In general, regulations are rules or laws designed to control or
govern conduct. Specifically, water quality regulations under the
federal and state Clean Water Act “protect the public health or
welfare, enhance the quality of water and serve the purposes of
While breaking this levee would seem like a catastrophe, state
and federal agencies intend to do just that. The purpose is not
to unleash some biblical, punishing flood, but rather to allow
nature to reclaim nearly 1,600 acres of wetland habitat.
A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open
records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or
unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and
Puerto Rico. … In California, six high-hazard dams were rated
as poor or unsatisfactory, including Oroville, which failed in
2017 and prompted mass evacuations downstream.
Matt Dessert does not want to sue San Diego, nor does he want
to start a legal battle with the state of California. But the
growing threat to Imperial County’s air quality may leave
Dessert, an officer with the county Air Pollution Control
District, with little choice.
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.
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
Although still relegated largely to populated areas in such
water-challenged states as California, Arizona, Texas, and
Florida, water reuse is gaining ground in other areas. At the
same time, the focus of water reuse increasingly is shifting to
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
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.
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…
A federal agency’s preliminary finding that high concentrations
of fluoride may decrease children’s IQ will, if finalized, be
hard to explain to the public, scientists said Nov. 6. … Few
people will read the report’s other finding: It’s unclear
whether the mineral would harm children drinking typical
concentrations of fluoride added to drinking water to help
The lessons gained from the 2018 wildfires that swept through
Paradise, in Northern California, and along the Los
Angeles-Ventura County border in Southern California are still
being absorbed by water managers around California as they
recognize that the old emergency preparedness plans of
yesterday may not be adequate for the new wildfire reality of
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.
Cal Am Water’s experts may have seriously underestimated the
potential impact the company’s proposed desalination plant
would have on the existing water supply nearby, the staff of
the California Coastal Commission concluded in a report
released this week as a supplement to its exhaustive report on
the overall project.
California might have the fifth largest economy in the world,
but many people in the state’s disadvantaged communities feel
like they are living in a third world country because they
don’t have safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends
of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water
districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the
state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it
can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems
and upend an agency’s finances.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove pro-union
language from contracts for Pure Water, a recycling system that
would purify treated sewage into drinking water and supply
one-third of San Diego’s water supply by 2035. The pro-union
language had prompted a judge to issue an injunction halting
Supreme Court justices, both conservative and liberal, appeared
skeptical Wednesday of a Trump administration argument that the
federal Clean Water Act should not apply to sewage plant
wastewater that flows into the ground and eventually seeps into
federally protected waters, such as rivers or oceans. The case
from Hawaii has emerged as a major test of the federal
anti-pollution law’s scope …
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Tuesday’s special election saw Portland vote overwhelmingly for
two measures related to the city’s prized drinking water. The
first, Ballot Measure 26-204, will safeguard the region’s main
drinking water supply by enshrining its current protections in
the city charter. … Portlanders also voted in favor of
Measure 26-205 Tuesday night, which allows the city’s water
bureau to use its own money to enter into “mutual
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
In a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission
shared Tuesday, the mayors and city supervisors argued that
PG&E ― beset by massive bankruptcy and public outrage over
its role in deadly wildfires and mismanaged forced power
outages ― would function better as a customer-owned utility
than a business focused on paying dividends to its
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
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
Federal engineers have found that a dam protecting the high
desert communities of Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley and
Barstow falls short of national safety standards and could
erode and collapse in an extreme flood, inundating thousands of
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.”
About 27,000 California American Water customers in Thousand
Oaks, Newbury Park and Camarillo are getting credits on their
October and November bills averaging $41.27 a month, the
company says. The credits are being issued because the rate
hikes the California Public Utilities Commission approved for
the company earlier this year were less than what the company
A state agency cannot make the federal government dredge two
vital San Francisco Bay channels more frequently, a federal
judge ruled Monday, despite arguments that less dredging could
increase the risk of a container ship accident or oil spill.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken to making public statements almost
daily about PG&E’s shortcomings. Yet some elected officials
and other experts believe the state itself — specifically the
Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the company —
should take some blame for the PG&E crisis. These critics
say the commission hasn’t been aggressive enough about cracking
down on PG&E’s safety flaws.
By next summer, the court will make a decision on a key
question: Are pollutants that flow through groundwater from a
single, identifiable source on their way to navigable waters
subject to federal permitting requirements?
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.
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
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
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…
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.
Jaime Bonilla was sworn into office Friday as governor of
California’s neighboring Mexican state. … In his first major
speech since taking office, Governor Bonilla promised to
address poverty, public safety issues and end cross-border
sewage flows within six months. Bonilla, a dual U.S.-Mexico
citizen, formerly served as an elected member of the Otay Water
District in Chula Vista.
To authors of a new, highly critical study, Arizona’s system of
groundwater management encourages urban sprawl. But to an
official and lobbyist for a homebuilders group, the system
encourages construction of affordable housing.
Officials who oversee a water district exempt from state
regulation work and live at a brothel owned by the public face
of the world’s largest industrial park, raising questions about
whether governmental powers such as eminent domain are being
wielded by a private entity.
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
LandWatch, the nonprofit environmental watchdog, has in effect
said it will support the city of Seaside’s Campus Town if the
project will obtain its 442 acre-foot water supply without
increasing groundwater pumping. Campus Town … proposes
building up to 1,485 housing units on 85 acres of former Army
land next to CSU Monterey Bay …
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.
A little-known, local water district – the Omochumne-Hartnell
Water District – will hold their first board member election in
43 years on Nov. 5. … The district was established in 1953,
mainly to help supply surface water off the Cosumnes River to
the landowners in this area.
The insularity of water policy decision-making, however, causes
certain suspect premises to go unquestioned or challenged. One
of the most significant is this: People should be required to
live where there is water, rather than figuring out how to get
water to where people want to live.
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.
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
The initial selling point of Prop. 65 — that it would eliminate
toxins in the water supply by holding big business liable for
its leaks — has largely been forgotten in 2019. These days, the
law is better known for requiring eyebrow-raising warning
labels on everything from bread to steering wheel covers to —
briefly — Starbucks coffee, and it has turned into a national
The city will buy millions of gallons of “stranded,” excess
water and sewer capacity from manufacturing businesses that
those businesses had purchased when they hooked up to the
city’s water and sewer system over the years. … Then the city
will place that excess capacity in a “bank” and sell it at
discounted rates to biotech firms, breweries and other
water-dependent businesses looking to expand or open new local
California regulations protecting wetlands and state waters
were approved by the State Water Resources Control Board and
will take effect on May 28, 2020. These new rules create a more
expansive and complex permitting scheme for developers, public
agencies and others with projects that may impact waters and
In order to keep up with the state’s underground water recharge
laws, sooner or later, local water rates will likely need to
increase. That was the message local water management officials
gave in a joint presentation at the Oct. 21 Selma City Council.
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
Drinking water wells in two areas of San Luis Obispo County are
contaminated with potentially toxic “forever chemicals,”
according to recently released results of state water testing.
The local testing found that 15 wells in San Luis Obispo and
Atascadero had levels high enough to require notification to
water system governing boards.
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 tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
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.
The State Water Board is central to addressing many of
California’s major water challenges, including protecting water
quality for drinking and for the environment, addressing
drought and water conservation, and managing the allocation of
surface water. We talked to Sean Maguire, a civil engineer who
was appointed to the board by former governor Brown in December
2018, about priority issues.
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.
The network of clear streams comprising California’s Strawberry
Creek run down the side of a steep, rocky mountain in a
national forest two hours east of Los Angeles. Last year Nestlé
siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek
and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label.
Exorbitant water bills, earthquake-prone reservoir tanks, a
lack of public input in setting rates and a corporation from
Canada not operating transparently. These were just some of the
reasons that justify Apple Valley taking over its largest
supplier of water, Liberty Utilities, a lawyer for the town
argued on Thursday.
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
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.
The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense
Council, and nine other groups sued Oct. 23 in the U.S.
District Court for the District of South Carolina, accusing the
federal government of breaking the law in its rollback of the
2015 Clean Water Rule.
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
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.
The California Coastal Commission last week approved a project
proposed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation
to replace and reline about 6,500 feet of sewer line within
Doheny State Beach.
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
Solano County has filed requests for water and sewer hookups at
the Brown Street location of the proposed Tiny Shelter homeless
pilot project – services that will cost the county thousands of
dollars to reconnect the property to Vacaville’s main lines.
As of last month, Scottsdale’s Advanced Water Treatment Plant
at the city’s water campus in north Scottsdale got permission
to do something no other Arizona city can do: turn recycled
water into drinking water.
It all starts with the water quality of the creek that runs
alongside Mission Plaza. The Central Coast Regional Water
Quality Control Board has determined the water is so
contaminated with fecal matter, the city has to do something
about it to prevent people from getting sick with E. Coli and
Environmentalists want to reinstate an injunction against
salvage logging on 1,800 acres in California’s Klamath National
Forest while the federal government and a timber group argue
the matter is moot.
Communities throughout the American West have spent decades
cleaning up what the mining industry left behind. In Moab,
those leftovers are the visible pile of uranium tailings, left
alongside on the banks of arguably the region’s most important
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.
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.
The East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Water Agency is racing
the clock when it comes to meeting the state’s requirements by
next year but the message is this: Those who use groundwater
will have to prepare for the possibility of pumping 10 percent
less than they have in the past, beginning as soon as next
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
Touting a shift in local politics and a preferable alternative,
more than two dozen area elected officials signed on to a
letter to the Coastal Commission calling for denial of the
California American Water desalination project.
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.
Imperial County is seeking to declare a public health
emergency at the Salton Sea … aiming to force Gov. Gavin
Newsom and federal officials to free up emergency funds
and take immediate action to tamp down dangerous dust.
The final environmental study for a proposed desalination plant
in El Segundo will soon be released, the City Council for
adjacent Manhattan Beach learned this week, when it received
its first formal presentation on the potential project — even
though the West Basin Municipal Water District first pitched
the plant in 2015.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
Two top officials at the California Coastal Commission blasted
Del Mar this week for continuing to reject “managed retreat” as
an option to deal with sea level rise, saying they hope the
city will reconsider its stance.
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The Trump Administration’s EPA takeover, with its race to the
bottom rollbacks of the environmental and public health
protections that Americans have relied upon for decades, is
low; so low that even some of the industries the Administration
seeks to support are pushing back. But what the Trump
Administration has been up to lately in California–
weaponizing the Clean Water Act to serve a political
vendetta…well, can it get any lower than that?
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offers attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop is scheduled for Thursday, February 20 and will also cover the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a right-of-way grant
(ROW) Wednesday that allows for the construction of various
facilities on 711 acres east of Klamath Falls, according to a
news release. … The ROW grant is part of the Swan Lake North
Hydro LLC proposal to develop a 393.3-megawatt hydropower
Morro Bay pushed through discussions about 17 possible
locations before it finally pinned down the South Bay Boulevard
and Highway 1 site for its water reclamation facility. But the
location is unacceptable to a group of residents who are
petitioning the city’s decision to purchase the site of the
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
On Monday the Lathrop City Council approved setting aside
$250,000 from the wastewater connection fee fund to continue to
further the process towards what has been a longstanding goal
of doing away with the ponds and spray fields that are
currently used by the city.
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Critical U.S.
infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is week,
and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for
action, and climate change will only make the problem worse.
but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has
become a familiar story. Take dams for instance.
When the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew
Wheeler, accused California of allowing “piles of human feces”
on city streets to contaminate sewer systems … the
accusations, contained in a Sept. 26 oversight letter, had been
developed without the knowledge of the California-based staff,
which would normally issue such notices. Instead, it was put
together by a small group of political appointees in Washington
assigned specifically to target California, according to three
current E.P.A. officials.
Access to safe and affordable water is a basic human right.
Many of our communities have been without safe water for years
or even decades because of contamination of our drinking water
sources. Living in communities without safe water is a public
health crisis. It is also a crisis of basic justice and equity.
Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in
California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new
state testing has found. … State officials released the water
quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to
be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination
and pinpoint its sources.
Invasive fish species have long been a challenge for scientists
in the Grand Canyon because they attract fishermen but can
devour threatened native species. Now, the National Park
Service is ready to try a new approach to keeping things in
balance: pay fishermen and women to harvest one of the worst
offenders, the brown trout.
Groundwater management plans have been released for public
review by both the Salinas Valley and City of Marina
groundwater sustainability agencies … with no agreement
between the two agencies in place and California American
Water’s desalination project at the center of a dispute.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
While Southern Californians appreciate the work that’s needed
to provide a consistent water supply, most people carry on with
their busy lives as long as water comes out of the taps.
Because water pipelines are out of sight, they are also mostly
out of mind. But try to imagine for a moment a day when water
didn’t just flow from the faucets.
While many hail the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act as a
success in state legislation and others say the law represents
government overreach, most seem to agree: It could change
agriculture and the economy in the San Joaquin Valley in a very
big way. In this interview, we talk about the nuts and bolts of
SGMA with Stephanie Anagnoson, Director of Water and Natural
Resources with Madera County.
Kings County’s groundwater management will begin a 20-year
transformation in 2020. Five local groundwater agencies
presented more information behind the groundwater
sustainability plan in a public outreach meeting Thursday
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
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.
Almost a year after wildfire ravaged the small wooded town,
residents are still advised not to drink or bathe with tap
water. Crews have hauled away more debris than workers took
from the World Trade Center after 9/11. They’re nearly done.
The court denied the petitioner’s challenge, which questioned
the validity of the county’s Environmental Impact Report,
according to the Statement of Decision. Crystal Geyser
purchased the former Coca Cola water bottling facility on Ski
Village Drive in 2013 with hopes of bottle sparkling spring
water and eventually producing Juice Squeeze drinks there.
In case you’ve noticed some of the storm drains in the City of
Pasadena covered, the Department of Public Works wants you to
know it’s just following the rules. The covers are “catch
basins” and they are used for gathering trash samples
throughout the City to help in complying with mandated Total
Maximum Daily Load limits.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has called a halt to
work on the California American Water desalination plant
project, at least temporarily, while a California Coastal
Commission appeal challenging the project’s source wells is
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
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency officials are
calling on Congress to investigate the Trump administration’s
“inappropriate threat of use of EPA authority” against the
state of California over recent environmental policies.
Conditions tipped from bleak into officially alarming in
late August when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced that the water residents drink, cook with and bathe
in had been contaminated with arsenic at 10 times the allowable
The draft plan … includes some provisions designed to
strengthen oversight of lead in drinking water. But it skips a
pricey safety proposal advocated by public health groups and
water utilities: the immediate replacement of six million lead
pipes that connect homes to main water pipes. The proposed new
rule would also more than double the amount of time allotted to
replace lead pipes …
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
Fish in San Geronimo Creek are again the source of litigation.
… For the average Marinite to know what’s at stake, fish
proponents and the county need to answer three obvious but, so
far, unanswered questions.
Typical discussions about homelessness tend to focus on its
most obvious problem, a lack of shelter. What often gets left
out, though, are the tangential issues that arise from the
crisis. On Oct. 3, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality
Control Board set out to examine one such issue: the ways in
which homelessness and water quality intersect.
Cities, counties and regional water districts throughout the
Sacramento Valley and Bay Area are urging users to cut down on
water use during Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s public safety
power shutoff, which has blacked out hundreds of thousands of
customers since the early morning hours of Wednesday.
Partially inspired by the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, the
Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule to reduce
exposure to lead from drinking water around the country on
Thursday. … Wheeler said the new rule will help remove the
most corrosive pipes with the highest risk of releasing lead
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
The removal of the Upper York Creek Dam will not begin in 2019
as previously planned, but the project is still on schedule to
be complete by the end of 2020. … The city now plans to do
both phases in 2020, after last-minute design changes failed to
win regulatory approval in time for the 2019 construction
season ending Oct. 31.
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
For the first time in five years, Tustin is looking at passing
along those increases to consumers through a rise in rates.
Early next year, the City Council will vote on a multi-year,
incremental rate hike. If council members approve the staff
proposal, rates almost immediately will increase 6% per year
for five years.
As CO2 levels rise more rapidly than predicted, we need to
re-assess infrastructure needs, from sewage plants and roads
located along the coasts as the sea level rises, to our water
supply and delivery system. “Infrastructure” might sound like a
boring word, but it won’t be so boring to any of us if water
doesn’t come out of the tap or untreated sewage is spilled into
The Senate approved almost $20 million in funding to address
sewage flows along the border. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who
secured language in three different appropriations bills for
the 2020 fiscal year, called the spills that send millions of
gallons of raw sewage from Tijuana to San Diego,
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.
I have been writing about drinking water issues for the past
fifteen years and often been struck at how little attention the
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) receives in our field. Passed
just two years after the Clean Water Act, it gets scant or no
coverage in environmental law casebooks and is rarely taught in
environmental law courses.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
For E. Joaquin Esquivel, California has made great strides in
fighting climate change and transitioning to a cleaner energy
sector. Now, he said, it’s water’s turn. “Water, I think, is
ready for that moment,” said Esquivel, the chairman of the
California State Water Resources Control Board who took over
from longtime chair Felicia Marcus in February.
The National Marine Fisheries Service owes an explanation for
why it decided that two dams on the Yuba River do not adversely
affect threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon,
three Ninth Circuit judges ruled Thursday.
After morning services, Florin Ciuriuc joined the line of
worshipers waiting to fill their jugs with gallons of free
drinking water from a well on the property, a practice church
leaders had encouraged. Church leaders boasted it was the
cleanest water in Sacramento, according to Ciuriuc. In fact,
test results showed the water contained toxic chemicals from
firefighting foam used for decades on a now-shuttered Air Force
base a mile away.
Areas under Clean Water Act, or CWA, jurisdiction are not
prohibited from being filled for development, but if developed,
the act does require federal oversight, permitting and full
mitigation for any loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Removing CWA protections would likely make the 1,400-acre salt
pond site more profitable to develop, and thus more difficult
to purchase for tidal marsh restoration.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have
been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. … We are
now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource,
unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater
resources for both the next decade and future generations.
The spread of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) through the
water system could put public safety at-risk. Researchers
studied and compared samples from an advanced groundwater
treatment facility in California and groundwater aquifers…
They found that the advanced groundwater treatment facility
reduced nearly all targeted ARGs to below detection limits, but
groundwater samples had a ubiquitous presence of ARGs …
California has embarked on a statewide assessment to identify
the scope of PFAS contamination in the state, focusing
primarily on PFOA and PFAS. … Most recently, on August 23,
2019 the State Water Board lowered notification levels for PFOA
and PFOS to 5.1 ppt and 6.5 ppt, respectively. The announcement
also stated that response levels for these contaminants will be
updated this fall.
Scientists have increasingly found that loss of property and
life from fire is overwhelmingly the result of precariously
placed housing in and bordering wildland areas — residential
developments that are, themselves, a major driver sparking
Here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by
several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability
agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture. So
rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed…
The city north of San Diego has taken the position that one of
the Coastal Commission’s basic strategies, called “managed
retreat” or sometimes “planned retreat,” will not work in Del
Mar. … Del Mar is among the first cities or counties in the
state to formalize its plans for adapting to sea level rise. As
a result, Del Mar’s decisions and its negotiations with the
Coastal Commission will set a precedent.
There should be no “acceptable” amount of risk we’re willing to
take when it comes to water quality or the health of our
children and families. From Los Angeles to Sacramento to
Washington, D.C. — in all the places I’ve worked — this belief
has fueled my desire to fight for clean and safe water in our
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
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.
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
California’s senators have asked the Environmental Protection
Agency’s watchdog to investigate whether the agency abused its
enforcement powers when it accused San Francisco of improperly
dumping waste into the ocean.
Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety
Modification Project, presented a program outlining
catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to
mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s
dams, including Isabella Dam.
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.
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
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 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…
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.
On Tuesday night, members of the agency’s board received
official word from staffers that trace amounts of a chemical
called PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in 17 of
its wells, requiring them to now notify key agencies about the
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
Western Municipal Water District, which provides water to
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Rancho California
Water District in southwest Riverside County, won a court
challenge from two excessive water users to share their higher
costs with those who efficiently conserve their water usage and
save on their water bills.
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 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.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of
violation to San Francisco on Wednesday, accusing the city of
improperly discharging waste into the ocean and bay and
following through on President Trump’s recent pledge to cite
San Francisco for water pollution.
The Antelope Valley Watermaster gave preliminary approval to
the first two water storage agreements to come before the Board
tasked with overseeing the 2015 court settlement that set
limits on groundwater pumping for users across the Valley.
To optimize mitigation for impacts to wetlands, other
wildlands, and at-risk species, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife is developing a program called the Regional
Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS). … Each RCIS
identifies top conservation needs, such as habitat for
The United States-Mexico border region is enduring the latest
in a series of massive cross-border sewage tainted spills.
Federal officials in charge of monitoring the trans-border
sewage situation on the U.S. side of the border said nearly 8
million gallons of tainted water flowed across the border in
the Tijuana River channel.
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.
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…
To help protect endangered fish and other critters that rely on
the Ventura River for habitat, migration and procreation, the
city of Ventura has agreed to better monitor and reduce its
water draw in dry times. The city will also take steps to
remove barriers for steelhead trout to make the journey to and
from the sea…
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…
A Native American tribe has granted personhood to a river in
northern California making it the first known River in North
America to have the same legal rights as a human, at least
under tribal law. The Yurok Tribe based near the southern
border of Oregon confirmed the new status on the Klamath River.
The proposed water rates include a fixed meter charge per month
and a variable consumption charge per unit of water. The city
says most single family residences will see about a $15
increase in January of 2020. … The last rate increase was
approved by the city council five years ago, but he says a lot
has changed since then.
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
Water vending machine companies compete aggressively to sell
water outside of supermarkets and pharmacies at an incredible
markup. The industry is only lightly regulated – last year the
California Department of Public Health inspected just two
machines in San Diego County.
Los Angeles’s twin challenges of building more housing while
restoring its namesake waterway are clashing along a shady
11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River between downtown and
the hills of Griffith Park.
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
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
Bakersfield residents deserve a round of applause, at least in
terms of the city’s water usage. So far in 2019, city residents
have saved 3,348 acre feet of water compared to 2013
quantities. Cumulatively, the city has cut water usage by
nearly 12 percent since 2013, an average year before drought
struck the state.
The Center for Biological Diversity has taken what appears to
be a preliminary step toward suing Marin County over its
supplemental environmental impact report to the Marin
Countywide Plan, which focuses on potential cumulative impacts
to salmonids from development in the San Geronimo Valley.
The Interior Department is forcing key staff responsible for
environmental reviews to move west as part of the Trump
administration’s efforts to shrink the number of federal
workers based in Washington, two people familiar with the plans