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.
For California water managers, 2014 has been one for the record books. Reservoirs have dropped to near-record lows, surface water deliveries have been slashed and some communities are rationing water to keep supplies in reserve for next year. But amid these challenging conditions, California voters opened the door for long-term solutions when they passed Proposition 1 on Nov. 4.
When Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the deal he had helped broker between Japanese light-rail manufacturer Kinkisharyo International and the electrical workers union, it was a win for the economy in Los Angeles County. But for environmentalists?
Whether Prop. 1 delivers on its promise, however, depends on what happens next. One danger is that Prop. 1 will lull Californians into believing that we have solved our water troubles. We haven’t. Nothing that Prop. 1 can do will redress the current drought.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s abrupt decision to yank a water bill she had spent more than four months negotiating came just as the California Democrat and Central Valley Republicans appeared on the brink of a deal.
Late Thursday morning, while the Capitol Hill spotlight was pointed elsewhere, three Northern California congressmen paid a quiet call on the state’s junior Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer. They wanted to talk water.
With the continuation of California’s historic drought and the recent passage of Proposition 1, the potential value of additional water storage in the state is an area of vigorous discussion. In a new study released today, we look at the different roles of storage in California’s integrated water system and evaluate storage capacity expansion from what we call a “system analysis approach.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California on Thursday pulled the plug on secret, high-stakes negotiations over a water bill for her drought-plagued state, saying she and fellow lawmakers will try again next year.
Already missing out on state money to address the drought, San Joaquin County officials will soon ask property owners if they’re willing to disclose to the state what some feel are sensitive details about their wells.
Under the new groundwater legislation, the California Department of Water Resources must establish the initial priority for each groundwater basin in the state no later than Jan. 31. Those basins that are ultimately designated as high or medium priority will be subject to groundwater sustainability plans to be adopted no later than Jan. 31, 2020, in some cases, or Jan. 31, 2022 in others.
The headline on Thursday’s front page spoke volumes: “Californians approve $7.5 billion water bond; now what?” … After billions are spent on pork projects designed to garner votes (it worked), there’s $2.75 billion set aside for “water storage.”
A day after passage of bond measure Proposition 1, water experts said it was too soon to say exactly how the gusher of tax dollars will be spent — but they envisioned new pipelines in Bay Area neighborhoods, groundwater cleanup in the San Fernando Valley, clean tap water in East Porterville, creek protections in the Sierra and a new dam on the San Joaquin River.
California’s passage of a $7.5 billion water bond is not an end, but a beginning. … Joining us to explain what Californians need to know about the future of these water funds is Andrew Fahlund, deputy director of the California Water Foundation.
California’s aging water infrastructure and collection of ecosystems will receive a $7.5 billion injection of taxpayer dollars, as voters on Tuesday approved a sizable bond that had become a priority for lawmakers and the governor.
Under recently enacted legislation, local agencies in California are required for the first time to manage groundwater pumping and recharge sustainably. … Within the next six to eight years, agencies in groundwater basins subject to critical overdraft must adopt plans that put these areas on a path to sustainability by 2040. A major factor complicating such long-term water planning is climate change.
If you are a water manager, your “fear list” may include earthquakes, climate change, having your water use made public and not least of all, new laws and regulations. California has a law that is new and complex – the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … The key element of the new legislation is the development of “groundwater sustainability plans” by groundwater sustainability agencies.
Sometimes, people take identical facts and reach opposite conclusions. I don’t dispute the facts that Dr. Rob Santos, the veterinarian and Turlock Irrigation District board member, used when he wrote “Here’s why I can’t vote for Brown’s water bond” (Oct. 19, Issues & Ideas).
When Californians close the musty drapes of the voting booth on Tuesday, they will face a $US 7.5 billion question: Should the perpetually water-worried state, in the midst of a record drought, use its taxing authority to pay for another set of state-funded water projects? If the voters say yes – as the polls suggest is likely – Proposition 1 will be the seventh and most expensive water-related bond passed in California since 2000.
California voters have turned against two health-related measures on Tuesday’s ballot while majorities continue to support a water infrastructure bond and a criminal sentencing initiative, according to a new Field Poll.
The environmentalists and other activists who had advocated for protecting the San Gabriel Mountains were shocked this month when President Obama created a national monument that was significantly smaller than they had expected and that excluded heavily used areas of the forest north of Los Angeles and Pasadena.
Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, gathered the reluctant hold-your-nose support of The Press Democrat editorial board. But you should vote no on Proposition 1. Here’s why: Proposition 1 is not a solution to our water shortages or drought. But it does burden us with $14.4 billion of real debt obligations including interest …
For the past half-century, California has fallen behind in adequately planning for our water future by not investing in water storage and improved infrastructure. This failure, combined with the persistent drought, has led to the current statewide water crisis and threatens the future of our agriculture.
A showdown over whether to employ state legislation requiring union-backed labor protections on the Interlake Tunnel project continued Tuesday even as a status report indicated the project cost has nearly doubled.
California’s stubborn drought helped push a $7.5-billion water bond through the Legislature and onto the November ballot. But even if voters approve Proposition 1, it won’t provide relief any time soon.
Conservationists are turning their attention to the restoration of the Santa Ana River after recently approved legislation established a program to create a network of trails and river-bottom parks that could eventually connect scenic spots from Big Bear Lake to Huntington Beach.
The Santa Ana River, born of snowmelt and natural springs near Big Bear Lake, flows through Southern California as one of the region’s most scenic rivers — until it hits Orange County. … Under the legislation by state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), the Santa Ana River Conservancy Program will operate within the state Coastal Conservancy …”
In his first policy speech as California’s Senate leader, Kevin de León said one of his key priorities will be combating climate change by setting policies that promote energy efficiency. … In his speech to the water officials Thursday, de León also stumped for Proposition 1 …”
Restoring the ecological health of the Delta is critical to California’s water system. It’s also a prime reason why voters should approve Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot.
The Pacific Institute, an internationally-renowned independent think tank focused on water issues, has released a report that helps voters untangle the complexities of the water bond measure. The Pacific Institute is taking no formal position for or against Proposition 1.
An in-depth analysis of the $7.5 billion water bond (Proposition 1) on the Nov. 4 ballot finds that it could benefit California’s communities and the environment but that those benefits (water supply, water reliability and environmental quality improvements) are not guaranteed.
Faced with a state mandate to balance groundwater basins within the next two decades, Monterey County officials on Tuesday took the first step toward meeting that goal in the long overdrafted Salinas Valley groundwater basin.
The [Public Policy Institute of California] survey, produced with support from The James Irvine Foundation, determined likely voter sentiment on other issues, including: … On Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, 56 percent say they would support it after being read the ballot title and label for the measure.
[Gov. Jerry] Brown, running for his fourth term as governor, used his appearance at The Hamilton Project conference to give a sort of oral history of California water — which is, in a sense, a Brown family story — and to make a pitch for Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion bond measure on the November ballot.
The signs appear about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, tacked onto old farm wagons parked along quiet two-lane roads and bustling Interstate 5. “Congress Created Dust Bowl.” “Stop the Politicians’ Water Crisis.” “No Water No Jobs.”
Step by step, sewage flows through the city’s Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in the San Fernando Valley. Ultimately, the cleaned effluent flows into lakes and rivers. … Mayor Eric Garcetti, who prefers the term “showers to flowers” instead of “toilet to tap,” also lobbied for groundwater cleanup funds.
He’ll [Gov. Jerry Brown] dive further into the world of water at a policy conference today at Stanford University, hosted by The Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institution and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. … His speech, scheduled for 9:20 a.m., will be webcast.
San Joaquin County is missing out on millions of dollars in state grants to fight the drought, in part because some private landowners are reluctant to share confidential information about their wells.
The reduction of water use in new homes has long been a focus of California’s homebuilding industry. … The good news is the state has a golden opportunity to use the emergency drought funds available to retrofit older homes to comply with current building standards – potentially saving hundreds of billions of gallons a year.
Federal officials confirmed Wednesday that the Mount Baldy ski area and village are outside the boundaries of the newly designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, settling days of uncertainty.
A new campaign is underway to promote the new Salton Sea license plate, with the goal of registering at least 7,500 pre-sales by the end of next year. … Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican, sponsored the legislation to create the plate. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September.
It’s been four days since President Barack Obama flew into Southern California to establish the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, but federal officials are still unclear on exactly where it is. … Neither does staff at the office of Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, who pushed for the designation.
Sonoma County planning officials on Monday unveiled the most significant changes in nearly 40 years to the county’s underground well ordinance, which sets in place rules property owners must follow when drilling a new water well.
President Obama on Friday officially set aside 346,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument, a move to link more communities east of Los Angeles with wild places in their own backyards. … The San Gabriel River takes shape in three forks that drain a lacework of pristine mountain creeks.
Three straight years of desperately dry conditions in California are igniting hills in walls of towering orange flames, turning reservoirs to sandpits, and causing residents across America’s most populous state to clamor for water.
The lure of a San Gabriel Mountains wilderness teeming with wildlife, rivers and breathtaking panoramas is so strong that it now draws 3 million annual visitors whose presence, paradoxically, has overrun the region and degraded its beauty. President Obama will address that reality Friday by announcing that he is designating part of the mountains a national monument.
The biggest changes to California groundwater law in 150 years are on the way. What it means for local water leaders is a lot of work. The goal within 20 years is for all groundwater basins in the state to achieve sustainability.
Storage was the key sticking point in getting the legislature to pass the water bond with the two thirds vote it needed. That portion of the bond includes reservoirs and projects to clean up or store more groundwater.
The Sacramento Region is one step closer to reducing its reliance on Folsom Reservoir. The state of California has recommended the Regional Water Authority receive almost $10 million for projects to improve water supply.
The legislation, authored by State Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, is designed to fast-track the proposal by using a design-build process on the $25 million project, which calls for construction of an 8-mile pipeline between Lakes Nacimiento and San Antonio in South County.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to clean up California have been impressive in the past four years, but he outdid himself Tuesday when he signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.
The ink was barely dry on the governor’s signature to ban plastic bags when foes of his decision filed paperwork with the state attorney general’s office for a referendum in 2016 to overturn the new law.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill to reform the California Department of Toxic Substances Control is drawing indignation from community groups and state legislators who had pressed for broad changes at the troubled agency.
Rebates received by homeowners for replacing their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping will not be counted as income, according to a bill authored by a Los Angeles lawmaker and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday.
Gov. Jerry Brown launched a statewide campaign Friday — not for his own re-election, but for a pair of state ballot measures that he said were critical for both California’s economic and environmental future. … He called Prop. 1 “the first real integrated water plan” to come before voters since his late father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, was governor in the 1960s.
California made history recently when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Its passage marks a once-in-a-century achievement, for it was 100 years ago that California enacted the first comprehensive legal framework for managing surface water.
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation by State Senator Lois Wolk, D-Solano, to strengthen requirements that urban water districts report to the state their water losses through leaks in their water systems.
Under new amendments to California’s Urban Water Management Planning Act, urban water suppliers will be required to provide narrative descriptions of their water demand management measures and account for system water losses when preparing Urban Water Management Plans, among other changes. The amended Act, created by Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill 2067 and Senate Bill 1420 last week, also establishes July 1, 2016 as the deadline for urban water suppliers to prepare and submit their 2015 UWMPs to the Department of Water Resources.
The outcome is rarely certain when state government asks voter permission to spend $7.5 billion of the taxpayers’ money, but it’s also unusual for a ballot proposition to win as wide a range of support as Proposition 1 already had more than a month before the Nov. 4 Election Day.
An epic drought and wave of wildfires have left California voters thirsty for the $7.5 billion state water bond on November’s ballot — and also anxious to approve local bond measures to supply more water, a wide-ranging new poll finds.
California voters will be faced with a $7.5 billion question this fall about whether to publicly finance a water bond meant to help the state better manage its most precious and increasingly limited resource.
As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 232 feet below sea level.
The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for drinking water quality in the United States.
Launched in 1974 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act oversees states, communities, and water suppliers who implement the drinking water standards at the local level.
The act’s regulations apply to every public water system in the United States but do not include private wells serving less than 25 people.
According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water systems in the United States.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Foundation’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.
This issue of Western Water looks at the political landscape in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento as it relates to water issues in 2007. Several issues are under consideration, including the means to deal with impending climate change, the fate of the San Joaquin River, the prospects for new surface storage in California and the Delta.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for it and how much they might have to pay in the future.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.
This printed issue of Western Water discusses low impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging interest that are viewed as important components of California’s future water supply and management scenario.
20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom, focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta Authority.
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 2000 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use … Colorado River transfers, CALFED’s Water Transfer Program and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market.
Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the physical flood control system, including levees; discusses previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores issues of floodplain management and development; provides an overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control projects.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use.
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 history of the project, 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 and competing issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, 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 environmental effects.
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, “certain 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:
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.