The San Joaquin Valley stretches from across mid-California
between coastal ranges in west and the Sierras on the east. The
region includes large cities such as Fresno and Bakersfield,
national parks such as Yosemite and Kings and fertile farmland
and multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.
The federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project (about
30 percent of SWP water is used for irrigation) helped
deliver water to the valley. Today, San Joaquin Valley crops
include grapes, tomatoes, hay, sugar beets, nuts, cotton and a
multitude of other fruits and vegetables. At the same time, water
used to grow these crops has led to the need for agricultural
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
In my current research, I have been studying the implementation
of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known
as SGMA, in California. SGMA is one of the world’s
largest-scale policy experiments on collective action to manage
natural resources. At the same time, pervasively disparate
access to water resources in the Central Valley made SGMA the
perfect case study to test some of the power asymmetry theories
I have been working on with my colleagues.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
I assumed the different local water agencies were in regular
contact with their customers about important issues like
groundwater and that they would be happy to take advantage of
the opportunity to educate the public about what was happening
with SGMA. I learned that that was not the case. This is not a
subject that engages people who don’t already have some reason
to be concerned about it.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
Cities like Huron, with a population of 6,926 and a $22,802
median household income, are often too small to expand water
access projects that could lower utility rates. While cities
like Delano are too big to qualify for rural development
projects from the federal government. But a new proposal could
soon alleviate those pains.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
Visalia may have received its first drops of rain for the
season, but that doesn’t mean you should start dropping seeds
to bolster your lawn. In fact, it’s now illegal under a
revision of the city’s water conservation code.
City officials gathered Thursday afternoon in Lemoore to break
ground on construction of a new groundwater treatment plant
project. … The City obtains all of its drinking water from
local groundwater resources that are challenged by
naturally-occurring water quality issues. These issues include
elevated levels of arsenic, iron, ammonia, total organic carbon
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
Central Valley agriculture faces a looming existential water
crisis from the interlocking problems of drought, climate
change, and falling underground water tables. Yet the potential
answer to this problem is incredibly simple and only a lack of
political will may defeat it. The solution is to send south to
California the abundant waters of the Columbia River.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is hitched to so many things.
Our estuary is a critical habitat for fish and wildlife, home
to millions of people, and the hub of our state’s water
delivery system. From the Sierra Nevada to the mouth of the San
Francisco Bay, what happens in one part of the Delta watershed
affects the entire estuary.
In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry,
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday stopped the approval of new
hydraulic fracturing in the state until the permits for those
projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Newsom also imposed a moratorium on new permits for
steam-injected oil drilling, another extraction method …
linked to a massive petroleum spill in Kern County over the
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
Since July, at least a half dozen surface expressions have been
reported into the state spill report database, including one in
early November, totaling more than 2.7 million gallons of oil,
water and mud. … Under strengthened state regulations, these
surface expressions became illegal only in April of this year.
But that doesn’t mean the public knows about all of them or how
close they occur to communities…
Groundwater in Tulare County, especially in Porterville, has
been a hot topic of discussion for quite sometime. As
groundwater levels have begun to subside, a viable and woking
plan to maintain the groundwater has been state mandated, and
the implementation of this plan is set to be put in action by
January 31, 2020. But what exactly is the plan, and who is at
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel will
retire Dec. 7, leaving a very large and important hole to fill.
The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water
Project and pays 25 percent of the bill for that massive
endeavor, giving it a very big voice on most water issues.
This article will provide readers with a background on why the
2014 SGMA legislation was passed, and what the implications are
for J.G. Boswell which has both surface and groundwater rights
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
Kern County is seeing a drop in agricultural property value.
The water crisis plaguing the state is also affecting the value
of farms here in Kern County. Michael Ming, Lead Appraiser for
Alliance Ag Services, said groundwater sustainability efforts
have proven to be a big challenge.
Based on DWR’s own documents, it appears that an aerial snow
observator is the most important science- and data-focused
program that needs to be expanded statewide, so that the
integral aquifer recharge program can play its role in Governor
Newsom’s Water Resiliency Portfolio.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
By looking at how to manage levels of salt, mercury and
nutrients heading into the San Joaquin River, researchers are
aiming to boost water quality and reduce impacts on fish and
other aquatic life in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
… The project will examine wetlands — about 40 miles
southwest of UC Merced’s campus — that drain into the San
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
At a time when building anything large and important — like
roads, dams and bridges — can be tied up in red tape and take
forever, the optimism of this reservoir’s supporters is
audacious. And unless opponents emerge with impressive
arguments, the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir deserves the area’s
In order to keep up with the state’s underground water recharge
laws, sooner or later, local water rates will likely need to
increase. That was the message local water management officials
gave in a joint presentation at the Oct. 21 Selma City Council.
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
A tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
In today’s Film Friday, we follow the evolution of Honolulu Bar
in the Stanislaus River through a restoration and floodplain
enhancement project. The project including leveling an
intstream island to create more flooded rearing habitat,
sorting gravel to create improved spawning habitat, clearing
invasive plants and planting native ones. Watch the
Nationwide, more than a dozen utilities have started developing
renewable natural gas production through partnerships with
farmers, wastewater treatment plants and landfill operators,
while nine have proposed price premiums for customers who
choose it as a fuel, according to the American Gas Association.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
The East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Water Agency is racing
the clock when it comes to meeting the state’s requirements by
next year but the message is this: Those who use groundwater
will have to prepare for the possibility of pumping 10 percent
less than they have in the past, beginning as soon as next
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
Under an agreement to “bank” water outside of the Santa Clarita
Valley, local water officials … and their water banking
partners, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District and Irvine
Ranch Water District, opened six new groundwater wells and a
conveyance system to the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County.
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
Access to safe and affordable water is a basic human right.
Many of our communities have been without safe water for years
or even decades because of contamination of our drinking water
sources. Living in communities without safe water is a public
health crisis. It is also a crisis of basic justice and equity.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
Kings County’s groundwater management will begin a 20-year
transformation in 2020. Five local groundwater agencies
presented more information behind the groundwater
sustainability plan in a public outreach meeting Thursday
While many hail the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act as a
success in state legislation and others say the law represents
government overreach, most seem to agree: It could change
agriculture and the economy in the San Joaquin Valley in a very
big way. In this interview, we talk about the nuts and bolts of
SGMA with Stephanie Anagnoson, Director of Water and Natural
Resources with Madera County.
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the
No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year
drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s
recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western
end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their
farming or let fields go fallow.
Success Dam is now Richard L. Schafer Dam. The dam, which has
shielded the San Joaquin Valley floor from Sierra snowmelt
while providing much-needed irrigation water to Tulare County
farmers since 1961, was rechristened in a crowded ceremony
along Lake Success last week. Schafer has served as the Tule
River Water Master since 1963.
Here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by
several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability
agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture. So
rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed…
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
Based on the most detailed data they have available, the East
Kaweah has a supply of 125,000 acre feet per year of ground
water available for use without threatening overdraft. However,
Hagman notes that the East Kaweah has overdrafted their portion
of the basin by 28,000 acre feet on average, per year.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing
groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall
as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical
to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to
energy production. … In watersheds such as California’s
Central Valley, the Midwestern U.S.’s high plains, the Upper
Ganges and the Indus in South Asia, groundwater is already
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
Bakersfield residents deserve a round of applause, at least in
terms of the city’s water usage. So far in 2019, city residents
have saved 3,348 acre feet of water compared to 2013
quantities. Cumulatively, the city has cut water usage by
nearly 12 percent since 2013, an average year before drought
struck the state.
On the Changala family farm in Tulare County, the past and
future are separated by a dirt road and a barbed-wire fence. On
the south side sits a wheat field. On the north, a solar farm,
built three years ago, sending electricity to thousands of
Southern Californians. Alan Changala sees little difference
between the two.
Over the last five years, more than 250 groundwater
sustainability agencies have formed to manage groundwater at
the local level and dozens of groundwater sustainability plans
are in progress. … So what do we still need to make the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act a success?
Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about
to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink
agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of
acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other
non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change,
meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield
activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern
County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby
irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
Starting next January, the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act will require farmers to gradually rein in the amount of
groundwater they pump from their wells. It could devastate the
economy of the entire San Joaquin Valley. In a region where
agriculture is king — and the ability to extract the water
beneath one’s soil has been practically a birthright — a
difficult reckoning is coming.
Most farmers haven’t heard about the recent report from the UN,
even though it deals with climate change and land use and
features agriculture prominently. But we don’t need to read the
science — we are living it.
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
In 2019, at long last, justice was finally achieved; it was
secured through the combined power of the people and allies who
said it was finally time to bring safe water to all
Californians. On July 24, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation
that will make sure all Californians have access to safe,
affordable drinking water.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Recent years have brought severe droughts that have forced
farmers to become more efficient with water use. With nearby
Silicon Valley teeming with the promise of efficiency and
data-fueled intelligence, a natural relationship between
technology and agriculture has developed.
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
We all know it’s important to conserve water, but are we still
in a drought? California water officials say “no!” But a number
of residents in Selma got a notice on their door telling them
we are in a drought and that’s why stage 3 water restrictions
are in place.
Through a $3 million contract with the California State Water
Resources Board, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will
conduct a statewide drinking water needs analysis to identify
risks and solutions for water systems and private wells
throughout the state.
The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a de-facto
moratorium on hydraulic fracturing while it studies permitting
procedures for the politically controversial oil
well-completion technique better known as fracking.
There’s no certain answer as to how the nutria population
re-emerged after being declared eradicated in California
decades ago but the population is spreading and causing serious
concern. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was recently
awarded $10 million to wipe out the large, invasive rodents and
that effort is now well underway.
Commodity prices across some crops, record cotton yields and
ample water supplies combined to catapult Fresno County’s gross
crop value to a record $7.88 billion in 2018, eclipsing last
year’s figure by over 12 percent, and besting the previous
record by nearly as much.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
In March, newly-elected Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger)
proposed a $400 million windfall to finance repairs for the
canal under Senate Bill 559… But the bipartisan bill, much
like canal it was designed to fix, is sunk — for now. The bill
failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote before the Sept. 13
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
In 2012, California became the first state in the country to
declare that “Every human being has the right to safe, clean,
affordable and accessible water” when the state legislature
inserted that statement into its state water code. Now, a new
UCLA study finds, the state may be making progress on turning
that goal into a reality.
The Exeter City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to scrap
plans to connect Exeter’s water system with Tooleville, a rural
community of about 80 households that has struggled for years
with dirty water.
Senate Bill 513, authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado
(D-Sanger), is headed towards Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for
approval. The bill, which received bi-partisan support, will
provide relief for families without reliable access to water by
delivering a temporary alternative source of water supply.
Fresno County farmers and ranchers shattered the yearly record
for the value of what they produced by nearly a billion dollars
in 2018. Despite below-average surface water supplies, their
crops and livestock totaled $7.888 billion last year, according
to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s annual report
Despite new California regulations banning surface spills in
the state’s vast oil fields, at least eight spills connected to
Chevron have occurred in just one Kern County oil field since
the new rules took effect in April, state regulators say.
The ”surface expression” spills have spewed more than
1.26 million gallons of oil and wastewater in five
months, with some still not contained.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
Using dairy lagoon water to irrigate silage corn is standard
practice. Running the thick, nutrient-rich water through
subsurface drip systems could someday be just that as two
California dairy farms, an irrigation company, and an
environmental organization are working together to solve the
challenges involved in the water thrifty practice.
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
Valley farmers and water districts will be facing a new reality
of pumping less water and are worried about the land that will
be taken out of crop production. But the water and agriculture
industries are drafting a large-scale plan to fill the gap with
more dams and water deliveries from the Delta. Vic Bedoian
reports from Fresno.
The Friant-Kern Canal, which delivers water to farms and
communities on the east side of the Valley, is literally
sinking in some areas due to groundwater pumping. And with one
week to go before the California legislature wraps up its 2019
session, many hope the state will help fund the canal’s repair.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t go through something, go
around it. And at an estimated cost of $357 million, the Friant
Water Authority is contemplating a 30-mile parallel canal to
circumvent the portion of the Friant Kern Canal that has been
negatively affected by subsidence.
At its Aug. 5 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously
approved a letter of support for California Water Service’s
effort to eliminate water suppliers’ liability due to
wildfires. California Water Service, which operates Visalia and
22 other municipal water systems throughout the state, says the
threat of legal action against water suppliers is “arcane”
legal reasoning and could actually put water users at risk.
Keyes’ problems with unacceptable high levels of arsenic arose
in late 2006 when the district was issued a Notice of
Non-Compliance from the California Department of Public Health.
… The quality of Keyes’ drinking water had not deteriorated
but the Environmental Protection Agency had lowered the maximum
allowable contaminant level for arsenic from 50 parts per
billion to 10 parts per billion. Three of four Keyes wells were
testing at 12 to 14 parts per billion.
Senate Bill 1 is seen as a pre-emptive strike by California
lawmakers before the Trump administration ushers in new
biological opinions to alter water deliveries through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A jury has ordered Shell Oil Company to pay the City of Atwater
a total of $63 million in damages in a groundwater pollution
suit. The decision, reached Friday after a four-month trial in
Merced County Superior Court, awarded Atwater $53 million in
compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages,
according to a news release from the city.
Water deliveries in the Fresno Irrigation District typically
end in September, but they could last until November this year.
The extra deliveries will allow growers to not only irrigate
but also to bank some water for future use.
What Public Works Director Mark Houghton touts as “Manteca’s
own refinery” is now converting methane gas generated at the
wastewater treatment plant along with food waste to produce
compressed liquefied gas. And in doing so, Manteca is well on
its way to effectively wiping out all CO2 impacts the
wastewater treatment process creates and then some.
Friant Water Authority is conducting geotechnical
investigations this summer along the outer banks of the
Friant-Kern Canal in southern Tulare County to determine if the
soil may support construction of a second canal running
parallel to the first. The reason for the research is the
capacity of this key, eastside Valley canal has been reduced
60% due to land subsidence caused by years of vigorous
groundwater pumping …
Environmental groups are calling for increased scrutiny of
California’s oil and gas industry after learning that more than
50 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the ground in an
uncontrolled release near a Chevron facility in Kern County
over the last 16 years.
State oil and gas regulators say they’re launching an
investigation of operations in a Kern County oil field after a
series of large, uncontrolled crude petroleum releases near
Chevron wells — including one that has continued on and off for
more than 16 years and may have spewed out more than 50 million
gallons of crude oil.
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
While the massive release of crude petroleum from a Chevron oil
well near the town of McKittrick seems to have ended, the
timeline for hauling away soil contaminated by the spill is
unclear. “The full extent of the required site remediation is
not known at this time and will be fully scoped with
appropriate regulatory agencies,” said Eric Laughlin, a
spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife…
Minimal restrictions, ample land and a strong farming tradition
have made Kern the state’s No. 1 hemp-growing county in the
four months since California began registering growers of the
non-psychoactive form of cannabis.
Farmers, experts and lawmakers are working to find more
sustainable ways to droughtproof farms and address the vexed
issue of water allocation. And it turns out many farmers and
water experts in California are looking to Australia for
answers as they face up to the biggest water reforms in the
history of the US.
Moderator Kathleen Schock spoke with advocates on both sides of
the issue, John Harris of Harris Farms and Kim Delfino with
Defenders of Wildlife. Dr. Lisa Bryant, Assistant Professor of
Political Science at Fresno State also joined the conversation.
California has long been a top producer of oil. But that may
change. Some hope that change will accelerate under Gov. Gavin
Newsom, who has called for a decrease in the demand and supply
of fossil fuels. A recent massive spill in Chevron’s Cymric
oilfield in Kern County, about 35 miles west of Bakersfield,
prompted a major regulatory shakeup and could bolster that
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Outside the walls of the lab lies an environment increasingly
unfit for fish like delta smelt. The Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, some 40 miles inland from the San Francisco Bay, is a
1,100-square-mile tidal marsh that for millennia teemed with
salmon, shellfish, tule elk, deer, and waterfowl — all of which
supported a Native American population of about 300,000 people.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
California’s water regulator voted Tuesday to spend $1.3
billion over the next 10 years to provide safe drinking water
to communities throughout California. The money allocated by
the State Water Resources Control Board comes from the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund, created last month when Gov.
Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 200.
Ask around and many agree: just the sight of water in the Kern
River on a hot day has its own cooling effect. … Lucky for
us, water is expected to remain in the river for weeks to come,
though it won’t be quite as deep and full as it has been in the
Despite being one of the wettest seasons, Cal Water officials
are saying conservation should be on Californians’ minds. Cal
Water special projects manager, Susan Cordone, said, “It is
important to continue to practice conservation. One wet winter
does not make it, allow us to go back to our old ways of using
water just as we wish.”
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
The Clovis City Council in July approved an amended deal with
the Fresno Irrigation District concerning the conveyance of
Kings River water to the city’s water system. … The agreement
includes “the addition of a new water supply to meet future
City growth and support implementation of the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
The more than 1 million Californians without access to safe,
affordable drinking water may soon see money flowing for water
districts to regionalize, consolidate, install treatment, or
take other actions to improve water quality.
GAR Tootelian, a major agricultural chemical company, and
Families Protecting the Valley are rolling up their sleeves to
put up several hundred road signs calling for action to build
more dam storage and the message is simple: Dam Water Grows
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
Waverly Elementary School has levels of a chemical called TCP
in its drinking water that are above state standards. The
Linden Unified School District, which the school is part of,
tests for water contaminants throughout the year and found that
between April of 2018 and March of 2019 the water violated the
The State Water Project helped make Kern County the number one
agricultural county in the nation and ensures Bakersfield
always has a clean, high quality supply of drinking water while
protecting our region against drought. The State Water Project
reflects our past generation’s drive to make California the
great state it is today.
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act has presented some challenges, however it appears the
overall process is progressing smoothly overall. Supervising
Engineering Geologist with the Department of Water Resources,
Steven Springhorn noted that the stakeholders have been
diligent in adhering to the timeline established by the
Cal Water needs power in order to meet state and federal water
quality standards. But meeting those standards got more
difficult for Cal Water. The California Public Utilities
Commission gave power companies the ability to turn off the
power to prevent wildfires after last year’s deadly wildfires
in Paradise, California.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
Under U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and California
regulations, when oil companies want to use “cyclic steam”
blasting or steam flooding, they’re required to submit an
“underground injection control,” or UIC, application to state
regulators. But state employees said at least 12 ”dummy”
project folders appear to have been used over the past
several years to wrongly issue permits, including by
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
There’s no law of nature nor of economics that says water must
be delivered by a government agency. Yet in California, nearly
every drop of flowing water is under the boot of a public
authority — local boards, state authorities and federal
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
As the Tejon Tribe casino makes its way through the regulatory
process, concerns have been raised over the impact the complex
will have on the county’s groundwater. However, county
officials believe the casino may actually use less water than
the farms that currently occupy the planned site just south of
Bakersfield. But questions do remain …
An important but not widely-publicized local planning process
reached a milestone with the July release of the draft
Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Eastern San Joaquin
Subbasin. This is the public’s first chance to see how
groundwater in this region may be managed for the next 20
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
Instead of piles of trash, Larry Metcalf sees things like an
older man who’s out every day picking it up. He’s also seen a
big rise in people out on the trails, “and everybody seems to
like it. … The trails are nice, the jumps are nice. They’re
made for all-around riders.”
In California, money does grow on trees. Almonds constitute a
$5.6 billion industry, and 2.26 billion pounds were shipped
from California last year to be roasted and salted, or turned
into anything from frothy, barista-friendly almond milk to
marzipan sold on the streets of Berlin.
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
Over the past 18 months, the three Groundwater Sustainability
Agencies (GSAs) in the Merced Subbasin have worked together to
develop a Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that is
now available for public review and comment.
The city of Stockton is working to fix a broken bubbling system
that has caused an overgrowth of harmful algae along the
Stockton waterfront. People who work near the deepwater channel
believe the green sludge is preventing others from playing on
People are watering their property during time periods when
watering is restricted because of rising temperatures, Lemoore
Utilities Manager John Souza said. “There have definitely been
some violations this summer,” Souza said.
I’m here with Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president
emeritus of the Pacific Institute. Peter serves on the Circle
of Blue Board of Trustees from his base in California, where
Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill directing some $130
million to improve access to clean drinking water for many
The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork
landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush
scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California
Aqueduct bringing water from the north. … Solar energy
projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that
may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s
agriculture industry to scale back.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Colorado
School of Mines (Mines) is developing a microbe-based system
that could remove toxic compounds from oilfield produced water
so it can be reused in other water-intensive sectors such as
agriculture and energy production.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
When the news broke, in the second week of July, that nearly
800,000 gallons of oil and water had spilled into a dry
creekbed from an oil production facility in Kern County, it
sounded rare and dramatic. But the spill was unique only in its
magnitude. In the oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley, spills
and seeps of oil, wastewater and oil-laced wastewater are as
common as the wind storms that episodically blanket the Valley
Water is key to everything in California. If you have control
of water in sufficient amounts you control your destiny. There
are three things on the horizon that city leaders had best pay
heed before they buy into the PG&E model regarding critical
and essential utilities and go for the money in the here and
now while ignoring long term consequences.
California Water Service announced a precautionary boil
advisory for residents in northeast Bakersfield. Around 5 p.m.
Saturday, the utility service received reports of low-water
pressure, or none at all. Crews confirmed the issue was caused
by malfunction in the computerized system that tracks tank
levels and regulates the pressurized water system.
Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is
progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of
the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina
Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and
David Orth with New Current Water and Land.
If credibility were measured like rainfall, the Trump
administration would be in the midst of a prolonged drought —
as evidenced most recently in its handling of plans to send
more water to California’s Central Valley.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.