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.
In just a few weeks, California’s water conditions have gone
from bad to terrible. Sacramento residents have been asked to
cut water usage 10%. Their counterparts on the Russian River
are being told to reduce their consumption 20%. Farmers across
the Central Valley are letting fields lie fallow and
dismantling their orchards. Government agencies are warning of
massive fish kills on the Sacramento River. After
a warm spring dried up practically the entire Sierra
Nevada snowpack — and robbed California of enough water to fill
most of Folsom Lake — state and federal officials have been
forced to dramatically ramp up their drought response plans.
Who has the right to water in the Kern River? It has been the
subject of fierce legal battles throughout Bakersfield’s
history, and on Friday, the Ventura County Superior Court tried
to answer a part of that question. In a court ruling, Judge
Kevin DeNoce found the city of Bakersfield must supply the
North Kern Water Storage District with 20,000 acre feet of
water it owed the district in 2020 and pay the district $2.8
million to reimburse groundwater pumping costs the district
incurred last year. It’s the latest court decision in a
long-running dispute, and it threatens to limit the city’s
ability to use water from the Kern River.
California is dry. Bay Area counties have declared drought
emergencies and imposed restrictions. State and federal
officials are trucking baby salmon to the ocean. But San
Franciscans are still using their primary water source, the
Tuolumne River, which feeds the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in
Yosemite National Park. Last week, City Attorney Dennis Herrera
— who Mayor London Breed recently tapped to head San
Francisco’s water agency — filed a lawsuit challenging the
state’s efforts to protect salmon and the overall health of the
river. -Written by Robyn Purchia, an environmental
attorney, environmental blogger and environmental
As more of California sinks into extreme drought, Gov. Gavin
Newsom has asked the Legislature to appropriate billions of
dollars to address critical water needs. In the “May revise”—an
update to the budget proposal he initially submitted to the
Legislature in January—Newsom proposes to spend nearly $3.5
billion on water supply and resilience projects, with total
investment reaching $5.1 billion over multiple years.
With the driest year in memory, the water resources managers
and landowners in the Sacramento Valley are working hard to
serve multiple benefits throughout the region with limited
water supplies. This has required all hands-on deck and
creative management within the region as all surface water
supplies have been significantly reduced, with hundreds of
thousands of farmland acres idled throughout the region, urban
suppliers working with their citizens to implement various
conservation measures to reduce water use and there will
undoubtedly be challenges for domestic groundwater wells.
In the latest chapter of California’s unfolding drought, state
officials are planning to build a giant rock wall across a
river in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to save the
vital freshwater estuary from San Francisco Bay’s saltwater.
The emergency measure is a page from last decade’s drought when
the delta, a maze of sloughs and man-made channels east of the
Bay Area, was at risk of becoming too salty to provide water to
the nearly 30 million Californians who depend on it. As in
2015, the freshwater rivers that feed the 1,100-square-mile
delta have gotten so low that they no longer counter the
brackish flows that push in from the bay.
A growing number of drought stricken California farmers are
making the painful decision not to plant as much or anything at
all for fear of losing it all. It costs a lot of money to put
seeds or seedlings into the ground. But if a farmer cannot be
reasonably sure of a crop, why do it?
Even as California moves toward a full reopening from pandemic
restrictions next month, many counties are still in danger.
From drought. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended
emergency drought orders to 41 counties across the state. …
All eyes are on a critical resource that can help fight
the effects of another dry summer: water.
Last week, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)
held their spring conference virtually. Keynote speakers
included Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of Natural Resources, and
Karla Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water
Resources. In his speech, [Crowfoot] discussed the Newsom
Administration’s priorities, calling this the ‘decade of
resilience’, and giving three principles for going
forward. He also discussed the Voluntary
Agreements. Director Karla Nemeth gave the Thursday
morning keynote speech, touching on the Department’s response
to drought, SGMA implementation, the Delta Conveyance Project,
and the water use efficiency regulations.
More wildfires. Hotter days. Drought. Sea-level rise. Those
conditions are an increasing reality in California, which is
steadily becoming an altered state. But if the grimmest
predictions of experts about our state and climate change
become true, the conditions will become far worse.
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.