Stretching along the eastern edge of the state, the Sierra Nevada
region incorporates more than 25 percent of California’s land
area and forms one of the world’s most diverse watersheds.
It features granite cliffs, lush forests and alpine meadows on
the westside, and stark desert landscapes at the base of the
eastside. Wildlife includes bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bear
and mountain lions, hawks, eagles, and trout.
The majority of total annual precipitation – in the form of rain
and snow – falls in the Sierra Nevada. Snowmelt from the Sierra
provides water for irrigation for farms that produce half of the
nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables, and also is a vital source
for dairies, which have made California the largest milk producer
in the country.
In addition, Sierra snowmelt provides drinking water to Sierra
Nevada residents and a portion of drinking water to 23 million
people living in cities stretching from the Bay Area to Southern
The California Tahoe Conservancy had planned to get started on
their $9 million, multi-stage Upper Truckee River project to
restore and enhance over 500 acres of floodplain this fall, but
that has been postponed until 2020. They will be redirecting
the Upper Truckee River flows to a historical network of
channels through the current Marsh while creating new channels
for the river in the vicinity of the Silverwood neighborhood.
Although prescribed burns have been part of federal fire policy
since 1995, last year the Forest Service performed them on just
one per cent—some sixty thousand acres—of its land in the
Sierra Nevada. “We need to be burning close to a million acres
each year, just in the Sierras, or it’s over,” said Jeff Brown,
manager of a field station in the Tahoe National Forest.
In a joint statement, the local utility providers announced
that the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project — a dam, reservoir,
spillway and powerhouse that generates electricity north of
Placerville on the South Fork of the American River — would be
changing hands after SMUD’s board of directors voted Thursday
evening to greenlight the purchase.
A dozen conservationists gathered eagerly around the edges of
some shallow pools above a waterfall in the Angeles National
Forrest. They watched with anticipation as about a thousand
Southern mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles and three adult
frogs enjoyed their first few minutes of life in the wild.
It was happy hour at the “Frog Shack,” a tiny building at the
Los Angeles Zoo offering all the amenities that Southern
California’s rarest — and perhaps fussiest — amphibians might
need to survive. … This is where Ian Recchio, the zoo’s
curator of reptiles and amphibians, is performing what some
call miracle work in keeping alive a federally endangered
species, one of the rarest vertebrates on Earth.
As the sun sets across Lake Tahoe, UC Davis researcher Brant
Allen and his team lower their sonar machine into the lake.
Thousands of little purple dots rise across the screen as they
cross the lake. … It’s not fish or Tahoe Tessie; it’s a horde
of tiny mysis shrimp, which researchers think have been making
the lake murkier since they were introduced in the 1960s.
Nowadays there’s about a 7 percent chance that snowy areas in
the western U.S. will get two really bad snow years in a
row—years with snowpack lower than a quarter of the long-term
average. But within a few decades, if climate change continues
apace, those bookending “snow droughts” could occur about 40
percent of the time, according to work published in August in
Geophysical Research Letters.
For five decades, PG&E paid for and operated the Colgate
Powerhouse in exchange for the revenue generated by the
hydroelectric generation. But now, instead of tens of millions
of dollars flowing out to the utility, that agreement has
expired and the revenue, potentially as much as $30 million per
year, is flowing back into the Yuba Water Agency.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
The tactic is considered one of the best ways to prevent the
kind of catastrophic destruction that has become common from
wildfires, but its use falls woefully short of goals in the
U.S. West. A study published in the journal Fire in April found
prescribed burns on federal land in the last 20 years across
the West has stayed level or fallen despite calls for more.
The proposal would upend long-held environmental practices that
have been in place since 1970, and make it easier for timber
harvesting and bulldozing forest roads in all 20 of
California’s federal forests…
In a newly published study, my colleagues and I analyze
year-to-year variations of future snowpack to see how
frequently western states can expect multiple years in a row of
snow drought, or very low snow. We find that if climate change
continues relatively unabated, consecutive years with snow
drought conditions will become much more common…
During the past 107 years, daily air temperatures measured in
Tahoe City have increased. The average daily maximum
temperature has risen by 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit, and the
average daily minimum temperature has risen by 4.43 degrees.
According to the report, the number of days when air
temperatures averaged below freezing has declined by about 30
days since 1911, though year-to-year variability is high.
From the infamous “Garbage Patch” islands of floating plastic
to the guts of fish and bellies of birds, plastics of all sizes
are ubiquitous and well-documented in the ocean. But little
data exists on microplastics in lakes. If Katie Senft’s
preliminary research at one of the clearest, cleanest lakes in
the world is any indication, the problem is widespread in
freshwater systems, as well.
Litigation over water rights in western Nevada began as early
as 1864 on the Carson River and just a bit later the Truckee
River when the first retaining dam was built at Lake Tahoe’s
outlet. It was just the beginning of bi-state water wars
between the Silver State and California, a volatile conflict
that continued for well more than a century.
Tammy Waller thought she was one of the lucky ones after her
home in Magalia survived California’s most destructive wildfire
ever, but her community remains a ghostly skeleton of its
former self. Hazmat crews are still clearing properties, and
giant dump trucks haul away toxic debris. Signs on the water
fountains in the town hall say, “Don’t drink.”
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with a Montana
Republican to craft a bill that would expedite logging and
other forest management projects near electrical transmission
lines and roads in an effort to head off catastrophic
wildfires. The bill is also aimed at slowing or stopping
lawsuits that block logging projects on federal land.
In Jamestown work has begun on a new $13.73-million wastewater
treatment facility that should be operational by September of
2021. The facility is being built on property along Karlee Lane
that was purchased by the Jamestown Sanitary District in 1993
for the sole purpose of constructing a future plant.
It’s been over 150 years since the rivers in Yosemite National
Park flowed freely to the ocean without interruption by dams
and reservoirs. … But, as a study by researchers from the
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Santa Cruz revealed,
even after a century and a half, the ocean-run legacy of
Yosemite’s rainbow trout lives on in their DNA…
Lake Tahoe, with its iconic blue waters straddling the borders
of Nevada and California, continues to face a litany of threats
related to climate change. But a promising new project to
remove tiny, invasive shrimp could be a big step toward
climate-proofing its famed lake clarity.
People may want to think twice before taking a dip in the
green-tinted water near the Parrotts Ferry Bridge at New
Melones Reservoir, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
officials. The water’s greenish hue is due to a cyanobacteria
bloom that was first detected in the Middle Fork of the
Stanislaus River upstream of the reservoir on July 17.
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed and flooded nearly
100 years ago, but the prospect of draining the reservoir
continues to inspire romantic imaginings… The fantasy of
Hetch Hetchy’s grand return was recently given new dimensions
with the release of an economic assessment concluding that the
valley represents a sunken treasure trove of tourism revenue.
A caravan of scientists, staffers and water watchers wound its
way through the maze of roads on Owens Lake last week in search
of answers: Are the dust control measures working and will this
project ever be done? The answers are yes and probably not,
The water cycle is the movement of water on the planet — from
falling as precipitation, such as rain, ice or snow, to being
absorbed in the soil or flowing into groundwater and streams
and then being evaporated to start all over again. Research by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey shows water has been
moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages of
the cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
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.
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
After a few horrific years of extreme wildfires, California has
been taking steps to reduce future risks with new programs,
increased funding, and new policy efforts. We talked to Van
Butsic—a land use scientist at UC Berkeley and an adjunct
fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about these efforts.
In Paradise, which was nearly leveled by the fire, many water
lines were declared unsafe to drink from… The local
irrigation district has worked to replace the pipes. When it
asked for more help across the state, Rancho California Water
District answered from more than 500 miles away, sending a
caravan of trucks, tools and equipment — along with five
employees — to the charred Sierra Nevada foothills.
The new study capitalized on the unique data set available from
Yosemite’s Illilouette Basin, which is the only watershed in
the U.S. West with a restored fire regime where enough
hydrological data have been collected to allow model
validation. The results demonstrate how large-scale forest
restorations may affect water resources, a topic of
considerable interest across much of the region.
This month, a group of researchers working out of San Francisco
State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus received funding
for a five-year study to determine if restoring degraded
meadows to their former, more lush state could make these
ecosystems more effective tools for slowing the pace of climate
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it’s been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is
approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter
left enough water to potentially last through three summers of
District Fire Chief Todd McNeal, who proposed the project, said
the draft point will allow firefighters to pull raw water from
the reservoir during an emergency and take pressure off the
State and local officials believe benzene contamination in the
water systems in areas burned by the Camp Fire is limited to
isolated pockets after ongoing testing, they said at a
community meeting on Monday. … A no-drink advisory in the
Paradise Irrigation District will be lifted at each location as
testing confirms no unsafe levels of the chemicals in the
Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of
fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest
wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including
last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever. A
new study, published this week in the journal Earth’s Future,
finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s
being driven by climate change.
Fish die-offs in freshwater lakes are an increasing threat in
California, and experts say climate change is to blame. … In
a 2014-2017 report, the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife found that high summer temperatures were not only
worsening the quality of the water, but drying out freshwater
bodies that hosted endangered species.
Benthic macroinvertebrates, including insect larvae, worms,
snails, and other backbone-lacking creatures, often rule the
alpine waterways. However, their high-altitude homes put them
on the front lines of climate change, which threatens to have
major impacts on mountain streams. This is particularly true of
streams in the Sierra Nevada of California…
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
People in Paradise lost their homes and most of their town, and
then came more shocking news: Paradise’s water is contaminated
with benzene, which is known to cause cancer. … Now there is
legislation that will likely cause an increase in the cost of
bottled water at precisely a time when these communities are
trying to rebuild.
The Kern County Public Health Services Department recently
received water samples from eight different locations in Lake
Isabella, and two water samples indicated the presence of
blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, at a cautionary level. This
type of algae can be considered potentially harmful.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, reveals an
elegant formula to explain why some trees died and others
didn’t — and it suggests more suffering is in store for forests
as the climate heats up.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
Each of the selected projects strike at the heart of the Sierra
Nevada watershed improvement program, SNC’s large-scale
restoration initiative designed to improve ecosystem and
community resilience in the region.
Between 2012 and 2015, very little rain and snow fell on
California. Aquifers shrank and the land dried out. … New
research suggests the loss of deep-soil water best explains why
the mountain range’s trees were unable to withstand the drought
Signs of the strong winter that the Central Sierra experienced
in 2018-19 are all around Tuolumne County two weeks into
summer, from a record tying late opening for Tioga Pass in the
High Sierra on Monday to the nearly brimful New Melones
Reservoir in the foothills.
A catastrophic forest die-off in California’s Sierra Nevada
mountain range in 2015-2016 was caused by the inability of
trees to reach diminishing supplies of subsurface water
following years of severe drought and abnormally warm
As the 2018-19 water year came to a close Sunday,
record-setting snowpack in the Sierras and above-average rain
means several reservoirs are near full capacity heading into
the dry summer months. Here’s a look at the past 12 months of
Heavy snowfall in winter and spring in the Sierra Nevada,
followed by relatively cool then rising temperatures in June,
has led to an ongoing risk of avalanches into the summer —
posing a threat to long-distance hikers on the famed Pacific
Crest Trail, experts say.
As another fire season looms, here in the small city of Grass
Valley, as in much of Gold Country where historic mining towns
nestle up to sprawling, wooded mountains, things are different
this year. What used to be a leisurely wind down to summer,
marked by high school graduations and the excitement of
vacation, has become a rush to action.
When the Camp Fire struck last November, the upper Miocene
Canal, constructed mostly of wooden flumes, was destroyed. Now,
the most important part of the canal, receiving water from the
Feather River to the north, cannot convey water down through
the rest of the canal system.
The polling firm FM3 Research found that a plurality of
California voters surveyed (27 percent) said climate change is
behind state wildfires. Another 17 percent of voters believe
that human error is the leading cause of wildfires, 12 percent
believe it’s forest mismanagement and 11 percent believe it’s
The State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking
Water published guidance for testing the plumbing in buildings
that survived the fire. But that document is drawing criticism
from academic researchers who say that the recommendations,
published on June 14, are not thorough enough to detect all
potential instances of water contamination from plumbing within
The proposed rule changes include an expansion of “categorical
exclusions.” These are often billed as tools that give land
managers the discretion to bypass full-blown environmental
studies in places where they can demonstrate there would be no
severe impacts or degradation to the land.
The Paradise Irrigation District is still working to restore
clean water to the ridge. So far, the district is making big
strides toward turning non-potable water into drinking water in
the town. The district put a call out for volunteers in the
Camp Fire burn scar that would be willing to let them test
their water for the first two weeks of June.
The marathon stretch of unsettled weather means the reservoirs
are brimming, the rivers are rushing, the waterfalls are
spectacular, and people are still skiing in fresh powder in
Tahoe. But perhaps the most noteworthy outcome is a remarkably
gargantuan snowpack blanketing the mountain range straddling
California and Nevada. Right now, it’s even bigger than the
2017 snowpack that pulled the state out of a five-year drought.
In my 40 years at the California Department of Water Resources,
I have seen changes in climate that have convinced me that the
full picture is changing and our extrapolation methods are
losing value rapidly. This is especially true in extreme years,
wet or dry – such as 2015, when the statistics are just not
going to be accurate enough to meet our growing water
Mono and Inyo counties were handed a reprieve by the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission last Friday. The Commission’s
Division of Hydropower Licensing found Premium Energy’s
application for a closed loop system from reservoirs in the
Owens Gorge to the White Mountains “patently deficient.” That’s
the good news. The FERC did not find the project patently
deficient because of environmental or common sense reasons…
The study, published in the journal Ecological
Applications, found that thinning and prescribed fire
treatments reduced the number of trees that died during the
bark beetle epidemic and drought that killed more than 129
million trees across the Sierra Nevada between 2012-2016.
Dan Efseaff, the parks and recreation director for the
devastated town of Paradise, Calif., looks out over Little
Feather River Canyon in Butte County. The Camp Fire raced up
this canyon like a blowtorch in a paper funnel on its way to
Paradise, incinerating most everything in its path, including
scores of homes. Efseaff is floating an idea that some may
think radical: paying people not to rebuild in this slice of
Despite years of scientific research pointing to prescribed or
“controlled” burns as a successful method of clearing brush and
restoring ecosystems, intentional fire-setting by federal
agencies has declined in much of the West over the last 20
years, the study found. “This suggests that the best available
science is not being adopted into management practices…” the
It took two consulting groups, but a project charter for the
Sierra Valley Flood Hazard Restudy Project is finished and now
approved by members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors
on Tuesday, May 14.
The Center for Biological Diversity and San Francisco Baykeeper
sued the Trump administration to force the addition of the
longfin smelt, the Sierra Nevada red fox and six other species
to the Endangered Species List… According to the lawsuit, the
agency had previously found the species worthy of endangered
species protections under the Obama administration but
the Trump administration had slow-walked the process…
The proposal is to increase both base and usage rates by
approximately 40% in the first year, and by about 70% of the
current rate by July of 2023. … The last set of rate
increases ended in 2016, yet system costs have been increasing
each year due to inflation and maintenance expenses associated
with an aging system…
Good news, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend: The clarity
of the famed, cobalt-blue waters of Lake Tahoe improved
dramatically last year, with visibility increasing 10 feet from
the year before, a study released Thursday by scientists at UC
Davis found. The jump is the largest annual improvement in 50
years, since measurements at the iconic Sierra Nevada lake
began in 1968.
Our Headwaters Tour June 27-28 highlights the connection
between fire and water with an up-close look at the critical
role healthy Sierra forests play in water supply and quality
across California. We will also learn about a new initiative
between Yuba Water Agency, the California Department of Water
Resources and University of California, San Diego’s Scripps
Institution of Oceanography to study how atmospheric rivers
affect the location, duration and intensity of storms.
To Eastern Sierra residents, in most years, annual run-off
means the streams and canals rise and pasture lands start to
green-up. For Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,
run-off is the city’s life’s blood… So, how do they figure it
out? Eric Tillemans, LADWP engineer, gave the Inyo County Board
of Supervisors a beginner’s course in Run-Off 101 at a recent
For years fisheries experts have watched the number of
winter-run Chinook salmon dwindle as they suffered through
drought and adverse conditions in the Sacramento River. But
this year a small crop of the endangered salmon have made their
way back from the ocean to return Battle Creek in southern
Shasta County, something that hasn’t happened in some 25 years.
And officials hope the fish are the beginning of a new run of
salmon in the creek.
The Paradise Irrigation District said it plans on testing water
from lot-to-lot instead of in zoned areas. The process will
also give priority to people currently living in their homes or
in temporary housing on their properties in Paradise. Kevin
Phillips, the district’s director, said the majority of testing
they’ve done shows no contamination in the main lines, but
individual services lines are still showing volatile organic
compounds, like benzene.
When it rains, it pours. And the Camp Fire just keeps on
pouring. The latest byproduct? Waterways testing positive for
heavy metals, from aluminum to selenium, as well as chemical
contaminants. And the most recent test results, released last
month, show unhealthy levels of both throughout the county,
primarily in Paradise and nearby creeks.
Over the short life of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, Owens Valley has gone from medium to high and now low
priority. That prioritization would have had an impact three
years ago. Medium and high priority basins are required to form
an agency and sustainability plan; low basins are not.
Dig out that umbrella, and even the tire chains. It’s mid-May,
but a series of rare, winter-like storms will soak the Bay Area
and much of California through next week and bring up to 2 feet
of new snow to the Sierra Nevada.
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates
high in the Sierra Nevada, making the state’s water supply
largely dependent on the health of Sierra forests. On our
Headwaters Tour June 27-28, we will visit Eldorado and Tahoe
national forests to learn about new forest management
practices, including efforts to both prevent wildfires and
recover from them.
The district is considering a five-year series of rates
increases — up to 5% per year for sewer and up to 6% per year
for water. … As district staff have explained during public
meetings, much of STPUD’s infrastructure is outdated and in
need of repair or replacement. Additionally, more than 10% of
the STPUD’s water system lacks adequate water capacity to fight
a major fire.
State officials tasked with debris cleanup say they have been
directed not to enter an estimated 800 burned Butte County home
sites within 100 feet of a waterway. They’ve been told to wait
for representatives of several state and federal agencies to
reach an agreement on environmental assessment guidelines.
Up a remote canyon in the towering eastern Sierra, a Southern
California company has an ambitious plan to dam the area’s
cold, rushing waters and build one of the state’s first big
hydroelectric facilities in decades. The project, southeast of
Yosemite near the town of Bishop (Inyo County), faces long
regulatory odds as well as daunting costs. But residents of the
Owens Valley downstream and state environmentalists are not
taking it lightly.
Forecasts are calling for a stretch of wet weather across the
Western United States, especially in Northern California, so
meteorologists and emergency officials are keeping watchful
eyes on river gauges and radar reports. All it takes is one
thunderstorm parked over a snow-covered area to wreak havoc
The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility
said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably
started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history.
While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as
Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be
days and days of blackouts.
Reforestation will improve watershed conditions by restoring
severely burned areas to forested conditions, reducing
sedimentation and turbidity, and improving water quality for
downstream users. It will also improve habitat by providing
stabilization that reduces erosion of stream banks and meadows.
In an annual California event that marks the changing of the
seasons in the High Sierra, Yosemite National Park officials
plan to open Glacier Point Road to motor vehicles on Friday
morning. … Two years ago, after the wet winter of 2017 that
broke California’s five-year drought and dumped enormous
amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada, park crews opened Glacier
Point Road on May 11. Other than that, this year’s May 10
opening is the latest in eight years, since 2011.
The effect of wildfires on snowmelt is more widespread and
longer lasting than people thought and has ramifications across
the region, where cities … rely heavily on melting snow to
replenish water supplies. What’s more, human-caused global
warming is feeding the spread of fires, which contributes more
to the deterioration of snow, thus extending and intensifying
the fire season.
Get a firsthand view of California’s diverse water resource
issues with two of our summer tours — to the Sierra Nevada
headwaters that were blessed this winter with a plentiful
snowpack, and a Southern California coastal region chronically
prone to drought.
California wildlife authorities say new facilities built at the
state’s Kern River Hatchery will allow breeding of Kern River
rainbow trout that will be planted throughout the Kern River
Basin. The program will allow the territory to be stocked with
its native fish rather than domesticated strains.
With no parting glance at their devoted human caretakers, 142
rare red-legged frogs swam to freedom on Friday — one small
jump for the frogs but a giant leap for the threatened species.
Our official state amphibian, the frogs vanished from these
pristine mountain meadows 50 years ago.
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear
River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver
water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for
the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
Approximately 7.3 million skiers and snowboarders hit the
slopes this season at resorts in California and Nevada, a 17%
increase over the previous year, according to preliminary
numbers from Ski California, the nonprofit trade group for the
states’ ski resorts.
The Department of Water Resources recorded 47 inches of snow at
Phillips Station with a snow-water equivalent of 27.5 inches,
which is 88% above average for this time of year… Statewide,
the Sierra Nevada snowpack is doing even better, with an
average snow-water equivalent of 31 inches, which is 44% above
average for this time of year, according to the release.
A wet winter is not necessarily good news regarding the
potential for wildfires in the summer, especially where summers
tend to be dry. This is because the extra precipitation can
lead to a more robust growth of grasses and other vegetation
that can become fuel for fires as they dry out.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its
operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking
off a series of events that historically has ended with a
volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions
will be used in the valley for irrigation,
enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.
The property, a peaceful meadow at 6,820 feet elevation
near Echo Summit, is also home to … a monthly event that
attracts hordes of reporters and photographers who tromp
through the property on snowshoes. … Carol Pearson would
usually watch the proceedings from the window of the small
cabin, built in 1938, where she’s lived the past 20 years. Now
Pearson, 67, has been displaced by fire. Her cabin burned to
the ground in a chimney fire April 12, killing one of her cats.
Starting Wednesday, May 1, survivors of the Camp Fire can
participate in an online survey about their drinking water. …
The online survey will compile the drinking water experiences
and needs of people across Butte County who have a standing
home in the Camp Fire area. These researchers are working to
understand how the community has responded to a disaster and
what their needs are.
Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606 established indoor and
outdoor irrigation regulations, making water conservation a
permanent way of life. This draconian and arbitrary rationing
legislation tramples upon the personal rights of individuals to
make choices regarding their beneficial use of water,
undermines local conditions and local control, the state’s
water rights priority system and area-of-origin water right
To better measure the water in our snow, California is sending
sharper eyes up into the sky. Two sensors peer out from a
turboprop aircraft, soaring from Mammoth Yosemite Airport over
the white Sierra Nevada – collecting data that tells us almost
exactly how much water we’ll have this summer.
In a new study published in the journal Climate Dynamics, they
used their new technique to look at California winters. …
They found that in Northern California, La Niña and El Niño
conditions result in nearly equivalent amounts of winter
precipitation. However, La Niña winters tend to be much colder,
resulting in conditions more favorable for increased mountain
In the Western US, climate change is a major driver behind the
near doubling in burned area that we’ve experienced over the
past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the
frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire
season in some regions.
An extra wet winter and spring this year means waterfall season
in Yosemite National Park is off to a thunderous, gushing
start. This is also a great time to see many of the park’s
lesser-known falls that only last for a short time.
In 2017, a swarm of seismic activity occurred near California’s
Long Valley Caldera in the Mammoth Mountain area. During the
same period of seismic activity, the area had high levels of
flooding due to snowmelt. The 2016-2017 winter brought heavy
snow that created one of the largest snowpacks ever recorded in
California’s history. A record amount of snowfall occurred in
the same region this year, raising the question of whether the
same occurrence will happen in 2019.
This research will supply information needed for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to update the 1970’s-era water control
manuals, which dictate the storm-season operations of both
reservoirs. Yuba Water’s goal is to have a new water control
manual approved about the same time the agency completes
construction of a new, planned secondary spillway at its New
Bullards Bar Dam, estimated for completion in 2024.
The Camp Fire destroyed thousands of homes and dozens of
businesses, and also the water supply for an undetermined
number of people. The fire destroyed or damaged the 9 miles of
PG&E’s Upper Miocene Canal, which is the flume system along
the West Branch of the Feather River. That also cut off water
to ranches and homes along the Middle Miocene Canal … and the
Lower Miocene Canal (or Powers Canal) along the west side of
Table Mountain to Oroville.
A federal official is attempting to “obstruct” the flow of
water to restore habitat at Walker Lake, the conservancy
responsible for administering federal restoration funds alleged
in District Court last week. After years of litigation, lawyers
for the Walker Basin Conservancy said that “at some point, the
court must put a stop to the federal water master’s
obstruction.” The receding desert lake outside of Hawthorne is
fed by the Walker River, which rises in California and snakes
through Western Nevada.
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.
A spring surge of meltwater, seeping through vertically tilted
layers of rock, caused a seismic swarm near California’s Long
Valley Caldera in 2017, according to research presented at the
2019 SSA Annual Meeting. The unusual event prompted U.S.
Geological Survey researcher Emily Montgomery-Brown and her
colleagues to look back through 33 years of seismic and water
records for the region. They found that rates of shallow
seismicity were about 37 times higher during very wet periods
versus dry periods.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
North America is not a snow globe, and as the real globe warms,
one trend is clear: winter is shrinking and snow is melting. In
the last 50 years alone, the frozen mantle that caps the
Northern Hemisphere in the dark months has lost a million
square miles of spring snowpack. …Coastal ranges like the
Sierras and Cascades, where winter temperatures hover close to
the freezing point, are most at risk.
For the third year in a row, Lake Tahoe is expected to fill.
This is noteworthy for the sixth-largest lake in the United
States that flirted with record-low levels amid a five-year
drought that ended in 2017.
Even though one Paradise resident’s home survived the wildfire,
her family’s saga of returning to a normal life is far from
over. While the structure of resident Kyla Awalt’s home is
still intact, she said it has no access to running water — a
widespread problem in the area after the historic fire — but
her insurance company has ruled that the water issue isn’t
covered by her home insurance policy. “We were literally forced
to move back home and figure out a solution to get us water,”
Awalt told ABC News.
Local river protection groups and a state regulatory board are
protesting what they characterize as an attempt by Nevada
Irrigation District to circumvent the federal law. At issue is
the relicensing process for NID’s Yuba Bear hydroelectric
project — which includes French, Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman
lakes and Rollins Reservoir, as well as four powerhouses.
The problem with Kirman is that it does not have a place where
the trout can spawn naturally. There is no stream running into
or out of the lake where the trout could find moving water to
spawn. That means the fishery was and is entirely dependent on
plants of fingerlings or subcatchables from the Department of
Fish and Wildlife hatcheries. And that is a big problem.
Neighborhoods with standing homes will be the first priority
for repairs and could see potable water service return as soon
as November, one year after the horrific Camp Fire burned to
the ground about 90 percent of the buildings in the Sierra
Nevada foothills town. Full restoration of potable water
service to all properties will take longer, tentatively slated
for February 2021.
Solar panels have trouble producing renewable energy whenever
it snows. With winters expected to increase in severity because
of climate change, generating power in the cold, snowy season
will likely become a major issue in years to come. Fortunately,
scientists from UCLA just invented a way to produce energy from
snow. The researchers call their handy device a snow-based
triboelectric nanogenerator (snow TENG). It works by generating
power via static electricity.
Weeks after the Camp Fire roared through Butte County last
November, devouring entire towns, officials made an alarming
find: The Paradise drinking water is now laced with benzene, a
volatile compound linked to cancer. Water officials say they
believe the extreme heat of the firestorm created a “toxic
cocktail” of gases in burning homes that got sucked into the
water pipes when the system depressurized from use by residents
The extent of the latest crisis unfolding in Paradise is yet
unknown: The deadly fire may also have contaminated up to 173
miles of pipeline in the town’s water system with
cancer-causing benzene and other volatile organic compounds, or
VOCs. Preliminary results have shown contamination in about a
third of the lines tested, though only about 2 percent of the
entire system has been sampled.
Wildfires alter the chemistry of streams for years, causing
significantly lower concentrations of dissolved organic matter,
which provides a vital energy source to organisms living in
streams and rivers… University of New Hampshire researchers
and their collaborators with the University of
California-Merced and Ohio State University examined the
effects of wildfire on stream chemistry and water quality in
Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Spring has arrived, which means it’s a great time to visit
dozens of Northern California waterfalls. … Waterfall
photographer Leon Turnbull gave his top six picks of Northern
California waterfalls to visit during late spring.
2019 marks the sixth straight winter that scientists from
NASA/JPL have been flying over portions of the Sierra range,
using light-detection and ranging lasers called lidar to map
and decode the snowpack. The Airborne Snow Observatory program,
or ASO, is based on technology that NASA has been using for
years to look at Mars and other planets.
When state surveyors measured the Sierra snowpack on April 2,
they found 106.5 inches of snow, with an equivalent of 51
inches of water — … Compared to average measurements for this
time of year, those readings represent 200% of normal levels.
That means the snows that drew skiers this winter will soon
deliver thrills to another group of outdoor enthusiasts:
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct
was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to
meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct
will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12
months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion
The Yosemite toad is considered endangered, and its numbers are
falling. Scientists say the amphibian chytrid fungus is one
reason, but climate change also may contribute to some pools
drying up before tadpoles mature.
Nevada County residents tend to think of the Yuba River or
Scotts Flat Reservoir when they want to go play in the water.
But Rollins Reservoir, while arguably getting less local love,
generates a lot of income for the community from out-of-town
This bill calls for $150M in funding over the next ten years
from the state’s General Fund to conduct laser surveys via ten
airplane trips over the Trinity Alps and the Sierra Nevada each
year. They would also fly over hydrologic areas that drain to,
or supply water to, certain major reservoirs and lakes.
From the Oregon border to the hills of San Diego County,
California is a state that is destined to burn. Every summer
brings new evidence of that in places like Paradise, Malibu and
Santa Rosa. … Californians will continue to live in areas
where the threat of wildfire is the highest. These stories
explore the perils of living in those regions, and the steps
that must be taken as we try to avoid another catastrophe.
Since 1993, the Lake Almanor community has been fortunate to
have representatives from the California Department of Water
Resources (CDWR) assisting in the testing and assessment of the
health of the lake and its tributaries. … The testers check
for water temperature at the test location, dissolved oxygen,
turbidity (amount of suspended matter in the water) and for
various metals and minerals.
Now that spring is here and the sun is finally out, Bay Area
residents are already reminiscing over what a rainy winter it
was, one of the wettest in recent memory, with many more
downpours than normal. Or was it? Not according to weather
Fires like the one that razed Paradise in November burn
thousands of pounds of wiring, plastic pipes and building
materials, leaving dangerous chemicals in the air, soil and
water. Lead paint, burned asbestos and even melted
refrigerators from tens of thousands of households only add to
the danger, public health experts say.
Unfortunately, the thing that almost always lingers on after an
adverse event such as a prolonged drought is government’s heavy
hand in regulations and mandates that are hastily put together
in an attempt to mitigate the drought and get us through it.
After closing for renovations three years ago, the Kern River
Fish Hatchery opened to visitors March 25 with expanded
abilities to take in, raise and grow trout. … Hatchery
Manager Tony Holland said a team of state employees and
volunteers plan to hike in August to a remote creek somewhere
in the southern Sierra Nevada in search of genetically pure
Kern River rainbow trout.
California received some good news on Tuesday for the state’s
water supply: The Sierra Nevada snowpack is well above normal,
at 162 percent of average. This amount of snow is thanks to the
more than 30 “atmospheric rivers” that brought storms this
winter and spring. Chris Orrock, with the California Department
of Water Resources, says … this is the fourth largest amount
of snow in recorded history.
Most winters, [firefighter Mike] Morello would be working on
several of these forest treatment projects, especially prior to
the bulk of the Sierra winter snowfall. But throughout late
December and most of January, Morello was sitting at home. He
got to spend more time with his kids, but because he was one of
the thousands of Forest Service workers to be furloughed, he
couldn’t spend time in the woods, trying to prevent the next
Sierra town from becoming Paradise, California, where 85 people
died in November of last year.
To prepare for the dry years that will come again as well as an
uncertain future, healthy mountain watersheds will be key to
our water supply. While the importance of forests to these
watersheds is well known, new research suggests that meadows
are valuable too. Meadows are like sponges, soaking up snowmelt
in the spring and releasing it through the dry season.
Lawmakers are considering spending $150 million to fund new
high-tech measurements of the snowpack using lasers. … The
new hi-tech approach is meant to help water managers know
exactly how much water they can expect in water runoff from the
snowpack – and when that runoff will arrive in reservoirs,
rivers, and streams.
It’s been a big year for snow in the Sierra Nevada range. This
is the time of year—April 1—when the snowpack is typically at
its peak and on Tuesday, when surveyors do their monthly manual
survey, they’re likely to find a snowpack at about 160 percent
of the average.
As farmers plant their 2019 crops, hopeful for an abundant
harvest, they are unknowingly battling history. Past wildfires
and other tree loss in California will likely interfere with
U.S. food crops, based on emerging results of our own and
colleagues’ research. … Deforestation could cause millions of
dollars in lost agricultural production throughout the U.S. But
policy and practice still fail to recognize the interdependence
of our wild and cultivated lands.
If it seems that wildfires are burning nearly all the time
these days, that there’s no longer a definable fire season in
California, you’re right. Fourteen of the 20 most destructive
fires in state history have occurred since 2007, and California
has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago.
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.
Kevin Phillips looked out at a crowd of some 700 people, most
of them his customers, and delivered a painful message that
many had heard before from varying sources. But to get
confirmation from the Paradise Irrigation District manager that
it may take two to three years to get the town’s water
infrastructure back up and running at full capacity still sent
shock waves through the large auditorium.
Despite the abundant water year we’ve had, though, over the
long term climate change is transforming our snowpack and will
make no-snow snow surveys more common in the future. Not only
is climate change making good snow years like this one less
likely, it’s also changing what good snow years mean for our
water resources. And that’s going to mean a very different
April snow survey in the future.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late
last week that eight organizations have received a total of
$1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help
in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas
identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were
given priority for the grants.
The Paradise Irrigation District outlined plans to flush
volatile and toxic compounds from the city’s water system after
the Camp Fire… Paradise Irrigation District Manager Kevin
Phillips … said more than 90 percent of the pipeline
depressurized and created a vacuum, which sucked in toxic
particulates and heat. He said the initial, immediate response
was to re-pressurize the system — which ultimately took more
than two months to accomplish…
Whitewater rafting businesses are holding out hope of getting a
safe landing area near the Ward’s Ferry bridge over the
Tuolumne River, as a condition of relicensing the Don Pedro
hydroelectric project. At a Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission hearing Tuesday in Modesto, speakers said an
existing takeout for rafts on the Tuolumne, upstream from Don
Pedro Reservoir, is under water because of dam operations. And
the options for getting boats out of the water are not safe.
The Camp Fire, the blaze that all but wiped Paradise off the
map last fall, heralds something new for all of us—a state of
affairs that out-going governor Jerry Brown characterized as
the “new normal” (and later, the “new abnormal”): larger,
costlier, more frequent wildfires in the state than ever
before, burning almost year-round.
Duane Waliser of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory … says as
the climate warms, atmospheric rivers are projected to grow
wider and longer. Powerful ones are also expected to become
more frequent. That could increase water supply in some places.
“But on the other hand, atmospheric rivers come with flood
potential as well, so they’re sort of a double-edged sword, so
A pilot program that used ultraviolet light to combat aquatic
invasive plants has shown promising results. Results from the
program, which was deployed in Lakeside Marina in the summer of
2017, show the use of ultraviolet-C light successfully killed
submerged aquatic plants, according to the Tahoe Resource
An interview with Don Hankins, professor of geography and
planning at Chico State and a Plains Miwok traditional cultural
practitioner. He has spent his academic career working on water
and fire issues in California, with a focus on applied
traditional Indigenous stewardship.
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
It’s inevitable. Every year, big swaths of California will
burn. The question now that spring is here is how bad it will
be. If recent history is any guide, this year’s wildfire season
could be grim, despite a new push by state officials to keep
flames at bay. For all of its lush redwood forests and
snow-capped peaks, most of the Golden State is semi-arid… And
a shifting climate has been delivering ever hotter summer
Paradise Irrigation District general manager Kevin Philips
reiterated to the board of directors on Wednesday night that
the water is clean as is the water coming from the water
treatment plant. … “What we are doing is pulling meters
because we feel meters could have been one of the leading
criteria to the contamination. Plastic meters that got heated
Another round of soaking winter weather is on the horizon for
the West Coast, with a series of storms expected to impact the
region through midweek. … “Unsettled weather will continue
across the West Coast this week as more rain and mountain snow
targets Northern California, Oregon and Washington,” according
to AccuWeather Meteorologist Max Vido.
Customers of the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD)
may be looking at an annual increase on their water and sewer
bills of 5.0 to 8.5 percent to cover costs of replacing aging
infrastructure and enhancing local fire protection.
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
Four months after the deadliest wildfire in California history,
Gov. Gavin Newsom is declaring a statewide emergency to speed
up fire prevention efforts. Citing “extreme peril” to life and
property, Newsom’s Friday morning executive order will
fast-track the state’s tree clearing and other forest
The Desert Research Institute, Averyt said, is engaged in
research looking at long-term and short-term climate change,
where the impact of human-caused warming is clear. Researchers
with DRI have looked at ice cores from Greenland to map out
long-term climate trends. At the same time, other researchers
are looking at more immediate trends through the Western
Regional Climate Center, which provides contemporary climate
data for the 11 contiguous western states.
Over 147 million trees in California forests have died over the
last eight years. Most of these forests are near the southern
Sierra Nevada, which shows an increasing threat to iconic
California landmarks like the Sequoia and Yosemite national
Butte County Health Officer, Dr. Andy Miller, issued a water
quality advisory on Tuesday for people living in the Camp Fire
affected areas. Miller urges people not to drink or boil tap
water. According to a press release, the health department says
that “Information from water authorities indicates the
possibility that contamination may be present in home plumbing
systems, and therefore, residents should not rely on home water
filtration systems as they may not be adequate to provide
A pilot program that used ultraviolet light to combat aquatic
invasive plants has shown promising results. Results from the
program, which was deployed in Lakeside Marina in the summer of
2017, show the use of ultraviolet-C light successfully killed
submerged aquatic plants, according to the Tahoe Resource
Addressing concerns that include floods, droughts, wildfires
and state regulations on river flow, two state officials
advised farmers and ranchers to remain engaged in those and
other natural-resources issues. At the California Farm Bureau
Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento last week,
California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot
said his top priorities include water and wildfire protection.
Heavy snowfall this winter is expected to delay the seasonal
opening of many Yosemite tourist attractions, including
Yosemite Valley campgrounds, Half Dome’s climbing cables and
Tioga Road into the high country, park officials announced
As an uncontrollable wildfire turned the California town of
Paradise to ash, air pollution researcher Keith Bein knew he
had to act fast: Little is known about toxic chemicals released
when a whole town burns and the wind would soon blow away
evidence. He drove the roughly 100 miles to Paradise … only
to be refused entrance under rules that allow first responders
and journalists – but not public health researchers – to cross
Bonds to continue the next phase of an improvement program are
critical to the Tahoe Basin. That was the message delivered to
the Nevada Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, said the $8 million in
this biennium’s bonding package will cover Nevada’s share of
the Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program for two years.
The water within the Paradise Irrigation District is clean. The
trouble is, the infrastructure within the district may not be,
according to Paradise Irrigation District’s Kevin Phillips.
“The water is clean but some of the pipes are contaminated,
that’s why (contamination) is so random,” he said. “One service
line can be contaminated, but the one next door isn’t. If the
water were contaminated, then it would be everywhere.”
A central tension for Paradise in the coming months is the
health of the water system. … The fire, however, unleashed
benzene and other volatile chemicals into the water system. The
chemicals are not in the water coming from the treatment plant.
They’re in the pipes beneath the town. The Paradise Irrigation
District is the utility that serves Paradise. It’s trying to
isolate the contamination in the system, but turning water on
to returning residents makes that process even harder.
The story behind the salmon success on the Mokelumne goes back
to the 1970s when the Commercial Salmon Fishing Association
petitioned the state to increase salmon production via a tax on
the commercial fishermen. The idea was to assure a viable
commercial fishery into the future and the commercial anglers
would be willing to pay the cost of extra production. Their
funds went into the hatchery system as well as habitat
In November, a wall of flames fueled by dry forests and wooden
structures tore through this Sierra foothill town like the dogs
of Hell. … Beneath the blast furnace heat that incinerated
buildings and vehicles above ground, an intricate network of
drinking water pipes below the surface became so contaminated
with toxic chemicals that many are unusable. The extent of the
damage and exactly how the poisons accumulated in the pipes of
Paradise and in the smaller, neighboring districts served by
Del Oro Water Company is not known.
Scientists found that wet winter weather, historically a
predictor of more modest California fire seasons, is no longer
linked to less damaging fires. The link between more rain and
less fire fell apart thanks to modern fire management and
accelerating climate change, the study said. “It’s going to be
a problem for people, for firefighters, for society,” said
study co-author Alan Taylor, a Pennsylvania State University
The results of testing 173 water samples were released at last
week’s board meeting of the Paradise Irrigation District and
revealed widespread contamination. Benzene, a known carcinogen,
was found in 32 percent of those samples, with an average level
of 27 parts per billion (the California drinking water standard
is 1 ppb). In the 35 samples that tested for additional
contaminants, over a dozen additional “volatile organic
chemicals” were found.
The aging, leaking Combie Canal, a concrete flume located along
a steep hillside above the Bear River, received the OK for a
nearly $20 million replacement Wednesday. The canal is a
“critical piece of infrastructure” that serves two water
treatment plants, Nevada Irrigation District staff say, with
more than half of the district’s flows for deliveries made
through the nearly 50-year-old system.
The southern Sierra Nevada is expected to see a pair of storm
systems in the coming days that could create “significant
flooding” over several burn scars in the area, according to
weather officials. … Next week’s storm, which is expected to
hit the area midweek, is the primary source of concern. “That
storm could bring between 2 and 5 inches of rain,” said Kevin
Durfee, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If
those rain amounts do materialize, we could be looking at some
significant flooding over the burn scars, and rising water
levels in rivers and streams.”
Mono County hasn’t won the war, but it did win the first battle
in its lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and
Power’s decision to withdraw water allotments to its Long
Valley area grazing leases. Last Friday, the Alameda County
civil court indicated LADWP’s request to dismiss the suit was
This is a classic endangered species, a small, ordinary-looking
fish with a peculiar common name, for a fish, which is followed
by a very long, if somewhat poetic, scientific name (try saying
it out loud a few times). It is perhaps appropriate that this
unusual California fish is associated with the official state
On their to-do list is determining how to spread costs from
wildfires in “an equitable manner” and considering whether the
state should create a special find to cover wildfire costs.
They face a tricky task with an array of competing interests,
chief among them how to balance wildfire costs between
utilities, their shareholders and their customers.
The wildfire that swept through Northern California this past
November was one of the deadliest and most destructive in the
state’s history. … While it may take a long time for these
communities to rebuild after these natural disasters, what is
often missed is how the forest will rebuild itself. It turns
out forests are struggling to come back, and climate change
might have something to do with it.
Every day, millions of gallons of water loaded with
arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most
contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding
streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press
has found. That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting
drinking water sources in Colorado, Montana, California,
Oklahoma and at least five other states.
Lake Tahoe is the place to be this winter. It holds the best
snowpack in the western United States and the crowds are
flocking to the world-class slopes. Traffic has been insane,
infuriating and downright miserable at times — all while the
snow continues to fly.
Hoping to prevent another California utility from being driven
into bankruptcy by wildfires, state officials may create a new
kind of insurance fund to help cover costs from the
increasingly devastating disasters. … How it would work and
who would fund it remain unclear, but the bill envisions
electric utilities paying into the fund, while a leading
consumer group has suggested shifting the financial burden to
the property insurance market.
If the Trump administration wanted to increase California’s
water supply by the most cost-effective means possible, it
would immediately drop its attempt to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5
feet. It would instead put $1.5 billion — the cost of the
proposed Shasta enlargement, in 2019 dollars — toward a
completely different approach to water supply: watershed and
In Paradise, California, thousands of residents are trying to
cope with disruption and displacement resulting from November’s
devastating Camp Fire. Children attend school in a repurposed
hardware store, where counselors try to help them manage their
trauma. Meanwhile, amidst millions of tons of toxic debris,
finding safe and stable housing is a challenge. Special
correspondent Cat Wise reports.
Auburn City Councilman Bill Kirby is a major proponent of
making the sculpture – already commissioned by the non-profit
Let’s Never Forget organization and being created by Reno
artist Peter Hazel – a feature of a newly announced salmon
festival in Auburn and keeping it on permanent display after
In increasingly arid regions such as the western U.S., water
managers are learning that careful management and restoration
of watershed ecosystems, including thinning trees and
conducting prescribed burns, are important tools in coping with
a hotter, drier climate.
The Butte County Environmental Health Department announced
Friday morning that businesses that plan on re-opening in the
Camp Fire affected area and will be installing temporary water
systems, including water tanks and hauling water, must contact
its office prior to opening.
When 2019 started, California’s snowpack was at 67%. Now it’s
at over 136% and rising. The atmospheric rivers that are
dumping rain along coastal California are also dumping massive
amounts of snow in the state’s Sierra Nevada.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a
management approach that integrates flood control,
environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency
manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We
talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the
lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management”
If you try to figure out the total water stored in the Sierras,
you run into a methodological wall. There’s no good way to get
there directly. Starting about two decades ago, a small
group of scientists suggested a new solution: What if they
could measure the water cycle from space?