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.
Dated Feb. 20, 2019, and addressed to the Indian Wells Valley
Ground Water Authority Board of Directors, the letter states
that it is intended as a formal communication that “Commander
Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW), in consultation with U.S. Navy
commands located within the Indian Wells Valley, deems
groundwater resources as the number one encroachment
concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions
enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.”
With stepped-up stormwater capture programs, the Pacific
Institute said in a 2014 study, Southern California and the Bay
Area could boost the state’s water supply by 420,000 acre-feet
annually. That’s enough water to meet the needs of
After concluding Greka Energy improperly stored hazardous waste
at its facility near Santa Maria, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the company to conduct
sampling to determine whether its operations resulted in
contaminated local soil and groundwater.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of
the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were
enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new
governor had their backs. But water policy in California is
never that easy.
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s
because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints
on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need
in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local
Since 2006, California has been releasing periodic reports on
how the state should adapt to the potential impacts of climate
change. The most recent report is unique in that it also looks
at key climate risks from a regional perspective. Our news
director Alice Daniel recently spoke with Joshua Viers, a
watershed scientist at UC Merced and one of the authors of the
San Joaquin Valley assessment.
Although ending groundwater overdraft will bring long-term
benefits, it entails near-term costs. We find that only about a
quarter of the Valley’s groundwater deficit can be filled with
new supplies at prices farmers can afford. The rest must come
from managing demand. We estimate that ending the overdraft
will require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated
cropland out of production.
One week after an atmospheric river storm pounded Northern
California, causing flooding, mudslides and traffic headaches,
another one appears to be forming in the Pacific and is set to
arrive early next week. Computer models show the storm
hitting Monday or Tuesday, with the North Bay and parts of
California farther north taking the brunt, although that could
change, experts say.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Assemblywoman Laura
Friedman, D-Glendale last week introduced SB 307, which seeks
to ensure “that any future water transfers from groundwater
basins underlying desert lands do not adversely affect the
California desert’s natural or cultural resources,” according
to a bill fact sheet.
The Pismo Beach City Council wants to build a $28 million
facility that will purify Pismo Beach and South San Luis Obispo
County Sanitation District wastewater and inject it into the
Santa Maria groundwater basin. If completed, it will prevent
salt water from seeping into one of South County’s water
sources and provide more water to South County residents.
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in
Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the
top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts
on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and
find out what the next generation of integrated water
management planning looks like.
In another sign Southern California is having its wettest
winter in years, Mystic Lake has risen again in the rural,
agricultural valley between Moreno Valley and San Jacinto. The
ephemeral body of water was largely absent the past decade
February storms have almost eliminated drought conditions from
California. The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that
just over 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level
of dryness. Just under 30 percent is classified as abnormally
dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or
The city currently has six groundwater pumping stations that
were used during the drought. But the stations have the ability
to pump water back into the aquifer as well. The Folsom Dam
currently has three gates open to release enough water so it
has room to capture flood water. Roseville Utility officials
say it’s just the right time to do a larger scale test of its
water injection strategy.
At our current rate of climate change, many cities in western
Oregon could come to feel a lot like the Central Valley of
California over the next 60 years. A new
analysis looking at climate projections for urban areas
across the United States and Canada predict substantial changes
in local temperatures and precipitation rates for
Recent rains allowed surface water in the Mojave River to flow
through the city for the first time in eight years, signaling
good news for recharge in regional aquifers, according to
Mojave Water Agency officials.
Southern California has been emerging from its most recent
drought cycle thanks to one of the wettest winters the
long-parched southern half of the Golden State has experienced
in years — 18 trillion gallons of rain have fallen in February
alone. … But don’t expect these storms to come to the
rescue when — not if — more intense droughts return to the
We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry
events in California—and of rapid transitions between the
two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas
concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented
precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s
existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that
would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water
rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said
would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought
contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to
sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000
acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
Under the fee structure, there are two types of water use:
agricultural and “all others.” Ag users will be assessed a
$4.79/acre fee and other users will be assessed $2.26 per
service connection. (Ag accounts for more than 90 percent of
the pumping from the basin.) The new fees are part of
California’s effort to regulate groundwater, which has
historically been treated as a “pump as you please” resource,
not subject to the same restrictions as surface water, like the
Carmel River that largely supplies the Monterey Peninsula.
The majority of L.A. County water systems serve fewer than
10,000 customers. Taken together, small water systems reach
more than 250,000 L.A. County residents. As my co-authors and I
detail in a new UCLA Law report, the two greatest challenges
these systems face are contaminated groundwater sources and
underfunding. Across L.A. County, more than 900,000
people depend on groundwater that has been contaminated by
industrial pollutants, agricultural products, or naturally
occurring elements before it is treated.
A letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein could have helped
lead to Felicia Marcus’s ouster as State Water Resources
Control Board chair last week. Surprised? Don’t be: The
moderate Democratic senator has a long alliance with Central
Environmental groups, states, industry and conservatives are
watching the case closely, as its outcome could clarify or
narrow EPA’s historical interpretation of the types of
pollution discharges covered by the Clean Water Act. “This is
the most significant environmental law case in the last few
years,” said Beveridge & Diamond PC attorney John Cruden,
former head of the Justice Department’s environment division.
It’s shaping up as a wetter-than-usual winter in California,
putting to rest fears of another drought hitting anytime soon.
Depending on where you live, though, you will still likely face
some limitations on how much you can water your lawn this
When growth skyrocketed in Phoenix and the East Valley
during the 1990s and 2000s, housing developments started
replacing decades-old farms. Now, it’s the west side’s turn. In
2000, Maricopa County had 510 square miles of agricultural land
and 180 square miles of residential land west of Interstate 17.
By 2017, farmland had dropped to 350 square miles while
agricultural residential land grew to cover 280 square miles,
according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.
Newsom has embraced an idea that has previously failed to gain
traction in Sacramento: new taxes totaling as much as $140
million a year for a clean drinking water initiative. Much of
it would be spent on short- and long-term solutions for
low-income communities without the means to finance operations
and maintenance for their water systems. … But the money
to change that — what’s being called a “water tax” in state
Capitol circles — is where the politics get complicated.
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against
water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable,
and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance
involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and
adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public
servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her
tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we
owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that
A controversial oilfield wastewater disposal operation east of
Bakersfield has been shut down amid a years-long regulatory
crackdown and opposition by environmental activist
organizations. The Jan. 3 closure … puts an end to a
practice regional water quality regulators say threatened to
foul Bakersfield’s water supply through a slow process of
Salinas Valley farmers would cover the bulk of administrative
costs for a state-mandated groundwater sustainability agency
charged with balancing use and recharge in the agriculture-rich
region under a proposal to be considered Thursday. Farmers
would pay about 90 percent of the Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability agency’s proposed $1.2 million
annual budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year or about $1.08
million through a $4.79 per acre annual “regulatory” fee under
the proposal, while public water system customers would
contribute about $120,000 per year through a $2.26 annual fee.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will
test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert
aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping
restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no
regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under
these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on
wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility
that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern
of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades
ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
An atmospheric river storm that walloped the Bay Area on
Thursday, causing traffic snarls, flood scares and at least one
major mudslide that wrecked homes and cars, has finally left
Northern California. … The biggest storm of the winter
so far also delivered something quite valuable: a boost to the
Sierra Nevada snowpack to 102 percent of its historical
average for April 1. In other words, California already
has the equivalent of an average winter’s snow supply, with six
weeks still left to go in this year’s winter rain and snow
Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
announced that El Niño — the periodic warming of the tropical
Pacific Ocean, with weather consequences worldwide — has
officially arrived. El Niño typically peaks between October and
March, so it’s pretty late in the season for a new one to form.
This year’s El Niño is expected to remain relatively weak, but
that doesn’t mean this one won’t be felt — in fact, its
cascading consequences already in motion.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed his first bill, which will provide
$131.3 million in immediate relief from the state’s general
fund for emergencies such as a lack of clean drinking water,
while surrounded by children at a Parlier elementary school –
all of whom must drink from water bottles due to unsafe
Congressman Kevin McCarthy led his California colleagues in
sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting a
substantial initial water supply allocation to Central Valley
Project contractors using authorities under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
Additionally, he and his colleagues from California also sent a
letter to the California Department of Water Resources calling
for an increase to the existing water supply allocation to
State Water Project contractors given current hydrological
Valley Water Management Company, a non-profit company that
disposes of wastewater for dozens of oil operators in
California, has halted discharges at two facilities where
environmentalists say wastewater contaminated groundwater
resources. The closure stems from a lawsuit filed by Clean
Water Action, the Center for Environmental Health, and the
grassroots group Association of Irritated Residents in 2015
Southern California gets much of its water supply from Northern
California – so what will happen if the “Big One” – a major
earthquake – cuts that supply off? KVCR’s Benjamin Purper
finds out in this report.
Assembly Bill 533 exempts any rebates, vouchers, or other
financial incentives issued by a local water agency or supplier
for expenses incurred to participate in a water efficiency or
storm water improvement program from state or corporate income
Farmers, water managers and government agencies agree:
Groundwater sustainability is critical for California. But
achieving it could bring significant changes to the state’s
agricultural landscape, according to speakers at a Sacramento
gathering of water professionals.
The hottest and driest summers in state history have occurred
within the last 20 years … Her bill, if passed, would
allocate $2 million in funding from the Office of Planning and
Research for a competitive grant program designed to develop
“specified planning tools for adapting to climate change in the
In a recent paper, Stephanie Pincetl, director of the
California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and
co-authors argue that investments made over the years to
fortify the city’s supply with additional imported water have
not solved LA’s water shortages. … The paper asserts that LA
could become water self-reliant by strategically investing in
local supplies, and offers several concrete strategies for
improving LA’s water security.
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered
farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin
Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water
Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin
Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board.
… Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water
Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus.
… Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells
contaminated with nitrates.
Climate change is fundamentally transforming the way we manage
water in the Western U.S. The recent Fourth California Climate
Change Assessment lays out the many pressures facing water
managers in California in detail. One key take-away of that
Assessment is that past climate conditions will not be a good
proxy for the state’s water future, and smarter strategies are
needed to manage California’s water.
Of the 517 groundwater basins and subbasins in California,
local agencies submitted 43 requests for basin modifications
for either scientific or jurisdictional reasons. … In the
draft decision, DWR approved 33, denied seven, and partially
approved three modification requests.
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm is expected to pummel
Northern California starting Tuesday night and deliver heavy
rain, gusty winds, downed trees, power outages and rough
driving conditions Wednesday and Thursday. … The storm
should bring up to 5 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada,
forecasters said. The National Weather Service announced
flash-flood and high-wind warnings for the Bay Area, along with
Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
The new report, “Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and
Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed,”
explores how landscape conversion on commercial and industrial
properties can reduce water use, increase stormwater capture
and groundwater recharge, improve water quality, and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use.
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots
and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than
old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and
reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by
strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat
the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing
While unfamiliar to many consumers, dry farming is an age-old
practice that entails carefully managing soils to lock winter
rainfall into the top layers until it’s time to begin growing
crops during the spring and summer. As little as 20 inches of
rain – roughly the same amount that the Central Coast receives
each winter on average – can sustain crops in the months
without rainfall, with no need to add any extra water.
Water sustainability continues to be a complex issue and will
require young, innovative minds to tackle it. This was the
theme of the 2019 Innovators High Desert Water Summit, held
Friday at High Desert Church. Hosted by the Mojave Water
Agency, the event was titled “How Generation Z Will Save the
Future of Water in California.” About 320 students, parents,
and teachers from schools all over San Bernardino County
The problem with Felicia Marcus is that she never stopped
working for the environmental movement. Yes, she’s paid by the
state to represent all Californians as chairwoman of the State
Water Resources Control Board. Yet, she has utterly failed
in her duties to the state, treating this job as an extension
of her old one – attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
For generations, residents of the Southern California border
town of Calexico watched with trepidation as their river turned
into a cesspool, contaminated by the booming human and
industrial development on the other side of the border in
Mexico. As Washington debates spending billions to shore
up barriers along the 2,000-mile southwest border, many
residents in California’s Imperial Valley feel at least some of
that money could be spent to address the region’s public health
About 1 million Californians can’t safely drink their tap
water. Approximately 300 water systems in California
currently have contamination issues ranging from arsenic to lead
to uranium at levels that create severe health issues. It’s a
disgrace that demands immediate state action.
The Department of Water Resources reported last week that the
surface level of most of the Sacramento Valley wasn’t dropping,
which is incredibly good news. But it’s the kind of news that
most people can not appreciate.
According to the government, the proposed rule is also
consistent with the statutory authority granted by Congress,
legal precedent, and executive orders. Notably, the proposed
definition would eliminate the process of determining whether a
“significant nexus” exists between a water and a downstream
traditional navigable water.
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water,
fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including
banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita
use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when
the flow from the Colorado River ends.
The site experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it
was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and
nuclear facility, as well as other chemical and radioactive
contamination over the years. Denise Duffield, associate
director of Physicians for Social Responsibility … said
the plan calls for cleaning up only 38,000 of the 1.6 million
cubic yards of soil the Energy Department says are
contaminated and not remediating most of the contaminated
Even with the onslaught of rainy weather, the U.S. Drought
Monitor states San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County
remain in a moderate drought. On Wednesday, the UC Cooperative
Extension held a workshop in Solvang titled “Weather, Grass,
and Drought: Planning for Uncertainty.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget recently
included a drinking water tax that would cost Santa Clarita
homeowners 95 cents per month to help disadvantaged communities
clean up contaminated water sources. Santa Clarita residents
paying the tax would see their water bill increase by $11.40
per year if the proposal is approved.
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised
a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the
water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the
most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday
by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how
water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the
They are giant conveyor belts of water in the sky,
moisture-rich storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean a few
times a year to fill California’s reservoirs… But
distinguishing a good atmospheric river storm — a modest one
that can help end a drought — from a catastrophic one that can
kill people has been elusive. On Tuesday, that changed, as
scientists published the first-ever scale to rank the strength
and impact of incoming atmospheric rivers, similar to the way
hurricanes are classified.
The rain and even a bit of snow keep on
coming. Except for a 10-day dry spell at the end
of January, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a series
of drenching winter storms that have watered gardens,
fueled waterfalls, recharged reservoirs, and diminished the
possibility of the ever-dreaded drought. In fact, all of
California has been slammed with an onslaught of
unsettled weather unleashing heavy snow and rain.
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President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the
former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation
district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising
renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more
California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a
former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves
farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most
influential customers of the federal government’s Central
On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on
Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the
newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee. The
chair is the result of a long career championing environmental
protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome
The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than
two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey
that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the
Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north
of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other
surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in
California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an
extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
A new $50 million California American Water pipeline is
officially in use. According to Cal Am engineering manager
Chris Cook, the pipeline began conveying water from the Carmel
River to the Seaside basin as part of the aquifer storage
and recovery program last week, allowing the company to start
reversing the historic flow of water from northward to
southward and save money and energy in the process.
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the
Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved
extending the contract for water imported from Northern
California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the
state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project
water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water
supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of
the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping
for the Antelope Valley.
These red-state GOP governors are not taking aim at
greenhouse-gas emissions like their blue-state Republican
counterparts. Still, environmentalists should not dismiss their
momentum on water. In several states won by Trump, water,
literally a chemical bond, is also proving a bond that brings
disparate people, groups, and political parties together around
shared concerns for the Everglades, the Great Lakes, the
Colorado River, and other liquid life systems.
By this time next year, 21 critically over-drafted groundwater
basins in California must submit plans to the state’s
Department of Water Resources for how to bring their basins
back into balance. With this major deadline looming, it’s
crunch time for water managers and their consultants – some of
whom will begin releasing draft plans in the next six to eight
months seeking required public comments.
The utility company was found liable for dumping hexavalent
chromium (aka chromium-6), a carcinogen used to suppress rust
formation at the Hinkley gas compressor station, into an
unlined pond in the ’50s and ’60s. PG&E hid the crisis and
misled the community on the effects of that specific type of
chromium and its possible connection to health problems in the
town. For those remaining in Hinkley, either by choice or by
circumstance, to continue on, they need to know what’s going on
with their water.
The Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit
for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of
Americans’ tap water, two sources familiar with the forthcoming
decision told POLITICO. … The chemicals, known as PFOA
and PFOS, have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer,
hypertension and other ailments. Major chemical companies
like 3M as well as the Defense Department would face
billions of dollars in liability from aggressive efforts to
regulate and clean up the chemicals.
Go deep into one of California’s most pressing issues –
groundwater – by visiting an extensometer that
measures subsidence, an active aquifer storage and recovery
well, a recycling facility that recharges water into the ground
Water conservation in the Las Vegas Valley is imperative as the
city continues to grow. The resources provided by the Colorado
River are stretched thin, as the river is responsible for
supplying the majority of the water to Southern Nevada, six
other states—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah,
Colorado—and Mexico. Combine these existing allotments with
drought conditions that have reduced the river’s average flows
by 30 percent annually, and it’s clear that Las Vegas must be
proactive in its conservation efforts.
Droughts and floods have always tested water management, driven
water systems improvements, and helped water organizations and
users maintain focus and discipline. California’s
2012-2016 drought and the very wet 2017 water year were such
Water well owners in Sonoma County may get billed for their
annual water usage under a proposed water-conservation plan up
for discussion next week at a community meeting in Santa Rosa.
The Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is
hosting the Jan. 30 meeting to hear feedback on its proposed
“groundwater sustainability fee,” which would provide funding
to support the new agency.
This is not quite anyone’s vision of the California dream,
popularly imagined as variations based on building a safe,
secure and successful life. … Instead, Imperial County is
emblematic of life for millions of people around the state who
live under an umbrella of bad air quality or who have
contaminated soil or lack access to clean water.
The Groundwater Authority has a little over a year left to
create the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and the Indian
Wells Valley Water District is doing everything it can to
ensure that happens. The IWV Water District had its first
workshop of the year on Wednesday morning, where future plans
and goals of the water district were discussed. The main
objective was to ensure that every decision and action that the
water district makes is in tune with what the GA is trying to
The restoration site is one of three south of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last
miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small
amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to
an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been
claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through
an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites,
another source is increasingly important for restoring these
patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor:
“The judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our
property under the Constitution,” said U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Charles Evans Hughes in Elimra, New York in 1907. That
quote exemplifies the reason that five irrigation districts on
tributaries to the San Joaquin River as well as the city of San
Francisco filed lawsuits recently against the State Water
Resources Control Board. They are defending their water
Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday
debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of
the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers
and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs
back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as
well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would
provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the
valley who already obtain much of their water from the river
via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.
Water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world.
Water tables have been falling in many regions for decades,
particularly in areas with intensive agriculture. Wells are
going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a
common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly
what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent
drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water
wells to support irrigated agriculture.
One in seven Americans drink from private wells, according to
the U.S. Geological Survey. Nitrate concentrations rose
significantly in 21% of regions where USGS researchers tested
groundwater from 2002 through 2012, compared with the 13 prior
years. … “The worst-kept secret is how vulnerable
private wells are to agricultural runoff,” says David Cwiertny,
director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects
of Environmental Contamination.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley,
Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman
Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful
Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re
all working together to advance the agenda of the Central
Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very
encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump
administration put forward on water.”
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan
have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their
request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado
River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10
Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has
already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and
plenty of water to boot.
Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes will vote Saturday,
Jan. 19 on a proposed ordinance to allow for the lease of a
portion of the Tribes’ Colorado River water allocation to
outside interests. The issue of leasing Tribal water
rights has become a contentious issue among Tribal members.
Opponents claim this compromises the Tribes’ resources, while
supporters point to the economic benefits.
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks
in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect
drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy
seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that
U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State
speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the
legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for
the coming year.
With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever
shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are
looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of
the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s
proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department
of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to
sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed
bills also would appropriate $35 million and
tweak existing legislation to make the plan work.
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
Land subsidence from overpumping of San Joaquin Valley
groundwater sank portions of the Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River
to farms that help fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural
economy. A plan to fix it helped sink the $8.8 billion
Proposition 3 bond measure last November. Now San Joaquin
Valley water managers are trying to figure out another way to
restore the canal, not only to keep farmers farming, but to aid
the valley’s overtaxed groundwater aquifers. By Gary
Pitzer in Western Water.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the
Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S.
are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s
according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at
the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who
authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the
Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished
streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs
left depleted at the end of 2018.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over
$100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect
the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former
governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water
legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey
urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the
proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt
said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a
much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions
available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells.
This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley.
The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper
water wells to support irrigated agriculture. Groundwater
supplies around the world are being threatened by excessive
pumping, but drilling deeper wells is not a long-term solution.
A better solution is to manage water use and avoid excessive
declines in groundwater levels.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit
Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive
design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently,
the city partially relies on imported water to meet its
water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major
step toward water independence, supporting existing programs
designed to create a sustainable water supply
You can now register for our full slate of water tours for
2019, including a new tour along California’s Central Coast to
view a river’s restoration following a major dam removal, check
out efforts to desalt ocean water, recycle wastewater and
manage groundwater and seawater intrusion.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, if he is to successfully steer the state
into the future, has to bring to his water agenda the same
steely-eyed, reality-based drive that the two previous
governors brought to limiting carbon emissions. It is
time for the state to respond to its water challenge with the
same sense of urgency with which it adopted Assembly Bill 32,
the landmark law capping greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006.
Specific details have not yet emerged on Newsom’s plan, but
it’s expected to be similar to a rejected 2018 proposal from
state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, to tax residential customers
95 cents a month to help fund water improvements in rural
farming communities in the Central Valley and throughout the
state. It would raise about $110 million to get clean water to
what the McClatchy News Service estimated last year to be
360,000 people without such access. Others looking at the
problem see it as much worse.
A section of the museum will also be dedicated to water,
teaching visitors how much water it takes to grow
crops, how California farmers lead the world in
conservation, and how the state’s complicated water storage and
delivery system works, said Mike Wade, the executive director
of the California Farm Water Coalition. The Coalition is
the title sponsor for the exhibits and has drawn on several
farming organizations, including Farm Credit, to help build and
maintain the exhibits.
A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate PFAS
chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program,
allowing federal agencies to clean up sites contaminated
by harmful fluorinated compounds. Health officials
have said continued exposure to
certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm
human health. Studies link exposure to developmental effects on
fetuses, cancer and liver and immunity function, among other
A day after proposing a tax on drinking water, Gov. Gavin
Newsom took a “surprise” road trip to meet with Stanislaus
County residents in a community known for having unsafe wells.
Newsom and his cabinet made their first stop at the Monterey
Park Tract in Ceres, where he held a roundtable discussion with
people who for years had to use bottled water for drinking and
cooking because their community’s two wells were
long-contaminated with nitrates and arsenic.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western
snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers
presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these
predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has
declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told
the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western
U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can
see it right now.”
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
California’s failure to provide safe, affordable drinking water
to the remaining roughly 1% of residents is probably the most
solvable and affordable of California’s many difficult water
problems. There will always be isolated small systems
with vexing problems, but the number of Californians currently
without access to safe affordable drinking water is
embarrassing and irresponsibly high.
There is plenty of water on Mars, but it’s frozen, locked in
water-rich minerals, tucked away below the surface — or a
combination of those challenges, which is why we still don’t
know where it all is. That’s a problem for Rick Davis,
assistant director for science and exploration in the planetary
science division at NASA, because he is heading the agency’s
project to evaluate potential human base sites on the Red
When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm,
the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. He and
his son, Mike, manage the business, and they hope to pass it on
to the next generation of Seleys. But the farms of
Borrego Springs, like the town and its golf courses, rely
completely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer. And
it’s unclear whether farming will be able to survive in this
part of the Southern California desert west of the Salton Sea
in San Diego County.
Cloud seeding has existed for decades, and has significant
traction in other western states such as California, Idaho
and Wyoming. Colorado has only recently joined the cloud
seeding game as the state’s snowpack has declined and the
Colorado River runs dry.
Saying it will continue to protect environmentally sensitive
waterways such as wetlands in California, even if federal
protections on waters of the U.S. are limited, the State Water
Resources Control Board has unveiled a final draft on how it
plans to regulate dredge-and-fill activities in the state.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental
Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and
lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent.
It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not
in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The
paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater
could be used to recycle water. However, making these
improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100
As more people build homes in fire-prone areas, and as climate
change and other factors increase the frequency of fires, there
is a growing risk to life and property throughout the West —
and a lesser known risk to the region’s already endangered
water supply. At least 65 percent of the public water supply in
the Western U.S. comes from fire-prone areas.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath
its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off
for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over
an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte
Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with
devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that
measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
The announcement finalizes prioritization of 458 basins,
identifying 56 that are required to create groundwater
sustainability plans under the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act. For most basins, the results are a confirmation
of prioritizations established in 2015. Fifty-nine basins
remain under review with final prioritization expected in late
If you live on the West Coast, you may hear the term
“atmospheric river” thrown around. These massive, fast-moving
storm systems can transport more than 25 times the moisture as
flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River.
At issue is the proper interpretation of the law’s central
provision barring the discharge of “any pollutant to navigable
waters from any point source” without a permit. The term
navigable waters, broadly defined as “waters of the United
States,” does not generally include groundwater.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few
miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several
miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of
thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part
of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to
rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in
methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to
protect cities and towns.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s
persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert
worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s
Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource
challenges. Catch up on these stories and more in Western
Water Year in Review.
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers
and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the
American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange
ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of
climate change. This year, due to the partial federal
government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the
conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a
scoping report on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas
development on approximately 400,000 acres of BLM-administered
public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate
lands on tribal and privately held lands in Fresno, Kern,
Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and
The USDA estimates gross cash receipts for the dairy industry
to be down 9 percent from the previous year but estimates
poultry receipts to be 7 percent higher. After several years of
strong production, gross receipts for tree fruit and nuts are
expected to be slightly lower. Likewise, vegetable gross
receipts are expected to be down slightly, though consumption
Some drinking-water wells on the northeast side of Madera
are being idled or abandoned because of fluctuating water
levels and significant plumes of groundwater contamination by
the agricultural chemical DBCP, a powerful pesticide suspected
to cause sterility and cancer.
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, a panel of experts discussed emerging issues as
agencies work to develop their plans to comply with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in
California in 2014.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better,
largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in
November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel
tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce
pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to
provide interested parties the opportunity to present data,
views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes
affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
When a severe drought enveloped California a few years ago and
rivers shriveled, farmers in the Central Valley punched wells
deeper underground, seeking to tap water reserves that were
untouched by aridity on the surface. In Arizona today, as
officials finalize a multi-state plan to keep more water in a
shrinking Lake Mead, some farmers in Pinal County will
transition from imported Colorado River water to local
This 2-day, 1-night tour offers participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that
have potential applications statewide.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
The California Supreme Court will weigh in on whether
environmental review is required for each new water well
project. The issue of groundwater extraction heightened during
California’s prolonged drought.
This tour ventured through California’s Central
Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an
imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering
about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state,
the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40
percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout
Plans to boost clean energy production could have catastrophic
impacts on this resort town [Mammoth Lakes] known for
world-class ski runs and stunning scenery. At least that’s what
Pat Hayes, the area’s water manager, wants you to
think. Hayes has launched a million-dollar fight against
Ormat Technologies Inc.’s bid to double production at a nearby
PUMPING NEAR SCOTT RIVER IN SISKIYOU COUNTY SPARKS APPELLATE
CASE THAT EXTENDS PUBLIC TRUST TO SOME GROUNDWATER; EXPLORE
MAPS AND GUIDES TO LEARN MORE
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling forced Los
Angeles to reduce its take of water from Eastern Sierra creeks
that fed Mono Lake. It marked a dramatic shift in California
water law by extending the public trust doctrine to tributary
creeks that fed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even
though the creeks themselves are not. Some 35 years later,
an appellate court in Sacramento for the first time has
concluded that the same public trust doctrine used in the Mono
Lake decision also applies to groundwater feeding the navigable
Scott River in a picturesque corner of far Northern California.
Excessive groundwater pumping by San Joaquin Valley farmers has
caused a stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal to sink so much that
it has interfered with irrigation deliveries to more than
300,000 acres of cropland. A fix could come from Proposition 3,
the water bond on the November ballot, which earmarks $750
million in state taxpayer funds to repair the aqueduct and
other infrastructure damaged by land subsidence.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling forced Los
Angeles to cut back its take of water from Eastern Sierra
creeks that fed Mono Lake. Some 35 years later, an appellate
court concluded the same public trust doctrine that applied in
the Mono Lake case also applies to groundwater that feeds a
navigable river in a picturesque corner of far Northern
California. But will this latest ruling have the same impact on
California water resources as the historic Mono Lake decision?
Researchers at the University of California recently
highlighted a flaw in state law that may prohibit diverting
streamflow to recharge groundwater. The problem is that
groundwater recharge by itself is not considered a “beneficial
use” under state law, and meeting that definition is a
requirement to obtain a permit to divert water. Officials at
the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water
rights, say the reality is not so clear-cut.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned 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 got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
Hemet has filed a federal lawsuit against Dow Chemical and
Shell Oil seeking reimbursement for the cost of removing a
cancer-causing chemical from the city’s water wells. According
to its Sept. 21 suit, the contaminated wells have been tainted
by TCP, a “highly toxic substance” used until the 1980s to
fumigate soil where crops were grown.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Groundwater depletion is a big problem in parts of California.
But it is not the only groundwater problem. The state also has
many areas of polluted groundwater, and some places where
groundwater overdraft has caused the land to subside, damaging
roads, canals and other infrastructure. Near the coast, heavy
groundwater pumping has caused contamination by pulling
seawater underground from the ocean. But if you wanted to
obtain a permit from the state to manage these problems by
recharging groundwater, you could be out of luck.
Thirteen percent of Americans, some 42 million people, use a
household well for their water supply. The largest clusters of
people who use wells are not where you might expect. There are
frequent reports of dry wells in the American West, but despite
its ranch-and-frontier image, the region is the most urban in
Conflicting federal court decisions over groundwater pollution
liability have created what one law professor calls “a
spaghetti jungle” that the Supreme Court must untangle. Since
the start of the year—most recently this week—the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth circuits have issued
rulings that are at odds over the scope of the Clean Water Act
when pollution reaches federally protected waterways via
Stanislaus County will ask the state Supreme Court for a ruling
on whether environmental review is a necessary step for a new
water well. In August, a state appeals court overturned the
Stanislaus Superior Court’s decision in the Protecting Our
Water lawsuit, which sought an injunction against county well
As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds
for several new water management projects, a shift is taking
place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To
contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of
these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach
far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.
In increasingly dry conditions, cities from Australia and the
Middle East to the American Southwest are pursuing groundwater,
either as an integral piece of their future water supply or as
an emergency stopgap measure. Los Angeles, looking long-term,
aims to double the share of its water supply that comes from
groundwater by 2040 and cut reliance on distant and shrinking
sources like the Colorado River.
Monsoon storms in the desert Southwest are vital for recharging
groundwater – but it now appears likely this recharge effect
may be compromised by climate change. The major cities of the
Southwest – Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Las Vegas – currently
get most of their freshwater from the Colorado River or its
tributaries. That river, however, is experiencing its 19th
straight drought year, suggesting a new permanent dry state is
gripping the giant watershed.
California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They
must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches.
The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20
years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could
force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much
sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious
world of California water.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s suit in Kern County
Superior Court asserts the Central Valley Regional Water
Quality Control Board voted April 5 to allow the dumping to
continue indefinitely despite a staff report concluding the
practice contaminates local groundwater and makes it unsuitable
for agricultural and municipal use.
The next two days could help determine the fate of a proposal
by Cadiz Inc. to pump groundwater in the Mojave Desert and sell
it to Southern California cities. … The state Assembly
approved the measure in a 45-20 vote Wednesday
evening. But the bill could face an uphill battle in the
Senate, and the legislative session ends Friday night.
A last-minute effort to require more state oversight of a
company’s plan to pump water from underneath the Mojave Desert
passed a key committee Tuesday, advancing in the final days of
the legislative session. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry
Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor,
all urged lawmakers to pass it.
Environmentalists are mounting a last-minute bid in the final
week of the California legislative session to revive a stalled
effort to require more review for a project to pump more
groundwater from the Mojave Desert. The project by Cadiz Inc.
to sell that water to urban Southern California has been
the subject of a long-running political drama.
All along the 1,250 miles of border between Texas and Mexico,
hidden under hundreds of feet of soil and rock, lie more than a
dozen underground aquifers—areas of permeable earth that hold
water—that crisscross the national boundaries. They might be
the only sources of water the region will have left when the
Rio Grande, hit by a one-two punch of climate change and a
booming population, inevitably dries up.
When California passed its landmark groundwater law in 2014,
there was a collective “it’s about time” across the West. But
even though California may have been late in issuing a robust
groundwater management law, it does set a high bar in at least
one key area.
Land subsidence caused by
groundwater pumping has been observed in the San Joaquin Valley
for decades. Increased reliance on aquifers during the last
decade resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year
in some parts of the region.
While subsidence was minimal in 2017 due to one of the wettest
years on record, any return to dry conditions would likely set
the stage for subsidence to resume as the region relies more
heavily on groundwater than surface water.
Alice Peters Auditorium
Fresno, CA 93740
Ending a five-year moratorium, the Trump administration
Wednesday took a first step toward opening 1.6 million acres of
California public land to fracking and conventional oil
drilling, triggering alarm bells among environmentalists.
California’s new groundwater management law is not a sports
car. It moves more like a wagon train. The rules do not require
critically overdrafted aquifers to achieve “sustainability”
until 2040. But 22 years from now, once they finally get there,
lives will be transformed.
Bottled water giant Crystal Geyser has been charged by a grand
jury with 16 counts of violating environmental and hazardous
waste laws, after the jury viewed evidence that the company
improperly disposed of toxic waste, a Department of Justice
press release said.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power
plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start
construction by a key deadline this week — but a bill in
Congress could give the company another six years to start work
on the project.
Every day, millions of gallons of water flow through pipes
across the Coachella Valley and pour out to nourish lawns,
artificial lakes, farmlands and a total of 121 golf courses.
This lush oasis in the desert owes its existence to groundwater
pumped from the aquifer and an imported supply of water from
the Colorado River.
Central California is slowly collapsing under its own weight as
farmers suck out groundwater, emptying vast subterranean
aquifers and disrupting one of the state’s key water-delivery
networks. … Along 25 miles in Tulare County, the canal has
sunk so far that its carrying capacity has been cut in half,
according to the Sacramento Bee.
When Roberta Jaffe and her husband planted their small
vineyard, one factor trumped all others: groundwater. Knowing
that this isolated valley in south-central California relies on
a depleted aquifer, the couple “dry farmed” their Condor’s Hope
Ranch, using 5 percent or less of the water required by a
conventional vineyard. … So Jaffe was alarmed when
Harvard University’s endowment fund installed an 850-acre
conventional vineyard just down the road in 2014 — and drilled
Completed during Harry Truman’s presidency, the Friant-Kern
Canal has been a workhorse in California’s elaborate man-made
water-delivery network. … Until now.
… A proposition on the November ballot would
raise billions of dollars for a variety of water projects
around the state, including roughly $350 million to repair the
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal
with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that
seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is
moving toward implementation, but its authors are not who you
might expect. An unusual collaboration of agricultural
interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice
advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to
address a set of problems that have rendered family wells
undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
More than a decade in the making, an
ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and
nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of
the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its
authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water
agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for
years to find common ground to address a set of problems that
have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually
unusable for farming.
An Inland Empire water wholesaler is poised to get a boost in
state funding for its effort to create a new local water supply
that would provide ecological benefits in Northern California.
The California Water Commission has tentatively approved nearly
$207 million in Prop. 1 water bond funds for the Inland Empire
Utilities Agency’s Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental
Water Storage/Exchange Program.
California’s premier wine-growing region has been targeted for
more regulation under the state’s new groundwater law, likely
resulting in new fees and limits on water extraction for the
industry. The state Department of Water Resources declared in
May that 14 groundwater basins across the state are at risk of
overdraft, and thus should be reprioritized under the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The bottom is falling out of America’s most productive
farmland. Literally. Swaths of the San Joaquin Valley have sunk
28 feet — nearly three stories — since the 1920s, and some
areas have dropped almost 3 feet in the past two years. Blame
it on farmers’ relentless groundwater pumping.
In California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley,
excessive pumping of groundwater has resulted in subsidence,
damaging crucial infrastructure, including roads, bridges and
The many wells that nourish the farms of the Central Valley are
not only pumping so much water from the ground that the land is
sinking, they’re creating a dangerous vacuum where arsenic can
slip in, new research shows. Scientists at Stanford
University are warning if heavy groundwater pumping continues,
water supplies for dozens of communities as well as billions of
dollars of irrigated crops are at risk of contamination.
The town of Mammoth Lakes, in California’s eastern Sierra
Nevada, is generally known for two things: epic skiing in
winter, thanks to the very high elevation of its ski mountain;
and volcanic activity, because the mountain is a simmering
volcano. It’s normal to hike or ski around Mammoth and smell
the sulfurous gases venting from gurgling magma deep under the
mountain. That magma is also a rich source of geothermal power.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness
groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide
that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of
overdraft. Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often
outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California,
awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to
have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in
about 20 years.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA
scientists have tracked changes in water supplies worldwide and
they’ve found that in many places humans are dramatically
altering the global water map. … Their findings in a new
study reveal that of the 34 “hotspots” of water change in
places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds
of those areas may be linked to climate change or human
activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming
This spring in California several orchards around Solano and
nearby counties sported a new look: lush carpets of mixed
grasses growing as tall as 3ft beneath the trees’ bare
branches. By summer the scene will change as farmers grow and
harvest their nut crops, but the work of the grasses will
continue unseen. Cover cropping, an agricultural technique as
old as dirt, is taking root in California.
When a contaminated aquifer in Orange County made U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s
list of top-priority sites for “immediate, intense action,” the
local water district was quick to highlight the announcement.
But questions of political favoritism are swirling over
Pruitt’s decision in December to prioritize cleaning the Orange
County North Basin groundwater pollution plume beneath Anaheim
and Fullerton using the federal Superfund program.
The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites
Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1
funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might
receive last month. … The commission also signaled more
support for a small groundwater storage proposed by the
Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.
Spurred by drought and a major
policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented
mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the
hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to
halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater
management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in
California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of
groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and
bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery. Along the way,
an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the
extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects
its original intent.
[Arcelia] Duarte is the owner of the Duarte Mobile Home Park
near Thermal as well as one of its residents. As normal as
her family’s home may appear to visitors, the park’s
residents are faced with an issue most of California’s urban
dwellers would struggle to fathom: Their water, which comes
from a local well, is contaminated by naturally occurring
arsenic and bacteria.
Battlefronts fell along party lines at a Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee hearing yesterday about whether EPA
should regulate pollutants that make it to surface water via
groundwater. … The hearing was the first since EPA requested
public comment on whether it should regulate such pollutants
earlier this winter. The input is due by May 21.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Clear water gushes from a hole in the ground, forming Bonanza
Spring, the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert.
This rare oasis is at the center of the fight over a company’s
plan to pump groundwater and sell it to California
cities. Cadiz Inc. is proposing to pump an average of
16.3 billion gallons of water each year for 50 years.
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board members
voted Thursday to require an oil wastewater dump site operator
in McKittrick suspected of polluting nearby groundwater to
install a network of wells monitoring contamination. That falls
short of environmentalists’ demands for the board to shutter
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A company’s controversial plan to sell groundwater from the
Mojave Desert ran into new opposition as a Southern California
water district voted against the proposal. The board of the
Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District decided not
to approve a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase water from
the Cadiz Inc.’s proposed project.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.