Drought— an extended period of limited or no precipitation— is a
fact of life in California and the West, with water resources
following boom-and-bust patterns.
No portion of the West has been immune to drought during the last
century and drought occurs with much greater frequency in the
West than in other regions of the country.
Most of the West experiences what is classified as severe to
extreme drought more than 10 percent of the time, and a
significant portion of the region experiences severe to extreme
drought more than 15 percent of the time, according to the
National Drought Mitigation Center.
Experts who have studied recent droughts say a drought occurs
about once every 10 years somewhere in the United States.
Droughts are believed to be the most costly of all natural
disasters because of their widespread effects on agriculture and
related industries, as well as on urbanized areas. One of those
decennial droughts could cost as much as $38 billion, according
to one estimate.
Because droughts cannot be prevented, experts are looking for
better ways to forecast them and new approaches to managing
droughts when they occur.
Despite the abundant water year we’ve had, though, over the
long term climate change is transforming our snowpack and will
make no-snow snow surveys more common in the future. Not only
is climate change making good snow years like this one less
likely, it’s also changing what good snow years mean for our
water resources. And that’s going to mean a very different
April snow survey in the future.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a
water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB
headquarters in Santa Rosa.
TPR interviewed Martha Davis, a co-author on the Sustainable
Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa
Ana River Watershed report, about the potential for landscaping
changes to capture stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve
water quality. … Davis also comments on California water
policies under the new Governor Newsom administration. A brief
excerpt of the report follows the interview.
Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the
2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the
change wasn’t uniform. According to research from UCLA and
Columbia University, large areas of the northern part of the
state were not severely affected, while Southern California
became much browner than usual.
Chula Vista residents looking to conserve water now have
another reason to keep an eye out for a leaky faucet, with the
city announcing its participation in the 2019 National Mayor’s
Challenge for Water Conservation at a City Council meeting on
March 26. The challenge, which is put on by the Wyland
Foundation, is entering its eighth year of existence, and this
will be the first year Chula Vista partakes.
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is
showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the
feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging
groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry
The city is suiting up for construction of a new facility later
this year that will purify recycled water to create a new,
local source of drinking water for residents by 2022. Pure
Water Oceanside is a water purification system that aims to
reduce the city’s reliance on imported water, improve
groundwater resources, increase local water supply and
strengthen the city’s resiliency to drought and climate change
in an environmentally sound process.
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late
last week that eight organizations have received a total of
$1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help
in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas
identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were
given priority for the grants.
Whitewater rafting businesses are holding out hope of getting a
safe landing area near the Ward’s Ferry bridge over the
Tuolumne River, as a condition of relicensing the Don Pedro
hydroelectric project. At a Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission hearing Tuesday in Modesto, speakers said an
existing takeout for rafts on the Tuolumne, upstream from Don
Pedro Reservoir, is under water because of dam operations. And
the options for getting boats out of the water are not safe.
“The community is miserably divided,” said Napa County
Supervisor Diane Dillon during a meeting on Tuesday. Dillon and
her four fellow board members were tasked with crafting and
approving the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, a
controversial new law that seeks to conserve trees and forested
areas while improving water quality for the many creeks that
feed the Napa River.
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California
agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of
crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a
price, however, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in
the county and elsewhere in California have left some aquifers
severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less
than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects
groundwater for the long term yet ensures that Kern County’s
economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Here, the city of Santa Cruz’s water department is in its third
round of testing a plan to pump water underground, into the
Purisima Aquifer to rest the area’s wells and hopefully provide
a new reservoir of water storage—one that could supplement Loch
Lomond, the city’s current reservoir up in the Santa Cruz
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action
on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River,
which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and
Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got
a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee
that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll
introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
The winter’s rainy weather is finally starting to clear, and
Long Beach is looking to the sunny months ahead by expanding a
program to motivate residents to transform their yards into
drought-tolerant gardens. The city’s Lawn-to-Garden turf
removal program, which first launched in 2010, has received new
funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California and will use it to implement changes.
The Camp Fire, the blaze that all but wiped Paradise off the
map last fall, heralds something new for all of us—a state of
affairs that out-going governor Jerry Brown characterized as
the “new normal” (and later, the “new abnormal”): larger,
costlier, more frequent wildfires in the state than ever
before, burning almost year-round.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in
more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for
dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought
agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step
toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for
implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a
strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has
left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea,
California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the
case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on
to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if
they change their minds. But with or without IID’s
participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton
A California law that passed in 2014 gave local control to
agencies to manage their groundwater. The Glenn Groundwater
Authority – created in 2017 – is an agency that was formed
under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to regulate
groundwater at a local level. … The GGA was created by
forming a joint exercise of powers agreement which was signed
by nine local agencies. The purpose is to be the groundwater
sustainability agency for the Glenn County portion of the
The Millview County Water District will receive a $3 million
loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
program to help secure access to its wells. According to the
USDA, the money will be used to help the water district
“purchase property to gain access to its water source.
Currently, Millview does not own the water rights to the four
well sites, making it difficult to service the wells if there
are any issues with them, such as contamination.”
After a seven-year drought finally came to an end this winter,
California has been hit with a deluge of vibrant greenery and
super blooms. But we’re still keeping an eye out for how to
make our own backyards more sustainable and water-friendly.
The City of Oceanside is taking control of its water destiny,
investing in a facility to purify recycled water from homes.
“It’s not being used, it’s really a waste. A lot of that water
is going out to the ocean and it’s really a precious resource,”
said Cari Dale, Water Utilities Director for the city. This
Fall they’ll break ground on the Pure Water Oceanside facility,
which will sit right next to the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
More than 100 organizations representing water and agricultural
interests in the Western U.S. urged Congress today to use any
infrastructure package under consideration to help address
severe hydrological conditions in the West.
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
In places like Oakland, flooding will occur not just at the
shoreline, but inland in areas once considered safe from sea
level rise, including the Oakland Coliseum and Jones Avenue,
where [UC Berkeley professor Kristina] Hill and her students
now stood, more than a mile from San Leandro Bay. In fact, she
added, rising groundwater menaces nearly the entire band of
low-lying land around San Francisco Bay, as well as many other
coastal parts of the U.S.
Some community members are demanding the county do more to
safeguard reservoir water quality and save carbon-sequestering
trees to combat climate change. Others say no proof exists that
drastic steps are needed and that the results could hurt
agriculture and vineyard development.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran
environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his
in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its
Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
The intense nature of wildfires is undeniable, and while most
people want nothing but to get as far away as possible, artist
Jeff Frost decided that wasn’t an option. … His video and
sound installation, “California on Fire,” showcases 350,000
photographs from more than 70 major wildfires, taken over the
period of five years. The 25-minute video shows just a glimpse
of what Frost experienced behind the lens, and how many people
have been affected during the fires.
The state of California declared the drought is over – but
don’t touch your sprinkler programming. Los Angeles Mayor Eric
Garcetti says the city is not easing watering restrictions
because the next “drought is right around the corner,” and
conservation is “the new normal.”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and
Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought
contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from
Congress to implement it.
I introduced AB 854 because the board of directors of IID, one
of California’s most powerful municipal utilities, operates
without representation from Riverside County ratepayers who
make up 60 percent of their service territory. Moreover,
according to The Desert Sun, Riverside County ratepayers
provide IID with the majority of its revenue yet have no voice
on how their municipal utility is managed.
Field D-17 on the Bowles Farming Company’s ranch in
California’s Central Valley is dry and unplanted when I visit
it with Emery Silberman in the spring. … Mounted there, he
shows me, is a small piece of equipment from a company called
WaterBit that’s designed to provide more granular control of
conditions in the field … to save on valuable resources like
water and fertilizer.
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before
the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing
additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While
the administration found the deal would not have a significant
impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection
of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it
will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a
drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where
alfalfa is king. … Massive industrial storehouses line the
southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of
stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not
cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands.
Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
An interview with Don Hankins, professor of geography and
planning at Chico State and a Plains Miwok traditional cultural
practitioner. He has spent his academic career working on water
and fire issues in California, with a focus on applied
traditional Indigenous stewardship.
France and California face a common challenge of managing
overdraft in intensively exploited aquifers. As of 2018, large
areas of France and California have overexploited groundwater
(see maps below). And both regions have passed landmark
groundwater legislation, the Loi sur l’Eau et les Milieux
Aquatiques (LEMA) of 2006 in France and the Groundwater
Sustainable Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 in California.
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on
unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the
secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River
Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a
watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most,
it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of
the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir.
But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images
associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we
really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to
shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal
Love Water is a local non-profit making a global impact in the
global crisis. Founder and President Jake Sherley took a trip
to Zambia, Africa in 2010 that changed his life forever. The
Kern County Fire Department captain saw an opportunity to make
a difference through sustainable water systems called bio
sand filters. In nine years Love Water has provided 63,000
people in parts of Africa and South America with clean water.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to
California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help
nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve
spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry.
The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings
contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms
grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District, Santa Clara County Board
of Supervisors and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority all
recognize the importance of curbing urban sprawl, encouraging
farm-to-fork enterprises, and providing open space for urban
dwellers through various policies. However, well-meaning
changes may have unintended consequences, putting these goals
It’s inevitable. Every year, big swaths of California will
burn. The question now that spring is here is how bad it will
be. If recent history is any guide, this year’s wildfire season
could be grim, despite a new push by state officials to keep
flames at bay. For all of its lush redwood forests and
snow-capped peaks, most of the Golden State is semi-arid… And
a shifting climate has been delivering ever hotter summer
According to a map released March 14 by the U.S. Drought
Monitor, the state is exhibiting no areas suffering from
prolonged drought… If that doesn’t wet your whistle, the
snowpack is about 140 percent of average for this time of year,
says the state Department of Water Resources. So, how do you
convince people they still need to conserve and not water
their lawns every day?
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted
Thursday to start exploring the feasibility of a
demand-management program as part of a larger effort to manage
falling water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and avoid
violating the Colorado River Compact.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board … detailed a
specific timeline for the board’s permit process — with a final
vote penciled in for Oct. 25. Poseidon Vice President Scott
Maloni interpreted that as a signal that board geologists,
engineers and administrators are confident they can work
through outstanding issues.
Because the Green is the biggest tributary of the Colorado
River system, the amount of water available for the divvying is
decided by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement that
delineated how much water was in the Colorado River Basin and
how it should be split up. … It’s a rigid framework for a
system that’s inherently variable…
Four months after the deadliest wildfire in California history,
Gov. Gavin Newsom is declaring a statewide emergency to speed
up fire prevention efforts. Citing “extreme peril” to life and
property, Newsom’s Friday morning executive order will
fast-track the state’s tree clearing and other forest
The idea of a recycled water plant project has been around for
more than 10 years, with the original idea coming from the
community. Through the years, staff has looked at various
locations, including a combined project with Naval Base
Coronado, and determined the golf course location to be the
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150
million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion
— the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as
much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem
section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about
$400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal
adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced
the most subsidence.
The current wet winter, on the other hand, is like getting a
new position with a great salary but little job security. The
money’s nice, but after seven years of unemployment, there’s a
backlog of debts to pay. And the cash could stop coming at any
“Right now our basin, fortunately, is at 98 percent full,” said
Carol Mahoney, Manager of Integrated Water Services for Zone 7,
the water supply and flood control agency that serves Livermore
and the Amador Valley. “We actually manage the groundwater
basin in such a way that we’re always replenishing the water
that we’re taking out and we’ve been doing that for 40 years.”
In the month since Governor Newsom announced that he does not
support a dual-tunnel Delta water supply conveyance, activity
in the more than 20 state and federal lawsuits challenging
California WaterFix and other administrative approval processes
related to the “twin tunnels” has slowed or been briefly
stayed. The stays reflect the uncertainty surrounding the
project in light of the Governor’s comments…
Since 2009, the Israeli company Watergen has been developing
and implementing a technology that extracts clean water from
thin air. It all comes down to perfecting a basic science. …
When a devastating string of wildfires swept California in
November, the company used its generator to provide fresh water
to local police and firefighters on the ground.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea
this week to promise that this time, things will be different
and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water
body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin
Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the
lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime
experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to
family members who still live in the area, as well as the
communities around the lake.
Napa Valley’s annual groundwater checkup concluded that water
levels in a majority of monitoring wells were stable in spring
2018, despite a drop in overall groundwater storage following a
subpar rainy season.
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting
state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of
farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The
bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water
supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair
subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic
The Desert Research Institute, Averyt said, is engaged in
research looking at long-term and short-term climate change,
where the impact of human-caused warming is clear. Researchers
with DRI have looked at ice cores from Greenland to map out
long-term climate trends. At the same time, other researchers
are looking at more immediate trends through the Western
Regional Climate Center, which provides contemporary climate
data for the 11 contiguous western states.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet
shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting
that the Trump administration is now pushing federal
legislation that would eliminate public health and
environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part
of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Over 147 million trees in California forests have died over the
last eight years. Most of these forests are near the southern
Sierra Nevada, which shows an increasing threat to iconic
California landmarks like the Sequoia and Yosemite national
The stations monitor meteorological conditions over the water
and estimate evaporation using four primary methods: eddy
covariance, energy balance, aerodynamic bulk mass transfer, and
the combination of energy balance and aerodynamic. Data from
the stations are transmitted back to the research team via a
web portal for real-time monitoring.
California American Water has notified the state Public
Utilities Commission it does not plan to pursue a Pure Water
Monterey expansion proposal, at least for now, arguing that its
proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project is still on
schedule and noting an absence of detailed information on the
proposal, as well as an apparent increase in the cost of the
recycled water project.
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new
environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an
emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers
with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater
problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources,
the Public Policy Institute of California and the Water
Education Foundation will join regional water managers and
federal agency representatives at the daylong event, “Moving
Forward Together: From Planning to Action Across the Watershed“
at Cal State Fullerton.
Three times now, Escondido has proposed building a large
recycled water treatment plant on lots along Washington Avenue,
first near its eastern terminus, the second time in the middle
of the city, and now near the western end of the street. …
The water plant is needed to divert used water from being
dumped into the ocean and to bring less expensive,
higher-quality recycled water to avocado farmers in the eastern
and northern parts of the city.
The only Monterey Peninsula city with its own desalination
plant is looking to install new intake wells to help balance
the salinity levels and increase output to the
300-acre-foot-per-year design capacity of the almost
10-year-old Sand City desalination facility. The plant, which
is owned by Sand City and is operated by California American
Water, is currently running at 200 acre-feet per year.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project
allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019
water year. The California Department of Water Resources
announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70
percent for most state water contractors. The department
transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern
County Water Agency.
Timothy Quinn, a California water policy expert, joined
Stanford’s Program on Water in the West as a Landreth Visiting
Fellow this past winter. Quinn, who has been deeply involved in
California water policy for the last thirty years … took time
out for a Q&A with Water in the West on his current and
South Coast agencies purchased more than 27,000 acre-feet of
supplemental water during four drought years to make up for
lowered allocations from Lake Cachuma and the State Water
Project, and for most of those deals, payback includes water in
addition to money. Agencies’ so-called “water debt” means that
when the city of Santa Barbara purchased from the Mojave Water
Agency last year, for example, it was committing to paying back
1 acre-foot of water for every 4 acre-feet it purchased.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver
more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those
changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this
interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer
about why, and what’s at stake.
We’re having one of the best rainfall seasons in years, with
drought conditions easing for much of the state. But one of the
nation’s leading oceanographers says there’s much more involved
before the impacts of the drought are completely gone, and that
it could take years to replenish groundwater supplies.
The often shown symbol of the California drought, Santa Barbara
County, with nearly dry water reservoirs and dead lawns for an
estimated eight years, is now declaring itself out of the
emergency crisis. The decision was made Tuesday morning by the
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Past droughts have stress-tested California’s water management
institutions, and some of the vulnerabilities they revealed
still linger today. Given that climate change is expected to
increase the frequency and intensity of future droughts,
recognizing and addressing institutional vulnerabilities is
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement
to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to
Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal.
The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs
that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay
the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s
Addressing concerns that include floods, droughts, wildfires
and state regulations on river flow, two state officials
advised farmers and ranchers to remain engaged in those and
other natural-resources issues. At the California Farm Bureau
Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento last week,
California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot
said his top priorities include water and wildfire protection.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north
shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about
what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about
the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here.
The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop
at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the
public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to
the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1
Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan,
which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years
because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation
District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern
corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal
government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the
Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control
Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state
officials about their progress addressing the many issues
related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these
officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress
at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
Candice Meneghin serves on the board of the Fillmore and Piru
Basins (FPB) Groundwater Sustainability Agency as an
environmental representative for the Santa Clara River
Environmental Groundwater Committee. … She spoke to Clean
Water Action’s communications manager about her work
representing environmental interests in the Groundwater
Sustainability Plan (GSP) process.
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could
affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join
forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into
Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. …
Things are done by an aging book. We are not adapting our
management based on testing new hypotheses collaboratively
advanced by stakeholders who are willing to celebrate the
results regardless of outcome.
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to
Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and
breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states
called the Great Basin. A warming climate has made that
migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt
flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the
Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study.
While high drama plays out in nations across the planet,
California has also been having a bit of drama — torrential
rains turning communities into isolated islands up north,
mudslides and flooding down south. So, it seems to make sense
that state officials have officially declared the latest
drought to be over, finished, soaked.
Beginning in the 19th century, technological developments were
opening our access to groundwater as advancements in drilling
for extracting petroleum were spun off and developed for the
water well industry. Still, even into the 1940s, most pumping
reached only shallow depths of less than 30 feet, removing
water at modest rates. That changed radically after World War
II … Today, a little more than a half-century later, the
world gets about 35 percent of its fresh water this way, making
it a sizable—and quite new—development in world history.
It is interesting to go to water district meetings and see
diametrically opposite sides using the same arguments they have
used for years. No one is changing what they say even though an
election changed the political landscape quite a bit. … But
there are things we can do to intelligently frame the
discussion of what is feasible — based on our actual needs.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River.
Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river
to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year,
according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of
migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific
Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They
are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed
and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in
Nature’s Scientific Reports.
Political leaders responsible for the Paso Robles Groundwater
Basin are launching discussions about which
multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the
aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them. In the
future, the basin, which serves much of Paso Robles wine
country, could start receiving water from the State Water
Project, Lake Nacimiento, and/or the Salinas Dam.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an
old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of
protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key
part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot
concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams
California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit
their natural surroundings and communities.
Full and rising reservoirs from this winter’s storms have the
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors poised to terminate
the drought-caused emergency declaration, although South Coast
purveyors are worried a water shortage will persist for an
extended time, according to a county staff report.
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the
background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges
in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for
growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water
District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow
packs and filling reservoirs.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation
for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural
water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55
percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and
farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the
healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s
announcement is a disappointment.
For the first time in eight years, California is drought-free.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, which uses data
from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of
the most northern and southern counties are still “abnormally
dry,” but the state has no drought conditions to show. Could
the drought’s end mark the return of practices such as
excessive lawn-watering? Not necessarily.
A pending transfer in ownership of the Contra Costa Canal will
allow for upgrades in its water quality and safety, but it
could also make for changes for hikers and cyclists along some
of its trails. A bipartisan package of public lands bills
President Donald Trump signed Tuesday moves the Contra Costa
Water District a step closer to gaining ownership of the aging
Contra Costa Canal system.
The city of Oceanside is receiving more than $2.6 million in
federal funding to increase its local water supply and to
reduce brine discharge into the ocean. The city will receive
$2.623 million in funding from the Bureau of Reclamation’s
WaterSMART’s Desalination Construction Projects under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), subject
to federal appropriations.
Ventura has released reports detailing the environmental
impacts of two sizable projects expected to increase the city’s
water supply and reliability… One involves tapping into the
city’s long-held investment into state water. The other project
would capture effluent from Ventura’s wastewater treatment
plant, treat it and turn it into drinking water.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more
water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a
unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and
ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to
The view from my window here in central California is of a
front lawn almost as dried out as the fairways at Carnoustie,
Scotland. Like many of my neighbours I’m concerned about
climate change and with it the exorbitant price of water. After
my monthly bill tripled, I decided it was time for a new
strategy. I shut down the sprinkler system and tested a new
aesthetic. To my delight, I discovered that brown is beautiful.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency
plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is
pushing legislation that would exempt its work from
environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what
has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought
negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health
and ecological disaster.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her
energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado
River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the
Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a
different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take
the helm of the United States section of the International
Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that
oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can
be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work
together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food
bill and for years it has given support to farming communities.
It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working
North County political leaders responsible for the health of
the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions
about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help
solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for
A week after the Marina Planning Commission unanimously
rejected a key desalination project permit, California American
Water has filed an appeal of the decision to the Marina City
Council. On Wednesday, Cal Am filed the appeal to the council,
arguing the planning commission erred in its denial of a
coastal development permit for parts of the proposed desal
Thanks to a wet winter across the state, the entirety of
California is free of drought for the first time since 2011,
according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Thursday update. Don’t
confuse that with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2017
announcement that the statewide drought had officially ended.
As an uncontrollable wildfire turned the California town of
Paradise to ash, air pollution researcher Keith Bein knew he
had to act fast: Little is known about toxic chemicals released
when a whole town burns and the wind would soon blow away
evidence. He drove the roughly 100 miles to Paradise … only
to be refused entrance under rules that allow first responders
and journalists – but not public health researchers – to cross
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states
… ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River
Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial
Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s
simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of
basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start
serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping
millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when
a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
Poseidon is a bad deal for ratepayers. The study by the experts
at MWDOC ranked Poseidon dead last among local water projects
based on cost. Even after demanding a $400 million subsidy
financed by Southern California water users, Poseidon’s water
is still overpriced, costing twice per gallon as much as some
of the conservation, recycling and rainwater projects already
in development around our region.
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public
Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath
Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many
Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and
commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where
84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River
and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a
massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the
eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan
from proceeding, and its board president called the latest
development a violation of California environmental law.
But Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
others in a working group are finalizing new documents to
remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
Local officials have received an OK to divert more water into
Lake Casitas, years after prolonged drought conditions shrunk
the reservoir to historic lows. But the new measures were in
effect just a matter of days and just for one storm.
When an atmospheric river meets mountainous terrain like the
Sierra Nevada, the water vapor condenses and becomes rain or
snow. Strong atmospheric rivers can bring about floods and
landslides, but the water and snowpack they leave behind
provide California with 25 to 50 percent of its yearly
precipitation in just a few days.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an
important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The
remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a
management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is
two years overdue and still months away from completion. The
Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating
faster than it’s being replaced…
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced
a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get
$20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado
River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate
Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook
argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the
drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative
oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared
its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month
after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project
proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
The water within the Paradise Irrigation District is clean. The
trouble is, the infrastructure within the district may not be,
according to Paradise Irrigation District’s Kevin Phillips.
“The water is clean but some of the pipes are contaminated,
that’s why (contamination) is so random,” he said. “One service
line can be contaminated, but the one next door isn’t. If the
water were contaminated, then it would be everywhere.”
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River
basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over
35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January —
coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the
project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely
following what happens next.
Sacramento law makers have shown little interest in helping the
Valley solve its water problems yet the only path forward is to
get them to take interest in the area that grows most of the
state, and the nation’s food. A panel discussion last Wednesday
at the Citrus Showcase, an industry conference for growers
hosted by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM),
discussed the looming deadline for local governments to comply
with the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA).
It won’t arrive in time for this wet winter, but hopes are
rising that Central Valley politicians will soon deliver on one
of their top political goals in recent years: investment in
California water storage. Bills introduced last week by
Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,
would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project
toward a series of reservoir projects, as well as repairs to a
canal serving Kern County farmers.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in
better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting
ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers.
What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to
understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital
resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our
Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne
Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the
management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was
appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the
United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees
myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to
sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado
River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other
rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be
named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and
Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the
commission’s 129-year history.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked
by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour
the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get
airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already
suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
California has faced an unprecedented series of mega-wildland
fires over the past decade – some of the most destructive and
deadly in American history. On Wednesday, a joint hearing of
the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate
Natural Resources and Water Committee will review residential
development in some of the Golden State’s most fire prone
regions and how state and local governments can keep residents
safe in communities that are within the Wildland Urban
California’s Central Valley is already the bread basket for the
nation. But now a new Oakdale company — in partnership with the
University of California, Davis — wants to help make it the
hemp capital of the country. The California Hemp Corporation
was formed by Oakdale residents Jeff McPhee and Kent Kushar
last year… “We want to grow hemp up and down the San Joaquin
Valley, just like every other one of our crops,” McPhee said.
“This crop will change California.”
Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and a disappearing
snowpack were part of a scary story told to SCV Water Agency
officials recently as they learned the effects of climate
change over the next 100 years. … The latest climate
assessment was intended to advance “actionable science” that
would serve the growing needs of state and local-level
decision-makers from a variety of sectors.
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana
face similar water challenges. California is better known for
having too little water and Louisiana too much – both
challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting
wet winter weather led both states last week to release
significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to
prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to
build climate-resilient communities across the country.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark
Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder
more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead
from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed
on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the
multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board
took the step over the objections of the Imperial
Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest
allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
Santa Monica will experience more frequent droughts and coastal
flooding, hotter temperatures and poorer air quality as the
world’s climate changes throughout the next century. However,
officials said the city’s geography and the City of Santa
Monica’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) will shield
residents from some of the impacts of climate change. The plan,
released last month, describes how the city will ensure
residents have affordable water during droughts, contain sea
level rise and deal with high heat days.
A proposal to add 187 new steam-injected oil wells and a new
natural gas pipeline in West Cat Canyon will be considered by
the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission when it meets
Wednesday in Santa Maria. Project opponents have said they
intend to stage a demonstration outside and speak against the
project that would have significant impacts on biological,
surface water and groundwater resources and would increase
noise, according to the environmental impact report.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to
California this year, you might not expect drought preparations
to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need
to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a
blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for
the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in
California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and
I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
It’s a growing problem many say cannot be solved by
firefighters alone. Enter the Cal Poly W.U.I. F.I.R.E
Institute. It stands for the Wildland Urban Interface Fire
Information Research and Education Institute. Turner is working
with Cal Poly staff like forest management professor Chris
Dicus to create a collaborative space for research, training,
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem
to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin
Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate
water game, the words are inextricably linked.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to
shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board
voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the
drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water
than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation
District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal
government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton
Every spring, a group called the Pacific Fishery Management
Council gets together and looks at the salmon forecasts from
the Puget Sound all the way down to the Sacramento River in
California….The Sacramento River runs are expected to rebound
a bit, but the Klamath and Columbia River forecasts are lower
than last year.
A process is underway that’s extremely important, and likely to
be way over most of our heads. The Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act was passed in 2014, which set deadlines for
local agencies to come up with plans to manage the water
beneath them “… without causing undesirable results.”
This particular California winter has unfolded in good news/bad
news fashion. Courtesy of a string of recurring atmospheric
rivers, potent storms have caused flooding, power outages and
canceled flights. But they have also lifted all but a thin
slice of the state near the Oregon border completely out of
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if
dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any
water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson,
Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the
doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water
managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought
Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce
water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a
reliable water supply.
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern
Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far
from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of
variables, including the community’s rates of growth and
conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
(Last in the paper’s Water
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan
for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning
up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada
and five other Western states sent a letter to California on
Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their
concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the
so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors are exploring what it’d take
to bolster the county’s authority in issuing groundwater well
permits. Following a report about groundwater conditions in the
Adelaida region of the North County on Feb. 26, the Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to have its staff look at how it
could increase the level of review and discretion the county
has over approving or denying well applications.
Months of record rain and snowfall has officially lifted the
Central Valley — and much of the state — out of official
drought conditions. Just 1 percent of California is
experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S.
Drought Monitor. That’s a far cry from 2014 when 54 percent of
the state was in severe drought. With the drought declared dead
in California, will Tulare County cities begin to ease
restrictions on residential watering?
There’s still a lot scientists don’t know about the yin-yang
interaction between fire and water. Of particular interest is
better understanding how the heat intensity of wildfires
changes the the water content of burned soil. The science
behind such work is known as hydrology, which studies the
properties, distribution and circulation of water on or below
the earth’s surface.
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in
2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more
water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in
a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds
of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural
economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his
promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water
supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity
of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least
4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from
Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something
unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra
Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point
that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about
1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials
would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as
would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using
the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come
The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of
groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation
wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to
pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves
available to cope with future droughts. Groundwater overdraft
has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional
infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in
Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the
state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as
well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon
a common frustration among many valley Republicans that
billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed
rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
Recycled water’s been such a good deal for Orange County, the
water district is spending $140 million to expand its capacity
to purify wastewater by 30 percent. It starts in Fountain
Valley where the water district operates a 24-acre facility
that takes sewage fom the sanitation plant next door and
converts it into millions of gallons a day of pure H2O. OC
Water District President Shawn Dewane said the cost is 30
percent cheaper than imported water.
Much of the United States could be gripped by significant water
shortages in just five decades’ time, according to predictions
made in a new study. … In the researchers’ projections, water
supply is likely to be under threat in watersheds in the
central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central
Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South
(especially Florida) and the Midwest.
In November, a wall of flames fueled by dry forests and wooden
structures tore through this Sierra foothill town like the dogs
of Hell. … Beneath the blast furnace heat that incinerated
buildings and vehicles above ground, an intricate network of
drinking water pipes below the surface became so contaminated
with toxic chemicals that many are unusable. The extent of the
damage and exactly how the poisons accumulated in the pipes of
Paradise and in the smaller, neighboring districts served by
Del Oro Water Company is not known.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation
Thursday to repurpose federal funding for the high-speed rail
project. The Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water
Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act would take funding from
the high-speed rail project and use it for water infrastructure
projects in California and the West… McCarthy’s proposed
legislation is cosponsored by every Republican member of the
California Congressional Delegation.
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama
Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central
Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife.
Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and
featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing
wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the
land has been taken over by large commercial farms and
vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that
have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely
investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the
University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new
forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s
largest community continue to rely on a single source of water
to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the
most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the
river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more
than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in
Conditions are right for spectacular blooms throughout the
California desert this year, experts say. The benefits of rain
are endless, especially in Southern California, where
drought-like conditions often persist for months on end. Thanks
to this year’s significant rainfall, the annual wildflower
blooms are set to be quite spectacular, according to Jorge
Moreno, information officer for California State Parks.
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together Thursday to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
water across the Golden State.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los
Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the
Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant by 2035 signals an end to the
era of addressing water shortages by importing water from
far-flung places and initiates a long-anticipated era of
reusing locally available supplies. The shift will require L.A.
residents to understand both the necessity of the plan and the
technology that will produce safe water.
As droughts intensify and the snowpacks diminish, California
will need creative solutions to provide enhanced water supplies
for urban use and agriculture. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratories are working on addressing these problems,
focusing on groundwater recharge, low-cost desalination, and
energy efficient purification.
Environmentalists and rural water users expressed broad support
last week for a bill that would create small water reserves in
aquifers across Nevada. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by
Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Nev., aims to
prevent regulators from issuing more rights to water than there
is water available, an issue already playing out in more than
100 groundwater basins.
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera
County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop
Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in
Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and
the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include
farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the
state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which
requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin
again, this time more intelligently.” Rules enacted a decade
ago that were intended to protect California’s iconic salmon
and Delta smelt populations aren’t working and federal agencies
are now in the process of modernizing them, this time using
much better science.
Yes, it’s caused traffic jams, power outages and even some
floods. But there’s a big ray of good news behind all the rain
that California has been receiving this year. Soaked by
relentless storms, California as of this week has less land
area in drought status than at any time in the last seven
More than 300 communities across the state and one out of every
four schools in the Central Valley lack access to safe drinking
water, according to the state Water Board. … Responding to
the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for a new water tax.
If the proposal passes, the levy will generate $110 million in
annual revenue. But some Californians – many working directly
with the state’s water authorities – oppose the plan. They say
there are better ways to raise the money needed than taxing tap
People interested in state-mandated plans to manage local
groundwater can get an update Thursday evening in Chico. …
The meeting 6-8 p.m Thursday at the Masonic Family Center, 1110
W. East Ave., is focused on a newly approved planning area that
includes Chico and Durham, and stretches north and west to the
Tehama County line and the Sacramento River, and south and east
to Butte Valley and the northern border of the Western Canal
For California’s salmon fishermen, the downstream effects of
political decisions in Washington are too obvious to ignore.
It’s not merely a question of profit for us. We are the
stewards of the public fisheries resources who rely on their
long-term health for our existence. The viability of our future
can be challenged by who is in power in Washington, no matter
who they are.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater
aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the
North Coast. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They
aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled
areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals
benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds
creeks and streams. Humans tap into aquifers through wells used
for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses.
Deadly severe wildfires in California have scientists
scrutinizing the underlying factors that could influence future
extreme events. Using climate simulations and paleoclimate data
dating back to the 16th century, a recent study looks closely
at long-term upper-level wind and related moisture patterns to
A recently completed study on the cost effectiveness and
financial risk of proposals to meet water supply demands
through 2050 concludes that the controversial Poseidon
desalination project in Huntington Beach would produce more
water than the Orange County basin needs and cost ratepayers
far more than alternatives such as recycling and capturing
Lawmakers in Colorado want the U.S. state to study the
potential of blockchain technology in water rights management.
Republican senator Jack Tate, along with representatives Jeni
James Arndt (Democratic) and Marc Catlin (Republican), filed
senate bill 184 on Tuesday, proposing that the Colorado Water
Institute should be granted authority to study how blockchain
technology can help improve its operations.
After a months-long delay, key negotiators say Congress is
closing in on a deal to pass a disaster relief package,
including billions in funding for California wildfire
recovery that has been hanging in limbo. Still, it remains
unclear when any bill will advance, and lawmakers say political
fights have been holding up the process.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go
there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around
the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and
that’s changing bird populations.
Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin
recommended that the county Board of Supervisors terminate its
proclamation of a local emergency due to drought conditions,
which has been renewed every 60 days since January 2014. South
Coast water agencies don’t like the messaging of ending the
drought emergency, and said they have ongoing drought impacts,
including water shortages, and will need customers to keep
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the
West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created
with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers
and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper.
After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing
that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of
electricity, they must fix the problems.
One of the key challenges facing newly formed local government
agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish
and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability. To help
local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West
examines how four special districts in California have
used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.
These case studies provide valuable insights on the development
and implementation of performance metrics and will be important
in guiding local agencies.
Gov. Gavin Newsom should immediately allow the thinning of
vegetation on almost 94,000 acres of state land in a bid to
keep more than 200 communities safe, California fire officials
said Tuesday as they released a list of the state’s 35 most
critical fuel-reduction projects.
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of
Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in
the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should
do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s
just two weeks for them to do that.
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management
can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct
or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The
stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the
North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action
about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community
involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the
twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of
hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April 3-5, you will
meet farmers who will explain how they prepare the fields,
irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that helps feed
the nation and beyond. We also will drive through hundreds of
miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams, reservoirs and
groundwater wells that provide the water.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s
to come. Scientists predict that California’s total
precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but
it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as
rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more
very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the
need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure.
Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in
The big fear in the world of water management is that this big
gulp of wet weather will lead some Californians to think that
the drought is dead. … In a few weeks, the state’s Department
of Water Resources will be sending out its new water-saving
messages, and Niki Woodard, who is No. 2 in the department’s
public affairs office, sizes up how her department can navigate
around that waterlogged state of mind.
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an
estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is
protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of
legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily
populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks
out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s
major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by
overturning those two laws.
Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s
wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250
million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the
nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility
that began in last week’s storm. The three-day deluge pushed
more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff
into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant. It was the highest
inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.