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 Associated Press

15 Native American tribes to receive $580 million in federal money for water rights settlement

Fifteen Native American tribes will get a total of $580 million in federal money this year for water rights settlements, the Biden administration announced Thursday. The money will help carry out the agreements that define the tribes’ rights to water from rivers and other sources and pay for pipelines, pumping stations, and canals that deliver it to reservations. “Water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of Tribal communities,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Thursday that acknowledged the decades many tribes have waited for the funding. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge across many Native American reservations.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: 2023 Water Leaders Class examines ways to leverage green infrastructure to help manage California’s water

Twenty-two early to mid-career water professionals from across California have been chosen for the 2023 William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class, the Water Education Foundation’s highly competitive and respected career development program. This Water Leaders cohort includes engineers, lawyers, resource specialists, scientists and others from a range of public and private entities and nongovernmental organizations from throughout the state. The roster for the 2023 class can be found here. The Water Leaders program, led by Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Bowles, deepens knowledge on water, enhances individual leadership skills and prepares participants to take an active, cooperative approach to decision-making about water resource issues. Leading experts and top policymakers serve as mentors to class members.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Editorial: Newsom’s CA budget cuts come at expense of climate change

Just six months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration were boasting a budget surplus of $97.5 billion. Today, thanks to a falling stock market and a weakened tech sector, California has an apparently unforeseen budget deficit of $22.5 billion. Cuts must be made. But Newsom’s proposed cuts seemingly come at the expense of climate-related projects, a curious decision from a governor who often speaks about how confronting climate change is one of his key priorities. Unsurprisingly, his actions do not meet the weight of his words. Newsom’s budget proposal, ironically released on the heels of an atmospheric river that unleashed catastrophic flooding across the state, suggests slashing approximately $6 billion dollars from climate-related projects, including $40 million that had been promised to floodplain restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Flood control cuts slow progress in north state

As California grappled with drought conditions over the past three years, flooding was the last thing on most people’s minds. That changed this month when bomb cyclone rainstorms saturated the state and left communities reeling from rushing water. Unbeknownst to many, work on flood control progressed during the dry times. Chico-based River Partners has supplemented repairs to levies by restoring watersheds in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. … Much of this work is on hold, however, after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced deep cuts to the state budget that hit flood plain projects particularly hard. From funding levels of $250 million a year, the governor cut flooding mitigation to $135 million — a fraction of the $360 million to $560 million called for in the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan adopted in 2012 and updated last year.

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Utah lawmakers pitch tree removal as plan to save Great Salt Lake

Do trees suck? You bet they do, and it’s time we do something about it, according to a group of conservative Utah lawmakers. Claiming “overgrown” forests are guzzling Utah’s water resources dry, rural members are now calling for a major logging initiative as the best hope for saving the shrinking Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell, despite a lack of scientific evidence that tree removal would make a big difference. Water conservation and efficiency are fine, but such measures are not enough to replenish Utah’s drought-depleted reservoirs and avert the ecological disaster unfolding at the Great Salt Lake, according to presentations Thursday before the Legislature’s “Yellow Cake Caucus,” a group of conservative lawmakers organized by Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding.

Aquafornia news Capital Press

Newsom budget would cut some money for California flood protection

Multiple flood protection projects in California are on hold after Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed cutting their funding to help cover a $22.5 billion budget deficit — a decision disappointing environmental advocates as weeks of powerful storms have caused widespread flooding that damaged homes and washed away roads. Newsom’s budget proposal, released last week, cuts $40 million that had been pledged for floodplain restoration projects along rivers in the San Joaquin Valley, an area at high risk of catastrophic flooding. Those projects would allow for rivers to flood in strategic places during winter storms or the spring Sierra Nevada snowmelt, reducing the risks for populated areas downstream while also benefiting environmental ecosystems.

Aquafornia news CBS - San Francisco

Despite recent parade of storms, California unveils drought resiliency task force

Though the recent barrage of winter storms has certainly improved California’s drought conditions, state water leaders are making moves to prepare for the inevitable dry season soon to come. On Friday, the California Department of Water Resources kickstarted a partnership between state agencies, local governments, scientists and community members in a new task force, called the Drought Resilience Interagency and Partners Collaborative. The DRIP group was created in part by the 2021 Senate Bill 552, which requires state agencies to take a proactive stance on drought preparedness, especially for smaller rural communities most vulnerable to droughts.

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Aquafornia news Science

Can California’s floods help recharge depleted groundwater supplies?

The drenching storms that hit California in recent weeks represented a long-sought opportunity for Helen Dahlke, a groundwater hydrologist at the University of California, Davis. Dahlke has been studying ways to recharge the state’s severely depleted groundwater by diverting swollen rivers into orchards and fields and letting the water seep deep into aquifers. But carrying out such plans requires heavy precipitation—which had been scarce. This week, however, water managers began to turn theory into practice. In the Tulare Irrigation District, which supplies water to more than 200 farms south of Fresno, officials started diverting water from the San Joaquin River into 70 fields as well as specially constructed ponds. 

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR launches interagency task force as part of advance planning for drought conditions

While California’s drought outlook is improving, the State is continuing to proactively prepare for a return to dry conditions amid climate-driven extremes in weather. Today, Department of Water Resources (DWR) is officially launching a standing Drought Resilience Interagency and Partners (DRIP) Collaborative, which will include members of the public. Community members and water users are encouraged to apply. Initiated by Senate Bill 552, the DRIP Collaborative will foster partnerships between local governments, experts, community representatives and state agencies to address drought planning, emergency response, and ongoing management. Members will help ensure support for community needs and anticipate and mitigate drought impacts, especially for small water supplier and rural communities who are often more vulnerable to droughts.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

How will California’s water storage hold up in future dry-wet cycles?

By some estimates, more than 32 trillion gallons of water have fallen on the state since the first storms hit in late December. On a levee overlooking the swollen Sacramento River last week, a group of Republican state lawmakers criticized their Democratic colleagues and Governor Gavin Newsom for not prioritizing new projects to capture the deluge. … Republicans called it a “failure of leadership” by Democrats and called for more investments in water storage, both above ground and below. A large reservoir is planned for the northern Sacramento Valley but has been undergoing a lengthy permitting process. Construction at the Sites project is estimated to begin in 2024 with operations beginning in 2030. According to the Sites Project Authority, the reservoir could have captured 120,000 acre-feet of water between Jan. 3 and Jan. 15 if it had been operational.

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Aquafornia news Moab Sun News

Colorado River Authority of Utah opens conservation pilot program

At their Jan. 17 meeting, Grand County commissioners heard a presentation from Lily Bosworth, staff engineer for the Colorado River Authority of Utah, on a water conservation pilot program. The Colorado River Authority of Utah was established by the Utah State Legislature in 2021. Ongoing drought and growing evidence that the river cannot support the demand being placed on it by users have strained water infrastructure, policies and agreements across the Southwest; the stated mission of the Colorado River Authority is to “protect, preserve, conserve, and develop Utah’s Colorado River system interests.” The Authority is overseen by a six-member board as well as the governor.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Warming to make California downpours even wetter, study says

As damaging as it was for more than 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow to fall on California since Christmas, a worst-case global warming scenario could juice up similar future downpours by one-third by the middle of this century, a new study says. The strongest of California’s storms from “atmospheric rivers,” long and wide plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and flow through the sky over land, would probably get an overall 34% increase in total precipitation, or another 11 trillion gallons more than just fell. 

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Aquafornia news Brownstein

Blog: What’s in a name? Biden Administration publishes final WOTUS rule

Yesterday, the Biden Administration published a final rule (Final Rule) revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which will go into effect on March 20, 2023. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) return to the pre-2015 regulatory definition of WOTUS, with amendments to reflect relevant Supreme Court decisions. With this rulemaking, the Biden administration seeks to provide a “durable definition” by returning to the pre-2015 framework and theoretically end the definitional uncertainty that has plagued industry (and the courts) for years. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision in Sackett v. EPA may impact the durability of the Final Rule.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

How government regulations are preventing flood waters from replenishing drought-stricken areas

A chorus of Republicans and moderate Democrats in the San Joaquin Valley has called for the Newsom administration to ease pumping restrictions and export more water to drought-stricken regions of the state. For two weeks a surge of floodwater flowed nearly unimpeded through the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and into the bay. It was another missed opportunity to seize on a wet year to export and store more water, argued the lawmakers. Climate extremes and a lack of preparation underline the challenge. But the fault lies with an inflexible process for updating the pumping permits rather than on water managers, according to a group of irrigation districts and water agencies with contracts for the exports. This week the same regulatory inertia put up another obstacle in the way of Delta pumping.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: GOP claims about Prop. 1 water projects mostly off base

California voters approved a ballyhooed $7.5-billion bond issue eight-plus years ago thinking the state would build dams and other vital water facilities. But it hasn’t built zilch. True or false? That’s the rap: The voters were taken. The state can’t get its act together. Republicans and agriculture interests in particular make that charge, but the complaint also is widespread throughout the state. There’s some truth in the allegation. But it’s basically a bum rap. No dams have been built, that’s true. But one will be and two will be expanded. And hundreds of other smaller projects have been completed.
-Written by LA Times columnist George Skelton.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Ringing in a New Year with a feast!

Happy New Year to all the friends, supporters, readers and tour and workshop participants of the Water Education Foundation! We’re grateful to each and every person who interacted with us in 2022. As we turn the page to 2023, flood-swamping atmospheric rivers have put a dent in our drought in California and across the West. Time will tell just how much. Ideally we want storms more spaced out through the winter. However they come, you can always keep up with the latest drought/flood/snowpack developments of our “feast or famine” water world with our weekday news aggregate known as Aquafornia. At the Foundation, our array of 2023 programming begins later this month as we welcome our incoming Water Leaders class. We’ll be sure to introduce them to you and let you know what thorny California water policy topic they’ll be attempting to solve.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Californians approved billions for new water storage. Where is it?

In 2014, during the throes of last decade’s drought, California voters approved billions of dollars for infrastructure that would catch and store much-needed water from winter storms. The hope was to amass water in wet times and save it for dry times. Nearly 10 years later, none of the major storage projects, which include new and expanded reservoirs, has gotten off the ground. California reservoir levels: Charts show water supply across the state As the state experiences a historic bout of rain and snow this winter, amid another severe water shortage, critics are lamenting the missed opportunity to capture more of the extraordinary runoff that has been swelling rivers, flooding towns and pouring into the sea.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Governor’s January budget overview

The Governor’s January Budget forecasts General Fund revenues will be $29.5 billion lower than at the 2022 Budget Act projections, and California now faces an estimated budget gap of $22.5 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24. … Some highlights from the Governor’s January Budget include: The Budget maintains $8.6 billion (98 percent) of previously committed funding to minimize the immediate economic and environmental damage from the current drought and support hundreds of local water projects to prepare for and be more resilient to future droughts. Delta Levees—$40.6 million General Fund for ongoing Delta projects that reduce risk of levee failure and flooding, provide habitat benefits, and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion contaminating water supplies.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Bills to regulate toxic ‘forever chemicals’ died in Congress – with Republican help

All legislation aimed at regulating toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” died in the Democratic-controlled US Congress last session as companies flexed their lobbying muscle and bills did not gain enough Republican support to overcome a Senate filibuster. … PFAS are a class of about 12,000 compounds used to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and they have been linked to cancer, high cholesterol, liver disease, kidney disease, fetal complications and other serious health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency this year found that virtually no level of exposure to two types of PFAS compounds in drinking water is safe, and public health advocates say the entire chemical class is toxic and dangerous.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

New Mexico town, still reeling from historic fire, receives federal aid to repair drinking water system

A New Mexico town that is intimately aware of the water supply risks from a drying climate could receive up to $140 million to rebuild its water system after the largest wildfire in state history tore through its watershed last year. Besides being a lifeline, the funds also illustrate the financial and ecological vulnerability of small, high-poverty communities in the face of extreme weather. In the fiscal year 2023 budget that President Joe Biden signed just before the new year, Congress set aside $1.45 billion for post-fire recovery in New Mexico. That’s in addition to $2.5 billion that lawmakers had already directed to the state, bringing the total amount of federal aid after the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire to nearly $4 billion. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Sports betting, water, education: The issues raised by Colorado’s tribal chairmen in historic speeches at the state Capitol

The chairmen of the Ute Mountain Ute and the Southern Ute tribes spoke in a joint address to the state legislature on Wednesday. It was the first time, under a new state law, that the tribal leaders were invited to address state lawmakers. Over the course of about 30 minutes, the two leaders shared the history of their communities and asked for lawmakers’ help on specific issues. Here are a few. Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute, said the tribe needs help to access the water for which it already holds rights. … Heart said the state should partner with the tribe to work on a pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Montezuma County. The tribes also deserve a greater role in water planning among the Colorado River basin states, he said.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Newsom announces proposed budget with funding for water categories

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 10 unveiled his proposed budget for the next fiscal year … [T]he governor has proposed timely new funding for flood risk reduction and protection, as well as several other important water management issues. Specifically, the governor’s proposed budget calls for funding in the following categories. Urban Flood Risk Reduction — $135.5 million over two years to support local agencies working to reduce urban flood risk. Delta Levee — $40.6 million for ongoing Delta projects that reduce risk of levee failure and flooding, provide habitat benefits, and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion contaminating water supplies. Central Valley Flood Protection — $25 million to support projects that will reduce the risk of flooding for Central Valley communities while contributing to ecosystem restoration and agricultural sustainability.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valadao rolls out sweeping overhaul of Calif. water policy

A comprehensive overhaul of water policy affecting the San Joaquin Valley is back on the table, courtesy of Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford). Valadao initially introduced the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act last September and is bringing it back, this time with a Republican-controlled House. The entire California Republican delegation joined Valadao as co-sponsors on the bill. … What’s in it: If it passes, the act will require the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) to be operated consistent with the 2019 Trump-era biological opinions, which have been under fire by the Biden administration.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Newsom budget plan: Climate, transportation bears the brunt of cuts

As California wrangles with a projected $22 billion budget deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting most heavily from programs designed to help the state confront the worsening effects of climate change. Newsom’s proposed budget, which he released Tuesday, would cut a net $6 billion from the state’s climate efforts. Among the cuts: subsidies for electric vehicles; funding for clean energy programs, such as battery storage and solar panels; and money for programs to help low-income people deal with extreme heat waves. Climate activists and some progressive legislators said they were wary of the move, particularly as another atmospheric river drenched much of the state and brought flooding to communities from Santa Cruz to San Diego….Among the other proposed cuts to climate programs and projects in Newsom’s budget: … $194 million for drought preparation and response 

Aquafornia news Wyoming Public Media

State legislators look to create a commission for Wyoming’s stake in the Colorado River

The Wyoming State Legislature begins its lawmaking session this week. One bill, called the “Colorado River Authority of Wyoming Act,” would create a board and commissioner to manage Wyoming’s water in the Colorado River Basin. The system drains about 17 percent of the Cowboy State’s land area and is critical for agriculture, energy development and residential use in cities. The entire Colorado River Basin is currently under stress due to drought conditions and human development in the Southwest. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) and Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) is similar to those previously passed in several other states that depend on the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news Lexology

Blog: California institutes new microplastics regulations

On September 7, California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approved initial requirements for testing microplastics in drinking water, becoming the first government in the world seeking to establish health-based guidelines for acceptable levels of microplastics in drinking water. … Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, less than five millimeters in length, that occur in the environment because of plastic production from a wide range of manufactured products. … The SWRCB’s implementation of Senate Bill 1422, will now require select public water systems to monitor for microplastics over a four year period—a daunting task as there is no EPA-approved method to identify the many types of microplastics in drinking water, and no standardized water treatment method for removing microplastics from the public water supply. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: California is leading the nation on cutting plastic trash. But it still needs to do more

Last year was a good one for trash. Or, rather, for the prospects of reducing it. For the last several years, lawmakers have passed new laws aimed at curbing plastic, from the 2014 ban on single-use plastic grocery bags to restrictions on use of plastic straws. But in 2022, they went big and broad, enacting Senate Bill 54, a revolutionary law that will start phasing out all varieties of single-use plastic in 2025 — basically everything on the shelves of grocery and other retail stores — through escalating composting and recycling requirements on consumer products packaging. Most importantly, the law puts the onus on the producers of the packaging to figure out how to make it happen rather than on consumers or state and local governments.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: 2022 Water Leaders Class releases policy recommendations for Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Water Quality Control Plan update

Our 2022 Water Leaders class completed its year with a report outlining policy recommendations for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Water Quality Control Plan update. The cohort of 20 up-and-coming leaders from various water-related fields – engineers, attorneys, planners, environmentalists and scientists – had full editorial control to choose recommendations. Among their key recommendations: Establish accountability for timely updates of the Bay-Delta Plan and give stakeholders a clear opportunity to engage in the process … Click here to read their full report.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

California had a watershed climate year, but time is running out

California made historic investments in climate measures this year, as state leaders warned of current and escalating climate risks. … California is experiencing the driest 22 years in more than a millennium, fueled by warmer, drier conditions that have exposed critical weaknesses in the way the state stores and manages water. … Meanwhile, close to 1,500 wells ran dry this year. And though California became the first state in the nation to recognize the “human right” to water a decade ago, roughly 1 million people, mostly in isolated rural communities, lack access to reliable supplies of safe drinking water. Legislators passed a bill in September to help low-income Californians pay their water bill, but [Gov.] Newsom vetoed it, citing a lack of sustainable, ongoing funding.

Aquafornia news Fresh Water News

Colorado launches $25M, multi-state effort to improve soils, reduce ag water use

This simple statistic may shock you: Each time a farmer plows his or her field, the soil loses three-quarters of an inch of moisture. The solutions? They’re more complicated and part of new and expanding soil health programs that seek to help farmers explore how to retain water, improve fertility, and create greater resilience to buffer weather extremes. Now, with the aid of $25 million in new federal funding, the Colorado Department of Agriculture plans to expand a program called STAR — an acronym for Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources — from 124 producers, including both farmers and ranchers, to 450. … State officials say that fostering techniques to improve soils, making them more sponge-like, can help Colorado improve water quality and use existing water more efficiently. Agriculture continues to account for more than 80% of Colorado’s water use.

Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.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 time.”

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 greatest opportunity.”

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 Jenn 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 Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map 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

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.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.

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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.

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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.