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.
Politicians in Washington could have passed laws four years ago
that would be yielding benefits today. These would be things
like assistance with groundwater recharge, water conservation
on farms, stormwater capture and wastewater recycling. I
[Matt Weiser] call these non-nuclear options, because they
don’t peg the Geiger counter in many lobbying offices in the
Surface water supplies have returned to normal for most rice
growers in the Sacramento Valley. … However, now that farmers
are ready to fire up their tractors to plant rice, commodity
prices have taken a nose-dive.
Legislation to protect California’s aquifers and groundwater
resources from permanent damage due to over-pumping has been
approved by the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and
Water on a 6-2 vote.
Building on last year’s declaration of the Berryessa Snow
Mountain Region as a National Monument by President Obama, the
California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve a bill that establishes a state
conservancy to protect, preserve and restore the Northern Inner
The politics of California water is becoming three-dimensional
chess in Congress as lawmakers balance competing anti-drought
ideas with a proposed San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage
settlement that’s going to get bigger.
Arizona and California are arguing over Colorado River water
again — this time over whether it should be inscribed in law
that California can’t take Arizona’s share of river water
that’s left in Lake Mead to prop up lake levels.
Congress is about to try again to help ease California’s
drought. … Discerning the helpful proposals from the
hyperbole can be difficult. So as a guide to the process, Water
Deeply offers the following four themes to watch as the bills
Congress is about to try again to help ease California’s
drought. A handful of bills — some new, some held over from
last year — will come up for debate in the weeks ahead. The
subject is as partisan as the presidential race, and a lot more
A second state legislator plans to introduce legislation that
would add appointed members to the embattled Central Basin
Municipal Water District’s now elected Board of Directors that
were slammed in a state audit for “poor leadership,” violating
state law and spending money inappropriately.
California is the first state to have a law declaring the human
right to water, and now it also has a resolution from the Water
Board prioritizing it. … In Poplar, California, an
unincorporated Central Valley town of low-income, largely
Hispanic residents, two of three community wells are
contaminated with nitrates. The other one is going dry.
The bill proposed by [Rep. Jackie] Speier and [Rep. Jared]
Huffman — the Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2016 —
seeks to appropriate about $138 million in disaster funds to
fishermen and small businesses, including restaurants, that
were banking on the commercial season. Sen. Barbara Boxer is
expected to introduce its companion bill on Monday.
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced a package of water
measures Friday, including legislation halting the
proliferation of new wells to slow the depletion of aquifers,
and avoid permanent damage to the state’s groundwater
Congress is to consider two bills that would allow states to
hand over vast tracts of federal land for mining, logging or
other commercial activities – just weeks after the arrest of an
armed militia that took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in
protest at federal oversight of public land.
Hence Assembly Bill 2496, which would end the [daylight saving
time] practice in California, undoing a law that voters
approved back in 1949 via Proposition 12. At the time, a ballot
statement in favor argued altered summertime hours would
bolster “public health and industrial efficiency” by improving
worker safety, limiting juvenile delinquency, saving water,
preventing car crashes and aiding farmers.
As California enters its fifth year of a historic dry period
and residents buckle down to reduce urban water use by
one-fourth, a novel strategy adopted by the East Bay water
utility has turned the spotlight on the region’s most wasteful
consumers – among them the rich and famous – and could become
the basis for statewide policy.
The Department of Water Resources has now released the first
draft regulations to manage groundwater sustainably. The plan
lays out the steps local public agencies will need to take to
prevent chronic groundwater overdraft.
Lawmakers representing the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the
heart of California’s water system, have introduced a bill that
would make Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial twin tunnels
project subject to statewide voter approval.
The state Department of Water Resources on Thursday released a
list of 21 groundwater basins and subbasins that are
overdrafted, causing land subsidence, chronically lowered
groundwater levels and, in the case of the Salinas Valley,
California’s congressional delegation continued to wrangle over
how to respond to the Golden State’s water crisis Thursday when
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released what she called a
“discussion draft” of proposed legislation.
It turns out “emergency drought relief” can take up to two
years to distribute. On Wednesday, California regulators
awarded the final pieces of the $680 million drought aid
package Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved in March
On Monday, he’ll [Anthony Rendon], be voted into one of
the top political posts in California, the speaker of the
Assembly. … But early in his first term, he charged into a
high-profile and politically thorny issue: water.
The complicated pact, backed by the states of California and
Oregon, called for the removal of four hydroelectric dams,
settled water rights disputes and spelled out water allocations
for irrigators and wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s $122.6 billion budget plan out Thursday
contained $80.5 million for the restoration of habitat at the
shrinking Salton Sea, the creation of a longterm plan for the
lake’s management, and is raising hopes for its restoration,
Don’t be surprised to see a flurry of new legislative proposals
in 2016 that push toilet water recycling, rooftop water tanks
and underground systems to filter sewer sludge for field
irrigation in California. Call it the Australian plan.
Debate over a plan to address California’s drought
continued Friday as the Republicans in the state’s delegation
held a news conference blaming Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
for not supporting their bid to insert the plan into a
must-pass spending bill.
California lawmakers’ repeated failures to agree on legislation
to resolve the state’s seemingly endless battle over how to use
its water resources raise new questions about whether they’ll
ever be able to find a compromise. This year, the climate
looked ripe for an agreement.
The utter collapse of negotiations means a California water
package that in its latest manifestation spanned 92 pages will
not be slipped into a much larger, much-pass omnibus federal
spending package needed to keep the federal government
California Republicans will continue trying to include language
addressing the state’s drought in a must-pass bill to fund the
federal government, over objections from the state’s Democratic
Five years after a high-profile deal was struck to remove four
hydroelectric dams and improve conditions on one of the West
Coast’s prime salmon rivers, the agreement is on the verge of
collapse for lack of action by Congress.
A closed-door attempt to rewrite California water law crashed
late last week in a public row between Sen. Dianne Feinstein
and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that could doom
drought legislation for yet another year.
A new law regulating groundwater use for the first time in
California is decades away from being fully implemented. But
already, it is clear how difficult it will be for local water
providers to comply.
A California water bill that skeptics say has been cloaked in
excessive secrecy will probably miss its Capitol Hill train
this year. … The latest plot turn in California water
politics bears a striking resemblance to past Capitol Hill
In a classic Capitol Hill tradeoff, conservatives would get the
Clear Creek Management Area reopened to off-roaders while
liberals would secure new wilderness and wild-and-scenic river
designation for other federal lands.
A California law – that was passed to respond to the drought -
allows artificial turf on all residential property. But, a
Sacramento city councilman says the law should allow cities to
restrict its use.
The tensions in Kings County offer just a taste of what’s
expected in cities and towns throughout California’s farm belt
over the next few years as local officials work to enact the
state’s first-ever groundwater regulations.
As California enters the fifth consecutive year of
unprecedented drought, Congress is debating two competing bills
designed to provide federal drought relief to California
agriculture. The proposals reveal stark differences in proposed
federal water and environmental policy.
Gold is, of course, no longer even a minor factor in
California’s economy. But for decades, the 49er spirit has
survived in a few thousand semi-professional hobbyists who have
used small suction dredges to gather gold-bearing gravel from
It’s been one year since California Governor Jerry Brown signed
a landmark law to manage the state’s groundwater. The
California Water Commission has approved new groundwater basin
boundaries – the first major step in implementing the law.
As Congress considers an appropriate response to the Western
drought, our experience in California gives us a keen sense of
how Congress can best help. … I [California Natural Resources
Agency Secretary John Laird] take passage of
Proposition 1 as a resounding endorsement of a constructive
approach that does not pit urban or agricultural users against
one another and does not undermine water rights or
environmental protection laws.
As the California legislative session came to a close, Governor
Brown signed more than 20 bills that address different aspects
of water policy, ranging from water conservation and
measurement to water quality. Two bill packages took important
steps toward improving groundwater management and reducing the
negative environmental impacts of marijuana farming.
The California Natural Resources Agency will move forward with
the projects in the coming months and work with Colorado River
officials to accelerate planning, permitting and construction,
the governor’s office said.
On October 9, 2015, Governor Brown completed what is probably
one of the most remarkable two years in water legislation in
California’s history. … In signing SGMA, the Governor
pledged that during the 2014/15 legislative session, he would
submit a proposal to streamline groundwater
adjudications. With the signing of AB 1390 (Alejo) and SB
226 (Pavley), the Governor kept his promise.
Among the batch of bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week
is one that sets new water quality regulations on certain types
of mining popular in the North Coast area and could result in
the state lifting its ban on new mining activity that began in
Rules governing pesticides and water discharge will apply to
cannabis, newly classified as an agricultural product. [Gov.
Jerry] Brown directly addressed pot’s ecological
implications in a signing message, saying he would direct the
state Natural Resources Agency to “identify projects to begin
the restoration of our most impacted areas in the state.”
With California mired in the worst drought in state history,
Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law a measure aimed at
reducing the billions of gallons of water lost every year
across the state from leaks in aging and cracked water pipes in
hundreds of city water systems.
With California withering through a multiyear drought, Gov.
Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation banning cities and
counties from prohibiting drought-tolerant landscaping,
including synthetic grass and artificial turf.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to require the Salton
Sea Authority, working with the Natural Resources Agency, to
study projects to restore parts of the rapidly shrinking Salton
Sea, a huge and troubled body of water considered a health
Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
[Sen. Lisa] Murkowski convened the two-hour hearing
Thursday primarily to consider significantly different House
and Senate versions of California water legislation. The
morning hearing was the first to be held specifically on the
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed 23 new environmental bills
into law, banning tiny plastic beads in cosmetics that
scientists say are polluting the ocean and San Francisco Bay,
toughening oil pipeline laws and requiring the state’s massive
pension funds to sell off their coal stocks.
For a local tribe and environmental groups, recently passed
state legislation that would require a certain method of gold
mining to comply with the state’s clean water regulations could
be the key to resolving long-standing environmental concerns
On September 16, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown, cheerfully
triumphant, signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, which many observers assert is the most
significant addition to California’s water protection code in a
For years, an obscure team of water wonks has met each month in
a conference room at the California Water Service Co. offices
in downtown Stockton. Their charge: To protect the region’s
precious groundwater, an invisible natural resource as
little-known as those who guard it.
In an annual lobbying ritual, more than 30 officials from eight
[San Joaquin] valley counties this week swarmed the hill in
search of federal support for an assortment of projects and
priorities. … What they got was a crash course in
congressional politics, circa 2015.
With California in the fourth year of a drought, a state
lawmaker has introduced a last-minute bill that would require
half of treated wastewater to be used for beneficial purposes,
including landscape watering, by 2026 and 100% usage by 2036.
California homeowners who replace their water-gulping grass
lawns with artificial turf in response to the drought would be
protected from sanctions by homeowner associations under one of
10 bills signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The state Legislature last month balked at a measure that would
have provided $10 million for grants and low-interest loans to
replace private dry wells. The bill is now in limbo, even
though many lawmakers seemed to like it.
The record wildfire season scorching the West is prompting
renewed calls for Congress to change how it funds firefighting,
a push that comes as the head of the Forest Service said the
agency would soon exceed its firefighting budget for the year —
Last month, U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney ripped the governor’s twin
tunnels plan, calling it “misguided” and wasteful. … “But I
can’t just say ‘No,’ ” McNerney said Tuesday after hosting
a drought forum at the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center in
Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei recalled cleaning toilets at
Sand Harbor. … Those were some of the stories business, state
and federal leaders referred to during the 2015 Lake Tahoe
Summit at Round Hill Pines Beach on Monday, Aug. 24.
The lawmakers convening Monday for a major Lake Tahoe
conference confront a Capitol Hill conflict over how best to
protect the much-beloved mountain region. They differ over
money, environmental laws, timber harvesting and more.
When elected officials from California and Nevada meet Monday
for the 19th annual Lake Tahoe Summit, much attention will be
given to the clarity of the lake and protecting the unique
basin environment. Part of the discussion must include the
health of our national forests and their associated watersheds.
There are many threats facing Lake Tahoe, and unless we take
action, the pristine beauty [John] Muir described will soon be
only a memory. We [Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif.] joined our colleagues, Senators Harry
Reid and Barbara Boxer, to introduce the bipartisan Lake Tahoe
Restoration Act of 2015, a bill to protect Lake Tahoe and the
Tahoe Basin for generations to come.
A California lawmaker has proposed a new label for food
irrigated with what he calls “fracking water.” … Oil
companies sell Central Valley farms millions of gallons of
treated wastewater every day for irrigation.
Environmentalists are mobilizing in protest of a would-be bill
backed by the local wine industry that would create an
irrigation district intended to protect the water rights of
about 1,000 grape growers in the Russian River region.
Lawmakers are seeking budget solutions amid a superheated
political climate as the wildland fires now raging across
California, Washington and other Western states burn through
federal dollars as well as forests. A new report warns the
funding problem will worsen.
Publicly and privately, California lawmakers are pushing to get
a big water bill off its current glacial pace. But history
cautions that California legislation this ambitious always
takes time, and plenty of it.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein filed her long-awaited legislative
response to California’s water crisis on Wednesday, hoping to
broker a compromise that has eluded Congress through four years
of fallow fields and brown lawns.
The drastic drop in acres burned in the past year is in large
part because of an increase in the number of crews and
aircrafts CalFire was able to obtain through the state
declaring a drought emergency last year, officials say.
We face major environmental challenges at Tahoe, including the
uncertainties of climate change. … This month, our bi-state
delegation in the U.S. Senate introduced the Lake Tahoe
Restoration Act of 2015.
The House of Representatives’ passage Thursday of an ambitious
and controversial California water bill now starts a round of
maneuvering that will show whether a divided Congress can get
its act together and legislate.
Sponsored by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) along with
Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and
Barbara Boxer (D-California), the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act
would authorize up to $415 million in federal funding over 10
years to help continue critical environmental restoration work
at Lake Tahoe.
While water consumers are pressed to save every drop in the
continuing drought, water utilities keep poor track of how much
of their supply is lost before it ever reaches faucets – and at
least some are resisting a bill to make them report those loses
In the end Senate Bill 4 regulating hydraulic fracturing
pleased neither environmentalists nor the oil and gas industry,
but supporters argue it imposes needed oversight by requiring
well permits, disclosure of what chemicals are used, water
testing and studies of fracking’s impact.
Northern California Rep. Jared Huffman came to Southern
California to push his $1.4 billion drought bill and find some
common ground in what he called the state’s water wars being
waged in the halls of Sacramento and Washington.
House Republicans are swinging for the fences with an ambitious
new, but familiar, California water bill introduced Thursday.
… The legislation speeds studies for water storage projects,
including proposals for raising Shasta Dam and building a new
reservoir at Temperance Flat on the Upper San Joaquin River.
The California Legislature approved a budget bill that would
grant the state authority to force water systems to consolidate
to serve disadvantaged communities where a steady supply of
clean drinking water is not available. Senate Bill 88 also
would give public water suppliers the power to impose civil
fines of up to $10,000 for violations of water conservation
programs, impose new measuring and reporting requirements for
water diversions, and suspend environmental review for certain
A California budget bill that would allow the state to force
consolidation of water systems, exempt certain water projects
from environmental review and make other far-reaching changes
in response to the drought cleared the Legislature on Friday
over the angry objections of Republicans.
Late-emerging legislation designed to deal with the drought
could be part of the budget package California lawmakers will
vote on Friday. Part of the legislation would give state
water regulators the ability to force local water agencies to
Some drought-related groundwater and water recycling projects
would gain exemptions from the California Environmental Quality
Act under late-emerging legislation at the Capitol. … The
bill includes language related to the consolidation of water
agencies, among other measures.
[David] Orth is general manager for the Kings River
Conservation District, a California Water Commissioner, and a
key participant in the negotiations leading up to the enactment
of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.We spoke at
a recent event in Fresno about the challenges facing the new
In response to the worst drought in our state’s long memory,
our public institutions – with one unfortunate exception – are
stepping up. … That’s why I [Rep. Jared Huffman] developed
the kind of serious, comprehensive legislation this crisis
The Brown administration is pushing late-emerging budget
legislation to let state officials force the consolidation of
troubled water systems with larger, better-funded agencies,
with the goal of improving Californians’ access to safe
drinking water after four years of drought.
California’s worst water-guzzling residents and businesses
could get slapped with 300 percent taxes on their bills under
drought-inspired legislation that was proposed Tuesday but
faces a tough path before it could actually affect local water
The governor’s obsession with building massive tunnels under
the Delta could muck up what should be a simple issue: granting
CEQA exemption requests for emergency drought projects. The
request in the form of Trailer Bill 831 is part of the budget
process for dealing with the drought.
As California struggles to respond to a heightening drought
emergency, state lawmakers are promoting legislation that would
potentially increase scientific knowledge about the state’s
shrinking groundwater reserves. On June 1, the California
Senate passed SB 20 by a vote of 21 to 15. The bill requires
public access to the groundwater information that well drillers
file with the Department of Water Resources after completing a
Members of the Klamath Tribes are speaking out against the
Klamath water settlements and the new land base being written
into them. … The land base transfer now being considered is
part of SB 133, the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic
The tremendous challenge of upgrading our water infrastructure
will require federal cooperation. That’s why I [Dianne
Feinstein] plan to introduce drought legislation soon to
lay out the federal role in this long-term effort.
The state’s splintered congressional delegation — despite its
size and influence — has been stymied by fundamental
disagreements over the causes of the drought and the role of
the federal government in mitigating its consequences.
Despite opposition from agriculture groups, the state Senate
Appropriations Committee approved legislation Thursday that
would make data on water wells available to the public like is
done in all other Western states.
While state-mandated requirements of Colusa County’s
groundwater are still years away, concerns about aquifer health
among local farmers already exist. About 50 local residents and
growers participated in a public informational meeting about
groundwater at the Colusa County Fairgrounds on Tuesday night.
The state’s oil and gas agency has missed the deadline for
reporting on the use of water by oil producers in California,
saying that the large volume of information required could not
be processed in time.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 creates an
opportunity to establish standards for the way California
accounts for its stores of groundwater, which provide up to 60
percent of the state’s water supply during droughts.
With dead almond trees propped on the Capitol steps and school
children clutching signs that read “We need water. Build
storage now!”, advocates for new dams and reservoirs in
California offered a striking set of visuals in Sacramento last
The $35 billion bill includes money for the California status
quo, ranging from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta restoration to
operations of the sprawling Central Valley Project. It also
includes drought-related language, with directives to speed
completion of water storage project studies.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, wants the federal government
to transfer ownership of New Melones Lake east of Stockton to
local water districts. That’s the aim of one of two bills
introduced by Denham on Wednesday.
If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can
be fined right now is $500 a day. Governor Jerry Brown wants to
raise the maximum penalty 20 times that amount – to $10,000 per
[Gov. Jerry] Brown said he will empower communities to reach
their target, with legislation that allows them to crack down
harder on residents and business in violation of state and
local water restrictions by imposing $10,000 penalties, while
deputizing more people to hit the streets and issue fines.
Despite a rally that attracted hundreds of supporters to the
state Capitol, a proposed bill that would have expedited the
environmental review process for two large reservoir projects
failed to pass through committee.
Alarmed that some cities have fined residents for allowing
their lawns to turn brown during the drought, the state
Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit penalties
for failing to water grass.
California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require
the installation of water meters in each unit of newly
constructed apartments. Democratic Senator Lois Wolk is
author of the proposed legislation.
Adam Gray on Wednesday was booted off the Assembly Water, Parks
and Wildlife Committee, one day after an unlikely victory when
the committee narrowly approved his legislation aimed at
protecting communities near the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced
The $1 billion emergency drought aid package announced by
Governor Jerry Brown last week has cleared the California
Legislature. But a late addition to one of the measures has
Republicans and farmers upset.
Not only will the $1-billion spending plan approved by
lawmakers Thursday provide little immediate relief to
drought-stricken Californians, state leaders are missing an
opportunity to take more decisive action to restrict water use,
conservation advocates said.
Senators approved Assembly bills 91 and 92 on votes of 35-1 and
24-14, respectively, after Republicans deliberated in a lengthy
caucus meeting and then castigated the bill for broadening
government powers over water. The Assembly expects to take up
the measures Thursday, after which the package would go to Gov.
Jerry Brown if passed.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg proposed a Water Seismic Safety (SB664) bill
on Tuesday requiring local water agencies to evaluate their
earthquake risks and suggest ways to keep the water flowing in
the event of a disaster.
Sonoma County this week unveiled its first formal response to a
wave of queries over the past six months about how California’s
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which establishes the
first rules for pumping groundwater in the Golden State, would
affect property owners and agriculture.
State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas – author of two of three
historic groundwater laws passed by the Legislature last year –
has introduced a new bill to make well logs public. A hearing
is scheduled for today.
At the close of another dry winter, Gov. Jerry Brown and
legislative leaders announced a $1 billion package of bills
Thursday to expedite money for people and cities hit hard by
the drought and prepare the state for the flip side of extreme
weather patterns — flooding.
Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers from both parties unveiled a
plan that would invest more than $1 billion to improve the
state’s water infrastructure, provide emergency assistance to
struggling communities and protect wildlife.
With California entering its fourth year of drought, Gov. Jerry
Brown and legislative leaders will propose more than $1 billion
in emergency legislation Thursday for flood protection and
water supply projects and to alleviate impacts of the drought.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released
for public review and comment a draft strategic plan (Strategic
Plan) describing its roles and responsibilities under
the State’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA). The Strategic Plan documents DWR’s strategy to
implement the SGMA and the efforts it will take to develop and
share information with those affected by, or tasked with,
implementation of the SGMA.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman on Friday reiterated his
desire to see marijuana legalized nationally, saying it would
help bring rational management to pot cultivation and thus
reduce damage to the environment.
Frank Bigelow stood at the bottom of a gully that a few years
ago was stocked with largemouth bass, and, more importantly,
supplied water for a herd of cattle that numbered 600 head. …
This year, eight of 17 bills he has introduced deal with water
in one form or another.