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.
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 237 feet below sea level.
The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when
the Colorado River broke
through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years,
creating California’s largest inland body of water. The
Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130
miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for drinking
water quality in the United States.
Launched in 1974 and administered by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act oversees states,
communities, and water suppliers who implement the drinking water
standards at the local level.
The act’s regulations apply to every public water system in the
United States but do not include private wells serving less than
According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water
systems in the United States.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of
the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta
Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater
monitoring and the proposed water bond.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at California
groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by
local, regional and state management. For more background
information on groundwater please refer to the Foundation’s
Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information
in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the
Groundwater Resources Association of California.
This issue of Western Water looks at the political
landscape in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento as it relates to
water issues in 2007. Several issues are under consideration,
including the means to deal with impending climate change, the
fate of the San Joaquin River, the prospects for new surface
storage in California and the Delta.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the
financing of water infrastructure, both at the local level and
from the statewide perspective, and some of the factors that
influence how people receive their water, the price they pay for
it and how much they might have to pay in the future.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy
requirements associated with water use and the means by which
state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge
and improve the management of both resources.
This printed issue of Western Water discusses low
impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging
interest that are viewed as important components of California’s
future water supply and management scenario.
20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A
Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues related to complex water management
disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances
For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and
California border has faced complex water management disputes. As
relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary
narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range
from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp,
farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists
– all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water.
After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon
settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise
of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the
30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes
extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of
dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features
a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San
Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows
and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam
to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the
history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with
A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36
inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and
its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and
Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin.
Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the
Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and
wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to
Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of
California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the
authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a
faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of
California water rights.
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides
background information on water rights, types of transfers and
critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in
1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on
groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River
transfers and the role of private companies in California’s
developing water market.
Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced
fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth,
easy-to-understand publication that provides background and
perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater
is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the
history of its use in California.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to
Flood Management explains the physical flood control system,
including levees; discusses previous flood events (including the
1997 flooding); explores issues of floodplain management and
development; provides an overview of flood forecasting; and
outlines ongoing flood control projects.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an
excellent overview of the history of water development and use in
California. It includes sections on flood management; the state,
federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water
rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for
stretching the water supply such as water marketing and
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.