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.
Arizona relies on groundwater for about 40% of its water
supply, yet groundwater resources outside of the state’s
biggest urban areas are largely unprotected and unregulated…
HB 2467, a bill that passed in the Arizona House and currently
awaiting a final vote in the Senate, takes an important step
forward to address groundwater challenges in Mohave and La Paz
Although they spend their lives hidden beneath the surface,
fish are directly affected by the weather happening outside
their aquatic world. This is particularly true of species that
rely on watersheds in regions like California, where the
availability of water changes dramatically with the seasons.
When you hear news about ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica,
an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, or a new
explanation for a wobble in Earth’s rotation, you might not
realize that all these findings may rely on data from one
This river provides water for one-third of Latinos in the
United States. Latinos make up the bulk of agricultural workers
harvesting the produce this river waters. We boat, fish, swim
and recreate along its banks. We hold baptisms in its waters.
Therefore, it is critical to engage the growing Latino
population on water-smart solutions.
California must defend our scarce and sacred resources … The
legislation, authored by Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside,
authorizes state agencies to conduct independent review of the
Cadiz project, restoring safeguards eliminated at the federal
level and ensuring any pumping from underneath Mojave Trails
and protected desert lands is sustainable.
Stakeholders throughout the Colorado River Basin just wrapped
up arduous negotiations on a drought plan. There’s little time
to rest, however. Stakeholders are expected to begin the even
more difficult task of hammering out sweeping new guidelines
for delivering water and sharing shortages that could
re-imagine how the overworked river is managed.
Over the short life of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, Owens Valley has gone from medium to high and now low
priority. That prioritization would have had an impact three
years ago. Medium and high priority basins are required to form
an agency and sustainability plan; low basins are not.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
Five years ago, Deb Fallows and I made the first of what became
many visits to the farming town of Winters, California. …
When we first visited five years ago, the main question for the
area’s nut-tree farmers, and for California’s agricultural
economy as a whole, was whether the state’s drought-ravaged
water supplies could support such commercially valuable but
What happens when there is not enough surface water to go
around in a watershed? California water rights law says that
certain water users must curtail their water diversions — in
other words, reduce the amount of water they divert or stop
diverting water altogether. … But following water right
priorities is not always straightforward, and other aspects of
state and federal law complicate the picture …
The U.S. Geological Survey studied the land and the water and,
in 2002 … concluded that the proposed pumping would far
exceed the rate of natural refill. The National Park Service
submitted comments in 2012 stating that Cadiz’s estimates are
“3 to 16 times too high.” The Geological Survey, in 2017,
reported that there was no information to lead it to change its
2002 conclusions. … And that ought to have been the end of
The DCP … provides assurance against curtailments for water
stored behind Hoover Dam. This is especially important for the
Southern California water agencies, whose ability to store
water in Lake Mead is crucial for managing seasonal demands.
Some significant challenges must still be addressed, however.
Because of the wet weather this winter, the district is
proposing to lower its Stage Two Drought Condition to a Stage
One Drought Condition, which would lift many mandatory drought
Last month there was an 8 percent increase in water compared to
April 2018. Meanwhile the population over the same time period
went up 2,759 residents or just over a 3 percent increase. …
Using a five-year yardstick with the city adding just over
9,000 residents since 2014, per capita water consumption is
down by more than 10 percent from April 2014 to April 2019.
According to an engineering investigation released by the San
Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District on March 7, the
Bunker Hill Basin, which stores the groundwater used by the San
Bernardino Valley, remains 570,718 acre-feet below full water
storage following the 2017-18 water year. … The water year
brought a reported 56 percent of average annual precipitation
and 161,708 acre-feet of groundwater production.
For rural communities in the central coast region of
California, the name “Harvard” does not connote excellence. For
these communities, where water is scarce and becoming scarcer,
it evokes greed and exploitation. As California takes its first
steps to regulate groundwater in the midst of a worsening water
crisis, Harvard’s endowment fund is investing millions into
vineyards that pump inordinate amounts of water from
California’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins.
Various parties have recently claimed that the Klamath River
Compact Commission has authority over the proposal to remove
four dams in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. … This
argument, while creative, is wrong. The Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (or FERC) will decide whether the
proposed dam removal is in the public interest.
The West is still in the midst of a long-term water shortage in
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, primary reservoirs that serve 40
million people. For that reason, the Upper Basin states —
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — have to also come up
with their own drought contingency plans. That means Colorado
might be heading into choppy waters as one of the requirements
of a drought contingency plan — demand management — could pit
communities and regions against each other …
A new category of El Niño has become far more prevalent in the
last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries.
Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become
more intense. This new finding will arguably alter our
understanding of the El Niño phenomenon. Changes to El Niño
will influence patterns of precipitation and temperature
extremes in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to withdraw permits for
the proposed Twin Tunnels project in favor of a smaller single
tunnel, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, issued a letter to the
governor expressing support for the decision while also
outlining alternative water plans.
When it rains in California, it pours. But when it doesn’t,
California’s drought years can have a devastating impact on the
state. California’s water experts are looking for ways to
better store water during rainy years like 2019 so the state
can have it during years when the rain and snow inevitably dry
Locking in a $3.2 million sale price, the Soquel Creek Water
District board will enter an initial five-month “option to
purchase” agreement to buy a nearly 2-acre parcel in Live Oak.
The purchase option period … is designed to give district
officials time to survey the 2505 Chanticleer Ave. land,
assessing its ability to serve as home to the proposed Pure
Water Soquel plant.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could
provoke conflict. … But as the time for crafting a new set of
rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result will
be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
In California, treated wastewater also is a critical source of
water for the environment, and, increasingly, a source for
recycled water. Climate change is worsening water scarcity and
flood risks. Advancements in engineering and technology can
help prepare wastewater agencies for a changing climate. But
significant shifts in policy and planning are needed to address
Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.
The effect of wildfires on snowmelt is more widespread and
longer lasting than people thought and has ramifications across
the region, where cities … rely heavily on melting snow to
replenish water supplies. What’s more, human-caused global
warming is feeding the spread of fires, which contributes more
to the deterioration of snow, thus extending and intensifying
the fire season.
Drought affects just 2 percent of the country — about the
smallest area since the federal government began official
monitoring in 2000. Meanwhile, NOAA data show the last 12
months (May 2018 to April 2019) were the wettest on record for
Get a firsthand view of California’s diverse water resource
issues with two of our summer tours — to the Sierra Nevada
headwaters that were blessed this winter with a plentiful
snowpack, and a Southern California coastal region chronically
prone to drought.
To kick off Water Awareness Month, PWP is partnering with the
City of Pasadena Public Health Department for Rethink Your
Drink Day, a statewide initiative to encourage the public to
switch from sugary drinks to healthy drinking water. At the
event, PWP and the Public Health Department will promote
drinking great-tasting Pasadena tap water with a variety of
family- friendly activities and giveaways.
In the district’s “high-level” draft budget proposal for the
2019-2010 fiscal year projects a 4% increase in annual
spending, and includes a $45,000 operational savings secured
through cutting funding for water conservation and education
programs for the coming year.
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted
Tuesday to allow access across its lands for critically needed
state wetlands projects at the Salton Sea, designed to tamp
down dangerous dust storms and give threatened wildlife a
boost. In exchange, California will shoulder the maintenance
and operations of the projects, and the state’s taxpayers will
cover the costs of any lawsuits or regulatory penalties…
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California
suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past
mistakes. California’s highly variable climate has made it a
crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.
In a formal response to the drilling proposal, a dozen
environmental organizations expressed concerns about the
effects on ground and surface water if exploration leads to an
industrial-scale mine. … Among those who have spoken against
the plan are officials at Death Valley National Park.
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the snowpack in the
Upper Basin is nearly 140% above average as of April 15 and it
forecasts that seasonal inflow to Lake Powell will be at 128%
of average. … “These developments may lessen the chance of
shortage in 2020,” Terry Fulp, BOR’s Lower Colorado regional
director, said in a prepared statement.
Pasadena Water and Power is partnering with the city’s
Department of Public Health in celebrating the month of May as
Water Awareness Month, and Wednesday, May 8, as Rethink Your
Drink Day. PWP General Manager Gurcharan Bawa said the utility
plans to engage with community organizations in Pasadena during
the entire month in an effort to educate people about the
importance of water as a precious resource.
By monitoring tiny changes to the Earth’s gravitational field,
the GRACE satellites have been pinpointing the distribution of
fresh water on our planet for almost two decades. But as Marric
Stephens explains, a new follow-on mission is also helping with
plans for a space-based gravitational-wave detector
In the past several years, Los Angeles-based Renewable
Resources Group has helped sell 33,000 acres of land to
California’s most powerful water agency, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. Documents obtained by Voice of
San Diego raise fresh questions about those deals. Now,
Renewable may be working on another deal that could rearrange
the distribution of water in California forever.
DWR has not yet disclosed whether it intends to withdraw the
WaterFix bond resolutions, which are subject to numerous
challenges in litigation DWR filed to validate the bonds. It
remains unclear what will happen with the validation action now
that the project and cost estimates these items are based on no
Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the divisive twin tunnels project
Thursday, calming fears that have roiled the delta communities
and dominated California water politics for more than a decade.
It is a signature decision for the young administration.
In one key respect, California is lagging behind many other
parts of the world. Climate change is causing drought and water
shortages everywhere, but California has been slow to adopt a
solution that over 120 countries are using: desalination.
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear
River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver
water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for
the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
It’s taken four years but fishermen along California’s North
Coast who have seen crab and salmon seasons truncated and even
closed altogether will finally see some relief after $29.65
million in federal disaster relief funding was approved by
Congress. It was in the 2015-16 year the Dungeness crab fishery
and the Yurok Chinook salmon fishery both collapsed due to poor
The giant reservoir, formed by Glen Canyon Dam, was under 40
percent full the last week of April. And a lot of water is
still being released from the reservoir, more demands on the
water are expected, and the water supply above the reservoir,
in the sprawling Colorado River system, is expected to
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multi‐year drought, were designed to prevent disputes that
could provoke conflict. But as the time for crafting a new set
of rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result
will be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
DCP puts safeguards in place to help manage water use now and
better deal with a potential shortage. Utah, Arizona and the
five other Colorado River basin states wisely chose to include
conservation measures in the DCP — and shared in their
sacrifice to avoid costly litigation and imposed cuts. Congress
and the states should be commended for this bipartisan,
A wet winter is not necessarily good news regarding the
potential for wildfires in the summer, especially where summers
tend to be dry. This is because the extra precipitation can
lead to a more robust growth of grasses and other vegetation
that can become fuel for fires as they dry out.
The drought contingency plan is in the can (well, mostly), and
an unusually wet winter means we’ll likely avoid the water
shortage declaration everyone was expecting in 2020. If this
were the past, we’d take a few months off to revel in our
success. But thank goodness we’re not living in the past.
Arizona’s water leaders know that the drought plan didn’t solve
The Newsom administration announced it is withdrawing permit
applications that the Brown administration had submitted to the
State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of
Fish and Wildlife, and several federal agencies. Instead, the
administration said it will begin environmental studies on a
There’s a need to use the available surface water from rivers,
lakes, and reservoirs so the groundwater can replenish itself.
That’s where the new Southeast Fresno Surface Water Treatment
Facility comes in. … Michael Carbajal, Director of Public
Utilities for the City of Fresno. says that before 2004, we
used 100% groundwater to meet drinking water demand. “We’re
hoping to get up over 50% meaning, 50% of our drinking water
demand through surface water,” says Carbajal.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its
operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking
off a series of events that historically has ended with a
volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions
will be used in the valley for irrigation,
enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California issued a decision … finding that the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians lacked standing to seek
adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved
groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.
The Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Cucamonga Valley Water
District and the City of Fontana held a groundbreaking ceremony
for the Village of Heritage Recycled Water Project in the
northwestern area of the city. About 8,200 linear feet of
pipeline will be installed in an effort to decrease the use of
imported water in Fontana, officials said. The pipeline will be
an extension of the existing Baseline recycled water
The winter was wet, and the memories of California’s
record-setting drought years are receding. But as the weather
warms and irrigation systems are once again operating, city
officials remind local residents that Newman’s water
conservation rules remain in effect.
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center,
testified today (April 30, 2019) before the Assembly
Subcommittee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, at a hearing on
balancing water needs into the future in the San Joaquin
Valley. Here are her prepared remarks.
As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve
contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last
week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill
prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.
With the Trump administration trudging ahead and re-writing
another Obama-era environmental law, wary California regulators
last month approved new protections for wetlands in the Golden
State. … Hoping to freeze the new wetlands rules, a coalition
consisting of several California water suppliers and the city
of San Francisco sued the water board late Wednesday in state
“3.1 million acre-feet of the (Imperial) Valley’s entitlement
to Colorado River water is now up for grabs in Sacramento and
it ought to concern all of us,” IID Board President Erik Ortega
said Tuesday afternoon in El Centro. “That’s why I’m calling
today for the general manager to bring back to this board a
plan for the divestment of IID’s energy assets in the Coachella
Although seven years of drought in California finally relented
this March, high heat and lack of water have caused a severe
decline in the health of some trees, with many now essentially
suspended between life and death, Sacramento-area arborist Matt
Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606 established indoor and
outdoor irrigation regulations, making water conservation a
permanent way of life. This draconian and arbitrary rationing
legislation tramples upon the personal rights of individuals to
make choices regarding their beneficial use of water,
undermines local conditions and local control, the state’s
water rights priority system and area-of-origin water right
At first blush, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest action on water
seems fanciful and naive. But it has logic and conceivably
could work. Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything
the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry
Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for
California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
The property, a peaceful meadow at 6,820 feet elevation
near Echo Summit, is also home to … a monthly event that
attracts hordes of reporters and photographers who tromp
through the property on snowshoes. … Carol Pearson would
usually watch the proceedings from the window of the small
cabin, built in 1938, where she’s lived the past 20 years. Now
Pearson, 67, has been displaced by fire. Her cabin burned to
the ground in a chimney fire April 12, killing one of her cats.
Researchers revealed Wednesday the fingerprint of climate
change on drought and the long-term effect on global water
supplies can be traced to 1900. … Lead author Kate Marvel, a
climate modeler at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and
Columbia University, said, “It’s mind boggling. There is a
really clear signal of the effects of human greenhouse gases on
Born and raised in Northern California, Brad Gates has been
organically farming tomatoes in the region for 25 years,
working on small leased plots and introducing new varieties
with cult followings… For most of that time, he sold his
tomatoes to top restaurants, including Chez Panisse in
Berkeley. But a few years ago he completely rethought his work.
Galvanized by climate change, he joined a growing number of
farmers who are trying to find a future for their threatened
Imperial Irrigation District general manager Henry Martinez and
California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot have
reached an agreement in principle that the state will be
responsible for construction and maintenance of more than 3,700
acres of wetlands aimed at controlling toxic dust and restoring
wildlife habitat. In exchange, the water district will sign
easements for access onto lands it owns that border
California’s largest lake.
To better measure the water in our snow, California is sending
sharper eyes up into the sky. Two sensors peer out from a
turboprop aircraft, soaring from Mammoth Yosemite Airport over
the white Sierra Nevada – collecting data that tells us almost
exactly how much water we’ll have this summer.
In the Western US, climate change is a major driver behind the
near doubling in burned area that we’ve experienced over the
past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the
frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire
season in some regions.
One of the most frequently recurring themes of last week’s
business conference of California agricultural appraisers was
the impact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as
SGMA, is having on land values. … Another recurring theme was
the tight availability of farm employees and the rising costs
associated with those employees. One result has been the
increase in plantings of nut crops, which require fewer people
to tend and harvest.
Some lawyers say the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, may be
built on shaky legal ground and could be vulnerable to
litigation — depending on how the Bureau of Reclamation
implements it. One California water district has already sued
to block it.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
Mayor Eric Garcetti Monday unveiled a Green New Deal for Los
Angeles, setting aggressive new environmental goals in a range
of areas, including electric autos, air quality, trees and
public transit. … The plan includes a reiteration of some
previous commitments, but also sets some new benchmarks,
including sourcing 70% of L.A.’s water locally and
recycling 100% of all wastewater for beneficial reuse by 2035.
In the midst of the record-breaking California drought in 2014,
three Cal Poly students decided to use their senior project to
try to help stop water leaks. They began designing a device
that would monitor a consumer’s water usage during the month
and hoped it would inspire people to pay closer attention to
As California’s Central Valley grew into the nation’s leading
agricultural corridor, the region gradually lost almost all of
the wetlands that birds depend on during their migrations along
the West Coast. But a dramatic turnaround is underway in the
valley. Dozens of farmers leave water on their fields for a few
extra weeks each season to create rest stops for birds. The
campaign has not only helped salvage a vital stretch of the
north-south migration path called the Pacific Flyway but also
tested a fresh model for protecting wildlife.
Westminster, Colo.’s, comprehensive plan estimates how much
water each type of building would use. Then the city built GIS
software that overlays water resources and infrastructure over
the comprehensive plan—making it easy to see, for example, how
much water a proposed strip mall might use. It’s a step up from
the typical water-per-capita measure that most cities rely
on… It also helps planners guide developers to smarter
Cal Am announced it had been told by city officials its request
for the mayor and two council members to recuse themselves due
to alleged bias against the desal project would not be honored.
The company will now appeal the commission’s denial directly to
the Coastal Commission.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to
develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water
needs in the face of climate change.The executive order
includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new
water course for the state. Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s
intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements
to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking
water to impoverished communities.
This research will supply information needed for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to update the 1970’s-era water control
manuals, which dictate the storm-season operations of both
reservoirs. Yuba Water’s goal is to have a new water control
manual approved about the same time the agency completes
construction of a new, planned secondary spillway at its New
Bullards Bar Dam, estimated for completion in 2024.
Despite cost increases and weather-related delays, construction
of the 1.6 billion-gallon Trampas Canyon Reservoir in south
Orange County is well underway and officials continue pointing
to long-term savings to be gleaned by reducing the need for
imported water. … Construction costs have soared from the
2016 estimate of $56 million to $83 million today…
As a full Tuolumne River flowed behind them, a diverse set of
government leaders and water stakeholders gathered alongside
Congressman Josh Harder Wednesday afternoon in Modesto to unite
under one important cause: protecting water in the Central
Spring has come to California and drought-resistant plants are
a good option for residents looking to add some new plants.
These drought-resistant plants can help save money, because
they require less water.
In the DCP, there was no consideration of deeper conservation,
no consideration of mechanisms to shift our state to less
thirsty crops, and no consideration of what kind of development
is sustainable. There was no consideration of our other rivers
and the need for ecological flows.
Crystal Geyser Water Company of Calistoga has partnered with a
nonprofit watershed conservation group for the protection and
restoration of forested watersheds and natural sources of
drinking water. … The partnership has created a new
initiative, called Spring for Life, and was announced April 16.
As the Inland area dries out from this winter’s soaking,
residents might be tempted to crank up their lawn sprinklers,
and wash the dust off their driveways, but not so fast, water
officials say. All that rain has done little to erase the
deficits in local groundwater basins which are at historic lows
thanks to two decades of drought.
Governor Newsom last month declared a wildfire state of
emergency in California. The governor’s action’s followed a Cal
Fire report that more than half of the state’s wildlands – 25
million acres – face a very high or extreme fire threat,
placing hundreds of nearby communities at risk.
In Solano County, near Sacramento, [Alex] Johnson is working on
what he says could be a model for parched ag regions around the
state. … Last month, working with IBM and a company
called SweetSense, Johnson’s team began deploying simple,
solar-powered sensors, originally developed to monitor creaky
groundwater pumps in East Africa. The sensors will be used to
detect how much water is flowing in real-time. … Farmers will
use that data to trade their water on (what else?) a blockchain
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, thinks there is a better way to
find water solutions for California’s Central Valley and to
stop squandering water in wet years that’s needed in dry years.
His bipartisan water legislation unveiled Wednesday promises
federal support for storage and innovation projects to address
shortages that too often plague Valley agriculture and
North America is not a snow globe, and as the real globe warms,
one trend is clear: winter is shrinking and snow is melting. In
the last 50 years alone, the frozen mantle that caps the
Northern Hemisphere in the dark months has lost a million
square miles of spring snowpack. …Coastal ranges like the
Sierras and Cascades, where winter temperatures hover close to
the freezing point, are most at risk.
Last month the U.S. Drought Monitor declared California
drought-free for the first time since 2011, thanks to a series
of winter storms. But the long-term prognosis is for more
droughts and severe weather, which will profoundly affect state
agriculture. While farmers and lawmakers are taking notice, few
see an immediate threat.
A federal judge has dismissed portions of a yearslong lawsuit
brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against
the Coachella Valley’s local water districts, ruling against
the tribe’s attempt to quantify its rights to groundwater. The
judge ruled Friday that the tribe’s access to water has not
been sufficiently harmed to adjudicate the matter.
A report from a citizen advisory committee in Desert Hot
Springs is asking lawmakers in Sacramento to “re-work” a state
law, which went into effect in 2015, that allowed the Desert
Water Agency in Palm Springs to take over management authority
of the groundwater distributed by the Mission Springs Water
District, to people living in Desert Hot Springs and
surrounding areas. John Soulliere, MSWD’s Public Affairs
Officer, says his district has been “hijacked”…
On April 9 after three years and two unsuccessful ballot
measures — Measure C failed by a razor-thin margin in June —
the Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved
greater protections for native woodlands from development and
buffer zones for watersheds. But the contentious path to the
Water Quality and Tree Protection ordinance vote may not be the
last word from supporters and opponents of tougher rules, from
inside and outside the wine business.
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
The 80 homes that make up Tooleville nestle against the mighty
Friant-Kern Canal, thousands of gallons of fresh water flowing
each day past the two-street town. But none of that water can
help Tooleville’s decades-old problem of contaminated water,
chronicled at the start of this decade in a three-part series
by The Bee on the San Joaquin Valley water crisis. Nearby
Exeter might, though, giving a rise of newfound hope.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
California’s seven-year dry spell may be over, but there will
be another drought somewhere in the country this year—and every
year. … There are lots of water-saving ideas floating around,
but two of the best ways are to replace water-wasting
appliances and fixtures and to modify your lifestyle and
For the first time in more than 380 weeks, the state has not
had a square foot in drought territory… But there’s a hidden
drought affecting local groundwater basins, which have not
recovered fully from the 2011-16 drought. So Rialto Mayor
Deborah Robertson is calling on residents and businesses to
take a water conservation pledge, despite mountain peaks still
topped with snow on the horizon.
For some, like almond grower Jose Robles of Modesto, climate
change was an afterthought, if that. That’s something they talk
about in Sacramento, he says, not where he lives and works. But
in December, the ground under Robles’ almond trees was a carpet
of green, full of mustard plant and clover. … His neighbors
really don’t understand it.
The problem with Kirman is that it does not have a place where
the trout can spawn naturally. There is no stream running into
or out of the lake where the trout could find moving water to
spawn. That means the fishery was and is entirely dependent on
plants of fingerlings or subcatchables from the Department of
Fish and Wildlife hatcheries. And that is a big problem.
Considered by many the key to long-running efforts to cut
unauthorized pumping from the Carmel River, California American
Water’s proposed desalination plant project is headed to the
Monterey County Planning Commission next week. On Wednesday,
the commission is set to conduct a public hearing on a combined
development permit for the proposed 6.4-million-gallon-per-day
California’s inability to compromise and work together has put
a big question mark on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Plan. And that directly impacts Arizona’s ability to
proactively plan for our new, drier water future.
In SB1, State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins provides a
compelling case to protect California’s air, navigable water,
drinking water and workers. … However, despite our
recognition that some in our state feel recent administrative
rulings and legislative changes to federal law may not be the
right prescription for California, we believe this legislation
is overbroad, duplicative and unworkable.
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an
important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists
working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million
people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed
five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed
that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since
2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money
came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by
California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat
to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But
Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources,
said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003
to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the
area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial,
long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While
politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has
drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the
thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
The current five members of the Montecito Water Board ran as
slate candidates in 2016 and 2108, and they won election
largely on the promise of recycling treated wastewater for
irrigation. A group of wealthy donors poured $200,000 into
their campaigns. Yet the new board seems in no hurry to get the
Congressman Jared Huffman says the Water, Oceans and Wildlife
Subcommittee, which he chairs in the U.S. House of
Representatives, is finally getting to do things “we weren’t
allowed to do” for the past six years when Republicans
controlled the House. Things like protecting public lands,
making climate change part of all environmental programs,
trying to prevent offshore drilling and looking at the state of
the nation’s wildlife and fisheries.
Some 22,000 California American Water customers in Thousand
Oaks, Newbury Park and Camarillo are getting far lower rate
increases than the company proposed in 2016, saving several
million dollars a year combined. Thousand Oaks officials said
this week that instead of being hit with a 32.1% hike over
three years that the company wanted to impose and which the
city actively opposed, customers only got a fraction of that.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,
alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality
Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and
Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to
suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a
thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the
Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The
$3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam
Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that
provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million
in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s
reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant
attention. (First of two parts.)
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado,
and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000
acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s
the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river.
These projects are in different stages of permitting and
funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the
river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
I am standing where stream flow begins, in a nameless tributary
of the Russian River to the east of Hopland, California. This
particular spot and location has been a grazing livestock
ranch, primarily sheep, going back more than 100 years. This is
one of thousands of spots in the watershed where water comes to
the surface, joins in a channel, and starts its path
In an effort to end Thousand Oaks’ near total reliance on
imported water, public works staff is asking the City Council
to commit $16.6 million over the next two years to build a
groundwater treatment plant at the city’s publicly owned golf
course. The Los Robles Greens Golf Course Groundwater
Utilization Project—which will be offset with an estimated $6
million in State Water Project (Prop. 1) grants—is the single
most expensive item on the city’s proposed $97-million 2019-21
capital improvement program budget…
The dominant water issue facing our community and every
community in California today is the insecurity of the water
supply. The California Legislature is facing up to the serious
need to take less water from the surface and groundwater for
human use to preserve wildlife habitats and industries such as
fishing. Both depend upon water filling the streams and
waterways that ultimately find their way to the ocean.
The extent of the latest crisis unfolding in Paradise is yet
unknown: The deadly fire may also have contaminated up to 173
miles of pipeline in the town’s water system with
cancer-causing benzene and other volatile organic compounds, or
VOCs. Preliminary results have shown contamination in about a
third of the lines tested, though only about 2 percent of the
entire system has been sampled.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of
the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades.
… But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling
(relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end
with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan
for Western states to take less water from the overburdened
Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long
process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven
states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from
Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a
hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts
a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake
Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage
declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in
the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with
flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average
during the runoff season.
Wade Crowfoot, California’s new Natural Resources Secretary,
recently delivered a keynote address at Los Angeles Business
Council’s annual Sustainability Summit. He focused on the
economic, social and environmental challenges the state and
localities are addressing in response to a new climate normal;
on prioritizing new wildfire and water supply & stormwater
policies; and, commended the city of Los Angeles for its
ambitious climate actions.
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation,
who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and
federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy
conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t
available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of
this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think
that sets the stage for that to happen.”
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan
resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress
has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado
River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we
work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest
challenges facing our nation today.
A bill moving through the state legislature looks to make
repairs and enhancements to the Friant-Kern Canal. Senate Bill
559 was authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado, representing the
14th Senate District, and was co-authored by several other San
Joaquin Valley lawmakers. The legislation recently advanced
through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
with a vote of 7 to 0.
What the state requires our community to do is challenging.
Land development, population growth and climate change make
planning for the future very complicated. The new state law
requires us to face these challenges and work together as a
community to create a plan.
Currently, the city has two significant environmental impact
reports, which CEQA requires, making their way through the
development process. One is for a plan to build a 7-mile
pipeline to tap into Ventura’s long-held investment in state
water. … The other project would capture effluent from
Ventura’s wastewater treatment plant, treat it and turn it into
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
2019 marks the sixth straight winter that scientists from
NASA/JPL have been flying over portions of the Sierra range,
using light-detection and ranging lasers called lidar to map
and decode the snowpack. The Airborne Snow Observatory program,
or ASO, is based on technology that NASA has been using for
years to look at Mars and other planets.
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct
was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to
meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct
will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12
months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled his proposed budget
for fiscal year 2020 on Thursday, saying it includes the
highest infrastructure investment in the city’s history. …
The budget includes an infrastructure investment of $715.8
million, an increase of nearly 300% over the $179.4 million
infrastructure allocation in the city’s fiscal year 2014 budget
… More than half of that is earmarked for the city’s Pure
Water program, which aims to recycle sewage into drinking
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez
and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are
the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton
Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key
positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics
program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that
critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a
multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and
thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s
already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary,
he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the
Researchers say the end of California’s drought could offer a
surprising benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne
West Nile virus. Drought is the most important weather-related
factor that affects the rate of West Nile infection, scientists
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on
Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for
his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water
issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated
on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
California should consider a wide range of policies and law
changes to tackle the state’s wildfire crisis — including
controversial revisions to state liability laws and potentially
breaking up PG&E — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. The ideas
come in a 58-page report — the work of a “strike team” the
governor created 60 days ago — that Newsom unveiled Friday.
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
The Yosemite toad is considered endangered, and its numbers are
falling. Scientists say the amphibian chytrid fungus is one
reason, but climate change also may contribute to some pools
drying up before tadpoles mature.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
Besides choking out much-loved natives such as the golden
poppy, which is the state flower, Ward’s weed is a wildfire
hazard. Each year it dies off and turns into a brown mass of
thin, dry brush, like a tiny tumbleweed, that can go up in
flames with a spark.
Drought’s expanse over the Lower 48 states of the U.S. dropped
to a 21st century record low in early April, according to one
analysis. … You almost have to squint to see areas that are
in drought, including a few patchy areas of the South from
South Carolina to Alabama to Texas, a swath of New Mexico, and
the north Cascades of Washington state.
A team of Stanford University researchers believe they have
identified the best way to replenish the shrinking aquifers
beneath California’s Central Valley. … The study from
Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences,
published in the journal Water Resources Research, found that
unless action is taken, the ground in that region will sink
more than 13 feet over the next 20 years.
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well
water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed
away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an
alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost
other groundwater users far less overall.
The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had
an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new
study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s
notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s
efforts to clear the skies.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton
Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will
inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and
taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous
While this season has stood out in many people’s minds as
noteworthy and painstakingly rainy, “it’s just a normal year,”
said Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist with Golden Gate
Weather Services. The city measured similar rainfall totals as
recently as 2016-17.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network
of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm.
Instead of the food crops grown all around this site,
Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for
birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only
receives water a couple times a year.
While California recovers from the worst drought in state
history, a myriad of impacts resulting from climate change
threaten Southern California’s imported water supply. As a
shadow of drought hangs over the region, this documentary
explores the dire consequences of inaction that lie ahead.
The end of California’s drought, announced last month amid one
of the rainiest winters in memory, could offer a surprising
benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne West Nile
virus. Longer term, however, more severe droughts associated
with climate change could contribute to an increase in the
number of infections in the state and nationally.
Statewide leaders in agriculture recently launched an
initiative to clean oilfield wastewater for use in arid Western
states, hoping to reduce the region’s carbon footprint and
improve the lives of ranchers and farmers.
Eldorado Irrigation District staff said the proposed
improvements and replacements are needed because the existing
equipment does not allow selective temperature withdrawal at
multiple elevations for the benefit of downstream fisheries. In
addition the existing pumps and boosters have reached the end
of their useful life, having undergone multiple repairs over
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state
ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first
phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project
based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part
of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from
Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward
servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and
other capital costs associated with getting the project ready
Let’s face it, the 2018-2019 water year has been awesome! …
Even with this great news, the California Department of Water
Resources says, “the days of taking water for granted is over.”
Niki Woodard is the Deputy Assistant Director for California
Department of Water Resources and she believes the small steps
we take at home add up and can make a huge difference for our
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
The State Water Board was given the power to force a larger,
better run utility to absorb a smaller neighbor that
consistently fails to deliver clean water. They would like
South Kern to connect to Bakersfield’s system, which serves
high-quality water to 144,000 people. … The three sides have
been in negotiations for two and a half years, a struggle
between one of the largest cities in California’s Central
Valley, state officials, and two tiny water suppliers that is
the first significant test of the four-year-old statute.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver
at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation —
rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the
Klamath Project this summer and fall.
While flooding is clearly a problem, the extra vegetation that
thrives can lead to another problem. A hotter-than-average
summer – such as one fueled by climate change – can cause
vegetation to dry out faster. With all this natural kindling in
place, it doesn’t take much to start a fire.
This bill calls for $150M in funding over the next ten years
from the state’s General Fund to conduct laser surveys via ten
airplane trips over the Trinity Alps and the Sierra Nevada each
year. They would also fly over hydrologic areas that drain to,
or supply water to, certain major reservoirs and lakes.
Over the past 50 years, hydrology has experienced a revolution
in theory, technical application, and interdisciplinary
collaboration. … But as impressive as these technological
advancements are, the hydrological revolution owes as much to a
shift in culture.
When you turn on a faucet on the Monterey Peninsula, you’re
consuming water that’s been illegally pumped from Carmel River.
Now, after more than two decades of this, scores of public
officials, utility executives and citizen advocates are working
– and sometimes fighting – to replace the region’s water supply
before state-mandated sanctions kick in. California American
Water is forging ahead with its plan: a desalination plant near
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill
following pressure from conservationists, American Indian
tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from
remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the
bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate
to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages
their concerns about the pipeline.
For the millions of Californians who live and work far from the
Delta, it can be easy to overlook the splendor of the largest
estuary in western North America. Whether you are one mile or
hundreds of miles from the Delta, however, all Californians
have a stake in the survival and preservation of this fragile,
dynamic ecosystem that is also the keystone of the state’s
water supply system.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused
land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out
sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and
damaging infrastructure. … New research from Stanford
University suggests a way to map precisely where and how to use
groundwater recharge to refill the aquifers and stop the
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought
pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said
Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.”
… IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm
commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal
funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
Activities that remove vegetation and disturb the soil are the
most harmful. “Things like energy exploration and development
can do some of that as well as off-highway vehicles,” Duniway
said. He said livestock overgrazing is another culprit, as well
as droughts and wildfires. Climate models predict those
conditions will only get worse.
The city says the above-average rainfall this winter improved
water supplies. Based on current water supply forecasts, the
city believes it has enough supply to meet demands through
2021. On Tuesday, the City Council ended its Stage Three
Drought Emergency, lifting drought water use regulations. The
City Council first enacted the Stage Three Drought Emergency in
2015, requiring 25 percent water conservation initially.
Now that spring is here and the sun is finally out, Bay Area
residents are already reminiscing over what a rainy winter it
was, one of the wettest in recent memory, with many more
downpours than normal. Or was it? Not according to weather
All this reliance on an overallocated river has left its final
hundred miles as the ultimate collateral damage. Since the
early 1960s, when Glen Canyon Dam impounded the river near
Page, Arizona, it has rarely reached the Pacific Ocean. The
thread is frayed beyond recognition, leaving no water for the
That’s the last thing they should do, experts say, and it
explains why munipical drought restrictions — three-day weekly
lawn-watering, recycled water for ornamental fountains, water
served in restaurants only upon request — have not and will not
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre
feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working
with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park
Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre
feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than
the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s
long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas
are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from
the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County.
Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its
water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That
stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President
Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid.
Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very
different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
… Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating
San Jose Water, the local water company, recently sent out a
public notice saying it wants to impose a year-long surcharge
beginning this summer. The reason? To recover what it described
as an “under-collection” of more than $9 million in fixed
costs. … In other words, thank you for following the rules
and limiting your water usage, but that’s hurt our bottom line,
so we’ll be sending you a bill.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a
drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of
shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White
House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to
protect water users from deep losses and keep the
reservoirs and river healthy.
The wetland is fed by a concrete canal that removes drainage
water from American farms across the border in Arizona. … But
there’s a problem. As the Colorado River basin heats up and
dries out like climate projections predict, Juan Butrón-Méndez
is concerned people will stop thinking of the water that flows
to the wetland as waste, find a way to use it and, in turn,
harm the Ciénega.
At its core, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council exists to
ensure that the town of Borrego Springs survives and benefits
from the groundwater sustainability plan process. To that end,
BVSC members are taking a more creative look at the town as the
hospitality hub for the state park, relying on a geotourism
program from National Geographic, and aggressively trying to
buy out 70% of water from farmers.
Two pieces of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House
of Representatives will help more communities modernize their
water management strategies to include water recycling and we
urge Congress to pass them.
This tour journeyed through a scenic landscape and
explored an area of California dealing with
persistent threats to its water supply and quality. Along
the way, we learned about solutions that were being
Although Santa Barbara County had lifted its drought
emergency declaration after the 2019 storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery has often
lagged behind much of the rest of the state. It is a region
particularly prone to drought, wildfires and mudslides.
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
April 3, 2020 Update: This tour was originally scheduled for April 22-24 but has been postponed due to developments with COVID-19. If any tour attendee already registered cannot make the new dates, substitutions can be made. We can also provide refunds up until three weeks prior to the Sept. 30 start of the tour. Contact Nick Gray with any questions at email@example.com.