Topic: Drought

Overview

Drought

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.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Friday Top of the Scroll: California water district wants $200M for Salton Sea in Colorado River drought plan

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. 

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

2019 Water Leaders class examines impact of wildfires on water resources

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.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Dusty agency gets sharp elbows under Trump

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.

Aquafornia news Yale Environment 360

Running dry: New strategies for conserving water on the Colorado

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.

Aquafornia news The Atlantic

Republican governors focus on water

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.

Aquafornia news The Weather Channel

Strongest storm of the season to hammer California with flooding rain, damaging winds, feet of sierra snow

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. 

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Aquafornia news KQED Science

Why we can’t stop talking about California’s Sierra snowpack

It’s not just skiers who have been whipsawed this season between fear of another dry winter and delight over the epic January snowfall in the Sierra Nevada. Also paying close attention: water wonks. Why? Because melting Sierra snow provides somewhere between one-third and one-half of California’s water supply. What determines just how much water is derived from that snow is called the “snowpack.”

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona Legislature poised to approve Drought Contingency Plan

Arizona lawmakers appear on track to pass a Colorado River drought plan, with less than 30 hours to go before a critical federal deadline.  A state Senate committee voted 6-1 Wednesday evening to pass a pair of measures that outline how the state would share looming cutbacks on the river’s water and work with other states to take less. The bills now head to the full Senate and House. Both chambers are expected to pass the bills Thursday, an effort that could stretch into the night as they rush to meet a federal deadline.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: New measurements show Sierra snow levels at long-term average. And that’s a big deal

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.

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Aquafornia news Lake County News

Scott Dam in Lake County listed by CalTrout among top 5 dams to remove to benefit fish, habitat

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.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: Tough times along the Colorado River

Warnings of doomsday on the river are nothing new. Too many people, farms and factories depend on too little water, which is why the Colorado now rarely flows to its end point at the Gulf of California. The sprawling Southwest has sucked the river dry. Yet the region has thrived in spite of the naysayers. Until now, it appears.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Updated Colorado River Layperson’s Guide explores drought planning, tribal water rights, binational agreements

The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

With water leasing vote, Colorado River Indian tribes will seek consequential legal change

The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. The tribe’s right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada. By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the change would free up a large volume of water that would be highly desirable for cities and industries.

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

Scientists seek to help troubled urban forests

Natalie van Doorn, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said that many of the trees commonly planted in urban areas in California are temperate species that require a lot of water to survive in hot and dry conditions. … Across the U.S., metropolitan areas may lose an average of 6 percent of their tree species as warming trends continue. … Alison Berry, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California-Davis, said that drought stress was likely a bigger factor than heat.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California land managers hope to speed up forest-thinning projects to slow wildfires

California wildland managers said Tuesday they want to speed up logging and prescribed burns designed to slow wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years. After the deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history, officials are scrapping 12 years of efforts and starting anew on creating a single environmental review process to cover projects on private land, such as cutting back dense stands of trees and setting controlled fires to burn out thick brush. 

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Aquafornia news Times-Standard

Opinion: Dam removal isn’t over yet

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?

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Klamath Dam removal efforts hit curve in the road

A federal appellate court decision issued on January 25, 2019 will affect the relicensing of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River and efforts to accomplish dam removal under an existing settlement agreement.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

PG&E bankruptcy: Utility seeks to pay $130 million in bonuses, void green energy deals

Tucked inside PG&E’s mammoth bankruptcy filing is a company request that the judge in the case approve payment of $130 million in cash incentive bonuses to thousands of PG&E employees, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records made public on Tuesday.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Dive deep into California groundwater issues on Feb. 8 tour

Go deep into one of California’s most pressing issues – groundwater – by visiting an extensometer that measures subsidence, an active aquifer storage and recovery well, a recycling facility that recharges water into the ground and more.

Aquafornia news UC Davis

Blog: The Signature of Snow

The history of the planet can be found inside a sediment core at the bottom of the ocean, or the cake-like layers of a soil pit, or in the strata of the Grand Canyon. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the climatic history of water — and a hint about its future — can sometimes be found by digging into a pit of snow. 

Aquafornia news Noozhawk

Montecito district board supports terms for water sales agreement with Santa Barbara

Terms were revealed this week for a developing water sales agreement between the Montecito Water District and City of Santa Barbara. The 50-year water sales agreement provides 1,430 acre-feet of water a year to Montecito, at a cost of about $2,700 per acre-foot. The terms of agreement allow for the possibility to purchase and receive 445 acre-feet of additional water each year.

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Aquafornia news KQED Science

Wednesday’s Top of the Scroll: Colorado River water crisis is days away. Can states make a deal?

Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and decide the river’s future.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Why the cleanup from California’s Camp Fire could hit a major roadblock

Saying they feel an urgency to act fast, California officials this week will launch the main phase of wildfire debris removal in Butte County, scene of November’s devastating Camp Fire. But a potential problem has emerged: Nearly half of the property owners in the hill country around Paradise have not given the government permission to enter their properties to do the work. The main work, involving a complete scraping and clearing of burned-out properties, is scheduled to begin later this week.

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Aquafornia news NASA

News release: Warming seas may increase frequency of extreme storms

A new NASA study shows that warming of the tropical oceans due to climate change could lead to a substantial increase in the frequency of extreme rain storms by the end of the century. The study team, led by Hartmut Aumann of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, combed through 15 years of data acquired by NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument over the tropical oceans to determine the relationship between the average sea surface temperature and the onset of severe storms.

Aquafornia news Statesman Journal

Salem seeks millions from state to improve drinking water system

City leaders met with Oregon state legislators this past week to discuss the earliest stages of funding an $80 million plan to fortify the city’s water system and ensure drinking water is free from harmful algal toxins. The need for cleaning out cyanotoxins and developing a backup water system became apparent to city officials last summer when Salem experienced a month-long drinking water crisis.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Tuesday’s Top of the Scroll: PG&E files for bankruptcy over wildfire claims, ‘extraordinary financial challenges’

Unable to cope with wildfire claims, PG&E made good on its vow to file for bankruptcy Tuesday, launching a perilous journey with major implications for ratepayers, investors, state officials and the thousands of California wildfire victims who are suing the utility. Citing “extraordinary financial challenges” and a rapidly deteriorating cash position, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent PG&E Corp. sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an electronic filing shortly after midnight.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

One tribal nation could decide the fate of Arizona’s drought plan

In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement, the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse…. 

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

With spring approaching, don’t forget about water conservation

Water conservation in the Las Vegas Valley is imperative as the city continues to grow. The resources provided by the Colorado River are stretched thin, as the river is responsible for supplying the majority of the water to Southern Nevada, six other states—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado—and Mexico. Combine these existing allotments with drought conditions that have reduced the river’s average flows by 30 percent annually, and it’s clear that Las Vegas must be proactive in its conservation efforts.

Aquafornia news KQED Science

Shasta Dam project sets up another Trump-California showdown

The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam, north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for another showdown between California and the Trump administration.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Hoopa Valley Tribe wins lawsuit against feds

A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the removal of several Klamath River dams.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

These political players may decide the fate of Arizona’s drought deal

Federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman has drawn a line in the sand for Arizona and other Western states: Finish a deal to take less water from the Colorado River by Thursday, or the federal government will be forced to step in and decide how to prevent reservoirs from falling to critical levels. … The plan’s success or failure will turn on the actions of a few key players, including leaders of the Legislature, tribes, farmers, cities and the state’s water managers.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Droughts and progress – Lessons from California’s 2012-2016 Drought

Droughts and floods have always tested water management, driven water systems improvements, and helped water organizations and users maintain focus and discipline.  California’s 2012-2016 drought and the very wet 2017 water year were such tests. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Editorial: If we build Lake Powell pipeline, will the water come?

The Colorado River is not meeting its obligations. Its Lake Powell bank account is in danger of running dry. A 97-year-old agreement demands that the river deliver 5.2 trillion gallons of water to seven states and Mexico each year. That isn’t happening, and now — in the age of climate change — the chance of ever meeting that demand is fading. As a result, Utah’s plan to take more of its Colorado River water — by building a pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George — may be fading, too.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Q&A: What is the Drought Contingency Plan and will it affect me?

Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely shortage on the Colorado River.  … There are a lot of moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.

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Aquafornia news The Independent

Zone 7 eyes two drought water projects

Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted to renew their participation in two water storage projects so that the water wholesaler can continue to plan for more alternative water sources during droughts. The board voted unanimously to participate in phase 2 of the Sites Reservoir project, a JPA formed in 2010 to create a reservoir 75 miles northwest of Sacramento. … Also, by a unanimous vote, directors committed up to $355,000 for a second phase of participation in the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in southeastern Contra Costa County.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Newsom needs to make water supply, protections a priority

Water issues are notoriously difficult for California governors. Just look at former Gov. Jerry Brown’s floundering tunnels proposal for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Yet two factors suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom must make water a priority.

Aquafornia news Arizona PBS

Elemental: Drought contingency plan aims to keep Lake Mead from crashing

Arizona lawmakers and the governor are under the gun to come up with a Drought Contingency Plan to deal with possible Colorado River water shortages. Get an update from Kathleen Ferris of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. This Arizona Horizon segment is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between public radio and public television stations in Arizona, California and Colorado.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Opinion: Water District lawsuit jeopardizes future projects

The Santa Clara Valley Water District made a grave miscalculation in suing the State Water Board over the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. By alienating the remnants of the environmental community who have supported them in recent years, they are jeopardizing future projects and funding measures that will require voter approval.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: How Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company, is becoming a leader in water conservation

Even in the depths of winter it’s easy to bite into a plump blackberry or a delicate red raspberry, thanks to Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company. In late 2018, I traveled to the Pajaro Valley, west of Santa Cruz, for a tour of a Driscoll’s research facility, which provided an eye-opening view into how this family-owned company has become an agriculture leader selling berries every month of the year, and why they are so committed to water conservation.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Groundwater shortage takes on added importance in the Colorado River Delta

The restoration site is one of three south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites, another source is increasingly important for restoring these patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor: groundwater.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Governor’s budget targets safe drinking water, wildfires, healthy soils

Governor Newsom’s first proposed state budget, released earlier this month, addresses several critical water and natural resource management challenges. Here are highlights from his plans to mitigate problems with safe drinking water, improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, and encourage healthy soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase drought resilience.

Aquafornia news Yale Environment 360

On the water-starved Colorado River, drought is the new normal

With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Alameda County Water District proposing 8 percent rate hike

The Alameda County Water District is proposing to raise customers’ bills 8 percent over the next two years to cover infrastructure costs as well as salary increases, benefits and pensions for its employees. The district also wants to create an emergency pricing schedule that kicks in during water shortages, such as in droughts.

Aquafornia news Environmental News Network

Blog: The global race for groundwater speeds up to feed agriculture’s growing needs

Water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Water tables have been falling in many regions for decades, particularly in areas with intensive agriculture. Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water wells to support irrigated agriculture.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

CVWD eyes $40 million Oasis pipeline bond; Growers: District should tap reserves

Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the valley who already obtain much of their water from the river via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Gila River tribe threatens to pull out of Arizona drought plan

The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California contemplates water for struggling fish

In an unprecedented move, the Water Resources Control board voted in December to require water users to leave more water in the lower San Joaquin River to improve water quality and help fish. “This decision represents the water board taking its job to protect the public trust and our fisheries more seriously,” said Regina Chichizola, salmon and water policy analyst for the Institute for Fisheries Resources.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Editorial: Newsom must set new course on state water issues

Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable water. The first step should be to announce the twin-tunnels effort is dead.

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Lake Powell could become a ‘dead pool’ as climate change, political wars and unabated growth drain its waters

Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.

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Aquafornia news UC Davis California Water Blog

Blog: Improving public perception of water reuse

Technology already exists to treat reused water to levels meeting or exceeding health standards. But adequate technical capacity is not sufficient. Water reuse can trigger revulsion, especially when water is reused for drinking or other potable purposes. This note explores outreach and engagement strategies to overcome the “yuck factor” and achieve public support for water reuse.

Aquafornia news The Press Democrat

Lake Mendocino now can hold 22 billion gallons of water, most since its creation in 1958

Heavy rains this week left Lake Mendocino, the North Bay region’s second-largest reservoir, with an extra 2 billion gallons of water that until now officials would have been obliged to release into the Russian River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a $10 million program that blends high-tech weather forecasting with novel computer programming, the Army Corps has the latitude to retain an additional 11,650 acre feet of water, and Lake Mendocino has now impounded a little more than half that much.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Bureau of Reclamation names Ernest A. Conant Mid-Pacific Region director

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.

Aquafornia news The Union

Opinion: A compromise that’s good for the fish and the economy

The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this ‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on farms, communities throughout California and the environment. We join many other water agencies in our belief that alternative measures …

Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Opinion: Raising Shasta Dam won’t solve California water woes

More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an infusion of water from northern California.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Despite lawsuit, crucial desal permit proceeds

California American Water’s Monterey Peninsula desalination project is in the midst of another critical phase even as a Carmel River pumping cutback order milestone requiring the start of construction looms later this year. … The city of Marina is on schedule to consider the project’s coastal development permit application covering mostly proposed desal plant feeder slant wells on the CEMEX sand mining plant by mid-March, according to a senior city planning official.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Drought plan fight between Arizona farms and cities escalates

Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10 Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and plenty of water to boot.

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Aquafornia news Escalon Times

Oakdale, South San Joaquin irrigation districts join water plan lawsuit

Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other rivers.

Aquafornia news Parker Pioneer

Tribal members to vote on leasing water to outside interests

Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes will vote Saturday, Jan. 19 on a proposed ordinance to allow for the lease of a portion of the Tribes’ Colorado River water allocation to outside interests. The issue of leasing Tribal water rights has become a contentious issue among Tribal members. Opponents claim this compromises the Tribes’ resources, while supporters point to the economic benefits.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

U.S. governors detail water priorities for 2019

A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for the coming year.

Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Shasta Dam raising project runs into legal, congressional road blocks

At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based water district to begin construction to raise the height of Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress, which this year came under control of Democrats. In a letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta Dam would violate state law.

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Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Local agencies are wrestling with how to adapt to a warming planet, and the crises it will create

Locally, the primary impacts of climate change on people can broadly be broken into four categories: sea level rise, drought, flood and wildfire. The good news is, work and planning are already well underway to mitigate impacts, though it’s hard to say how much of an effect the measures will have, and how much those agencies – and their constituents – will be willing to spend on them. But this much is clear: Local, state and federal agencies are taking climate change seriously, and treating it like the potentially existential threat that it is.

Aquafornia news Top1000Funds.com

Water makes mark in investors’ minds

More than ever, water’s true value as a finite and precious resource is starting to be realised, and a growing number of investors are paying attention. There are plenty of examples of water risk. Campbell Soup Company took a hit in its quarterly earnings recently, due to an acquisition of a California fresh food company that was pummeled by the California drought.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Drought plan deadline looming, Arizona lawmakers focus on legislation

With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed bills also would appropriate $35 million and tweak existing legislation to make the plan work. 

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water

Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for people and crops in the future. … Glaciers represent the snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing rivers of ice. … But in a warming climate melting outstrips accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

California fires now rage all year as drought creates tinderbox

The never-ending fire season stems largely from a years-long drought that gripped much of California before easing in 2017. An estimated 129 million trees died from a lack of nutrients and infestations from bark beetles, leaving hillsides and forests dappled with kindling. The results have been grim. Record-setting fires have swept across the state, killing more than 100 people in two years. All told, nearly 900,000 acres burned in 2018 on land Cal Fire patrols. That’s more than triple the five-year average.

Aquafornia news California Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: CDFW releases guidance document for Delta conservation planning

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive resource and guide for conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050. The framework provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

He’s ‘famous’ for measuring California’s snow. Now, he’s retiring after 30 years — sort of

A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles, videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years, you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Newsom’s picks for environmental protection and water chiefs will reveal his priorities

Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s most important positions regarding state water policy. One of Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this week.

Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Arizona lawmakers get first look at legislation for Drought Contingency Plan

The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been hashing out for months.

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Aquafornia news The Press-Enterprise

Thursday’s Top of the Scroll: Don’t believe your windshield wipers: Despite storms, Southern California water conservation is still needed

As rain continues to pelt Southern California, signs of an abundance of or even too much water are everywhere: Roads are flooded, reservoirs are filling and the wait time for Radiator Springs Racers at the damp Disneyland Resort has been less than a half hour. But as residents of burn areas evacuate and even heavier rain is forecast for Thursday, those who watch the state and local water supplies note that while the drought is technically over, the need to conserve water is not.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

PG&E’s bankruptcy could slow California’s fight against climate change

Climate change helped fuel the deadly fires that prompted California’s largest power company to announce Monday that it would file for bankruptcy. … In a grim twist, the bankruptcy of PG&E Corp. could now slow California’s efforts to fight climate change.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Babbitt: Colorado River drought plan just the beginning of tough decisions needed

A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over $100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.

Aquafornia news KJZZ

California begins ‘emergency withdrawals’ from Lake Mead

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A. takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy and broke the story for Politico Pro.

Aquafornia news Capitol Media Services

Arizona lawmakers say they won’t be bullied by Gov. Ducey on water plan

House Speaker Rusty Bowers warned Tuesday he won’t be pressured by Gov. Doug Ducey into approving a drought contingency plan by a Jan. 31 deadline that he and other lawmakers have yet to see.

Aquafornia news KUNC

Hangover from 2018 drought likely to deplete spring runoff, new report says

Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S. are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs left depleted at the end of 2018.

Aquafornia news CALmatters

Opinion: The Delta is California’s heart. Gavin Newsom must save it

The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it, simply, the Delta.  It is part of my very fiber, and it is essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.

Aquafornia news Calif. Sportfishing Protection Alliance

Blog: Delta tunnels hearing at state Water Board drawing to a close

After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.  Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or environmental review.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

Opinion: The global race for groundwater speeds up to feed agriculture’s growing needs

Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water wells to support irrigated agriculture. Groundwater supplies around the world are being threatened by excessive pumping, but drilling deeper wells is not a long-term solution. A better solution is to manage water use and avoid excessive declines in groundwater levels. 

Aquafornia news Yale Environment 360

The West’s great river hits its limits: Will the Colorado run dry?

As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.

Aquafornia news Phoenix New Times

As drought plan deadline looms, Arizona lawmakers take Water 101

Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan. The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Opinion: Could the Coachella Valley go dry? Agencies work to keep water flowing.

Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we have enough water for these future desert residents and visitors.  Permits for new projects are under the jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most important responsibilities. 

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday’s Top of the Scroll: Santa Clara Valley Water District files suit challenging state plan

In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate water supplies and pull up more groundwater.

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

New Powerhouse Science Center will educate visitors on California water issues

A section of the museum will also be dedicated to water, teaching visitors how much water it takes to grow crops, how California farmers lead the world in conservation, and how the state’s complicated water storage and delivery system works, said Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. The Coalition is the title sponsor for the exhibits and has drawn on several farming organizations, including Farm Credit, to help build and maintain the exhibits.

Aquafornia news Visalia Times Delta

California snowpack surges after slow start. Will it be enough to combat years of drought?

California began 2019 with lower-than-average snowpack measurements — just 67 percent of the year-to-date average.  Recent storms pushed that total to 90 percent as of Friday. With more precipitation on the horizon, forecasters predict snowpack measurements will “meet or exceed” the year-to-date average by the end of the week.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Gavin Newsom needs a plan for California’s endangered water supply

Gov. Gavin Newsom, if he is to successfully steer the state into the future, has to bring to his water agenda the same steely-eyed, reality-based drive that the two previous governors brought to limiting carbon emissions.  It is time for the state to respond to its water challenge with the same sense of urgency with which it adopted Assembly Bill 32, the landmark law capping greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Water conservation sags in November

Urban water conservation took a sharp drop in November in California, with savings of just 7.8 percent compared to November 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year. That’s down from 13.4 percent savings in October. Statewide, the average was 86 gallons per capita. In the Sacramento River watershed, everyone used on average 101 gallons per day; in the Bay Area, 67 gallons; on the South Coast, 86 gallons.

Aquafornia news Capitol Media Services

Gov. Ducey’s State of State address: Arizona’s water situation is urgent problem

Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor told the business community Friday in previewing the speech that kicks off the legislative session.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

More wildfires, drought and climate change bring devastating changes to California wildlands

Southern California’s native scrublands are famously tough. … They evolved along with long, hot summers, at least six rainless months a year and intense wildfires. But not this much fire, this often. The combination of too-frequent wildfires and drought amplified by climate change poses a growing threat to wildlands that deliver drinking water to millions.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Arizona lawmakers optimistic about passing monumental drought plan

Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about it.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Things are getting crazy on the Colorado River

The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego, Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting system used by major farmers and entire states. … This month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Monday’s Top of the Scroll: Gavin Newsom appoints Wade Crowfoot to lead Natural Resources Agency

Wade Crowfoot will lead the agency that oversees state parks, the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, among other offices, Newsom announced Friday.

Aquafornia news High Country News

Update: The decline of Western snowpack is real

Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter. Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can see it right now.”

Aquafornia news Palm Springs Desert Sun

A California farmer tries to hold on despite looming water cuts

When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm, the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. He and his son, Mike, manage the business, and they hope to pass it on to the next generation of Seleys.  But the farms of Borrego Springs, like the town and its golf courses, rely completely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer. And it’s unclear whether farming will be able to survive in this part of the Southern California desert west of the Salton Sea in San Diego County.

Aquafornia news Merced Sun-Star

Editorial: Water districts on Merced, Stanislaus, Tuolumne had no choice but to sue the state

The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12 that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region, four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists, water professionals and people who live near the rivers.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Sign up now for Santa Ana River Watershed Conference

Registration is now open for the Santa Ana River Watershed Conference set for March 29 in Fullerton. The daylong event will be held at Cal State Fullerton. Join us to discuss the importance of the Santa Ana River Watershed and how, through powerful partnerships, resilient solutions can be found to improve the quality and reliability of the region’s water supply. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday’s Top of the Scroll: San Francisco sues state over potentially drastic water reductions

The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Appeal-Democrat

Yuba Water Agency reaches milestone in relicensing effort

Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental document essentially looks at what changes a licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded a new license.

Aquafornia news Phoenix New Times

On second try, Phoenix City Council raises water rates

In a 5-3 vote Wednesday that — intriguingly — fell along gender lines, the Phoenix City Council approved an increase in water rates, starting next month. “I thank the women to have the leadership and courage to do the right thing. 5-3,”  Interim Mayor Thelda Williams said. … Wednesday’s vote overturned the council’s previous rejection of the proposed increase, on December 12, that was also 5-3. 

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Government shutdown having major impact on wildfire prevention efforts in California, officials say

Every winter, forest managers in places like California take a step back, analyze their budgets and plan on how to deal with the next fire season. But the government shutdown has shuttered a lot of those efforts, because federal lands like the U.S. Forest Service— which has been furloughed since December 22 — plays a huge role. For example, crews in Redwood National Park are “just sitting on their hands,” according to University of California fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson in Humboldt County, because they can’t work on federal land during the shutdown.

Aquafornia news UC Merced

News Release: Can our forests survive the next drought?

UC Merced researchers have evidence that California’s forests are especially vulnerable to multi-year droughts because their health depends on water stored several feet below ground.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona faces unresolved issues in Colorado River drought plan

With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the way of finishing an agreement.  The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.

Aquafornia news U.S. News

California Republicans object after Trump threatens wildfire aid

Trump’s latest tweet drew a sharp reaction from state Republican legislators representing the area around the town of Paradise, which was mostly incinerated in a wildfire that killed 86 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes. State Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher said Trump’s threat to withhold FEMA funds ”is wholly unacceptable. He made a commitment to the people who have lost everything in these fires, and we expect the federal government to follow through with his promise.”

Aquafornia news Capital Press

Klamath refuge management attacked from all sides

The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by three environmental groups who allege its plans for the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex along the Oregon-California border violates several federal laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.

Aquafornia news Phoenix New Times

Thursday’s Top of the Scroll: Federal shutdown weighs on Arizona drought negotiations

First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal government is squeezing these negotiators.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Jeff Mount: Ecosystem water budgets are a novel approach to managing water for the environment

Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California, spoke recently about managing freshwater systems with ecosystem water budgets. “I will argue that drought, because of the way we have modified this system, is the major bottleneck ecologically,” he said. “Step 1 has to be thinking about drought: how to mitigate drought and how to deal with drought – that is plan for, respond to, and recover from drought. We don’t do that at all, even though we just had this big drought.”

Aquafornia news AgAlert

January storms benefit Sierra snowpack

Although Mother Nature blew the storm door off its hinges in parts of California last weekend, the state continues to run below average for rain and snow so far this winter.

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Poseidon prevails in desalination lawsuit

A lawsuit seeking a new environmental report for the controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for Huntington Beach was rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court judge on Tuesday. Judge Richard Sueyoshi found the supplemental report met legal requirements while noting the 2010 study had never been legally challenged.

Event

Bridging the Gap
Improving weather forecasting, surface reservoir operations and increasing managed aquifer recharge

The Groundwater Resources Association, in collaboration with the California Department of Water Resources and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, is hosting a unique event bringing together experts in weather, weather forecasting, reservoir operations and Flood-MAR to discuss how to use these tools to more effectively manage California’s water supplies.

The Water Education Foundation is a cooperating organization.

The Dana on Mission Bay
1710 W. Mission Bay Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109
Aquafornia news Capitol Media Services

Gov. Ducey inaugural speech focused on Arizona water

Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick the can any further.”

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water supply impacts eyed as PG&E seeks hydropower plant sale

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is seeking to auction off its Potter Valley Project hydropower plant, which contains two reservoirs and dams, to a new operator. PG&E cited increasing operation costs, a competitive energy market and lower energy generation needs as reasons for its decision. Questions remain as to what extent Marin County water supplies will be affected by a potential change in ownership and operation of the 110-year-old hydropower plant more than 100 miles to the north. 

Aquafornia news Payson Roundup

Opinion: California desalination key to Arizona water solution

Arizona must identify our next bucket of water. Championing desalination along the California coastline is one long-term solution that can help secure Arizona’s economic and water future.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Newsom inherits California water strife from Jerry Brown

As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes over as governor, the state of water in California seems as unsettled as ever.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

As snowpack declines, cloud seeding takes off in Colorado

Cloud seeding has existed for decades, and has significant traction in other western states such as California, Idaho and Wyoming. Colorado has only recently joined the cloud seeding game as the state’s snowpack has declined and the Colorado River runs dry.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Opinion: State should use science to decide Delta water flows

Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.

Aquafornia news KQED Science

State’s retiring snow guru talks snowpack tech and California water

In December, Frank Gehrke retired as chief snow surveyor for the California Department of Water Resources. He spent much of his 31 years with the department on skis and snowshoes, in remote corners of the Sierra Nevada, measuring the “frozen reservoir” that ultimately provides about a third of California’s water supply.

Aquafornia news Daily Bruin

UCLA researchers suggest water crisis prevention techniques in paper

The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent. It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater could be used to recycle water. However, making these improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100 agencies.

Aquafornia news Washington Post

The National Weather Service is ‘open,’ but your forecast is worse because of the shutdown

Forecasters are not being paid. Weather models are not being maintained, launched or improved. The main impact has been on the current Global Forecast System, the premier weather model in the U.S., which is running poorly, and there’s no one on duty to fix it.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Tuesday’s Top of the Scroll: Metropolitan Water District begins drawing stored water from Lake Mead

At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out), they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,” said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Monday’s Top of the Scroll: Current Southwest drought is worse than most megadroughts, study finds

A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts of the past 1,200 years.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news U.S. News & World Report

A Moonshot for Solving America’s Water Crisis

A government-funded five-year, $100 million effort to develop technologies around water desalination is seen as the best hope in generations for making the technology accessible.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Nevada has long taken conservation measures required in drought contingency plan

Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River, according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Aquafornia news Politico

‘Existential threat of our time’: Pelosi elevates climate change on Day One

Democrats put climate change back on the forefront of their governing agenda Thursday, portraying the issue as an “existential threat” even as the caucus remains split over how forcefully to respond.

Related coverage:

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday’s Top of the Scroll: First California snow survey just 67 percent of average. But there’s hope for improvement

California’s top snow surveyors, in the Sierra Nevada on Thursday with measuring poles and electronic sensor data, concluded that the state’s frozen water supply is just adequate, at best. The water content of the snowpack is 67 percent of the long-term average for this time of year, according to the first official measurements of 2019 taken by the California Department of Water Resources.

Related coverage:

Aquafornia news Washington Post

Hundreds of scientists to miss world’s largest weather conference due to federal shutdown

Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of climate change. This year, due to the partial federal government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Will Gavin Newsom change the state’s water course? Fish and farmers will soon find out

New California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he favors a scaled-down Delta tunnel project. Whether he reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the Trump administration — or fights it.

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

A ‘zombie pipeline’ rises to bring water from the Green River to the Front Range

It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive, but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry up. Now seeking water rights from the Green River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty, growing population.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

Thursday’s Top of the Scroll: Charting a new course for water supply in the Southwest

Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now, they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job, the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news University of Nevada, Reno

Study: Great Basin snowpack becoming more ephemeral

Due to rising average temperatures, snowpacks in the Great Basin appear to be transitioning from seasonal, with a predictable amount and melt rate, to “ephemeral,” or short-lived, which are less predictable and only last up to 60 days. “We might not get as much water into the ground, throwing off the timing of water for plant root systems, reducing our supply and use, and even affecting businesses such as tourism,” says lead researcher Rose Petersky.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Climate change effects on the State Water Project and Central Valley Project

In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state governments released new climate change assessments that outline the projected course of climate change and its potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Environment

States facing drought eye hemp as water-saving crop

Hemp production legalized under the 2018 farm bill could go beyond offering a new crop option for farmers facing drought in Western states—it also could save them water. Arizona, California, and New Mexico are among the states allowing hemp production in 2019 after the federal government removed the marijuana relative from its list of controlled substances. Supporters say the change comes at the right time as the region grapples with how agriculture fits into a drier future.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: 2019 will be the Year L.A. Starts to Wean Itself from Imported Water

There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better, largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the water supply.

Aquafornia news Mother Jones

Wednesday’s Top of the Scroll: Like fruit, vegetables, and almonds? Scientists have bad news

At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet; and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet. 

Related articles:

Aquafornia news California Water Resources Control Board

State water boards release annual report

The tenth annual performance report evaluates what the state water boards do and how the environment is responding to its actions. The report presents numerous performance measures for specific outputs and outcomes.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news California Natural Resources Agency

News Release: Environmental Impact Study Released on Klamath Dam Removal

The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River. The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes, water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching heritage.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Panel Discussion: Emerging legal issues in SGMA implementation

At the Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater Congress, a panel of experts discussed emerging issues as agencies work to develop their plans to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in California in 2014.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Big Northern California water deals will trickle down to San Diego

Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’ lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.

Aquafornia news California Water News Daily

Michael Montgomery selected as new executive officer, SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

Montgomery is known for fostering collaborative relationships among stakeholders and as a leader in protecting and restoring water quality within California and throughout the Southwest and the Pacific Islands. He is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Water Division in the US Environmental Protection Agency (Region 9).

 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California weather stays dry as 2018 closes

When it comes to California’s water supply, 2018 will end with a whimper. California’s two largest reservoirs are not even half full. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which functions as an additional set of reservoirs, is below normal for this time of year. And there’s not a major storm in sight.

Western Water Gary Pitzer Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Colorado River Stakeholders Draft a Drought Plan, the Margin for Error in Managing Water Supplies Narrows
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Climate report and science studies point toward a drier Basin with less runoff and a need to re-evaluate water management

This aerial view of Hoover Dam shows how far the level of Lake Mead has fallen due to ongoing drought conditions.As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead.

The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving, when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the cause.

Aquafornia news Western Water

As Colorado River stakeholders draft a drought plan, the margin for error in managing water supplies narrows

As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead. That reality could pose daunting challenges for Colorado River water managers and others who are already confronting the likelihood of near-term shortages, and looking ahead to longer-term concerns about the river’s sustainability. By Gary Pitzer in Western Water

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A million California buildings face wildfire risk. ‘Extraordinary steps’ are needed to protect them.

As persistent drought and the warming climate are making wildfire a more frequent and severe threat, the vast extent of vulnerable communities shows the need for action by state and local governments, and the communities themselves, to reduce the risk.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Top US water official, states talking Colorado River drought

Water managers from seven Southwestern states that depend on the Colorado River are close but haven’t finalized an unprecedented drought contingency plan they may have to enact in 2020. The federal government’s top water official, Brenda Burman, is expected to urge action Thursday at a Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas where a pact was supposed to be signed.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

El Niño teases as Southwestern US remains in drought

Experts with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and the National Weather Service on Thursday said the epicenter of the nation’s drought has been center for months now over the region where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

More storms in forecast are good news for firefighters, reservoirs, Tahoe resorts

More wet and windy weather is expected to hit Northern California this week, helping fill the state’s half-empty reservoirs and lift rainfall totals closer to average for the young but dry winter season.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Bigger wildfires. Worsening droughts. More disease. How climate change is battering California

Bigger, more dangerous wildfires. Coastlines threatened by rising sea levels. Less water. More heat-related illnesses. These are some of the ways climate change is rapidly changing California and the West, with conditions only expected to worsen, according to a landmark federal report, the first of its kind under the Trump administration.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Friday’s Top of the Scroll: Vegas-area water managers advance Colorado River drought plan

The Latest on drought contingency plans being considered by states that rely on the Colorado River … Las Vegas-area water managers have become the first to advance a multi-state drought contingency plan that officials hope will ease the effects of Colorado River water shortages.

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As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Environment

Environmental review of water wells goes before California high court

The California Supreme Court will weigh in on whether environmental review is required for each new water well project. The issue of groundwater extraction heightened during California’s prolonged drought.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Trump and Brown stir up rhetoric on wildfires but overlook pressing problems

President Trump took to Twitter to blame bad forest management. Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to climate change. Their arguments about the cause of disastrous wildfires roaring across the state have turned a California catastrophe into the latest political cudgel in the ongoing slugfest between Washington and Sacramento.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As autumn rain in California vanishes amid global warming, fires worsen

This is a wet place by California standards. It averages about 55 inches of rain a year, thanks to its prime location in the verdant foothills of the Sierra Nevada, which wrings rain out of Pacific storms. But when the Camp fire sparked last Thursday, Paradise was parched. … Across California, the lack of autumn rain is having dire consequences.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Scientists: Wind, drought worsen fires, not bad management

Both nature and humans share blame for California’s devastating wildfires, but forest management did not play a major role, despite President Donald Trump’s claims, fire scientists say.

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Tour Nick Gray

Central Valley Tour 2019

This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Announcement

Can El Niño Tell Us Anything About What’s Ahead for Water Year 2019?
Learn what is and isn't known about forecasting Water Year 2019 at Dec. 5 workshop in Irvine

Nimbus Dam winter releasesJust because El Niño may be lurking off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in Water Year 2019?

Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter, leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019?

At Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine, water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop predictive ability.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona cancels water meeting amid difficult negotiations on Colorado River deal

With a deadline approaching for Arizona to finish a deal that would divvy up cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries, the state’s cities, tribes and agricultural irrigation districts are entering what should be the final stretch of negotiations.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday’s Top of the Scroll: Trump criticizes — and again mischaracterizes — California’s water management

President Trump claimed Tuesday that California mismanages its water resources, dismissing the possibility of drought and accusing the state of sending water out to sea that could be used to help farmers in the Central Valley. Trump also threatened to withhold federal disaster dollars from California, which he incorrectly claimed is impeding firefighters’ access to water during wildfires.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

El Niño conditions growing increasingly likely this winter

The likelihood this winter of an El Niño — the weather pattern marked by warm Pacific Ocean waters that can affect California’s rainfall —  is increasing. But so far, this El Niño looks more like a lamb than a lion. The probability of El Niño conditions being present by December is now 70 to 75 percent, up from 50 percent five months ago, according to a new report Thursday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%

After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway. Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Wednesday’s Top of the Scroll: US states agree on plan to manage overtaxed Colorado River

Seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River have reached landmark agreements on how to manage the waterway amid an unprecedented drought, including a commitment by California to bear part of the burden before it is legally required to do so, officials said Tuesday. The agreements are tentative and must be approved by multiple states and agencies as well as the U.S. government.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

‘Incredibly grim’ prognosis on global warming also carries clarion call for global action

One of the report’s contributors said predicted temperature increases will be greater in the semi-arid climate of the American West. Diana Liverman, a professor of geography and development at the University of Arizona, said this would lead to even more intense heat waves, droughts, fires and downpours than California is already experiencing.

Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?
Dec. 5th workshop in Irvine focused on ability to predict winter precipitation

The Carr Fire devastated land around Keswick Dam, nine miles downstream of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River“Dry, hot and on fire” is how the California Department of Water Resources described Water Year 2018 in a recent report.

Water Year 2018 – from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 - marked a return to dry conditions statewide following an exceptionally wet 2017, according to DWR’s Water Year 2018 report. But 2017 was exceptional as all but two of the water years in the past decade experienced drought.

Was Water Year 2018 simply a single dry year or does it signal the beginning of another drought? And what can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019? Does El Niño really mean anything for California or is it all washed up as a predictor?

Attendees found out at this one-day event Dec. 5 in Irvine, Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

Eventbrite - Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

Beckman Center
Auditorium - Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617
Aquafornia news Water Deeply

Deeply Talks: Drought on the Colorado — Can we adapt to changing runoff?

Snowmelt is shrinking and runoff is coming earlier on the Upper Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of water for 40 million people in the West. This is leading to vegetation changes, water quality issues and other concerns. But it may be possible to operate reservoirs differently to ease some of these effects. In September’s episode of Deeply Talks, we spoke with two experts about the consequences and opportunities of these changes on the river.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water Gary Pitzer California Water Map Gary Pitzer

In Water-Stressed California and the Southwest, An Acre-Foot of Water Goes a Lot Further Than It Used To
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-As households get stingier with water, a common guide for describing how much they need gets a refresh

The Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline park displays a sign announcing their water conservation efforts at the park in 2014.People in California and the Southwest are getting stingier with water, a story that’s told by the acre-foot.

For years, water use has generally been described in terms of acre-foot per a certain number of households, keying off the image of an acre-foot as a football field a foot deep in water. The long-time rule of thumb: One acre-foot of water would supply the indoor and outdoor needs of two typical urban households for a year.

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

Below-average water year concludes

After a short respite from drought conditions thanks to a historically wet 2017 in the San Joaquin Valley, the conclusion of the 2018 water year shows that California may not be out of the woods just yet when it comes to lacking water.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Candidates think no magic solution to keep Lake Casitas from going dry

A shrinking water supply and yearslong drought dominate an election for a board seat governing an Ojai Valley water district.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Natural disaster is inevitable in California. And it can define a governor’s legacy

Whether fire or earthquake, mudslide or drought, natural disaster is an inextricable part of the California experience. And just as it upended Francis’s life, disaster threatens to snarl the next governor’s plans. Emergency response is rarely discussed as a campaign issue, but once in office, a governor’s on-the-ground handling of unexpected catastrophe and its immediate aftermath can define his legacy, for good or bad.

Western Water Gary Pitzer Colorado River Basin Map California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Despite Risk of Unprecedented Shortage on the Colorado River, Reclamation Commissioner Sees Room for Optimism
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Commissioner Brenda Burman, in address at Foundation’s Water Summit, also highlights Shasta Dam plan

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda BurmanThe Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of California water industry people.

During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees that agreement can be reached.

Aquafornia news KQED Science

California’s plan to store water underground could risk contamination

As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds for several new water management projects, a shift is taking place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Salt Lake mayor to join climate-change summit in California

[Mayor Jackie] Biskupski says Salt Lake feels the effects of climate change with low snowpack, drought conditions and wildfire smoke. She plans to join other mayors to sign the “Deadline 2020” pledge to reduce global emissions.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Climate change will be deadlier, more destructive and costlier for California than previously believed, state warns

Heat waves will grow more severe and persistent, shortening the lives of thousands of Californians. Wildfires will burn more of the state’s forests. The ocean will rise higher and faster, exposing California to billions in damage along the coast. These are some of the threats California will face from climate change in coming decades, according to a new statewide assessment released Monday by the California Natural Resources Agency.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Science Says: Hotter weather turbocharges US West wildfires

As temperatures rise in the U.S. West, so do the flames. The years with the most acres burned by wildfires have some of the hottest temperatures, an Associated Press analysis of fire and weather data found.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Trump officials steer clear of climate change issue in tour of Redding fire zone

Two top officials of the Trump administration, winding up a tour of fire-ravaged Redding, insisted Monday that removing dead trees and thinning forests, not addressing climate change, are the keys to dealing with California wildfires.

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New Leader Takes Over as the Upper Colorado River Commission Grapples With Less Water and a Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission

Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River CommissionAmy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday’s Top of the Scroll: Scientists see fingerprints of climate change all over California’s wildfires

Much of the heat that’s gripped California and hastened the spread of deadly wildfires recently is due to a strange but familiar shift in the jet stream — one that’s haunted the West with threatening fire conditions in the past and could cause more hot, dry spells in the future, especially with a changing climate.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California fires rage, and Gov. Jerry Brown offers grim view of fiery future

As fire crews struggled to gain containment on more than a dozen wildfires raging across California on Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters that large, destructive fires would probably continue and cost the state billions of dollars over the next decade.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Yosemite fire: Flames threaten park’s giant sequoia trees

As flames from the Ferguson Fire burn closer to some of the world’s oldest and largest trees, firefighters are racing to protect ancient sequoias on Yosemite National Park’s western edge. About 25 Yosemite firefighters have surrounded Merced Grove — whose immense trees tower more than 200 feet tall and date back 1,000 years — with fire hoses.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

A tiny beetle has left Yosemite dangerously vulnerable to fire

If the Ferguson Fire currently burning in Mariposa County spreads to Yosemite National Park, a tiny bug resembling a mouse dropping would share some of the blame. An epidemic of bark beetles is devastating billions of pine trees across the West in what has been described as the largest forest insect outbreak ever recorded.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Massive tree die-off brings unprecedented danger as wildfire burns near Yosemite

On either side of the Merced River, hillsides are filled with trees that have been killed by five years of drought and a bark beetle infestation, according to state maps. The ground is carpeted with bone-dry pine needles, which are highly combustible.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Great Sand Dunes Park was born out of cooperation. Is there a drought lesson for today in that?

Eighty percent of Colorado is experiencing some form of drought or dryness. … It’s also prompting a closer look by historians into how communities have survived and triumphed over water scarcity — instead of the old Western yarn that “water is for fighting.” … Historians at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center of the American West want to know why some communities rally around water resources, and others fail.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Why California fire season is off to worst start in 10 years

California’s wildfire season is off to its worst start in 10 years. … The reason behind this year’s ominous early trend is something many Californians thought was behind them: the 2012-2017 drought.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Fires menace US West, tornado touches Colorado wildfire site

An erratic wildfire charging through extremely dry land in the heart of Colorado ski country destroyed three homes and forced people to flee, authorities said Thursday. … Fires exploded in Northern California, Utah and other areas, where a prolonged and severe drought has desiccated forests.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Drought conditions spread over much of California

Sixteen days into summer, with wildfires raging over the bone-dry landscape and more scorching hot days ahead, it might feel as if California is on the verge of another drought. The official word from weather authorities shows much of the state trending in that direction.

Domino Effect: As Arizona Searches For a Unifying Voice, a Drought Plan for the Lower Colorado River Is Stalled
EDITOR'S NOTE: Finding solutions to the Colorado River — or any disputed river —may be the most important role anyone can play

Nowhere is the domino effect in Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River, and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan. Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying voice between its major water players, an effort you can read more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.

Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within California.

As Colorado River Levels Drop, Pressure Grows On Arizona To Complete A Plan For Water Shortages
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A dispute over who speaks for Arizona has stalled work with California, Nevada on Drought Contingency Plan

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low.

If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1 million households in one year.

Aquafornia news WIRED

LA is doing water better than your city. Yes, that LA.

The frantic phone calls to the Community Water Center began in the summer of 2014. In the 7,000-strong unincorporated community of East Porterville, nestled against California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, homeowners’ wells were failing amid a historic drought.

Aquafornia news Longmont Times-Call

CU Boulder researcher harbors hope in face of recent wildfire trends

The U.S. record $18 billion wildfire season of 2017 was triggered by the coincidence of three primary factors that came into play or persisted longer than anticipated, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of Colorado. Those “switches,” according to study leader Jennifer Balch, were ignition, aridity and fuel. 

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Thursday’s Top of the Scroll: ‘Time for action’ on Colorado River, federal official says

The Colorado River has for years been locked in a pattern of chronic overuse, with much more water doled out to cities and farmlands than what’s flowing into its reservoirs. The river basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico, has been drying out during what scientists say is one of the driest 19-year periods in the past 1,200 years.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Experts: ‘Alarming’ drought conditions hit US Southwest

Climatologists and other experts on Wednesday provided an update on the situation in the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. They say the area is among the hardest hit and there’s little relief expected, and even robust summer rains might not be enough to replenish the soil and ease the fire danger.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Drought on tap to intensify over US Southwest

Rivers are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of the American Southwest. … With the region’s water resources strained, a top federal official has resumed pressure on states in the Southwest to wrap up long-delayed emergency plans for potential shortages on the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Calfire: Potential for big fire season ahead in Lake Tahoe Basin

After two heavy winters following five years of drought, grass and brush are thick in the Tahoe Basin, putting local firefighting agencies on high alert for the fire season ahead. “We will see more intense fire because there is more fuel. That’s the message we’re getting from our fire behavior analysts and fuel specialists,” said Brice Bennett, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Amador/El Dorado Unit.

Aquafornia news KPBS

Climate change is making droughts worse in the Western US

A new study from NASA reinforces the idea that droughts are getting worse and could become more frequent in the Western U.S. The culprit is human-caused climate change. Droughts aren’t just about precipitation, said NASA scientist and the study’s co-author Benjamin Cook.

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