and Valley Fever research.
Initially, farmers had been contracted $285 per acre/feet for
conserved water and the IID welcomed all participants. However,
due to the farmers’ innovation and ingenuity, the total
acre/feet saved the past three years exceeded the amount needed
for the QSA transfer.
Keystone projects for the midcounty planning effort, mandated
by the state for all groundwater-dependent agencies, include
stormwater runoff management, Soquel Creek Water District’s
Pure Water Soquel advanced water treatment plant, and the city
of Santa Cruz’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental water
supply that would primarily make use of unused winter river
runoff, likely through new storage options.
Tashiana Osborne is a PhD student with the Scripps Institution
for Oceanography at UC San Diego where she works within the
Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes on atmospheric
river research: As a graduate student, you already have an
incredible amount of experience, including working as a storm
chaser and intern at NASA. Can you tell us a little more about
your current research?
Summers in San Francisco may soon feel more like the warmer
East Bay. The East Bay may soon feel more like Sacramento. And
Sacramento — well, it might just be too hot to stick around any
longer. One of the most detailed studies on rising temperatures
suggests that few places in the United States will be
unaffected by extreme heat by the middle of this century.
Larry N. Olinger, the tribal council vice chairman and a former
chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, died
Monday morning, the tribe said. He was 80 and lived in Palm
Springs. … While on the tribal council, Olinger worked to
resolve a longstanding dispute between the tribe and the
Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency.
Monterey County supervisors voted Monday to let California
American Water start construction on its desalination plant
even before the state Coastal Commission makes a decision on
the technology involved.
New research shows that the extreme weather and fires of recent
years, similar to the flooding that has struck Louisiana and
the Midwest, may be making Americans sick in ways researchers
are only beginning to understand.
Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of
fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest
wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including
last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever. A
new study, published this week in the journal Earth’s Future,
finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s
being driven by climate change.
Only 15 out of the thousands of desalination plants operating
today worldwide are powered by nuclear. A small one is at the
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in California, slated to be closed
soon. The plant could power several huge desalination plants
for decades that could desalinate its own cooling water,
removing the most commonly stated problem with the plant.
Colorado was the last Western state to legalize greywater usage
in 2013. Officials say that by 2050, our water supply could
fall short for over one million people. … Colorado’s Water
Plan wants to close the gap and recognizes greywater as one
tool to help make that happen. However, not a single
state-approved greywater system has been built since it was
Benthic macroinvertebrates, including insect larvae, worms,
snails, and other backbone-lacking creatures, often rule the
alpine waterways. However, their high-altitude homes put them
on the front lines of climate change, which threatens to have
major impacts on mountain streams. This is particularly true of
streams in the Sierra Nevada of California…
In the 1990s, he played a central role in some of the country’s
biggest environmental decisions. … He could have chosen to
wrap up his career when he left office at the end of the
Clinton administration in 2001. But Babbitt has
remained actively engaged in issues he cares about.
In black and white, John Trotter documents the use of water
from the Colorado River, tackling the social, political, and
environmental impact of the way it’s dealt with. Spanning over
years and kilometres, his ongoing essay is a dire political
They’ll use less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides –
and they will probably be cheaper. The Public Strawberry
Breeding Program at UC Davis just announced five new strawberry
varieties that will be on the market in the fall and are
expected to benefit farmers, sellers and consumers alike.
Fish die-offs in freshwater lakes are an increasing threat in
California, and experts say climate change is to blame. … In
a 2014-2017 report, the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife found that high summer temperatures were not only
worsening the quality of the water, but drying out freshwater
bodies that hosted endangered species.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
The drought may be over, but Arcadia residents and businesses
must restrict their irrigation and water consumption yet again
this summer as the city’s mandatory water conservation program
continues to push through its first of eight phases.