The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference
whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water
permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other
projects. … The question in the case is whether states
unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project
on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in
litigation over pipelines and other projects.
In recent years though, biologists and fisherman noticed
something was wrong. On sections of the Clinch and other
waterways in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, dead mussels
were turning up on shores and could be seen glinting from the
river bottom. … “The loss is really huge and it’s
happening really quickly,” says Emilie Blevins, a conservation
biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate
Conservation. “It’s a major concern for the future and for the
future of our fresh water.”
After a dry fall, the first storms of the winter kicked off the
annual migration of coho salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the
streams where they spawn. Over 10 inches of rain fell on Lake
Lagunitas last week… Streamflows are now high enough to allow
endangered central California coast coho to migrate.
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
Homeless volunteers collect so much trash in the Russian River
watershed — 150,000 pounds as of October this year — that the
state Water Resources Control Board sees it as a model for the
rest of California.
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
The City Council will certify the Water Quality and Flood
Protection Initiative at its Dec. 17 meeting after Alameda
property owners voted in favor of a fee hike. … The increased
fee will fund repairs and new pump stations, which is vital to
combat potential flooding as sea levels rise; improve lagoon
systems, enhance street sweeping procedures and maintain and
install new trash capture devices. These devices are key to
keeping the shoreline free of trash and other debris.
In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers
found that from 1978 to 2017, atmospheric rivers accounted for
$42.6 billion in flood damage in 11 Western states — 84% of the
estimated total water-related damage of $50.8 billion. That’s
roughly $1.1 billion in damage done by atmospheric rivers every
Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across
earthquake country between Northern California and San
Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually,
just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank
account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is
operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw
water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water
Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can
be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered
With the new strategy, land management agencies will increase
the pace and scale of restoration actions, including forest
thinning, prescribed fire, and meadow, aspen, and stream
restoration. It will also provide a science-based framework to
guide continued forest and watershed restoration over the next
While local tribes celebrated a federal appellate court ruling
last month upholding their senior water rights on the Klamath
River, a trio of threats facing the Trinity River combine to
paint a foreboding picture for local salmon populations.
As land around the Bay was developed, creeks were rerouted
underground through pipes called culverts for flood protection.
But in some spots, these hidden waterways can be brought back
up to the surface to provide habitat for wildlife and respite
for people. The Bay Area is a national leader in this type of
restoration, which is aptly called daylighting. And now we’re
undertaking our most ambitious such project yet.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
Most of the Trump administration’s lawsuit challenging
California water management rules affecting the San Francisco
Bay Area has been paused indefinitely so a state court can
consider parallel claims the government filed there. Both suits
target changes the State Water Resources Control Board made to
the “water quality control plan” covering the Bay Area and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
Following a string of utility-sparked wildfires that have
killed scores of Californians and destroyed billions in
property, the former top regulator of California’s electric
grid says it’s time for sweeping change — a public takeover of
Pacific Gas & Electric and possibly other private utilities,
which would be transformed into a state power company.
Elected leaders from across South Bay San Diego announced
Tuesday a joint effort aimed at pressuring the federal
government to support a long-term fix to the sewage pollution
that routinely flows over the border from Tijuana, fouling
beaches as far north as Coronado.
The steady rain prompted the weather service to issue flash
flood watches through noon for burn areas across Santa Barbara
and Ventura counties, including the Cave, Maria and Easy fire
burn scars. … Rainfall totals of 1 to 2 inches are expected
for much of the region, but the San Gabriel Mountains could see
up to 3 inches of precipitation.
Napa city leaders have advocated for detailed water monitoring
in order to safeguard a watershed area that lies largely
outside its direct control. Some 34,000 acres in rural Napa
County, as far north as Angwin, drain into Lake Hennessey, but
the city owns only 2,822 acres.
The work, which started in August, focused on restoring natural
habitat for the fish by removing boulder walls called ripraps
along the creek banks and placing large pieces of trees into
the creek. The riprap walls … channeled the water into a
swift current during the rainy season, which scoured away
salmon eggs and salmon fry that were attempting to survive the
long year-and-a-half in freshwater.
The California Department of Water Resources announced an
initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020
calendar year. According to a DWR announcement, the initial
allocation is based on several factors, such as conservative
dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to
meet water supply and environmental demands.
Nevada County has released the results of a state water board
investigation into the mysterious yellow sediment plume that
closed off the South Yuba River in September. A historic mine
property on Kilham Mine Road, initially targeted as the
suspected source of the discharge, was cleared by the Central
Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in late October.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
California’s water policy community continues to be embroiled
on how best to manage what remains of California’s native
aquatic ecosystems, particularly for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta and its tributaries. One aspect of this controversy is
the dedication and use of habitat and flow resources to support
As conventional wisdom has it, the states were relying on bad
data when they divided up the water. But a new book challenges
that narrative. Turn-of-the-century hydrologists actually had a
pretty good idea of how much water the river could spare, water
experts John Fleck and Eric Kuhn write in Science be Dammed:
How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.
They make the case that politicians and water managers in the
early 1900s ignored evidence about the limits of the river’s
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
Rains caused storm drains to back up into Poway’s water
treatment facility, officials said. Crews are working around
the clock to clean and flush the system, which may take two to
five days before the water is declared safe. The county health
department ordered the closing of all restaurants in the city
and residents are being advised to boil their tap water before
drinking it or using it for cooking, city officials said.
There’s a war over the future of water on the Monterey
Peninsula and it’s taking place in the board chambers of half a
dozen state and local government entities. It’s also taking
place on social media and in the press.
Over the past three decades, a shoreline lagoon and a historic,
natural lake have been restored. Hundreds of thousands of
native plants — some of them endangered — have been planted.
Indigenous wildlife has returned, and an ancient creek
ecosystem was freed from underground pipes, exposing hidden
streams and ponds that once quenched the thirst of American
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
A recent settlement between Monterey County, Monterey County
Water Resources Agency, and a coalition of Salinas Valley
farmers brings an end to a protracted legal battle over
reservoir operations during drought conditions.
Called Bending the River Back Into the City, the project will
churn with water from the river, siphoning a fraction of it out
of the waterway, cleaning that water via “an artificial
treatment wetland” … and then piping it to Los Angeles State
Historic Park and the recently opened Albion Riverside Park and
Downey Recreation Center so it can water plants and other
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
An atmospheric river with a moisture tap originating near the
Hawaiian Islands turned parts of the Bay Area into a soggy mess
over the weekend. … Depending on location, rain rates have
varied greatly, with downpours in the mountains and light
showers in the valleys.
They’re like a continuous conga line of moisture streaming
across the ocean without interruption until they encounter an
obstacle such as the coast ranges in California. These
obstacles force the atmospheric river to start shedding its
burden of moisture.
By practicing careful and sustainable water management
practices, the tribe has cultivated wild plants, including
taboose, nahavita, as well as fruit trees and other vegetables.
… However, starting in the mid-1800s with the arrival of
European settlers making a claim to water rights in the Owens
Valley, this once-lush area was transformed dramatically into a
virtual desert in just decades.
For as far as I could see, east and west, the banks were
littered with plastic cups, fast-food containers, spray paint
cans and chip wrappers. It had rained a smidgen the day before,
the first wet weather of the season, and this was what had
washed downstream from the area west of downtown Los Angeles.
Through a variety of panel discussions, presentations and a
showcase of student research, the Re:Border conference is
exploring how San Diego State University and its regional
partners can contribute to innovative solutions for
water-related challenges in the transborder region.
A new federal program hopes to fill knowledge gaps on how water
moves through the headwaters of arguably the West’s most
important drinking and irrigation water source. The U.S.
Geological Survey announced the next location for its Next
Generation Water Observing System will be in the headwaters of
the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. It’s the second watershed in
the country to be part of the program…
Despite increased maintenance of Oroville Dam since the
spillway fell apart in February 2017, members of the
community-led Oroville Dam Ad Hoc Group have expressed concern
about the age and wear of mechanics within the spillway’s main
gates, citing similar failures on dams of the same era.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
Three times as much mercury has been found in mountain lions in
the Santa Cruz Mountains than in their inland brethren, and the
likely culprit is coastal fog, a first-of-its-kind study by UC
Santa Cruz has found. The fog is apparently pulling mercury out
of the ocean and dripping it over the coastal mountains…
Native American tribes, environmentalists, state and federal
agencies, river rafters and others say they have significant
concerns about proposals to dam a Colorado River tributary in
northern Arizona for hydropower.
A group of California Democrats on Monday pressed the EPA’s
internal watchdog to investigate whether the agency has
retaliated against their state for political reasons, including
by threatening to withhold federal funds for multiple
El Niños have become more intense in the industrial age, which
stands to worsen storms, drought, and coral bleaching in El
Niño years. A new study has found compelling evidence in the
Pacific Ocean that the stronger El Niños are part of a climate
pattern that is new and strange.
During days when solar panels feed more energy into the grid
than utilities want to buy, the projects would use the excess
power to pump water from Walker Lake or Pyramid Lake into the
newly constructed reservoirs. Once there, the water would sit
as a giant pool of potential energy. When demand for power
increased at night as solar production waned, the water could
be released downhill and run through a power plant.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
The city of San Diego may release water from Hodges Reservoir
into San Dieguito River in the coming months if rain events
raise the water level above the permitted level. For safety
reasons, the California Division of Safety of Dams has
determined that the water level at Hodges Reservoir should not
be above 295 feet, which is 20 feet below spillway elevation,
or the top of the dam.
With winter rains on their way, officials worry a dam that
creates a small lake 17 miles west of Redding could collapse,
inundating downstream homes with up to 20 feet of water if
sediment and debris clogging two outlet pipes is not cleared.
Two 30-inch outlet pipes at Misselbeck Dam have been clogged
with silt and debris since last summer, forcing water from
Rainbow Lake to flow over the top of a deteriorated
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
Central Valley agriculture faces a looming existential water
crisis from the interlocking problems of drought, climate
change, and falling underground water tables. Yet the potential
answer to this problem is incredibly simple and only a lack of
political will may defeat it. The solution is to send south to
California the abundant waters of the Columbia River.
The Environmental Protection Agency fanned the flames of an
ongoing dispute with San Francisco on Thursday, reaffirming its
stance that the city’s water agency improperly discharges
wastewater into the ocean. In a letter to the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, EPA officials reiterated their
assessment that the city was out of step with its wastewater
discharge permit, which regulates water quality standards.
The study demonstrated the following: big legislative reforms
in water management in these three areas have always come about
as a consequence of important droughts. … One of the main
differences lies in how water ownership is managed and how the
market is regulated in this field.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
In what has become an all-too-familiar occurrence, three water
projects designed to serve the Monterey Peninsula have again
experienced delays, including the Pure Water Monterey recycled
water project and its proposed expansion, and California
American Water’s proposed desalination project.
Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff
has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper
Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program,
with immediate results observed… Within one week of opening
the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were
observed making use of it.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
Known as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the
approach centers on using the latest forecast technology to
plan for the arrival of atmospheric rivers. Those are the
torrents of moisture in the sky that barrel into California
from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are critical to the
state’s water supply, accounting for as much as half of its
annual precipitation. But they can also cause catastrophic
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the
Oroville Dam rebuild as one of 10 outstanding civil engineering
projects. Two runners-up and a winner will be chosen at the
2020 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement gala in
Washington D.C. on March 13.
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
In Napa County, adjacent to Sonoma and the source of perhaps
the most expensive cabernet sauvignon outside of Bordeaux,
activists are pushing back against a steady conversion of
woodland into new vineyards. Kellie Anderson, an independent
watchdog who has harried local officials for years to step up
enforcement of environmental laws, says the county’s planning
department has ignored numerous violations by grape growers.
On Thursday (11/21) we may find out whether the California
Department of Water Resources (DWR) is proposing operations of
the State Water Project that are significantly more protective
than the Trump Administration’s biological opinions, or whether
DWR will be aligning with the Trump Administration.
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
With drone photography, “we can track all of the trash in a
creek, river, or stream, examine how it’s distributed, and then
apply machine-learning algorithms to analyze those images as
often as we want,” says Tony Hale, program director for
environmental informatics at the nonprofit San Francisco
Estuary Institute. The drone research is part of a new project
by SFEI and its sister organization Southern California Coastal
Water Research Project, through funding from the Ocean
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
Lew Stringer is leading a tour of the massive renovation
of the entire watershed on the Presidio’s waterfront. The
next string of pearls to be unearthed is Quartermaster Reach, a
7-acre salt marsh on the south side of Mason Street. … The
$118 million park project, opening in late Spring of 2020, is
part of a wetlands restoration movement across the Bay Area
that will benefit all species – including us – facing the
uncertain future of climate change.
Small shallow lakes dominate the world’s freshwater area, and
the sediments within them already produce at least one-quarter
of all carbon-dioxide, and more than two-thirds of all methane
released from lakes into our atmosphere. The new research,
published in the journal PNAS, suggests that climate change may
cause the levels of greenhouse gases emitted by freshwater
northern lakes to increase by between 1.5 and 2.7 times.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
State transportation crews are wrapping up paving and drainage
improvement work along Highway 37 ahead of winter rains in an
attempt to avert flooding, which in two of the past three years
led to multiday closures of the critical North Bay commuter
The extra 90 cubic feet per second are designed, in part, to
attract salmon up the creek – and the flows start a little
later than in recent years due to the failure of state
Department of Fish and Wildlife pumps in the Yolo Bypass. Rich
Marovich, streamkeeper for the Solano County Water Agency
and Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, said because
it has been so dry this fall, the later release may be
A private company and the town of Queen Creek are proposing a
water deal that would leave 485 acres of farmland permanently
dry near the Colorado River and send the water used
on that land to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb. The company
GSC Farm LLC is seeking to sell its annual entitlement of 2,083
acre-feet of Colorado River water — about 678 million
gallons — to Queen Creek for a one-time payment of $21
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
The start of work on the restoration of the Bel Marin Keys
wetlands is another example of efforts to bring back the miles
of wetlands that, over the past century, have been lost to
development, other encroachments and years of sedimentation
Hydropower is broadly considered to be much more
environmentally friendly than electricity generated from fossil
fuels, and in many cases this is true. However, a new study
reveals that the climate impact of hydropower facilities varies
widely throughout the world and over time, with some facilities
emitting more greenhouse gases than those burning fossil fuels.
Nevada’s director of the Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources said Nevada has already reached the point of
“critical mass” or the breaking point when it comes to the
problem of water scarcity. … “We are up against that much
strain in our water resources across the state,” Director Brad
Since July, at least a half dozen surface expressions have been
reported into the state spill report database, including one in
early November, totaling more than 2.7 million gallons of oil,
water and mud. … Under strengthened state regulations, these
surface expressions became illegal only in April of this year.
But that doesn’t mean the public knows about all of them or how
close they occur to communities…
Ambiguity exists in the language of the river’s foundational
document, the Colorado River Compact. That agreement’s language
remains unclear on whether Upper Basin states, where the
Colorado River originates, are legally obligated to deliver a
certain amount of water over a 10-year period to those in the
Lower Basin: Arizona, California, and Nevada.
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
The Coachella Valley Water District on Monday approved taking
on outside financing for what is believed to be the first time
in its 101-year history for a $40 million pipeline to bring
more Colorado River water to the region’s farmers, freeing up
valuable groundwater for other uses.
A new study that looked back at 3 decades of satellite data
finds that these summertime algal blooms are indeed worsening
in large freshwater lakes around the world—and that climate
change may be undercutting efforts to combat the problem.
Two months after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana
farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness,
authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup
costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were
diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of
fertilizer and rodenticide.
After blurring the line between a private and public utility
for nearly two decades, the water district that serves the
world’s largest industrial park is looking to part ways with a
developer. That action comes after The Nevada Independent
reported this month that the public water district … is
operated by a private entity and governed by three board
members who report income from companies connected to Lance
Gilman, the face of the industrial park. The board members also
reside at Gilman’s brothel, the Mustang Ranch.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
California is on track to build a $1 billion dam and create a
giant reservoir at Pacheco Pass that will dwarf the existing
reservoir and dam near Highway 152 east of Gilroy, with
construction beginning in 2024. New evidence from an
independent nationwide study of dam safety suggests a new
incentive for the project—safety…
PG&E said Thursday that a small powerhouse at the reservoir
had been shut down since a canal at the reservoir had been
damaged during last winter’s storms. The utility has determined
that the costs to repair the canal “outweigh the economic
benefit of (power) generation at the Kilarc powerhouse.”
Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel will
retire Dec. 7, leaving a very large and important hole to fill.
The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water
Project and pays 25 percent of the bill for that massive
endeavor, giving it a very big voice on most water issues.
UC Davis forest biologist Patricia Maloney is now leading an
effort to plant thousands of seedlings descended from
drought-surviving sugar pines from around Lake Tahoe, hoping
they carry genes that make them more resilient to drought,
waning snowpack and other impacts of global warming.
Since 2009, the water level has dropped 7.3 feet a year in one
of two SaddleBrooke Ranch wells and 1.7 feet a year in the
other, says the Arizona Water Co., a private utility serving
the development. This is one of many suburban developments
surrounding Tucson where underground water tables are falling
and are likely to fall much farther over the next century,
state records show.
Native American tribal water rights are guaranteed by the
federal government to the extent that endangered species, like
salmon in the Klamath River, aren’t placed in danger, according
to a court decision on Thursday.
Sasha Gershunov, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at
UC San Diego, is one of the nation’s experts on atmospheric
rivers. ARs are one of the planet’s most extreme weather
events, he said, and their impact on the state is both good and
bad. They’re a critical source of water for the Golden State’s
bountiful agriculture, thick forests and ecosystems, snowpack
and drinking supplies, dropping 50% to 60% of the entire
state’s annual precipitation.
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
The board charged with overseeing the water quality in much of
the San Francisco Bay Area unanimously approved a plan
requiring local businesses, residents and government agencies
to reduce the amount of fecal bacteria they put into the
Petaluma River watershed, including San Antonio Creek.
Today, the quality of river water has improved markedly since
the early 1970s, though critics say the red tape imposed
through the Clean Water Act has become burdensome. The Clean
Water Act has not been altered much over the past 50 years,
though how we interpret the act has recently changed
The problem in the 1920s was neither the lack of good science
nor the inability of decision-makers to understand the basin’s
hydrology. … In an era driven by politics of competition for
a limited supply of river water and federal dollars, those
decision-makers had the opportunity to selectively use the
available science as a tool to sell their projects and vision
for the river’s future to Congress and the general public.
This year’s heat wave may be shrinking and moving offshore, but
it’s unclear whether it will persist, what effects the high
surface temperatures have had on animals or how this will
affect seasons to come. … “We are not concluding it’s over
yet,” said Chris Harvey, a Northwest Fisheries Science Center
research biologist of the heat wave, adding that scientists
will watch for water-churning winter storms that could halt the
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources is working on
revising a model based on outdated assumptions and incomplete
data that have perpetuated the myth that Pinal County is facing
a water shortage. In fact, Pinal County has plenty of water for
today, tomorrow and 100 years from now.
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
On Thursday, the East Bay city of Newark will consider
approving 469 single family homes and 2,739 parking spaces at
the edge of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, on a 430-acre
parcel where conservation groups and state and federal agencies
have for decades hoped to restore wetlands. … The proposal
illustrates one way even straightforward and widely agreed-upon
regional climate solutions can fall apart at the local level…
The intensity of wildfires in places like California are a
symptom of climate change, experts say, but the whiplash effect
poses a different set of problems for humans and natural
systems. Researchers project that by the end of this century,
the frequency of these abrupt transitions between wet and dry
will increase by 25 percent in Northern California and as much
as double in Southern California if greenhouse gasses continue
The vast majority of Arizona waters now regulated by the state
under the federal Clean Water Act could be excluded from
protection under the Trump administration’s narrowed
definitions of federal waters, according to state environmental
After touring film festivals in two dozen cities across the
country, the documentary, Visions of the Lost Sierra, will be
released online Wednesday for all to view. … Visions is a
short film exploring how the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork
Feather River has connected communities and inspired outdoor
enthusiasts for generations.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Instead of pushing efforts to restore wetlands and wildlife
habitat to help our region become more climate resilient,
developers and city leaders are pushing to advance plans to
fill in Newark’s Bay shoreline. The proposed “Sanctuary West
Residential Project,” would build 469 luxury units along the
City of Newark’s shoreline on a 559-acre site…
An unlikely coalition in California — including
environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians,
wildlife ecologists and representatives of the legal cannabis
industry — have joined forces to try to reduce these illegal
operations and the environmental threat they pose.
Ponds at wastewater treatment plants are like magnets for birds
and bird-watchers, especially those along the migration flyway
in California’s Central Valley area. Among them is the Clear
Creek plant in Redding, along the Sacramento River, which
serves as its receiving stream.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
The construction of dams on rivers worldwide has stopped the
natural flow of sand and silt to the sea—resulting in coastal
wetland loss and disappearing beaches—as well as preventing
fish from reaching vital spawning grounds. But when the
decision is made to remove a dam it can be remarkably
challenging. Just ask the people of Ventura, California, who’ve
been trying for 20 years…
Here’s the nut: Water supply in the Colorado River could drop
so far in the next decade that the ability of the Upper
Colorado River Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New
Mexico – to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in
Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave
While breaking this levee would seem like a catastrophe, state
and federal agencies intend to do just that. The purpose is not
to unleash some biblical, punishing flood, but rather to allow
nature to reclaim nearly 1,600 acres of wetland habitat.
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
Matt Dessert does not want to sue San Diego, nor does he want
to start a legal battle with the state of California. But the
growing threat to Imperial County’s air quality may leave
Dessert, an officer with the county Air Pollution Control
District, with little choice.
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
The Mojave Water Agency on Thursday cut the ribbon on its Deep
Creek Hydroelectric Clean-Energy System, a project that
produces electricity from California Aqueduct water and
replenishes the groundwater in the Victor Valley.
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
Boeing worked with the state and installed a massive system of
plastic pipes, treatment systems and holding ponds meant to
filter and manage potentially toxic rainwater before it poured
downhill… Then the giant Woolsey Fire ignited at the
old laboratory… Flames destroyed plastic piping and tore
through the storm water system before ravaging another 94,000
acres as the fire stormed west to the sea, according to state
and Boeing records.
Normally between Oct. 1 and mid-November, if historical
averages are any guide, the Bay Area has received nearly 2
inches of rain, and Los Angeles and Fresno each have received
about an inch. But so far this year? None.
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
Based on DWR’s own documents, it appears that an aerial snow
observator is the most important science- and data-focused
program that needs to be expanded statewide, so that the
integral aquifer recharge program can play its role in Governor
Newsom’s Water Resiliency Portfolio.
Dr. Geeta Persad is a senior climate scientist with the Climate
and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. … In
this presentation from the 2019 State of the Estuary
conference, Dr. Persad discussed the ways in which climate
change is going to fundamentally transform how, when, and where
California gets its water and how those changes will have
profound impacts for the state and for the San Francisco
estuary in particular.
Flood-MAR is recognized as an emerging water management
strategy that can provide broad benefits for Californians and
the ecosystems of the state, including water supply
reliability, flood risk reduction, drought preparedness,
aquifer replenishment, water quality improvement, and climate
Winding westward along Marin County’s northern border, San
Antonio Creek encompasses about 20 percent of the Petaluma
River watershed. While the state has continuously designated
the main stem of the Petaluma River a contaminated water body
due to excessive levels of bacteria tied to fecal matter since
1975, San Antonio Creek, a tributary to the river, has gone
unaffected by the river’s bacteria problem. Until now.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
One year after the devastating Camp Fire sparked, a diverse
group of land, water and environmental managers who have not
always seen eye to eye announced … a plan to reduce the risk
of catastrophic wildfire in the North Yuba watershed. The
announcement Thursday includes a Memorandum of Understanding
… to thin and restore 275,000 acres of forest on a pace and
scale that will prioritize community safety, forest health and
On October 15th, an excavator trundled out onto the narrow
isthmus of land separating the freshwater Tule Red pond from
Suisun Bay and began digging. As the salty water from Grizzly
Bay began to pour through the breach, the 460-acre pond felt
the push and pull of the tides for the first time in a century,
beginning its transition back into marsh habitat.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
October 2019 ended up being a shut-out in the precipitation
department in many regions–yielding the 10th driest October on
record in over 100 years of record-keeping. More significantly,
though: this extremely dry and relatively warm pattern has now
persisted into November, and appears likely to continue for at
least another 10 days.
Supreme Court justices, both conservative and liberal, appeared
skeptical Wednesday of a Trump administration argument that the
federal Clean Water Act should not apply to sewage plant
wastewater that flows into the ground and eventually seeps into
federally protected waters, such as rivers or oceans. The case
from Hawaii has emerged as a major test of the federal
anti-pollution law’s scope …
In a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission
shared Tuesday, the mayors and city supervisors argued that
PG&E ― beset by massive bankruptcy and public outrage over
its role in deadly wildfires and mismanaged forced power
outages ― would function better as a customer-owned utility
than a business focused on paying dividends to its
Plans to exercise federal county-of-origin rights to tap New
Melones waters are in the works. According to documents for
next Tuesday’s Tuolumne Utilities District board of directors
meeting, staff will be recommending the board authorize General
Manager Ed Pattison to submit a formal letter of request to the
United States Bureau of Reclamation for a water supply
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
Drillers punched hundreds of shallow wells in the California
seafloor off Santa Barbara County at the turn of the 20th
century — only to abandon them in the early 1900s. … But the
oil has lingered. It leaks from the orphaned wells and seeps
from the ocean floor naturally off the Santa Barbara coast…
It leaves tar on the beach and a sheen on the waters.
Environmentalists worry about damage to the ecosystem and
threats to public health…
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
By next summer, the court will make a decision on a key
question: Are pollutants that flow through groundwater from a
single, identifiable source on their way to navigable waters
subject to federal permitting requirements?
Casting climate change as a direct threat to California’s water
security, a panel of experts on Tuesday said the state must
plan for the “new normal” by modernizing water infrastructure
before the next great disaster.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
The study of whether it makes sense to build a pipe to carry
water from Paradise to Chico has died, at least for now. …
The idea was that Cal Water’s Chico Division would buy Paradise
Irrigation District water, and reduce its total dependence on
wells. … The pipe would also provide a buyer for PID water,
something the district needs to survive. Most of its customers
were burned out by the Camp Fire.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is
expanding its effort to learn more about the water supply
potential of local stormwater capture with a new $7.5 million
pilot programapproved today by its board of directors.
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
The Oct. 28 meeting of the El Dorado Irrigation District Board
of Directors included an update on the effect of power outages
on the district and a legislative update with a focus on
protecting the area’s water rights.
The executive director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation
District was admiring the restoration of 8,000 feet of the
Butano Creek stream channel, the largest and most ambitious of
a series of projects the district is spearheading to stop
chronic flooding, bring back endangered fish and restore 28
acres of degraded wetlands at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
Jaime Bonilla was sworn into office Friday as governor of
California’s neighboring Mexican state. … In his first major
speech since taking office, Governor Bonilla promised to
address poverty, public safety issues and end cross-border
sewage flows within six months. Bonilla, a dual U.S.-Mexico
citizen, formerly served as an elected member of the Otay Water
District in Chula Vista.
To authors of a new, highly critical study, Arizona’s system of
groundwater management encourages urban sprawl. But to an
official and lobbyist for a homebuilders group, the system
encourages construction of affordable housing.
San Marcos will start construction of its Creek District this
year, with a $100 million plan to reduce flooding and improve
habitat and traffic flow, officials said at a public forum
earlier this week.
On a cool and misty morning somewhere south of Redding,
California, jet boats roar across the tranquil Sacramento
River. Armed with tridents, machetes and poleaxes, it seems
akin to a scene from an action movie; except that “California
Department of Fish and Wildlife” is painted on the boats.
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a
year-round, mineral-rich spring turns the Little Colorado River
a vivid turquoise. This final stretch, about 10 miles from the
river’s confluence with its larger relative, is one of the
West’s spectacular waterways, with bright water flowing below
steep red-rock cliffs. But the view will change dramatically if
a Phoenix-based company builds a proposed hydropower project.
As part of a statewide effort to reduce seismic and hydrologic
risk to State Water Project facilities, the California
Department of Water Resources’ Castaic Dam Modernization
Program begins this week with an assessment of a stream release
structure at Castaic Dam in Los Angeles County.
At a time when building anything large and important — like
roads, dams and bridges — can be tied up in red tape and take
forever, the optimism of this reservoir’s supporters is
audacious. And unless opponents emerge with impressive
arguments, the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir deserves the area’s
Even a little forest management significantly increases water
runoff in the Central Sierra Nevada and other semi-arid
regions, while drier forests need more extensive treatments,
according to a new study published recently in the journal
The Ojai Valley agency planned a roughly $1 million project to
clear part of a 9-foot pile of silt, sand and gravel from
its Robles diversion facility. … Without the work, Casitas
officials said they could face emergency shutoffs,
clogged fish screens and lost water this winter.
California regulations protecting wetlands and state waters
were approved by the State Water Resources Control Board and
will take effect on May 28, 2020. These new rules create a more
expansive and complex permitting scheme for developers, public
agencies and others with projects that may impact waters and
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
Working with the East Bay Regional Park District,
Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan has secured $4 million in
state funding to daylight and restore an over 2,000-foot
culverted section of creek in the upper San Leandro watershed.
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
The network of clear streams comprising California’s Strawberry
Creek run down the side of a steep, rocky mountain in a
national forest two hours east of Los Angeles. Last year Nestlé
siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek
and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label.
Almost 50 years after the Lahontan cutthroat trout was listed
under the Endangered Species Act, agencies are investing in a
game-changing, fish-friendly infrastructure project at Derby
Dam to help bring back the legendary fish to the Truckee River.
Announced on Sept. 11, 2019, construction of a fish passage
structure will allow Lahontan cutthroat trout to complete their
natural migration, swimming back and forth between Pyramid Lake
and historic spawning grounds.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
Most of the Klamath Basin suckers testing the waters of Upper
Klamath Lake this summer in floating net pens are thought to
have died during a federally-funded summer pilot project. When
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited the pens on the lake
last week to release them into the wild, 10 of the 1,000
endangered fish were found alive…
In today’s Film Friday, we follow the evolution of Honolulu Bar
in the Stanislaus River through a restoration and floodplain
enhancement project. The project including leveling an
intstream island to create more flooded rearing habitat,
sorting gravel to create improved spawning habitat, clearing
invasive plants and planting native ones. Watch the
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s
network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit
real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream,
information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting
water supplies and knowing what the future might bring. …
Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.