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.
If I’ve learned anything after a decade in Congress, it’s that
Big Oil and its congressional allies never miss an opportunity
to push the fossil fuel agenda. So it’s no surprise that
right now, fossil fuel advocates are trying to hitch a ride on
the historic clean energy investment opportunities in the
Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investments
and Jobs Act (IIJA). … A major new hazardous gas leak is
reported to the federal government every 40
hours. The really big ones make headlines, such as when
catastrophic explosions of natural gas pipelines and liquified
natural gas (LNG) facilities kill people; or when projects like
the Keystone Pipeline spring a leak and dump
thousands of barrels of oil into vulnerable ecosystems and
communities… -Written by Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents the
2nd District of California and is a member of the Committee on
Natural Resources and the Committee on Transportation and
Officials gathered in a small metal hangar at the south end of
the Salton Sea on Thursday to celebrate $72 million in funding
for restoration efforts at the Salton Sea, marking the first
major investment by the federal government in restoration
efforts at the sea. The $72 million is part of a total of $250
million in funding for the Salton Sea approved as part of the
Inflation Reduction Act in 2022. … The historic
announcement explicitly links cuts of Colorado River water
supply to the rapidly dwindling Salton Sea, something IID
officials have sought for years. … [California Natural
Resources Secretary Wade] Crowfoot called the funding the first
major federal investment at the Salton Sea, after years of
state and local officials calling for more federal action on
the sea. The federal government is one of the biggest
landowners around the sea.
The U.S. government is entering a new era of collaboration with
Native American and Alaska Native leaders in managing public
lands and other resources, with top federal officials saying
that incorporating more Indigenous knowledge into
decision-making can help spur conservation and combat climate
change. … The agreements cover everything from
fishery restoration projects in Alaska and the Pacific
Northwest to management of new national monuments in the
Southwestern U.S., seed collection work in Montana and plant
restoration in the Great Smoky Mountains. … Tribes in
California and Oregon also were forced to seek disaster
declarations earlier this year after severe storms resulted in
flooding and mudslides.
Representatives of major Arizona water users, including cities
and tribes, gathered with the Commissioner of the Bureau of
Reclamation and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs at Phoenix City
Hall on Nov. 3 to celebrate the execution of new Colorado River
system conservation agreements in Arizona. At the Phoenix
event, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim
Touton announced the execution of seven new system conservation
agreements in Arizona, which will conserve up to 162,710-acre
feet of water in Lake Mead through 2026.
Many have argued that California’s water rights laws are sorely
in need of modernization. Some feel that the recently passed
bill, SB 389, is taking a step in that direction. Two legal
experts and PPIC Water Policy Center research network members,
Jennifer Harder and Rick Frank, were part of a group convened
by the Planning and Conservation League Foundation (PCLF) to
make recommendations for improving the water rights
system. We asked them to explain the bill’s implications.
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson called on
lawmakers to work to sustain agriculture into the future by
securing water supplies and rejecting policies that merely ask
farmers and ranchers to be resilient in the face of unaddressed
challenges. Speaking before the 105th Annual Meeting of the
California Farm Bureau in Reno, Nevada, this week, Johansson
outlined “extraordinary events that have put all California
farmers and ranchers at risk.” He pointed to impacts of a
three-year drought that resulted in the fallowing of more than
1.2 million acres of productive farmland. … Johansson
took issue with California’s failure to complete long-planned
water infrastructure projects that could have stored water
during wet years for use in dry ones and enhanced flood-control
protections in years with heavy rains.
Colorado could spend millions more to replace water-hungry
lawns, keep extra water in streams to protect fish and their
habitats, and repair water-wasting farm and city delivery
systems, according to a list of potential fixes from a state
task force hoping to drought-proof the Colorado River. The
17-member panel finished its preliminary list of
recommendations [last] Friday. It will finalize the list
Thursday and hone it for a final report to lawmakers due Dec.
15. The task force’s job has been to identify new policies and
tools to help save water and ensure neither Colorado water
users nor the environment are adversely affected by any new
federal Colorado River agreements designed to protect the
drought-strapped river across the seven-state region where it
On Tuesday, the Department of Commerce and NOAA announced the
availability of up to $106 million in funding through
the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF)
for Pacific salmon and steelhead recovery and
conservation projects. This funding — which includes funding
from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)
and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — will support
state and tribal salmon restoration projects and activities to
protect, conserve and restore these fish populations and their
habitats. … The PCSRF program funds projects and activities
necessary for conservation of salmon and steelhead populations
listed as threatened or endangered or identified by a state as
at-risk to be listed; for maintaining populations necessary for
exercise of tribal treaty fishing rights or native subsistence
fishing; or for conservation of Pacific coastal salmon and
A new law expanding California’s atmospheric river research
program goes into effect next year. It connects flood and
reservoir control operations with new technologies and
strategies that can help operators accurately predict the
arrival of these storms. California first established the
program in 2015. It’s allowed officials to better understand —
and respond to — the intense storms that are a regular part of
wet years in the state. In January , a series of
atmospheric rivers hit California hard, causing intense
flooding, power outages and evacuations throughout the state.
But although these storms can have devastating effects, they
also crucially feed into California’s water supply.
Today, at an event in San Bernardino, California, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $70 million
Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. This WIFIA
funding will support an innovative regional partnership to help
secure a drought-resilient water supply while supporting the
long-term ecological health of the Upper Santa Ana River. Since
its creation, EPA’s WIFIA program has announced nearly $20
billion in financing to support over $43 billion in water
infrastructure projects that are strengthening drinking water,
wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure while creating over
Money from the Inflation Reduction Act approved earlier this
year sets aside more than $1 billion for programs aimed at
conserving Colorado River water. But, new reporting from
Politico finds that may make it more difficult to negotiate
deals to save water down the road. Annie Snider covers water
issues for Politico, and joined The Show to explain.
… So what is this dynamic at work here where this money
that is setting aside, basically for saving water on the
Colorado river, may be making it harder to create these similar
kinds of deals down the down the road in the future? ANNIE
SNIDER: Yeah, so I think to understand what happened here,
you have to kind of go back a year, where we were at a
incredibly dire moment along the Colorado River.
The year started with a bang, with a lot of new Members of the
Legislature, and more seasoned Members, invigorated and
motivated to tackle some major water policy and funding issues
for California. While some significant water policy changes
were passed by the Legislature this year (with much
controversy), there is still much left to debate and discuss in
the second year of the two-year session, which will begin on
January 3, 2024. One of those major negotiations will include
debate over a water bond to be placed on the November 2024
ballot for the voters of California.
For years, we’ve known about the harmful effects lead in
drinking water can have on the public, especially children, but
millions of lead pipes still exist throughout the country. Now,
most U.S. cities would have to replace lead water pipes within
10 years under strict new rules proposed by the Environmental
Protection Agency as the Biden administration moves to reduce
lead in drinking water and prevent public health crises like
the ones in Flint, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
Colorado lawmakers are expected to consider legislation next
session aimed at providing project permits while still
protecting wetlands, which were left vulnerable after a U.S.
Supreme Court decision in May. The Environmental Protection
Agency’s Clean Water Act has protected the “Waters of the
United States” (WOTUS) since 1972. But exactly which wetlands
and water bodies fall under the definition of WOTUS has long
been the subject of litigation and policy that changed with
each presidential administration. In Sackett v. EPA, the U.S.
Supreme Court found that the definition of WOTUS did not
include wetlands adjacent to streams. Only wetlands with a
direct surface water connection to a stream or permanent body
of water are now protected under the Clean Water Act.
A $2.5 million grant has been awarded to the state Department
of Water Resources to design a berm removal project to
create floodplain and tidal marsh habitat in the Yolo Bypass.
It is part of $144 million in grants awarded toward 109
projects in 31 states through the National Coastal Resilience
Fund by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The funding
source is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. … The Yolo
Bypass project has the goals of improving flood
conveyance, increasing groundwater recharge, promoting
recreational opportunities and enhancing fish and wildlife
habitat, the foundation stated. This grant completes
funding for project design “to restore 700 acres of floodplain
and 250 acres of wetland through berm removal and site
excavation, create 700 acres of floodwater storage, and
increase groundwater recharge potential producing quality
habitat for salmonids.”
Water tests show nearly 3,000 private wells located near 63
active and former U.S. military bases are contaminated with
“forever chemicals” at levels higher than what federal
regulators consider safe for drinking. … According to
the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based
nonprofit that analyzed Department of Defense testing data,
2,805 wells spread across 29 states were
contaminated with at least one of two types of per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, above 4 parts per
trillion, a limit proposed earlier this year by the
Environmental Protection Agency. That new drinking water
standard is expected to take effect by the end of the year.
Reducing per capita water use in cities and suburbs is key for
helping communities get through droughts. And together with
strategies to improve water supplies, it can also help build
long-term water resilience in the face of our changing climate.
In recent decades, Californians have been making great strides
in long-term water conservation, and this latest drought showed
once again that communities will go the extra mile to save
water during droughts if needed. But while it’s often assumed
that water conservation is inexpensive, it actually can be very
costly. In response to 2018 legislation, the State Water Board
is now considering new urban water use regulations whose
statewide costs would far exceed their benefits. What’s more,
these costs would significantly impact affordability, hitting
inland, lower-income communities hardest.
Four recently announced federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
grants for water projects in the region all included one
notable common denominator — they all got help in their
application process through a special Colorado River District
program made possible by a voter-approved tax measure in 2020.
On Nov. 15 the Department of Interior announced $51 million in
funding via the Bureau of Reclamation for 30 new environmental
water resource projects in 11 states. The projects focus on
water conservation, water management and restoration efforts
that will result in significant benefits to ecosystem or
watershed health, the Interior Department says. Interior
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Brain visited
Grand Junction at the time of the funding announcement to
highlight recipients of funding in Colorado.
Everyone from policymakers to armchair warriors has a theory on
the best way to solve the Colorado River crisis. Soon they’ll
have a chance to test out their ideas. The Colorado River’s
flow is dropping — it’s about 18% lower in the 21st century
than it was in the 20th century — and that’s a big deal to the
40 million people who depend on it for water across the West.
But solving the crisis gets complicated, quickly. That’s where
a team of researchers at the University of California,
Riverside, think they can help. They’ve developed a new way of
looking at water-saving efforts across the enormous basin, and
they’re turning it into an interactive map and dashboard that
everyone can use.
Arizona’s Senate president said he does not plan to introduce
legislation to alter water supply requirements for new
development despite his criticism of the historic 1980 law that
created them. Sen. Warren Petersen said his comments, given
last week to the Arizona Tax Research Association where he was
asked to preview his legislative priorities, were meant to
emphasize that the mandate to show an assured source of water
will be available for 100 years was “arbitrary.’’ … He
complained about the Arizona Department of Water Resources
halting new construction in two areas on the edges of Phoenix
earlier this year. He said that would not have happened if the
standard here were something less, like California’s.
If you don’t already know, it will surprise you to learn that
for all the attention that our state’s water supply receives in
California – for all the worry and effort it takes to make sure
there’s enough for our 40 million residents, 24 million acres
of farmland, countless acres of natural environment, and status
as the world’s fifth-largest economy (of which its agriculture
and environment are huge parts) – no statewide goal exists to
ensure a sustainable water supply for California’s future. What
big, bold vision has ever been achieved without first setting a
goal? Without such a goal, we have no clear path forward, and
we don’t know which direction and how far we need to go to
achieve a reliable water supply. In a state always preoccupied
with fears of drought and the impacts of climate change, we
have not determined how much water will be needed in the short-
and long-term to address these existential threats. -Written by Heather Dyer, the General Manager of
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; and Graham
Knaus, the CEO of the California Association of
More than 30 years ago, a piece of federal legislation dropped
like a bomb on California’s Central Valley farmers.
Reverberations from that legislation continue through today.
Just last month, a San Joaquin Valley congressman added
language to an appropriations bill that would unwind a key
portion of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act
(CVPIA). … One of its cornerstones was that 800,000 acre
feet of water per year would be carved out of supplies that had
been sent to towns and farms and redirect it to the environment
instead. Specifically, the legislation hoped to save salmon
populations, which had been crashing. Thirty-one years later,
salmon are still on the brink. Now, Republican lawmakers
are trying to get rid of the environmental protections in the
CVPIA for good.
The Department of the Interior today announced $51 million from
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for 30 new
Environmental Water Resource Projects in 11 states through the
Bureau of Reclamation. The collaborative projects focus on
water conservation, water management and restoration efforts
that will result in significant benefits to ecosystem or
watershed health. … As part of the Biden-Harris
administration’s commemoration of the two-year anniversary of
the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Water and Science Michael Brain announced the
selections during a visit to Grand Junction, Colorado, where
eight of the selected projects are located.
In 2014, California voters passed a proposition using $7.5
billion dollars in state funds to expand water storage
capacity. Nearly 10 years later, people say not much has come
from the vote. The main focus on their minds is the failure to
expand Shasta Dam. Kern County Congressman David Valadao (R-CA)
has authored legislation that makes it easier for Shasta to
receive federal funding. … So what’s the problem with
raising the dam? Jon Rosenfield, Science Director at San
Francisco Baykeeper, says a whole lot. “Raising that dam is
going to have negative impacts,” Rosenfield said.
California water agencies say they have nearly secured $4.5
billion in funding needed to build the state’s largest
reservoir in nearly a century, Sites Reservoir, as a state
environmental review process for the project comes to a rapid
close after decades of delay. … Approving it would mark a key
procedural milestone and official green light for construction
scheduled to begin in 2026.
Scientists based in and/or work on issues in California—from
The Nature Conservancy and Ocean Conservancy—will be traveling
to Nairobi, Kenya for the UN environment programme’s third
session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3)
from Nov 13-19. At this session, the following scientists will
hold observer status on behalf of their organizations as
nations come together for the goal of developing an
international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution,
including in the marine environment.
The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced the selection of
31 planning projects to receive more than $28 million in
appropriated funding to support potential new water reuse and
desalination projects. The 31 projects are in California,
Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The projects also
bring a cost-share contribution of $64.7 million, bringing the
total investment of $93.7 million. Reclamation said the funding
is aimed at creating new sources of water supply less
vulnerable to drought and climate change. Recipients will use
the funding to prepare feasibility studies and undertake other
planning efforts like preliminary project design and
environmental compliance activities.
In a dry state like Utah, there’s not always enough water to go
around. But when there is extra water, how exactly do you
spread it around? Over the past three years, the state’s water
banking program has been testing the processes for doing just
that. The program provides avenues for a water rights holder
with extra water to lease it to someone else in their area
without losing the right to that water. It started with the
Utah Water Banking Act, which the Legislature approved in 2020
to promote voluntary, temporary, local water transfers. The
state is now starting to see positive results from the four
pilot projects that put the idea into practice, as well as
working out any bugs.
As you walk along the Tijuana River Valley, it’s hard not to
smell the pungent smell of sewage, effluent flowing its way
down the valley toward the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a problem
for decades as Tijuana’s sewage infrastructure has failed to
keep up with a city that seemingly grew to two million
residents overnight. The system constantly spews untreated raw
sewage that eventually makes its way north of the border. In
1999, the International Wastewater Treatment plant was built in
the valley just north of the border to help control the
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that it would
provide $28.97 million in financial aid for 31 potential new
water reuse and desalination projects. The funding will help
prepare feasibility studies and undertake planning efforts such
as preliminary project design and environmental compliance
activities. … The 31 projects are in California, Idaho,
Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. The projects also bring a
cost-share contribution of $64.7 million, bringing the total
investment of $93.7 million.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is now in its
tenth year since passing in 2014, and we are beginning to see
some real progress in coordination and implementation.
Groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) have been formed and
initial groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) submitted.
Following submission, some plans have been approved, some are
still under state review, and many have gone through some
iteration to correct deficiencies. … The Department of Water
Resources recently sent plans for five Sacramento Valley
basins back for revisions, largely due to ongoing concerns
around dry-year impacts of pumping on drinking water wells and
The Office of Habitat Conservation’s Restoration
Center has awarded an unprecedented $27.8 million to
its partners through the Bipartisan Infrastructure
Law and Inflation Reduction Act to bring Central
California Coast coho salmon back to California rivers. NOAA
designated CCC coho as a Species in the Spotlight due
to its high risk of extinction. Trout Unlimited,
the San Mateo and Gold Ridge Resource
Conservation Districts, and The Nature
Conservancy will implement or design more than 40 projects
over the next 3 to 4 years with these funds. … When NOAA
Fisheries Biologist Erin Seghesio was growing up, her
grandfather told her how he could feed his whole family by
fishing for coho salmon in California’s Russian River. Today,
she is the Recovery Coordinator for the federally endangered
CCC coho salmon.
Gov. Gavin Newsom exercised his new power under state law
Monday to help get a giant reservoir planned for Northern
California on the fast track for approval. The proposed $4.5
billion Sites Reservoir, envisioned 70 miles north of
Sacramento, would be the first major reservoir built in
California in nearly half a century. … Newsom pushed the
infrastructure legislation, even threatening to veto the
Legislature’s budget bills if it didn’t move forward, hoping to
accelerate climate plans he worried could be hamstrung by state
environmental rules. … Still, the project has faced
criticism, namely because any additional water taken from the
Sacramento River represents a loss for fish, wildlife and the
natural landscapes nourished by the river.
State lawmakers are advancing a bill that would prohibit the
planting of new, nonfunctional turf. If the bill passes next
year, it would prohibit local and state governments and unit
owners associations from allowing the planting of nonfunctional
turf or nonnative plants or installing artificial turf in
commercial, institutional or industrial properties beginning in
2025. Although new bluegrass could still be planted around
homes, homeowners associations and others would be prohibited
from planting such grass for ornamental purposes in medians or
areas fronting streets, sidewalks or driveways. The bill is not
intended to be retroactive and would not affect already
existing nonfunctional turf.
The outage for Phase 1 construction of the Truckee Canal Public
Safety Improvement Project is complete and water deliveries to
the Truckee Division have commenced. This meets Reclamation’s
goal of not exceeding a 13-month canal outage during
construction. The project, funded by President Biden’s
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and implemented in collaboration
with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, includes lining
approximately 3.5 miles of the earthen canal in the most
vulnerable stretch in the City of Fernley. The project will
significantly increase public safety and improve water supply
reliability. Construction activities will continue on the
project through the spring but should not affect canal
We all know that out here in western Colorado, water is life.
It sustains our agriculture, powers our outdoor recreation
economy and is the keystone of the beautiful environment we all
cherish. All of us also know that our state’s water future
faces immense challenges; from ongoing megadrought in the West,
overuse of the Colorado River by California and Arizona, and
much more. … That is why the state legislature, among other
public and private entities, have been hard at work on a
multifaceted approach to protect Colorado’s water future. The
2023 legislative session was one of the most productive and
historic sessions for water in recent memory. As your state
senator, I made sure that water was at the forefront of my
colleagues’ minds and am proud to have led several successful
water measures. -Written by Dylan Roberts, State Senator for
Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Moffat,
Rio Blanco, Routt, and Summit counties.
The House has recently passed a bill that will ensure residents
of the Central Valley have continued access to a clean and
reliable water supply. The House of Representatives approved
the bill, H.R. 4394, on Oct. 26. Congressmember David Valadao,
22nd District, authored the Working to Advance Tangible and
Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act, which – at
Valadao’s insistence – was included in H.R. 4394. According to
Valadao’s office, WATER guarantees that Central Valley Project
(CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) water stakeholders,
including Friant Water Authority, Westlands Water District,
Kern County Water Agency, San Joaquin River Exchange
Contractors Water Authority, will receive the water they
contract and pay for.
Below-average precipitation and snowpack during 2020-22 and
depleted surface and groundwater supplies pushed California
into a drought emergency that brought curtailment orders and
calls for modernizing water rights. At the Water Education
Foundation annual water summit last week in Sacramento,
Eric Oppenheimer, chief deputy director of the California State
Water Resources Control Board, discussed what he described as
the state’s “antiquated” water rights system. He spoke before
some 150 water managers, government officials, farmers,
environmentalists and others as part of the event where
interests come together to collaborate on some of the state’s
most challenging water issues.
A bipartisan congressional delegation led by California
Democrat Senator Alex Padilla and Republican Representative
Doug LaMalfa on Tuesday sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers urging them to prioritize “critical emergency
repairs” to levees in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River
watersheds. Months after wet winter storms drenched the Central
Valley, blanketed the Sierra Nevada in record-breaking snowpack
and strained dams and reservoirs, parts of Central California’s
water infrastructure are still in need of repairs. The letter
comes ahead of what is likely to be another wet winter.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives just passed
an odious spending bill, H.R. 4821, that terminates the
environmental restoration provisions of the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) that made fish and wildlife a
purpose of the Central Valley Project for the first time in
history. … Buried in the 100-page bill are eight lines
written by Representative David Valadao (R-CA-22) and
co-sponsored by eleven other California Republicans, including
Speaker Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20),
the Tribe reported. They order the Secretary of the
Interior to “deem complete the fish, wildlife, and habitat
mitigation and restoration actions” required by the 1992
Central Valley Project Improvement Act (PL-102-575 Title XXXIV)
signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
You’ve heard it before: aquatic invasive species are the
greatest ecological threat to Lake Tahoe’s water quality and
clarity. They outcompete native species, affect nutrient
cycling, and impact algal growth, which can turn Lake Tahoe’s
beautiful blue water green. Nowhere is that threat more
visible than in the warm, shallow lagoons of the Tahoe Keys,
where invasive plants clog the water. Fragments of those plants
regularly break off and float away – carried by currents,
watercraft, and people – to other parts of the Lake, where they
can resprout and start new infestations. -Written by Jesse Patterson, Chief Strategy Officer,
League to Save Lake Tahoe, Dennis Zabaglo, Aquatic Invasive
Species Program Manager, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
Food grows where water flows. So goes the saying on signs I
have seen in farmlands in Fresno, Tulare, Merced and Kings
counties since I moved to the San Joaquin Valley 10 years ago.
The signs, and others like them, are protests against cuts to
water deliveries to growers in those regions. More often than
not, farmers were angry with whoever was California’s governor.
Since the Republican party has been stuck in super minority
status, California’s governors have been Democrats, namely
Jerry Brown and now Gavin Newsom. Despite persistent droughts,
they often get blamed for whatever water cuts are happening,
along with Fresno congressman Jim Costa and his colleague from
San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi. They also are Democrats. -Written by Tad Weber, the Fresno Bee’s opinion
This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand
about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive 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
Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720
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.
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.
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
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.
Water conservation has become a way of life throughout the West
with a growing recognition that the supply of water is not
Drought is the most common motivator of increased water
conservation but the gradual drying of the West as a result of
climate change means the amount of fresh water available for
drinking, irrigation, industry and other uses must be used as
efficiently as possible.
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.
The California Environmental Quality
Act, commonly known as CEQA, is foundational to the state’s
environmental protection efforts. The law requires proposed
developments with the potential for “significant” impacts on the
physical environment to undergo an environmental review.
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 Water Education Foundation’s second edition of
the Layperson’s Guide to The Klamath River Basin is
hot off the press and available for purchase.
Updated and redesigned, the easy-to-read overview covers the
history of the region’s tribal, agricultural and environmental
relationships with one of the West’s largest rivers — and a
vast watershed that hosts one of the nation’s oldest and
largest reclamation projects.
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
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.