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
The cheering is for a governor who has brought attention to a
problem that’s almost unfathomable in wealthy urban regions. No
Californian in 2019 should have to endure third-world
drinking-water conditions. But there’s ample reason to give the
governor the raspberries, too. That’s because Newsom’s solution
comes right out of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “you
never want a serious crisis go to waste” playbook.
This year, the water agency plans to inform farmers and the
community about not only the amount of water the Tuolumne River
Watershed has received so far this year, but also will provide
information regarding the final license application for Don
Pedro, which first began eight years ago, and the ongoing legal
battle surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s
decision to implement 40 percent unimpaired flows along the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries for the betterment of fish.
Last July, career EPA officials were set to unveil their plan
to complete a long-awaited health review of the toxic metal
hexavalent chromium, but more than half a year later, the plan
is still under wraps … The setback — revealed in emails
obtained by E&E News — was part of a broader slowdown of
chemical reviews ordered by EPA leadership, according to an
Every day, millions of gallons of water loaded with
arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most
contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding
streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press
has found. That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting
drinking water sources in Colorado, Montana, California,
Oklahoma and at least five other states.
Los Angeles County officials are proposing to take ownership of
40 miles of flood-control channels along the Los Angeles River
from the federal government in order to expedite maintenance
and water conservation improvements as climate change increases
the frequency of extreme weather.
Three property owners in Shasta County face thousands of
dollars in fines due to violations involving cannabis grows.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued
the fines over water quality violations at two properties one
in Ono, the other near Cottonwood Creek.
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s
because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints
on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need
in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local
After concluding Greka Energy improperly stored hazardous waste
at its facility near Santa Maria, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the company to conduct
sampling to determine whether its operations resulted in
contaminated local soil and groundwater.
Dated Feb. 20, 2019, and addressed to the Indian Wells Valley
Ground Water Authority Board of Directors, the letter states
that it is intended as a formal communication that “Commander
Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW), in consultation with U.S. Navy
commands located within the Indian Wells Valley, deems
groundwater resources as the number one encroachment
concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions
enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of
the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were
enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new
governor had their backs. But water policy in California is
never that easy.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these
days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the
delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but
wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing
more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction
heading out to sea?
During the past two decades, the federal government’s spending
on sewer projects along the U.S.-Mexico border has declined
dramatically. The decrease in funding has left a long list of
needed sewer fixes unbuilt, while raw sewage and industrial
pollution have continued to pour into the New River, the
Tijuana River and other rivers that flow across the border.
Now, Congress has started to put more money toward combating
water pollution on the border.
At a Town Hall Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael)
told the large crowd filling nearly every available seat in the
Ukiah Valley Conference Center about a possible future for the
Potter Valley Project that would remove the controversial dam,
but preserve the water supply the Ukiah Valley has depended on
for more than a century.
Noting the Klamath River’s history as the West Coast’s
third-largest salmon-producing river, the City Council’s letter
states that they believe a “free-flowing Klamath will
revitalize” both the commercial and recreational fisheries,
creating jobs and bringing revenue to the community.
Rep. Grace Napolitano, a Democrat with a district office in El
Monte, sent a letter Wednesday, Feb. 20, urging the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to make safety repairs at Whittier Narrows
Dam its highest budgetary priority in light of an assessment
that the barrier could fail in the event of a very large, very
The furrows in a 60-acre patch of dirt on Rodney and Tiffany
Shedd’s Arizona farm still hold cotton scraps from last year’s
crop. This year, that patch will stay barren for the first time
in recent memory, thanks to the decline in Colorado River water
for farms across Pinal County, one of America’s cotton-growing
The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other
Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for
wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just
because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights
bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila
River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s
also not just because of a Southern California irrigation
district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to
shore up the dying Salton Sea.
San Diego’s water department is going through the second
major shakeup in less than a year. At least five senior
officials are out, including one who once tried to waive off an
audit of the city’s troubled “smart” meter program. In January
2018, the department’s assistant director, Lee Ann
Jones-Santos, said auditing the city’s effort to replace
280,000 water meters might make that $70 million program look
A single tunnel would perform almost as well as two tunnels,
particularly when operated in tandem with the existing pumps in
the south Delta. It would cost substantially less. And it would
give assurances to environmental groups and Delta residents
that the project would not create the large impacts many fear.
Environmental groups should take this opportunity to sign on to
a new approach for managing the Delta.
The majority of L.A. County water systems serve fewer than
10,000 customers. Taken together, small water systems reach
more than 250,000 L.A. County residents. As my co-authors and I
detail in a new UCLA Law report, the two greatest challenges
these systems face are contaminated groundwater sources and
underfunding. Across L.A. County, more than 900,000
people depend on groundwater that has been contaminated by
industrial pollutants, agricultural products, or naturally
occurring elements before it is treated.
As awful as the constant spills from Tijuana’s broken sewage
infrastructure have been for the Tijuana River and the San
Diego County-Baja California coast, new information suggests
they’re an even scarier health threat than previously thought.
Environmental groups, states, industry and conservatives are
watching the case closely, as its outcome could clarify or
narrow EPA’s historical interpretation of the types of
pollution discharges covered by the Clean Water Act. “This is
the most significant environmental law case in the last few
years,” said Beveridge & Diamond PC attorney John Cruden,
former head of the Justice Department’s environment division.
Under the fee structure, there are two types of water use:
agricultural and “all others.” Ag users will be assessed a
$4.79/acre fee and other users will be assessed $2.26 per
service connection. (Ag accounts for more than 90 percent of
the pumping from the basin.) The new fees are part of
California’s effort to regulate groundwater, which has
historically been treated as a “pump as you please” resource,
not subject to the same restrictions as surface water, like the
Carmel River that largely supplies the Monterey Peninsula.
Newsom has embraced an idea that has previously failed to gain
traction in Sacramento: new taxes totaling as much as $140
million a year for a clean drinking water initiative. Much of
it would be spent on short- and long-term solutions for
low-income communities without the means to finance operations
and maintenance for their water systems. … But the money
to change that — what’s being called a “water tax” in state
Capitol circles — is where the politics get complicated.
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against
water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable,
and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance
involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and
adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public
servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her
tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we
owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that
A federal environmental analysis recommends relicensing the Don
Pedro hydroelectric project and accepts a Modesto and Turlock
irrigation district plan for well-timed flows to boost salmon
in the Tuolumne River. The flows, combined with other measures
to assist spawning and outmigrating young salmon, would commit
less water to the environment than a State Water Resources
Control Board plan that’s unpopular in the Northern San Joaquin
The Trump administration’s proposal might seem simpler to
follow on wetlands because it wouldn’t protect those that are
dry most of the time and don’t connect to larger downstream
waters. But navigating the definition could be confusing when
it comes to wetlands that do connect to streams that are dry
during parts of the year.
A controversial oilfield wastewater disposal operation east of
Bakersfield has been shut down amid a years-long regulatory
crackdown and opposition by environmental activist
organizations. The Jan. 3 closure … puts an end to a
practice regional water quality regulators say threatened to
foul Bakersfield’s water supply through a slow process of
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office continues to
operate under the 2013 Biological Opinion while a new document
is being created, along with the court-ordered injunction in
place to guide the Klamath Project.
The Metropolitan Water District last week re-upped its
turf-removal program, providing greater incentives for
homeowners to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant
plants. In Utah, the state’s Division of Water Resources is
encouraging residents to use more water so it can justify
spending $3 billion on a pipeline that will take more water
from Lake Powell… This tale of two states brings up an
interesting question: Is water conservation de rigueur or
Environmental groups and residents of contaminated communities
said that the agency’s “action plan” is short on action, saying
ample evidence exists to regulate the chemicals in the nation’s
Salinas Valley farmers would cover the bulk of administrative
costs for a state-mandated groundwater sustainability agency
charged with balancing use and recharge in the agriculture-rich
region under a proposal to be considered Thursday. Farmers
would pay about 90 percent of the Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability agency’s proposed $1.2 million
annual budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year or about $1.08
million through a $4.79 per acre annual “regulatory” fee under
the proposal, while public water system customers would
contribute about $120,000 per year through a $2.26 annual fee.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will
test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert
aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping
restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no
regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under
these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on
wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility
that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern
of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades
ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
Farmers, water managers and government agencies agree:
Groundwater sustainability is critical for California. But
achieving it could bring significant changes to the state’s
agricultural landscape, according to speakers at a Sacramento
gathering of water professionals.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday unveiled what
officials called a historic effort to rein in a class of
long-lasting chemicals that scientists say pose serious health
risks. But environmental and public health groups, some
lawmakers and residents of contaminated communities said the
agency’s “action plan” isn’t aggressive enough and that the EPA
should move more quickly to regulate the chemicals in the
nation’s drinking water.
Valley Water Management Company, a non-profit company that
disposes of wastewater for dozens of oil operators in
California, has halted discharges at two facilities where
environmentalists say wastewater contaminated groundwater
resources. The closure stems from a lawsuit filed by Clean
Water Action, the Center for Environmental Health, and the
grassroots group Association of Irritated Residents in 2015
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a
seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water
supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling
southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the
north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously
on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve
water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of
As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on
behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered
Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta
smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official
since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been
finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the
farmers had hired him to oppose.
Of the 517 groundwater basins and subbasins in California,
local agencies submitted 43 requests for basin modifications
for either scientific or jurisdictional reasons. … In the
draft decision, DWR approved 33, denied seven, and partially
approved three modification requests.
The problem with Felicia Marcus is that she never stopped
working for the environmental movement. Yes, she’s paid by the
state to represent all Californians as chairwoman of the State
Water Resources Control Board. Yet, she has utterly failed
in her duties to the state, treating this job as an extension
of her old one – attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
For generations, residents of the Southern California border
town of Calexico watched with trepidation as their river turned
into a cesspool, contaminated by the booming human and
industrial development on the other side of the border in
Mexico. As Washington debates spending billions to shore
up barriers along the 2,000-mile southwest border, many
residents in California’s Imperial Valley feel at least some of
that money could be spent to address the region’s public health
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would
establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure
water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of
the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge
comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility
that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It
hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million
to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and
largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using
that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in
current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states
that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID
is putting in play: A demand that the federal government
provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered
As PG&E Corp. plunged into bankruptcy last month, S&P
Global Ratings slashed credit grades almost to junk status for
California’s two other big electric utilities, owned by Sempra
Energy and Edison International, and said they could go lower.
The reason: inverse condemnation. Under the state’s view of
this legal doctrine, utilities can be held liable for any fires
sparked by their equipment, even if they follow every safety
Politicians and environmentalists are ratcheting up
the pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to
take the first step in regulating drinking water contaminated
with a toxic, long-lasting family of chemicals called PFAS or
per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Numbers released by the Trump administration Friday show an 80%
drop in some penalties levied against polluters, the latest
sign that the Environmental Protection Agency has become a less
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban
areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about
what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous
ecological transition is occurring this winter.
About 1 million Californians can’t safely drink their tap
water. Approximately 300 water systems in California
currently have contamination issues ranging from arsenic to lead
to uranium at levels that create severe health issues. It’s a
disgrace that demands immediate state action.
Martinez City Council agreed Wednesday to start the process of
revising it water rates to make its fee system “defensible.”
Many residential customers would see increases as a result,
although a few customers with large meters will see their rates
According to the government, the proposed rule is also
consistent with the statutory authority granted by Congress,
legal precedent, and executive orders. Notably, the proposed
definition would eliminate the process of determining whether a
“significant nexus” exists between a water and a downstream
traditional navigable water.
In the event that water elevation decreases
below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to
address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown,
the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan
for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through
San Juan Capistrano is looking to unload its water utility, as
maintaining the system is expected to become costly for the
community. The city is one of very few in south Orange County
that manages its own water operations. After a 10-month review
of the options, the City Council discussed on Tuesday,
Feb. 5, which agency – Moulton Niguel Water District,
Santa Margarita Water District and South Coast Water
District – the city should enter into an exclusive
negotiation agreement to acquire its water system.
With another potential government shutdown on the horizon,
President Donald Trump remains coy about whether he’ll declare
a national emergency to fund the border wall he promised during
his 2016 campaign. This week, he told reporters that he
could use that power and divert money from the Army Corps of
Engineers. Democrats worry that could mean taking money away
from ongoing projects in Northern California, like raising
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to
manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern
California communities. … About two dozen protesters are
standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou
County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border.
They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not
sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That
notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the
Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls
recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River
Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior
should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency
An environmental group demanding that Nestle stop pumping
millions of gallons of water from a California creek failed to
persuade a federal judge that the government should disclose
records related to the Swiss company’s bottled water
operations. … In the FOIA case, Judge McFadden ruled
that the government had correctly cited exemptions that
prevented it from releasing information related to Nestle’s
trade secrets and other sensitive corporate data.
The site experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it
was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and
nuclear facility, as well as other chemical and radioactive
contamination over the years. Denise Duffield, associate
director of Physicians for Social Responsibility … said
the plan calls for cleaning up only 38,000 of the 1.6 million
cubic yards of soil the Energy Department says are
contaminated and not remediating most of the contaminated
Different from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s water tax proposal to fix
decaying water systems in poor communities, the proposal before
the State Water Board is focused on providing water service
rate relief for California residents struggling to make ends
meet. It is modeled after existing programs that offer
low-income assistance rates for electricity and gas service.
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the
Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for
property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of
whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking
whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among
Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the
federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the
dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The
path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region
now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31
deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised
a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the
water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the
most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday
by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how
water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will
consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the
Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under
the California Endangered Species Act. The California
Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and
Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by
the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in
San Diego County has agreed to pay nearly $700,000 for a
pipeline rupture that dumped raw sewage into a San Diego River
tributary. The spill sent about 760,000 gallons of sewage into
Los Coches Creek in February and March 2017, violating the
federal Clean Water Act, among other state and federal rules.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts
over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water
diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus
and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12
decision have touched off debate on what exactly could
restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon
populations and what it will cost for Central Valley
After more than a decade of drafting and editing, California is
poised to finally update its wetlands regulations this spring.
The effort, which began after a pair of Supreme Court decisions
limited federal wetlands protections, could be finalized just
in time to insulate the state from a Trump administration
proposal restricting which wetlands and waterways are protected
by the Clean Water Act.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to
block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for
the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release,
the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted
last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it
would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license
begin this week, according to a news release from the
California State Water Resources Control Board. The license
surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four
PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are
still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to
be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than
they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently
recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural
runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a
last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the
plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but
Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of
documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with
massive river rights has yet to sign off on the
agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the
formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the
Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved
extending the contract for water imported from Northern
California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the
state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project
water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water
supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of
the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping
for the Antelope Valley.
By this time next year, 21 critically over-drafted groundwater
basins in California must submit plans to the state’s
Department of Water Resources for how to bring their basins
back into balance. With this major deadline looming, it’s
crunch time for water managers and their consultants – some of
whom will begin releasing draft plans in the next six to eight
months seeking required public comments.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western
water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the
1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump
administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado
River drought management plans… And it has been the
administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President
Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California
farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project
California says it doesn’t want.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of
drought and water shortages that is threatening their future.
With an official water emergency declaration now possible,
farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less
water and survive. Third in a series.
California wildland managers said Tuesday they want to speed up
logging and prescribed burns designed to slow wildfires that
have devastated communities in recent years. After the
deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history,
officials are scrapping 12 years of efforts and starting anew
on creating a single environmental review process to cover
projects on private land, such as cutting back dense stands of
trees and setting controlled fires to burn out thick
Arizona lawmakers appear on track to pass a Colorado River
drought plan, with less than 30 hours to go before a critical
federal deadline. A state Senate committee voted 6-1
Wednesday evening to pass a pair of measures that outline
how the state would share looming cutbacks on the
river’s water and work with other states to take less. The
bills now head to the full Senate and House. Both chambers are
expected to pass the bills Thursday, an effort that could
stretch into the night as they rush to meet a federal deadline.
The utility company was found liable for dumping hexavalent
chromium (aka chromium-6), a carcinogen used to suppress rust
formation at the Hinkley gas compressor station, into an
unlined pond in the ’50s and ’60s. PG&E hid the crisis and
misled the community on the effects of that specific type of
chromium and its possible connection to health problems in the
town. For those remaining in Hinkley, either by choice or by
circumstance, to continue on, they need to know what’s going on
with their water.
A federal appellate court decision issued on January 25, 2019
will affect the relicensing of hydroelectric dams on the
Klamath River and efforts to accomplish dam removal under an
existing settlement agreement.
Tucked inside PG&E’s mammoth bankruptcy filing is a company
request that the judge in the case approve payment of $130
million in cash incentive bonuses to thousands of PG&E
employees, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records made
public on Tuesday.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water
source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few
days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of
overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If
California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched
interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption
by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and
decide the river’s future.
The Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit
for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of
Americans’ tap water, two sources familiar with the forthcoming
decision told POLITICO. … The chemicals, known as PFOA
and PFOS, have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer,
hypertension and other ailments. Major chemical companies
like 3M as well as the Defense Department would face
billions of dollars in liability from aggressive efforts to
regulate and clean up the chemicals.
The city of San Diego decided Tuesday to back California Atty.
Gen. Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit that seeks to hold the Trump
administration accountable for sewage and other toxic flows
that routinely spill over the border from Tijuana and foul
beaches as far north as Coronado. The City Council voted
unanimously in closed session on Tuesday to join the legal
action. Councilman Chris Cate was absent.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
Saying they feel an urgency to act fast, California officials
this week will launch the main phase of wildfire debris removal
in Butte County, scene of November’s devastating Camp Fire. But
a potential problem has emerged: Nearly half of the property
owners in the hill country around Paradise have not given the
government permission to enter their properties to do the work.
The main work, involving a complete scraping and clearing of
burned-out properties, is scheduled to begin later this week.
City leaders met with Oregon state legislators this past week
to discuss the earliest stages of funding an $80 million
plan to fortify the city’s water system and ensure drinking
water is free from harmful algal toxins. The need for
cleaning out cyanotoxins and developing a backup water
system became apparent to city officials last summer when Salem
experienced a month-long drinking water crisis.
Unable to cope with wildfire claims, PG&E made good on its
vow to file for bankruptcy Tuesday, launching a perilous
journey with major implications for ratepayers, investors,
state officials and the thousands of California wildfire
victims who are suing the utility. Citing “extraordinary
financial challenges” and a rapidly deteriorating cash
position, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent PG&E
Corp. sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an electronic
filing shortly after midnight.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now
hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to
levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the
river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but
after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines
parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement,
the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal
buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
The City of Lathrop is one step closer to earning a permit that
will allow for the discharge of treated wastewater straight
into the San Joaquin River. … Currently the City of
Lathrop disposes of the effluent that is generated from the
Lathrop Consolidated Treatment Facility by storing it in basins
during the winter months, and then applying it to urban or
agricultural landscapes during the summer months.
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge
California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam,
north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has
dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding
it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for
another showdown between California and the Trump
A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which
currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath
River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic
which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory
requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River
for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa
Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the
removal of several Klamath River dams.
The Colorado River is not meeting its obligations.
Its Lake Powell bank account is in danger of running
dry. A 97-year-old agreement demands that the river
deliver 5.2 trillion gallons of water to seven states and
Mexico each year. That isn’t happening, and now — in the age of
climate change — the chance of ever meeting that demand is
fading. As a result, Utah’s plan to take more of its
Colorado River water — by building a pipeline from Lake Powell
to St. George — may be fading, too.
The San Diego City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to
join a California lawsuit against the International Boundary
Water Commission (IBWC) over sewage flow from Tijuana, Mexico
into the United States. … The lawsuit alleges millions
of gallons of waste, including untreated sewage, trash,
pesticides and heavy metals have been discharged from the
IBWC’s treatment facilities in violation of the Clean Water
Water well owners in Sonoma County may get billed for their
annual water usage under a proposed water-conservation plan up
for discussion next week at a community meeting in Santa Rosa.
The Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is
hosting the Jan. 30 meeting to hear feedback on its proposed
“groundwater sustainability fee,” which would provide funding
to support the new agency.
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time
to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a
blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely
shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of
moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem
overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance
of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
The rainwater collection system is broken at the environmental
research station on a remote, rocky Pacific island off the
California coast. So is a crane used to hoist small boats in
and out of the water. A two-year supply of diesel fuel for the
power generators is almost gone. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
personnel ordinarily would help with such problems. But they
haven’t been around since the partial federal government
shutdown began a month ago…
The partial shutdown has affected federal government activities
relating to western water issues in several federal agencies
and will continue to do so until the political issues are
resolved. The following is a list of five key areas of
interest to the water community.
Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks and the Wiyot Tribe are
currently working to finish the paperwork needed to officially
transfer ownership of the land back to the tribe. It’s a move
without precedent across the nation, according to numerous
experts consulted for this story, all of whom said that while
there have been instances of the federal government, nonprofits
and private entities returning land to tribes, Eureka appears
to be the first local municipality to have ever taken such a
“The judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our
property under the Constitution,” said U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Charles Evans Hughes in Elimra, New York in 1907. That
quote exemplifies the reason that five irrigation districts on
tributaries to the San Joaquin River as well as the city of San
Francisco filed lawsuits recently against the State Water
Resources Control Board. They are defending their water
Governor Newsom’s first proposed state budget, released earlier
this month, addresses several critical water and natural
resource management challenges. Here are highlights from his
plans to mitigate problems with safe drinking water, improve
forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, and encourage
healthy soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase
Citing impacts to water, soil and people, Jackson County
commissioners are asking the state to block a proposed natural
gas pipeline through Southern Oregon. The Oregon Department of
State Lands is taking comments until Feb. 3 as it considers
whether to grant a key permit for the controversial 239-mile
pipeline that would stretch through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas
and Coos counties to a proposed export terminal north of Coos
Arizona lawmakers and the governor are under the gun to come up
with a Drought Contingency Plan to deal with possible Colorado
River water shortages. Get an update from Kathleen Ferris of
the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s
Morrison Institute for Public Policy. This Arizona Horizon
segment is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a
multimedia collaboration between public radio and public
television stations in Arizona, California and Colorado.
The Groundwater Authority has a little over a year left to
create the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and the Indian
Wells Valley Water District is doing everything it can to
ensure that happens. The IWV Water District had its first
workshop of the year on Wednesday morning, where future plans
and goals of the water district were discussed. The main
objective was to ensure that every decision and action that the
water district makes is in tune with what the GA is trying to
The Santa Clara Valley Water District made a grave
miscalculation in suing the State Water Board over
the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. By alienating the
remnants of the environmental community who have supported them
in recent years, they are jeopardizing future projects and
funding measures that will require voter approval.
Making water conservation a way of life – that was the topic
during a symposium, Tuesday, sponsored by the Water Association
of Kern County. The discussion focused on the challenges
of complying with new state laws that will set water
conservation targets for homeowners and businesses.
The restoration site is one of three south of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last
miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small
amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to
an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been
claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through
an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites,
another source is increasingly important for restoring these
patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor:
A California appellate court recently continued the trend of
legislative and judicial expansion of the prevailing wage law’s
scope in Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc. The Second
District Court of Appeal found that … any tasks
involving some form of labor done under contract (and not
performed by agency employees) for irrigation, utility,
reclamation and improvement districts, and other districts of
this type is, except for public works projects of $1,000 or
less and operation of the irrigation or drainage system of any
irrigation or reclamation district, potentially subject to
prevailing wage requirements.
The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the
drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will
undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers
is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will
protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have
been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But
attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian
Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the
water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.
Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not
indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most
pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that
it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing
a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes
conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable
water. The first step should be to announce the
twin-tunnels effort is dead.
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake
Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially
useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland
once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to
bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries
to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may
have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated
Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
The Trump administration’s bid to restrict the Clean Water
Act’s reach over streams and wetlands is backed by an …
assumption that 29 states “may” or are “likely” to bolster
dredge and fill regulations as federal oversight retreats.
… Thus far, only California has made moves toward
beefing up its wetlands protections.
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan
have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their
request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado
River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10
Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has
already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and
plenty of water to boot.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley,
Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman
Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful
Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re
all working together to advance the agenda of the Central
Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very
encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump
administration put forward on water.”
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow
requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a
percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this
‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on
farms, communities throughout California and the environment.
We join many other water agencies in our belief that
alternative measures …
For decades, the New River has flowed north across the
U.S.-Mexico border carrying toxic pollution and the stench of
sewage. Now lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are pursuing
legislation and funding to combat the problems. “I feel very
optimistic that we’re going to be able to get some things done
on the New River issue,” said Assemblymember Eduardo
Because of the potential of massive flooding, the Army Corps of
Engineers is rushing to begin a $500-million repair project for
Whittier Narrows Dam, classified as the highest priority of any
of the 13 “high risk” dams in the country. Nearly three
years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers elevated the
risk of failure from “high urgency” to “very high urgency”
after a re-inspection revealed a greater threat of erosion and
breach that would cause massive downstream flooding to one
million Southern California residents in the event of a severe
Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the
region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts
have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries
Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to
arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks
in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect
drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy
seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that
U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State
speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the
legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for
the coming year.
Locally, the primary impacts of climate change on people can
broadly be broken into four categories: sea level rise,
drought, flood and wildfire. The good news is, work and
planning are already well underway to mitigate impacts, though
it’s hard to say how much of an effect the measures will have,
and how much those agencies – and their constituents – will be
willing to spend on them. But this much is clear: Local, state
and federal agencies are taking climate change seriously, and
treating it like the potentially existential threat that it is.
With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever
shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are
looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of
the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s
proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department
of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to
sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed
bills also would appropriate $35 million and
tweak existing legislation to make the plan work.
California’s new governor looked at the rainfall and saw
millions of dollars in uncollected water taxes going right down
the drain. In one of his first moves as chief executive, Newsom
declared that he wants to tax the state’s drinking water, in
order to give poor people access to safe and affordable water.
I guess this is his idea of trickle-down economics.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
Top managers of the environmental engineering firm Tetra Tech
directed their employees to commit widespread fraud in the
cleanup of America’s largest Superfund waste site, according to
new legal complaints by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The budget specifically calls out funding for Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water. It discusses the need to find a
stable funding source for long-term operation and maintenance
of drinking water systems in disadvantaged communities, stating
that existing loan and grant programs are limited to capital
After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over
twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing
before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on
the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the
Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.
Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes
again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or
A Bureau of Reclamation program awards grants to water
districts and other project sponsors seeking to reuse water and
add to supplies. From 1992 through 2017, it awarded about $715
million for 46 construction projects and 71 studies. Nearly all
of the funding—about $703 million—went for construction
projects that recycled water.
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West
Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it,
simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is
essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood
protection possible isn’t yet complete, but the levees are much
better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of
the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency. After more than seven
years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine
announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the
California Department of Water Resources.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over
$100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect
the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former
governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water
legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey
urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the
proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt
said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a
much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned
developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we
have enough water for these future desert residents and
visitors. Permits for new projects are under the
jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of
water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying
the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new
to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life
in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most
A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate PFAS
chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program,
allowing federal agencies to clean up sites contaminated
by harmful fluorinated compounds. Health officials
have said continued exposure to
certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm
human health. Studies link exposure to developmental effects on
fetuses, cancer and liver and immunity function, among other
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water
toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the
Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a
lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the
local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district
might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate
water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
Specific details have not yet emerged on Newsom’s plan, but
it’s expected to be similar to a rejected 2018 proposal from
state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, to tax residential customers
95 cents a month to help fund water improvements in rural
farming communities in the Central Valley and throughout the
state. It would raise about $110 million to get clean water to
what the McClatchy News Service estimated last year to be
360,000 people without such access. Others looking at the
problem see it as much worse.
Urban water conservation took a sharp drop in November in
California, with savings of just 7.8 percent compared to
November 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year. That’s down from
13.4 percent savings in October. Statewide, the average
was 86 gallons per capita. In the Sacramento River watershed,
everyone used on average 101 gallons per day; in the Bay Area,
67 gallons; on the South Coast, 86 gallons.
While most Californians believe strongly that all Californians
should have safe drinking water, most Californians don’t
understand the breadth of contaminants that impact communities
throughout the state, and how significant those impacts are.
Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers
on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal
deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan.
The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and
lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central
Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona
Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River
drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water
management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic
they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa
Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to
officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water
interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about
A day after proposing a tax on drinking water, Gov. Gavin
Newsom took a “surprise” road trip to meet with Stanislaus
County residents in a community known for having unsafe wells.
Newsom and his cabinet made their first stop at the Monterey
Park Tract in Ceres, where he held a roundtable discussion with
people who for years had to use bottled water for drinking and
cooking because their community’s two wells were
long-contaminated with nitrates and arsenic.
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the
world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of
much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego,
Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its
water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting
system used by major farmers and entire states. … This
month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan
Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
California’s failure to provide safe, affordable drinking water
to the remaining roughly 1% of residents is probably the most
solvable and affordable of California’s many difficult water
problems. There will always be isolated small systems
with vexing problems, but the number of Californians currently
without access to safe affordable drinking water is
embarrassing and irresponsibly high.
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech
Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a
drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal
intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of
urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor
told the business community Friday in previewing the speech
that kicks off the legislative session.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal
three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still
grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the
way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues,
some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’
concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up
funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to
pump more groundwater.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s
latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on
Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s
cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC
issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The
environmental document essentially looks at what changes a
licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of
those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded
a new license.
Tackling what promises to be a controversial issue, Gov. Gavin
Newsom proposed a tax on drinking water Thursday to help
disadvantaged communities clean up contaminated water systems.
Newsom’s plan for a “safe and affordable drinking water fund,”
included in the new governor’s first budget proposal, attempts
to revive an idea that died in the Legislature last year.
A lawsuit seeking a new environmental report for the
controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for
Huntington Beach was rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court
judge on Tuesday. Judge Richard Sueyoshi found the
supplemental report met legal requirements while noting the
2010 study had never been legally challenged.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought
Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete
proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal
with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado
River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal
government is squeezing these negotiators.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
The two-week-old shutdown has halted one of the federal
government’s most important public health activities, the
inspections of chemical factories, power plants, oil
refineries, water treatment plants, and thousands of other
industrial sites for pollution violations.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has spent
five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
guidelines. Several changes to the Guidelines address two
hot button topics: global climate change and statewide
affordable housing shortages. Many of the changes will
significantly alter the application of CEQA to future projects.
Saying it will continue to protect environmentally sensitive
waterways such as wetlands in California, even if federal
protections on waters of the U.S. are limited, the State Water
Resources Control Board has unveiled a final draft on how it
plans to regulate dredge-and-fill activities in the state.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
To subsidize drinking water bills for poor households,
California regulators recommend new taxes on bottled water and
incomes above $1 million a year, according to a draft proposal
released by the State Water Resources Control Board. If the
$606 million proposal, or an alternate version, is accepted by
the Legislature, California would be the first state in the
country to run a water bill assistance program.
The long road to recovery in the town of Paradise starts with
removing millions of tons of charred rubble left in the Camp
Fire’s wake. But the question remains: Where will it all go?
Disaster officials are scrambling to secure a place to sort and
process the remnants of nearly 19,000 structures destroyed in
the wildfire that began on Nov. 8 and killed 86 people. The
mammoth undertaking has been slowed by staunch opposition in
nearby communities eyed as potential sites for a temporary
scrapyard, which would receive 250 to 400 truckloads of
concrete and metal each day.
Los Angeles resident Cindy Baker claimed in her April
2018 federal class action lawsuit that the
Switzerland-based company intentionally and recklessly
concealed facts about the quality and purity of its Pure Life
purified water. U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said
in a seven-page order that Baker’s concerns about water
quality and microplastics in Nestle water should be addressed
by the Food and Drug Administration, not by the courts.
The State Water Resources Control Board will accept public
comments on the draft report on Options for Implementation of a
Statewide Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program. The report
analyzes options for the design, funding, and administration of
a program as well as other options to improve water
affordability. Comments are due Feb. 1.
Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control
Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin
River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update
water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay
estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental
protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San
Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural
practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or
eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath
its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off
for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over
an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte
Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with
devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that
measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are
protected under the Clean Water Act. It’s also poised to
be a year of reckoning on the Colorado River, which supplies
water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland.
And it could also be a landmark year for water management in
California, with several key issues coming to a head.
At issue is the proper interpretation of the law’s central
provision barring the discharge of “any pollutant to navigable
waters from any point source” without a permit. The term
navigable waters, broadly defined as “waters of the United
States,” does not generally include groundwater.
As more people build homes in fire-prone areas, and as climate
change and other factors increase the frequency of fires, there
is a growing risk to life and property throughout the West —
and a lesser known risk to the region’s already endangered
water supply. At least 65 percent of the public water supply in
the Western U.S. comes from fire-prone areas.
Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and
commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the
marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial
fleet. A new environmental document predicts the level of
sediment released as a result of dam removal will be similar to
what the river carries downstream during an average year.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a
soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states
that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River,
according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a
scoping report on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas
development on approximately 400,000 acres of BLM-administered
public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate
lands on tribal and privately held lands in Fresno, Kern,
Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and
For two decades, the Hutchinsons and their neighbors in this
rural enclave of Banning Heights tucked above the I-10 freeway
have fought to have Southern California Edison repair a
century-old system that carries water down the San Gorgonio
mountains to their homes.
Calls for the federal government to regulate polyfluoroalkyl
and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been unsuccessful.
Last year the Trump administration tried to block a study
urging a much lower threshold of exposure. Harvard
University researchers say public drinking-water supplies
serving more than 6 million Americans have tested for the
chemicals at or above the EPA’s threshold — which many experts
argue should be far lower to safeguard public health.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s
persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert
worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s
Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource
challenges. Catch up on these stories and more in Western
Water Year in Review.
An arbiter has sided with five local tribes in a dispute over
what San Diego County water officials argued was a request that
left them with an unexpected $2.1 million budget deficit after
the tribes won back lost water rights. The dispute arose after
the federal government restored water rights to the San Luis
Rey Indian Water Authority, which represents the tribes.
New California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he
favors a scaled-down Delta tunnel project. Whether he
reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal
whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the
flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural
Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes
along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the
Trump administration — or fights it.
Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the State
Water Board the amount they used. But Louis and Darcy Chacon
reported an amount that just didn’t make sense. The Chacons
reported they used more than 1 trillion acre-feet of water
annually from 2009 to 2013, more than is available on the
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
When the water was still fluoridated in Juneau, Alaska, kids on
average had about 1 1/2 cavity-related procedures per year.
After fluoride was gone, that went up to about 2 1/2 procedures
a year. And that got expensive.
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to
provide interested parties the opportunity to present data,
views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes
affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
As all eyes turn to the State Water Resources Control Board on
Wednesday, the board won’t have complete settlement agreements
with Modesto-area irrigation districts to consider at a crucial
meeting. At most, the districts and negotiators with the state
Natural Resources Agency will have the basic framework of an
agreement that’s an alternative to a state plan for river flows
that is fiercely opposed by water users and local agencies in
The Trump administration laid out plans Tuesday to roll back
Obama-era rules protecting isolated streams and wetlands from
industrial pollution, a move that conservation groups said
could harm creeks and impact drinking water in the Bay Area and
throughout California. The move by the Environmental Protection
Agency to roll back the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule, known as
WOTUS, was hailed by farmers and industry, which have long
sought to rewrite the rules.
The Trump administration is expected to put forth a proposal on
Tuesday that would significantly weaken a major Obama-era
regulation on clean water, according to a talking points memo
from the Environmental Protection Agency that was distributed
to White House allies this week.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
The federal government and the state of California seem to love
suing each other, and have done so dozens of times in the past
two years without causing anyone much damage. But President
Donald Trump is now threatening to sue the state over control
of water. This could harm a lot of people, because water is the
source of the most contentious and enduring battles in
America’s largest state.
President Donald Trump’s memorandum on western water, which
ordered federal agencies to look for ways to remove regulatory
burdens on federal water projects, has caused waves in
California. But what will it actually do? … The USA TODAY
Network in California asked experts on California water,
farming and environmental issues to break down what’s
known at this point.
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the government to
speed up environmental reviews and streamline regulations that
he says are hindering work on major water projects in
California and other Western states. Trump signed a memorandum
aimed at helping the Central Valley Project and the California
State Water Project in California, the Klamath Irrigation
Project in Oregon and California and the Columbia River Basin
system in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
The EPA is pushing back its timetable for repealing a landmark
Obama-era waters jurisdiction rule by at least four months, a
move that could prolong the confusion about how and where to
implement it in the interim.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817