Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and
conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground,
though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of
underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed
to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and
leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities
and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future
sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an
average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply
comes from groundwater.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local
and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable
groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
When most think of the possible impacts of sea level rise, they
think of coastal flooding and the growing risks to shore-based
infrastructure — but there’s another sea level rise-related
threat that is much less talked about. As sea level rises, so
too will groundwater levels in coastal aquifers, and some
recent studies have concluded that in some coastal areas, as
much or more land could flood as a result of rising groundwater
tables than will flood directly from rising tides.
The majority of groundwater wells drawing water for Santa
Clarita Valley Water contain enough of a non-stick chemical,
which is a suspected carcinogen, that water officials are now
required by the state to notify the county about the find. Of
the agency’s 45 operational wells, 29 of them were found to
contain tiny amounts of of perfluorooctanoic acid and
As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to
meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to
achieve sustainability. … At ACWA’s fall conference, a panel
discussed the legal framework, different types of groundwater
rights, lessons learned from existing groundwater production
allocation programs, and potential pitfalls …
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
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on
Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from
pumping too much from underground basins. … Officials said
the plan also lays out efforts to try to recharge groundwater —
in other words, replace water sucked out from underground.
A duo of bills, at the state and federal level, will likely
determine the fate of the Friant-Kern Canal in a legislative
year that is shaping up to be pivotal for Central Valley
growers and ag communities.
The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources
Control Board are hosting educational workshops in January to
assist local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies submitting
Groundwater Sustainability Plans for DWR evaluation. GSPs for
critically over drafted basins are due by January 31, 2020.
One of the major problems LandWatch cites is a lack of water on
former Fort Ord property which the city hopes to develop in the
future, according to court documents. Two parcels, identified
as sites 1 and 1A, are located over the Salinas Valley
Groundwater Basin, considered overdrafted and already
experiencing seawater intrusion.
A project in the Salinas Valley aims to remove contaminants
like phosphate from the water at a lower cost using much less
energy. … Partnering with the city of Salinas and the
wastewater treatment facility, the project aims to remove
phosphates efficiently and recycle water for groundwater
recharge and irrigation water to farmers.
California water policy leaders say balancing the supply of
groundwater by implementing the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, or SGMA, and addressing policies related to
water supply and water quality, will continue to be priority
issues in 2020.
A bill that would require the EPA to regulate PFAS, an emerging
family of chemicals contaminating U.S. municipal and private
water supplies, is slated to be the first major legislation
that the House will take up in 2020.
Quick shifts in climate have prompted Los Angeles to consider
an unlikely place to bank some of its Sierra Nevada snowmelt:
beneath dry Owens Lake, which the city drained starting in 1913
to fill the L.A. Aqueduct and supply a thirsty metropolis.
California is increasing regulations on groundwater. For many
farmers in the state, it is a step too far. The law’s critics
say it could lead to a loss of half a million acres of farmland
in California’s Central Valley. As Kerry Klein of member
station KVPR in Fresno reports, some farmers are so worried,
The nearly $4 million project, assisted with $3.4 million in
state grants and a $1 million match from Pajaro Valley Water,
is expected to further reduce groundwater pumping in the area,
so as to halt seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft
while keeping agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
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
The cities of Ceres and Turlock formed the Stanislaus Regional
Water Authority which is in the process of hiring a
design-build consultant to oversee the project to build the
facility along the Tuolumne River west of the Fox Grove Fishing
Access. Water will be drawn from the river, filtered and piped
to both Turlock and to Ceres. Plans call for the water to be
stored in a large aboveground water storage tank. The surface
water will then be comingled with groundwater for use
throughout the two cities.
With a low rumble from a large pipe, water began flowing into a
dirt basin at 25th Street West and Elizabeth Lake Road Thursday
morning, christening the Upper Amargosa Creek Recharge Project
and marking the debut of a new water storage endeavor in the
Valley. Inside the basin, water flowed from holes in a round
structure to begin flooding the bottom, where it will begin to
percolate through the soil to the aquifer beneath.
Calling it a move to resolve a dispute between agencies that
could endanger local groundwater management efforts, the Board
of Supervisors agreed Wednesday to form a groundwater
sustainability agency for the Cemex sand mining plant site.
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
Dr. Michael Kiparsky is the founding director of the Wheeler
Water Institute within the Center for Law, Energy, and
Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law. In this
presentation from the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Dr.
Kiparsky discussed a pilot project in the Pajaro Valley
designed to incentivize private landowners to do groundwater
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would
require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing
toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to
place stronger regulations on the chemicals.
Environmentalists who had high hopes Gavin Newsom would lead
the way to sustainable water use in the San Joaquin Valley are
waking up to the knowledge that the new governor isn’t going to
be any more effective than the old governor. Sustainability is
just too big a lift.
There are two things already baked into the desert’s cake
guaranteed to inject a bit of what ails the rest of the state —
the full flowering of the regulatory scheme mandated by the
state’s 2014 Groundwater Sustainability Act and reductions in
Colorado River allocations made necessary by a drying Colorado
River Basin that is already badly over allocated.
Net groundwater pumping peaked in 1968 at 86,000 acre-feet and
started to go down in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s, according to
the state’s 2018 groundwater pumpage inventory for the aquifer.
Thanks to the water authority’s efforts to reduce pumping, only
10% of the water used in the valley now comes from groundwater,
while the rest comes from Lake Mead, Mack said.
The recommended fee hike would have elevated the rate from a
monthly $30 per-acre foot pumped to $75/acre-foot, according to
IWVGA acting general manager Don Zdeba. It would turn the
tables on the IWVGA ending 2020 fiscal year with $465,000 in
the red to ending in the positive by $209,000.
Farmers are worried… Some feel angry, even betrayed by
lawmakers and the environmental groups that have pressured them
into what they see as ever-tightening regulations on the ag
industry. While many disagree with SGMA, most do acknowledge
that California’s unrestricted groundwater use has been
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.
Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for
many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to
develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is
accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big
farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign
agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped
up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
I assumed the different local water agencies were in regular
contact with their customers about important issues like
groundwater and that they would be happy to take advantage of
the opportunity to educate the public about what was happening
with SGMA. I learned that that was not the case. This is not a
subject that engages people who don’t already have some reason
to be concerned about it.
In my current research, I have been studying the implementation
of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known
as SGMA, in California. SGMA is one of the world’s
largest-scale policy experiments on collective action to manage
natural resources. At the same time, pervasively disparate
access to water resources in the Central Valley made SGMA the
perfect case study to test some of the power asymmetry theories
I have been working on with my colleagues.
The 20-year groundwater plan, required by state law, aims to
bring the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin back into balance.
Between 1981 and 2011, the 684-square-mile aquifer serving 29
percent of San Luis Obispo County residents and 40 percent of
its agriculture lost 369,000 acre-feet of water.
California is by far the United States’ most populous state, as
well as its largest agricultural producer. Increasingly, it is
also one of the country’s most parched places. But Edgar Terry,
a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura County, just outside Los
Angeles, thinks he has a key to reversing worsening water
stress: establishing tradeable rights to shares of
fast-depleting groundwater aquifers.
Back in 2016, California Water Service Co. took two of its
groundwater wells in Chico out of service after tests showed
they were contaminated with toxic flourinated chemicals known
as PFAS—or per- and polyfluoralkyl substances—that have been
linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. The move was
For three years, residents of the unincorporated San Bernardino
County desert town have used twice-a-month shipments of bottled
water because local wells were no longer meeting state
standards for drinking water. … That changed in September,
when work finished on a new pipeline that pulls clean water
from a well 4 miles away in Yucca Valley.
By practicing careful and sustainable water management
practices, the tribe has cultivated wild plants, including
taboose, nahavita, as well as fruit trees and other vegetables.
… However, starting in the mid-1800s with the arrival of
European settlers making a claim to water rights in the Owens
Valley, this once-lush area was transformed dramatically into a
virtual desert in just decades.
It wasn’t easy for water officials tasked with hammering out a
plan to manage the Santa Clarita Valley’s groundwater to find
seven people to serve as the agency’s advisory group, but on
Monday, they approved a list of double the number they sought.
At the November meeting of the California Water Commission,
Taryn Ravazzini, DWR Deputy Director for Statewide Groundwater
Management, updated the Commission on DWR’s recent activities
and milestones related to SGMA.
It will be two years in December that the city of Chino Hills
shut down its wells because of a new contamination level set by
the state for the chemical 1,2,3-TCP (TCP) and it could take
another three years before a filtration system can be built to
treat the chemical and put the wells back in service, according
to public works officials.
The complaint filed in court on Nov. 19 asks the court to
“impose a ‘physical solution’ amongst nine groundwater users in
the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin (“Basin”) to preserve
and protect the Basin’s water supply, the investment-backed
expectations of agriculture, and the economy that is dependent
upon that supply.”
A district that recharges renewable water supplies to allow new
housing development brings in about $13.4 billion a year in
economic benefits, says a study written for a homebuilders’
group. … The report goes against the grain of
recommendations made over the years by academics,
environmentalists and others to limit enrollment of new
subdivisions in the district, saying that could cause a major
economic setback for the state.
City officials gathered Thursday afternoon in Lemoore to break
ground on construction of a new groundwater treatment plant
project. … The City obtains all of its drinking water from
local groundwater resources that are challenged by
naturally-occurring water quality issues. These issues include
elevated levels of arsenic, iron, ammonia, total organic carbon
The study demonstrated the following: big legislative reforms
in water management in these three areas have always come about
as a consequence of important droughts. … One of the main
differences lies in how water ownership is managed and how the
market is regulated in this field.
California has told Napa County to form a local groundwater
agency to ensure the underground reservoir that nurtures
world-famous wine country is being kept in good shape. The
county submitted more than 1,000 pages of documents to try to
avoid that outcome.
By forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we will be
taking a step towards improved groundwater management in the
Carpinteria Groundwater Basin… Through the development of a
Climate Action Plan, we can examine ways to reduce our
greenhouse gas production and prepare our water system to adapt
to a changing environment.
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
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
Sarah Heard is Director of Conservation Economics & Finance
with the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy… At the
Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, Ms. Heard gave this presentation on the Fox Canyon
Groundwater Market in Ventura County, the first groundwater
market since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
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
Lew Stringer is leading a tour of the massive renovation
of the entire watershed on the Presidio’s waterfront. The
next string of pearls to be unearthed is Quartermaster Reach, a
7-acre salt marsh on the south side of Mason Street. … The
$118 million park project, opening in late Spring of 2020, is
part of a wetlands restoration movement across the Bay Area
that will benefit all species – including us – facing the
uncertain future of climate change.
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…
Nevada’s director of the Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources said Nevada has already reached the point of
“critical mass” or the breaking point when it comes to the
problem of water scarcity. … “We are up against that much
strain in our water resources across the state,” Director Brad
When the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority technical
and policy advisory committees reviewed a draft sustainability
plan, it left many with questions and criticisms. The plan may
also leave uncertainty for the valley’s agricultural industry.
They face the brunt of the plan’s water sustainability
requirements when the plan is implemented…
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
The Coachella Valley Water District on Monday approved taking
on outside financing for what is believed to be the first time
in its 101-year history for a $40 million pipeline to bring
more Colorado River water to the region’s farmers, freeing up
valuable groundwater for other uses.
Groundwater in Tulare County, especially in Porterville, has
been a hot topic of discussion for quite sometime. As
groundwater levels have begun to subside, a viable and woking
plan to maintain the groundwater has been state mandated, and
the implementation of this plan is set to be put in action by
January 31, 2020. But what exactly is the plan, and who is at
Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel will
retire Dec. 7, leaving a very large and important hole to fill.
The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water
Project and pays 25 percent of the bill for that massive
endeavor, giving it a very big voice on most water issues.
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
At issue in the proposal posted yesterday by the EPA is the
threshold level of atrazine, the second most widely used
herbicide in the U.S. Manufactured by Syngenta, atrazine is
primarily used in agriculture as a weedkiller on crops. It is
not authorized for use in the European Union, as the body said
there wasn’t enough data to prove it wouldn’t have a harmful
effect on groundwater.
Since 2009, the water level has dropped 7.3 feet a year in one
of two SaddleBrooke Ranch wells and 1.7 feet a year in the
other, says the Arizona Water Co., a private utility serving
the development. This is one of many suburban developments
surrounding Tucson where underground water tables are falling
and are likely to fall much farther over the next century,
state records show.
City Council members – sitting as the directors of the
Vacaville Groundwater Sustainability Agency – approved a
collaboration agreement Tuesday with the other sustainability
agencies in the Solano Subbasin in order to keep the
groundwater grant funding flowing.
This article will provide readers with a background on why the
2014 SGMA legislation was passed, and what the implications are
for J.G. Boswell which has both surface and groundwater rights
The streamlined permitting process is an important component of
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, as it
may assist Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in more
efficiently obtaining the necessary water rights to divert and
recharge water during high flow events.
The district’s decades-long election drought occurred as a
result of an insufficient number of candidates to require
elections. … Changes in the district’s operations led to a
greater number of candidates for the recent election. The
district’s biggest issue is implementing the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act …
The Arizona Department of Water Resources is working on
revising a model based on outdated assumptions and incomplete
data that have perpetuated the myth that Pinal County is facing
a water shortage. In fact, Pinal County has plenty of water for
today, tomorrow and 100 years from now.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
With roughly two and a half months remaining before a
state-mandated deadline, local agencies overseeing critically
overdrafted groundwater basins are working to finalize
sustainability plans as required by a 2014 state law.
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
In this episode, we explore a carcinogen called 1,2,3
Tetracholorpropane, which ended up in the water below
California’s Central Valley. … We also hear from John Hadder
and Dr. Glenn Miller, with Great Basin Resource Watch, about
how some of the groundwater in Nevada became contaminated due
to mining operations near Yerington.
Kern County is seeing a drop in agricultural property value.
The water crisis plaguing the state is also affecting the value
of farms here in Kern County. Michael Ming, Lead Appraiser for
Alliance Ag Services, said groundwater sustainability efforts
have proven to be a big challenge.
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
The revamped and expanded plant is expected to be operational
in spring 2021 and will do so with a new name — The Rosamond
CSD Water Reclamation Plant — to better describe its ultimate
purpose. In addition to handling the community’s wastewater
disposal, the plant will recharge the underlying groundwater
basin, providing additional groundwater for the District to
Flood-MAR is recognized as an emerging water management
strategy that can provide broad benefits for Californians and
the ecosystems of the state, including water supply
reliability, flood risk reduction, drought preparedness,
aquifer replenishment, water quality improvement, and climate
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
The Goshute, Ely and Duckwater Shoshone tribes all consider the
site, known as the swamp cedars, sacred and believe the trees
are threatened by a proposal to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas.
… Tribal members are pushing for greater recognition of
the site in order to strengthen their case against Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s proposal to pipe groundwater
from the area to Las Vegas.
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
The study of whether it makes sense to build a pipe to carry
water from Paradise to Chico has died, at least for now. …
The idea was that Cal Water’s Chico Division would buy Paradise
Irrigation District water, and reduce its total dependence on
wells. … The pipe would also provide a buyer for PID water,
something the district needs to survive. Most of its customers
were burned out by the Camp Fire.
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.
The county of San Luis Obispo announced plans to map the Paso
Robles Groundwater Basin. … People who live in Creston,
Shandon, and Whitely Gardens may see a low flying helicopter
towing a large hexagonal frame when work begins.
To authors of a new, highly critical study, Arizona’s system of
groundwater management encourages urban sprawl. But to an
official and lobbyist for a homebuilders group, the system
encourages construction of affordable housing.
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.
Babbitt spoke at a conference of county supervisors from across
Arizona Tuesday, calling for new legislation that would give
county officials the authority to manage groundwater. He said
while the 1980 law has had “a lot of success” in managing
groundwater in urban areas from Phoenix to Tucson, its main
flaw has been leaving groundwater pumping unregulated in rural
parts of the state.
Even a little forest management significantly increases water
runoff in the Central Sierra Nevada and other semi-arid
regions, while drier forests need more extensive treatments,
according to a new study published recently in the journal
In order to keep up with the state’s underground water recharge
laws, sooner or later, local water rates will likely need to
increase. That was the message local water management officials
gave in a joint presentation at the Oct. 21 Selma City Council.
Drinking water wells in two areas of San Luis Obispo County are
contaminated with potentially toxic “forever chemicals,”
according to recently released results of state water testing.
The local testing found that 15 wells in San Luis Obispo and
Atascadero had levels high enough to require notification to
water system governing boards.
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
A tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
EDF created an online story map … to provide a more holistic
view of groundwater supplies and challenges in the seven-state
Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, New
Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming), drawing from recent
research. Here are four key highlights from the story map that
demonstrate the importance of groundwater and the challenges of
groundwater management in the arid West:
Adam Livingston is the Director of Planning and Policy at the
Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT). … Clean Water Action’s
Communication’s Manager, Nina Foushee, interviewed Adam about
the role of land trusts in sustainable groundwater management.
Results from the first phase of sampling drinking water supply
wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were
recently published by the California State Water Resources
Control Board (State Water Board) and show reportable levels at
approximately 190 or 35% of the 570 wells tested.
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
The East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Water Agency is racing
the clock when it comes to meeting the state’s requirements by
next year but the message is this: Those who use groundwater
will have to prepare for the possibility of pumping 10 percent
less than they have in the past, beginning as soon as next
Dismal grades for polluted groundwater and water bodies like
the Los Angeles River brought down the overall average grade in
the 2019 Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Environmental Report
Card for Los Angeles County on Water.
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The initiative to establish an ecosystem marketplace began in
2017 with the Noble Research Institute, which started working
on developing protocols to verify carbon sequestration and
improved water quality…
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offers attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop was held Thursday, February 20 and covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
Jim Brobeck, water policy analyst for AquAlliance, said the
Agricultural Groundwater Users of Butte County may not have the
public’s best interests in mind. The priority of farmers,
Brobeck said, is to make sure they have water in their wells,
not to protect the shallowest portion of an aquifer. Water
purveyors, he said, like to “exercise” aquifers and may well do
so to the point where the public suffers.
Under an agreement to “bank” water outside of the Santa Clarita
Valley, local water officials … and their water banking
partners, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District and Irvine
Ranch Water District, opened six new groundwater wells and a
conveyance system to the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County.
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
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.
A diverse roster of top
policymakers and water experts are on the
agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year
of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations
reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to
improve water management and policy in the face of natural
Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can
let you know when spaces open via cancellations.
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
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.
The Ventura City Council approved a $200 million-plus plan
Monday that will give the city more drinking water and greatly
reduce the treated wastewater its sewer plant releases into the
Santa Clara River estuary. The big-ticket item in the city’s
plan is a new plant that will take wastewater that once went
into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards…
Groundwater management plans have been released for public
review by both the Salinas Valley and City of Marina
groundwater sustainability agencies … with no agreement
between the two agencies in place and California American
Water’s desalination project at the center of a dispute.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in
California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new
state testing has found. … State officials released the water
quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to
be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination
and pinpoint its sources.
Arizona’s top water official presented new long-term
projections Friday showing that Pinal County doesn’t have
enough groundwater to provide for the fast-growing area’s
cities, farms and many planned subdivisions over the coming
A provider of drinking water in Sacramento County is seeking
reimbursement from the U.S. Air Force for a filtration system
it installed to take contaminants out of groundwater near the
former Mather Air Force Base.
Kings County’s groundwater management will begin a 20-year
transformation in 2020. Five local groundwater agencies
presented more information behind the groundwater
sustainability plan in a public outreach meeting Thursday
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.
While many hail the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act as a
success in state legislation and others say the law represents
government overreach, most seem to agree: It could change
agriculture and the economy in the San Joaquin Valley in a very
big way. In this interview, we talk about the nuts and bolts of
SGMA with Stephanie Anagnoson, Director of Water and Natural
Resources with Madera County.
The court denied the petitioner’s challenge, which questioned
the validity of the county’s Environmental Impact Report,
according to the Statement of Decision. Crystal Geyser
purchased the former Coca Cola water bottling facility on Ski
Village Drive in 2013 with hopes of bottle sparkling spring
water and eventually producing Juice Squeeze drinks there.
The number of wildfires burning across the western United
States over the past 6 decades has been steadily increasing,
and those fires are growing larger and more severe, especially
in mountain areas where more than 65% of clean water resources
for the West’s 75 million people originate. What happens when
fires intersect water resources is the subject of two new
papers in Hydrological Processes.
Conditions tipped from bleak into officially alarming in
late August when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced that the water residents drink, cook with and bathe
in had been contaminated with arsenic at 10 times the allowable
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
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
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the
No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year
drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s
recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western
end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their
farming or let fields go fallow.
Whenever I visit my hometown of Orange County, California, I
get to sip some of the purest drinking water in the US. The
quality is sometimes hard to spot, since many drinking-water
contaminants are odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the
human eye. Even in cities where the water is contaminated with
lead, residents have reported that their taps are crystal
clear. But in Orange County, the water is actually as clean as
As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have
been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. … We are
now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource,
unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater
resources for both the next decade and future generations.
The spread of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) through the
water system could put public safety at-risk. Researchers
studied and compared samples from an advanced groundwater
treatment facility in California and groundwater aquifers…
They found that the advanced groundwater treatment facility
reduced nearly all targeted ARGs to below detection limits, but
groundwater samples had a ubiquitous presence of ARGs …
Here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by
several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability
agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture. So
rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed…
Based on the most detailed data they have available, the East
Kaweah has a supply of 125,000 acre feet per year of ground
water available for use without threatening overdraft. However,
Hagman notes that the East Kaweah has overdrafted their portion
of the basin by 28,000 acre feet on average, per year.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing
groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall
as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical
to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to
energy production. … In watersheds such as California’s
Central Valley, the Midwestern U.S.’s high plains, the Upper
Ganges and the Indus in South Asia, groundwater is already
The Antelope Valley Watermaster gave preliminary approval to
the first two water storage agreements to come before the Board
tasked with overseeing the 2015 court settlement that set
limits on groundwater pumping for users across the Valley.
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
California’s most recent drought lasted many long, parched
years… There was plenty of suffering to go around, but some
vineyards fared less terribly than others—historic parcels east
of San Francisco, in Contra Costa County, for example. Planted
at the turn of the last century by Italian, Portuguese, and
Spanish immigrants, they rely on a technique called dry farming
rather than irrigation.
California experienced one of the
most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018,
with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban
interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close
proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt
devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts
to water infrastructure and supplies.
One panel at our 2019 Water
Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers
from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires:
The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in
Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern
California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their
experiences and what lessons they learned.
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
The project, called the Upper Salinas River Basin Conjunctive
Use Project, captures existing wastewater flows generated
within the eastside of the District and will return these flows
back to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. The
wastewater undergoes treatment and is then discharged into the
river alluvium that contains the Salinas River underflow
providing subsequent conveyance to district wells…
The river is carrying year-round flows down a stretch on the
Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier District that until recently
was dry for more than 70 years except after big rains. And
here, unlike through downtown Tucson, the water is once again
coming up from the aquifer naturally — not being added
artificially through effluent.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority rolled out
concepts for an administrative structure that could eventually
cement the new agency as an independent entity — should money
ever be found to fund them.
When the Coachella Valley became a hub of tourism in the 20th
century, spas and resorts were built around springs, whose
unusually lithium-rich waters were touted as therapeutic. There
are more than 20 such establishments in the 30 square miles
that make up Desert Hot Springs, one of which is the
recently-refreshed Two Bunch Palms resort.
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.
Over the last five years, more than 250 groundwater
sustainability agencies have formed to manage groundwater at
the local level and dozens of groundwater sustainability plans
are in progress. … So what do we still need to make the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act a success?
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
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.
Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about
to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink
agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of
acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other
non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change,
meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
Starting next January, the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act will require farmers to gradually rein in the amount of
groundwater they pump from their wells. It could devastate the
economy of the entire San Joaquin Valley. In a region where
agriculture is king — and the ability to extract the water
beneath one’s soil has been practically a birthright — a
difficult reckoning is coming.
A group of policymakers planning for the long-term water supply
sustainability of Santa Cruz County’s mid-county region are in
their final leg of a multi-year process. … The mid-county
region, dependent on rainwater-refreshed underground aquifers
supplying customers from 41st Avenue to La Selva Beach, has
been drawing more water than is naturally replenished since the
Santa Clara County has 23 active Superfund sites, more than any
other county in the United States. … The sites came to the
attention of the EPA after groundwater testing in the area
revealed that toxic chemicals—notably, a solvent called
trichloroethylene—were present, possibly from leaking pipes or
underground storage tanks.
Total and per-capita water use in Southern Nevada has declined
over the last decade, even as the region’s population has
increased by 14%. But water use among the biggest water users —
some of the valley’s wealthiest, most prominent residents — has
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
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
The 2020 Water Summit, our annual premier event, will be held Sept. 24 at the Westin Sacramento. This popular event will feature key policymakers, stakeholders and experts providing the latest information and viewpoints on issues impacting water across California and the West.
The Westin Sacramento
4800 Riverside Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95822
There is not enough water to support important wetlands and
springs in a semi-arid desert ecosystem that straddles the
Nevada-Utah border if all permitted and proposed groundwater
rights are put to use, according to a U.S. Geological Survey
study of the Snake Valley. There also may not be enough
groundwater to satisfy the desires of the Las Vegas area, whose
water agencies have eyed the valley for decades…
Recent years have brought severe droughts that have forced
farmers to become more efficient with water use. With nearby
Silicon Valley teeming with the promise of efficiency and
data-fueled intelligence, a natural relationship between
technology and agriculture has developed.
Every degree of warming is expected to worsen what, in many
ways, is already a crisis for the state’s multibillion-dollar
agricultural industry. And a crisis here is a problem
everywhere, given that California produces 50% of the nation’s
fruits and vegetables and 90% of its nut crops.
The Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency … discussed
reasons why the area will reduce pumping in the future to meet
its sustainability goals as it moves toward 2040. Cities can
expect considerable pumping fee increases per acre-feet of
water and can have far-reaching effects on the local economy.
The state’s moves open up more opportunities for extension of
drinking water service, operations and maintenance for domestic
wells, and even demands action for Salton Sea conservation. The
myriad issues east valley residents face are exacerbated by the
public health impacts of the receding Salton Sea.
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.
The groundbreaking ceremony was decades in the making for the
North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Plant, which aims to
convert brackish water from the Calleguas Creek watershed into
potable water for the city of Camarillo.
Commodity prices across some crops, record cotton yields and
ample water supplies combined to catapult Fresno County’s gross
crop value to a record $7.88 billion in 2018, eclipsing last
year’s figure by over 12 percent, and besting the previous
record by nearly as much.
If we don’t manage groundwater pumping, levels of groundwater
as well as rivers and streams will decline, compromising the
wildlife, farms and cities that depend on them. By managing our
groundwater with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, we
are plugging leaks in the system.
Fresno County farmers and ranchers shattered the yearly record
for the value of what they produced by nearly a billion dollars
in 2018. Despite below-average surface water supplies, their
crops and livestock totaled $7.888 billion last year, according
to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s annual report
On Thursday, the Trump administration plans to scrap the
Obama-era definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United
States” under the Clean Water Act, returning the country to
standards put in place in 1986. … EPA Administrator Andrew
Wheeler said the administration will finalize a new definition
for which water bodies deserve federal protection within a
matter of months…
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
Although its target was narrow — it was designed to undercut
the capacity of Cadiz, Inc. to pump annually upwards of 16
billion gallons of groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County
and sell it to ever-thirsty Southern California — the
legislation may prove to be far-reaching in its consequences.
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.
With a key deadline for the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the
featured panels at our Oct.
Summit will focus on how regions around California
are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on
innovative ways to fill aquifers.
The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year
of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California
water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for
groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and
More than $670 million in water projects … are options under
a draft plan for helping get the Salinas Valley Basin to
sustainability by 2040. A draft Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability plan includes 13 projects ranging
from Salinas River invasive species eradication … to a
seawater intrusion barrier using a series of wells to head off
saltwater contamination …
Valley farmers and water districts will be facing a new reality
of pumping less water and are worried about the land that will
be taken out of crop production. But the water and agriculture
industries are drafting a large-scale plan to fill the gap with
more dams and water deliveries from the Delta. Vic Bedoian
reports from Fresno.
The Friant-Kern Canal, which delivers water to farms and
communities on the east side of the Valley, is literally
sinking in some areas due to groundwater pumping. And with one
week to go before the California legislature wraps up its 2019
session, many hope the state will help fund the canal’s repair.