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.
While this February could be the driest February on record, one
year ago most farmers didn’t know when it would be dry enough
to work their fields. This sums up the argument for additional
water infrastructure for surface supplies…
The Trump administration on Friday awarded a permanent water
delivery contract to the country’s largest agricultural
district, brushing aside environmentalists’ concerns about
California’s uncertain water future in the face of climate
change. At issue is irrigation water that flows through the
Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project to the Westlands
Water District, a Rhode Island-sized agricultural powerhouse
and former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
The report done by University of California, Berkeley,
economists Dr. David Sunding and Dr. David Roland-Holst shows
that the California economy will suffer unless responsible,
balanced water reforms are enacted in the effort to achieve
groundwater sustainability goals in the San Joaquin Valley.
Another block of water has been offered for sale in Kern County
at $950 per acre foot. With a dry January and extremely dry
February, California’s water outlook has worsened. And that has
bumped the price of water for those who have it to sell.
The Interior Department on Friday awarded the nation’s largest
farm water district a permanent entitlement to annual
irrigation deliveries that amount to roughly twice as much
water as the nearly 4 million residents of Los Angeles use in a
year. … The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the
federal project, also signed permanent contracts on Friday with
a handful of municipal districts that it supplies.
An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign
that has inserted misleading language about climate change —
including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific
reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.
… The misleading language appears in environmental studies
and impact statements affecting major watersheds including the
Klamath and Upper Deschutes river basins in California and
New research shows that across the western United States, a
third of all consumed water goes to irrigate crops not for
human consumption, but that are used to feed beef and dairy
cattle. In the Colorado River basin, it’s over 50 percent.
The islands of the western Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are
sinking as the rich peat soil that attracted generations of
farmers dries out and decays. As the peat decomposes, it
releases tons of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – into the
atmosphere. … An ambitious plan now in the works could halt
the decay, sequester the carbon and potentially reverse the
The Central Valley is America’s fruit bowl, and the heart of
California’s $50bn agriculture industry. But the 2011-2017
drought raised serious questions about the future of that
industry and forced the state to grapple with regulating the
one thing fueling much of it: groundwater.
This year marks the first big deadline for the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), as dozens of agencies
complete initial plans to protect overdrafted water resources.
Here’s what you need to know:
The future of the complicated network of waterways and canals
that supplies millions of Californians with water daily could
be murky at best, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
warned Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a letter Monday.
Turns out President Donald Trump is no match for another
California drought. Less than a week after Trump told San
Joaquin Valley farmers in Bakersfield that he was taking bold
steps to increase their water supply, his administration
announced Tuesday farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin
Valley may only receive about 15 percent of their contracted
water supply for the upcoming growing season.
President Trump believes he “got it done” in fixing
California’s troubled and contentious water system. What he
actually produced is another wrecking-ball delay and a lawsuit
to try to halt his lopsided solution.
State senators heard impassioned pleas from supporters of
proposed legislation that would make it easier for Arizona
water regulators to limit well-drilling in farming areas where
groundwater levels are falling. But in the end, the bill was
set aside, its future uncertain.
Seawater intrusion in the Salinas Valley continues to seep into
the deeper aquifers, according to the latest Monterey County
Water Resources Agency data, even as the overall rate of
seawater intrusion continues slowing down.
Farm groups are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to work with the
federal government on water deliveries even as California
followed through Thursday on its threat to sue to nullify
biological opinions that could bring increases in surface water
for San Joaquin Valley growers.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a pre-emptive strike against President
Donald Trump, said Wednesday he plans to sue Trump’s
administration to block a controversial plan to increase water
deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley. Newsom’s office said he
“will file legal action in the coming days … to protect
highly imperiled fish species close to extinction.”
Hoisting the spoils of victories in California’s hard-fought
water wars, President Donald Trump is directing more of the
state’s precious water to wealthy farmers and other agriculture
interests when he visits their Republican Central Valley
Water supply concerns, regulations, labor issues, tariffs,
climate change, and other challenges have prompted some rather
dire predictions about the future of California agriculture. We
talked to Dan Sumner—director of the UC Davis Agricultural
Issues Center and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about his research on California agriculture
While the Arizona Legislature considers how to respond to
problems of falling groundwater levels in rural areas, the
agriculture industry is pushing back against proposals that
would require owners of large wells across the state to measure
and report how much water they’re pumping.
While Trump will be in town Wednesday to discuss agriculture
issues with local farmers, as of Friday the Kern County Farm
Bureau remained in the dark about the president’s visit, and
the Kern County Republican Party similarly had not been
informed of Trump’s plans. … A White House statement released
to the media said Trump’s Bakersfield visit would focus on
efforts to dramatically improve the supply and delivery of
water in California and other Western states.
It’s time for Gov. Gavin Newsom to own up on water policy. He
can either play nice with a roughshod plan from President Trump
to divert crucial water flows or craft his own blueprint that
balances both wildlife and California’s economy.
There are many reasons for the shift, from rising incomes
overseas and a shortage of farm labor to scarcity of water for
irrigation. But as expected, the bottom line is the bottom
line: growers generally plant what sells best.
The Imperial Irrigation District has been found not guilty of a
contempt of court complaint brought against it by farmer
Michael Abatti as part of his contentious fight over water
rights in the Imperial Valley.
Reps. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) and TJ Cox (D–Fresno) joined fellow
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee to grant
wide-ranging subpoena power to the committee’s chair, Raul
Grijalva (D–Ariz.)… A key inquiry likely to be explored by
Grijalva … is to dig into the Trump administration’s issuance
of new biological opinions governing the Central Valley
President Trump will splash into California’s perpetually
roiled water world next week when he drops by the southern San
Joaquin Valley city that’s home to his biggest House booster
and proximate to some of the state’s biggest dilemmas. With his
expected visit to Bakersfield, Trump can affirm support for
increased irrigation water deliveries, troll Democratic Gov.
Gavin Newsom and reward House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(R-Calif.) in his hometown.
By the most conservative estimate, 500,000 acres of agriculture
land are expected to go fallow in the San Joaquin Valley as
SGMA is implemented over the next 20 years, [David] Orth said,
while some studies say it could be as much as 1 million acres.
Since this process is just starting in the Sacramento Valley,
it’s unclear how the area might be impacted, but in general,
north of the Delta is in better shape.
Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled
to vote on a resolution granting Committee Chair Raul Grijalva
(D–Ariz.) wide-ranging subpoena power over the Interior
Department. One inquiry in the hopper: a closer look at the
process that yielded the Trump Administration’s
freshly-released biological opinions governing the
federally-operated Central Valley Project.
Both Republicans and Democrats are backing measures in the
Legislature that would enable Arizona to start measuring how
much groundwater is pumped in unregulated rural areas where
aquifers have been rapidly declining.
Under a 1944 treaty, Mexico and the United States are supposed
to allow cross-border flows of water to each other, but Mexico
has fallen badly behind and now has to quickly catch up on
payments. … Mexico’s federal government dispatched National
Guard officers to protect the La Boquilla dam Tuesday, but
hundreds of farmers pushed and shoved them back hundreds of
yards in a failed bid to take over the dam’s control room.
Jan. 31 marked a major milestone for building groundwater
sustainability and climate resilience into California’s complex
and increasingly stressed water systems. It was the first major
planning deadline for implementing the state’s historic
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Owens Valley Indian Water Commission is pleased to announce the
Commission awarded the Big Pine Tribe a $100,000 Agriculture
Assistance Grant torepair segments of the Tribe’s irrigation
system to ensure tribal members have access to water for
agricultural and general purposes.
The governor’s newest proposal signals Newsom may be softening
his fight against Trump, but opening another battle. Newsom may
have traded a court fight with Trump for a legal battle with
the very environmentalists the Democratic administration has
seen as allies.
The Coachella Valley Water District faces hefty challenges each
day: providing water for more than 1,200 ag customers on 65,000
acres in a desert environment. The water district serves San
Diego, Imperial and Riverside counties and nine cities.
Democratic congressman from Fresno introduced two pieces of
legislation that aim to repair aging canals and water
infrastructure in California that’s been damaged by sinking
ground levels – called subsidence, caused by groundwater
Kiara Nirghin, ’22, developed a unique polymer that can keep
crops hydrated during dry spells. The innovative research has
garnered her global recognition, including top honors at the
Google Science Fair.
When a Healdsburg winery leaked thousands of gallons of
Cabernet into the Russian River last week, the jokes flowed,
too. … But the spill coincided with a more sobering blow to
clean water, coming to light the day the Trump administration
announced it was ripping up expanded protections for streams,
wetlands and groundwater adopted by the Obama administration.
The valley’s massive dairy industry routinely mixes
manure-tainted wastewater into the irrigation supplies for corn
and other feed crops. The state requires that the volume not
exceed what the crops can take up as nutrients.
On the heels of a seemingly perpetual drought that has slowed
surface water deliveries to a trickle and made water transfers
complicated and expensive, Joe Del Bosque and other growers
face new pumping restrictions under the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act. … The farm’s water costs have already more
than doubled in the past 10 years…
People crowded into an Ojai junior high school auditorium
recently after thousands received legal notices or a court
summons from the city of Ventura. The city notified 14,000-plus
property owners in the Ventura River watershed of a potential
adjudication of water rights. That move came years after the
city faced legal action over its own water use.
It is doubtful that the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule
will provide any benefits to California’s farmers and ranchers.
Because of rules that the State Water Board established last
year, California is unlikely to be affected by the recent
federal regulation that replaces the Waters of the U.S. rule.
The public will get an opportunity to hear from the city of
Ventura on Thursday about why it has sent out thousands of
notices and summonses to those who use, pump or own property in
the Ventura River watershed. The process started years ago
after Santa Barbara Channelkeeper filed a lawsuit alleging the
city was taking too much water from the watershed, officials
Farmers and ranchers expressed support for a new federal rule
to protect navigable waters under the Clean Water Act, saying
the rule should offer certainty, transparency and a
common-sense approach about how the rule would apply on the
If the Trump administration’s own scientific advisory board, a
host of biological societies, and scores of former government
agency officials are disappointed, the rest of America should
be fearful and angry.
A company’s proposal to take water from farmland along the
Colorado River and sell it to a growing Phoenix suburb has
provoked a heated debate, and some Arizona legislators are
trying to block the deal with a bill that would prohibit the
A single almond takes about three and half litres of water to
produce. Most almonds – an estimated 82 per cent – are grown in
drought-afflicted California, where it constitutes a
multibillion-dollar industry. The number of almond orchards has
doubled in the last 20 years in California.
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted this
week to approve an option to sell 2,880 acres near Niland and
Calipatria to a Moreno Valley-based developer for the
construction of an “inland port.”
Democrats and environmental groups on Thursday admonished the
Trump administration for issuing a rule they say sets
protections for waterways back decades; however, it’s shaping
up to be a huge win in GOP-leaning rural America as the Trump
campaign eagerly courts farm country ahead of the 2020
A new project out of UC Merced — funded by a $2.5 million grant
from the National Science Foundation — seeks to address this
problem by developing an innovative, environmentally friendly
and economically feasible system to desalinate and reuse
agricultural drainage water.
The Newsom administration appears to be a house divided on
water, as competing interests pull it in opposite directions.
The main flash point is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
threatened estuary and source of water for a majority of
Konar and her colleagues combined groundwater depletion data
with county-level food trade data. They found that, between
2002 and 2012, unsustainable groundwater use increased by 32
percent in products traded domestically. The increase was 38
percent for exported goods. If groundwater is like a bank
account, then this is deficit spending.
After Imperial County declared a state of emergency at the
Salton Sea, hoping to pressure California Gov. Gavin Newsom to
take action, state officials responded with a letter this month
promising the state would allocate $220 million toward Salton
Sea projects in the upcoming year’s budget. That sounded like
good news. But what the letter didn’t say was that those funds
hinge on the passage of a $4.75 billion bond measure…
The Russian River flowed with a cherry red tint Wednesday after
tens of thousands of gallons of fresh cabernet sauvignon wine
poured into the largest tributary in Sonoma County. The wine —
enough to fill more than 500,000 bottles — spilled from a
Rodney Strong Vineyards’ storage tank at the Healdsburg
The groundwater sustainability plan approved Jan. 9 features a
slew of solutions like eradicating thirsty reeds invading the
watershed, and proposed pumping limits that could lead to the
fallowing of some farmland. Also envisioned are a “wall”
against seawater and possibly a new desalination plant that
would dwarf the project being pursued by the Monterey
Peninsula’s water utility, California American Water.
The main focus of the program are the barriers to fish passage
for salmon from Friant Dam to the ocean and back again. There
are three key barriers: the East Side Bypass Control Structure
which is in the flood bypass; Sack Dam, which is the intake for
Arroyo Canal for Henry Miller irrigation system; and Mendota
Dam which controls Mendota Pool. The program also needs to
ensure enough habitat for the fish when they return to complete
their life cycle,
Siskiyou County supervisors last week supported Sheriff Jon
Lopey’s assessment that illegal marijuana grows are detrimental
to the health and well being of local residents and approved
the extension of a local state of emergency through 2020.
In another valley, the disagreement might have blown over
without fanfare. But in Napa, which has been wrestling with
tensions between viticulture and environmental preservation,
the fight over Igor Sill’s vineyard took on a larger
At a panel discussion hosted by California Natural Resources
Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the panelists discussed how by
spreading out and slowing down water across the landscape can
provide multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers to
cultivate the land during the spring and summer, and provide
habitat for fish and wildlife in the fall and winter months.
Speaking to the crowd at the American Farm Bureau Federation
conference in Austin, Texas, Trump said he would be withdrawing
the Water Supply Act proposed in the final days of the Obama
Response to Wednesday’s action by the California Department of
Water Resources to initiate an environmental impact report for
a tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was
not popular with the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
Now Trump’s team is set to impose new environmentally damaging
Bay-Delta water diversion and pumping rules. … These new
rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing
wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to
a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin
In the early days, these pot farms were small and scattered.
But in recent years the industry has intensified. A wave of
newcomers planted larger farms, using greenhouses and
artificial lights to extend the growing season and yield up to
three marijuana crops in a single year. The cannabis boom has
polluted waters with fertilizers, fuels and pesticides,
triggered erosion that buries the rocky habitats where salmon
and trout spawn and grow, and drained streams of water in the
The number of Coho salmon in Northern California’s Shasta and
Scott rivers in 2019 was too low to sustain a viable
population. That’s according to a just-released report from the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The most recent
count identified only 334 Coho on the Scott, and 61 on the
The territory encompassed by the 5th State Senate District has
been a battleground for California’s complex water politics. So
it’s not surprising the two Democrats and three Republicans
running to succeed Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, who is
terming out this year, might tap dance around questions
regarding Tuolumne and Stanislaus river flows and water quality
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Under a new bill in the Arizona state Legislature, some water
tied to land that borders the Colorado River could not be
transferred into central Arizona. It comes after recent
proposals to do just that.
President Trump yesterday touted his repeal of key Clean Water
Act regulations as more than three dozen current and former
government officials called for an investigation into the
scientific basis of his forthcoming replacement rule.
With virtually no public notice, state officials quietly gave
away a significant portion of Southern California’s water
supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with
the Trump administration in December 2018. One year later, it
remains unclear why the California Department of Water
Resources signed the agreement…
The Bureau of Reclamation today released the Central Valley
Project Final Cost Allocation Study, which determines how to
distribute costs of the multipurpose CVP facilities to project
beneficiaries. … This final cost allocation study will
replace the 1975 interim allocation to reflect additional
project construction, as well as regulatory, operational, legal
and ecological changes that have taken place over the last half
Since he took the new post in July 2017, Bernhardt’s former
clients have spent a lot of money trying to influence the
Department of Interior. Seventeen of them have coughed up a
combined $29.9 million to lobby the Trump administration since
January 2017, according to a new report from the consumer
advocacy group Public Citizen…. Bernhardt’s former client
Westlands Water District, which has lobbied to weaken
endangered species protections to divert more water for
agriculture… has spent more than $1.5 million lobbying
Interior and Department of Justice since 2017.
In December, the boards of the Fallbrook Public Utility
District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District voted to
begin detachment from the San Diego County Water Authority in
order to join Riverside’s Eastern Municipal Water District.
Will those left behind pay more as others tap new supplies?
Questions are flying in Valley Center, where farms are the main
customers, even as avocado turf keeps shrinking.
The F-Pipeline Project will construct pipelines to provide
supplemental water service to approximately 700 acres of
coastal farmland on the seaward side of San Andreas Road. …
The purpose is to further reduce groundwater pumping to halt
seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft while keeping
agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
Right now, the April-July runoff is supposed to be 82% of
average. That compares to 145 % of average in 2019, the
second-best runoff season in the past 20 years, says the
federal Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. Despite last
year’s excellent river flows, most experts also say the
Colorado still faces long-term supply issues…
Every year since 2014, I have petitioned the State Water
Resources Control Board to end the widespread practice of
irrigation, especially of cattle pastures, outside the legal
irrigation season. So far, however, State Water Board staff
have not taken effective action to end the illegal water use
and the resulting degradation of Scott River stream
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says deputies were
dispatched Monday when a person in the city of Perris reported
they had not seen their neighbor for several days and a steady
flow of water coming out of the residence was flooding yards.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne issued his
decision Dec. 30 in the lawsuit filed by Andrew Hobbs and Dave
Thomas. Each sued the MID in 2016, and their lawsuits were
combined into one. … Beauchesne ruled the subsidy was an
illegal tax under California law because the MID had not sought
voter approval for electric customers to subsidize irrigation
One of the particular challenges we’ve faced with the Produce
Safety Rule is ensuring that our standards for agricultural
water are protective of public health and workable for farms of
all kinds and sizes. After we finalized the rule, we heard from
the produce community that some of the requirements were too
complex, costly, and unworkable…
In the early years of the 20th century, leaders across the West
had big dreams for growth, all of which were tied to taking
water from the Colorado River and moving it across mountains
and deserts. In dividing up the river, they assigned more water
to users than the system actually produces.
A duo of bills, at the state and federal level, will likely
determine the fate of the Friant-Kern Canal in a legislative
year that is shaping up to be pivotal for Central Valley
growers and ag communities.
Federal agency representatives on Friday night kept the
conversation going with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley about continued
efforts to save two Klamath Basin sucker species from
extinction. … Merkley has delivered $23.5 million to the
Basin since 2013 to find a way toward a solution. He recently
secured $11 million for sucker recovery efforts, including $5.1
million for the Klamath River.
A project in the Salinas Valley aims to remove contaminants
like phosphate from the water at a lower cost using much less
energy. … Partnering with the city of Salinas and the
wastewater treatment facility, the project aims to remove
phosphates efficiently and recycle water for groundwater
recharge and irrigation water to farmers.
Over the next few weeks, all owners of any real property that
overlies the watershed’s four groundwater basins, as well as
users who take or could take water from the Ventura River, will
receive a notification or summons about the court proceedings
as part of an ongoing legal process and as required by the
The new guidelines call for diverting more water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and urban
areas further south. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the group
Restore the Delta, says despite Newsom indicating he was going
to sue over the new federal guidelines, that hasn’t happened
The nearly $4 million project, assisted with $3.4 million in
state grants and a $1 million match from Pajaro Valley Water,
is expected to further reduce groundwater pumping in the area,
so as to halt seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft
while keeping agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
The governor’s apparent willingness to play into the hands of
monied, agri-business players at the expense of the health of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta remains the biggest
mystery of his short tenure. It also threatens to trash his
reputation as a strong protector of California’s environment.
California is increasing regulations on groundwater. For many
farmers in the state, it is a step too far. The law’s critics
say it could lead to a loss of half a million acres of farmland
in California’s Central Valley. As Kerry Klein of member
station KVPR in Fresno reports, some farmers are so worried,
Environmental groups, tribes and upstream water users in
California yesterday sought to block a permanent water delivery
contract between the Interior Department and the Westlands
Water District. At issue is a proposed deal between Westlands,
an agricultural powerhouse in California’s San Joaquin Valley,
and the Bureau of Reclamation in which Westlands pays off its
debt to the government to guarantee deliveries in perpetuity
without future contract renewals.
The company, Watsonville-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., was
accused of polluting a South Bay creek with manure for years,
despite orders and warnings dating back to the 1980s. The
judgment, the largest for a water pollution lawsuit in county
history, will be used in part to restore the damaged Fisher
House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple
possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may
vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior
Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to
send more water to his district.
This isn’t just a problem for Mexico. These growers are the
custodians of rare varieties of maize that may hold the secret
to more sustainable agriculture. If they lay down their tools,
their crops could begin to vanish.
In a recent exclusive interview, U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Sonny Perdue told Western Farm Press that the low-interest loan
will help fund projects associated with the off-stream storage
site in western Colusa County. … “The USDA is putting up
almost $500 million in rural development funds,” Perdue said.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are
pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final
spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco
Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but
without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final
The project will deliver water from the Delta-Mendota Canal to
the reservoir, where it will be stored and released on a
managed basis, according to a press release. The reservoir
would allow water to be delivered into storage during wetter
periods and held until needed in drier times for irrigation,
groundwater recharge or beneficial wildlife uses, the release
The recommended fee hike would have elevated the rate from a
monthly $30 per-acre foot pumped to $75/acre-foot, according to
IWVGA acting general manager Don Zdeba. It would turn the
tables on the IWVGA ending 2020 fiscal year with $465,000 in
the red to ending in the positive by $209,000.
In August, the Lake County Board of Supervisors passed a
resolution of intent to join this group, now being called the
Two-Basin Partnership. But Lake County was recently denied
entry, with the partnership citing “expediency” concerns and
saying it would not admit any more members.
It was welcome news for Kern County farmers, but word last week
that the process of fixing the Friant-Kern Canal has finally
begun may have obscured the fact that a great deal of work lies
ahead — including finding money to complete the job.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
Most of the Trump administration’s lawsuit challenging
California water management rules affecting the San Francisco
Bay Area has been paused indefinitely so a state court can
consider parallel claims the government filed there. Both suits
target changes the State Water Resources Control Board made to
the “water quality control plan” covering the Bay Area and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
California is by far the United States’ most populous state, as
well as its largest agricultural producer. Increasingly, it is
also one of the country’s most parched places. But Edgar Terry,
a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura County, just outside Los
Angeles, thinks he has a key to reversing worsening water
stress: establishing tradeable rights to shares of
fast-depleting groundwater aquifers.
As conventional wisdom has it, the states were relying on bad
data when they divided up the water. But a new book challenges
that narrative. Turn-of-the-century hydrologists actually had a
pretty good idea of how much water the river could spare, water
experts John Fleck and Eric Kuhn write in Science be Dammed:
How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.
They make the case that politicians and water managers in the
early 1900s ignored evidence about the limits of the river’s
Last year, the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise,
California, and burned a Christmas tree farm to the ground. The
fire occurred just months after three other Christmas tree
farms were wiped out in Northern California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
A recent settlement between Monterey County, Monterey County
Water Resources Agency, and a coalition of Salinas Valley
farmers brings an end to a protracted legal battle over
reservoir operations during drought conditions.
And as in other parts of the United States, black migrants were
met with Jim Crow-style racism: “Whites Only” signs, curfews
and discriminatory practices by banks. Often, the only places
black families could settle were on arid acres on the outskirts
of cultivated farmland — places like Teviston… Today, the
legacy of segregation in the Central Valley reverberates
underground, through old pipes, dry wells and soil tainted by
shoddy septic systems.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
By practicing careful and sustainable water management
practices, the tribe has cultivated wild plants, including
taboose, nahavita, as well as fruit trees and other vegetables.
… However, starting in the mid-1800s with the arrival of
European settlers making a claim to water rights in the Owens
Valley, this once-lush area was transformed dramatically into a
virtual desert in just decades.
The complaint filed in court on Nov. 19 asks the court to
“impose a ‘physical solution’ amongst nine groundwater users in
the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin (“Basin”) to preserve
and protect the Basin’s water supply, the investment-backed
expectations of agriculture, and the economy that is dependent
upon that supply.”
City officials gathered Thursday afternoon in Lemoore to break
ground on construction of a new groundwater treatment plant
project. … The City obtains all of its drinking water from
local groundwater resources that are challenged by
naturally-occurring water quality issues. These issues include
elevated levels of arsenic, iron, ammonia, total organic carbon
California has told Napa County to form a local groundwater
agency to ensure the underground reservoir that nurtures
world-famous wine country is being kept in good shape. The
county submitted more than 1,000 pages of documents to try to
avoid that outcome.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
A district that recharges renewable water supplies to allow new
housing development brings in about $13.4 billion a year in
economic benefits, says a study written for a homebuilders’
group. … The report goes against the grain of
recommendations made over the years by academics,
environmentalists and others to limit enrollment of new
subdivisions in the district, saying that could cause a major
economic setback for the state.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
In Napa County, adjacent to Sonoma and the source of perhaps
the most expensive cabernet sauvignon outside of Bordeaux,
activists are pushing back against a steady conversion of
woodland into new vineyards. Kellie Anderson, an independent
watchdog who has harried local officials for years to step up
enforcement of environmental laws, says the county’s planning
department has ignored numerous violations by grape growers.
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
A private company and the town of Queen Creek are proposing a
water deal that would leave 485 acres of farmland permanently
dry near the Colorado River and send the water used
on that land to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb. The company
GSC Farm LLC is seeking to sell its annual entitlement of 2,083
acre-feet of Colorado River water — about 678 million
gallons — to Queen Creek for a one-time payment of $21
The start of work on the restoration of the Bel Marin Keys
wetlands is another example of efforts to bring back the miles
of wetlands that, over the past century, have been lost to
development, other encroachments and years of sedimentation
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
Ambiguity exists in the language of the river’s foundational
document, the Colorado River Compact. That agreement’s language
remains unclear on whether Upper Basin states, where the
Colorado River originates, are legally obligated to deliver a
certain amount of water over a 10-year period to those in the
Lower Basin: Arizona, California, and Nevada.
The Coachella Valley Water District on Monday approved taking
on outside financing for what is believed to be the first time
in its 101-year history for a $40 million pipeline to bring
more Colorado River water to the region’s farmers, freeing up
valuable groundwater for other uses.
Native American tribal water rights are guaranteed by the
federal government to the extent that endangered species, like
salmon in the Klamath River, aren’t placed in danger, according
to a court decision on Thursday.
Groundwater in Tulare County, especially in Porterville, has
been a hot topic of discussion for quite sometime. As
groundwater levels have begun to subside, a viable and woking
plan to maintain the groundwater has been state mandated, and
the implementation of this plan is set to be put in action by
January 31, 2020. But what exactly is the plan, and who is at
Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel will
retire Dec. 7, leaving a very large and important hole to fill.
The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water
Project and pays 25 percent of the bill for that massive
endeavor, giving it a very big voice on most water issues.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
At issue in the proposal posted yesterday by the EPA is the
threshold level of atrazine, the second most widely used
herbicide in the U.S. Manufactured by Syngenta, atrazine is
primarily used in agriculture as a weedkiller on crops. It is
not authorized for use in the European Union, as the body said
there wasn’t enough data to prove it wouldn’t have a harmful
effect on groundwater.
Two months after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana
farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness,
authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup
costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were
diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of
fertilizer and rodenticide.
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
The problem in the 1920s was neither the lack of good science
nor the inability of decision-makers to understand the basin’s
hydrology. … In an era driven by politics of competition for
a limited supply of river water and federal dollars, those
decision-makers had the opportunity to selectively use the
available science as a tool to sell their projects and vision
for the river’s future to Congress and the general public.
This article will provide readers with a background on why the
2014 SGMA legislation was passed, and what the implications are
for J.G. Boswell which has both surface and groundwater rights
An unlikely coalition in California — including
environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians,
wildlife ecologists and representatives of the legal cannabis
industry — have joined forces to try to reduce these illegal
operations and the environmental threat they pose.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
Here is part two of a partial collection of truisms on water
management. These ideas seem obviously true, but still offer
insights and perspective. Original sources are mostly unknown
(but apocryphal citations are common). Any that I think are
original to me, are probably not.
Five of the seven water-stressed western states along the
Colorado River—Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and
Wyoming—don’t yet track how they use their limited water in any
kind of systematic, accessible way, teeing up potential
shortages as the region dries.
Here’s the nut: Water supply in the Colorado River could drop
so far in the next decade that the ability of the Upper
Colorado River Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New
Mexico – to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in
Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
Kern County is seeing a drop in agricultural property value.
The water crisis plaguing the state is also affecting the value
of farms here in Kern County. Michael Ming, Lead Appraiser for
Alliance Ag Services, said groundwater sustainability efforts
have proven to be a big challenge.
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
Flood-MAR is recognized as an emerging water management
strategy that can provide broad benefits for Californians and
the ecosystems of the state, including water supply
reliability, flood risk reduction, drought preparedness,
aquifer replenishment, water quality improvement, and climate
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
Authorities seized more than $1.5 billion worth of illegally
grown marijuana plants in California this year — an amount an
industry expert said is roughly equal to the state’s entire
legal market — as part of an annual eradication program,
officials said Monday. … Law enforcement raids often find
illegal farms that have dammed or diverted public streams and
dumped dangerous pesticides including carbofuran, methyl
parathion and aluminum phosphate…
The board of directors of land-based salmon producer Nordic
Aquafarms approved the company’s proposed investment plans to
pursue a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farm
in Humboldt County, California… Nordic Aquafarms will receive
financial incentives from a California county government to
move forward with its land-based facilities in Humboldt County.
When the Trump administration finalized its repeal of the
Obama-era Clean Water Rule last month, it also quietly updated
an economic analysis of the repeal’s costs and benefits. The
195-page final analysis is nearly 10 times longer … and
estimates different costs and benefits of repealing the
The county of San Luis Obispo announced plans to map the Paso
Robles Groundwater Basin. … People who live in Creston,
Shandon, and Whitely Gardens may see a low flying helicopter
towing a large hexagonal frame when work begins.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
A bill that will extend the life of water pollutant regulatory
permits from five years to 10 years for local wastewater
treatment and water recycling infrastructure projects has
passed a key House of Representatives committee.
Almost 50 years after the Lahontan cutthroat trout was listed
under the Endangered Species Act, agencies are investing in a
game-changing, fish-friendly infrastructure project at Derby
Dam to help bring back the legendary fish to the Truckee River.
Announced on Sept. 11, 2019, construction of a fish passage
structure will allow Lahontan cutthroat trout to complete their
natural migration, swimming back and forth between Pyramid Lake
and historic spawning grounds.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
The initiative, which the seashore facilitated in collaboration
with ranchers, conservation organizations and regulatory
agencies, began in 1999 and included three main types of best
practices: fencing, hardened stream crossings and the creation
of separate water systems for cattle.
Get ready for a surge of lawsuits over the Trump
administration’s decision to walk back Obama-era protections
for wetlands and streams. … The cases add a new dimension to
what could soon be a complicated legal quagmire over the Obama
administration’s WOTUS rule and the Trump administration’s
efforts to both erase and replace the regulation.
Most of the Klamath Basin suckers testing the waters of Upper
Klamath Lake this summer in floating net pens are thought to
have died during a federally-funded summer pilot project. When
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited the pens on the lake
last week to release them into the wild, 10 of the 1,000
endangered fish were found alive…
Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted 5-2 to raise the price
of agricultural water by 3%, a relatively minor hike that one
vineyard owner said is affordable. … The 3% bump was in stark
contrast to the 30% cost for 2020 recommended by staff, which
referred to a study by consultant Raftelis about actual costs
incurred by Zone 7.
Today’s noisy partisan divide concerns me and makes the thought
of meaningful collaboration across parties seem impossible.
However, the largest river restoration project in history,
spanning the California-Oregon border, tells a hopeful story
offering a blueprint for political, conservation and economic
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the
end. But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of
four dams at the center of the fight. The dams on the Lower
Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for
killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable
energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a
growing tab for environmental mitigation.
Nationwide, more than a dozen utilities have started developing
renewable natural gas production through partnerships with
farmers, wastewater treatment plants and landfill operators,
while nine have proposed price premiums for customers who
choose it as a fuel, according to the American Gas Association.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board heard
from a panel of researchers and ranchers last week describing
how the unique characteristics of upper watershed irrigated
pastures may call for a separate set of regulations that would
reduce the regulatory burden on Nevada County farmers.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
It was on the Colorado River that González, now 82, taught her
children, just like her parents and grandparents taught her, to
fish with canoes and traps made from willow trees which
flourished on the riverbanks. Now, the river stops at the
US-Mexico border and the lakes are dry and native vegetation is
confined to reforestation projects.
A class of toxic chemicals known to have contaminated drinking
water in many areas across the country is also presenting human
health risks via another exposure method — our food supply. The
contamination stems from treated sewage sludge — or biosolids —
often used by farmers as a fertilizer for crops.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
The Action Plan identifies four areas for improvement: enhance
weather forecasts to improve water prediction; improve and
expand the use of water forecast information to benefit water
management outcomes; improve science and technology for water
prediction; and implement integrated water availability
assessments at national and local basin scales.
The initiative to establish an ecosystem marketplace began in
2017 with the Noble Research Institute, which started working
on developing protocols to verify carbon sequestration and
improved water quality…