Water and energy are interconnected. A frequent term to describe
this relationship is the “water-energy nexus.”
Energy for Water: Energy is needed to store water, get it where
it is needed and also treat it to be used:
* Extracting water from rivers and streams or pumping it
from aquifers, and then conveying it over hills and into storage
facilities is a highly energy intensive process. The State Water
Project (SWP) pumps water 700 miles, including up nearly 2,000
feet over the Tehachapi Mountains. The SWP is the largest single
user of energy in California. It consumes an average of 5 billion
kWh per year. That’s about 2 to 3 percent of all electricity
consumed in California
* Water treatment facilities use energy to pump and process
water for use in homes, businesses and industry
* Consumers use energy to treat water with softeners or
filters, to circulate and pressurize water and to heat and cool
* Wastewater plants use energy to pump wastewater to
treatment plants, and also to aerate and filter it at the plant.
Different end uses require more electricity for delivery than
others. Water for residential, commercial and industrial end-use
needs the most energy (11 percent), followed by agricultural
end-use (3 percent), residential, commercial and industrial
supply and treatment (3 percent), agricultural water supply and
treatment (1 percent) and wastewater treatment (1 percent),
according to the California Energy Commission.
Water for Energy: Water is used to generate electricity
* Water is needed either to process raw materials used in a
facility or maintaining a plant,or to just generate electricity
Overall, the electricity industry is second only to agriculture
as the largest user of water in the United States. Electricity
production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy requires 190,000
million gallons of water per day, accounting for 39 percent of
all freshwater withdrawals in the nation. Coal, the most abundant
fossil fuel, currently accounts for 52 percent of U.S.
electricity generation, and each kWh generated from coal requires
withdrawal of 25 gallons of water.
A sudden influx of water at the sewage treatment facility at
the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station early Wednesday
morning led to about 7,000 gallons of partially treated
wastewater being released about a mile into the Pacific.
Officials at Southern California Edison, the plant’s operator,
said the sewage amounted to a “non-radiological release”…
Most of the 6,000 gallons of crude oil that was spilled into
the Cuyama River in Santa Maria has been contained. … A
tanker truck carrying more than 6,000 gallons of crude oil
overturned and crashed into the Cuyama River east of Santa
Maria on Saturday, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire
The falling cost of renewable energy and continued decline of
manufacturing renders many of these structures unnecessary.
Others require expensive maintenance. Seven in 10 are more than
50 years old and many are falling into disrepair, according to
the American Society of Civil Engineers…
On Monday, Lilac Solutions and the Australian company
Controlled Thermal Resources announced they’re partnering to
develop a lithium-extraction facility at the Salton Sea. The
Australian firm is trying to build the area’s first new
geothermal power plant in a decade, a project that would be far
more lucrative if the super-heated underground fluid could
produce lithium in addition to electricity.
People flanked by handmade signs spill out of a charter bus
that just arrived from UC Santa Barbara. They join a growing
rally outside the Veterans Memorial Center in Santa Maria,
chanting, “Health, not oil,” and, “No new oil, keep it in the
soil!” A microphone passed around gave different folks and
organizations a chance to lead the rally cries.
Tuolumne Utilities District announced on Tuesday that it has
entered into exclusive negotiations with Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. to acquire the Phoenix Hydroelectric Project,
which would include pre-1914 water rights on the South Fork of
the Stanislaus River…
Tulare County-based Kaweah River Power Authority has requested
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval to
transfer the license for their 20MW hydroelectric plant at
Kaweah Lake’s Terminus Dam to Canadian-based Ontario Power
A settlement was reached Wednesday in a federal lawsuit filed
by an environmental group accusing Pacific Coast Energy Co. of
illegally discharging polluted water from an Orcutt oil
facility into northern Santa Barbara County waterways and
threatening endangered species.
At the February meeting of the California Water Commission,
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot addressed the
Commission, tasking them with assessing and prioritizing the
infrastructure needs around the state and helping to determine
the state role in rehabilitating that infrastructure.
A proposal to pump water out of Nevada’s fragile Walker Lake to
generate hydropower to sell in California won preliminary
approval from federal regulators. On Friday, the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission issued a preliminary permit and granting
priority to file for the proposed Walker Lake Pumped Storage
One day after President Trump tweeted his support, Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to take
steps today to bring to the floor legislation that would
permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and
address the national parks maintenance backlog, senators said.
… Trump’s tweet was an election-year about-face from his
latest budget proposal, which recommended virtually eliminating
the popular, bipartisan program.
People on both sides of the oil argument met Wednesday night in
Santa Maria, sharing their opinions about the future of oil
drilling on the Central Coast. The meeting was one of 10 that
the California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy
Management Division (CalGEM) is hosting.
The pit was a bustling iron mine once, churning out ore that
was shipped by rail to a nearby Kaiser Steel plant. When steel
manufacturing declined, Los Angeles County tried to turn the
abandoned mine into a massive landfill. Conservationists hope
the area will someday become part of Joshua Tree National Park,
which surrounds it on three sides. Steve Lowe has a radically
In a Feb. 28 filing, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation,
formed to shepherd the removal of four hydroelectric dams from
the Klamath River in Northeern California and Southern Oregon,
submitted key budget information to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission. … This filing is another concrete step
toward implementing the amended Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement (KHSA), removing the dams and restoring a
free-flowing Klamath River, KRRC officials said.
Some environmental groups eye the effort suspiciously, fearing
the Trump administration will use the project to allow
businesses to offload hazardous wastewater in ways that
threaten drinking water sources and otherwise risk public
health. Businesses including oil and gas developers have urged
the Trump administration to allow them more ways to get rid of
their increasing volumes of wastewater.
A California appellate court on Tuesday threw out a Kern County
law that allowed major oil producers to rely on a single,
blanket environmental approval for 72,000 new oil wells,
instead of facing scrutiny of each new project’s potential
impact on air quality, drinking water, wildlife and other
The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce
two of Southern California’s most precious and essential
resources: water and electricity. … The idea, developed by
Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water
venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water
District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to
fill a void.
Coal-fired power plants are closing, or being given firm
deadlines for closure, across the country. In the Western
states that make up the overallocated and drought-plagued
Colorado River, these facilities use a significant amount of
the region’s scarce water supplies. With closure dates looming,
communities are starting the contentious debate about how this
newly freed up water should be put to use.
The Indian Wells Valley Water District will submit a letter to
the Bureau of Land Management over a proposed geothermal
leasing area near Haiwee Reservoir. The water district’s board
of directors discussed its concern about the project at its
Monday board meeting, noting the impact it could have on water
use in or near the basin.
A report recently published by the Lawrence Livermore National
Lab, Getting to Neutral, suggests that power plants across the
state could profitably convert wood from forests and orchards
into liquid or hydrogen fuels, all while capturing their
Regulating the day-to-day details of an oil and gas operation
can be a complex task, with both regulators and operators
working hard to prevent leaks, explosions and other threats to
worker safety, community health and the environment. … That’s
why we track what states are up to on a consistent basis.
Across much of California, fossil fuel companies are leaving
thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially
threatening the health of people living nearby and handing
taxpayers a multibillion-dollar bill for the environmental
Unfortunately, there are few places so well-suited for
geothermal energy as the site of the Geysers in California,
which was built over an area with naturally occurring steam and
a reservoir of hot water. That is why some experts advocate for
enhanced geothermal energy systems (EGS), which pump water into
the ground to tap natural heat sources, creating conditions for
geothermal energy in areas where it would otherwise be
As Southern California Edison begins its eight-year process of
decommissioning and dismantling the San Onofre Nuclear
Generating Station, a local watchdog group has filed a petition
to put a halt to actions at the seaside plant. Public
Watchdogs, a nonprofit advocacy group, claims that if the
facility is flooded with rain or ocean water, the proposed
method of disposing nuclear waste could lead to explosive
radioactive steam geysers.
State Sen. Scott Wiener will unveil legislation today to let
the state of California seize control of the embattled utility
PG&E. Wiener’s bill … would use eminent domain to force
the company’s stockholders to sell their shares to the state of
California, which would then take over operations.
Borrego Solar is under contract to build … a 5 megawatt solar
facility at Manteca’s municipal wastewater treatment plant.
Interim City Manager Miranda Ludlow has indicated Manteca is in
talks with a number of firms to hammer out a solar power
A bill introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) helped craft would ban
fracking nationwide by 2025, according to its newly unveiled
text. The legislation would immediately prevent federal
agencies from issuing federal permits for expanded fracking,
new fracking, new pipelines, new natural gas or oil export
terminals and other gas and oil infrastructure.
The White House issued a notice [Thursday] seeking input on
efforts to “reform enforcement” — a potential boon for the
energy industry. … [Thursday's] memo, which appears in the
Federal Register, states that federal enforcement has ballooned
in recent decades but protections for defendants has not.
A senior Chevron official told California lawmakers on Monday a
2019 incident that spilled over a million gallons of water and
oil into a creek bed was likely caused by its attempts to patch
up a shuttered well.
The moratorium has led state officials to place on hold 58
permit applications for high-pressure cyclic steam wells,
according to Don Drysdale, a spokesman for the Department of
Conservation, which oversees the division now known as the
California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM. A
Southern California lawmaker who has launched an inquiry into
the steam injection wells says CalGEM’s new rules don’t go far
Some local residents are organizing to oppose a twice-rejected
proposal for a Lake Elsinore hydroelectric plant. The Lake
Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project, more commonly known
as LEAPS, was tossed aside by the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission nearly a decade ago in 2011.
Cleaning up the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells
scattered across California — which includes plugging them,
removing surface infrastructure and cleaning the soil — could
eventually cost more than $9 billion if they fall to the state
to handle, a new report commissioned by state oil regulators
One of the biggest indicators of renewed geothermal interest
occurred Thursday when the Bureau of Land Management published
a final environmental impact statement on a California
geothermal leasing area that sat on the shelf for eight years.
The statement is for the proposed designation of a 22,805-acre
Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area north of Ridgecrest, Calif., and
west of Death Valley National Park.
David Fahey, director of the Chemical Sciences Division of
NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, told his staff
yesterday that the federal government is ready to examine the
science behind “geoengineering” — or what he dubbed a “Plan B”
for climate change. Fahey said he has received backing to
explore two approaches.
In step with President Trump’s push for more energy development
in California’s deserts, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
announced Thursday it wants to transform 22,000 acres of public
land in the southern Owens Valley into one of the largest
geothermal leasing sites in the state.
Geothermal plants can generate emissions-free, renewable
electricity around the clock, unlike solar panels or wind
turbines. The technology has been used commercially for decades
and involves tapping naturally heated underground reservoirs to
create steam and turn turbines.
In a groundbreaking vote, California has allocated nearly $45
million toward boosting highly efficient electric heat pump
technology that can help avoid burning fossil fuels to heat our
water, as well as store California’s abundant pollution-free
solar energy to give us piping-hot showers when the sun isn’t
A move by the Trump administration to roll back landmark
environmental policy intended to ensure vigorous scrutiny of
federal infrastructure projects has struck alarm in the hearts
of California conservationists, particularly those striving to
safeguard North Coast waters from offshore energy exploration
Farm organizations welcomed a new water planning document from
state agencies while they analyzed the document’s proposed
strategies. Titled the California Water Resilience Portfolio
and released last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration
described the document as an effort to guide water management
in a way that works for people, the environment and the
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne issued his
decision Dec. 30 in the lawsuit filed by Andrew Hobbs and Dave
Thomas. Each sued the MID in 2016, and their lawsuits were
combined into one. … Beauchesne ruled the subsidy was an
illegal tax under California law because the MID had not sought
voter approval for electric customers to subsidize irrigation
Nobody likes to look out to the Pacific Ocean and see oil
derricks on the horizon. That’s why California wisely banned
new offshore oil drilling 50 years ago. But in Monterey County,
coastal views are limited by a relic of a bygone era: a giant,
industrial sand plant right on the dunes between Highway One
and the ocean.
Evaporation ponds, which are commonly used in many industries
to manage wastewater, can span acres, occupying a large
footprint and often posing risks to birds and other wildlife.
… Now researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated a way to double
the rate of evaporation by using solar energy and taking
advantage of water’s inherent properties.
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
A mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University has
developed a new, micro-thin material to make membrane water
desalination even better. Amir Barati Farimani, with fellow
researchers Zhonglin Cao and Vincent Liu, has calculated how
much better his metal organic framework (MOF) works than the
traditional membrane method.
The Trump administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead to new
oil-drilling leases on federal land in California, mostly
around petroleum-rich Bakersfield but also in less-obvious
spots in the Sierra foothills, such as near Yosemite National
In the United States, many of the structures that were once
engineering marvels are nearing the age most humans decide to
retire. Despite steadily increased budgets for dam repair and
maintenance, over the past four decades more than a 1,000 have
failed … Although some dams are having critical maintenance
done, states and private entities are also coming up with a
different solution: take them down. California, once a
bastion of dam building, took down 35 dams just last year,
making it the leader in dam removals in 2018.
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
Nicole Neeman Brady serves as principal and chief operating
officer at L.A.-based Renewable Resources Group, which … is
in the business of developing energy and water projects,
raising the potential for conflicts of interest if the company
seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on
Native American tribes, environmentalists, state and federal
agencies, river rafters and others say they have significant
concerns about proposals to dam a Colorado River tributary in
northern Arizona for hydropower.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
During days when solar panels feed more energy into the grid
than utilities want to buy, the projects would use the excess
power to pump water from Walker Lake or Pyramid Lake into the
newly constructed reservoirs. Once there, the water would sit
as a giant pool of potential energy. When demand for power
increased at night as solar production waned, the water could
be released downhill and run through a power plant.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
Small shallow lakes dominate the world’s freshwater area, and
the sediments within them already produce at least one-quarter
of all carbon-dioxide, and more than two-thirds of all methane
released from lakes into our atmosphere. The new research,
published in the journal PNAS, suggests that climate change may
cause the levels of greenhouse gases emitted by freshwater
northern lakes to increase by between 1.5 and 2.7 times.
In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry,
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday stopped the approval of new
hydraulic fracturing in the state until the permits for those
projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Newsom also imposed a moratorium on new permits for
steam-injected oil drilling, another extraction method …
linked to a massive petroleum spill in Kern County over the
Seeking to fortify the city against future droughts, the Palo
Alto City Council endorsed on Monday a long-term agreement with
Santa Clara Valley Water District and Mountain View to build a
salt-removal plant in the Baylands and then transfer the
treated wastewater south.
As Donald Trump’s administration pushes to expand oil
extraction in California, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom,
has signed bill after bill limiting the practice. … But since
taking office in January, Newsom’s own department of energy
management has approved 33 percent more new oil and gas
drilling permits than were approved under Newsom’s predecessor
Jerry Brown over the same period in 2018
Since July, at least a half dozen surface expressions have been
reported into the state spill report database, including one in
early November, totaling more than 2.7 million gallons of oil,
water and mud. … Under strengthened state regulations, these
surface expressions became illegal only in April of this year.
But that doesn’t mean the public knows about all of them or how
close they occur to communities…
A $32.6 million addition to a water treatment facility rising
out of the ground under giant cranes will turn waste into
electricity, and provide education, jobs and more to an
underserved community, according to the East Valley Water
District. A co-digester added to the Sterling Natural Resource
Center project will turn sewage and food waste into three
megawatts of power per year, enough to power about 1,950
Hydropower is broadly considered to be much more
environmentally friendly than electricity generated from fossil
fuels, and in many cases this is true. However, a new study
reveals that the climate impact of hydropower facilities varies
widely throughout the world and over time, with some facilities
emitting more greenhouse gases than those burning fossil fuels.
PG&E said Thursday that a small powerhouse at the reservoir
had been shut down since a canal at the reservoir had been
damaged during last winter’s storms. The utility has determined
that the costs to repair the canal “outweigh the economic
benefit of (power) generation at the Kilarc powerhouse.”
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
The recent rash of fires, like the drought that preceded it,
has sparked a new wave of pessimism about the state’s future.
But the natural disasters have also obscured the fact the
greatest challenge facing the state comes not from burning
forests or lack of precipitation but from an increasingly
dysfunctional society divided between a small but influential
wealthy class and an ever-expanding poverty population.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
The Mojave Water Agency on Thursday cut the ribbon on its Deep
Creek Hydroelectric Clean-Energy System, a project that
produces electricity from California Aqueduct water and
replenishes the groundwater in the Victor Valley.
El Dorado Irrigation District has been making preparations for
these power shutoffs since 2018. After analyzing areas in our
system that would need to be bolstered in the event of
large-scale power outages — pump stations or other facilities
without backup power — we asked the EID Board of Directors to
approve $800,000 to purchase generators that could be utilized
across our 220-square-mile service area.
The creation of the JPA marks a key milestone in moving forward
the project that will create a new, local, sustainable and
drought-proof drinking water supply using state-of-the-art
technology to purify East San Diego County’s recycled water.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
In a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission
shared Tuesday, the mayors and city supervisors argued that
PG&E ― beset by massive bankruptcy and public outrage over
its role in deadly wildfires and mismanaged forced power
outages ― would function better as a customer-owned utility
than a business focused on paying dividends to its
Drillers punched hundreds of shallow wells in the California
seafloor off Santa Barbara County at the turn of the 20th
century — only to abandon them in the early 1900s. … But the
oil has lingered. It leaks from the orphaned wells and seeps
from the ocean floor naturally off the Santa Barbara coast…
It leaves tar on the beach and a sheen on the waters.
Environmentalists worry about damage to the ecosystem and
threats to public health…
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
In places like San Diego and Dubai, where freshwater is scarce,
humans turn to machines that pull the salt out of seawater,
transforming it into clean drinking water. … Many researchers
are working to improve the technology so it can reach more
people — and address climate change without contributing to it.
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
When the lights went out this week, Susan Illich of Sebastopol
didn’t just lose power. She also lost water. That’s because,
like thousands of residents in Sonoma County, she relies on a
private well that operates with an electric pump. … “Water
puts out fire,” she said. “My basic rights to fend off fire
that could have killed me and my pets and damaged my home was
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
The initial selling point of Prop. 65 — that it would eliminate
toxins in the water supply by holding big business liable for
its leaks — has largely been forgotten in 2019. These days, the
law is better known for requiring eyebrow-raising warning
labels on everything from bread to steering wheel covers to —
briefly — Starbucks coffee, and it has turned into a national
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a
year-round, mineral-rich spring turns the Little Colorado River
a vivid turquoise. This final stretch, about 10 miles from the
river’s confluence with its larger relative, is one of the
West’s spectacular waterways, with bright water flowing below
steep red-rock cliffs. But the view will change dramatically if
a Phoenix-based company builds a proposed hydropower project.
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
The salty gunk and steam passing through the maze of pipes can
produces up to 55 megawatts of electricity. It comes from under
the shores of the Salton Sea, a man-made lake in the far
southeastern desert of California. Benson, chief operating
officer of the geothermal power producer EnergySource, pointed
to a white shipping container, where fiberglass tanks are being
used to pull lithium out of the same brine from the sandstone
Called WEDEW (wood-to-energy deployed water), it is a
collaboration between Skysource and ALL Power Labs and uses
local biomass gasification… It converts the biomass into
biochar, hot humid air and electricity. Water is condensed out
of the hot humid air in a process that mimics the way clouds
are formed (the hot humid air hits cold air and forms droplets
of rain) and stored in a tank
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the
end. But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of
four dams at the center of the fight. The dams on the Lower
Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for
killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable
energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a
growing tab for environmental mitigation.
Nationwide, more than a dozen utilities have started developing
renewable natural gas production through partnerships with
farmers, wastewater treatment plants and landfill operators,
while nine have proposed price premiums for customers who
choose it as a fuel, according to the American Gas Association.
Today’s noisy partisan divide concerns me and makes the thought
of meaningful collaboration across parties seem impossible.
However, the largest river restoration project in history,
spanning the California-Oregon border, tells a hopeful story
offering a blueprint for political, conservation and economic
Desalinated seawater is the lifeblood of Saudi Arabia, no more
so than at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology,
an international research center that rose from the dry, empty
desert a decade ago. … Desalination provides all of the
university’s fresh water, nearly five million gallons a day.
But that amount is just a tiny fraction of Saudi Arabia’s total
Tuesday, another text message warning came in from Pacific Gas
& Electric that power outages are imminent. Again. Couple that
with a same-day heads-up message from the El Dorado Irrigation
District that when the power is out, they cannot pump water to
homes and businesses, and California is feeling more like an
emerging market economy in a developing nation.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a right-of-way grant
(ROW) Wednesday that allows for the construction of various
facilities on 711 acres east of Klamath Falls, according to a
news release. … The ROW grant is part of the Swan Lake North
Hydro LLC proposal to develop a 393.3-megawatt hydropower
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Critical U.S.
infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is week,
and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for
action, and climate change will only make the problem worse.
but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has
become a familiar story. Take dams for instance.
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
Efforts to extract lithium at the Salton Sea could unite
environmentalists — who decry the destructive evaporation ponds
used to produce the metal in South America — and national
security hawks, who are loathe to rely on other countries for a
mineral poised to play a key role in powering the U.S. economy.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law intended to counter
Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production
on protected public land. The measure bars any California
leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas
infrastructure to be built on state property. It makes it
difficult for drilling to occur because federally protected
areas are adjacent to state-owned land.
Alicyn Gitlin, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter, said the project would threaten an
endangered species, interfere with the Grand Canyon’s already
degraded hydrology and damage sites held sacred by two Arizona
Working to “Make Every Source a Resource” and striving toward a
more sustainable future, East Valley Water District Board of
Directors approved the addition of state-of-the-art co-digester
technology at the Sterling Natural Resource Center during the
Sept. 11 board meeting.
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
The city of Oceanside is offering tours to experience Pure
Water Oceanside, an innovative program that will purify
recycled water to create a new local source of high-quality
drinking water that is clean, safe, drought-proof and
environmentally sound. Pure Water Oceanside will produce enough
water to provide more than 32% of the city’s water supply, or
3-5 million gallons per day.
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
The project is the first of its kind to tap agricultural
run-off among a variety of wastewater sources for conversion
into potable, drinking water that would represent about a third
of the Monterey Peninsula’s new drinking water supply.
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety
Modification Project, presented a program outlining
catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to
mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s
dams, including Isabella Dam.
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
Utah’s proposed Lake Powell pipeline will cost less to build
and be easier to permit under a decision announced Wednesday to
cut major hydropower components from the controversial project
that would move 86,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to St.
On the Changala family farm in Tulare County, the past and
future are separated by a dirt road and a barbed-wire fence. On
the south side sits a wheat field. On the north, a solar farm,
built three years ago, sending electricity to thousands of
Southern Californians. Alan Changala sees little difference
between the two.
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield
activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern
County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby
irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.
It’s been nearly a decade since California ordered coastal
power plants to stop using seawater for cooling, a process that
kills fish and other marine life. But now state officials may
extend the life of several facilities that still suck billions
of gallons from the ocean each day.
The regulation called for a particulate matter filter on diesel
engines based on the vehicle’s model year. The filters can be
used for up to eight years, but they had to be installed by
Jan. 1, 2014. … “Our whole town of Acton and Agua Dulce are
basically going to be out of water with no means to get water
to you guys,” Amber Demyen, owner of Acton Water Co. …
In a decision hailed by some as a victory for tribal rights and
ecological preservation, the Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld
voiding 40-year lease extensions for geothermal energy
production on 26 plots of California land deemed sacred by
Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the
1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and
declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall
throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that
many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep
the fish from being lost.
The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a de-facto
moratorium on hydraulic fracturing while it studies permitting
procedures for the politically controversial oil
well-completion technique better known as fracking.
Efforts to increase recycled water use in California got a
significant boost this week with the State Water Board’s
issuance of an order authorizing the Sacramento Regional County
Sanitation District’s program to deliver an average of 45
million gallons per day of recycled water from the Sacramento
Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant …
The Round Valley Indian Tribes announced this week that they
have signed an agreement to join with users of both the Eel
River and Russian River to seek a “Two-Basin Solution” for the
re-licensing of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River.
Despite new California regulations banning surface spills in
the state’s vast oil fields, at least eight spills connected to
Chevron have occurred in just one Kern County oil field since
the new rules took effect in April, state regulators say.
The ”surface expression” spills have spewed more than
1.26 million gallons of oil and wastewater in five
months, with some still not contained.
Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill to reform state energy
extraction regulation has been approved by the Legislature. The
legislation … would require state oil and gas extraction
regulators to put public health and the environment ahead of
increased industry development.
The Bonneville Power Administration, the independent federal
agency that sells the electricity produced by the dams, is
careening toward a financial cliff. BPA is $15 billion in debt,
facing a rapidly changing energy market increasingly dominated
by wind and solar and a desperate need to maintain aging
infrastructure that’s expected to cost $300 million to maintain
and upgrade by 2023.
A jury has ordered Shell Oil Company to pay the City of Atwater
a total of $63 million in damages in a groundwater pollution
suit. The decision, reached Friday after a four-month trial in
Merced County Superior Court, awarded Atwater $53 million in
compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages,
according to a news release from the city.
Water users in the Colorado River Basin have survived the
drought through a combination of water storage infrastructure
and voluntary actions to protect reservoir storage and water
supply. Adoption of drought contingency plans this summer,
developed over years of collaborative negotiation, takes the
next step by implementing mandatory action to reduce risk and
protect limited water supplies.
What Public Works Director Mark Houghton touts as “Manteca’s
own refinery” is now converting methane gas generated at the
wastewater treatment plant along with food waste to produce
compressed liquefied gas. And in doing so, Manteca is well on
its way to effectively wiping out all CO2 impacts the
wastewater treatment process creates and then some.
A major oil spill in one of the nation’s most economically
important waterways could become more likely unless a plan to
dredge two San Francisco Bay channels less frequently is
reconsidered, lawyers for the state of California and a
conservation group argued in court Wednesday.
Environmental groups are calling for increased scrutiny of
California’s oil and gas industry after learning that more than
50 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the ground in an
uncontrolled release near a Chevron facility in Kern County
over the last 16 years.
The researchers — many of whom have been active in the
program’s rule making and have challenged the agency before —
argue in the working paper that the emissions reductions in
California’s offset program are inherently uncertain. In some
cases, they wrote, the rules create “perverse incentives”
toward increasing planet-warming gases.
State oil and gas regulators say they’re launching an
investigation of operations in a Kern County oil field after a
series of large, uncontrolled crude petroleum releases near
Chevron wells — including one that has continued on and off for
more than 16 years and may have spewed out more than 50 million
gallons of crude oil.
While the massive release of crude petroleum from a Chevron oil
well near the town of McKittrick seems to have ended, the
timeline for hauling away soil contaminated by the spill is
unclear. “The full extent of the required site remediation is
not known at this time and will be fully scoped with
appropriate regulatory agencies,” said Eric Laughlin, a
spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife…
California has long been a top producer of oil. But that may
change. Some hope that change will accelerate under Gov. Gavin
Newsom, who has called for a decrease in the demand and supply
of fossil fuels. A recent massive spill in Chevron’s Cymric
oilfield in Kern County, about 35 miles west of Bakersfield,
prompted a major regulatory shakeup and could bolster that
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
Arguing that Monterey County officials improperly ignored new
groundwater impact information and a viable, even preferable
recycled water alternative, Marina Coast Water District has
sued the county and California American Water over the county’s
narrow approval of Cal Am’s desalination plant permit.
In a joint statement, the local utility providers announced
that the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project — a dam, reservoir,
spillway and powerhouse that generates electricity north of
Placerville on the South Fork of the American River — would be
changing hands after SMUD’s board of directors voted Thursday
evening to greenlight the purchase.
Conventional oil and gas production methods can affect
groundwater much more than fracking, according to
hydrogeologists Jennifer McIntosh from the University of
Arizona and Grant Ferguson from the University of Saskatchewan.
For five decades, PG&E paid for and operated the Colgate
Powerhouse in exchange for the revenue generated by the
hydroelectric generation. But now, instead of tens of millions
of dollars flowing out to the utility, that agreement has
expired and the revenue, potentially as much as $30 million per
year, is flowing back into the Yuba Water Agency.
The proposed changes to Clean Water Act permitting rules,
announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
would limit the amount of time states and tribes can take to
review new project proposals… It also would limit states to
considering only water quality and allow the federal government
to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in
Under U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and California
regulations, when oil companies want to use “cyclic steam”
blasting or steam flooding, they’re required to submit an
“underground injection control,” or UIC, application to state
regulators. But state employees said at least 12 ”dummy”
project folders appear to have been used over the past
several years to wrongly issue permits, including by
An estimated 147,000 cubic yards of polluted soils were shipped
to regional landfills and replaced with clean dirt. In 2004,
the Regional Water Quality Control Board declared the cleanup
finished and began overseeing the monitoring. Now Napa’s oil
industry row pollution legacy is officially gone…
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
California American Water is seeking to raise its Monterey area
average customers’ bills by nearly 18 percent over a three-year
period from 2021-2023. … Under the proposal, the “average”
Cal Am customer would see their monthly rates increase from
about $89.40 to $105.42 over the three-year period.
It turns out that the same structural problems that caused the
failure at Oroville Dam in February 2017 also exist at the
spillway of San Antonio Dam, just two miles north of Lake
Nacimiento and above the community of Bradley.
The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision earlier
this year to exempt portions of the Arroyo Grande Oil Field
from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
There are many ways to generate electricity — batteries, solar
panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams, to name a few
examples. …. And now there’s rust. New research conducted by
scientists at Caltech and Northwestern University shows that
thin films of rust — iron oxide — can generate electricity
when saltwater flows over them.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Wednesday to decide on a bill that
would make California the first state in the nation to require
water suppliers who monitor a broad class of toxic “forever
chemicals” to notify customers if they’re present in drinking
The findings of Tom Corringham and Daniel Cayan, both of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of
California at San Diego, confirm the connections between
extreme weather events and El Niño…
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
Researchers from Stanford University have developed an
affordable, durable technology that could harness energy
generated from mixing freshwater from seawater. Outlined in a
new paper … they suggest that this “blue energy” could make
coastal wastewater treatment plants energy-independent.
A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Colorado
School of Mines (Mines) is developing a microbe-based system
that could remove toxic compounds from oilfield produced water
so it can be reused in other water-intensive sectors such as
agriculture and energy production.
When the news broke, in the second week of July, that nearly
800,000 gallons of oil and water had spilled into a dry
creekbed from an oil production facility in Kern County, it
sounded rare and dramatic. But the spill was unique only in its
magnitude. In the oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley, spills
and seeps of oil, wastewater and oil-laced wastewater are as
common as the wind storms that episodically blanket the Valley
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… A holistic approach to habitat restoration doesn’t rely on
a single silver bullet solution, but applies a comprehensive
set of actions that rely on collaboration
Thoughtfully implementing state law that requires local water
users to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels within the
next two decades will … result in withdrawal of large amounts
of land from agricultural production and the loss of economic
benefits. But we can repurpose those lands to support large
scale storage and solar, as well as other renewable energy
technologies that can help decarbonize our electric grid and
create new jobs in the Central Valley.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in the Central Valley on Wednesday for a
firsthand look at one of the largest oil spills in California
history, vowed to go beyond the state’s already aggressive
efforts to curtail the use of fossil fuels and seek a long-term
strategy to reduce oil production.
Siding with environmental groups and outspoken Oxnard
residents, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday
voted not to approve a plan to add four new oil wells at an
existing drilling site. … It was a big win for
environmentalists and south Oxnard activists who are opposed to
drilling, pesticides and industrial uses near residents.
Chevron records show the large, McKittrick-area oil leak …
probably originated with an idle well being worked on at the
same time the company was injecting high-pressure steam just
360 feet away, a combination that industry people say should
not have been performed simultaneously in such close proximity
and which possibly contributed to the release.
A long-awaited Montecito Water District rate study, planned for
release this May, will not be finished until later this year,
officials said this week. The study can’t proceed until the
district finishes negotiating the terms of an agreement for
buying into Santa Barbara’s desalination plant.
Cities such as San Francisco want to buy assets from the
bankrupt electricity provider to control the power supply for
their communities. An amendment inserted late in the
legislative process makes those purchases more difficult by
subjecting them to the approval of state regulators.
On the same day Sen. Dianne Feinstein chastised Chevron Corp.
for keeping an 800,000-gallon spill outside Bakersfield “under
wraps,” California officials confirmed Thursday that the site
was once again seeping a hazardous mix of oil and water.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that 30 projects will
receive $5.1 million from the Desalination and Water
Purification Research Program to develop improved and
inexpensive ways to desalinate and treat impaired water.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
If PG&E has to shut off power in the East Bay to prevent
wildfires from igniting and burning homes, residents will be
strongly urged to severely reduce their water use during the
emergency. That’s because their main water supplier, the East
Bay Municipal Utility District, may have its power cut off,
too, and be forced to rely on 29 emergency backup generators.
California’s top oil regulator, losing patience with Chevron’s
response to the uncontrolled release of thousands of barrels of
oil near McKittrick, has ordered the company to “take all
measures” to make sure petroleum, water and steam do not resume
rising to the surface after previous efforts to stop the flow
there proved temporary.
For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have
been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the
original source of clean electricity. Our efforts have been
stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or
isn’t, green enough. That’s why I have begun the process of
modifying our state Constitution to recognize safe, abundant,
carbon-free hydropower as a reliable source of renewable energy
in our fight against climate change.
Only 15 out of the thousands of desalination plants operating
today worldwide are powered by nuclear. A small one is at the
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in California, slated to be closed
soon. The plant could power several huge desalination plants
for decades that could desalinate its own cooling water,
removing the most commonly stated problem with the plant.
Your perfect river might be one where you float gently along on
inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous
rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft. No problem.
California has got it all when it comes to river rafting, from
gentle half-day float trips for first-timers and mellow family
adventures to adrenaline-pumping, white water, multi-day
American Biodiesel also admitted to tampering with monitoring
devices and methods that are designed to detect clean water
standards. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, employees’
tampering was done with the purpose of underreporting acid and
pollutant levels and volumes that otherwise would have exceeded
figures allowed by the city’s regulations.
The seep, which has been flowing off and on since May, has
again stopped, said Chevron spokeswoman Veronica
Flores-Paniagua, with the last flow Tuesday. … Chevron
reported that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out
of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in
the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield.
Two consumer groups are calling on California’s governor to
freeze all new oil drilling permits and to clean house at the
agency that issues them, after the organizations uncovered
records showing that top state regulators and engineers held
investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
Climate-conscious local and state officials are increasingly
embracing electricity sources that float on water, as they seek
ways to convert their least-coveted spaces into hubs of
electricity. This summer alone, developers broke ground on
California’s largest floating solar project, located on a
wastewater treatment pond in Sonoma County.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.