Topic: Legislation — California and Federal


Legislation — California and Federal

Today Californians face increased risks from flooding, water shortages, unhealthy water quality, ecosystem decline and infrastructure degradation. Many federal and state legislative acts address ways to improve water resource management, ecosystem restoration, as well as water rights settlements and strategies to oversee groundwater and surface water.

Aquafornia news The Desert Review

Salton Sea included in $172 million in funding for ports and waterways projects

US Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) announced the US Army Corps of Engineers will receive $172.5 million in federal funding to help move forward critical water infrastructure projects in California. This funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act…. Highlights of California projects receiving funding include: $28 million to restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River. … $35 million for the San Joaquin River Basin to help reduce flood risk to the city of Stockton….$1.5 million for a Salton Sea feasibility study to facilitate the development of long-term solutions for public health and environmental impacts of the Salton Sea.

Aquafornia news Silicon Valley

East Bay sewer district gets $250 million federal loan for upgrades

The Union Sanitary District will receive a $250 million federal infrastructure loan to upgrade its aging waste treatment facility. The cash infusion will help support the district’s roughly $510 million plan to significantly upgrade its 33-acre wastewater treatment facility in Union City, the largest improvement project it has ever undertaken. The project will take an estimated seven to 10 years to complete, officials said.

Aquafornia news Global Water Forum

Blog: The multiple dimensions of vulnerability in our drinking water systems

The delivery of safe, affordable and reliable drinking water is a key responsibility of utilities and governments everywhere. In the U.S. there is growing evidence that access to safe and affordable drinking water is distributed unevenly. Low-income and minority communities are more likely to experience drinking water contamination, face higher water bills, and have less reliable access to drinking water. The importance of drinking water services are clear and gaining policy attention. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Biden administration pledges billions to fight wildfire crisis in California and across the West

Acknowledging that the U.S. Forest Service has fallen short when it comes to preventing wildfires, the Biden administration this week said it would spend nearly $3 billion to reduce risk across the most fire-prone areas of the United States, largely in the American West. The impact could be significant in California, where the federal government is the largest landowner, responsible for nearly half of all land area in the state, including 20 million acres of federal forests vexed by an enduring wildfire crisis.

Aquafornia news Bond Buyer

California ballot measure fundraising efforts coming up short

Supporters of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 put a call out for donations Friday to help get the measure on the California ballot. In a “last call” for major donors, supporters of the ballot measure wrote, “the campaign finds itself in the inexplicable position of having a solution everyone wants, but unable so far to raise funds to qualify it for the ballot.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Proposed ballot measure would create water infrastructure

The More Water Now campaign was formed to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act to appear as a state ballot initiative in November. Nearly every expert in California agrees that more water infrastructure is necessary; that conservation alone will not protect Californians from the impact of climate change. Projects to capture storm runoff and recycle urban wastewater are urgently needed, and this initiative provides the funding to get it done.
-Written by Edward Ring, lead proponent of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act, a proposed state ballot initiative.​

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: California needs to do more than just throw money at climate change. It must act

For the second year in a row, California has been blessed with a massive budget surplus, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is again seeking to spend billions of those dollars responding to climate change. The $22 billion Newsom proposed last week is the largest investment in climate change in state history. Combined with funds from last year’s state climate spending package, it would provide California with a total of $37 billion for climate-related initiatives over a six-year period. … There is money to clean the electric grid, prevent wildfires, respond to the drought and protect coastal areas from rising sea levels…

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

California Farm Bureau welcomes budget proposal

A $286.4 billion budget plan for the state of California was introduced this week by Governor Gavin Newsom. This budget will make investments to target the greatest threats to the state. Those threats include fighting COVID 19, keeping the streets safe, confronting homelessness and combating the climate crisis with an emphasis on drought response.  Last year’s budget included an allocation of $5.2 billion over a 3-year period to tackle water issues. In this 2022 budget proposal, an additional $750 million will go directly to the general fund to support drought resilience and response. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun Times

Congressman Jim Costa leads effort to ensure San Joaquin Valley water is prioritized in infrastructure law roll-out

Last week, Rep. Jim Costa continued to advocate for key California infrastructure priorities as funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) begins to roll out. In a letter to U.S. Dept. of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, Costa provided recommendations on how the Biden administration can prioritize the distribution of IIJA funding to help improve water infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California plans to spend $37 billion fighting climate change

Some of the details will likely change over the next few months as the governor’s office negotiates with the Legislature, which must approve the budget. But here are nine things you should know about how Newsom would tackle the climate crisis. … It also adds $750 million to last year’s $5.2 billion for drought response, including $180 million for water suppliers to plug leaks, tear out grass and improve efficiency; $145 million in emergency assistance for communities at risk of going dry; $75 million to protect fish and wildlife; and $30 million for replenishing groundwater.

Aquafornia news CA Natural Resources Agency

News release: State agencies detail progress implementing Water Resilience Portfolio

A new report conveys significant progress made in the past 18 months to implement the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Newsom Administration’s water policy blueprint to build climate resilience in the face of more extreme cycles of wet and dry. … Recent progress includes assisting tens of thousands of Californians who depend on small water systems or domestic wells that have drinking water supply problems, dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve streamflow for salmon and other native fish species, advancing the removal of four obsolete dams that block salmon passage on the Klamath River, providing extensive financial and technical assistance to local sustainable groundwater management agencies, restoring streams and floodplains, and steadily improving the state’s ability to manage flood and drought.

Aquafornia news American Journal of Public Health

New research: Inequities in drinking water quality among domestic well communities and community water systems, California

Roughly 10% of California’s public drinking water systems are currently out of compliance with state drinking water quality standards, and an estimated 6 million Californians are served by systems that have been in violation at some point since 2012. A disproportionate number of water quality violations in the state occur in smaller drinking water systems that serve rural, low-income communities, where degraded infrastructure and a lack of resources make it challenging to meet regulatory standards. Communities served by water systems with elevated contaminant levels are disproportionately poor and Latinx, raising environmental justice concerns.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes spending $1B on water infrastructure

[Arizona] Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed spending $1 billion from the state’s general fund over three years to help “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” In his final State of the State address, the governor said the budget he sends to lawmakers will prioritize water infrastructure including desalination. … Long discussed as an idea to deliver some of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River without drawing down Lake Mead, seawater desalination on the Sea of Cortez would pump treated water to Morelos Dam near Yuma for distribution in Mexico. The U.S. parties paying into the program would then take some of Mexico’s river water as compensation.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California budget – How will Newsom spend multi-billion dollar surplus?

Buoyed by another massive surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday unveiled a wide-ranging $286 billion spending proposal for 2022-23, prioritizing more money to fight COVID-19 and tackle climate change, homelessness, the rising cost of living and other issues that plague the Golden State. … The budget also aims to address more long-standing problems, including climate-related issues such as wildfires and drought. It calls for an additional $1.2 billion to boost forest management and $750 million to round out last year’s $5.2 billion water package to help residents, farmers and wildlife respond to the historic drought.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Monday Top of the Scroll: Newsom California budget adds money for drought, fires, agriculture

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will propose spending billions of additional dollars on drought response, wildfire suppression and rural workforce development programs, according to budget documents reviewed by The Sacramento Bee. The governor’s plan includes $750 million in one-time money to help communities affected by the drought, including for water conservation, water efficiency, replenishing groundwater supplies and helping small farmers.

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Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: Petition against Sites Reservoir reaches 50,000 signatures after a deadly year for winter-run salmon

Just before the California Department Fish and Wildlife released a New Year’s Eve letter revealing that only 2.6 percent of juvenile Chinook salmon had survived lethally warm water conditions on the Sacramento River, a petition sponsored by Save California Salmon in opposition to the Sites Reservoir reached 50,000 signatures. … Sites Reservoir is opposed by California Tribal representatives, environmental justice groups, conservation organizations and fishing groups … 

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

California GOP eyes state budget surplus for water, other priorities

The Senate’s nine Republicans are calling on the Democrats controlling the Legislature and governor’s office to use the anticipated $31 billion surplus to provide economic and drought relief to Californians. The tax revenue has been so large this year that policy analysts expect it will trigger a rarely deployed policy known as the Gann limit. That means the state must return a portion of the funds directly to taxpayers or spend it on certain priorities, such as education and infrastructure. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: California Democrats should steal these GOP ideas

Major water projects have always been financed by the people who use the water — farmers, homeowners, industrialists — through monthly bills. The one exception is for so-called public benefits, such as fish protection and recreation. Everybody pays for that. Now, Republicans are proposing that the state general fund pony up with money collected from all taxpayers from Crescent City to Calexico. This previously seemed like a bad idea to me. Why should taxpayers in Orange County pay to irrigate excessive almond orchards in the arid San Joaquin Valley, especially when much of the crop is exported to Asia?
-Written by LA Times columnist George Skelton. 

Aquafornia news Daily Democrat

Sen. Bill Dodd introduces remote water monitoring bill

Sen. Bill Dodd introduced a new remote water monitoring bill this week aimed at encouraging more efficient use of water. With California experiencing longer and more frequent droughts, the new legislation that was authorized on Wednesday will allow for the remote sensing of water diversions and create a more accurate measurement of available resources, according to a press release from Dodd’s office. … This latest proposal, Senate Bill 832, would authorize the California Department of Water Resources to allow remote sensing technology to measure diversions from major water users including agriculture and municipal water districts. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

In a drying West, Utah governor proposes major water investments

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox [R] unveiled his $25 billion budget proposal last month near what was once the shore of the Great Salt Lake. But instead of waves lapping behind him, the waterline was barely visible in the distance. One of the longest periods of prolonged drought in modern memory has shrunk the lake by more than 10 feet in recent decades, just one barometer in parched Western states that are feeling the increasingly dire effects of a changing climate that is sapping reservoirs, contributing to extreme fires and reducing snowpack and river flow.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Housing beware: Water scarcity is only the surface of the issue

In November this year, San Francisco declared a water shortage emergency and called for reducing usage by 10%, impacting nearly three million city customers. In March, Utah also declared a state of emergency as 90% of the state was in extreme drought conditions. These are just 2 of the 17 states that experienced water shortages in the past year. State and local governments are now motivated to protect their communities going into 2022 and beyond, with little consensus on water sources that are shared by so many, like the Colorado River. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation application period gets underway for aging infrastructure with funding from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

The Bureau of Reclamation has initiated the first application period for Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) projects that will address aging water and power infrastructure across the West. Newly enacted funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be applied to the program following the new application period requirements set out in the separate Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260) which became law in December of 2020.

Related article:

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Board of Supervisors makes no move to split Water Resources, Public Works

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to take no action on a proposal from the County Administrative Office to consider once again splitting the Water Resources Department off from the Department of Public Works. County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson said she agendized the discussion because the county is anticipating a “considerable amount of infrastructure funding” in the next year or two thanks to the federal infrastructure bill.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation releases $210 million spend plan for drought and fire suppression in the West

The Bureau of Reclamation released the spending plan for the $210 million provided in the Extending Government Funding and Delivery Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 117-43). The legislation provides Reclamation with $200 million to address drought conditions throughout the West, as well as $10 million for fire remediation and suppression emergency assistance related to wildfires.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

Massive wetland restoration project in the works for Upper Klamath Lake

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating a major restoration project on the shore of Upper Klamath Lake that could benefit species both above and below the water’s surface. If carried out, it would be the largest wetland restoration effort ever attempted for Upper Klamath Lake … [and] would reconnect and restore more than 14,000 acres of historic fringe wetlands back to the lake.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California lacks lumber mills, biomass plants to cut wildfire risk

Niel Fischer’s company sits on an enormous stack of kindling — a staggering backlog of dead and dying trees that could catch fire again. Collins Pine Co. was left with 30,000 acres of blackened pines and firs after the Dixie Fire ripped through the company’s private forest in Plumas County this past summer. … California’s wildfire crisis is being fed by a host of problems, notably climate change and drought. The dilemma at Collins illustrates another contributing factor: a shortage of places for the state to process wood.

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Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Environmentalists sound alarm over proposed water initiative

A proposed ballot measure that would dedicate $100 billion to bolster California’s water supply is drawing a sharp rebuke, not only for the amount of spending but also for the dramatic sidesteps it would allow in the environmental review process. For example, the proposal would make the controversial plan for a Huntington Beach desalination plant eligible for a huge taxpayer subsidy — even though the private, for-profit Poseidon Water company currently intends to pay for the $1.4 billion in construction costs. 

Aquafornia news KVPR - Clovis

As water officials repair damage from subsidence, they demand prevention from groundwater agencies

State water officials have asked local groundwater agencies to better prevent land subsidence. Simultaneously, the state is also working to fix the damage caused by sinking land. … The sinking of land is slowly impairing the complex system of canals that deliver water throughout the state. According to a 2017 report by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the sinking and buckling of portions of the California Aqueduct, which runs 444 miles from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Tehachapi Mountains, has reduced its flow capacity and its ability to store water in overflow pools.

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Aquafornia news Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein

News release: Feinstein, Padilla to Interior – Prioritize California drought projects when disbursing bipartisan infrastructure bill funds

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) today called on the Interior Department to prioritize $8.3 billion in Western water infrastructure funding for California projects that will promote preparedness and resiliency to climate-driven droughts.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Do right by California’s tribes through the 30×30 conservation effort

Many California Indians survived the genocide of colonial settlement in California but have nonetheless been deprived of their traditional way of life by being dispossessed of their lands and culture. Californians now have an opportunity to begin to repair these historic wrongs through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiative known as 30×30. … Rivers are an intrinsic part of California’s Native American culture. Many Northern California tribes define themselves by their relationship to rivers. The name of the Yurok Tribe, for example, means the “downriver” people, … Similarly, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s name means the “middle water” people …
-Written by Morning Star Gali, a member of the Ajumawi band of the Pit River Tribe in Northeastern California; and Kate Poole, a senior director on the nature team at Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Tribal representatives express concerns over Sites Reservoir

The Sites Project Authority received criticism Thursday as it conducted a public hearing and presentation on the history and variations of the Sites Reservoir project planned for Colusa County. … Once public questions and input began, almost all of the speakers shared criticism for the project with many asking that the group not go forward with the project in any capacity. Two representatives from two different tribes with land that would be used for the project spoke out against the project.

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Aquafornia news KOBI-TV NBC5 / KOTI-TV NBC2

$20M in state drought aid coming to Klamath County

The Oregon legislature passed $100-million in drought relief funding for the state. Of that, around $20 million is headed to Klamath County for ongoing drought relief and wildfires. There’s a sigh of relief for many in the Klamath Basin coming. The Klamath Water Users Association says the funding will benefit thousands in Klamath County. Desperately needed funding is headed to Klamath County for drought assistance, from the state.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Opinion: Feds should focus on natural solutions in flood preparation

Our country faces a flood crisis. More people and places are at risk, with climate-induced flooding threatening widespread social, environmental and economic impacts. We need a holistic approach to reduce flood risk now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has focused on building levees, spillways and hardened infrastructure to address episodic storm events. But, by focusing solely on storm surge, they leave millions exposed to chronic flooding from sea level rise, tides and extreme rainfall. … Coastal areas experience flooding from rising seas, storm surge, rainfall, and swelling rivers and streams.

-Written by Natalie Snider, associate vice president of Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds at Environmental Defense Fund; and David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: Initiative to fund and fast track water projects is badly needed

To cope with worsening droughts, over the past few decades Californians have made impressive gains in water efficiency. Total water diversions in California for agriculture and cities – roughly 30 million acre feet per year for agriculture and 8 million acre feet per year for cities – have not increased even while California’s population has grown and irrigated farm acreage has increased. But conservation alone cannot guarantee Californians have an adequate supply of water.
-Written by Edward Ring, a senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013. 

Aquafornia news Water Online

Legal analysts say latest version of WOTUS could finally stick

Almost immediately after Joe Biden’s U.S. EPA administrator appointee Michael Regan took office, it was made clear that the agency intends to repeal and replace the Trump administration’s version of the Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) rule. This rule seeks to determine which source water bodies receive federal protection under the Clean Water Act. Trump’s version of the rule was itself a replacement of an Obama era version, and now it appears that Biden’s team is close to bringing it back to its definition from before either of those eras.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

How do you spend trillions of dollars? What Biden’s infrastructure bills will mean to Bay Area communities

Amid a historic drought, water is never far from Bay Area residents’ minds. Marin County is suffering from water shortages like its peers, but unlike other parts of the Bay Area has no backup ways to get water when it runs dry. Though the county gets 25% of its water from neighboring Sonoma, the drought is forcing cutbacks in that supply as well. … The bill has an entire section for Western water infrastructure, including $1.15 billion for water storage and conveyance projects like the one Marin is undertaking. Bay Area water districts could use such money to expand reservoirs, as well. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado wants tougher laws against water speculation as droughts loom

Want to understand water speculation in Colorado?  Let’s say you’re in line at a pizza shop. Hear us out.  There’s a big sign at the pizza counter saying, “Limited quantities due to climate change. Buy only what you can eat.”  But the guy in front of you buys five pizzas for $20 each. He starts reselling them by the slice for $5 a piece. The store owner says, “You can’t do that here.”  The pizza glutton walks away, saying, “Fine. I’ll put them in the freezer and I’ll eat it all later.”  … [S]peculation on water purely for profit is supposed to be illegal already in Colorado. But under current law, there’s no way of telling what’s in the water buyer’s heart.

Aquafornia news Nevada Current

Officials highlight infrastructure act’s water recycling provisions

With President Biden last month signing a historic $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law to fortify roads, bridges and waterways, among other things, Western states stand to gain major water infrastructure investments. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined Nevada Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Dina Titus in Las Vegas to tout the Biden administration’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that includes more than $50 billion for water infrastructure programs. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

One Arizona tribe seeks to lease water, another moves to conserve it

As Arizona tribal leaders prepare to take a greater role in a regional forum on Colorado River issues, a new bill to allow at least one tribe to lease water is making its way through Congress, while another tribe tries to forestall further cuts to water delivery. The tribes are increasingly concerned that a persistent drought, worsened by a 20-year-long period of hotter and drier conditions in the Southwest, has already led to the federal government’s first-ever shortage declaration for Arizona water users. One tribe is worried that it may be asked to reduce its own water deliveries.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Democrats want to spend budget surplus on California infrastructure

State lawmakers want to use a projected $31 billion surplus to fuel an infrastructure boom, a tactic that could reduce the amount Californians might see in any rebate checks this year – if they happen at all. The state expects to have so much money it risks exceeding a state spending threshold called the Gann Limit…. [Assemblyman Phil Ting, who runs the Assembly Budget Committee] said he wants lawmakers to use the state surplus for drought resilience projects and broadband expansion to communities without reliable internet access.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Understanding Streamflow Is Vital to Water Management in California, But Gaps In Data Exist
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A new law aims to reactivate dormant stream gauges to aid in flood protection, water forecasting

Stream gauges gather important metrics such as  depth, flow (described as cubic feet per second) and temperature.  This gauge near downtown Sacramento measures water depth.California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.

That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jennifer Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Gary Pitzer

Bruce Babbitt Urges Creation of Bay-Delta Compact as Way to End ‘Culture of Conflict’ in California’s Key Water Hub
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Former Interior secretary says Colorado River Compact is a model for achieving peace and addressing environmental and water needs in the Delta

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt gives the Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.  Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful, provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Delta tunnels plan.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

California Officials Draft a $600M Plan To Help Low-Income Households Absorb Rising Water Bills
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report proposes new taxes on personal and business income or fees on bottled water and booze to fund rate relief program

Filling a glass with clean water from the kitchen tap.Low-income Californians can get help with their phone bills, their natural gas bills and their electric bills. But there’s only limited help available when it comes to water bills.

That could change if the recommendations of a new report are implemented into law. Drafted by the State Water Resources Control Board, the report outlines the possible components of a program to assist low-income households facing rising water bills.

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.

Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Event included optional Delta Tour

One of our most popular events, Water 101 details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop gives attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource.

McGeorge School of Law
3285 5th Ave, Classroom C
Sacramento, CA 95817

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”


The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.

Aquapedia background

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 237 feet below sea level.

The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe

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Safe Drinking Water Act

Safe Drinking Water Act

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for drinking water quality in the United States.

Launched in 1974 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act oversees states, communities, and water suppliers who implement the drinking water standards at the local level.

The act’s regulations apply to every public water system in the United States but do not include private wells serving less than 25 people.

According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water systems in the United States.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Western Water Magazine

Water Policy 2007: The View from Washington and Sacramento
March/April 2007

This issue of Western Water looks at the political landscape in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento as it relates to water issues in 2007. Several issues are under consideration, including the means to deal with impending climate change, the fate of the San Joaquin River, the prospects for new surface storage in California and the Delta.

Western Water Magazine

Are We Keeping Up With Water Infrastructure Needs?
January/February 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines water infrastructure – its costs and the quest to augment traditional brick-and-mortar facilities with sleeker, “green” features.

Western Water Magazine

Dollars and Sense: How We Pay for Water
September/October 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for it and how much they might have to pay in the future.

Western Water Magazine

Making the Connection: The Water/Energy Nexus
September/October 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.

Western Water Magazine

Mimicking the Natural Landscape: Low Impact Development and Stormwater Capture
September/October 2011

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.

Western Water Magazine

A Call to Action? The Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study
November/December 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study and what its finding might mean for the future of the lifeblood of the Southwest.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (20 min. DVD)

20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (60 min. DVD)

For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and California border has faced complex water management disputes. As relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp, farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists – all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water. After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the documentary here.


Shaping of the West: 100 Years of Reclamation

30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern day issues.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

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 Area Office.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

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.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

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 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers 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.


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

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 management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.


Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management
Updated 2009

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the physical flood control system, including levees; discusses previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores issues of floodplain management and development; provides an overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control projects. 


Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project explores the history and development of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).


Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

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Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Litigation

For more than 30 years, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been embroiled in continuing controversy over the struggle to restore the faltering ecosystem while maintaining its role as the hub of the state’s water supply.

Lawsuits and counter lawsuits have been filed, while environmentalists and water users continue to clash over  the amount of water that can be safely exported from the region.

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National Environmental Policy Act

Passed in 1970, the federal National Environmental Policy Act requires lead public agencies to prepare and submit for public review environmental impact reports and statements on major federal projects under their purview with potentially significant environmental effects.

According to the Department of Energy, administrator of NEPA:

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Judge Wanger Rulings

Federal Judge Oliver Wanger overturned a federal scientific study that aimed to protect Delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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Groundwater Legislation

California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive groundwater strategy many times over the last century.

One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission considered adding  groundwater regulation into the Water Commission Act of 1913.  After hearings were held, it was decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.

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Federal Reserved Rights

Federal reserved rights were created when the United States reserved land from the public domain for uses such as Indian reservations, military bases and national parks, forests and monuments.  [See also Pueblo Rights].

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Federal Endangered Species Act

Federal Endangered Species Act

The federal government passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, following earlier legislation. The first, the  Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, authorized land acquisition to conserve select species. The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 then expanded on the 1966 act, and authorized “the compilation of a list of animals “threatened with worldwide extinction” and prohibits their importation without a permit.”

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California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

North Fork of the American River,  a section deemed wild and scenic. California’s Legislature passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1972, following the passage of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Congress in 1968. Under California law, “[c]ertain rivers which possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values shall be preserved in their free-flowing state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state.”

Rivers are classified as:

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California Endangered Species Act

California was the first state in the nation to protect fish, flora and fauna with the enactment of the California Endangered Species Act in 1970. (Congress followed suit in 1973 by passing the federal Endangered Species Act. See also the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.)

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Area-of-Origin and California Water

The legal term “area-of-origin” dates back to 1931 in California.

At that time, concerns over water transfers prompted enactment of four “area-of-origin” statutes. With water transfers from Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to supply water for San Francisco and from Owens Valley to Los Angeles fresh in mind, the statutes were intended to protect local areas against export of water.

In particular, counties in Northern California had concerns about the state tapping their water to develop California’s supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

It would be a vast understatement to say the package of water bills approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last November was anything but a significant achievement. During a time of fierce partisan battles and the state’s long-standing political gridlock with virtually all water policy, pundits at the beginning of 2009 would have given little chance to lawmakers being able to reach com­promise on water legislation.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Thirty Years of the Clean Water Act
Nov/Dec 2002

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant environmental laws in American history, the Clean Water Act (CWA). The law that emerged from the consensus and compromise that characterizes the legislative process has had remarkable success, reversing years of neglect and outright abuse of the nation’s waters.

Western Water Excerpt Rita Schmidt Sudman

The Davis Administration and California Water
Mar/Apr 1999

In January, Mary Nichols joined the cabinet of the new Davis administration. With her appointment by Gov. Gray Davis as Secretary for Resources, Ms. Nichols, 53, took on the role of overseeing the state of California’s activities for the management, preservation and enhancement of its natural resources, including land, wildlife, water and minerals. As head of the Resources Agency, she directs the activities of 19 departments, conservancies, boards and commissions, serving as the governor’s representative on these boards and commissions.

Western Water Excerpt Rita Schmidt Sudman

CVP Improvement Act Update
May/Jun 1997

Two days before our annual Executive Briefing, I picked up my phone to hear “The White House calling… .” Vice President Al Gore had accepted the foundation’s invitation to speak at our March 13 briefing on California water issues. That was the start of a new experience for us. For in addition to conducting a briefing for about 250 people, we were now dealing with Secret Service agents, bomb sniffing dogs and government sharpshooters, speech writers, print and TV reporters, school children and public relations people.