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.
Hermosa Beach, partnering with neighboring cities, was supposed
to receive the money from the State Water Resources Control
Board to help design and build the Greenbelt Infiltration
Project … meant to help clean the Herondo Drain Watershed,
which has consistently had elevated levels of bacteria. But the
city put the funding in jeopardy in March when the council
voted to dissolve a deal with neighboring cities and instead
find a new home for the project.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
The plan calls for pumping 8 billion gallons of water in the
first few years, and more than 30 billion gallons over 50
years, from the aquifer adjacent to, and connected with, the
one beneath neighboring Joshua Tree National Park. … A better
use for the land, which ceased to be mined more than 30 years
ago, would be to return it to the fold and make it part of
Joshua Tree National Park.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
The Del Mar Mesa community in San Diego, Calif., has clean
running water. Given this fact, the sight of nearly 20 girls in
an affluent neighborhood carrying buckets of water up a ravine
was out of the ordinary, to say the least. “What we’re trying
to do is represent what African women do on a day-to-day basis:
the fact that they have to travel several miles — several hours
— to just get water,” said Emma Reeves, an 18-year-old
Sentinel Peak Resources has cleared an environmental hurdle
that could allow it to move forward with years-old plans to
increase drilling in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field — but whether
it will or not is still up in the air. The Environmental
Protection Agency granted Sentinel Peak Resources an aquifer
exemption on April 30, exempting portions of the aquifer under
the oil field from protections guaranteed by the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act.
Once again, a big thirsty metropolis is looking at buying
Central Valley farmland with an eye toward boosting its water
supplies. And once again, neighboring farmers are nervous about
it. … And any proposal involving the movement of groundwater
from a rural area creates controversy, especially as farmers
begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Earlier this month the governor’s Drought Interagency
Coordinating Group unanimously voted to inform the governor
that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should
continue. This means Arizona has been in a state of drought for
more than 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than
110 years of record keeping. Now that our drought has been
extended yet again, it leaves many to wonder what it will take
to get us out of this drought.
Because the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate
PFAS chemicals, states are left not only to research and track
them, but also to develop regulations to clean up already
dangerous levels of pollution. And, according to recent data
from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
at Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group,
the West isn’t doing a great job.
The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly
negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced
County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a
move that could create a promising new water source — or spark
a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
A presentation by the U.S. Geological Survey to California
water boards has surfaced that reveals contamination in the
groundwater around the Orcutt oilfield, the Environmental
Defense Center in Santa Barbara claims. The advocacy group
released the information on Tuesday, stating that “federal
scientists found evidence of oil-field fluids in groundwater
underlying the nearby Orcutt oil field.”
The 2019 Water Summit, our annual
premier event, was held October 30, 2019 at a new
location along the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento. Now
in its 36th year, the Water Summit featured top policymakers
and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and
viewpoints on issues impacting water across California and the
Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront
100 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
As the Colorado River’s flow declines, water supplies in seven
states are imperiled by potential shortages. That includes
Arizona, which passed legislation outlining steps it would take
if water from the river continues to decrease. But what does a
water shortage mean for Phoenix?
A public meeting erupted into an impassioned rally in San Luis
Obispo Wednesday night as activists and local residents took
turns bashing a federal plan to resume leasing public land in
Central California to new oil and gas drilling, including
Cadiz is using Three Valleys Municipal Water District in
eastern Los Angeles County and the Jurupa Community Services
District in Riverside County to co-sponsor what they’re calling
a “peer review” of its groundwater plan, written by four
It appears Solano County and Vallejo have avoided a potentially
costly state shift in the groundwater sustainability priority
for the Napa-Sonoma Lowlands. While the final decision by the
Department of Water Resources has not been made, the state
agency has for now backed off its proposal to increase the
priority status from very low to medium for the lowlands.
Precipitation in California is highly variable from year to
year, and climate change is increasing this variability. … To
address this and other challenges, the state passed Assembly
Bill (AB) 1668 and Senate Bill (SB) 606 in June 2018. Known
jointly as the Water Conservation Legislation, these bills were
drafted in response of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 executive
order to “make water conservation a California way of life.”
There are six key components…
Nevada ranchers, environmental groups and American Indian
tribes are sounding the alarm over legislation they say could
drain the water supply from rural areas throughout the state.
They’re worried about Assembly Bill 30 in the Nevada
Legislature after negotiations over arcane language in the bill
broke down in recent days.
The majority of the dozens of commenters at the meeting spoke
out against the analysis and the prospect of increased fracking
in the region, expressing concerns about air pollution,
drinking water quality, and climate change. … Tempers at the
meeting also flared for what many attendees viewed as a lack of
accountability from the BLM. The agency did not record the
meeting, instead inviting attendees to submit written comments
online, electronically, and only in English.
Slow moving plumes of potentially toxic water are sitting
underneath homes, businesses and schools throughout Arizona.
… While some cities like Phoenix do not use groundwater for
drinking water, much of the state does.
The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150
farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week,
where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water
officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the
goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions.
A firm hired by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
is already in the initial phase to find sources of imported
water for the valley, according to a progress report delivered
at a Thursday board meeting. … Capitol Core Group, retained
in March, is looking at what water supply options are available
and how to secure funding to ultimately purchase and develop
infrastructure to deliver into the valley.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County
Water Agencyand the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved
a plan to offset a fee that is likely to be imposed on
groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain… Under the plan,
the County and Sonoma Water would contribute up to $240,000
annually for three years to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater
Kern’s oil industry took a pass Tuesday on a public hearing
focused on the environmental impacts of fracking, handing the
day to dozens of anti-oil activists who convened in downtown
Bakersfield to rail against the technique and the threat of
climate change. … The event was one of three hearings the BLM
is hosting as part of its plan to reopen federal land in
California to oil production.
An abandoned iron mine on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National
Park could be repurposed as a massive hydroelectric power plant
under a bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.
… The bill could jump-start a $2.5-billion hydropower project
that critics say would harm Joshua Tree National Park, draining
desert groundwater aquifers and sapping above-ground springs
that nourish wildlife in and around the park.
As part of efforts by Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) to assess its 2014-2016 turf replacement
program during the California drought, we evaluated how yards
changed after converting a lawn through a MWD rebate in LA
County. We also evaluated trends in participation across
In 2016, California became the first state to pass legislation
regulating dairy methane, requiring the farms to cut their
manure emissions 40% by 2030. … Enter Neil Black. Black’s
company builds multimillion-dollar projects at the state’s
largest dairies to capture the gas.
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield office is set to hold
a meeting Tuesday over a White House proposal that would expand
oil drilling and fracking on more than a million acres of
public land across the state. … The proposal includes 40 new
wells over the next 10 years on roughly 400,000 acres of public
land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate — land
where the surface is owned privately, but the mineral rights
beneath the ground are managed by the federal government.
The combination of droughts and floods has given rise to a
process known as saltwater intrusion — what San Jose Mayor Sam
Liccardo refers to as his city’s greatest climate threat. …
In coastal regions like San Jose, overpumping allows seawater
to seep into the city’s aquifers, exposing local residents to
excess sodium in their drinking water. The problem is
compounded by sea level rise, which pushes seawater inland
toward the city’s filtration system.
On our August Edge of Drought Tour, we’re venturing into the
Santa Barbara area to learn about the water challenges and the
steps being taken to boost supplies. The region’s local surface
and groundwater supplies are limited, and its hydrologic
recovery often has lagged behind much of the state despite the
recent lifting of a drought emergency declaration following
this winter’s storms.
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer
There is a unique partnership happening in Arizona between
farmers, those involved in the malting process, and brewers
that is saving thousands of gallons of water from being taken
from the Verde River.
On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive
Order to promote increased oil and gas development… Then, in
April 2019, in response to the President’s order, the US Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) proposed opening up more than 1
million acres of public land in California’s Central Valley and
southern Central Coast to oil and gas production.
A bill that could block a Los Angeles-based water supply
company from pumping water out of a Mojave Desert aquifer
passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday,
extending the yearslong fight over whether the environmental
impact of groundwater extraction merits additional scrutiny.
Aidee Guzman is focusing on these small farms to find out
whether, ecologically, this diversity has any positive effects
on soil health. Her work won’t be published for another two
years, but there is already a large body of research that
explains how large monocropping operations strip soils of their
nutrients and make them less capable of storing carbon… As
she works, she is documenting a potential alternative to the
industrial mega-farms of the valley and the West.
When you hear news about ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica,
an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, or a new
explanation for a wobble in Earth’s rotation, you might not
realize that all these findings may rely on data from one
A nearly four-year investigation into how a chemical known to
cause cancer showed up in more than a dozen rural wells by the
San Luis Obispo County Airport has finally concluded with an
alleged culprit. Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control
Board investigators say that Noll Inc., a machine shop on
Thread Lane, is responsible for the trichloroethylene (TCE)
Insisting the state made a commitment, a central Arizona
lawmaker and farmers he represents are making a last-ditch
pitch for $20 million from taxpayers to drill new wells and
water delivery canals. Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said Thursday
the farmers in Pinal County agreed to give up their right to
Colorado River water to help the state come up with a plan to
deal with the drought. In exchange they were given the right to
take additional water out of the ground.
The Western-San Bernardino and Orange County judgments, signed
April 17, 1969, helped establish five watermasters and settle
water rights throughout the watershed that supplies the water
agencies within San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.
The agreements settled decades of lawsuits over water rights…
When the federal government reduced how much arsenic it would
allow in drinking water in 2006, the water system in Jim
Maciel’s Central Valley community was suddenly considered
unsafe to drink. Bringing that arsenic content back down to a
safe level required a lot of work, as he explains to a few
colleagues at a water leadership institute in Visalia.
Arizona relies on groundwater for about 40% of its water
supply, yet groundwater resources outside of the state’s
biggest urban areas are largely unprotected and unregulated…
HB 2467, a bill that passed in the Arizona House and currently
awaiting a final vote in the Senate, takes an important step
forward to address groundwater challenges in Mohave and La Paz
In the ceaseless conflict over how to use the state’s available
water — and maybe then some — a varied group of water users and
lawmakers sang a refrain older than Nevada: “Everyone is going
to court in the end.” … The ghosts of litigation — past,
present and future — loomed over the Thursday Senate Natural
Resources Committee hearing that stretched until 8 p.m. and
offered insight into why it’s so difficult to update Nevada
Like everyone else in Santa Clara Valley who uses wells,
farmers will see their groundwater production charges go up 6.8
percent this year. But unlike the others, they’ll continue to
receive substantial subsidies. In approving the increased
charges for well users, the Santa Clara Valley Water District
board left intact for at least two years the current structure
that allows farmers to pay only 6 percent of the amount
residents and businesses pay.
Over the short life of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, Owens Valley has gone from medium to high and now low
priority. That prioritization would have had an impact three
years ago. Medium and high priority basins are required to form
an agency and sustainability plan; low basins are not.
California must defend our scarce and sacred resources … The
legislation, authored by Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside,
authorizes state agencies to conduct independent review of the
Cadiz project, restoring safeguards eliminated at the federal
level and ensuring any pumping from underneath Mojave Trails
and protected desert lands is sustainable.
At the 28th California Water Policy conference held in April of
2019, a panel discussed how tribal lands and tribal
representatives, as independent nations, can be integrated into
SGMA implementation, what some of the obstacles to doing so
are, and how those hurdles might be transcended.
When asked about his priorities, California’s recently
appointed Natural Resources Secretary quickly rattles off a
range of topics: climate change; strengthening water supply
resilience; and building water capacity for communities,
agriculture, and the environment, among them.
A brackish water study conducted by consulting firm Aqualogic
has predicted three potential areas that can be tapped for
brackish water extraction in the Indian Wells Valley. … The
brackish water project has the potential to help expand local
supplies if the water is properly treated and brine removed.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at
using a “free” resource — rain water stored in the soil — and
found that optimizing its use could go a long way to help meet
demand for five California perennial crops. Their findings
appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The U.S. Geological Survey studied the land and the water and,
in 2002 … concluded that the proposed pumping would far
exceed the rate of natural refill. The National Park Service
submitted comments in 2012 stating that Cadiz’s estimates are
“3 to 16 times too high.” The Geological Survey, in 2017,
reported that there was no information to lead it to change its
2002 conclusions. … And that ought to have been the end of
The 1,700-acre off-the-grid health retreat, where clothing is
optional in the pools, went up for sale quietly last year for
$10 million. Now, the property near Williams (Colusa County) is
officially listed with Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
More than 725,000 acres of Central Coast land could be opened
up for oil and gas extraction under a new plan led by the Trump
administration. But due to local regulations — and economic
realities — Santa Cruz County land appears unlikely to be
affected even if the plan is approved.
Estimates vary, and can change as the water year progresses,
but the Kern River basin, the rivers and streams that collect
the water that flows into Isabella Lake and downstream toward
Bakersfield, is estimated to be at 172 percent of normal,
possibly more. And all that ice and snow is starting to melt,
big time. Are local water managers ready?
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
According to an engineering investigation released by the San
Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District on March 7, the
Bunker Hill Basin, which stores the groundwater used by the San
Bernardino Valley, remains 570,718 acre-feet below full water
storage following the 2017-18 water year. … The water year
brought a reported 56 percent of average annual precipitation
and 161,708 acre-feet of groundwater production.
The water that irrigates Santa Clara Valley’s last farms comes
dirt cheap for growers who pump it out of the ground. They pay
just a fraction — 6 percent — of the amount residents and
businesses in the valley must pony up for their well water. The
rest of the cost for farmers’ water is subsidized, mostly from
revenue the Santa Clara Valley Water District receives through
For rural communities in the central coast region of
California, the name “Harvard” does not connote excellence. For
these communities, where water is scarce and becoming scarcer,
it evokes greed and exploitation. As California takes its first
steps to regulate groundwater in the midst of a worsening water
crisis, Harvard’s endowment fund is investing millions into
vineyards that pump inordinate amounts of water from
California’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins.
A Q&A with Valerie Olson, assistant professor, and Emily
Brooks, post-doctoral researcher — both environmental
anthropologists at UC Irvine. They have a new project aimed at
getting a better understanding of how communities, particularly
the underserved, think about and use their water, and how the
agencies that provide water can better serve them.
A more than five-year moratorium on leasing land in California
for oil and gas development will be coming to an end with a May
9 Interior Department plan to open up about 725,000 acres
across the state’s Central Coast and the Bay Area for drilling.
The decision comes just two weeks after the Trump
administration released its plan to reopen more than 1 million
acres of public land and federal mineral estate in eight
counties in Central California to fracking.
When it rains in California, it pours. But when it doesn’t,
California’s drought years can have a devastating impact on the
state. California’s water experts are looking for ways to
better store water during rainy years like 2019 so the state
can have it during years when the rain and snow inevitably dry
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
Oil companies may have more space to build injection wells in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field if the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) approves a potential recommendation from various
state agencies. … If the EPA approves expanding the exempted
area, class 2 injection wells could be built over almost the
entire oil field boundary, according to maps prepared by DOGGR.
These wells are used to dispose of fluids associated with oil
and gas production.
It’s true that a report published late last month in the
journal Environmental Health found a link between California
tap water and cancer. The study noted high levels of arsenic,
plus numerous other contaminants that may be more toxic in
combination than they are separately. … The problem is very
serious — but not necessarily statewide.
The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a
widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain
development in babies, California officials said Wednesday. The
move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a
toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous
than previously thought.
A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California
suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past
mistakes. California’s highly variable climate has made it a
crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.
The USDA report, released Tuesday, finds that between $47
billion and $65 billion could be added to the U.S. agricultural
economy annually if infrastructure for what the report calls
“precision agriculture” — a term for farming practices that
emphasize digitally-based data collection and e-connectivity
(often via broadband) — is deployed in rural agricultural
economies on a large scale.
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
By monitoring tiny changes to the Earth’s gravitational field,
the GRACE satellites have been pinpointing the distribution of
fresh water on our planet for almost two decades. But as Marric
Stephens explains, a new follow-on mission is also helping with
plans for a space-based gravitational-wave detector
In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346
species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A
handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the
state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the
California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. … About a dozen
species are currently at risk of extinction, according to Dan
Applebee, an environmental scientist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In a formal response to the drilling proposal, a dozen
environmental organizations expressed concerns about the
effects on ground and surface water if exploration leads to an
industrial-scale mine. … Among those who have spoken against
the plan are officials at Death Valley National Park.
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of
Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained
public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that
more than 19 million people are exposed to water contaminated
with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. …
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California reports one
of the highest levels across the military, at 8 million parts
Newsom … said he would announce his administration’s detailed
strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor
was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say
if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic
fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of
high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its
operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking
off a series of events that historically has ended with a
volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions
will be used in the valley for irrigation,
enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials will visit San
Luis Obispo later this month to take public comment on a
pending federal plan to grow oil and gas production on public
lands in Central California.
There’s a need to use the available surface water from rivers,
lakes, and reservoirs so the groundwater can replenish itself.
That’s where the new Southeast Fresno Surface Water Treatment
Facility comes in. … Michael Carbajal, Director of Public
Utilities for the City of Fresno. says that before 2004, we
used 100% groundwater to meet drinking water demand. “We’re
hoping to get up over 50% meaning, 50% of our drinking water
demand through surface water,” says Carbajal.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California issued a decision … finding that the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians lacked standing to seek
adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved
groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.
A multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against Calistoga over
water rights has been dismissed on appeal. The California Court
of Appeal on April 29 rejected Debbie R. O’Gorman’s $10 million
lawsuit against the city,
With the Trump administration trudging ahead and re-writing
another Obama-era environmental law, wary California regulators
last month approved new protections for wetlands in the Golden
State. … Hoping to freeze the new wetlands rules, a coalition
consisting of several California water suppliers and the city
of San Francisco sued the water board late Wednesday in state
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center,
testified today (April 30, 2019) before the Assembly
Subcommittee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, at a hearing on
balancing water needs into the future in the San Joaquin
Valley. Here are her prepared remarks.
The full buildout recommendations were based on Southern
California Association of Governments population projections
… The plan also recommends a new 2.88 million gallon (MG)
well to increase groundwater supply for the existing system.
For the near-term plan, an additional 9.25 MG of storage is
recommended ⎯ assuming the 5.5 MG capacity for the existing
system is implemented ⎯ for a total of 14.75 MG.
The California Department of Water Resources has announced
draft basin prioritization for 57 groundwater basins recently
affected by basin boundary changes under the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. For more than 75 percent
of these basins, the results are a confirmation of
prioritizations established in 2015.
Groundwater levels throughout most of the Coachella Valley have
increased significantly over the past decade, according to an
annual analysis released today by the local water district. …
The report documents “significant increases” in groundwater
levels in the range of 2-50 feet in the past decade in
most of the Indio Subbasin, located under the cities of
Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert,
Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella…
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
One of the most frequently recurring themes of last week’s
business conference of California agricultural appraisers was
the impact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as
SGMA, is having on land values. … Another recurring theme was
the tight availability of farm employees and the rising costs
associated with those employees. One result has been the
increase in plantings of nut crops, which require fewer people
to tend and harvest.
Researchers from the environmental
advocacy group Environmental Working Group estimated
that the contaminants found in public water systems in
California could contribute to about 15,500 cancer cases there
over the course of a lifetime. These contaminants include
chemicals such as arsenic, hexavalent chromium and radioactive
elements such as uranium and radium. The study was published
Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health.
In 2017, a swarm of seismic activity occurred near California’s
Long Valley Caldera in the Mammoth Mountain area. During the
same period of seismic activity, the area had high levels of
flooding due to snowmelt. The 2016-2017 winter brought heavy
snow that created one of the largest snowpacks ever recorded in
California’s history. A record amount of snowfall occurred in
the same region this year, raising the question of whether the
same occurrence will happen in 2019.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to
develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water
needs in the face of climate change.The executive order
includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new
water course for the state. Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s
intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements
to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking
water to impoverished communities.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
As the Inland area dries out from this winter’s soaking,
residents might be tempted to crank up their lawn sprinklers,
and wash the dust off their driveways, but not so fast, water
officials say. All that rain has done little to erase the
deficits in local groundwater basins which are at historic lows
thanks to two decades of drought.
A 174-page environmental report released by the U.S. Interior
Department will expedite new extraction on roughly 1 million
acres of Central and Southern California, primarily in the
historical oil fields around Bakersfield and the deep petroleum
deposits near Santa Barbara but potentially in the Sierra
Nevada as well.
As a full Tuolumne River flowed behind them, a diverse set of
government leaders and water stakeholders gathered alongside
Congressman Josh Harder Wednesday afternoon in Modesto to unite
under one important cause: protecting water in the Central
Crystal Geyser Water Company of Calistoga has partnered with a
nonprofit watershed conservation group for the protection and
restoration of forested watersheds and natural sources of
drinking water. … The partnership has created a new
initiative, called Spring for Life, and was announced April 16.
After pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental
Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard
for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals
that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of
Americans and that have been commonly used at military bases.
Regulatory efforts to protect groundwater quality in western
Kern are forcing two of the county’s largest oil producers to
spend many millions of dollars over the next several years
moving or reworking dozens of disposal wells and other critical
The presence of groundwater contamination in Silicon Valley in
the 1980s destroyed the narrative that high-tech was a clean
alternative to the industrialization of the Northeast and
Midwest. But the central concern of residents now dealing with
the effects of contaminated drinking water was what to do next.
Local activism offered a path forward.
A spring surge of meltwater, seeping through vertically tilted
layers of rock, caused a seismic swarm near California’s Long
Valley Caldera in 2017, according to research presented at the
2019 SSA Annual Meeting. The unusual event prompted U.S.
Geological Survey researcher Emily Montgomery-Brown and her
colleagues to look back through 33 years of seismic and water
records for the region. They found that rates of shallow
seismicity were about 37 times higher during very wet periods
versus dry periods.
In Solano County, near Sacramento, [Alex] Johnson is working on
what he says could be a model for parched ag regions around the
state. … Last month, working with IBM and a company
called SweetSense, Johnson’s team began deploying simple,
solar-powered sensors, originally developed to monitor creaky
groundwater pumps in East Africa. The sensors will be used to
detect how much water is flowing in real-time. … Farmers will
use that data to trade their water on (what else?) a blockchain
Instead of waiting for Yuima Valley’s precious groundwater
supplies to dry up, the Yuima Municipal Water District and
local farmers are working cooperatively to create a sustainable
long-term strategy for maintaining the region’s economy and
quality of life by proactively managing the valley’s aquifer.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft … has
ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s
Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above
them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know
where this type of remedy will be most effective.
On April 9 after three years and two unsuccessful ballot
measures — Measure C failed by a razor-thin margin in June —
the Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved
greater protections for native woodlands from development and
buffer zones for watersheds. But the contentious path to the
Water Quality and Tree Protection ordinance vote may not be the
last word from supporters and opponents of tougher rules, from
inside and outside the wine business.
A federal judge has dismissed portions of a yearslong lawsuit
brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against
the Coachella Valley’s local water districts, ruling against
the tribe’s attempt to quantify its rights to groundwater. The
judge ruled Friday that the tribe’s access to water has not
been sufficiently harmed to adjudicate the matter.
A report from a citizen advisory committee in Desert Hot
Springs is asking lawmakers in Sacramento to “re-work” a state
law, which went into effect in 2015, that allowed the Desert
Water Agency in Palm Springs to take over management authority
of the groundwater distributed by the Mission Springs Water
District, to people living in Desert Hot Springs and
surrounding areas. John Soulliere, MSWD’s Public Affairs
Officer, says his district has been “hijacked”…
Drought isn’t the only danger to our water supply, as we have
discovered in the last few weeks. Deep under the ground, our
life-saving aquifers have been filling up from the rain. But on
the Oxnard Plain, oil drilling threatens what we’re working so
hard to protect.
Last month the U.S. Drought Monitor declared California
drought-free for the first time since 2011, thanks to a series
of winter storms. But the long-term prognosis is for more
droughts and severe weather, which will profoundly affect state
agriculture. While farmers and lawmakers are taking notice, few
see an immediate threat.
The 80 homes that make up Tooleville nestle against the mighty
Friant-Kern Canal, thousands of gallons of fresh water flowing
each day past the two-street town. But none of that water can
help Tooleville’s decades-old problem of contaminated water,
chronicled at the start of this decade in a three-part series
by The Bee on the San Joaquin Valley water crisis. Nearby
Exeter might, though, giving a rise of newfound hope.
Regulatory efforts to protect groundwater quality in western
Kern are forcing two of the county’s largest oil producers to
spend many millions of dollars over the next several years
moving or reworking dozens of disposal wells and other critical
Ten-acre Albion Riverside Park can get a lot done. The green
infrastructure built into the park can clean the stormwater
that goes through it, capture pollutants and release it into
groundwater basins. The price tag on the park is about $40
million. The new park sits on the old Downey Recreational
Center and the Swiss Dairy site, bringing new athletic fields
and more to the community.
For the first time in more than 380 weeks, the state has not
had a square foot in drought territory… But there’s a hidden
drought affecting local groundwater basins, which have not
recovered fully from the 2011-16 drought. So Rialto Mayor
Deborah Robertson is calling on residents and businesses to
take a water conservation pledge, despite mountain peaks still
topped with snow on the horizon.
The last thing California needs is another tax. But that’s what
Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed – a regressive water tax that
will hit financially challenged Californians hardest. … Yet
California’s taxpayers have been working so hard they have
showered the state with a $22 billion surplus. Spending a
fraction of that would take care of the clean water problem.
While you may have heard about the Trump administration’s
attempts to narrow the scope of Waters of the United States
(WOTUS), California is expanding its regulations, including
broadening the definition of wetlands subject to permitting
requirements. … Projects impacting California surface waters
and wetlands that are outside federal jurisdiction will now
need state authorization under new and more expansive
In an effort to end Thousand Oaks’ near total reliance on
imported water, public works staff is asking the City Council
to commit $16.6 million over the next two years to build a
groundwater treatment plant at the city’s publicly owned golf
course. The Los Robles Greens Golf Course Groundwater
Utilization Project—which will be offset with an estimated $6
million in State Water Project (Prop. 1) grants—is the single
most expensive item on the city’s proposed $97-million 2019-21
capital improvement program budget…
The dominant water issue facing our community and every
community in California today is the insecurity of the water
supply. The California Legislature is facing up to the serious
need to take less water from the surface and groundwater for
human use to preserve wildlife habitats and industries such as
fishing. Both depend upon water filling the streams and
waterways that ultimately find their way to the ocean.
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
Attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia
on Tuesday vehemently opposed the Trump administration’s
proposal to roll back a regulation known as Waters of the
United States, a move they said would end federal oversight of
15 percent of streams and more than half of the nation’s
Wade Crowfoot, California’s new Natural Resources Secretary,
recently delivered a keynote address at Los Angeles Business
Council’s annual Sustainability Summit. He focused on the
economic, social and environmental challenges the state and
localities are addressing in response to a new climate normal;
on prioritizing new wildfire and water supply & stormwater
policies; and, commended the city of Los Angeles for its
ambitious climate actions.
EPA won’t regulate any pollution to surface waters that passes
through groundwater. … If pollution travels through
groundwater, EPA says, it “breaks the causal chain” between a
source of pollution and surface waters. That could affect
regulation of pollution from a variety of sources, including
seepage from coal ash and manure management ponds, sewage
collection systems, septic system discharges, and accidental
spills and releases.
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said on Monday she
would ban all fossil fuel extraction on federal land and in
coastal waters, setting herself apart from a crowded field of
Democratic hopefuls who have made climate change a central
campaign issue but have yet to outline specific policies.
The main target of the order is Section 401 of the Clean Water
Act, which grants states the power to certify that construction
projects will not harm water quality. … The order directs the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states and
tribes about whether Section 401 guidance should be modified.
Some state organizations have expressed firm opposition to the
administration’s attempt to supersede state permitting
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation,
who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and
federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy
conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t
available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of
this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think
that sets the stage for that to happen.”
What the state requires our community to do is challenging.
Land development, population growth and climate change make
planning for the future very complicated. The new state law
requires us to face these challenges and work together as a
community to create a plan.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on
Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for
his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water
issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated
on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
A team of Stanford University researchers believe they have
identified the best way to replenish the shrinking aquifers
beneath California’s Central Valley. … The study from
Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences,
published in the journal Water Resources Research, found that
unless action is taken, the ground in that region will sink
more than 13 feet over the next 20 years.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well
water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed
away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an
alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost
other groundwater users far less overall.
Should the governor want to do away with fracking, he could
issue an emergency order placing a moratorium on it. But the
public hasn’t heard from Newsom on the issue as he has laid out
his initial priorities, and his staff did not answer questions
from CALmatters about his current leanings.
While California recovers from the worst drought in state
history, a myriad of impacts resulting from climate change
threaten Southern California’s imported water supply. As a
shadow of drought hangs over the region, this documentary
explores the dire consequences of inaction that lie ahead.
Lawmakers on Wednesday moved an amended version of the bill
following pressure from conservationists, American Indian
tribes and rural communities who oppose siphoning water from
remote Nevada valleys to the state’s largest city. Although the
bill still requires approval from both the Assembly and Senate
to become law, opponents say the watered-down version assuages
their concerns about the pipeline.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state
ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first
phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project
based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part
of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from
Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward
servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and
other capital costs associated with getting the project ready
The State Water Board was given the power to force a larger,
better run utility to absorb a smaller neighbor that
consistently fails to deliver clean water. They would like
South Kern to connect to Bakersfield’s system, which serves
high-quality water to 144,000 people. … The three sides have
been in negotiations for two and a half years, a struggle
between one of the largest cities in California’s Central
Valley, state officials, and two tiny water suppliers that is
the first significant test of the four-year-old statute.
Let’s face it, the 2018-2019 water year has been awesome! …
Even with this great news, the California Department of Water
Resources says, “the days of taking water for granted is over.”
Niki Woodard is the Deputy Assistant Director for California
Department of Water Resources and she believes the small steps
we take at home add up and can make a huge difference for our
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
Casey Hashimoto, general manager of the Turlock Irrigation
District since 2010, announced Tuesday that he will retire at
the end of 2019. The leader of one of Stanislaus County’s
largest water and power providers disclosed his plans at the
morning board meeting. Hashimoto, an electrical engineer,
joined TID in 1985 and was an assistant GM for 10 years.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused
land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out
sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and
damaging infrastructure. … New research from Stanford
University suggests a way to map precisely where and how to use
groundwater recharge to refill the aquifers and stop the
At its core, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council exists to
ensure that the town of Borrego Springs survives and benefits
from the groundwater sustainability plan process. To that end,
BVSC members are taking a more creative look at the town as the
hospitality hub for the state park, relying on a geotourism
program from National Geographic, and aggressively trying to
buy out 70% of water from farmers.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
California has until recently lagged behind other states when
it comes to tackling the myriad problems posed by one group of
chemicals found with increasing frequency in drinking water
systems nationwide. A sweeping new bill requiring testing for
the whole group of chemicals, rather than a few, would help
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre
feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working
with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park
Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre
feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than
the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
This event guided attendees on a virtual journey 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.
This virtual experience focused on the San Joaquin Valley, the southern part of the vast region, which is facing challenges after years of drought, dwindling water supplies, decreasing water quality and farmland conversion for urban growth. The tour gave participants an understanding of the region’s water use and issues as well as the agricultural practices, including new technologies and water-saving measures.
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate
dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast
it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for
lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control
Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands
and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their
current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of
the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
Under the Clean Water Act, states are allowed to enforce rules
more stringent than federal standards. On Tuesday, the State
Water Resources Control Board adopted rules that largely mirror
the federal regulations the Trump administration plans to
repeal. California’s new rules had been in the works since
2008, but the process took on added urgency when the Trump
administration announced its intention to relax federal
City officials approved a plan for a new groundwater
sustainability project, hoping it will be a solution to
increase the supply of groundwater and find a place for excess
effluent water coming to the Tehachapi Waste Water Treatment
Plant. The benefits will not appear for decades, when the
project is complete.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater
aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the
North Coast. … People who live in rural areas rely almost
exclusively on groundwater, and while cities in Sonoma County
get most of their water from the Russian River, groundwater
provides a critical back-up source that is used during droughts
or in emergencies.
Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is
blessed with water. The very names associated with the most
prominent places and businesses in the desert, such as the
Oasis Hotel, Mineral Springs Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells,
Palm Springs, Snow Creek, and Tahquitz River Estates, all
conjure up pretty images of water. But the early story of
desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque: it quite
literally can be seen as a history of ditches.
Our predecessors settled in a valley bordered by mountains that
increase the rainfall and help store water as melted snow
underground. They also experienced drought and, in response,
they thoughtfully set aside thousands of acres of land needed
to capture and replenish the primary source of the water they
Tehama and Butte counties teamed up Friday to host a Northern
Sacramento Valley forum on sustainable groundwater held at
Rolling Hills Casino. … The forum was a chance to look at
neighboring agencies and see similarities and differences as
well as how they are progressing in the planning, Fulton said.
It was a place to connect with the agency in their area so they
would know where to go if they had questions.
Among other ramifications, the new procedures largely duplicate
(and in some respects are inconsistent with) federal
procedures, but add a significant new layer to the already
byzantine regulatory process for permitting projects that
involve fill of federal and state waters and wetlands.
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the
public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who
may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water
Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with
the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April
15, there’s no time to lose.
Mention of climate change may still provoke skepticism in other
sectors, but in California’s agriculture industry, the
discussion is less about whether disruption is coming than it
is about how farmers will adapt. A consensus appears to have
emerged that extreme weather conditions — drought and flooding,
hotter summers and milder winters — will increase competition
for irrigation water such that some crops now produced in the
Central Valley may no longer be economically feasible in the
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix
on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the
Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning
fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive
fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes
Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the
Crystal Geyser initially announced its intention to open the
facility to bottle fruit juices with much fanfare in 2013.
However, legal challenges have so far foiled its plans. The
Winnemem Wintu Tribe and WATER (We Advocate Thorough
Environmental Review) have filed two lawsuits to prevent the
project, both of which are moving through the court system.
Construction starts this month on a $1.5 million test well to
show whether desalinated groundwater could supplement the
drinking water supply for 86,000 customers of the Olivenhain
Municipal Water District. The district serves parts of
Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach and
neighboring communities, and relies almost entirely on water
imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before
the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas
Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online
and in print that brought together different parts of the
newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a
planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource
that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
The water tax will require a two-thirds vote in each house.
Democrats have that and a little to spare. Still, the governor
will need to use all his power of cajolery and coercion to win
passage of any tax increase.
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a
complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior
to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights
perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy
choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address
this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from
farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome
cannabis growers with open arms.
A previously unreleased invoice indicates that David Bernhardt,
President Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department,
continued to lobby for a major client several months after he
filed official papers saying that he had ended his lobbying
activities. The bill for Mr. Bernhardt’s services, dated March
2017 and labeled “Federal Lobbying,” shows, along with other
documents, Mr. Bernhardt working closely with the Westlands
Water District as late as April 2017, the month Mr. Trump
nominated him to his current job, deputy interior secretary.
Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson issued a city-wide challenge to
residents to pledge to be water wise during the month of April,
as part of a non-profit national service campaign to see which
leaders can best inspire their residents to make a series of
informative and easy-to-do online pledges to use water more
efficiently. Two years ago the City of Rialto came in fifth
place on its first try.
For years, the desert town of Borrego Springs has been living
on borrowed time, drawing more water from the ground than its
rains replace. But a reckoning is near. In March, a nearly
1,000-page draft report was released outlining how the
community must and will reduce its water use by a staggering
74.6 percent between now and 2040.
To prepare for the dry years that will come again as well as an
uncertain future, healthy mountain watersheds will be key to
our water supply. While the importance of forests to these
watersheds is well known, new research suggests that meadows
are valuable too. Meadows are like sponges, soaking up snowmelt
in the spring and releasing it through the dry season.
California received some good news on Tuesday for the state’s
water supply: The Sierra Nevada snowpack is well above normal,
at 162 percent of average. This amount of snow is thanks to the
more than 30 “atmospheric rivers” that brought storms this
winter and spring. Chris Orrock, with the California Department
of Water Resources, says … this is the fourth largest amount
of snow in recorded history.
A new rule goes into effect today that will help protect
California’s groundwater. … The new standards for oilfield
injection are some of the strongest in the nation. They require
stricter permitting standards, regular mechanical integrity
testing and routine pressure monitoring – all necessary
ingredients for safeguarding groundwater.
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water
Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss
California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the
recent drought and the future of its water wars.
Under a veil of trying to protect the vast California desert,
SB307 focuses squarely on the Cadiz Water Project aiming to
trap it in another state-run permitting process promoted by
special interests who have challenged the Cadiz Project for
more than a decade.
Hermosa Beach City Council has scrapped a large stormwater
infiltration project slated for the southern end of city’s
greenbelt, after more than a year of opposition from residents.
City officials will look for a new home for the project, meant
to ultimately reduce bacteria in the Santa Monica Bay, but
could potentially forfeit nearly $3.1 million in grant funding
from the State Water Resources Board.
Eastern Municipal Water District officials celebrated
groundbreaking today for EMWD’s third water treatment facility
at its complex serving Menifee and Perris on Murrieta Road. The
plant will significantly increase the amount of drinkable water
for the area…by removing salt from brackish groundwater basin
water and exporting the salt through a regional brine line.
Parts of Sonoma Valley … have seen a persistent decline in
groundwater levels over the last decade – and it may be
expanding. These chronic declines, based on data from the USGS
and the Sonoma County Water Agency, indicate that groundwater
withdrawals are occurring at a rate exceeding the rate of
replenishment within the deeper aquifer zones of southern
Armed with a recent court ruling that climate change must be
considered in decisions to open federal land to oil and gas
drilling, conservationists shot the opening volley Thursday in
what promises to be a protracted legal battle over the future
of fracking and oil drilling in Northern California.
Tom Steyer, the billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party
donor, took a break from trying to impeach President Donald
Trump on Friday to visit the eastern Coachella Valley and learn
about the water quality issues plaguing the region’s residents.
The City Council approved a regional plan for managing the
area’s groundwater resources, which brings a measure of local
control and to qualify for state funds for water-related
projects. … California City is one of three primary
stakeholders in the document, with the Antelope Valley-East
Kern Water Agency and the Mojave Public Utility District. These
three entities are the major water providers in the region
covered by the plan.
Despite the abundant water year we’ve had, though, over the
long term climate change is transforming our snowpack and will
make no-snow snow surveys more common in the future. Not only
is climate change making good snow years like this one less
likely, it’s also changing what good snow years mean for our
water resources. And that’s going to mean a very different
April snow survey in the future.
Chula Vista residents looking to conserve water now have
another reason to keep an eye out for a leaky faucet, with the
city announcing its participation in the 2019 National Mayor’s
Challenge for Water Conservation at a City Council meeting on
March 26. The challenge, which is put on by the Wyland
Foundation, is entering its eighth year of existence, and this
will be the first year Chula Vista partakes.
Too often considered a problem confined to the Central Valley
and agricultural communities, the fact is that lack of access
to safe, clean drinking water in school water fountains and
home faucets affects every region of our state. This is a
situation Gov. Gavin Newsom has rightly called a “disgrace” and
has made it a priority to fix the crisis. In this life-saving
endeavor, he has the support of Silicon Valley’s most
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is
showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the
feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging
groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is one step closer
to a decision on whether to approve ERG’s oil drilling and
production plan. It would include developing and operating more
than 200 new oil production wells in the Cat Canyon area. At
recent planning commission meetings, dozens of people have
shown up both in support and opposition to the project.
Supporters say it will increase jobs in the area, while
opponents express concern for the environment.
Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the
2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the
change wasn’t uniform. According to research from UCLA and
Columbia University, large areas of the northern part of the
state were not severely affected, while Southern California
became much browner than usual.
Brown and former first lady Anne Gust Brown, in their first
public appearance since he left office in January, spoke to
about 100 attendees about the daunting challenges they face
living on a self-sustaining farm: installing solar panels for
power, collecting water from a well, and tending to an olive
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
This is a very worthy cause. But needed improvements can easily
be paid for with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus
or with the billions in approved state water bonds. Imposing a
first-ever tax on something as basic as water is a horrible
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.