California has been the nation’s
leading agricultural and dairy state for the past 50 years. The
state’s 80,500 farms and ranches produce more than 400 different
agricultural products. These products generated a record $44.7
billion in sales value in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of
the US total.
Breaking down the state’s agricultural role in the country,
California produces 21 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 23
percent of its cheese and 92 percent of all grapes. The state
also produces half of all domestically-grown fruits, nuts and
vegetables, including some products, such as almonds, walnuts,
artichokes, persimmons and pomegranates, of which 99 percent are
grown in California.
Overall, about 3 percent of employment in the state is directly
or indirectly related to agriculture.
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The forced blackout imposed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to
reduce fire danger amid high winds has slowed agricultural
activities in some parts of California to a crawl as shuttered
processing facilities have caused a backup in harvests.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
Arizona’s top water official presented new long-term
projections Friday showing that Pinal County doesn’t have
enough groundwater to provide for the fast-growing area’s
cities, farms and many planned subdivisions over the coming
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the
No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year
drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s
recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western
end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their
farming or let fields go fallow.
Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet
broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique
opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively
integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit
water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and
unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers,
policymakers and the public better understand growing practices
since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became
legal for recreational use.
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
Based on the most detailed data they have available, the East
Kaweah has a supply of 125,000 acre feet per year of ground
water available for use without threatening overdraft. However,
Hagman notes that the East Kaweah has overdrafted their portion
of the basin by 28,000 acre feet on average, per year.
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
Giving legal rights to a river helps compensate for the fact
that the rights of those living along it are frequently being
violated. Even with all the executive orders and legislation on
the books, companies exploiting the environment rarely pay for
its destruction in the way local communities do.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing
groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall
as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical
to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to
energy production. … In watersheds such as California’s
Central Valley, the Midwestern U.S.’s high plains, the Upper
Ganges and the Indus in South Asia, groundwater is already
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
From mandatory drought restrictions to billions of dollars’
worth of drought-proofing projects, San Diego and the entire
West has for years had a complicated relationship with its
water – and it’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper any
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
Recently, authority over many streams, pools, and lakes in the
United States reverted from the federal government to the
states. The Trump administration repealed the 2015 “Waters of
the United States” rule, under which the federal government
claimed authority to regulate virtually any body of water it
A coalition of river and coastal defenders have won a major
victory against the State Water Resources Control Board,
securing an order that requires the board to meet the statutory
deadlines for its list of impaired waterways in California. The
lawsuit focused on the board’s violations of the Clean Water
Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act…
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
It did not escape Stewart Resnick’s attention that, after some
unusual winter weather in 2015, his pistachio crop took a 70%
hit. He couldn’t miss it when, for several years, his
heat-blasted oranges came in smaller and less prodigiously than
in the past. California’s persistent drought could not be
ignored, either, by the man reputed to be the biggest farmer in
The California Water Boards sent at least 270 letters to
farmers in the Emerald Triangle, warning them to come into
compliance with regulations or face possible fines and even the
loss of their cultivation licenses.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about
to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink
agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of
acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other
non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change,
meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
Lawns cool the air, reduce urban heat-island effect, remove
pollutants, and provide play spaces. … From a design
standpoint, they make uncluttered views, provide background and
contrast for flowers, and create our outdoor living spaces.
Historically, lawns provided all those benefits at high cost,
literally and environmentally.
California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris
Scheuring said the strong 2019 water year should not distract
from “the public-policy issues that never go away in California
water.” Scheuring said he thinks water deliveries may remain
good for the next year or two, but farmers should be prepared
for another multiyear drought.
One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has
webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth
that could be mistaken for carrots. … The swamp rodents,
called nutria, are setting off alarms in California.
An improved understanding of cannabis cultivators’ water use
practices is a particularly pressing need. Given the propensity
of cannabis growers to establish farms in small, upper
watersheds, where streams that support salmonids and other
sensitive species are vulnerable to dewatering, significant
concerns have been raised over the potential impacts of
diverting surface water for cannabis cultivation.
While farm and private property interests cheered,
environmental groups last week bemoaned the Trump
administration finalizing the repeal of the controversial
“Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, rule. We see little to
cheer or jeer at this point, as the repeal is hardly the final
chapter in a dispute that has stretched on for nearly 10 years.
When water is diverted from rivers, the remaining water moves
more slowly and warms more easily. Algae and bacteria thrive in
warm, stagnant water and are more likely to grow in excess,
increasing the chances of a HAB event.
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
Most farmers haven’t heard about the recent report from the UN,
even though it deals with climate change and land use and
features agriculture prominently. But we don’t need to read the
science — we are living it.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Every degree of warming is expected to worsen what, in many
ways, is already a crisis for the state’s multibillion-dollar
agricultural industry. And a crisis here is a problem
everywhere, given that California produces 50% of the nation’s
fruits and vegetables and 90% of its nut crops.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Here’s a weird fact: There is no industry standard for how much
water a cannabis plant requires. Four gallons a day? Six?
Growers are left to ask their friends, look at possibly-dicey
web sites, and experiment for themselves. Growers of tomatoes
or corn, meanwhile, can easily find such information by looking
it up on the USDA’s web site, or asking their local extension
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
Something is amiss on Sherman Island, a whale-shaped swath of
farm and grazing land at the confluence of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers. If you don’t know what ails the place, it
might be hard to pinpoint the problem.
The three-year Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program
(SCPP) started out modestly, with just 15 participating farms
and ranches the first year, but grew quickly as farmers
realized they could earn passive income for changing their
irrigation patterns, turning off the water they diverted from
the river earlier in the year when it carries more snowmelt,
and—in a few cases—fallowing some fields all together.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
Because there are moral, aesthetic, and legal obligations to
provide fish with water in streams, biologists like me often
get asked the question “Just how much water do the fish need,
anyway?” This, of course, is the wrong question…
Commodity prices across some crops, record cotton yields and
ample water supplies combined to catapult Fresno County’s gross
crop value to a record $7.88 billion in 2018, eclipsing last
year’s figure by over 12 percent, and besting the previous
record by nearly as much.
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years of drought and the dramatic
decline in water levels at the river’s key reservoirs have
pressed water managers to adapt to challenging conditions. But
even more extreme — albeit rare — droughts or floods that could
overwhelm water managers may lie ahead in the Basin as the
effects of climate change take hold, say a group of scientists.
Farmers clearly appreciate the yields that fertilizers
facilitate, but many acknowledge that these chemicals are
tainting the land and water. Enter the Central Coast Wetlands
Group and the Coastal Conservation and Research, Inc. and their
new bioreactor designed to process agricultural runoff, turning
algae-bloom-triggering waste into benign nitrogen gas.
Fresno County farmers and ranchers shattered the yearly record
for the value of what they produced by nearly a billion dollars
in 2018. Despite below-average surface water supplies, their
crops and livestock totaled $7.888 billion last year, according
to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s annual report
Water managers across the state face new and more extreme
challenges as the climate warms—from balancing the sometimes
conflicting needs of urban, agricultural, and environmental
water users to reducing risks from fires, floods, and droughts.
We talked to Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County
Water Agency, about how his agency is approaching these
challenges comprehensively, at the scale of the entire
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
Escondido is moving forward on a reverse osmosis treatment
facility that will reduce the city’s wastewater and also
provide more recycled water for agricultural use. The project
will divert millions of gallons of water from the discharge
pipeline, and turn it into highly treated irrigation water.
It’s expected to begin construction in early 2020…
There are a lot of reasons our watershed is unique. It’s a high
elevation terminal watershed, what could be more special? Well,
another contributing factor is that the terminus of the Truckee
River watershed exists on the largest Native American
Reservation in Nevada.
Water deliveries in the Fresno Irrigation District typically
end in September, but they could last until November this year.
The extra deliveries will allow growers to not only irrigate
but also to bank some water for future use.
A new class action lawsuit accuses the Coachella Valley Water
District of illegally taxing customers to benefit large
agricultural companies. … Under the Burns-Porter Act, a local
water district’s revenue can only be used for a few specific,
voter-approved purposes. According to the suit, using tax
dollars to fund aquifer replenishment and subsidizing
agricultural water use are not appropriate uses.
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
Shares of water resource specialist Cadiz (NASDAQ:CDZI) have
jumped 19.5% this month through Aug. 23, while the S&P 500,
including dividends, is down 4.3%. … The catalyst for Cadiz
stock’s August pop was the company’s announcement that it has
entered the U.S. hemp market.
Minimal restrictions, ample land and a strong farming tradition
have made Kern the state’s No. 1 hemp-growing county in the
four months since California began registering growers of the
non-psychoactive form of cannabis.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Outside the walls of the lab lies an environment increasingly
unfit for fish like delta smelt. The Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, some 40 miles inland from the San Francisco Bay, is a
1,100-square-mile tidal marsh that for millennia teemed with
salmon, shellfish, tule elk, deer, and waterfowl — all of which
supported a Native American population of about 300,000 people.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
Hydrogen sulfide is associated with the natural processes
occurring in the Salton Sea, a non-draining body of water with
no ability to cleanse itself. Trapped in its waters are salt
and selenium-laden agricultural runoff from surrounding farms,
as well as heavy metals and bacterial pollution that flow in
from Mexico’s New River, authorities said.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
In June, Kathy Joseph learned that the fungicide she has been
spraying on her grapes for decades could be drifting onto the
cannabis. Unlike food crops, cannabis can’t be sold if there’s
any trace of fungicide or pesticide in it, according to state
law. So while the county investigates, she’s using a more
expensive and far less effective spray on the grapevines that
are nearest to the cannabis farm.
GAR Tootelian, a major agricultural chemical company, and
Families Protecting the Valley are rolling up their sleeves to
put up several hundred road signs calling for action to build
more dam storage and the message is simple: Dam Water Grows
In light of the recent groundwater modeling scenarios generated
by Indian Wells Valley Water Groundwater, some stakeholders in
the basin have pushed back, including Searles Valley Minerals
and Meadowbrook Dairy.
Earlier this year, Sacramento politicians introduced Senate
Bill 1 (SB1) which seeks to inject politics into California’s
environmental regulations. SB1 will restrict water deliveries
to the Central Valley and make California even more
unaffordable. SB1 puts our communities in danger.
With big western cities clamoring for a share of the
river’s diminishing supply, desert farmers with valuable claims
are making multimillion dollar deals in a bid to delay the
inevitable. … But if the river’s water keeps
falling, more radical measures will be needed to protect
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Mediterranean climates, like California’s, typically follow
boom and bust cycles, marked by a predictable shift between
cold and wet and hot and dry. But the changing climate will
amplify that pattern with weather that is, at times, wetter and
at other times hotter.
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act has presented some challenges, however it appears the
overall process is progressing smoothly overall. Supervising
Engineering Geologist with the Department of Water Resources,
Steven Springhorn noted that the stakeholders have been
diligent in adhering to the timeline established by the
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
Prominent Sonoma County wine executive Hugh Reimers, who last
month abruptly left as president of Foley Family Wines, faces
allegations that his grape growing company has violated
regional, state and federal water quality laws for improperly
clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
The Delta smelt is practically extinct in the wild already. So
could the Delta be repopulated by taking up the farmers’ offer
to “hatch and repopulate the fish,” as Jack Fowler says in
National Review? That certainly sounds like common sense!
Except that the Delta smelt war has never really been about the
Delta smelt at all.
Human-caused climate change is increasingly harming oysters in
Tomales and San Francisco bays and could soon devastate
shellfish across California, as the chemistry of the water in
estuaries morphs and livable habitat shrinks, a UC Davis study
For five years or so, German-born, San Francisco-based
photographer Thomas Heinser has made a study of the state’s
scarred landscapes. His images, shot from the open side of a
helicopter, focus on the after-effects of drought, wildfire,
and human profit.
A Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and winemaker has agreed to
pay $3.76 million in penalties after his company bulldozed a
protected wetland and filled in a stream bed to build a
vineyard in Mendocino County, North Coast water regulators
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
Los Angeles water developer Cadiz Inc. has entered into a joint
venture with a division of Long Beach-based California Cannabis
Enterprises Inc. to grow hemp on Cadiz land that sits atop a
Mojave Desert aquifer.
In California, money does grow on trees. Almonds constitute a
$5.6 billion industry, and 2.26 billion pounds were shipped
from California last year to be roasted and salted, or turned
into anything from frothy, barista-friendly almond milk to
marzipan sold on the streets of Berlin.
Rhys Vineyards LLC, based on the California Central Coast but
with vines in Mendocino County’s prime pinot noir region of
Anderson Valley, has agreed to pay $3.76 million to settle
enforcement actions brought by state wildlife and water
regulators for unpermitted diversion of rainwater runoff on
property of a planned small vineyard in a northern part of the
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
What happens when the farmer’s source of water is tapped out?
They look for it elsewhere. This could become a major problem
as their adaptation to climate change only exacerbates another
major impact from climate change—water scarcity.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
If credibility were measured like rainfall, the Trump
administration would be in the midst of a prolonged drought —
as evidenced most recently in its handling of plans to send
more water to California’s Central Valley.
Water is key to everything in California. If you have control
of water in sufficient amounts you control your destiny. There
are three things on the horizon that city leaders had best pay
heed before they buy into the PG&E model regarding critical
and essential utilities and go for the money in the here and
now while ignoring long term consequences.
The community wanted to create flood relief for the people of
Hamilton City; The Nature Conservancy wanted to find a way to
restore native habitat. Area farmers wanted to reduce damages
from flows that scoured their property along the edge of the
river. The Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem
Restoration project was able to address these problems with one
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has been occurring on a nationwide
scale wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12
million well-drilling records from state and local agencies
across the country.
Just how much Manteca’s treated wastewater is worth to
agricultural users served by the Delta Mendota Canal that are
often at the mercy of fish flows diversions and drought that
reduces their Central Valley Project allocations may be
determined in the coming year.
If you’ve read stories about the disaster afflicting Flint,
Michigan, you are probably grateful we still have good drinking
water in Humboldt County. But the agency that provides water to
a majority of county residents is increasingly worried about
the future and going head-to-head with the county Planning and
Building Department to protect water quality.
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
A Humboldt County task force will attempt to find ways of
incentivizing extensive infrastructure improvements at the
Samoa Peninsula, where a major aquaculture project is soon to
arrive. Nordic Aquafarms … wants the county to first address
surface water turbidity concerns and a toxic brownfield problem
that have existed at the Samoa Peninsula since the closure of
the industrial pulp mills last decade.
A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district’s
request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta
Dam to Fresno County. Westlands Water District, based in
Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home
county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta
The Trump Administration last year proposed to combine the
responsibilities of both the NMFS and the USFWS under one
federal roof. This would promote more efficient, effective, and
coordinated management of all ESA responsibilities for
anadromous and freshwater fish in Western watersheds, from the
highest reaches of our headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.
A new study looked at more than half a century of well depth
trends to gain new insights into the management of the critical
resource. … The team found that, between 1950 and 2015,
across most of the country, groundwater users are drilling
wells deeper and deeper. But well depths did not increase
everywhere … which means that, in some places, wells might
The Natural Resources Agency, California EPA, and California
Department of Food and Agriculture want the public’s input on
how best to manage and deal with an uncertain water supply in
the future. It seems every new administration in Sacramento
must deal with water issues in California that never seem to
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it’s been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is
approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter
left enough water to potentially last through three summers of
As a small business owner who leads fishing tours for anglers
from within and beyond the region, I understand that taking
these dams out may lead to a short-term dip in business. But
the long-term benefits of dam removal outweigh the near-term
costs to my family and my livelihood.
For around 20 years, Los Angeles has shipped a large portion of
“biosolids” from its toilets to fertilize a farm it owns just
west of Bakersfield. Bakersfield, in return, has been providing
an annual load of 18,000 acre-feet of free water to the farm.
However, after passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, the value of treated wastewater increased.
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
They’ll use less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides –
and they will probably be cheaper. The Public Strawberry
Breeding Program at UC Davis just announced five new strawberry
varieties that will be on the market in the fall and are
expected to benefit farmers, sellers and consumers alike.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
In black and white, John Trotter documents the use of water
from the Colorado River, tackling the social, political, and
environmental impact of the way it’s dealt with. Spanning over
years and kilometres, his ongoing essay is a dire political
In the 1990s, he played a central role in some of the country’s
biggest environmental decisions. … He could have chosen to
wrap up his career when he left office at the end of the
Clinton administration in 2001. But Babbitt has
remained actively engaged in issues he cares about.
A longtime court case involving the shutoff of water to
multiple water users in the Klamath Basin in 2001 attracted
wide-ranging attention from Pacific Northwest-based
organizations and those within the legal community in
Washington, D.C. Nearly 90 minutes of oral arguments were heard
Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals at the Federal Circuit.
Seeking to implement updated scientific methods to its
operations in the Golden State, the Bureau of Reclamation
released a draft environmental impact report on the coordinated
operations between the federal Central Valley Project and
California’s State Water Project on Thursday.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
A bold move by farmers to form the South San Joaquin Irrigation
District 110 years ago literally changed the economic fortunes
of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon. And no way else did SSJID have
as big as an impact as it did on Manteca.
The bill that will provide support for necessary repairs to the
Friant-Kern Canal is continuing to make forward progress in the
California legislature. Senate Bill 559 (SB-559) … was voted
through the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in the
Assembly on July 2. The bill itself is seeking $400 million to
make important upgrades and repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
On June 28, farmers gathered in Los Banos to ask questions of
President Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue. GV Wire
took the opportunity to ask growers if they believed Trump was
doing enough to bring water to farmers. Generally, they said
they like how things are progressing.
New research offers a hard link between reforestation of
marginal, degraded, or abandoned agricultural land and
significant benefits in water quality. This relationship,
argues Arturo Keller, a professor of environmental
biogeochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
lends itself toward a program that incentivizes facilities that
discharge pollutants, and local farmers to plant trees for
water quality credits.
In their analyses, they write that the plan poses risks to
threatened fish; that the process is rushed; that they didn’t
receive enough information to provide a complete scientific
review; and that the Trump administration may be skewing the
science to make the environmental impact look less serious.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta historically has been an
agricultural paradise. But sometimes there is a disconnect
between the agricultural community and the urban culture. A
fourth generation farmer has made it her mission to reconnect
the two in hopes of inspiring the next generation to consider
farming as a career.
When the Camp Fire struck last November, the upper Miocene
Canal, constructed mostly of wooden flumes, was destroyed. Now,
the most important part of the canal, receiving water from the
Feather River to the north, cannot convey water down through
the rest of the canal system.
A plan to underground about 2.5 miles of the Escondido Canal
through and near the San Pasqual Indian reservation has moved
forward with an agreement reached recently for Escondido to pay
the tribe for an easement through its land. The 14-mile-long
Escondido Canal transports water from Lake Henshaw to Lake
Wohlford where it is stored for use by Escondido and Vista
Irrigation District consumers.
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
CSUN students and faculty have long contributed to California’s
efforts to ensure access to clean drinking water, efforts that
have intensified during the recent multi-year drought. A group
of students in CSUN’s Department of Geography and Environmental
Studies is helping in these efforts.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County
Water Agencyand the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved
a plan to offset a fee that is likely to be imposed on
groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain… Under the plan,
the County and Sonoma Water would contribute up to $240,000
annually for three years to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
Recently-appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has
rescinded a letter of support that Obama-era Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell wrote in 2016. … Matt Cox is with the Klamath
River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit formed to implement
the dam removal agreement. He says rescinding Jewell’s letter
has no legal effect.
Because of the pelting rains and accompanying windy conditions,
chardonnay and pinot noir grapes have the greatest chance to
suffer from shatter, the term used by vintners when a
grapevine’s delicate flowers don’t pollinate and develop into
Aidee Guzman is focusing on these small farms to find out
whether, ecologically, this diversity has any positive effects
on soil health. Her work won’t be published for another two
years, but there is already a large body of research that
explains how large monocropping operations strip soils of their
nutrients and make them less capable of storing carbon… As
she works, she is documenting a potential alternative to the
industrial mega-farms of the valley and the West.
Bruce Blodgett is executive director of the farm bureau in San
Joaquin County, California’s cherry bowl. The mid-May downpour
and his windshield wipers told him everything he needed to
know: His county’s record ready-to-pick yield of sweet cherries
– one of San Joaquin’s most lucrative crops even amid the
county’s winemaking renaissance – was in serious danger.
Mark Arax’s new book, “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust
Across California,” explores how the quest to find and move
water has always been essential to the California Dream. … He
sat down with California Report Magazine Host Sasha Khokha.
Halting plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River was the
theme of a well-attended fundraising event hosted May 4 by the
Siskiyou County Water Users Association. Guest speakers,
including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Siskiyou County Supervisor
Brandon Criss, former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams
and Attorney James Buchal, author of “The Great Salmon Hoax”
discussed problems they foresee with dam removal which they
believe is far from a done deal.
A brackish water study conducted by consulting firm Aqualogic
has predicted three potential areas that can be tapped for
brackish water extraction in the Indian Wells Valley. … The
brackish water project has the potential to help expand local
supplies if the water is properly treated and brine removed.
Like everyone else in Santa Clara Valley who uses wells,
farmers will see their groundwater production charges go up 6.8
percent this year. But unlike the others, they’ll continue to
receive substantial subsidies. In approving the increased
charges for well users, the Santa Clara Valley Water District
board left intact for at least two years the current structure
that allows farmers to pay only 6 percent of the amount
residents and businesses pay.
A jury in Oakland, Calif., ordered Monsanto on Monday to pay a
couple more than $2 billion in damages after finding that its
Roundup weed killer caused their cancer — the third jury to
conclude that the company failed to warn consumers of its
flagship product’s dangers. Thousands of additional lawsuits
against Monsanto, which Bayer acquired last year, are queued up
in state and federal courts.
The water that irrigates Santa Clara Valley’s last farms comes
dirt cheap for growers who pump it out of the ground. They pay
just a fraction — 6 percent — of the amount residents and
businesses in the valley must pony up for their well water. The
rest of the cost for farmers’ water is subsidized, mostly from
revenue the Santa Clara Valley Water District receives through
State water regulators gave local sanitation officials three
more years to carry out their plan to reduce the amount of
chloride that ends up in the Santa Clara River. … The
sanitation district … was mandated to reduce the amount of
chloride, or salt, that discharges from wastewater treatment
plants into the Santa Clara River, largely due to concerns by
downstream farmers that chloride was damaging salt-sensitive
crops such as strawberries and avocados.
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
The Ukiah City Council recently approved contributing another
$50,000 to a local group’s effort to explore the possibility of
buying the Potter Valley Project. … Sean White, the city’s
director of water resources, described the dam facility as
“essentially a diversion of Eel River water through a tunnel
that provides major benefits to Lake Mendocino, which provides
a significant amount of our water supply.”
Only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain unimpeded
and free-flowing from their source to where they empty,
according to a study published today in Nature. Free-flowing
rivers are ecologically crucial — replenishing groundwater,
bolstering biodiversity, and reducing the impacts of droughts
The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a
widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain
development in babies, California officials said Wednesday. The
move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a
toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous
than previously thought.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
The USDA report, released Tuesday, finds that between $47
billion and $65 billion could be added to the U.S. agricultural
economy annually if infrastructure for what the report calls
“precision agriculture” — a term for farming practices that
emphasize digitally-based data collection and e-connectivity
(often via broadband) — is deployed in rural agricultural
economies on a large scale.
Born and raised in Northern California, Brad Gates has been
organically farming tomatoes in the region for 25 years,
working on small leased plots and introducing new varieties
with cult followings… For most of that time, he sold his
tomatoes to top restaurants, including Chez Panisse in
Berkeley. But a few years ago he completely rethought his work.
Galvanized by climate change, he joined a growing number of
farmers who are trying to find a future for their threatened
Several studies have linked prenatal exposure of chlorpyrifos
to lower birth weights, lower IQs, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder and other developmental issues in
children. But the EPA in 2017 ignored the conclusions of its
scientists and rejected a proposal made during the Obama
administration to ban its use in fields and orchards.
Instead of waiting for Yuima Valley’s precious groundwater
supplies to dry up, the Yuima Municipal Water District and
local farmers are working cooperatively to create a sustainable
long-term strategy for maintaining the region’s economy and
quality of life by proactively managing the valley’s aquifer.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the
Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The
$3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam
Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that
provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million
in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s
reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant
attention. (First of two parts.)
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
Cannabis is the most highly regulated crop in California, and
the state just added another layer of regulation. This article
breaks down the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB)
recently updated Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and
Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation (“Policy”) into six key
Balancing fisheries restoration and water-supply reliability is
central to a water struggle playing out in Mendocino, Lake,
Sonoma and Humboldt counties after Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
withdrew its application to relicense the Potter Valley
Project, leaving the now “orphaned” project in the hands of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had
an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new
study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s
notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s
efforts to clear the skies.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network
of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm.
Instead of the food crops grown all around this site,
Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for
birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only
receives water a couple times a year.
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
Casey Hashimoto, general manager of the Turlock Irrigation
District since 2010, announced Tuesday that he will retire at
the end of 2019. The leader of one of Stanislaus County’s
largest water and power providers disclosed his plans at the
morning board meeting. Hashimoto, an electrical engineer,
joined TID in 1985 and was an assistant GM for 10 years.
For the millions of Californians who live and work far from the
Delta, it can be easy to overlook the splendor of the largest
estuary in western North America. Whether you are one mile or
hundreds of miles from the Delta, however, all Californians
have a stake in the survival and preservation of this fragile,
dynamic ecosystem that is also the keystone of the state’s
water supply system.
The Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District, or ACID, Canal was
covered in tree debris after the snow and rain storms. The
workload was enough that Congressman Doug Lamalfa called in the
California Conservation Corps.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid.
Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very
different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
… Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s
long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas
are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from
the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County.
Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its
water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That
stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President
Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is
blessed with water. The very names associated with the most
prominent places and businesses in the desert, such as the
Oasis Hotel, Mineral Springs Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells,
Palm Springs, Snow Creek, and Tahquitz River Estates, all
conjure up pretty images of water. But the early story of
desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque: it quite
literally can be seen as a history of ditches.
Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel testified Thursday
that lack of water has been killing crops and livestock – and,
essentially, the tribe’s economy – and things will only get
worse if federal funding is allowed to lapse. That’s why Manuel
joined officials from other tribes, utilities and advocacy
groups to urge passage of a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva,
D-Tucson, that would make permanent a federal fund used to help
the government meet its obligations under legal settlements
over water-rights issues.