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.
From the time when the pioneers first arrived, water, or the
lack of it, was a major problem for the valley. The first water
system was started by Reuben Hart, who came to the United
States from Derbyshire, England, first settling in New Jersey
with his brother, Thomas.
The mayor of Imperial Beach and governor of Baja California are
in a public spat over cross-border sewage spills. Gov. Jaime
Bonilla has held three separate press conferences this month
demanding Mayor Serge Dedina apologize for his public
criticisms of Mexico’s inability to stop sewage from flowing
into the United States.
Last week on these pages, you heard the President of California
American Water explain their rationale for withdrawing their
application for a desalination plant from the California
Coastal Commission the day before their Sept. 17 hearing. What
he didn’t tell you is that there is a feasible alternative
project that has less environmental impact, is more socially
just, and would be less costly to ratepayers
Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology
… are using a form of artificial intelligence known as
machine learning to map the sinking – called land subsidence –
to help water policy officials make informed decisions. … To
carry out their research, Smith and his Ph.D. student, Sayantan
Majumdar, compiled hydrologic and subsidence data from
satellites and ground-based GPS stations across the western
U.S., including California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Some of the largest users of the Ventura River recently
released their proposal to settle litigation and potentially
stave off a water-rights adjudication. The plan includes
multiple habitat restoration projects intended to help
endangered steelhead trout, but largely avoids any changes to
water use. Before it goes to a judge, however, other parties
likely will weigh in, including the state.
Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County
commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to
extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan
to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River
to southwest Utah.
When governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into law in September 2014, he said that
“groundwater management in California is best accomplished
locally.” With the first round of plans made available for
public comment this year, it appears that, while the state
certainly ceded control to local management agencies, those
same agencies have prioritized the interests of big agriculture
and industry over small farmers and disadvantaged communities.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
Lawyers representing Mineral County and the Walker Lake Working
Group announced this week they intend to take a water rights
case with broad implications back to federal appeals court to
ask whether Nevada can adjust already allocated water rights to
sustain rivers and lakes long-term.
In a congressional hearing Thursday that starkly illuminated
partisan divides, California Democrats called on the federal
government to provide greater assistance in remedying
environmental and public health crises at the Salton Sea. All
but one GOP members were absent, and the one who did attend
criticized the organizers for holding the hearing.
Investors will be able to make wagers on the price of water
later this year with the launch of futures contracts, which are
expected to better balance supply and demand for the commodity
and hedge price risks. … The index, itself, sets a weekly
spot rate price of water rights in California, the majority of
which are owned and managed by water districts that deliver
water to individual farms…
No California communities are more shaped by water than those
in the Delta. Water surrounds communities like
Stockton. Water shaped our history and still shapes our
economy, quality of life, culture, and is essential for a
healthy environment. And for our communities,
water-related disasters are devastating. We see proof of that
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed to work with
the state legislature to phase out new permits for hydraulic
fracking by 2024, but left untouched a more widely used oil
extraction technique in the state that has been linked to
hundreds of oil spills.
A new documentary — “Miracle in the Desert: The Rise and Fall
of the Salton Sea” — takes a crack at the growing public health
issue, drawing on archival footage to tell the tale of a lake
that was largely forgotten by the government even before its
shorelines began receding.
All of Santa Barbara’s beaches and creeks are designated as
“impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act. … The council
voted 7-0 to send its proposed changes to stormwater runoff to
the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board… The
list of changes are extensive, and are proposed over four tiers
based on various types and levels of new construction
development. They involve landscape changes and stormwater
treatment for new impervious construction.
The absence of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the
Supreme Court this coming term is unlikely to change the
outcome of two looming battles over water rights and Endangered
Species Act records, but legal experts say her death will have
a lasting impact on environmental jurisprudence at the nation’s
In Utah, there is a significant effort underway to build a
water delivery pipeline from Lake Powell to transport part of
Utah’s Colorado River entitlement to Utah’s St. George area. As
the federal environmental review for the proposed Lake Powell
Pipeline in Utah continues, Utah’s six fellow Colorado River
Basin states weighed in as a group, cautioning that unresolved
At the September meeting of Metropolitan’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Laura Lamdin, an associate engineer in
water resource management, gave a presentation on how the
United States and Mexico built a collaborative relationship,
the many accomplishments that have come as a result, and a look
at the work currently in progress.
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows,
canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of
science attached to it. Our latest article in Western
Water news examines a new report that synthesizes and
provides context for that science and could aid water managers
as they prepare to rewrite the operating rules for a river
system so vital to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.
Beginning Wednesday, Front Range water providers will release
water stored in Homestake Reservoir in an effort to test how
they could get water downstream to the state line in the event
of a Colorado River Compact call….A compact call could occur
if the upper basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New
Mexico) can’t deliver the 7.5 million acre-feet of water per
year to the lower basin states (Arizona, California and
Nevada), as required by a nearly century-old binding agreement.
A crisis could be approaching. The two giant reservoirs on the
Colorado River are both below 50 percent of capacity. If
drought causes even more drastic drops, the Bureau of
Reclamation could step in to prioritize the making of
electricity by the hydro plants at lakes Mead and Powell. No
one knows what BuRec would do, but it would call the shots and
end current arrangements.
For this reason, public water agencies and DWR have publicly
negotiated amendments to their long-term water supply contracts
in order to better plan the future of their local water supply
portfolios. … The State Water Contractors applaud this
coordinated and collaborative effort, which provides
flexibility for single and multi-year non-permanent water
transfers and exchanges.
A House Agriculture subcommittee this week will examine the
response to Western wildfires, less than three months after its
chairwoman predicted the COVID-19 pandemic would make this fire
season like no other.
The last time Mt. Tamalpais had a major wildfire was in 1929.
In 1930, Marin’s population was 41,648. Today it’s more than
258,000. … As with many other utilities, the Marin Municipal
Water District is updating its treatment plants. It is unclear,
from a technology and science perspective, whether our
community treatment plant could handle sediment runoff from a
big rainstorm after a catastrophic, climate-driven wildfire.
By 2030 we will be water positive, meaning we will replenish
more water than we use. We’ll do this by putting back more
water in stressed basins than our global water consumption
across all basins. … We will focus our replenishment efforts
on roughly 40 highly stressed basins where we have
operations….Our new Silicon Valley campus, opening later this
year in California, features an on-site rainwater collection
system and waste treatment plant to ensure 100% of the site’s
non-potable water comes from onsite recycled sources.
The Embarcadero faces severe threats, with regionwide
repercussions from both earthquakes that could undermine the
city’s seawall and a rise in bay waters that could flood
downtown streets and inundate BART and Muni tunnels, according
to an exhaustive new study from the Port of San Francisco.
Over the years, these groups united against a single cause: the
Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “Groundwater Development
Project,” a proposal to pump 58 billion gallons of water a year
300 miles to Las Vegas from the remote rural valleys of Nevada
and Utah. … In May, their three decades of resistance to the
pipeline ended in victory: The project was terminated.
After years spent developing this project and making
adjustments to respond to stakeholder concerns, it became
obvious that we needed to take more time to address objections
raised by the community of Marina — namely that our project
would be built in their backyard without them receiving any
benefit from it.
The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District Board of Directors
is one of the special districts set to appear on San Ramon
Valley voters’ ballots during the Nov. 3 election, with six
candidates vying for three at-large seats on the sewer board.
In recent years, a wide range of water-related factors have
contributed to political instability, human dislocation and
migration, agricultural and food insecurity, and in more and
more cases, actual conflict and violence.
On Wednesday, at the virtual 35th Annual WateReuse Symposium,
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency facilitated a
“charrette” to identify challenges and map solutions to
continue advancing the National Water Reuse Action Plan…
“Water reuse must be a central theme in EPA’s efforts to meet
21st century demands for water,” said EPA Assistant
Administrator for Water David Ross.
For years, a stretch of Chorro Creek near Hollister Peak ran
through active farmland, where its flow was diverted for
irrigation and its banks were shored up by levees, blocking the
water’s natural access to its floodplain. … After nearly two
decades of planning and fundraising, the Estuary Program and
its partners recently completed a major restoration of the
If the record heat and wildfires ravaging California weren’t a
clear enough sign that the climate is changing, then consider
this: Wall Street is about to start trading futures contracts
on the state’s water supply. … They are intended to both
allow California’s big water consumers—like almond farms and
municipalities—to hedge against surging prices and can act as a
benchmark that signals how acute water scarcity is becoming in
the state and, more broadly, across the globe.
The U.S. Supreme Court kicks off its new term next month with a
unique “original jurisdiction” water dispute—the likes of which
could become more common as the climate changes. The justices
are set to hear Texas v. New Mexico, virtually, on their first
day of oral arguments Oct. 5. Here’s how original jurisdiction
water cases work, what’s at stake this term, and what’s on the
Through research funded by the Almond Board of California we
are exploring ways to recharge groundwater aquifers, be good
stewards of the water that we all collectively share as a
state, and even helping the salmon industry understand how
agricultural land, like rice fields, could play a role in
supporting salmon health.
Farmers whose only access to water is pumping from their own
well will get their first glimpse at what the state’s new
groundwater management law will cost them next month. On Oct.
1, the East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency will hold a
public hearing to discuss a groundwater extraction fee…
A top water regulator from New Mexico yesterday warned senators
that hardrock mines, wastewater facilities and other industrial
entities could face stricter environmental oversight as the
Trump administration’s Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule takes
The housing developer and the powerful water utility, locked
into past contracts, are caught in a fight, playing out in
hydrologic reports and hearing rooms, over what might seem a
simple question: How much water is there? That answer is
complicated by how much is at stake — a Colorado River
tributary, the survival of an endangered Nevada fish and the
future of development in a sweeping area outside Las Vegas.
Along a Huntington Beach coastline dotted with oil rigs and a
power plant, one of California’s largest remaining saltwater
marshes has been a source of pride for local environmentalists.
But the marsh, known as the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, is endangered
despite a years-long struggle to pull together sufficient
public funding for its upkeep.
Poor erosion control on the 258-acre site unleashed soils into
streams of the Russian River watershed and put fish and other
other aquatic wildlife at risk, regulators found, counteracting
millions of dollars spent to improve habitat and restore
imperiled, protected runs of salmon and steelhead…
The right balance of nutrients is crucial for a healthy coastal
ecosystem. If rivers deposit too much nitrogen and phosphorus
in coastal areas, algae that flourish on those nutrients can
cause dead zones; if too little silicon flows downstream,
organisms that depend on it will die off.
This proposal by California American Water has become one of
the most complicated and fraught issues to come before the
California Coastal Commission, whose long-awaited vote on
Thursday could determine not only the contentious future
of water on the Monterey Peninsula — but also the role of
government in undoing environmental inequity.
The Monte Vista Water District Board commissioned a feasibility
study on Sept. 2 to replace hundreds of old septic tanks in the
unincorporated area of Chino with a sewer system operated by
the water district. Sewage service would be a new area for the
district, which provides water services in Montclair and small
pockets in northwest Chino.
San Diego is not well endowed with many freshwater sources to
support its growing population, so some water experts are
perplexed the city’s ignoring a self-replenishing local
groundwater source that, though small in size, is safe from the
threat of natural disasters and reliably recharged by the San
A major expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir took a step forward
with release of the final feasibility report by the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation that concluded the initiative is economically
viable. The reservoir is owned and operated by the Contra Costa
Water District, and the project will increase its capacity by
more than 70% when complete.
In recent years, nearly 150 million trees died around the state
as their roots delved fruitlessly for water and a devastating
bark beetle infestation took hold. Both the drought and the
insect spread that came with it were exacerbated by changing
climate conditions linked to humans burning fossil fuels,
scientists concluded. Now those trees, like so much else in the
American West, are burning as California contends with a
reckoning more than 100 years in the making.
The cuts are a plan to keep Lake Mead, a reservoir at the
Arizona-Nevada boundary, functional. Water levels have
precipitously dropped as a result of historic overallocation
and a drought that started in 2000. … ASU Now checked in with
Sarah Porter of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison
Institute on how these new developments will impact the Copper
State and its residents.
Lake Powell isn’t in Southern Nevada. Rather, it’s about four
hours away by car in southern Utah. But some environmentalists
say the water consumption of St. George, Utah, and neighboring
communities could have a direct and deleterious impact on the
Las Vegas water supply.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear
Wednesday from an Iowa farmer, a Florida developer and a New
Mexico regulator, who are expected to discuss the Trump
administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule and weigh in on the
environmental and public health issues raised by rolling back
Mexico’s water wars have turned deadly. A long-simmering
dispute about shared water rights between Mexico and the United
States has erupted into open clashes pitting Mexican National
Guard troops against farmers, ranchers and others who seized a
dam in northern Chihuahua state.
Roughly a thousand acre-feet of water won’t make or break the
Colorado River. But for many who live in counties that border
the river, even losing a few drops of water to central Arizona
poses a major threat to their way of life.
Coal miners, stone quarrying companies, and other businesses
are rushing to lock down any exemptions to federal water
jurisdiction for at least five years, under changes the Trump
administration recently made to the nation’s water rule. … A
decision that might in some instances have taken multiple site
visits and nearly three years now can come as quickly as a day,
the data show.
The Utility of the Future Today recognition program celebrates
the achievements of water utilities that transform from a
traditional wastewater treatment system to a resource recovery
center and leader in the overall sustainability and resilience
of the communities they serve.
In Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County
of Stanislaus, the Court held that the County may not
categorically classify all groundwater well permit issuances as
ministerial decisions. Such a classification exempts well
permit issuances from environmental review.
The Mexican National Guard said Wednesday that two people had
died in a gunfight with military police near a protest at a dam
that diverts water away from an area hit by drought to the
United States. … The protest comes amid plans to divert more
to the United States due to a “water debt” Mexico has accrued
under a 1944 water-sharing treaty between the countries.
The Guidebook is designed to assist urban water suppliers with
preparing UWMPs that are due to DWR on July 1. DWR also
released its draft 2020 Agricultural Water Management Plan
Guidebook related to long-term water supply and demand
strategies for agricultural water planning.
By killing millions of trees in the Sierra National Forest, the
historic drought that ended in 2017 left an incendiary supply
of dry fuel that appears to have intensified the fire that’s
ravaged more than 140,000 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada,
wildfire scientists and forestry experts said.
If current predictions hold, the entire Palo Alto Baylands
could be submerged by the middle of the century because of sea
level rise, a destructive predicament that would threaten both
the sensitive habitat and the critical infrastructure in the
nature preserve. To prepare for rising tides, the city is
moving ahead with the creation of a new Sea Level Adaptation
Nevada officials raised numerous concerns Tuesday about a
proposed project to pipe large quantities of Colorado River
water roughly 140 miles from Lake Powell to southern Utah…
Six of the seven states that use the Colorado River also sent a
letter to federal water managers Tuesday asking them to refrain
from completing project permitting…
The water wars are far from over, a point made clear in a
just-released feature-length documentary, “Until the Last
Drop.” If you can block from your mind the old Folgers “good to
the last drop” commercials, the film title will evoke a
combination of dripping water with a fight to the last drop of
Americans support far more aggressive government regulation to
fight the effects of climate change than elected officials have
been willing to pursue so far, new research shows, including
outright bans on building in flood- or fire-prone areas — a
level of restrictiveness almost unheard-of in the United
States…in California and elsewhere, officials continue to
approve development in areas hit by fires.
Arizona’s top water regulator has endorsed a company’s proposal
to take water from farmland near the Colorado River and sell it
to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek. The plan,
which still would require federal approval, has generated a
heated debate about whether transferring water away from the
farming community of Cibola could harm the local economy, and
whether the deal would open the gates for more companies to buy
land near the river with the sole aim of selling off the water
Climate change could deliver more silt, sand and pollution to
the San Francisco Bay-Delta, along with a mixed bag of other
potential consequences and benefits, according to a new study
in the AGU journal Water Resources Research, which publishes
research articles and commentaries providing a broad
understanding of the role of water in Earth’s natural systems.
Groups in the Tahoe Basin are using new technology to fight
invasive species and decreasing lake clarity. Researchers at
University of Nevada, Reno and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
have been testing a UV light equipped vessel to control aquatic
invasive plants in the Tahoe Keys.
Expansion of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project is
the best option for the Monterey region to meet its future
water supply needs. Unfortunately, California American Water
Co., a private water supplier, is discrediting the project in
hopes of getting approval for their much more costly, oversized
and environmentally harmful groundwater desalination project…
I visited in late August with Matt Angell about California San
Joaquin Valley water issues. Angell is a chairman of San
Joaquin Resource Conservation District 9, is a managing partner
at Pacific Farming Co., and also is managing director of Madera
Pumps. The conversation included discussion of California’s
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and what that will
require of growers in the years ahead.
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional
San) is currently completing major upgrades to its wastewater
treatment plant. In anticipation of these upgrades, USGS
scientists are gathering data to establish baselines for
current nutrient levels and dynamics in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta (Delta).
Drivers entering town these days pass a sign with an urgent
message: Do not drink or boil the tap water in your home. It
may not be safe. This town in the heart of the Santa Cruz
Mountains is the latest California community to grapple with
water problems because of a wildfire.
A multimillion dollar water project in the heart of Northridge
is on the fast track to becoming a reality. The Aliso
Creek-Limekiln Creek Restoration Project at Vanalden Park is
aimed at reducing pollutants in city waters by treating
stormwater and urban runoff from Aliso and Limekiln creeks and
an open channel storm drain.
A federal judge took a no-nonsense approach Friday to a hearing
on the White House’s rewrite of the National Environmental
Policy Act, grilling conservation groups on how they’ll be
harmed and chiding the Justice Department for glossing over the
political motivations behind the rules.
Nevada and California joined forces last week at the 24th
annual Lake Tahoe Summit to advance the states’ shared
priorities to protect and restore Lake Tahoe. … There is a
long history of collaboration between Nevada and California to
restore and protect the spectacular natural treasure of Lake
Tahoe and its surrounding environment. This spirit of
collaboration was a pillar of the 24th annual Lake Tahoe Summit
With an ever-increasing human population, water shortages
already occurring in many areas are only expected to get worse.
Now, researchers reporting in Environmental Science &
Technology have estimated the freshwater supply and demand of
about 11,000 water basins across the globe, determining that
one-fourth of freshwater consumption exceeds regional
While the Court’s Opinion does not state that all well permits
must undergo CEQA review, it narrows the grounds on which the
ministerial exemption may apply. And since county well
ordinances across the State comprise similar provisions, this
ruling upsets the common practice of treating such permits as
ministerial, not subject to CEQA.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday the agency
would pay for more water treatment south of the border, and
work with San Diego to control trash coming into the United
States from Mexico by way of the Tijuana River. Wheeler made
the announcement during a visit to Southern California, a
region long plagued by sewage, water, trash, and other
contaminants flowing from Mexico.
Studies estimate that 1.5 – 2.5 million Californians rely on
domestic wells to meet their household water needs. But because
domestic wells are often shallow, they are also often sensitive
to changes in groundwater levels. As such, sustainable
groundwater management has an important role to play in
safeguarding the health and safety of residents and the
achievement of California’s recognized Human Right to Water.
The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies
from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is
heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive
in Central Valley’s aquifers. While only one banking program
has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could
have huge implications for water storage and movement in the
The new suit, filed Tuesday on behalf of three different tribal
groups and the Sierra Club, argues states and tribes have a
right to place conditions on federal projects that could
degrade waters within their borders or to reject them
altogether. “These changes that cut into the tribe’s ability to
protect its waters and fish harm us all,” Anthony Sampson,
chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada, said in a
San Diego County Water Authority is seriously considering
building a duplicate pipeline through the desert and Cleveland
National Forest to break free from Metropolitan, or Met, which
controls truck-sized pipes and canals from the Colorado River.
It could be the most expensive public works project in San
Diego’s 170-year history…
A developer is suing Nevada’s Division of Water Resources after
the state again denied plans to construct new homes at Coyote
Springs, the latest setback in a decades-long effort to build a
sprawling master-planned community about 50 miles north of Las
Vegas. Coyote Springs Investment alleges state officials made a
series of decisions that amount to an “unconstitutional taking”
of the water rights it owns and planned to use.
The Trump administration is seeking to fast track environmental
reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects
during the COVID-19 pandemic… Projects targeted for quick
review include highway improvements in South Carolina, Georgia,
Florida and other states; the Lake Powell water pipeline in
Utah; wind farms in New Mexico and off the Massachusetts coast;
and mining projects in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Alaska.
The water system owned by the city of Montebello is primarily
made up of old concrete pipes made with asbestos, a once-common
part of water and drainage systems. This system has not been
properly maintained, and is now in need of $50 million worth of
health and safety repairs and improvements. Why has this been
allowed to occur you may ask?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has
identified the first two regions where Aquaculture Opportunity
Areas (AOAs) will be located in federal waters off Southern
California and in the Gulf of Mexico. The selection of these
regions is the first step towards establishing ten AOAs
nationwide by 2025.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week voted
unanimously to adopt a transient pool and fallowing program and
also approve findings that the programs are exempt from
California Environmental Quality Act review — meaning the
programs are not considered to have a significant impact on the
A group of residents in Laughlin, Nev., which sits along the
Colorado River, are organizing a campaign to oppose a pipeline
that would divert billions of gallons of river water to
southwest Utah, reflecting intensifying struggles over water in
the U.S. West.
My puzzlement was goosed by a report that surfaced last week at
a board meeting of one of its member agencies suggesting that
the general managers of agencies representing the majority of
the Water Authority’s actual water-using member agencies don’t
seem to want it.
In burning to the edge of Lake Sonoma, the Walbridge fire has
posed an unprecedented threat to the water supply for 600,000
North Bay residents and scorched Sonoma County streams critical
to the revival of imperiled fish. … Experts estimate half of
the spawning habitat on Russian River tributaries has been
burned, dealing a potential setback to expensive, longstanding
efforts to bolster coho salmon and steelhead trout populations.
The Clean Water Act previously allowed states to halt projects
that risk hurting their water quality, but that power was
scaled back by the EPA in June, a move Administrator Andrew
Wheeler said would “curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that
have held our nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”
The latest suit argues the Trump administration is
inappropriately denying states veto power over major projects
that pose risks to their waterways.
The estimated fee would be $24 a month for the average
residential user presuming a five-year repayment period,
according to Gleason. The fee would reportedly collect some $50
million which would be used to purchase water rights for
imported water, presuming the same users continue using the
water at roughly the same rate.
Michael Wara, a climate and energy expert at Stanford
University who’s advised the state Legislature on wildfire
issues, said the state is still grappling with a legacy of
spending money on fighting fires instead of on forest health,
such as thinning overgrown brush and removing millions of
drought-killed trees, building fire breaks around communities
and intentionally setting fires when conditions safely allow
The Twentynine Palms Water District will pay the consulting
firm of Kennedy Jenks $84,660 to create a new Urban Water
Management Plan for the district. … The plan, General Manager
Ray Kolisz told directors, helps with long term planning of
water resources and existing and future needs. This year’s
plan,he said, will need to address issues related to climate
The written version of remarks delivered by Eric Kuhn at the
Aug. 25 Western Resource Advocates webinar on the Lake Powell
Pipeline, featuring Eric, WRA’s Bart Miller, and Alice Walker,
attorney for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians.
Decades of inadequate investment in water infrastructure has
exacerbated the economic challenges faced by water and
wastewater utilities in the era of COVID-19, according to a new
report released Aug. 26 by the American Society of Civil
Engineers and the U.S. Water Alliance’s Value of Water
Above-average temperatures in spring resulted in a paltry 57%
runoff, nowhere near enough water to refill the reservoirs that
remain half-empty. Based on these conditions, the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation recently determined that 2021 will be a “tier
zero” year under the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought
Contingency Plan, with reduced water deliveries for Arizona,
Nevada, and Mexico.
Realtor.com has become the first site to disclose information
about a home’s flood risk and how climate change could increase
that risk in the coming decades, potentially signaling a major
shift in consumers’ access to information about climate
Earlier this month, CSU-Fresno hosted the event “Funding Water
Infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.” The majority of the
event was focused on the so-called “Water Blueprint for the San
Joaquin Valley,” a high profile new investment plan for
irrigation water. At the event, the Blueprint rolled out a
proposed funding plan – the centerpiece of which is a proposed
0.5% special sales tax in the 8 counties of the San Joaquin
Simply updating costs to this latest estimate ($15.9 billion in
2020 dollars is equivalent to $15 billion in the 2017$) reduces
the benefit-cost ratio for State Water Project urban agencies
from 1.23 to 0.92, and for agricultural agencies from 1.17 to
0.87. That’s a bad investment, but it is actually much worse
Attorneys for farmer Michael Abatti on Monday filed a petition
requesting that the California Supreme Court take up a case
against the Imperial Irrigation District, continuing the battle
for control over California’s Colorado River water allotment.
This latest court filing calls on the court to rule that
Imperial Valley farmers have a right to water ownership, which
currently resides with the district.
The Department of Water Resources came to the August Delta
Independent Science Board meeting to provide an overview of the
Delta tunnel project including timeline and review process, as
well as some thoughts on the board’s recent letter.
A friend last week pointed out something remarkable. Arizona,
California, and Nevada are forecast this year to use just 6.8
million acre feet of their 7.5 million acre foot allocation of
water from the main stem of the Colorado River. And that’s not
just a one-off.
There is some debate about what counts as water theft – or even
if it exists at all, as water is a natural resource that we all
have access to. But the team looked at three separate case
studies involving improper water use: growing marijuana in
California, strawberries in Spain, and cotton in Australia.
Tunnel proponents say they do not expect to operate the tunnel
at capacity, and it would be in use mainly to draw from the
periodic storms that send more water through the Delta out to
San Francisco Bay. But how much would that be? The usual answer
is: we will leave that to the experts.
Brockovich’s new book … explores problems from
contaminated drinking water to water shortages due to climate
change. And as weighty as those issues may seem, she
also provides action steps for people concerned about
their own water and tells the empowering stories of many people
speaking up about water contamination in their communities.
Developers submitted dueling bids for the right to revamp a
48-acre triangular stretch of land off Sports Arena Boulevard
in San Diego’s Midway District. Critics are fixated on whether
to replace the old, grain bin-looking sports arena. … But
whatever stands there in the end could be up to its ears in
seawater in the second half of this century.
The basin replenishment fee was passed by the Indian Wells
Valley Groundwater Authority with a vote of four to one Friday
afternoon. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the
sole no vote. The IWVGA voted after the basin replenishment fee
protest hearing Friday failed. The IWVGA did not announce the
number of protest votes received…
After months of relative quiet, Newsom’s administration
released a preliminary cost estimate for the scaled-back
project Friday: $15.9 billion for a single tunnel running
beneath the estuary just south of Sacramento. That’s nearly as
much as the old $16.7 billion price tag put on the larger,
With all permits in place, on Aug. 20 the Georgetown Divide
Public Utility District announced the State Water Resources
Control Board Division of Water Rights approved the temporary
transfer of up to 2,000 acre-feet of GDPUD’s water to the
Westlands Water District. The transfer of the water began Aug.
19 and is expected to continue until Sept. 23.
Every day Hyperion Water Treatment Plant discharges enough
treated wastewater into the ocean to fill the Rose Bowl 2.5
times over. Now a court has instructed state water officials to
analyze whether it is “wasteful” and “unreasonable” to dump
billions of gallons of wastewater into the sea.
’The “Save Searles” campaign was launched Tuesday, three days
before the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
public hearing on a controversial replenishment fee. The fee
would increase water costs for Searles Valley Minerals by
nearly $6 million a year, “pushing the company and the local
community towards extinction,” according to the campaign…
If Democrat Joe Biden wants to scrap the Trump administration’s
definition of which waters qualify for federal protection,
experts say he’ll face a heavy legal lift, lengthy rulemaking,
and an onslaught of opposition from industry, ranching and
Nevada and Utah share more than borders. We share the coveted
and much-fought-over Colorado River. But it seems as if only
one state — Nevada — is doing the difficult work to protect our
most valuable resource
The development of a groundwater sustainability plan has begun
and will help ensure we can manage the Carpinteria Groundwater
Basin sustainably, which is an important shared resource for
the Carpinteria Valley. In addition, the Carpinteria Advanced
Purification Project, now under development, will allow us to
diversify our water portfolio so that we can be resilient in
future periods of drought.
The San Diego fairy shrimp, a miniscule, puddle-dwelling
crustacean that provides food for migrating birds, is nearing
extinction as humans continue to encroach on its wetlands
habitat. But a new approach to tracking the shrimp’s population
numbers may give conservationists a boost in protecting the
The San Francisco Estuary is a dynamic and altered estuary that
supports a high diversity of fishes, both native and
non-native. … Since the 1950s, various agencies and UC Davis
have established long-term surveys to track the status of fish
populations. These surveys help scientists understand how
fishes are responding to natural- and human-caused changes to
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections Friday that
suggest Lake Powell and Lake Mead will dip 16 feet and 5 feet,
respectively, in January from levels recorded a year earlier.
Despite the dip, Lake Mead would stay above the threshold that
triggers severe water cuts to cities and farms, giving
officials throughout the Southwest more time to prepare for the
future when the flow will slow.
Sea levels on the California coast could rise as much as seven
feet by 2100 and put tens of thousands of vulnerable San
Franciscans at risk of daily flooding, according to a new
report from the California State Legislative Analyst’s office.
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule … has redefined “waters
of the U.S.” (WOTUS) to restrict federal protection of
vulnerable waters. … Responding to this unprecedented
distortion of science and rollback in water protections, which
went into effect nationwide on 22 June, will require
coordinated efforts among scientists, lawmakers, and resource
The short answer is, the replenishment fee is a per-acre-foot
extraction fee proposed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater
Authority to pay for mitigation of registered shallow wells
damaged by continuing overdraft, as well as to begin importing
water necessary to balance the groundwater basin. A public
hearing regarding the fee is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 21 at
If California lawmakers set aside climate concerns like sea
level rise, and focus only on the pandemic, the state could be
setting itself up for an even worse economic hardship, the
nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office cautioned in a report
Six former Environmental Protection Agency
chiefs [who served under Republican and Democratic
presidents] are calling for an agency reset after President
Trump’s regulation-removing, industry-minded first term,
backing a detailed plan by former EPA staffers that ranges from
renouncing political influence in regulation to boosting
climate-friendly electric vehicles.
Supporters of an initiative to reduce plastic waste today
submitted more than 870,000 voter signatures to qualify the
Plastics Free California initiative for the ballot –
significantly more than the 623,212 signatures required.
The Los Angeles Superior Court issued a historic ruling, in
favor of Los Angeles Waterkeeper, that compels the State Water
Resources Control Board to analyze whether it is “wasteful” and
“unreasonable” to dump billions of gallons of wastewater
uselessly into the sea, when it could instead be used
productively to ensure the sustainability of California’s water
The Lakewood, California-based Water Replenishment District
announced that its Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and
Environmental Learning has been awarded Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the
highest rating offered to environmentally sustainable
buildings. Only 5.7 percent of LEED projects in the U.S. have
achieved this designation.
At the San Juan Bautista City Council meeting on July 14, City
Manager Don Reynolds presented a report on possible solutions
for water and waste treatment plant issues. For the first time
in 12 years, San Juan is nearing a resolution, though long
delays in approaching the problem have driven up costs.
Completion of groundwater sustainability plans for California’s
most over-pumped basins was a major step toward bringing basins
into long-term balance, as mandated by the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. We talked to Trevor Joseph—the
first SGMA employee at the Department of Water Resources, and
now a member of a groundwater sustainability agency in the
Sacramento Valley—about next steps and possible pitfalls.
We deserve complete, dependable information and accurate cost
data including well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the
need and economic viability of the pipeline. Instead, studies
by the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Washington
County Water Conservancy District are biased, incomplete and do
not fairly consider feasible, much less costly alternatives.
Due to local population growth and rising peak summer usage,
the West Valley Water District announced that it will expand
treatment capacity for the region by 16 million gallons per day
through the Oliver P. Roemer Water Filtration Facility
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association sued the EPA and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers in May for bringing non-navigable,
small streams and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection in
the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Judge Michael W. Mosman,
ruling from the bench on a preliminary injunction sought
against the water rule, dismissed the claims without prejudice.
Under the Aug. 3 proposal, companies would no longer be
required to notify the Army Corps if the pipelines they lay
require clearing of forested wetlands, or building access roads
longer than 500 feet with fill material dredged from streams or
wetlands or with impervious materials.
The suit, spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council
on behalf of eight other groups, is the third to contest the
July rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),
which for 50 years has required thorough environmental reviews
before major projects like pipelines and highways could be
The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously passed a motion
Tuesday to introduce and subsequently adopt an ordinance
authorizing a grant funding agreement with the State Department
of Water Resources in the amount of $10 million for
reactivation of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.
Failure to account for the long-term trend of declining per
capita water demand has led to routine overestimation of future
water demand. This can lead to unnecessary and costly
investment in unneeded infrastructure and new sources of
supply, higher costs, and adverse environmental impacts.
Crops require water to grow. By importing water-intensive
crops, countries essentially bring in a natural resource in the
form of virtual water. Agricultural virtual water is the amount
of water needed to grow a particular crop in a given region.
Now research led by scientists at PNNL has projected that the
volume of virtual water traded globally could triple by the end
of the century.
As Poseidon Water pursues the final government approvals needed
to build one of the country’s biggest seawater desalination
plants, the company still cannot definitively say who will buy
the 50 million gallons a day of drinking water it wants to
produce on the Orange County coast. That’s one of several
questions that continue to dog the $1-billion Huntington Beach
As early as Aug. 6, the California Public Utilities Commission
could vote to adopt a proposal that would eliminate a
best-practice regulatory tool – known as decoupling – that
currently removes the incentive of water suppliers to sell more
water. This significant change has the potential to hamper
water conservation efforts in California and raise rates for
millions of customers without providing them any corresponding
At the ACWA’s virtual conference held last week, the second
keynote speaker session featured Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the
State Water Resources Control Board, and Karla Nemeth, Director
of the Department of Water Resources. Here’s what they had to
The Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to accept a
$10 million grant — with the understanding that it will run the
plant at full capacity for at least 36 out of the next 40
years. Some environmentalists objected to the council’s
decision, citing environmental concerns.
Now that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has released a
final California Water Resilience Portfolio, farm organizations
say they will monitor progress on implementing the plan’s
proposals—and on resolution of ongoing state-federal conflicts
that complicate achieving some of its goals.
Regional water board member Kris Murray is on track later this
week to vote on a controversial desalination plant sponsored by
a company and interest groups she took money from during past
When Brenda Goeden first started working on mud, silt, and sand
in the San Francisco Bay two decades ago, dredgers and
contractors couldn’t get rid of all the sediment they excavated
fast enough. … But today sediment is a hot commodity, as
restorationists and developers scramble to elevate salt marshes
and building sites before rising tides claim them. Now, a new
plan is in the works to optimize allocation of this critical
Poseidon Resources wants to build a $1.4 billion desalination
plant near a power plant that is about to be shut down. They
say it could produce 50 million gallons of water per day,
enough for about 100,000 Orange County homes. Friday marked the
second day of hearings before the Santa Ana Regional Water
Quality Control Board. Its approval is needed for the plant to
discharge salty brine left over from the treated water.
The average annual flow of the Colorado River has decreased 19
percent compared to its 20th century average. Models predict
that by 2100, the river flow could fall as much as 55 percent.
The Colorado River, and the people it sustains, are in serious
The newly passed Drought Contingency Plan spurred additional
conservation and left more water in the lake. An unusually wet
year also helped, because it allowed states to fall back on
other supplies. But the fundamental problem remains: The river
still isn’t producing the amount of water we use in a typical
year. We’re still draining the mighty Colorado.
In the midst of a hot July after late rains this season, the
outlook for reforesting on the ridge will depend on the efforts
of private landowners, local forest scientists say. With this
help, residents of the ridge could see a new type of forest
replace what was lost in the Camp Fire.
After hearings this week for one of two remaining major permits
needed for the project, several members of the Regional Water
Quality Control Board indicated they were dissatisfied with the
proposed mitigation for the larvae and other small marine life
that would die as a result of the plant’s ocean intake pipes.
Studies by reliable independent organizations prove the
pipeline is unnecessary, risky and cost prohibitive. To counter
these fact-based findings, pipeline proponents rely on
misleading arguments, skewed data and fear in an attempt to
“sell” the pipeline to taxpayers and water users who are
unaware of the facts and place undue trust in government
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Border
Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act, a bill to reduce
pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and improve the water
quality of the Tijuana and New rivers.
Long Beach’s financial future has been thrust into uncertainty
by the COVID-19 pandemic, but existing litigation over its
practice of charging city-run utilities to access rights of
ways could blow a nearly $20 million hole in future budgets if
the city loses a court appeal.
A legal battle with far-reaching consequences for industry and
ecosystems kicked off Wednesday with the filing of a federal
lawsuit over the Trump administration’s revamp of a
longstanding law that requires extensive environmental reviews
for road, industry and building projects.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s notice of an
upcoming public hearing on a basin replenishment fee has
attracted a lot of attention from water users in the valley,
but not everyone understands what the IWVGA is.
In many respects, the Arizona Water Blueprint – a data-rich,
interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure
created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State
University – could not have been rolled out at a better time.
Research into Arizona’s varied sources of water is approaching
an all-time high.
All the static and dynamic forces from the land and rock above
start adding up and eventually that now-dry soil starts
compacting down and down. While this may not seem like a big
deal on a small scale, what we’ve seen in California (and other
parts of the world too) is the dropping of the surface
elevation over a period of years, often by hundreds of feet or
Water is a big deal in California, and climate change is
threatening the precious resource. That’s why Gov. Gavin Newsom
finalized a broad plan this week to help prevent future water
challenges … The Water Resilience Portfolio outlines 142
actions the state could take to build resilience as the effects
of warming temperatures grow.
Following the Imperial Irrigation District’s recent win on a
monumental water case in California’s appellate court against
Michael Abatti, the water district is back in court filing the
opening brief against the other large water district is
Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District.
The city of Beaumont and the owner of two previously approved
industrial buildings with a combined 2.89 million square feet
of space … have agreed to cap sewer capacity so as to not
overwhelm the city’s sewer capacity. … Tuesday’s amendment to
the development agreement establishes a maximum daily sewer
flow of 139,679 gallons . For perspective, a residential home
typically produces 330 gallons a day.
Demonstrators in northern Mexico have burned several government
vehicles, blocked railway tracks and set afire a government
office and highway tollbooths to protest water payments to the
On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
published its highly anticipated final rule to improve its
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The
update, which largely mirrors the proposed rule, is the first
comprehensive amendment to the regulations since their original
publication in 1978.
Poseidon Water’s seawater desalination plant in Huntington
Beach, first proposed in 1998, could be getting closer to
beginning construction after more than two decades. The Santa
Ana Regional Water Board will hold online hearings this week
and decide whether to issue Poseidon a permit.
President Trump made two nominations to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission Monday, bowing to pressure from
Democratic lawmakers who have pushed to maintain the bipartisan
split in the commission.
When it was measured last year, the clarity of the lake was
about 80 feet. … But, consider this, about 20 years ago, the
clarity of lake was 100 feet. That’s the trend scientists are
trying to reverse.
Plastic waste flowing into the oceans is expected to nearly
triple in volume in the next 20 years, while efforts to stem
the tide have so far made barely a dent in the tsunami of
waste, research shows.
After more than 20 years of developing plans for a Huntington
Beach desalination plant and winding its way through a
seemingly endless bureaucratic approval process, Poseidon Water
comes to a key juncture as the Regional Water Quality Control
Board votes on whether to grant a permit after hearings this
Believe it or not, much of the modern wastewater management
technology we consider standard in any 21st century home,
things like toilets and sewer pipes, are actually relatively
new in the grand scheme of history.
Zone 7 Water Agency directors authorized General Manager
Valerie Pryor to negotiate an agreement with Napa County’s
water division to buy some of its surplus water this year — a
move that could open doors for similar deals in the future. A
need to meet local water demand for the next few years prompted
Zone 7 to act at its regular meeting July 16.
The state of California, long derided for its failure to act in
the past, says it is now moving full-bore to address the Salton
Sea’s problems, with ambitious plans for wildlife habitat
expansion and dust suppression.
Almost exactly 25 years after being ordered to stop illegally
pumping water from the Carmel River, the Monterey Peninsula
will have to beg state officials for another extension. On July
20, the board of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District voted unanimously to send a letter to the State Water
Resources Control Board acknowledging the failure to make
progress on developing a new water supply.
The nearly $2-billion EchoWater project aims to meet a 2010
requirement issued by California and local authorities. They
have called for cleaner discharge into the Sacramento River by
2023 from the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in
Elk Grove. With 21 projects, the EchoWater program’s largest
components are now under construction and, despite
complexities, remains on track to complete major work in 2022.
Public support for proposed desalination plants in Huntington
Beach and Dana Point appears strong in two recent polls,
although opponents call the surveys biased and say neither poll
addresses key obstacles facing these very different projects.
Ceres Imaging, an Oakland-based startup company, is one of
several high-tech aerial monitoring companies helping
California farmers, including those in Kern County, increase
their production, while decreasing their demand for water. It
is a logical marriage between agriculture and innovators in
California’s Silicon Valley.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board
of Directors recently approved the East County Advanced Water
Purification Program for its Local Resources Program, providing
approximately $86 million in funding for this important water
Legal scholars believe that the Lake Powell pipeline would
likely violate the 1922 Colorado River Compact as a
transfer of upper basin water (WY, UT, CO, NM) for lower basin
use (CA, NV, AZ). The lower basin has priority, and the compact
arguably prohibits transfers from the upper to lower basin
absent explicit congressional authorization
The 49-year-old Callender grew up in San Jose and graduated
from Santa Teresa High School. He has been with the district
for 24 years and is the first African-American to head the
agency in its 90-year history. Rick Callender is well known for
his political connections and his role as the long time former
head of the local NAACP.
The Upper Truckee Marsh in South Lake Tahoe once covered 1,600
acres and is now around 600 acres. It suffered in recent
decades because of cattle ranching, channelizing of the river
and the development of a neighborhood called the Tahoe Keys in
the 1950s and ’60s.
Heal the Bay today released the annual River Report Card, which
assigns water quality color-grades of Red, Yellow, or Green for
28 freshwater sites in Los Angeles County based on observed
bacteria levels in 2019.
The City of Lathrop wants to secure a permit that will allow
for the discharge of treated wastewater into the San Joaquin
River. And last week they agreed to spend more than $400,000 to
take steps towards achieving that longstanding goal.
“The people of Bakersfield need a flowing river — with water in
a thriving river parkway, quality of life in Bakersfield will
be significantly improved,” says the petition, posted recently
by local resident Jonathan Yates on Change.org.
More than a year after planning efforts began, municipal
officials and advocates have determined that the Islais Creek
Adaption Strategy should include a comprehensive vision for how
the watershed can best serve nearby residents, workers and
businesses, as well as address ways to manage increasing flood
A five-year battle over plans to log in the remote Gualala
River flood plain has taken a big step up with a powerhouse
environmental group’s declaration to take the case to federal
court, alleging the commercial tree harvest would harm
protected fish, frogs and birds.
This brown bag seminar was part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. … The candidate
and presenter is Jessica Rudnick. Rudnick arrived at UC Davis
in 2016 after completing her master’s in ecology and has since
been a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis.
States and environmental coalitions are set to wage multiple
challenges to President Donald Trump’s overhaul of federal
requirements for environmental permitting, setting up long-term
regulatory uncertainty and the potential for a checkerboard of
rules across the country. Trump unveiled the plan Wednesday,
replacing Nixon-era rules for how federal agencies conduct
reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.
I look at Trinidad more like a watershed than simply a square
mile of streets, homes and businesses. We provide water to our
residents, to some customers in Westhaven, and need to be able
to consider new water requests holistically.
A multibillion-dollar measure that would help build, repair,
and maintain a wide variety of water infrastructure projects
sailed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee Wednesday. Approved unanimously by voice vote, the
Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (H.R. 7575) would
authorize the Army Corps of Engineers every two years to carry
out specific projects and feasibility studies.
Earlier this year, the California Almond Board released a
report regarding the acreage of almond trees that have reached
bearing age and another with totals including young trees.
These reports paint a stark picture of an unsustainable
industry that threatens the Bay-Delta ecosystem and
California’s salmon fishing jobs.
As more people enjoy local trails this summer, they may notice
many of Valley Water’s percolation ponds in Santa Clara County
are empty and dry. There’s no reason to be alarmed. In fact,
the absence of water in many of the 100 percolation ponds owned
by Valley Water is a sign that our underground water basins are
mostly full and healthy.