The San Joaquin River, which helps
drain California’s Central Valley, has been negatively impacted
by construction of dams, inadequate streamflows and poor water
quality. Efforts are now underway to restore the river and
continue providing agricultural lands with vital irrigation,
among other water demands.
After an 18-year lawsuit to restore water flows to a 60-mile dry
stretch of river and to boost the dwindling salmon populations,
the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement is underway.
Water releases are now used to restore the San Joaquin River and
to provide habitat for naturally-reproducing populations of
self-sustaining Chinook salmon and other fish in the San Joaquin
River. Long-term efforts also include measures to reduce or avoid
adverse water supply impacts from the restoration flows.
San Francisco has sued a state agency over proposed Tuolumne
River flows that it claims would be “devastating” to Bay Area
water users. The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts
joined in the lawsuit as “real parties in interest,” due to
similar concerns about their customers not getting enough
water. The suit is one more twist in the decades-long battle
over how much water to provide for salmon and other fish
downstream from Don Pedro Reservoir.
With very little water to spare this drought year, water
districts struggling with limited or no supplies look to their
counterparts in other districts to negotiate water transfers to
add whatever flexibility they can. Districts on the west side
of the Central Valley, both north and south of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, face the prospect of receiving no
water from the Central Valley Project.
Despite the dry year, outdoor recreationists who enjoy
California rivers and streams should remain aware of
dangerously cold swiftly moving water. Although California’s
snowpack is about half of normal, rising temperatures are
accelerating the snowmelt. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
(PG&E) urges those who choose to venture near or in water
to take extra precautions, especially around hydroelectric
facilities and dams, where water flows can change rapidly.
Anglers also are encouraged to take precautions as trout season
has opened for most California rivers.
The seven members of the Delta Stewardship Council were seated
in 2010. The Council appointed ten prominent scientists to the
Delta ISB. Over the next decade, the Delta ISB produced over 30
scientific reviews, averaging over 3,000 hours of work per
year. But in 2020, the work of the Delta ISB stalled. The Delta
Stewardship Council reduced funding for the Delta ISB by over
Delta smelt have nearly ceased to appear in “pelagic” fish
surveys carried out in their narrow geographic range in the
upper San Francisco Estuary. As trawl-generated index values
for delta smelt have declined over the past quarter century –
understand there is no reliable estimate of the size of the
delta smelt population — the chorus of voices advocating for
captive rearing and releases of the species has grown
East Bay Municipal Utility District officials have seen
droughts come and go. But they seem to be coming more
frequently this century. Climate change is stoking devastating
wildfire seasons year after year, drying the state out and just
making it more flammable the following year. State water
officials say that means less water in the Mokelumne River
Watershed, the main source for EBMUD and its 1.4 million
customers. Last winter was the state’s driest since 1977,
prompting the district to officially declare a stage one
drought on April 27 and ask customers to cut ten percent of
their water use. What can the East Bay expect moving forward?
California — already in the clutches of another drought
emergency — is looking over its shoulder at what happened
last time, anticipating the worst and evaluating the strategies
that worked and those that failed. So is California in a
better position to weather this drought? Some things are
worse, some better: Groundwater is still being pumped with no
statewide limits, siphoning up drinking water that rural
communities rely on. In northern counties, residents are
reliving the last disaster as water restrictions kick in again,
but in the south, enough water is stored to avoid them for now.
… The upshot is California isn’t ready — again.
As California descends deeper into drought, state regulators
are planning to do something they’ve done few times in modern
history: order thousands of people, farms, and even cities and
towns that hold historic water rights to stop drawing water
from the rivers, lakes and ponds they rely on. The move is
intended to make sure the dwindling flows in California’s
waterways are reserved for those with the most senior water
rights, as well as for fish and other wildlife. Many of those
with lesser rights would have to turn to storage, groundwater
or another source, if they have it.
The city of San Francisco is reviving a long-simmering feud
with the state over water, filing a lawsuit Friday that charges
state regulators with trying to take away the city’s coveted
Sierra Nevada water supplies. The suit claims the state water
board is demanding the city forfeit too much water from the
Tuolumne River as part of a licensing deal for two dams in the
faraway basin. State regulators have said the water is needed
to maintain proper river flows and support struggling salmon,
but city officials contend the demands would leave Bay Area
residents and businesses vulnerable to water shortages.
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to throw $11.8 billion of California’s
money at climate change and the hazards it poses to the state.
The governor’s gargantuan revised budget proposal, released
Friday, includes expenditures to fight and prevent wildfires,
combat sea-level rise, put more Californians behind the wheel
of an electric vehicle and speed up the transition to a
carbon-free electricity grid. Nearly half of his climate change
package — $5.1 billion — would go toward easing the effects of
California’s newly-declared drought and remedying long-term
water supply problems, such as crumbling canals.
We asked some colleagues for lessons that might be useful in
managing the California’s new drought. Here is a first sampling
of thoughts. … Katrina Jessoe. Agricultural and Resource
Economics, UC Davis: Climate models indicate that
California’s droughts will become more frequent and severe.
Warming temperatures will further reduce surface water
availability, by increasing evaporation from soil, reservoirs,
and irrigated land. While reductions in surface water supplies
will be costly to agriculture, residential users and the
environment, these costs could be substantially reduced through
the reallocation of scarce supplies. Supplying water to those
who value it most will not eliminate the costs of drought, but
will make them less painful.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS) is forecasting another record almond
crop for California. The 2021 California Almond Subjective
Forecast estimates a three percent increase from last year’s
3.12-billion-pound crop. According to USDA-NASS, California
growers could be looking at a 2021 crop of 3.2 billion pounds.
If that number comes to fruition, it would be the largest
almond crop on record.
Less than a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought
emergency for Northern California, Folsom Lake is standing at
one of its lowest levels ever. … Ryan Ojakian is
with the Regional Water Authority (RWA). Now, there’s a push
from the RWA for its 20 water providers that serve about 2
million people in the Sacramento region to shift to using more
groundwater than surface water to reduce reliance on Folsom
Lake and the Lower American River.
With shrinking reservoir levels and a summer of water shortages
impending, drought-ridden California on Wednesday pressed the
Biden administration for more control over future
infrastructure projects planned in the Golden State. California
and a collection of states urged the federal government to drop
a Trump-era rule that reduced states’ authority to deny
permitting and licensing for things like new water
infrastructure, oil pipelines, wastewater plants or development
projects in wetland areas. The states claim the rule gives them
little say over projects that could ultimately harm water
quality and the environment.
During a typical spring, the silver young salmon swimming in
long tanks at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery east of Sacramento would
be released into the American River and then make their way out
to the Pacific Ocean to grow to adulthood. But with extreme
drought now gripping California and much of West Coast, the
rivers are too warm for the salmon to survive. This week, the
3.5-inch (90-mm) smolt, as the young fish are known, embarked
on a much different journey when they were loaded on to trucks
and driven to the San Francisco Bay for release into cooler
A federal agency Wednesday forecast a record harvest of 3.2
billion pounds of almonds in California. That would be a 3%
increase over 2020 for the nuts, the highest-grossing crop in
Stanislaus and several other counties. The report will set the
tone for the global almond trade, since California accounts for
about 80% of the supply. Several thousand people work on farms
and in processing plants in the Central Valley.
At a time when California is facing severe drought conditions
that triggered Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaring a state of
emergency and providing more than $5 billion dollars for water
infrastructure and drought response funding, Congressman Jim
Costa (CA-16) introduced bipartisan legislation to address
California water supply and water quality goals…
As Californians can tell by the already beige hills, the early
fire weather warnings and the dusty umbrellas sitting deep
inside closets, it’s been drier than usual this winter. And
according to decades worth of precipitation data, that’s the
new normal. What’s considered “normal” for baseline rainfall
amounts is determined by a 30-year average that gets
recalculated every decade. The latest recalculation, according
to Jan Null, a forecaster who runs Golden Gate Weather
Services, “show a noticeably drier state” through 2020 compared
to the previous “normal” calculation covering 1981 through
With the uncertainty of water, some Central Valley farmers are
destroying their crops ahead of the summer season in order to
survive. It’s impacting jobs and soon possibly the grocery
shelves. Every crop at Del Bosque Farms is planted
meticulously, and every drop of water is a precious commodity.
Joe Del Bosque started the family farm in 1985. He grows
melons, asparagus, cherries, almonds, and corn, but the drought
brings a flood of concern.
I am proud to be a part of California agriculture. Our state
has the impressive responsibility of feeding our country—and
even the world. We have led the nation in agricultural
production for the past 60 years due to our richly productive
land and climate. Yet, our agriculture industry now faces
serious and urgent challenges, from recovering from last year’s
multiple crises to the ever-increasing competition in the
global market. -Written by Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, chair of the
Assembly Agriculture Committee.