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.
Sonoma wildlife conservationists had one word to describe Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s proposed new Beaver Restoration program:
“Damtastic!” Newsom floated the program as part of a May 13
presentation of his revised 2022-2023 fiscal budget. Pledging
$1.67 million this year and $1.44 million in years thereafter,
Newsom said the funds would go toward the Department of Fish
and Wildlife’s efforts in developing “a comprehensive beaver
management plan.” The North American Beaver is considered a
“keystone species” by Fish and Wildlife …
A group of senators has introduced the Support to Rehydrate the
Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities, or STREAM, Act.
The bill would increase water supply and modernize water
infrastructure throughout the West. The three senators, all
from states affected by the current drought, include Sens.
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Kyrsten
Sinema (D-Ariz.). … Infrastructure improvements and
additions work toward a long-term solution. And it’s important
to think urgently, said the release.
A state program aimed at retiring and repurposing farmland
could get $60 million – more than doubling its current funding
– under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget. The Multibenefit Land
Repurposing Program was created with $50 million from the 2021
state budget. The program helps pay for farmland to be taken
out of production and repurposed to less water intensive uses.
Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have pumped groundwater for
crops without limits for generations. But groundwater levels
are plummeting …
Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, is maneuvering against a bill
that seeks higher flows on local rivers. Assembly Bill 2639
would set a Dec. 31, 2023, deadline for the State Water
Resources Control Board to complete its plan for tributaries to
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They include the Stanislaus,
Tuolumne and Merced rivers. The decision would follow decades
of wrangling over whether fish should get more water on the
lower rivers at the expense of farms and cities.
The California Senate has proposed a $2 billion reconciliation
framework to rebalance water supply and water rights, as part
of proposed investments of $7.5 billion in state and federal
funds spread over three years for climate resiliency. It is the
most sweeping land retirement proposal since the landmark 1992
Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
Four PacifiCorps dams — the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 and No. 2,
and Iron Gate — are scheduled to be removed as part of a
controversial effort that advocates have said will restore the
health of the river, fish and communities along the river,
including several in the Upper Klamath Basin. Dam removal is
something that has drawn heated discussion for and against for
decades, highlighted in 2001 when decisions to not release
water to Klamath Basin irrigators resulted in protests and
demonstrations that drew national attention.
Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), who represents Solano
Country and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the 3rd
Congressional District, released the following statement on the
passage of the “Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022”
(H.R.7776) in the House Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure: “The biennial Water Resources Development Act
strengthens flood protection, water resources, precious
ecosystems, and more in communities across California and the
This blog is a short introduction to a lesser known federal
bill that is one of the most significant pieces of fish and
wildlife legislation in decades. In Spring of 2021, Rep. Debbie
Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced
the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. During July 2021, a
separate adaptation of the act was also introduced in the
Senate (S.2372) by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Roy
Blunt (R-MO). At its core, the bipartisan bill seeks to provide
$1.39B in annual funding for state and tribal fish and wildlife
agencies to protect and conserve declining species.
A ruling by federal regulators has put a damper on plans to
turn 300 miles of rail line from Humboldt County to Marin
County into the Great Redwood Trail. The Surface Transportation
Board issued a decision Tuesday that it will not prioritize
trail use … Maintaining the rail line along the Eel
River is financially infeasible because of landslides and other
risks, but the North Coast Railroad Co. wants to take over that
portion of the line. … U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and
state Sen. Mike McGuire … issued statements saying they
weren’t surprised by the decision, but that they are taking
steps to ensure the “toxic coal train” doesn’t become a reality
on the North Coast.
State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Bakersfield) and state Sen. Dave
Cortese (D-San Jose) are calling for U. S. Attorney General
Merrick Garland to investigate possible drought profiteering
and water rights abuses in the western states. … A
county supervisor in Arizona joined the California state
senators in calling for the investigation. … In addition
to raising anti-trust questions, Hurtado and Cortese expressed
concern about the potential for hedge funds to divert water
intended for food production to cannabis growing operations.
In the current legislative session, lawmakers are working on a
bill designed to reduce plastic waste. If they are unable to
draft legislation by June 30, the issue will go straight to
voters as a ballot measure. The initiative, the California
Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, would require
all single-use plastic packaging and food ware used in
California to be recyclable, reusable, refillable or
compostable by 2030. … Over the last year, research has
shown the presence of these particles in human
blood, healthy lung tissue and meconium — the
first bowel movement of a newborn. They are also found in
marine organisms, ocean water, air and soil.
San Diego County lagoons and wetlands may get more funding for
protection and restoration under the Resilient Coasts and
Estuaries Act, introduced Tuesday by Reps. Mike Levin, D-San
Juan Capistrano, and Brian Mast, R-Fla. The bill would
authorize $60 million per year through 2026 for the Coastal and
Estuarine Land Conservation Program, which distributes money to
preserve the “conservation, recreation, ecological, historical,
and aesthetic values of estuaries,” Levin stated. That funding
could support conservation of local wetlands, including the San
Mateo Creek, San Luis Rey River, San Elijo Lagoon and others…
A proposal apparently headed to the November ballot would have
voters in rural southeastern Arizona decide whether to create a
new regulatory district to manage large-scale groundwater use
for agriculture in an area where aquifer levels have dropped in
recent years. A grassroots group collected sufficient voter
signatures on petitions required under state law for a ballot
measure on creation of an active management area in the Willcox
basin in Cochise and Graham counties, myheraldreview.com
reported. The management area would be Arizona’s first created
through a petition drive.
Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing funding to support what he
calls a “creative climate solving hero” – the North American
Beaver. The rodent is known to help restore drought-stricken
areas of California by restoring wetlands and groundwater
basins. The governor is initially requesting more than $3
million in the next few fiscal years to support and maintain a
beaver restoration program within the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife.
California is hoping to get a new state park. The site, now
known as the Dos Rios Reserve, is just a 20-minute drive from
Modesto and may be open to the public by next year if Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s budget is approved. The site is where two
rivers, Tuolumne and San Joaquin, meet.
California lawmakers and the governor are hashing out the final
details for investing billions of state dollars into a drought
relief plan with long-term water investments and some benefits
Even as President Biden’s signature climate change bill
languishes in the Senate, Congress is poised to spend billions
of dollars on ambitious new projects that would help the U.S.
adapt to climate change. A bill that would authorize the Army
Corps of Engineers to build infrastructure to protect against
climate impacts is quietly sailing through Congress,
demonstrating bipartisan support for measures to protect
against flooding and sea-level rise. … The bill also
allows the Corps to undertake drought response efforts in the
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and
Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) yesterday introduced S.4231, the
Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and
Municipalities Act or STREAM Act, a bill that would increase
water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California
and throughout the West.
A legislative commission is floating the idea of a pipeline to
bring water from the Pacific Ocean into the Great Salt Lake.
“There’s a lot of water in the ocean and we have very little in
the Great Salt Lake,” said Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville,
who co-chairs the Legislative Water Development Commission.
… The study would look at the cost to actually create a
pipeline from the Pacific Ocean, across California and the
Sierra-Nevada mountains, across the deserts of Nevada and
ultimately into the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
The Interior Department is doling out more than $240 million
for repairs to aging water infrastructure in the drought-ridden
West, one of the first investments with ramifications for
agriculture in the $1.5 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
enacted last year.
Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good
chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking
somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your
groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide,
widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other
crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented
role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and
other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being
discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across
the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are
paying closer attention … -Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the
Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal would set aside $75
million to aid small agricultural businesses as the drought
deepens. The one-time assistance would provide grants ranging
from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on the amount of lost
revenue. The program would prioritize businesses in the hardest
hit regions, such as the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys….
Newsom’s budget plan would allocate $100 million for repairing
conveyance canals, which was part of a 2021 budget deal. But it
would not add anything further.
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his revised state budget for the
2022-’23 Fiscal Year. The $300.7 billion budget includes
several priorities of interest to ACWA members, including
funding for drought, climate change, forest management and
more. Building upon last year’s three-year, $5.2 billion
allocation to support drought response and long-term water
sustainability, the governor’s revised budget includes an
additional $2 billion for drought response and water
resilience. This is part of the governor’s larger $47.1 billion
The 1972 Clean Water Act established federal authority over the
“waters of the United States.” Congress did not offer further
explanation of what was covered under that term, but the two
federal agencies given authority by the Clean Water Act
asserted broad power. The federal Environmental Protection
Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers required farmers,
homeowners, commercial and industrial concerns and developers
to obtain permits before digging a ditch for water run-off,
shoring up existing erosion protection structures, or draining
swampy land. -Written by columnist Tom Campbell.
New legislation introduced in the State Assembly aims to make
the Governor’s March 28 order on new water well permits
permanent. Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and
representatives from Visalia-based Community Water Center (CWC)
introduced Assembly Bill 2201 on March 31 requiring local
Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to evaluate new well
drilling permits to ensure those wells will not negatively
affect domestic wells nearby before the permits can be approved
by county government. The law would codify Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
executive order, which is temporary.
Central California lawmakers, growers and advocates are calling
on the state to invest in canal repairs that they say will help
improve water security. The call for funding comes as the state
experiences the third year of drought. SB 559, known as
the State Water Resiliency Act, aims to fix canals that deliver
water across Central California fully. Currently, $200 million
has been allocated in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. But the
bill’s author, State Senator Melissa Hurtado of Sanger, said
that funding would only cover limited repairs.
Southern California desert water districts with aging or
failing infrastructure won big federal
funding Monday, with more than $100 million allocated for
major dam and irrigation canal upgrades that will
benefit the Coachella Valley and Imperial County. The
projects are part of $240 million awarded from Bipartisan
Infrastructure Law funds by the U.S. Department of the
Interior on Monday. Among the biggest beneficiaries is the
Coachella Valley Water District, which will get $60
million for lateral replacement irrigation pipelines and
more for work on the Coachella Canal.
A Democrat lawmaker from the central San Joaquin Valley wants
to put cash in the hands of eligible farmworkers to help them
deal with the devastation of California’s drought. Proposed by
State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger, Senate Bill
1066 would allocate $20 million to create the California
Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project, a state-funded
project that would provide unconditional monthly cash payments
of $1,000 for three years to eligible farmworkers, with the
goal of lifting them out of poverty.
In farming areas across the Central Valley, a well-drilling
frenzy has accelerated over the last year as growers turn to
pumping more groundwater during the drought, even as falling
water levels leave hundreds of nearby homes with dry wells.
Counties have continued freely issuing well-drilling permits in
the years since California passed a landmark law, the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 … Some state
legislators are now supporting a bill that they say would
strengthen oversight and limit the well-drilling frenzy by
requiring a review of permits for new wells by the same local
agencies that are charged with managing groundwater.
California’s inability to meet its long-stated goal of cutting
solid waste by 75 percent by 2020 has prompted
environmentalists to craft a ballot initiative targeting
single-use plastic products – including a sharp limit on their
production. The initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot marks the
second time in six years that California voters have decided on
plastics use. … The latest initiative,
the California Recycling and Plastic Reduction Act, would
require all single-use plastic packaging and foodware to be
recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030.
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to
begin the process to phase out single-use plastics at city
facilities and city-sponsored events, as well as to take steps
toward a potential citywide ban on polystyrene products such as
Styrofoam. … Wednesday’s motion instructed the city
attorney to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic at
city facilities and at events on city property.
Public developments on the California coast would be required
to capture carbon in wetlands or other natural systems under an
Assembly bill that calls for projects to add “blue carbon”
measures to their mitigation plans. Blue carbon refers to
coastal habitat such as wetlands, marshes, kelp forests and
eelgrass beds that capture and store carbon in soil, plant
matter and the sea floor. AB 2593, authored by
Assemblymember Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, would require
projects on public lands to compensate for greenhouse gas
emissions by building or contributing to blue carbon projects.
New legislation that U.S. Reps. Mike Levin and Nancy Mace
introduced late last month could provide more grant funding to
the study and advancement of desalination technology,
benefiting endeavors including the proposed Doheny Ocean
Desalination Project in Dana Point. If enacted, H.R. 7612, or
the Desalination Research Advancement Act, would increase the
number of research grants the Bureau of Reclamation is
authorized to fund, raising the cap from $5 million to $20
million per year through the 2026 fiscal year.
In an effort to boost water supply reliability for millions of
Californians, the California Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has announced its first round of funding to 20 agencies
responsible for managing critically overdrafted groundwater
basins throughout the state. A total of $150 million in funding
is being awarded to regional groundwater agencies through the
Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program. The
funding will go toward projects focused on water efficiency,
groundwater recharge, feasibility studies for alternative water
supplies, and the installation of monitoring wells.
Congress will consider a bill finalizing a water rights
settlement for the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona. KNAU’s Melissa
Sevigny reports, it will resolve the tribe’s longstanding
claims to the Colorado, Bill Williams, and Verde rivers.
Arizona Representative Tom O’Halleran introduced the bill to a
House committee last week. It allows the Hualapai Tribe to
divert 3,414 acre feet of water from the Colorado River each
year. It also establishes a trust fund of $180 million to
construct a project to convey the water to the Hualapai
Reservation. A separate fund of $5 million will be set aside
for carrying out the terms of the agreement.
Two bills authored by Democratic State Senator Melissa Hurtado,
who represents the 14th district that includes Porterville,
advanced in the Senate on Wednesday. SB 1219, Hurtado’s State
Water Resiliency and Modernization Act passed the Senate
Environmental Quality Committee. Hurtado’s bill to
prevent foreign purchases of agricultural property, SB 1064,
the Food and Farm Security Act also passed the Senate
Agricultural Committee 4-0.
Congressman Jared Huffman introduced a new bill this week that
aims to give land back to the Yurok Tribe. HR7581, known as the
Yurok Lands Act, would expand the Yurok reservation boundaries
and give the tribe more than 1,229 additional acres of U.S.
Forest Service land. … By reclaiming land, the Tribe
hopes to help keep local forests and salmon populations
Gov. Newsom’s emergency drought order that singled out
agricultural wells for extra scrutiny is continuing to cause
confusion and angst in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley,
while other areas are stutter-stepping forward. Selma raisin
farmer Tony Panoo was happy to finally have his well drilled on
Monday after several tense weeks when his permit application
was stuck between Fresno County and the Central Kings
Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which covers his
A coalition of water stakeholder organizations from across
California joined together to send a letter addressed to
Gov. Gavin Newsom and six key legislators requesting
action to address water issues. The nine page document dated
April 19, 2022 was signed by 18 organizations and entities
including the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and 10
Southern California, four Bay Area and three trade groups. The
letter laid out the need to include a $6.5 billion
appropriation in the 2022-2023 General Fund budget to
strengthen statewide drought and flood resilience. -Written by Don Wright, a contributor to The San
Joaquin Valley Sun.
As worsening drought conditions in California and the West take
a heavy economic toll on agriculture, state legislators are
considering a plan to pay farmworkers $1,000 a month to help
them cover the cost of necessities. The bill is meant to assist
farmworkers who have fewer crops to tend as climate change
limits the window for each growing season and cuts the Golden
State’s water supply.
The state of California has released the final version of its
Pathways to 30×30 report. Here are five things to know about
the terrestrial conservation elements of this landmark
effort: 1. Freshwater Conservation The Pathways
document is explicit about the critical need to expand
protection of California’s rivers, streams, wetlands, and other
freshwater resources …
A move to dry up water speculation once and for all in Colorado
ended at the legislature despite intense supply pressures from
drought and water developers, as lawmakers said they’re loath
to hurt farmers’ ability to sell their most valuable
asset. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources
Committee tabled the anti-speculation bill after first
accepting an amendment to turn it into a between-sessions study
of the problem. Technically, the measure could be revived, but
the bill’s sponsors say the issue is over for this year.
A Democrat lawmaker from the central San Joaquin Valley wants
to put cash in the hands of eligible farmworkers to help them
deal with the devastation of California’s drought.
Proposed by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from
Sanger, Senate Bill 1066 would allocate $20 million
to create the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot
Project, a state-funded project that would provide
unconditional monthly cash payments of $1,000 for three years
to eligible farmworkers, with the goal of lifting them out of
One of the most ambitious conservation efforts ever,
California’s 30×30 initiative aims to protect plant and animal
life across 30 percent of the state’s most critical land and
water by 2030. Gov. Gavin Newsom has described the plan as an
important step toward ensuring community well-being, equity,
and economic sustainability while staving off mega wildfires,
droughts, and other climate change-driven threats. Stanford
University experts have informed 30×30 through their
participation in public outreach sessions, meetings with the
plan’s leadership and a letter of support signed by faculty
members from all seven of the university’s schools.
No one was surprised by Thursday’s letter granting PG&E an
annual license to run the Potter Valley Project until April of
next year. And, while a last-minute mystery application did
provide a few moments of titillating speculation, the enigmatic
Antonio Manfredini failed to generate any real suspense. The
50-year license to operate the Potter Valley Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the east branch of the
Russian River to Lake Mendocino by way of a tunnel, a pair of
dams and reservoirs, and a small hydropower plant, expired on
The Long Beach Water Commission may upgrade the city’s water
shortage level next week, which would bring with it new
restrictions on when residents can water
landscaping. Updating the city’s water shortage stage
comes as California heads toward its third straight year of
drought. The proposal to go to Stage 2, which would limit
landscape irrigation to two days per week year-round, would
take the city back to water conservation rules not seen since
A new bill aimed at bringing relief to farmworkers affected by
the drought is now one step closer to becoming law. The
bill, introduced by Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger), aims
to provide financial assistance to farmworkers struggling to
afford basic necessities. Wednesday it passed in a state senate
committee, four to one. Senate Bill 1066 aims to create a
program called the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience
Pilot Project. The project is a state-funded supplemental pay
program that would give eligible farmworkers $1,000 for three
When overlaid with data about flood and wildfire risk,
Headwaters’ analysis reveals areas with stark capacity
barriers, often exacerbated by historical injustices, as well
as high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. … In
theory, the $47 billion the infrastructure bill designates for
climate resilience can help communities prepare for floods,
fires, storms and droughts. But Headwaters’ analysis suggests
that areas with low capacity might not submit requests in the
New guidelines were released in early April for a federally
funded program meant to help low income families pay their
outstanding water bills. The Low Income Household Water
Assistance Program is part of an emergency effort to respond to
the economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In
California, the Department of Community Services and
Development is the designated agency responsible for overseeing
the program. The finalized state plan defines the scope of the
program and how it will be implemented.
Climate change is worsening the already significant threat of
flooding in California’s farm country, and state officials said
Thursday that as much as $30 billion may be needed over three
decades to protect the region, an increase from five years ago.
Every five years, flood protection plans are updated for the
Central Valley, where about 1.3 million people live at risk in
floodplains. State officials released a draft of the latest
update that calls for investing in levees, maintenance and
multi-benefit projects that recharge aquifers and support
wildlife while enhancing flood protection.
Mired in an extreme drought, California lawmakers on Thursday
took the first step toward lowering the standard for how much
water people use in their homes — a move that won’t be enforced
on individual customers but could lead to higher rates even as
consumption declines. California’s current standard for
residential indoor water use is 55 gallons per person per
day…. The California Senate voted 28-9 on Thursday to
lower the standard to 47 gallons per person per day starting in
2025; and 42 gallons per person per day beginning in
2030. The bill has not yet passed the Assembly, meaning it
is still likely months away from becoming law.
A new bill aimed at bringing relief to farmworkers affected by
the drought is now one step closer to becoming law. The bill,
introduced by Senator Melissa Hurtado, aims to provide
financial assistance to farmworkers struggling to afford basic
necessities. Wednesday it passed in a state senate committee,
four to one. Senate Bill 1066 (see the full text
below) was introduced by Hurtado and aims to create a program
called the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot
As the Ukraine war kindles fears of rising food prices, the
recognition of a secure domestic food supply – driven in large
part by irrigated agriculture in the Western U.S. – is
something we need to talk about. … Government water
policy decisions made in California and Oregon are currently
withholding once-reliable water from farmers in order to meet
perceived environmental priorities. In simple terms, our
own government is actually voluntarily directing measures
that restrict water to farmers. Sadly, this diminishes our
food production capacity, and with it, our national
security. -Written by Paul Orme and Dan Keppen, both of
the Family Farm Alliance.
During Gov. Gavin Newsom’s visit to Butte County on Tuesday,
Newsom said he will ask the legislature for $750 million to
help with drought conditions. At the Hyatt Powerplant at Lake
Oroville, which shut down last year due to record low lake
levels, Newsom spoke about how the state needs a different
approach to water conservation. Newsom already invested $5.2
billion in the past three years for water security for all
Hundreds of millions of new federal dollars are headed to the
region to help fund the massive Natomas levee project.
President Joe Biden has signed legislation that includes $157
million for an existing project in the Natomas Basin, as well
as $17.9 million to begin construction in West Sacramento. In
addition, Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal 2023, the 12 month
period that begins Oct. 1, includes another $172 million for
the levee project and $79.7 million to help the West Sacramento
Despite being the largest estuary on the West Coast and
supporting both a highly diverse ecosystem and a multi-billion
dollar economy, the San Francisco Bay Estuary was not getting
its fair share of federal funding for restoration, according to
local lawmakers and environmental organizations. That changed
this year after Congress and President Joe Biden approved more
than $50 million in funding to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency for projects to restore lost wetlands,
improve water quality, address pollution and bolster sea-level
rise defenses throughout San Francisco Bay.
Martha Guzman recalls those awful
days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative
secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a
recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks
were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a
troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible
She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As
administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across
California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay
for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually
spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Spurred by drought and a major
policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented
mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the
hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to
halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A 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.”
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.
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.
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
According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water
systems in the United States.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides
background information on water rights, types of transfers and
critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in
1996, the 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
According to the Department of Energy, administrator of NEPA:
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.
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].
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.