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.
Los Angeles County residents will see a new charge on their
property tax bills this fall. Measure W, which was approved by
county residents last November, will implement a parcel tax
that is intended to increase stormwater capture. The intent is
to increase local water supply, improve water quality and
invest in community projects.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
Shares of water resource specialist Cadiz (NASDAQ:CDZI) have
jumped 19.5% this month through Aug. 23, while the S&P 500,
including dividends, is down 4.3%. … The catalyst for Cadiz
stock’s August pop was the company’s announcement that it has
entered the U.S. hemp market.
Environmental groups are raising concerns over a provision in
draft legislation they believe could exempt the Las Vegas
pipeline — a proposal to pump eastern Nevada groundwater about
300 miles to Southern Nevada — from further litigation and
federal environmental review.
Fifth graders now have a space to learn everything about water,
from conservation to careers in the water industry. The Hydro
Station is an initiative of the Chula Vista Elementary School
District (CVESD), the Otay Water District and Sweetwater
Authority. This facility consists of a classroom right next to
the Richard A. Reynolds desalination plant, which is estimated
to receive about 4,500 students every school year.
Local and professional foresters say they support a new
proposal by the U.S. Forest Service that would speed up logging
and cut some environmental review processes. The Forest Service
is proposing a sweeping amendment of The National Environmental
Farmers, experts and lawmakers are working to find more
sustainable ways to droughtproof farms and address the vexed
issue of water allocation. And it turns out many farmers and
water experts in California are looking to Australia for
answers as they face up to the biggest water reforms in the
history of the US.
The iconic image of Lake Tahoe is of a clear, blue lake
surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains. But that
picturesque sight could look very different by the end of the
century due to climate change. Those snowy mountains we’re used
to seeing could lose their white tips. And this would mean a
major transformation for life in Tahoe and beyond.
Firefighters and rural residents have been on edge about
wildfires all year, after the Camp Fire, the deadliest in the
United States in 100 years, obliterated the town of Paradise in
Butte County last November, killing 86 people… Yet in a run
of much-needed good fortune, California has been spared this
year — at least so far.
Oxnard Assistant Public Works Director Tien Ng presented the
item and said the city wants to integrate the water, wastewater
recycled water and stormwater while looking for opportunities
to align projects on the same street. They want to do them at
the same time. Doing this enhances the schedule and cost for
Moderator Kathleen Schock spoke with advocates on both sides of
the issue, John Harris of Harris Farms and Kim Delfino with
Defenders of Wildlife. Dr. Lisa Bryant, Assistant Professor of
Political Science at Fresno State also joined the conversation.
Rocky Mountain water managers worried about climate-driven
depletion across the Colorado River Basin are mulling a “grand
bargain” that would overhaul obligations among seven
southwestern states for sharing the river’s water. This
reflects rising concerns that dry times could turn disastrous.
If you’re planning on visiting Big Bear Lake, avoid the water,
the state warned Friday. State and regional water quality
boards both urged dog owners, fishers and everyone else to
avoid direct water contact while visiting areas of Big Bear
Lake due to a harmful algae bloom.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is
considering listing the Northern California Summer Steelhead,
which lives in portions of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as
an endangered species.
While some residents are unconcerned each summer as the algae’s
trademark scum appears atop stagnant water in the bays around
town, many are worried about the algal blooms’ toxic effects.
The Discovery Bay Community Foundation (DBCF) has formed a
harmful algae bloom (HAB) subcommittee, partnering with
agencies across the state to help mitigate the epidemic.
South County gets most of its water from groundwater, so this
project, part of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood
Protection Program that was overwhelmingly approved by voters
in 2012, is vital to ensuring a reliable water supply for the
In 2014 California introduced the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into state law to help manage the
conflict between ground and surface water. But updating legal
structures to accommodate evolving scientific knowledge
involves far more than simply rewriting statutes, according to
researchers in the US.
The Forest Resilience Bond uses private capital to finance
forest restoration activities. Beneficiaries, including the
U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection, reimburse investors over time. Yuba Water
has pledged $1.5 million toward the project and the state of
California has committed $2.6 million in grant funding, with
additional funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
All residents and organizations within the Indian Wells Valley
will have to implement register their wells come Oct. 1
following the approval of an ordinance by the Indian Wells
Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article in which I — perhaps
cavalierly — described Los Angeles as a desert. … There was a
small part of me that raised a red flag as I pounded the words
into my keyboard. Is L.A. a desert, though? I thought. Haven’t
I also heard that it isn’t?
Aquatic animals in regions like California that have
historically experienced frequent droughts have evolved
remarkable adaptations to dealing with dry conditions. However,
the duration, severity, and frequency of droughts are all
increasing as a result of ongoing climate change and an
increased human demand for water, leaving even drought-hardened
A piece of Riverside history could be revived if Councilman
Steve Adams can get the city to refill Hole Lake, an irrigation
and recreation reservoir for 60 years that’s now full of trees
and plants and, in some spots, trash and homeless camps.
Recent validation by state regulators of the effective and
sustainable management of Coachella Valley’s groundwater basins
speaks volumes about the importance of collaboration by local
water managers to protect our most important resource.
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
Farmers implementing conservation practices that improve soil
health aren’t just hoping for better crop yields, they’re
banking on them. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and
American Farmland Trust recently released case studies
highlighting the economic benefits of implementing soil health
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason
forecasts by about 50%, said Kandice Morgenstern, a marine
scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey
and San Francisco, but weaker along California’s northern
On the modern farm, soil sensors, well monitors and paperwork
abound. The trick is trying to keep all that data organized. To
that end, a Monterey County winegrape grower, Scheid Family
Wines of Greenfield, came up with its own system, first called
VitWatch, to digitize information previously recorded on paper.
California’s forests aren’t healthy. After a century of
preventing and putting out fires, millions of acres of trees
are overcrowded, drought-stressed, and more than ready to burn.
A couple of hours from the Oregon border, one community is
asking how to do better.
A new legislative audit has concluded Washington County water
bosses will likely be able to generate sufficient revenue to
pay the massive costs of building and operating the proposed
Lake Powell pipeline, but only through large fee, rate and tax
increases and if the county triples its population during the
next 50 years.
The plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not been
released, but water-resource managers in the region said they
have been collaborating with government agencies and
environmental groups to develop voluntary agreements that would
accomplish the goals of the state board’s flows-only
Just a few months after completing the Drought Contingency Plan
for the Colorado River states, water managers in the southwest
will likely have to implement it starting in 2020. That’s
according to new projections for the levels of key reservoirs
in the southwestern river basin, and Arizona is first in line
to take water cutbacks.
For a moment as columns of sunlight drifted through the pines
with the cobalt surface of Lake Tahoe in the background, it
seemed as though the partisan rancor so characteristic of this
political moment might temporarily evaporate. But such
congeniality was short lived, if it ever lived at all.
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
One of the key factors when assessing fire danger is the
moistness of the vegetation. When it was raining all the time,
plants were soaking up a lot of that water, which helped them
produce new growth and keep their limbs well hydrated. Usually
by August, they’ve dried out to dangerously low levels, but
this year they’re holding on a bit longer, in part due to
cooler summer temperatures.
The desire to expand housing, commerce and other development
around metro Denver and on arid high plains once deemed
inhospitable has driven an innovative urban water broker to
build a $22 million reservoir on a ranch 70 miles east of the
city along the South Platte River.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
The Clovis City Council in July approved an amended deal with
the Fresno Irrigation District concerning the conveyance of
Kings River water to the city’s water system. … The agreement
includes “the addition of a new water supply to meet future
City growth and support implementation of the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
Although more fundamental ESA reform is needed, last week’s
action yielded modest and common-sense improvements to
implementation of an imperfect law. New efficiencies, clarity,
and transparency will serve the purposes of the ESA and the
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Not every bloom is toxic, but the toxins produced by the
blue-green algae can be harmful and even deadly for pets when
they eat the algae or drink the water, even in small amounts,
water experts warn. Summer heat, stagnant or slow-moving water
and nutrients from agricultural or septic runoff are an ideal
recipe for the toxic stew.
In a region that has already seen two 20-year droughts, the San
Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District continues to invest
in water supplies to help the region sustain prolonged
droughts. A new program offered by Valley District provides
financial incentive to local water agencies for projects that
produce recycled water or capture storm water.
Los Angeles city and county representatives hosted a discussion
with state officials to address ways to increase local water
supplies and to support a proposed statewide water system. Los
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was joined Friday by the California
Secretary of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, and Secretary of
Environmental Protection, Jared Blumenfeld, to discuss the
city’s maintenance of its water sources.
The story behind a proposal to pump water from under the Mojave
Desert in San Bernardino County is a long and complicated one.
Since its approval in 2012, the Cadiz Valley Water
Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project has been tied up in
litigation from environmental groups, fought over in the state
legislature and faced hurdles by state and federal government
Although prescribed burns have been part of federal fire policy
since 1995, last year the Forest Service performed them on just
one per cent—some sixty thousand acres—of its land in the
Sierra Nevada. “We need to be burning close to a million acres
each year, just in the Sierras, or it’s over,” said Jeff Brown,
manager of a field station in the Tahoe National Forest.
For most of the last 150 years, traditional Karuk burning
practices were criminalized. The Plan attempts to reverse all
this by re-establishing a more natural fire regime on the
landscape through prescribed burns at appropriate times of
A dozen conservationists gathered eagerly around the edges of
some shallow pools above a waterfall in the Angeles National
Forrest. They watched with anticipation as about a thousand
Southern mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles and three adult
frogs enjoyed their first few minutes of life in the wild.
Desalination began to lose its urgency among Californians and
their public officials two years ago, after the drought-busting
winter of 2016-17, when heavy rain and snow ended dry
conditions in most of the state. The idea of drawing potable
water from the sea became even less of a priority this year,
when an autumn of record-level fires gave way to one of the
state’s wettest winters on record.
Hydrogen sulfide is associated with the natural processes
occurring in the Salton Sea, a non-draining body of water with
no ability to cleanse itself. Trapped in its waters are salt
and selenium-laden agricultural runoff from surrounding farms,
as well as heavy metals and bacterial pollution that flow in
from Mexico’s New River, authorities said.
The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) proposal arose from a belief
that Utah has an unused share of the Colorado River and a fear
of water shortages stifling Washington County’s rapid
population growth. Although many leaders across the state say
southern Utah needs the LPP, this statement is not based on
Irvine Lake looks a lot different today than it did a year ago.
Last September the reservoir looked like a giant puddle at 13
percent of capacity, today, after a rainy winter, the water
covers the area and is ready to greet the public on Saturday,
Aug. 17. After a 3-year hiatus, Irvine Lake is reopening for
shoreline fishing on Aug. 17.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
In light of the recent groundwater modeling scenarios generated
by Indian Wells Valley Water Groundwater, some stakeholders in
the basin have pushed back, including Searles Valley Minerals
and Meadowbrook Dairy.
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water
from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a
set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to
reduce the risk of a crash.
GAR Tootelian, a major agricultural chemical company, and
Families Protecting the Valley are rolling up their sleeves to
put up several hundred road signs calling for action to build
more dam storage and the message is simple: Dam Water Grows
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
Two species of Klamath Basin sucker have been dying before they
can reach adulthood, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is showing
continued interest in expediting efforts already underway to
save the fish species.
With big western cities clamoring for a share of the
river’s diminishing supply, desert farmers with valuable claims
are making multimillion dollar deals in a bid to delay the
inevitable. … But if the river’s water keeps
falling, more radical measures will be needed to protect
Nowadays there’s about a 7 percent chance that snowy areas in
the western U.S. will get two really bad snow years in a
row—years with snowpack lower than a quarter of the long-term
average. But within a few decades, if climate change continues
apace, those bookending “snow droughts” could occur about 40
percent of the time, according to work published in August in
Geophysical Research Letters.
The Carpinteria Valley Water District is in the process of
forming a groundwater sustainability agency for Carpinteria
Groundwater Basin in partnership with the city of Carpinteria,
Santa Barbara County and Ventura County.
Californians, your yard sprinklers are about to get a little
bit more expensive. The good news is, your water bill is about
to get cheaper. California on Wednesday officially adopted new
regulations which are estimated to save more than 400 million
gallons of water per day within 10 years, enough to supply San
Diego, the second largest city in the state.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its
projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key
reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona,
California and Mexico. After a wet winter, the agency is not
expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of
water. But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
A new tool from the World Resources Institute for assessing
water stress around the globe is shedding much-needed light on
a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for fresh
water. But an article surveying the data assembled by WRI for
the digital New York Times this week missed the mark in
describing California’s situation, where water use tops all
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
Butte County, California Water Service and Paradise Irrigation
District are kicking off the lengthy process on a project to
pipe water from Paradise to Chico. The project would seek to
restore some viability to PID, which lost most of its customers
after the Camp Fire. It would also reduce demands on the
groundwater basin currently used for water in Chico to boost
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act has presented some challenges, however it appears the
overall process is progressing smoothly overall. Supervising
Engineering Geologist with the Department of Water Resources,
Steven Springhorn noted that the stakeholders have been
diligent in adhering to the timeline established by the
California could be the canary in the coal mine. Over the next
decade, 40 U.S. states are expected to experience water
shortages, according to the U.S. Government Accountability
Office. The situation is serious, but California’s
entrepreneurs, who are seeking to boost supply and tame demand,
offer a glimmer of hope.
In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey,
80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious
threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a
concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as
our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these
statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California
The existing standard for indoor residential water use is 55
gallons per day per person. On January 1, 2025, the standard
decreases to 52.5 gallons per capita per day. Then, on January
1, 2030, the standard drops to 50 gallons per person per day.
So, how much is 50 gallons per day?
A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern
Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared
camera to help researchers decide how much water they would
give the crops the next day.
The tactic is considered one of the best ways to prevent the
kind of catastrophic destruction that has become common from
wildfires, but its use falls woefully short of goals in the
U.S. West. A study published in the journal Fire in April found
prescribed burns on federal land in the last 20 years across
the West has stayed level or fallen despite calls for more.
The recently adopted Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) was an
important step toward addressing the Colorado Basin’s chronic
water shortages, but more work is needed to prepare for a
hotter, drier future. We talked to Doug Kenney, director of the
Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and
a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network,
about managing the basin for long-term water sustainability.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
The Delta smelt is practically extinct in the wild already. So
could the Delta be repopulated by taking up the farmers’ offer
to “hatch and repopulate the fish,” as Jack Fowler says in
National Review? That certainly sounds like common sense!
Except that the Delta smelt war has never really been about the
Delta smelt at all.
The proposed changes to Clean Water Act permitting rules,
announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
would limit the amount of time states and tribes can take to
review new project proposals… It also would limit states to
considering only water quality and allow the federal government
to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in
The upcoming groundwater recharge project will improve existing
facilities and build new facilities to capture surface runoff
from the Santa Margarita River. When water flows are high, the
runoff would recharge groundwater basins on Camp Pendleton.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s
costs, and the fact that it would submerge 1,245 acres of oak
woodlands… But the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a San
Jose government agency that provides water to 1.9 million
Silicon Valley residents, says the reservoir is needed to store
more water as insurance against California’s next drought.
The proposal would upend long-held environmental practices that
have been in place since 1970, and make it easier for timber
harvesting and bulldozing forest roads in all 20 of
California’s federal forests…
A new report from a Portland-based economics firm, which says
the removal of dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington
would have broad financial benefits, is getting pushback from
local politicians in the Tri-Cities area.
A partnership of state, local and conservation groups,
including Trout Unlimited, is engaged in a restoration effort
that could serve as a template for similar regions across the
West. Centered around the high plateau near Kremmling, a town
of about 1,400 people in northern Colorado about 100 miles west
of Denver, the partnership aims to make the river function
better for people and the environment.
What would happen if we ran out of water? For an increasing
number of people, that question is moving from a hypothetical
to a reality. New data from the World Resource Institute show
that a quarter of the world’s population is at high risk of
running out of water.
Between 1901 and 2016, temperatures increased across the
Southwest, with the greatest upturns in California and
Colorado. … Meanwhile, growing population, aging
infrastructure, and groundwater depletion are also compounding
long-standing water scarcity issues in the region. These
mounting pressures have a bevvy of potential implications, from
human health and ecological function, to food and energy
In recent years, algae blooms – actually microscopic bacteria
called cyanobacteria – have erupted in hundreds of lakes
nationwide, putting at risk Americans whose drinking water
comes from those lakes, or who swim, ski or fish in them. If
ingested, microcystins can cause adverse health effects in
people and animals, ranging from skin rashes to serious illness
and even death.
During the past 107 years, daily air temperatures measured in
Tahoe City have increased. The average daily maximum
temperature has risen by 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit, and the
average daily minimum temperature has risen by 4.43 degrees.
According to the report, the number of days when air
temperatures averaged below freezing has declined by about 30
days since 1911, though year-to-year variability is high.
Ivan Soto has aspired to produce research with a positive
impact on the public — not just to benefit the academic
community. … His research examines the power dynamics of
infrastructure and water politics through an environmental
history of southernmost California’s Imperial Valley along the
In a newly published study, my colleagues and I analyze
year-to-year variations of future snowpack to see how
frequently western states can expect multiple years in a row of
snow drought, or very low snow. We find that if climate change
continues relatively unabated, consecutive years with snow
drought conditions will become much more common…
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimated the chances of
neutral conditions sticking through the winter at about 55%. An
El Nino has a 30% percent chance of returning, while La Nina
has a 15% chance of forming, according to the center.
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
Local land owners have an opportunity to get their irrigation
systems inspected free of charge as part of a program offered
across Northern California. Jay Thomas, engineering technician
for the Irrigation Training Facility at California State
University, Chico, said this program is part of a mobile
irrigation laboratory that services the growers of Northern
The general rule of thumb had been that El Niño years — when
the sea surface in a region off the coast of Peru is at least 1
degree Celsius warmer than average — tend to have more
rainfall, and La Niña years, when that region is 1 degree
Celsius cooler than average, tend to have less rain. But that
simple rule of thumb doesn’t always hold true.
California’s Secretary of Environmental Protection Jared
Blumenfeld joins Forum to discuss how the state is responding
to the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks and what
he sees as the state’s top priorities and challenges.
As the Tejon Tribe casino makes its way through the regulatory
process, concerns have been raised over the impact the complex
will have on the county’s groundwater. However, county
officials believe the casino may actually use less water than
the farms that currently occupy the planned site just south of
Bakersfield. But questions do remain …
Whenever the price of other water goes up, desalinating Pacific
waters becomes more enticing. It will become more so if the
price of filtering minerals out of salt water drops. But if the
price and availability of fresh water remains reasonable, as it
surely will be this year, desal stays in the back seat.
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District reported more
than 20 billion gallons of water captured, a new record for
captured groundwater recharge. … This is a 30-year record
with 1987 being the last year this much groundwater was stored
into the region’s aquifers. Prior to that, 20 billion gallons
of storage had not been achieved since the late 1940s.
Ample water resources in northern areas of California are
balanced by huge demands from Central Valley agriculture and
the large populations in hotter, drier southern areas such as
Los Angeles and San Diego. California uses the most water of
any state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 9
percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. … It’s a groundbreaking project for water management
in the county, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the
county’s water and resource management department.
New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely
high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is
on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and
Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found.
California ranks second, followed by Arizona, Colorado and
Hiding and waiting is a great strategy as long as droughts are
temporary. But as our climate becomes warmer, increased
evaporation will make it effectively ever drier, and rainfall
will arrive ever less predictably at the right time of year.
Native plants will thus face long-term increases in water
stress, often exacerbated by intensified fire and shifts in
their delicate coexistence with exotic species.
For five years or so, German-born, San Francisco-based
photographer Thomas Heinser has made a study of the state’s
scarred landscapes. His images, shot from the open side of a
helicopter, focus on the after-effects of drought, wildfire,
and human profit.
One year from its initiation of the design-build process for
the Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant,
East Valley Water District (EVWD) Board of Directors reviewed
the project’s considerable progress and adopted a few
modifications during a July 24 meeting. … The project will
construct a wastewater recycling plant capable of treating up
to 10 million gallons per day.
Water resource management is key in Ventura County to help
address the perils local residents face from global warming,
such as flooding, drought and sea level rise. The preliminary
draft of the 2040 General Plan update on Water Resources
Element is so much more than an “update.”
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. The project involves analysis of well logs, and hopes
to expand the analysis using magnetics and a grid to fill in
holes in the data.
Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced last week the
selection of Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC to perform
restoration work after the proposed removal of four Klamath
dams, and on Monday, KRRC announced it had filed with Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission the answers to a plethora of
questions brought forward by a Board of Consultants in December
Kevin Hunt, general manager for Central Basin Municipal Water
District, said his agency needs the $600,000-plus the fee will
raise to balance its $10 million budget. The water wholesaler
has significant money problems because of decreasing water
Two of the most basic questions about biodiversity are “what is
it?”, which is the focus of taxonomists, and “where is it?”,
which is the realm of biogeographers. Understanding basic
patterns in the biogeography of an urban area is the focus of a
partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County. We call our project
Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA).
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
A new federal management plan for the Klamath River is proving
to be a disaster for salmon, a lawsuit alleges. The Yurok Tribe
and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the
National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday because the new
plan has led to drought-level flows in the lower Klamath River
and an increase in salmon with a potentially lethal parasite…
One hundred and fifty years ago, a group of explorers led by
Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell set out to document the
canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It was the first trip
of its kind. To commemorate the journey, a group of scientists,
artists and graduate students from the University of Wyoming
called the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition
has been retracing his steps this summer.
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with a Montana
Republican to craft a bill that would expedite logging and
other forest management projects near electrical transmission
lines and roads in an effort to head off catastrophic
wildfires. The bill is also aimed at slowing or stopping
lawsuits that block logging projects on federal land.
Jeff Urban, a staff scientist who specializes in new materials
for energy storage and conversion at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular
Foundry, a Department of Energy nanoscience research facility,
explains what forward osmosis is and how Berkeley Lab is
addressing the challenges.
Over the past 18 months, the three Groundwater Sustainability
Agencies (GSAs) in the Merced Subbasin have worked together to
develop a Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that is
now available for public review and comment.
Close to one thousand Los Angeles Zoo bred mountain
yellow-legged frogs and tadpoles will be released into a
tributary to Cooper Canyon, located in the Angeles National
Forest. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Los Angeles Zoo, and Forest Service will release the
tadpoles Aug. 14 …
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
Like many communities throughout California, Carpinteria faces
sustained and historic drought conditions. … In response to
the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin to be used for various needs,
including potable drinking water.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
California American Water is seeking to raise its Monterey area
average customers’ bills by nearly 18 percent over a three-year
period from 2021-2023. … Under the proposal, the “average”
Cal Am customer would see their monthly rates increase from
about $89.40 to $105.42 over the three-year period.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors last
week approved a contract to study the viability of a new
regional water conveyance system that would deliver water from
the Colorado River to San Diego County and provide multiple
benefits across the Southwest. The $1.9 million contract was
awarded to Black & Veatch Corporation for a two-phase study.
Native seaweed has the potential to be cultivated in California
coastal waters and used to alleviate the effects of local ocean
acidification, according to a new study funded by NOAA’s
California Sea Grant.
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
The heavy rains that hit the Central Coast this past winter are
keeping recreators at area lakes and reservoirs happy this
summer. However, the precipitation has done little to ease
concerns for a group fighting Monterey County over the water it
withdraws from Lake Nacimiento.
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
To mow or not to mow? This question is at the heart of a
nationwide movement against lawns and in favor of more
sustainable landscapes. These ten homeowners and garden
enthusiasts created unique, beautiful lawnless yards—and you
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency board will submit a
sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources in
2021 and begin to implement that plan in 2022-2024. The board
last week heard a presentation about funding options to pay for
the groundwater management plan — including fees, taxes or
assessments to customers — and specific projects to implement
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
What happens when the farmer’s source of water is tapped out?
They look for it elsewhere. This could become a major problem
as their adaptation to climate change only exacerbates another
major impact from climate change—water scarcity.
The water cycle is the movement of water on the planet — from
falling as precipitation, such as rain, ice or snow, to being
absorbed in the soil or flowing into groundwater and streams
and then being evaporated to start all over again. Research by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey shows water has been
moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages of
the cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
The report estimates there are a cluster of major California
crops that are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperature
changes: wine grapes, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, table
grapes, hay, oranges, cotton, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and
pistachios. Specifically, avocado production in California
could fall 40 percent by 2050 due to climate change factors.
Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is
progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of
the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina
Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and
David Orth with New Current Water and Land.
Water is key to everything in California. If you have control
of water in sufficient amounts you control your destiny. There
are three things on the horizon that city leaders had best pay
heed before they buy into the PG&E model regarding critical
and essential utilities and go for the money in the here and
now while ignoring long term consequences.
The center, being built at North Natomas Regional Park, will
feature the city’s first 50-meter competition pool with 13
diving boards and lanes. It will also feature a 25-meter pool,
four water slides, a shallow kids’ pool, and a kids’ rope
course and play area…
More than 90% of U.S. wine comes from California, despite
growth in other states’ production, and it’s putting a strain
on the environment. Throughout the region, wine producers say
they’re striving to save water and use less pesticides, among
other measures aimed at sustainable growing, as they face the
challenges brought on by the advance of climate change.
By 2030, the Carpinteria Valley Water District estimates that
on a dry year, the deficit could be as high as 1,550 acre
feet—enough to fill 775 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or serve
the average yearly use of 6,200 local households. In response
to the shortfall, CVWD proposes a $25 million project to take
wastewater that has been cleaned, purify it and then inject it
into the groundwater basin…
Jennifer Gilden, the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s staff
officer for outreach, habitat and legislation, said the ocean
conditions are improving, though the Chinook salmon population
has yet to fully recover. Unfortunately, it is likely marine
heatwaves are only going to increase in frequency and intensity
in the coming years, according to a body of research on the
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… A holistic approach to habitat restoration doesn’t rely on
a single silver bullet solution, but applies a comprehensive
set of actions that rely on collaboration
Water is the lifeblood of the Sacramento Valley. Yet, the best
methods for storing and using the precious resource are often
elusive. A new water system in operation in Roseville treats
underground aquifers like a bank, making deposits in times of
surplus for withdrawal in times of drought.
The project’s ocean-friendly technology has won praise from the
same environmentalists fighting a desalter plant proposed by
Poseidon Water for Huntington Beach, one of several things that
distinguish the south county plant from the more controversial
project to the north. … But the price tag is steep for a
district that serves a relatively modest population of 35,000,
just over 1% of the county.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.
During our Edge of Drought Tour Aug. 27-29, we’ll visit an
atmospheric river observatory in Santa Barbara that
specifically monitors the meteorological phenomenon and also
visit Lopez Lake to hear from the County of San Luis Obispo on
their cloud seeding efforts.
The Coleman National Fish Hatchery is expecting good returns of
their fish in the foreseeable future after a few lean years of
comebacks. … Mother Nature worked with the hatchery this year
providing high water levels and spring storms, said Galyean.
When nature was not working in the hatchery’s favor was during
the recent drought.
High-tech firms like Ceres, Prospera, Farmers Edge, and the
Climate Corporation are using artificial intelligence to help
famers decide when to plant, water, spray, and harvest their
crops. As climate change worsens rainstorms in the Midwest and
drought in California, the technology could also help growers
navigate more severe and volatile weather.
Katy Delaney pointed to an open patch of sediment at the base
of the canyon. A year ago, pools of cool water gleamed under
the sun and frogs basked on their banks. Now, a trickle of
water lazed through the mud. And the California red-legged
frog, whose fate had consumed eight years of Delaney’s life,
was nowhere to be seen.
Just how much Manteca’s treated wastewater is worth to
agricultural users served by the Delta Mendota Canal that are
often at the mercy of fish flows diversions and drought that
reduces their Central Valley Project allocations may be
determined in the coming year.
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has been occurring on a nationwide
scale wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12
million well-drilling records from state and local agencies
across the country.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
When the population collapses, like it did between 2013 to
2016, the effects ripple across the ecosystem. Brown pelicans
struggled to reproduce and those that did abandoned their
chicks. Thousands of sea lion pups were found malnourished and
dehydrated on California’s beaches. These effects may be
exacerbated by humans, especially when high fishing rates
remain when stocks are in decline. California anchovies are
almost exclusively sold abroad as food for fish farms and bait
Thoughtfully implementing state law that requires local water
users to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels within the
next two decades will … result in withdrawal of large amounts
of land from agricultural production and the loss of economic
benefits. But we can repurpose those lands to support large
scale storage and solar, as well as other renewable energy
technologies that can help decarbonize our electric grid and
create new jobs in the Central Valley.
If you’ve read stories about the disaster afflicting Flint,
Michigan, you are probably grateful we still have good drinking
water in Humboldt County. But the agency that provides water to
a majority of county residents is increasingly worried about
the future and going head-to-head with the county Planning and
Building Department to protect water quality.
Described in a comprehensive new study published Wednesday in
the journal Science Advances, scientists now understand the
causes of the megadroughts common during the medieval period.
With climate change, they predict more megadroughts in the
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
Water managers on the Colorado River are facing a unique
moment. With a temporary fix to the river’s scarcity problem
recently completed, talk has begun to turn toward future
agreements to manage the water source for 40 million people in
the southwestern U.S. … Some within the basin see a window of
opportunity to argue for big, bold actions to find balance in