Despite droughts, the recession and natural disasters,
California’s urban population continues to grow.
This population growth means increasing demand for water by urban
areas—home to most of California’s population [see also
Agricultural Conservation]. As of 2012, seven of the most
populated urbanized areas in the United States are in California.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s
to come. Scientists predict that California’s total
precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but
it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as
rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more
very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the
need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure.
Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April 3-5, you will
meet farmers who will explain how they prepare the fields,
irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that helps feed
the nation and beyond. We also will drive through hundreds of
miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams, reservoirs and
groundwater wells that provide the water.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the
twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of
hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management
can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct
or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The
stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the
North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action
about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community
involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater
One of the key challenges facing newly formed local government
agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish
and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability. To help
local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West
examines how four special districts in California have
used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.
These case studies provide valuable insights on the development
and implementation of performance metrics and will be important
in guiding local agencies.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los
Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the
Hyperion plant by 2035 signals an end to the era of addressing
water shortages by importing water from far-flung places and
initiates a long-anticipated era of reusing locally available
supplies. The shift will require L.A. residents to understand
both the necessity of the plan and the technology that will
produce safe water.
If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers
and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011
to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage.
In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a
project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies:
the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain.
The problem started on Feb. 17, when Paonia’s water operators
noted a loss of water in a 2 million gallon storage tank. A
team went out looking for a leak, but could not locate it. As
the leak continued, the town’s water system lost enough
pressure that the state of Colorado imposed a boil order. In
response, town officials declared a state of emergency.
The current dilemmas boil down to this: As the state punishes
cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle for environmental
degradation, it is simultaneously pursuing an aqueduct project
in the Central Valley that environmental groups claim will
cause ecological harm of massive proportions. This project
stands to benefit the “big ag” industry, which California’s
newly legal cannabis companies are increasingly participating
A spectacular snowpack and a series of storms in the San
Joaquin Valley are bringing smiles to valley farmers’ faces. On
Friday, the Fresno Irrigation District started moving water to
farms in the cities of Fresno, Clovis, and their surrounding ag
land. While this isn’t an early start compared to typical
years, the water is especially welcome after several drought
Days after Imperial Irrigation District officials said there
had been a breakthrough in negotiations with federal
officials to commit to the restoration of the Salton Sea
in a mammoth Colorado River drought plan, a top federal
official offered a different assessment. … The
Reclamation statement said it’s up to IID to decide when they
want to join the drought plan, indicating a possible avenue for
them to join later that would not stymie the entire agreement.
About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single
groundwater well for water. The whole tribe now wants access to
the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water,
Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water.
Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a
bill that could make it happen.
San Diego County remains one of the few parts of the state to
still be labeled as abnormally dry, according to the drought
monitor. While rainfall this winter has already exceeded
average, the region is still recovering from a severe deficit
in precipitation, and researchers say impacts to vegetation and
reservoirs linger. Still, the San Diego region, which imports
nearly 80 percent of its water, has more than adequate supplies
to meet urban and agricultural demands.
Scientists found that wet winter weather, historically a
predictor of more modest California fire seasons, is no longer
linked to less damaging fires. The link between more rain and
less fire fell apart thanks to modern fire management and
accelerating climate change, the study said. “It’s going to be
a problem for people, for firefighters, for society,” said
study co-author Alan Taylor, a Pennsylvania State University
Working under a less-than-four-year deadline, Soquel Creek
Water District is fine-tuning the ‘where’ of its planned water
recycling plant construction. On Tuesday, district officials
will recommend the board split the Pure Water Soquel project
between two sites, with tertiary treatment at the city of Santa
Cruz’s Wastewater Treatment Facility and advanced purification
at the controversial new site in Live Oak.
Think California should build a lot more dams to catch these
deluges? Forget it. … There’s one dam being planned north of
Sacramento in Colusa County that makes sense: Sites. There are
also some dam expansion projects that could work. But
California is already dammed to the brim. Every river worth
damming has been. And some that weren’t worth it were dammed
Climate change plus population growth are setting the stage for
water shortages in parts of the U.S. long before the end of the
century, according to a new study in the AGU journal Earth’s
Future. Even efforts to use water more efficiently in municipal
and industrial sectors won’t be enough to stave off shortages,
say the authors of the new study. The results suggest
reductions in agricultural water use will probably play the
biggest role in limiting future water shortages.
It’s a treasure that is all too easy for Palo Alto to take for
granted — an abundant supply of pristine water that flows from
the Sierra Nevada snowpacks and passes through the Hetch Hetchy
system before splashing out of local showers and faucets. Palo
Alto is one of 25 cities that belong to the Bay Area Water
Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which manages the
member cities’ supply agreement with the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission. … Even so, the cities don’t always know
which projects they’re helping to fund.
Oceanside announced it will receive a $2.6 million federal
grant to build two more of the wells that the city has used for
more than 20 years to supply a portion of its drinking water.
The wells pump brackish water from what’s called the Mission
Basin, an area near the airport, the old swap meet property and
the San Luis Rey River. The city filters the water using the
same reverse osmosis process used on a much larger scale in
Carlsbad to desalinate seawater.
California’s Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland body of
water, formed when a dam broke. It stayed alive fed by
agricultural water runoff. Today, it’s water supply is slowing,
and the sea is drying up and losing its place as a fishing and
recreation hotspot. But … the Salton Sea is finding new life
as haven for artists.
A trial date has been set for Apple Valley’s eminent domain
lawsuit against Liberty Utilities, a case that will determine
whether the town will win the right to take the company’s water
system. … Liberty filed its CEQA suit a month after the Town
Council voted to take the company’s water system by eminent
domain. In court documents, the company alleged an “incomplete
and misleading” environmental impact report prepared for
The results of testing 173 water samples were released at last
week’s board meeting of the Paradise Irrigation District and
revealed widespread contamination. Benzene, a known carcinogen,
was found in 32 percent of those samples, with an average level
of 27 parts per billion (the California drinking water standard
is 1 ppb). In the 35 samples that tested for additional
contaminants, over a dozen additional “volatile organic
chemicals” were found.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen
short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive.
Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni
of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has
insight as to why those involved with the project are still
Betting on water is a risky endeavor. Experts on water in
Arizona say that while it’s easy to start speculating on water,
cashing out is not. Would-be profiteers have to buy water or
land with rights to it. They have to work within the thicket of
laws and regulations governing water in Arizona and contend
with the fraught politics of Western water. The ability to
store water underground has also given rise to a market-like
system in Arizona in which people talk about diverse portfolios
and asset acquisitions.
Arizona state water regulators have confirmed that here may not
be enough water underground for dozens of planned developments
in Pinal County, new subdivisions that, if built, would bring
more than 139,000 homes. That finding is based on data the
Arizona Department of Water Resources has compiled that shows a
long-term groundwater shortage in the area is possible. The
data … raises red flags about growthand the water supply in
one of the fastest growing parts of the state.
Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the
interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful
Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center
filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by
partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying
work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to
Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain
endangered fish populations.
Ventura’s water commission appealed to the City Council this
week for help, citing a list of concerns ranging from stalled
projects to a lack of financial information. In a four-page
letter, the commission described a lack of progress on key
Ventura Water priorities over the past year and a half, saying
residents were left to pay the price for delays.
Yuba Water Agency is presenting a collaborative framework to
the State Water Resources Control Board today, a detailed plan
to improve fish and wildlife habitat conditions in the San
Francisco/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary watershed
(Bay-Delta), including fisheries enhancement measures on the
lower Yuba River.
Plans to give Nevada’s top water official more flexibility to
wade into water rights disputes got a rough reception in the
state Legislature. Farmers, conservationists and American
Indians from Nevada and Utah turned out in opposition to the
proposals in two bills. No one spoke in support of measures
critics say would direct more water toward urban and suburban
development at the expense of farming, ranching and the
environment in rural valleys.
We hope the move by MWD — which in 2016 had played
hardball of its own by linking its support of the Colorado
River drought plan to federal and state support of a Delta
water project — doesn’t again sidetrack true federal
involvement at the Salton Sea.
Local groundwater regulatory agencies set up under 2014
legislation in California are discussing future rationing
schemes with irrigators as they scramble to submit long-term
aquifer sustainability plans to the state by a deadline of
early next year. Local regulators are discussing a combination
of new supplies and land-use conversions, says David Orth, a
principal at the Fresno-based New Current Water and Land, LLC,
a strategic planning firm.
To help build leadership capacity and acquire water management
tools for valley communities, Self-Help Enterprises invites
water board members and staff, water leaders, and residents
from rural communities to participate in the 2019 Rural
Communities Water Managers Leadership Institute. The six-month
program is scheduled for March through August, with sessions
held one Saturday per month at Self-Help Enterprises in
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the
Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend
city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the
notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests
of the community.
Mono County hasn’t won the war, but it did win the first battle
in its lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and
Power’s decision to withdraw water allotments to its Long
Valley area grazing leases. Last Friday, the Alameda County
civil court indicated LADWP’s request to dismiss the suit was
The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the
Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of
Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in
1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The district says if the
federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the
money, it won’t sign off on a multistate plan to preserve the
river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado
River – and keep up with any of our
tours and events –
through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our
Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about
people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado
River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through
The state is having problems processing organic waste generated
by the marijuana industry, and that may hinder efforts to meet
ambitious environmental targets. … There are no official
numbers on how much waste cannabis businesses generate … but
a typical, mid-sized manufacturer will produce 250 to 500
pounds of waste a day.
The new administration has signaled a shift in water policy by
specifically talking about turning salty water potable after
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would support only a single
tunnel as part of the project known as WaterFix. … But
talking up desalination is much easier than making it a
reality. In the four years since California updated its
desalination regulations, none of the eight applications for
new or expanded facilities has been approved. Meanwhile, the
costs for the projects keep rising and the state has few
details about its plans.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is researching how
cannabis cultivators who divert water from Mattole River
streams might be impacting the river’s fish and insect
populations… By fall 2019, the researchers will publish
findings on the full environmental effects of cannabis grows.
While the research is intended to “support efforts to
establish” sustainable cultivation levels, the study’s main
focus is analysis, said department representative Janice
California’s cities have almost all met or exceeded their
average rainfall for the year, meaning the state is unlikely to
slip back into drought conditions this year. But starting
Sunday, residents of five Inland Empire cities will be asked to
cut back on water usage anyway. The Water Facilities Authority
will be shutting down the Agua de Lejos Treatment Plant for
repairs on Sunday.
The most eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant in the
Northern San Joaquin Valley will be Manteca’s by the time 2020
rolls around. Not only is the treated water returned to the San
Joaquin River meeting the latest standards established by the
state for water quality, but within six months or so methane
gas — a major byproduct of the treatment process that typically
has to be burned — will no longer contribute to valley air
A second water tower in a Yuba County foothills subdivision has
residents gushing. Gold Village, which was plagued for years
with water and sewer problems, has been largely remedied for
the more than 80 homes off Hammonton-Smartsvile Road northeast
of Beale Air Force Base. “The county took care of it and
everything is fine now,” said resident Daryl Davis.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these
days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the
delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but
wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing
more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction
heading out to sea?
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.”
Now stripped of its once vast wetlands and nearly sucked dry
from the overpumping of groundwater during the West’s
increasingly common droughts, the fertile valley is in need of
a reboot: Its aquifers have shrunk and the remaining water is
often contaminated with nitrate and salts. Citing a new water
law that will have major effects on water suppliers and
farmers, experts are calling for an “all hands on deck”
approach to fixing the valley’s water woes.
Three property owners in Shasta County face thousands of
dollars in fines due to violations involving cannabis grows.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued
the fines over water quality violations at two properties one
in Ono, the other near Cottonwood Creek.
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.
Hoping to prevent another California utility from being driven
into bankruptcy by wildfires, state officials may create a new
kind of insurance fund to help cover costs from the
increasingly devastating disasters. … How it would work and
who would fund it remain unclear, but the bill envisions
electric utilities paying into the fund, while a leading
consumer group has suggested shifting the financial burden to
the property insurance market.
Arizona’s efforts to finish a Colorado River drought plan are
moving forward after leaders of the Gila River Indian
Community announced that they will proceed with their
piece of the deal. … The Gila River Indian Community’s
involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a
fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona
Project Canal, and it has offered to kick in some water to make
the drought agreement work.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s General Manager notified
the region’s water board on Wednesday that she is retiring.
Maureen Stapleton has held the top job at the agency for more
than two decades. She led the Water Authority through the
complicated settlement negotiations surrounding the Colorado
River. Stapleton also encouraged projects like the Carlsbad
Desalination plant as a way to diversify the region’s water
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.
Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency released
its enforcement data for fiscal year 2018, and in many key
areas data continued to show a downward trend in the civil and
criminal punitive measures meted out to large polluters. And on
Tuesday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced it
will hold a hearing next week to investigate the Trump EPA’s
“troubling enforcement record.”
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
A single tunnel would perform almost as well as two tunnels,
particularly when operated in tandem with the existing pumps in
the south Delta. It would cost substantially less. And it would
give assurances to environmental groups and Delta residents
that the project would not create the large impacts many fear.
Environmental groups should take this opportunity to sign on to
a new approach for managing the Delta.
Colorado will launch a far-reaching $20 million conservation
planning effort this spring designed to ensure the state can
reduce water use enough to stave off a crisis in the
drought-choked Colorado River Basin.
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.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
… the agency intends to work constructively with the
Newsom administration on developing a WaterFix project “that
addresses the needs of cities, farms and the
environment.” But Kightlinger expressed frustration that
the project will be delayed even more.
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
According to a new study from the UC Santa Cruz Institute of
Marine Sciences, waves are crashing onto the coastline with
more force than ever before — and this increase in wave
strength is directly correlated to ocean warming.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said
in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty
Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens
the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The
Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s
entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that
passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a
management approach that integrates flood control,
environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency
manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We
talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the
lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management”
Redlands’ wastewater treatment facility needs $40 million in
upgrades soon thanks to years of deferred maintenance,
officials say. But it could be worse – building a new
facility would cost $100 million. The original plant was
built in the 1960s, and the last major changes were made in
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 Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
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
Three new directors representing the cities of Fullerton and
Santa Ana, and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency were seated
today on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California.
American Canyon will continue looking to the proposed, massive
Sites reservoir in Colusa County to someday help slake its
thirst. The city of about 20,000 residents is the only Napa
County city without a local reservoir. It depends on the
state’s North Bay Aqueduct that pumps water out of Barker
Slough, a dead-end slough in the Solano County portion of
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a
seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water
supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling
southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the
north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously
on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve
water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works
projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on
Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s
$19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move
water from the north to the south. “Let me be direct about
where I stand,” Newsom said. “I do not support the twin
tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already
been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
Don’t be fooled by the precipitation, the snowpack, the
wildflowers. When winter ends, it’s unlikely that California’s
iconic landscape will sustain the moisture to withstand the
100-degree summer and fall. … State fire officials are
already amassing new aircraft that drop thousands of gallons of
bright red flame retardant. Emergency responders are
pre-positioning fire crews in high-threat areas even before a
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
In the past, cyclical erosion would naturally occur —
wintertime storms washed sand out to sea, while summer swells
deposited it back on the beach. Besides climate change
melting ice at the poles and causing sea levels to
rise, strong storms such as those seen over the last few
days can also pull sand out to sea. But there are also the hard
structures that are having an impact, such as construction
inland that stops the natural flow of sand down creeks and
riverbeds to the beach.
San Juan Capistrano is looking to unload its water utility, as
maintaining the system is expected to become costly for the
community. The city is one of very few in south Orange County
that manages its own water operations. After a 10-month review
of the options, the City Council discussed on Tuesday,
Feb. 5, which agency – Moulton Niguel Water District,
Santa Margarita Water District and South Coast Water
District – the city should enter into an exclusive
negotiation agreement to acquire its water system.
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.
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
A leader in a grassroots group pushing for interagency
transfers to solve regional water supply shortfalls has filed
an environmental lawsuit against Soquel Creek Water District.
The civil lawsuit … takes aim at the water district’s Pure
Water Soquel project, which its board of
directors approved in December. The suit points to alleged
shortcomings in Pure Water Soquel’s state-mandated
environmental impact report.
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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.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing
Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five
climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report
recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water
grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
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
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.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a
last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the
plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but
Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of
documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with
massive river rights has yet to sign off on the
agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the
formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should
Plains All American Pipeline has applied for permits to rebuild
a 124-mile pipeline across the Central Coast of California, a
project that would enable ExxonMobil to reopen offshore
production that stopped after Plains’ existing pipe caused an
oil spill near Santa Barbara in 2015.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to
produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year
to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later
extraction and use by California American Water for its
Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a
key part of the proposed replacement water supply
portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s
Carmel River pumping cutback order.
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.
The City of Chico has seen a population explosion,
and it’s not just the roads that are impacted. Post-Camp
Fire sewage production numbers are at an all-time
high. Before the fire, Chico’s wastewater treatment
facility processed about 6 million gallons of waste on average
per day. Since then that amount has gone up to 7 million.
Biosolid production has gone up 70%, while overall waste and
sewage flows are up 17%.
The city of San Diego decided Tuesday to back California Atty.
Gen. Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit that seeks to hold the Trump
administration accountable for sewage and other toxic flows
that routinely spill over the border from Tijuana and foul
beaches as far north as Coronado. The City Council voted
unanimously in closed session on Tuesday to join the legal
action. Councilman Chris Cate was absent.
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.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now
hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to
levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the
river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but
after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines
parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement,
the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal
buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
Locals with commercial leases from the Los Angeles Department
of Water and Power got a chance at input into the details of
potential purchase of the land under their businesses earlier
this month. Now, more details and a potential timeline are
coming to the surface. … LADWP was looking for input from
Inyo businesses as part of a second look at its divestiture
procedure. While the specific properties are not yet
identified, the number of parcels hovers around 50, according
to Jessica Johnson with the department’s public information
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge
California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam,
north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has
dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding
it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for
another showdown between California and the Trump
Over the past two decades, the San Diego County Water Authority
has paid $25 million to a single law firm. The firm, Brownstein
Hyatt Farber Schreck, is known for its water law practice
across the West. Locally, though, few people know of its
influence. The firm and two of its attorneys – Chris Frahm and
Scott Slater – have been involved in major Water Authority
decisions since the mid-1990s, decisions that affect the cost
and availability of water in San Diego.
On our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, we will
visit this fragile ecosystem that harbors 400 bird species and
hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges
facing the sea, including managers of the Imperial Irrigation
District, the Salton Sea Authority and California’s appointed
“Sea Czar,” assistant secretary on Salton Sea policy Bruce
Citing impacts to water, soil and people, Jackson County
commissioners are asking the state to block a proposed natural
gas pipeline through Southern Oregon. The Oregon Department of
State Lands is taking comments until Feb. 3 as it considers
whether to grant a key permit for the controversial 239-mile
pipeline that would stretch through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas
and Coos counties to a proposed export terminal north of Coos
Water customers in Chico and Oroville could soon be paying
more. California Water Service is asking the Public
Utilities Commission to approve a rate hike. … Cal
Water says the extra revenue is needed to improve
infrastructure, including replacing water main piping.
A Dallas-based engineering firm is being tapped to help design
California’s plan to bolster its water supply system. Jacobs’
initial $93 million contract is for preliminary and final
engineering design of a 15-year program known as California
WaterFix. The Golden State’s largest water conveyance project
carries a $17 billion pricetag. WaterFix, slated to begin this
year, will upgrade 50-year-old infrastructure dependent on
levees, which the state said puts clean water supplies at
risk from earthquakes and sea-level rise.
Most of the first American settlers of the Delta came to
California to quickly acquire a pile of gold. Few
succeeded in the placers, but some recognized the
agricultural potential and decided to build farms and
futures in the Golden State. One such visionary was my
great great grandfather, Reverend Daniel Shaw Stuart.
Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not
indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most
pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that
it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing
a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes
conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable
water. The first step should be to announce the
twin-tunnels effort is dead.
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.
Nasdaq, along with Veles Water and WestWater Research, has
announced the launch of the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index
(NQH2O), the first of its kind water index that benchmarks the
price of water in a way that supports price discovery and
enables the creation of a tradable financial instrument.
The budget specifically calls out funding for Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water. It discusses the need to find a
stable funding source for long-term operation and maintenance
of drinking water systems in disadvantaged communities, stating
that existing loan and grant programs are limited to capital
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned
developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we
have enough water for these future desert residents and
visitors. Permits for new projects are under the
jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of
water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying
the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new
to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life
in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
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.
New California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he
favors a scaled-down Delta tunnel project. Whether he
reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal
whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the
flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural
Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes
along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the
Trump administration — or fights it.
It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive,
but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming
border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry
up. Now seeking water rights from the Green
River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he
has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty,
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
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 last time California voters passed a statewide ballot
measure to provide funding for parks, beaches, wildlife and
forests, it was 2006. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in
his first term as governor, Twitter was a fledgling app, and
the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet. Since then, California’s
population has grown from 36 million to 39.5 million — the
equivalent of adding a new San Francisco, San Jose and San
Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to
act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the
Caribbean in recent weeks. Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes
downward from a levee that separates it from the American
River, in an area that officials concede never should have been
settled but is home to 100,000 residents.
Owens Lake is a dry lake at the terminus of the Owens River
just west of Death Valley and on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. For at least
800,000 years, the lake had a continuous flow of water, until
1913 when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
(LADWP) completed the 233-mile Los Angeles
Aqueduct to supplement the budding metropolis’
increasing water demands.
A speeding wildfire in California that turned hundreds of homes
near Lake Isabella to piles of twisted rubble has forced a
conversation about how to minimize destruction in the most
populous state experiencing the effects of climate change.
Local architect Cove Britton is seeking to correct what he
contends are inaccuracies in preliminary flood insurance rate
maps that could negatively affect his clients and their
neighbors in tony Pleasure Point. … Three years ago,
homeowners from Oregon to Maine complained about map
inaccuracies, according to Pro Publica, an investigative
journalism nonprofit that found money for FEMA’s map project
was cut by Congress.
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that public
agencies reviewing a development proposal generally do not have
to consider the effects of environmental conditions on future
occupants unless the project itself would worsen those
Situated on nearly 12,000 acres along the Santa Clara River,
the planned community would house 58,000 people and offer
stores, golf courses, schools and recreational centers.
… But the plans hit a major roadblock Monday when the
California Supreme Court rejected the environmental report …
At a time when Gov. Jerry Brown has warned of a new era of
limits, the spate of construction, including a boom in building
that began even before the drought emergency was declared, is
raising fundamental questions about just how much additional
development California can accommodate.
Water may be scarce in California and other parts of the
Southwest, but people are flooding in, according to newly
released Census data. The influx of residents into these areas
not only coincides with a changing labor and housing market,
but also has far-reaching implications for water
California’s historic drought is so bad people are banned from
even hosing dirt off their front steps, but as iconic
Candlestick Park is being demolished, thousands of gallons an
hour of drinking water — fresh from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir
— are being dumped on the rubble to hold down dust.
Blessed by its perch at the confluence of two major rivers, the
Sacramento region has grown for generations in sprawling style,
confident that water would be there in ample supply. Even now,
amid a historic drought that has prompted deep, state-mandated
water cuts for urban users, capital area leaders show no sign
of backing off their plans for another major growth surge.
In a victory for public agencies and developers, the California
Supreme Court issued its heavily anticipated ruling in Berkeley
Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley, reversing
the Court of Appeal.
A state panel’s decision this week to approve $365,000 in
grants to help buy undeveloped land in southwest Riverside
County will help preserve habitat for six animals increasingly
pressured by development.
In the January/February issue of Western Water Magazine, Writer
Gary Pitzer delves into the notion of a “sustainable” and
“resilient” water supply. His article highlights what
sustainability and resiliency mean to a state in the middle of
a drought and with a growing population and water needs that
stretch from bustling cities in the north and south to the rich
agricultural fields of the Central, Imperial and Coachella
valleys and Central Coast. … Read the excerpts from this
issue. Purchase a printed magazine or subscribe to the
digital, interactive version.
Against a rural tableau draped in a gray winter sky, a fleet of
heavy, clawing earth movers rumbles back and forth across a
fallow, 953-acre field that for decades produced bell peppers,
carrots and alfalfa.
California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state
mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020. But
according to their own projections, that savings won’t be
enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later.
The decades-long struggle to free several hundred acres of land
halted from development by the breeding rights of a one-inch
fly on the endangered species list has finally ended after 21
years, unlocking a major economic engine for the city, but not
without a hefty personal and financial cost to some landowners.
Where tens of thousands of Valencia trees once spread across
the land and perfumed the air, the [Orange] county’s namesake
citrus has been reduced to a collection of dwindling private
groves, haphazard leftover trees and commemorative historic
sites. … It’s a fate mirrored across Southern California.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36
inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and
its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and
Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin.
Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the
Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and
wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides
background information on water rights, types of transfers and
critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in
1996, the 2000 version offers expanded information on groundwater
banking and conjunctive use … Colorado River transfers,
CALFED’s Water Transfer Program and the role of private companies
in California’s developing water market.
Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced
fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
Despite droughts, the recession and natural disasters,
California’s urban population continues to grow.
This population growth means increasing demand for water by urban
areas—home to most of California’s population [see also Agricultural
Conservation]. As of 2012, seven of the most populated
urbanized areas in the United States were in California.
The state and agencies that supply water for urban uses see
conservation as one way to narrow the gap between supply and
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water discusses low
impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging
interest that are viewed as important components of California’s
future water supply and management scenario.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
changed nature of the California Water Plan, some aspects of the
2009 update (including the recommendation for a water finance
plan) and the reaction by certain stakeholders.
This printed issue of Western Water explores some of the major
challenges facing Colorado River stakeholders: preparing for
climate change, forging U.S.-Mexico water supply solutions and
dealing with continued growth in the basins states. Much of the
content for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth
panel discussions at the September 2009 Colorado River Symposium.
This issue of Western Water asks whether a groundwater
compact is needed to manage this shared resource today. In the
water-stressed West, there will need to be a recognition of
sharing water resources or a line will need to be drawn in the
sand against future growth.
This issue of Western Water examines the continuing practice of
smart water use in the urban sector and its many facets, from
improved consumer appliances to improved agency planning to the
improvements in water recycling and desalination. Many in the
water community say conserving water is not merely a response to
drought conditions, but a permanent ethic in an era in which
every drop of water is a valuable commodity not to be wasted.
When water and growth was featured in the May/June 1995 Western
Water, the debate in the California Legislature was about whether
a local water district should have any say when it came to
providing water to new developments. Of the four bills before
state lawmakers, it was Sen. Jim Costa’s SB 901 that cleared the
Legislature and was signed into law. The bill established a
voluntary link between water and land-use planning by requiring
planning departments to consult with local water purveyors about
the availability of new supplies.