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
This segment contains two interviews: In the first, KVPR
reporter Kerry Klein sheds light on what this document says and
does, and shares how San Joaquin Valley residents have
responded. In the second, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback
explains some fracking basics, including what is and isn’t
known about the technique’s impact on the environment.
Del Puerto Water District and Central California Irrigation
District have developed the reservoir project without many
public concerns rising to the surface. That was until Patterson
city staff members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. Maria
Encinas, a city management analyst, asked about a risk
assessment for adjacent communities like Patterson. A failure
in the dam on Del Puerto Creek, on the west side of Interstate
5, would appear to flood part of the city of 23,700, including
perhaps the downtown area in Patterson.
Once again, a big thirsty metropolis is looking at buying
Central Valley farmland with an eye toward boosting its water
supplies. And once again, neighboring farmers are nervous about
it. … And any proposal involving the movement of groundwater
from a rural area creates controversy, especially as farmers
begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly
negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced
County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a
move that could create a promising new water source — or spark
a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
It is hard to fathom how the fifth-largest economy in the world
can settle for letting public water systems serve up
contaminated water. How will our economy continue to grow and
how will we attract new businesses and new workers if the state
can’t provide a basic human need?
The majority of the dozens of commenters at the meeting spoke
out against the analysis and the prospect of increased fracking
in the region, expressing concerns about air pollution,
drinking water quality, and climate change. … Tempers at the
meeting also flared for what many attendees viewed as a lack of
accountability from the BLM. The agency did not record the
meeting, instead inviting attendees to submit written comments
online, electronically, and only in English.
The history of Traver, preserved in many books and archives, is
a study in land development, agriculture and irrigation. It
started when a civil engineer named Peter Y. Baker conceived a
plan to convert thousands acres of rangeland in northern Tulare
and southern Fresno counties into fields of wheat by diverting
water by canal from the Kings River.
The Bureau of Reclamation updated its 2019 allocation for the
Central Valley Project South-of-Delta, increasing the westside
water allocation to 70 percent of the contract total. Said
Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant: “The late storms
provided an added boost to the already above average
precipitation for 2019. Snowpack throughout the state is still
about 150% of average for this time of year.”
The Senate voted 37-1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would
create a fund dedicated to improving the state’s drinking
water. But the bill is clear the money could not come from a
new tax on water bills. Instead, Senate leaders have signaled
their intention to use $150 million of existing taxpayer money
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
In 2016, California became the first state to pass legislation
regulating dairy methane, requiring the farms to cut their
manure emissions 40% by 2030. … Enter Neil Black. Black’s
company builds multimillion-dollar projects at the state’s
largest dairies to capture the gas.
Members of Friends of the River and the Sierra Club are
planning a presentation on a controversial episode in Mother
Lode history, when activists unsuccessfully tried to prevent
flooding of a raftable section of the Stanislaus River by
rising water levels in New Melones Reservoir in the 1970s and
1980s. … The event is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday this week
at Tuolumne County Library, 480 Greenley Road in Sonora.
Kern’s oil industry took a pass Tuesday on a public hearing
focused on the environmental impacts of fracking, handing the
day to dozens of anti-oil activists who convened in downtown
Bakersfield to rail against the technique and the threat of
climate change. … The event was one of three hearings the BLM
is hosting as part of its plan to reopen federal land in
California to oil production.
City water will be flowing to yet another community living in
county jurisdiction with the state forcing the City Council’s
Monday action to supply water service to the privately owned
Ceres West Mobile Home Park. … The park, which was approved
by the county in 1969, had limited options to supply drinking
water to its residents because water from an on-site well
exceeds state limits for arsenic and nitrates.
Tulare County Supervisors will vote to approve a letter of
support for proposed legislation that will bring up to $3.5
billion for water infrastructure improvements. The money comes
at a cost to California’s biggest undertaking — high-speed
The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield office is set to hold
a meeting Tuesday over a White House proposal that would expand
oil drilling and fracking on more than a million acres of
public land across the state. … The proposal includes 40 new
wells over the next 10 years on roughly 400,000 acres of public
land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate — land
where the surface is owned privately, but the mineral rights
beneath the ground are managed by the federal government.
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer
Clean water is important, and there are a million people in the
Central Valley without access to it. But do we need a new tax
to pay for it? Maybe we don’t. Just last week, a state Senate
budget subcommittee eliminated Gov. Newsom’s recommendation for
a water tax and replaced it with a $150 million continuous
appropriation from the General Fund.
Bruce Blodgett is executive director of the farm bureau in San
Joaquin County, California’s cherry bowl. The mid-May downpour
and his windshield wipers told him everything he needed to
know: His county’s record ready-to-pick yield of sweet cherries
– one of San Joaquin’s most lucrative crops even amid the
county’s winemaking renaissance – was in serious danger.
Mark Arax’s new book, “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust
Across California,” explores how the quest to find and move
water has always been essential to the California Dream. … He
sat down with California Report Magazine Host Sasha Khokha.
A presentation to the Madera City Council Wednesday evening
focused on current water usage, projected peak water demands
and highlighted the immediate need for a new 2.5 million-gallon
concrete water storage tank to meet the water needs of today’s
users and also to meet required fire-flow targets. The
estimated cost of the project is more than $18 million…
Aidee Guzman is focusing on these small farms to find out
whether, ecologically, this diversity has any positive effects
on soil health. Her work won’t be published for another two
years, but there is already a large body of research that
explains how large monocropping operations strip soils of their
nutrients and make them less capable of storing carbon… As
she works, she is documenting a potential alternative to the
industrial mega-farms of the valley and the West.
When you hear news about ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica,
an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, or a new
explanation for a wobble in Earth’s rotation, you might not
realize that all these findings may rely on data from one
When the federal government reduced how much arsenic it would
allow in drinking water in 2006, the water system in Jim
Maciel’s Central Valley community was suddenly considered
unsafe to drink. Bringing that arsenic content back down to a
safe level required a lot of work, as he explains to a few
colleagues at a water leadership institute in Visalia.
At the 28th California Water Policy conference held in April of
2019, a panel discussed how tribal lands and tribal
representatives, as independent nations, can be integrated into
SGMA implementation, what some of the obstacles to doing so
are, and how those hurdles might be transcended.
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
Last month there was an 8 percent increase in water compared to
April 2018. Meanwhile the population over the same time period
went up 2,759 residents or just over a 3 percent increase. …
Using a five-year yardstick with the city adding just over
9,000 residents since 2014, per capita water consumption is
down by more than 10 percent from April 2014 to April 2019.
Estimates vary, and can change as the water year progresses,
but the Kern River basin, the rivers and streams that collect
the water that flows into Isabella Lake and downstream toward
Bakersfield, is estimated to be at 172 percent of normal,
possibly more. And all that ice and snow is starting to melt,
big time. Are local water managers ready?
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
No family should have to live in a community in which the water
that comes from their taps puts their children’s health at
risk. Over the last several years, the state has authorized
millions of dollars for emergency actions and one-time patches,
but has shied from doing what’s necessary to sustainably solve
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
By monitoring tiny changes to the Earth’s gravitational field,
the GRACE satellites have been pinpointing the distribution of
fresh water on our planet for almost two decades. But as Marric
Stephens explains, a new follow-on mission is also helping with
plans for a space-based gravitational-wave detector
Newsom … said he would announce his administration’s detailed
strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor
was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say
if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic
fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of
high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits.
There’s a need to use the available surface water from rivers,
lakes, and reservoirs so the groundwater can replenish itself.
That’s where the new Southeast Fresno Surface Water Treatment
Facility comes in. … Michael Carbajal, Director of Public
Utilities for the City of Fresno. says that before 2004, we
used 100% groundwater to meet drinking water demand. “We’re
hoping to get up over 50% meaning, 50% of our drinking water
demand through surface water,” says Carbajal.
The winter was wet, and the memories of California’s
record-setting drought years are receding. But as the weather
warms and irrigation systems are once again operating, city
officials remind local residents that Newman’s water
conservation rules remain in effect.
Have you visited Woodward Park recently? The 300-acre park in
Northeast Fresno … exist thanks to a little known, but
important federal program called the Land and Water
Conservation Fund. It was started 50 years ago with a simple
yet brilliant goal: Take money from oil and gas drilling and
put it toward the conservation of America’s public lands, parks
and other outdoor places.
An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired
deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming
farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money
with no relief in sight. Though nearly four years have passed
since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District
agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the
deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be
measured in inches.
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center,
testified today (April 30, 2019) before the Assembly
Subcommittee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, at a hearing on
balancing water needs into the future in the San Joaquin
Valley. Here are her prepared remarks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
One of the most frequently recurring themes of last week’s
business conference of California agricultural appraisers was
the impact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as
SGMA, is having on land values. … Another recurring theme was
the tight availability of farm employees and the rising costs
associated with those employees. One result has been the
increase in plantings of nut crops, which require fewer people
to tend and harvest.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
As a full Tuolumne River flowed behind them, a diverse set of
government leaders and water stakeholders gathered alongside
Congressman Josh Harder Wednesday afternoon in Modesto to unite
under one important cause: protecting water in the Central
A 174-page environmental report released by the U.S. Interior
Department will expedite new extraction on roughly 1 million
acres of Central and Southern California, primarily in the
historical oil fields around Bakersfield and the deep petroleum
deposits near Santa Barbara but potentially in the Sierra
Nevada as well.
Surviving an exhaustive maze of manmade barriers and hungry
predators, a hardy group of salmon have beat the odds and
returned to spawn in one of California’s most-heavily dammed
rivers. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says for the first time
in over 65 years, threatened spring-run Chinook adult salmon
have returned to the San Joaquin River near Fresno to complete
their life cycle.
In Solano County, near Sacramento, [Alex] Johnson is working on
what he says could be a model for parched ag regions around the
state. … Last month, working with IBM and a company
called SweetSense, Johnson’s team began deploying simple,
solar-powered sensors, originally developed to monitor creaky
groundwater pumps in East Africa. The sensors will be used to
detect how much water is flowing in real-time. … Farmers will
use that data to trade their water on (what else?) a blockchain
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, thinks there is a better way to
find water solutions for California’s Central Valley and to
stop squandering water in wet years that’s needed in dry years.
His bipartisan water legislation unveiled Wednesday promises
federal support for storage and innovation projects to address
shortages that too often plague Valley agriculture and
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft … has
ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s
Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above
them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know
where this type of remedy will be most effective.
The 80 homes that make up Tooleville nestle against the mighty
Friant-Kern Canal, thousands of gallons of fresh water flowing
each day past the two-street town. But none of that water can
help Tooleville’s decades-old problem of contaminated water,
chronicled at the start of this decade in a three-part series
by The Bee on the San Joaquin Valley water crisis. Nearby
Exeter might, though, giving a rise of newfound hope.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
While all other Central Valley Project contractors’ allocations
were previously increased to 100% of their contract totals in
recent months, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday
that agricultural districts South-of-Delta will receive only
65% percent of their historic water allocation. … In light of
current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, Westlands Water
District officials said this minor increase in water allocation
For some, like almond grower Jose Robles of Modesto, climate
change was an afterthought, if that. That’s something they talk
about in Sacramento, he says, not where he lives and works. But
in December, the ground under Robles’ almond trees was a carpet
of green, full of mustard plant and clover. … His neighbors
really don’t understand it.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
The cider, the apple pies and the scenery are just some of the
things that draw people to Bloomingcamp Ranch near Oakdale.
Today, the business that’s served customers for more than 40
years faces an uncertain future because of state regulations
that target small public water systems, the owners said.
Legionnaires’ disease bacteria that killed one inmate and
sickened another is more widespread than expected in a
California state prison, officials said Wednesday, citing new
test results. Preliminary results found the bacteria in the
water supply at a prison medical facility in Stockton and at
two neighboring youth correctional facilities… The bacteria
weren’t detected in the Stockton city water supply, though the
city supplies water to the state facilities.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
Oakwood Lakes Water District that serves a gated community and
a mobile home park just outside of the southwest Manteca city
limits needs to expand and upgrade its wastewater treatment
plant. Manteca needs to find a way to send storm water from a
large swath of southwest Manteca to the San Joaquin River. The
two needs have led to a proposed agreement between the water
district and the city …
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
At least 11 Democratic senators asked the inspector general to
investigate a range of claims against Bernhardt … The
inspector general also received a request from Democratic Sens.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut, asking the office to examine whether Bernhardt
played a role in the department’s handling of endangered
species in the San Francisco Bay Delta…
A bill moving through the state legislature looks to make
repairs and enhancements to the Friant-Kern Canal. Senate Bill
559 was authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado, representing the
14th Senate District, and was co-authored by several other San
Joaquin Valley lawmakers. The legislation recently advanced
through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
with a vote of 7 to 0.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
Even as winter and early-spring storms have filled reservoirs
to the brim and piled snow on Sierra Nevada mountaintops, state
and federal officials say they’re limited in how much water
they can send south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had
an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new
study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s
notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s
efforts to clear the skies.
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
Should the governor want to do away with fracking, he could
issue an emergency order placing a moratorium on it. But the
public hasn’t heard from Newsom on the issue as he has laid out
his initial priorities, and his staff did not answer questions
from CALmatters about his current leanings.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state
ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first
phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project
based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part
of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from
Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward
servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and
other capital costs associated with getting the project ready
The State Water Board was given the power to force a larger,
better run utility to absorb a smaller neighbor that
consistently fails to deliver clean water. They would like
South Kern to connect to Bakersfield’s system, which serves
high-quality water to 144,000 people. … The three sides have
been in negotiations for two and a half years, a struggle
between one of the largest cities in California’s Central
Valley, state officials, and two tiny water suppliers that is
the first significant test of the four-year-old statute.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
The legislation, which received bipartisan support, will invest
$400 million from the State’s General Fund towards the
Friant-Kern Canal, one of the Central Valley’s most critical
water delivery facilities.
Casey Hashimoto, general manager of the Turlock Irrigation
District since 2010, announced Tuesday that he will retire at
the end of 2019. The leader of one of Stanislaus County’s
largest water and power providers disclosed his plans at the
morning board meeting. Hashimoto, an electrical engineer,
joined TID in 1985 and was an assistant GM for 10 years.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
Join us as we guide you on a virtual journey through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
This virtual experience focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, the southern part of the vast region, which is facing challenges after years of drought, dwindling water supplies, decreasing water quality and farmland conversion for urban growth. The tour gives participants an understanding of the region’s water use and issues as well as the agricultural practices, including new technologies and water-saving measures.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental
Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality
standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. …
“The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA
misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined
almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin
McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
The Amended Plan … has touched off a series of lawsuits due
to its controversial unimpaired flow requirements for the Lower
San Joaquin River and its tributaries … The Federal
Government’s lawsuits challenge the Amended Plan by asserting
that it fails to comply with CEQA and congressional mandates
that control the operation of the New Melones Dam, which is
part of the federally run Central Valley Project (CVP).
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December
to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction
of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue
voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw
this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the
executive director, and many of the activist staff.
The water tax will require a two-thirds vote in each house.
Democrats have that and a little to spare. Still, the governor
will need to use all his power of cajolery and coercion to win
passage of any tax increase.
A previously unreleased invoice indicates that David Bernhardt,
President Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department,
continued to lobby for a major client several months after he
filed official papers saying that he had ended his lobbying
activities. The bill for Mr. Bernhardt’s services, dated March
2017 and labeled “Federal Lobbying,” shows, along with other
documents, Mr. Bernhardt working closely with the Westlands
Water District as late as April 2017, the month Mr. Trump
nominated him to his current job, deputy interior secretary.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits
against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River
tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to
learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court
battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own
lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
A new rule goes into effect today that will help protect
California’s groundwater. … The new standards for oilfield
injection are some of the strongest in the nation. They require
stricter permitting standards, regular mechanical integrity
testing and routine pressure monitoring – all necessary
ingredients for safeguarding groundwater.
Armed with a recent court ruling that climate change must be
considered in decisions to open federal land to oil and gas
drilling, conservationists shot the opening volley Thursday in
what promises to be a protracted legal battle over the future
of fracking and oil drilling in Northern California.
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is
showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the
feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging
groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry
Brown and former first lady Anne Gust Brown, in their first
public appearance since he left office in January, spoke to
about 100 attendees about the daunting challenges they face
living on a self-sustaining farm: installing solar panels for
power, collecting water from a well, and tending to an olive
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued
Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate
billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other
struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control
Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help
steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley
farmers and a handful of cities.
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Rate increases are being proposed in part to help pay for
improvements to the Regional Wastewater Control Facility, which
is set to go through the first phase of a modification project
aimed at extending the life of existing amenities at the plant.
The modification project will also improve working conditions
for employees, and bring the site into compliance with national
pollutant discharge standards.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.
This is a very worthy cause. But needed improvements can easily
be paid for with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus
or with the billions in approved state water bonds. Imposing a
first-ever tax on something as basic as water is a horrible
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California
agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of
crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a
price, however, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in
the county and elsewhere in California have left some aquifers
severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less
than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects
groundwater for the long term yet ensures that Kern County’s
economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
France and California face a common challenge of managing
overdraft in intensively exploited aquifers. As of 2018, large
areas of France and California have overexploited groundwater
(see maps below). And both regions have passed landmark
groundwater legislation, the Loi sur l’Eau et les Milieux
Aquatiques (LEMA) of 2006 in France and the Groundwater
Sustainable Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 in California.
Water levels and flows on area rivers are looking similar to
conditions in 2017 when there were more than double the water
rescues compared to average years. “Everyone should treat the
river like a wild animal,” said Stanislaus Consolidated Fire
Protection District Captain Jeff Frye. “Enjoy it from afar.”
Field D-17 on the Bowles Farming Company’s ranch in
California’s Central Valley is dry and unplanted when I visit
it with Emery Silberman in the spring. … Mounted there, he
shows me, is a small piece of equipment from a company called
WaterBit that’s designed to provide more granular control of
conditions in the field … to save on valuable resources like
water and fertilizer.
The upgraded facility can now handle an average of 18 million
gallons per day, with a wet weather flow capacity of up to 36
million gallons. There’s also room for growth, with the
facility designed to accommodate up to an average of 22 million
gallons per day with the addition of added MBR cassettes.
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150
million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion
— the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as
much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem
section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about
$400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal
adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced
the most subsidence.
Water storage at New Melones Reservoir in southeastern
Calaveras County is currently at 84 percent of its 2.4 million
acre-feet capacity – 35 percent higher than its 15-year average
for March… Although the dam’s emergency spillway has never
been tested, Reclamation has been proactively releasing water
in anticipation of snowpack runoff.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver
more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those
changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this
interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer
about why, and what’s at stake.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project
allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019
water year. The California Department of Water Resources
announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70
percent for most state water contractors. The department
transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern
County Water Agency.
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting
state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of
farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The
bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water
supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair
subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to charge California water customers up
to $10 per month to help clean up contaminated water in
low-income and rural areas, but he will face resistance from
some legislative Democrats hesitant to impose new taxes. …
Newsom wants to combine it with fees on animal farmers, dairies
and fertilizer sellers to raise about $140 million per year.
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new
environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an
emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers
with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater
problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been battling the
destructive Nutria for two years. State biologists believe it
will be another three years before they win the war against the
pesky rodent. The nutria is considered a triple threat to
Valley wetlands, agriculture and water delivery systems.
We’re having one of the best rainfall seasons in years, with
drought conditions easing for much of the state. But one of the
nation’s leading oceanographers says there’s much more involved
before the impacts of the drought are completely gone, and that
it could take years to replenish groundwater supplies.
According to new research, the San Joaquin Valley aquifer in
the Central Valley shrank permanently by up to 3 percent due to
excess pumping during the sustained dry spell. Combined with
the loss from the 2007 to 2009 drought, the aquifer may have
lost up to 5 percent of its storage capacity during the first
two decades of the 21st Century, according to … a new study
published in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid
The statewide snowpack has reached 160 percent of its annual
year-to-date average and the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra
Nevada can be seen from Highway 198. … But, if you think
that’s a lot of rain, think again. Sunday marks the 113th
anniversary of the 1906 flood, which filled Visalia’s downtown
streets with about a foot of water. The water didn’t dissipate
for 10 days.
Water is coming out from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River.
The dam is at about 82 percent of capacity, and the warm
weather is melting the mountain snow. Michael Jackson, area
director for the Bureau of Reclamation, says the flow out of
the dam is being increased. Flood releases don’t usually start
until April, so the extra water is good news for valley
growers, with extra irrigation water available.
Manteca is preparing to spend $14.3 million to make sure ground
water from five wells meet higher standards implemented by the
state of California when it comes to acceptable levels of
1,2,3-Trichloroprane — a Shell Oil and Dow Chemical product
used in certain soil fumigants area farmers used between 1950
and 1980 — that is found in drinking water.
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation
for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural
water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55
percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and
farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the
healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s
announcement is a disappointment.
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the
background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges
in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for
growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water
District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow
packs and filling reservoirs.
They are a semiaquatic South American rodent a bit smaller than
a beaver. Females can give birth three times a year and have up
to 12 babies each litter. They are really good at tearing up
crops, burrowing tunnels into levees, and other destructive
behavior that is tough on farmers. And they’ve been discovered
in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a major food-producing
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can
be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work
together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food
bill and for years it has given support to farming communities.
It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
It won’t arrive in time for this wet winter, but hopes are
rising that Central Valley politicians will soon deliver on one
of their top political goals in recent years: investment in
California water storage. Bills introduced last week by
Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,
would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project
toward a series of reservoir projects, as well as repairs to a
canal serving Kern County farmers.
Sacramento law makers have shown little interest in helping the
Valley solve its water problems yet the only path forward is to
get them to take interest in the area that grows most of the
state, and the nation’s food. A panel discussion last Wednesday
at the Citrus Showcase, an industry conference for growers
hosted by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM),
discussed the looming deadline for local governments to comply
with the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA).
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
California’s Central Valley is already the bread basket for the
nation. But now a new Oakdale company — in partnership with the
University of California, Davis — wants to help make it the
hemp capital of the country. The California Hemp Corporation
was formed by Oakdale residents Jeff McPhee and Kent Kushar
last year… “We want to grow hemp up and down the San Joaquin
Valley, just like every other one of our crops,” McPhee said.
“This crop will change California.”
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem
to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin
Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate
water game, the words are inextricably linked.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in
Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the
state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as
well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon
a common frustration among many valley Republicans that
billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed
rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of
groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation
wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to
pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves
available to cope with future droughts. Groundwater overdraft
has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional
infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least
4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from
Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something
unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra
Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point
that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about
1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials
would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as
would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using
the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come
A “major problem” in southeast Tulare County forced hundreds of
people out of their homes and endangered thousands of animals.
… Tulare County Sheriff’s Department was sent scrambling to
notify residents in the area of Strathmore that Frazier Creek
Canal spilled over and water levels were rising. Frazier Creek
is directly linked to the Friant-Kern Canal. … Friant-Kern
Water Authority officials later determined the flooding wasn’t
caused by “overtopping” of the Friant-Kern Canal’s banks. The
issue was drainage from Frazier Creek.
Months of record rain and snowfall has officially lifted the
Central Valley — and much of the state — out of official
drought conditions. Just 1 percent of California is
experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S.
Drought Monitor. That’s a far cry from 2014 when 54 percent of
the state was in severe drought. With the drought declared dead
in California, will Tulare County cities begin to ease
restrictions on residential watering?
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in
2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more
water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in
a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds
of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural
economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his
promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water
supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity
of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera
County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop
Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in
Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and
the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include
farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the
state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which
requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground
More than 300 communities across the state and one out of every
four schools in the Central Valley lack access to safe drinking
water, according to the state Water Board. … Responding to
the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for a new water tax.
If the proposal passes, the levy will generate $110 million in
annual revenue. But some Californians – many working directly
with the state’s water authorities – oppose the plan. They say
there are better ways to raise the money needed than taxing tap
Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation
Thursday to repurpose federal funding for the high-speed rail
project. The Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water
Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act would take funding from
the high-speed rail project and use it for water infrastructure
projects in California and the West… McCarthy’s proposed
legislation is cosponsored by every Republican member of the
California Congressional Delegation.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together Thursday to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
water across the Golden State.
The Success Dam Enlargement Project, headed by the US Army
Corps of Engineers, has been working its way towards
construction since October 2018. … On Tuesday morning the
timeline was published, and it reveals that construction on the
Success Dam Enlargement Project will begin in mid 2020. Until
then, plenty of work is scheduled to happen before construction
The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to
speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water
from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a
move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science
and cuts the public out of the process. The decisions will
control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the
country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for
two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego,
and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.
Residents of Allensworth, a historic town established by a
former slave, have struggled with clean water access for
decades. … The community’s water system comes from two
blended wells, serving 521 residents with 156 connections. A
chlorination process removes most harmful bacteria, but the
water still tests high for arsenic, a known carcinogen that
damages the kidneys.
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management
can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct
or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The
stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the
North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action
about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community
involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the
twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of
hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
One of the key challenges facing newly formed local government
agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish
and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability. To help
local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West
examines how four special districts in California have
used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.
These case studies provide valuable insights on the development
and implementation of performance metrics and will be important
in guiding local agencies.
A spectacular snowpack and a series of storms in the San
Joaquin Valley are bringing smiles to valley farmers’ faces. On
Friday, the Fresno Irrigation District started moving water to
farms in the cities of Fresno, Clovis, and their surrounding ag
land. While this isn’t an early start compared to typical
years, the water is especially welcome after several drought
If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers
and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011
to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage.
In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a
project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies:
the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain.
Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the
interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful
Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center
filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by
partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying
work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to
Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain
endangered fish populations.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen
short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive.
Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni
of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has
insight as to why those involved with the project are still
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) said Senate Bill 559,
will “help secure California’s water supply by investing $400
million toward restoring lost (delivery) capacity on the
Friant-Kern Canal, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s most
critical water delivery facilities.” … The $400 million would
be appropriated from the state general fund to the Department
of Water Resources to administer the repairs.
Local groundwater regulatory agencies set up under 2014
legislation in California are discussing future rationing
schemes with irrigators as they scramble to submit long-term
aquifer sustainability plans to the state by a deadline of
early next year. Local regulators are discussing a combination
of new supplies and land-use conversions, says David Orth, a
principal at the Fresno-based New Current Water and Land, LLC,
a strategic planning firm.
To help build leadership capacity and acquire water management
tools for valley communities, Self-Help Enterprises invites
water board members and staff, water leaders, and residents
from rural communities to participate in the 2019 Rural
Communities Water Managers Leadership Institute. The six-month
program is scheduled for March through August, with sessions
held one Saturday per month at Self-Help Enterprises in
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region
and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in
a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of
the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the
region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.
Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water
supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the
The most eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant in the
Northern San Joaquin Valley will be Manteca’s by the time 2020
rolls around. Not only is the treated water returned to the San
Joaquin River meeting the latest standards established by the
state for water quality, but within six months or so methane
gas — a major byproduct of the treatment process that typically
has to be burned — will no longer contribute to valley air
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.
Since 2006, California has been releasing periodic reports on
how the state should adapt to the potential impacts of climate
change. The most recent report is unique in that it also looks
at key climate risks from a regional perspective. Our news
director Alice Daniel recently spoke with Joshua Viers, a
watershed scientist at UC Merced and one of the authors of the
San Joaquin Valley assessment.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in 2012 filed a
14-page lawsuit demanding the Fish and Wildlife Service
protect the American eel as a threatened species under the ESA.
Bernhardt filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of a
California-based organization called the Center for
Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, also known as
CESAR. CESAR was, in fact, a group spun together by
conservatives with roots in Western farming and the Bush
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?
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
Although ending groundwater overdraft will bring long-term
benefits, it entails near-term costs. We find that only about a
quarter of the Valley’s groundwater deficit can be filled with
new supplies at prices farmers can afford. The rest must come
from managing demand. We estimate that ending the overdraft
will require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated
cropland out of production.
In December, the city began delivering recycled water through
its purple pipeline to the Tulare Irrigation District (TID)
following approval by the Department of Drinking Water (DDW).
Under an agreement signed in 2013, the city is obligated to
deliver 11,000 acre feet of recycled water to TID per year in
exchange for 5,500 acre feet of surface water used to recharge
the city’s groundwater. Since 2016, the city has received
enough surface water from TID to off set one year of
groundwater pumping for the entire city.
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.
San Joaquin Valley farmers on the east side will be getting
their full allocation of San Joaquin River water, while farmers
on the west side will be getting only 35 percent to start,
according to the 2019 initial water supply allocation released
Wednesday by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. … The
forecast prompted Westlands Water District, which covers
more than 1 million acres on the west side, to express concern
that the bureau is being too restrictive.
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
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
Congressman Kevin McCarthy led his California colleagues in
sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting a
substantial initial water supply allocation to Central Valley
Project contractors using authorities under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
Additionally, he and his colleagues from California also sent a
letter to the California Department of Water Resources calling
for an increase to the existing water supply allocation to
State Water Project contractors given current hydrological
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
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered
farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin
Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water
Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin
Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board.
… Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water
Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus.
… Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells
contaminated with nitrates.
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.
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
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
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the
former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation
district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising
renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more
California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a
former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves
farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most
influential customers of the federal government’s Central
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”.
Agricultural and environmental leaders spoke at the Water
Market Exchange Symposium in the Satellite Student Union on
Jan. 24 to share their perspectives on a water market exchange
program. The symposium featured speakers from water agencies,
environmental interests, disadvantaged community interests and
water market administrators.
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.
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 nutria invasion of California continues. Greg Gerstenberg,
a biologist and nutria operations chief with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 372 nutria had been
trapped in the state as of Jan. 10. Bruce Blodgett, executive
director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, wants
farmers and others who maintain levees to be aware.
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 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.
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that
the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all
of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the
transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an
infusion of water from northern California.
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.”
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
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
Most of the native habitat in California’s San Joaquin Desert
has been converted to row crops and orchards, leaving 35
threatened or endangered species confined to isolated patches
of habitat. A significant portion of that farmland, however, is
likely to be retired in the coming decades due to groundwater
overdraft, soil salinity, and climate change. A new study
… found that restoration of fallowed farmland could play a
crucial role in habitat protection and restoration strategies
for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and other endangered
Land subsidence from overpumping of San Joaquin Valley
groundwater sank portions of the Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River
to farms that help fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural
economy. A plan to fix it helped sink the $8.8 billion
Proposition 3 bond measure last November. Now San Joaquin
Valley water managers are trying to figure out another way to
restore the canal, not only to keep farmers farming, but to aid
the valley’s overtaxed groundwater aquifers. By Gary
Pitzer in Western Water.
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
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.
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.