The Golden State is cursed with some of the finest weather and
richest soil on earth. Its luminous skies and airy loam have
been crucial to California’s transformation into our most
populous and agriculturally most bountiful state. But
capricious nature has withheld one essential resource needed to
sustain this dizzying growth—water. In his sprawling,
provocative book “The Dreamt Land,” journalist Mark Arax
examines California’s long-building water crisis with the keen,
loving, troubled eye of a native son.
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn’t
just strong—it’s imperative. And for the first time in more
than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from
California’s San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have
heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual
For the first time in nearly 40 years, the National Weather
Service’s flagship computer prediction model has received a
major makeover, which its leadership says will pave the way for
Blythe is on the California side of the Colorado River where
Interstate 10 crosses, with a freeway fast food/motel strip and
the sort of beleaguered economy you see in desert ag towns of
the Lower Colorado. Average per capita annual income here is
$16,329, just 55 percent of the state average, according to the
U.S. Census Bureau. I have a few different stories about why my
life is so entwined with the Colorado River. This is one of
The Amethyst Basin flood control and groundwater recharge
facility, aimed at meeting the water needs of the High Desert,
was formally dedicated on Thursday. The 27.4-acre project, 10
years in the making, has been a cooperative effort between the
San Bernardino County Flood Control District, the Mojave Water
Agency, the City of Victorville and California Department of
Pollution in the oceans of the world is a major problem. It’s
also a problem close to shore. But a relatively small invention
called the Seabin is making a big difference in cleaning San
Diego’s coastal waters.
Here’s a safe prediction: Generations to come will be thankful
for everything done today to protect the Russian River. Here’s
another: Restoring and preserving the river’s health will
become more challenging and expensive each time action is
The agencies want ideas for actions needed now to help
California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising
temperatures, year-round wildfires, species declines, aging
infrastructure, contaminated water supplies and changing
demands for water. The input will help determine priorities and
identify complementary actions to ensure safe and dependable
water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the
state’s communities, economy and environment.
The Bureau of Reclamation Friday issued updated Central Valley
Project South-of-Delta allocations for the 2019 contract year.
“I am pleased to announce that South-of-Delta agricultural
water service contractors’ allocations have been increased to
75% of their contract total because of May’s snow and rain
totals,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant.
The states that share the river completed a drought plan
earlier this year that brings them closer to living within
currently available supplies, and a new round of negotiations
on long-term management of the river is due to begin next year.
However, a new report warns that planning for gradually
declining water supplies, as difficult as that is, may not be
enough to adequately prepare for the future.
With a deadline to take action just weeks away, lawmakers and
the governor haven’t settled controversial issues regarding the
so-called wildfire fund: How much money does the state need and
what portion of that will come out of the pockets of
electricity customers? Lawmakers are looking to Gov. Gavin
Newsom to take the lead and provide answers to one of
California’s most high-stakes problems.
The agreement on how to address dwindling reservoir levels
along the Colorado River comes after years of negotiation
between two nations, seven states, ten tribes, and the
countless internal interests involved. TPR presents the
following interview with Metropolitan Water District General
Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger discussing how a complex consensus
among the parties was finally reached…
Native California flora such as oaks, mugwort and monkeyflower
are vital in watershed habitats to filter pollutants and
prevent erosion. But theses species have often succumbed to
quickly spreading disease. When the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission had to plant these natives in the Alameda
Creek Watershed, it took extreme measures to prevent infection,
but they were ineffective. So now, the commission is growing
its own native plants. If successful, the project could provide
a new model for restoring disease-ravaged ecosystems.
The City of Lathrop has taken another step towards achieving
the long-awaited goal of being able to discharge tertiary
treated wastewater into the San Joaquin River. With the
approval of the Lathrop City Council, the city is now in a
contract with Ascent Environmental to initiate the
environmental documentation necessary to acquire the permit to
discharge of water from the city’s water treatment plant into
the river – a move that could pay sweeping dividends to the
city in the future.
Two portions of channelized waterways within urbanized Southern
California will receive more than $4 million from the 2019-20
state budget adopted Thursday to restore natural features by
removing decades-old concrete barriers.
The question of whether the Colorado River system is a reliable
source of water for the future was the topic of a presentation
held at the Washington County Water Conservancy District on
Thursday. … Utah is entitled to 23%, or about 1.4 million
acre feet under the compact. Utah currently uses 1 million acre
feet, Millis said. This leaves the state with 400,000 acre feet
to left to develop.
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.
After years of defending its proposed water grab from our
region’s rivers, the state Water Board chose to ignore all
science and impose orders to take the water anyway. Likewise,
until recently when Gov. Newsom wisely said “no” to the twin
tunnels, the state insisted on devastating the Delta by
stubbornly refusing to consider alternatives. And five years
after passage of the historic 2014 water bond, no new water
storage facilities have even started construction.
The Los Angeles River is on the verge of a new era. In the few
years since the flood control channel was reclassified as a
“navigable waterway,” the region has re-embraced its oddball
amalgam of concrete and nature, which winds roughly 51 miles
from the San Fernando Valley out to the ocean in Long Beach. A
$1-billion-plus plan to restore 11 miles north of Downtown LA
is (slowly) working its way through federal approvals.
Increasing Upper Colorado River Basin water use by just 11.5
percent would double the risk that the Upper Basin fails to
have enough water to meet its obligations under the Colorado
River Compact, according to a new modeling study to be rolled
out in a big meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, next week.
The agreement was likely spurred by recent struggles to provide
assistance following hurricane events, especially Hurricane
Maria in Puerto Rico, and other infrastructure failures such as
those experienced at the Oroville Dam in 2017.
In 2021, four large dams on the Klamath River are due to be
demolished, in part to revive the river and Klamath Basin
salmon. But unless salmon hatchery operations are discontinued
soon afterward on the river, the effort will founder. Allowing
hatchery salmon to mix with struggling native salmon after
removing the dams is like rescuing a dying man only to slowly
The Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of 2019, which [Congressman
John] Garamendi introduced with Congressman Doug LaMalfa in
January, would provide farmers access to discounted rates under
the National Flood Insurance Program. It would also lift the de
facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of
agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Senate Republicans lambasted the previous administration’s
water regulations as a federal power grab Wednesday in a
hearing on the new policy rolled out by President Donald Trump.
The Environmental Protection Agency revised the rule known as
Waters of the United States in December, following Trump’s 2017
executive order aimed at minimizing regulations and promoting
Governor Newsom has stated that he supports a single
tunnel—building on the planning and analysis for modernized
conveyance in the Delta done to date with an increased focus on
how to make the project work for the Delta communities. …
Under this direction, the Department of Water Resources (DWR)
will launch a new environmental review and planning process
toward the end of this year.
The Irvine Co. has followed through on plans to transfer 29
acres it owns on the south shore of Irvine Lake to the county
of Orange, but a dispute over what kinds of recreation to allow
and who should profit from it must be resolved before the lake
can reopen to the public.
The Amethyst Basin flood control and groundwater recharge
facility, aimed at meeting the water needs of the High Desert,
was formally dedicated on Thursday. The 27.4-acre project, 10
years in the making, has been a cooperative effort between the
San Bernardino County Flood Control District, the Mojave Water
Agency, the City of Victorville and California Department of
The San Diego Water Board is asking 10 local agencies,
including the city and county of San Diego, to curtail the flow
of human fecal matter into the San Diego River. The problem has
gotten worse over the last few years to the point it’s being
compared with similar issues along the U.S.-Mexico border,
according to the state agency that monitors the region’s water
A draft plan on how to remove abandoned commercial vessels from
the Delta waterways is available for public review and comment.
The California State Lands Commission completed the removal
plan as mandated by legislation authored by Assemblyman Jim
Frasier, D-Discovery Bay.
Fishing isn’t supposed to be as easy as dipping a hook into
water and pulling out a fish. I’m told it’s an exercise in
patience, and that you’ll often come home empty-handed. But
those insights do not describe my experience on a recent
camping trip near the Oregon border. There, in a reservoir on
the Klamath River, yellow perch—a species not native to
California — thrives in water made artificially still by Iron
The long-running Middle Creek Restoration Project, which is
designed to massively reduce sedimentation and nutrient load in
order to improve Clear Lake’s health, took another step forward
this week. … The contract provides $15 million – or $5
million per year for three years – for the purchase and
maintenance of properties as part of the Middle Creek Flood
Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project.
Floating debris on the lake is common, but this year is worse
than most years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Agency
officials blame it on the high lake level. As the lake level
rises, the water picks up the wood and other debris along the
shoreline, forest service officials said. The wind and currents
in the lake can send huge rafts of logs, sticks, Styrofoam,
plastic bottles, articles of clothing, tires and other debris
into coves and boat launch areas.
Driving along Interstate 5 south of Sacramento, you wouldn’t
notice anything unique about the land stretched out beyond your
car window. But hidden between Interstate 5 and Walnut Grove,
lies one of the most important environmental restoration sites
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
San Mateo County officials are moving forward on a green
infrastructure plan that aims to transform the urban landscape
and storm drainage systems. The plan will help the county
transition from relying solely on traditional drain
infrastructure, which allows stormwater to flow directly into
drains and bodies of water, to a more environmentally friendly
model that disperses runoff to vegetated areas and collects it
for nonpotable uses.
An algal bloom in Black Butte Lake could be harmful and even
deadly if visitors or their pets swallow the water, the
California Water Board said Thursday. Regardless of the heat,
boaters, dog owners and other recreational users of the lake
are asked to be aware of the dangers in the water since harmful
algal blooms (HABs) were found in a recent water test.
The Northern California summer steelhead is closer to being
listed under the state’s Endangered Species Act as the state
Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously 4-0 on Wednesday at
its June meeting in Redding to review the species’ status over
the next year.
If the decommissioning goes through as planned (the latest
timetable aims for a drawdown sometime in 2021) it will be the
largest dam removal project in U.S. history, with major
implications for environmental restoration, the salmon fishery,
agriculture and local tribes. But a recent Federal Appeals
Court decision is having repercussions that extend far beyond
the Klamath River Basin.
Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced Wednesday the 2019-20 state
budget will include $9.25 million for research to better
understand and forecast so-called atmospheric rivers, leading
to improved flood control and water retention in a state
grappling with the effects of climate change and chronic
An attempt to restore the population of endangered Southern
California steelhead trout living in the Santa Ynez River is
being opposed by some jurisdictions that rely on the river and
Cachuma Lake for their water supply.
At an Arvada fire station, Gov. Polis signed into law House
Bill 1279, which bans certain kinds of foam used in
firefighting training. Such foam contains so-called “forever
chemicals” that have contaminated drinking water in El Paso
County and elsewhere.
Earlier this week, environmental activists and people who lack
access to clean water rallied on the capitol steps to urge
state lawmakers to act. Among them were longtime labor activist
Dolores Huerta and Susana De Anda, executive director and
co-founder of Community Water Center. She joins Insight to
discuss the issue of unhealthy water and its impact on
communities. UC Davis associate professor and faculty lead of
the Center for Regional Change, Jonathan London, discusses his
research on the regions and people who lack access to clean
An on-again, off-again effort by state regulators to better
protect the Russian River and its tributaries against failing
septic systems, livestock waste and other potential sources of
bacterial contamination is in its final stages, with hopes that
an action plan for the entire watershed will be approved this
August and go into effect next year.
The Klamath River has seen its native fish populations plunge
and its water quality decline, in part because of four
hydropower dams built in its middle reach a century ago. In the
coming years, these dams will be removed, creating the largest
dam removal and river restoration project in the country. We
talked to Lester Snow, board president of the Klamath River
Renewal Corporation, about this effort.
Through the Airborne Snow Observatory program, NASA and
California’s Department of Water Resources use instruments
mounted on airplanes to create high resolution estimates of
snow water content for priority watersheds in the Western U.S.
The collected data helps determine the timing of the spring
melt, which has downstream effects on hydroelectric power
generation and planning for how much water can be held in
The effort, particularly in California, amounted to a wholesale
re-engineering of the existing hydrology to suit the needs of
ranchers and farmers. It was “California’s irrigated miracle,”
as Mark Arax calls it in his new book, “the greatest human
alteration of a physical environment in history.” “The Dreamt
Land” is Arax’s exhaustive, deeply reported account of this
Climate variability, competition for water from other users
including urban and environmental, and groundwater depletion
threaten the sustainability of irrigated agriculture. To face
these challenges, the irrigation industry must develop and
adopt innovative technologies and management practices that
optimize economic outcomes, while also minimizing environmental
A welcome surge of melting snow is pouring out of the Rocky
Mountains and into the drought-stricken rivers of the
southwestern U.S., fending off a water shortage but threatening
to push rivers over their banks.
Today subverted water is reappearing in inconvenient ways
because we have constrained the space it once had to ebb and
flow, and climate change is amplifying storms and droughts. To
cope, cities are increasingly funneling runoff into green
infrastructure such as permeable pavement and bioswales. But a
scientific research center, the San Francisco Estuary Institute
(SFEI), is proposing a more ambitious approach…
Jason Mead at Wyoming’s Water Development Office says more dams
could help ranchers survive the coming droughts, but some
scientists say, building more dams might actually worsen
climate change. University of Wyoming soil scientist Jay Norton
says, dams that manage for flood control, for example, could
have a damaging effect.
Many factors go into making political deals – ideology,
self-interest, expediency and emotion to mention just a few.
Logic rarely enters the equation, and if it does, it usually
dwells at the bottom in importance.
Championed by state and local water planners and decried by
conservation groups, the Lake Powell Pipeline project continues
to be a focal point for discussion among Southern Utah
residents. As to the current status of the pipeline project, a
public comment period connected to a permitting process
overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – more
commonly known as FERC – recently concluded.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, though, a faint
fixed pattern becomes discernible among the randomness, a quiet
but strengthening note against a background symphony. Some
regions—California, the Mediterranean, Australia—dry out. It is
a small, almost imperceptible-to-humans drying, but it is a
pattern that no natural cycle can reproduce.
A new proposed rule from the U.S. Forest Service designed to
make environmental reviews more efficient would shortcut
important oversight of industry plans, environmentalists say.
The rule comes after months of complaints by President Trump
that the agency is mismanaging forests and not doing enough to
prevent fires in California and other states.
The newly-adopted regulations create a new statewide wetland
definition that expands to features not previously covered
under federal law and creates a new permitting program for
activities that result in the discharge of dredge or fill
materials to any Waters of the State. … At the recent
Nossaman Land Use Seminar, attorney and partner Mary Lynn
Coffee gave an overview of the new regulations.
After seven years of drought in California that drained
aquifers and brought many farmers to the brink, legislators in
Sacramento crafted a bunch of rules governing water usage.
Those rules, many of which kick in next year, cap how much
water farmers and cities can use. The regulations have caused a
lot of anger and panic in the farming community. But also…a
lot of innovation.
Nestlé, the world’s largest bottled water company, continues to
take millions of gallons of free water from the San Bernardino
National Forest two hours east of Los Angeles, 17 months after
California regulators told them they had no right to much of
what they’d taken in the past. And federal officials are
helping them do it, despite concluding Nestlé is drying up
springs and streams and damaging a watershed.
Clean water is a human right, essential to good health and to
the resiliency of California. Yet, more than one million people
from every region of our state have unsafe water at home.
California is the fifth largest economy in the world, but for
far too long, the state has neglected the basic right to safe
California’s largest farming region faces two linked
challenges: balancing groundwater supply and demand in
overdrafted basins, and addressing water quality in the
region’s aquifers. We talked to Ashley Boren, executive
director of Sustainable Conservation, about tackling these
issues in the San Joaquin Valley.
Earlier this year, the seven states that rely on Colorado River
water signed a collective drought contingency plan. At a
conference last week in Colorado, Arizona Department of Water
Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said his state will take
about half of the water reductions under that plan when a
This pesky tendency of ours to get as nigh to water as
possible—and to construct our cities and infrastructure
accordingly—is what journalist Elizabeth Rush sets out to
chronicle and ultimately critique in Rising, her account of sea
level rise from the various sinking edges of our nation. And
nowadays, not falling in is becoming more and more difficult.
With June marking the start of the boating season, Shasta Lake
has continued to see people out enjoying the water. One problem
that is raising concern is the amount of debris people are
finding on the lake.
As the West faces more demand for water and less water
available to meet that demand, decision makers are working to
figure out how Colorado could implement recently signed
agreements to reduce water use in the Colorado River basin,
which includes the Yampa River.
May was an extension of winter and the snowpack actually grew.
But June is here. Days are longer and temperatures are rising.
And that monster snowpack is about to come melting down the
slopes through rivers and streams with ferocity, pushing an
already fast water flow into a furious rage.
The $14 million effort, which is being led by Placer County
through a stewardship contract with the USFS, is aimed at
thinning the forest across both public and private land in an
area where the 2014 King Fire created concern when it
threatened two key reservoirs: French Meadows and Hell Hole
reservoirs. The fire burned so intensely in that watershed that
it impacted taste, odor and water treatment costs.
A Marin Audubon project that seeks to restore lost wetlands and
bolster sea-level rise defenses for San Rafael’s Canal
neighborhood cleared a major funding hurdle on Friday after
being awarded a nearly $1 million grant. The San Francisco Bay
Restoration Authority voted unanimously to fulfill Marin
Audubon’s request for $985,300 to conduct an environmental
review and design its planned restoration and expansion of the
20-acre Tiscornia Marsh.
While some people consider them a nuisance, beaver are called
“keystone species” or “grassroots conservationists” and are
considered vital to riparian habitats. … In areas where there
are beaver lodges vegetation and watersheds stabilize, and
downstream flooding and silt runoff is reduced.
Shorelines in South Bay San Diego will never be fully immune
from the sewage and chemical pollution that flows north from
Mexico over the border through canyons and the Tijuana River.
However, beach closures triggered by contaminated stormwater
and Tijuana’s leaky sewer system can be dramatically reduced…
That was the message last week from President Trump’s U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, which released the most
comprehensive blueprint to date…
A leaking dam that prompted evacuations in the Sierra foothills
during an intense rainstorm last year has been repaired and is
again storing drinking water for 2.7 million Bay Area
residents, San Francisco water officials said Monday.
Transferring the canal to local control is likely good news for
the 500,000 residents of East and Central Contra Costa County
who depend upon the 48-mile-long canal for at least a portion
of their water supply.
This year, we are blessed with an abundant supply of snow
storage in the Sierra. But the inability to bank this bounty,
beyond our existing reservoirs, is a serious missed
opportunity. This wonderful wet winter will ironically elevate
political complacency around one of the state’s most vital
necessities – a reliable and sustainable water supply.
In a first-of-its-kind move, the Fox Canyon Groundwater
Management Agency agreed to pay up to $3 million to help
recharge overstressed groundwater resources in Ventura County.
The money will buy roughly 15,000 acre-feet of water, which
started spilling out of Santa Felicia Dam at Lake Piru on
The DA’s lawsuit alleges that Monterey Mushrooms’ growing
facility on Hale Avenue violated multiple Fish and Game and
Business and Professions laws from 2012 to 2017. Specifically,
the DA’s office states the facility allowed its farm production
waste and other wastewater to flow into Fisher Creek and its
tributaries, which border the north Morgan Hill facility.
This year, the planting season was repeatedly interrupted by
colder temperatures and exceptionally heavy rainfall. … The
reason for so much delay? Rice fields need enough time after
significantly wet storms to dry out for planting, and the types
of storms received this May came in waves close enough
together, with record amounts of water, to necessitate delayed
The bankruptcy proceedings surrounding Pacific Gas and Electric
could pose a risk to the reliability of water supplies to
nearly 300,000 residents in parts of Placer and Nevada
counties, according to reports issued by the Placer County
Water Agency and the Nevada Irrigation District.
Anderson Valley Unified School District on Tuesday held its
public opening ceremony to celebrate new gardens and rainwater
catchment systems designed to improve the district’s stormwater
pollution prevention infrastructure.
The season of toxic algae blooms is here. A helicopter crew
spread copper sulfate over Lake Skinner near Temecula on
Thursday, June 6, to combat a cyanobacteria bloom — also known
as blue-green algae — that had been producing some cyanotoxins
and unpleasant tastes and odors.
It can be difficult to precisely define a drought in a state
known for being hot and dry. … Arizona and the Southwest’s
standards for drought are far different from standards in other
parts of the country that may be wetter or have the capacity to
store large volumes of groundwater.
The state has created a visual guide with photos to help users
recognize harnful algal blooms (HABs)… Direct exposure to a
HAB, if it is toxin-producing, can result in eye irritation,
skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, or cold and
flu-like symptoms. Pets can be especially susceptible, because
they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur
Dr. Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water
Resources, says while we would like to believe we are returning
to the days when California rain and snowfall averages were
normal more years than not, there is little or no indication
that is the case. … “We’ll never be in a place where we can
coast or just relax on water issues.”
Local officials plan to huddle over the next few weeks to pick
a strategy to control the region’s cross-border pollution
problem. … Since April, more than 110 million gallons of
sewage-tainted water has flowed into the Tijuana Estuary in the
United States and out to the ocean.
California is sinking. Literally. Right before our eyes, even
as we struggle to see it. In parts of the state’s Central
Valley, the 50-mile-wide and 400-mile-long agricultural engine
of America immortalized by John Steinbeck and Joan Didion, the
earth is receding back into itself at a rate of more than a
foot per year. Why? The ceaseless drilling and pumping of water
to fuel a region that produces one quarter of the nation’s
Woodland’s water is cleaner and safer to drink than in the
past, according to the just-released 2018 Water Quality Report.
The report, presented to the City Council this week, shows
minimal levels of cancer-causing chemicals that were present
years ago when the city still relied on well water. Today the
city obtains its water from the Sacramento River after which is
treated and delivered to homes and businesses.
Following through on its threats, on May 21 the group Save the
El Dorado Canal filed suit against the El Dorado Irrigation
District over plans to pipe the El Dorado Canal (also called
the Upper Main Ditch) in Pollock Pines. … The canal is seen
as a historical, environmental and recreational asset in the
community as well as a conveyance that protects and enhances
“Use it or lose it” is what state and federal water managers in
California are wrestling with as one of the biggest
precipitation years has the mountains packed with snow and
reservoirs loaded to the brim. For the state, water is liquid
gold that feeds many people, animals, trees, and industries.
But, if not well managed, it can also present great danger.
The election results for Measure AA, which is asking for $300
million to fund recreation and wildlife preservation, were
still too close to call Wednesday as Santa Clara and San Mateo
county officials continue to count votes. … Measure AA would
… pay for improving hiking and biking opportunities,
preserving forests, coastline and wildlife habitat, reducing
fire risk and protecting water quality in creeks, according to
sponsors of the measure.
Lake Powell is benefitting considerably from this year’s runoff
following a strong snow year in the Rocky Mountains. The lake
has risen 16 feet in the last month and is experiencing an
inflow of 128% the average.
Local leaders and representatives of several federal agencies
met Wednesday to look for a solution to the ongoing sewage
spills contaminating the Tijuana River Valley and the shoreline
from Imperial Beach to Coronado.
As the sun sets on California’s solar farms, a backup energy
source deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains springs to life. The
huge system of reservoirs and turbines can store energy during
the day and then crank out electricity for 900,000 homes, using
just water and gravity. As the state tries to make wind and
solar work around the clock, officials want to build more like
it. It won’t be easy: such projects take years to develop, are
expensive and face stiff opposition.
Issues including agricultural trade, immigration reform and
water storage emerged as priorities as a delegation of Farm
Bureau leaders from California met with administration
officials and members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The law – the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA –
is beginning to bite. A 2019 study from the Public Policy
Institute of California predicted that at least 500,000 acres
of farmland will eventually be idled. To ease the pain,
engineers are looking to harness an unconventional and unwieldy
source of water: The torrential storms that sometimes blast
across the Pacific Ocean and soak California.
A coalition of California residents affected by unsafe drinking
water held a symbolic “water strike” at the Capitol on
Wednesday, pressing lawmakers to fund a plan that would clean
up their water sources.
After hunting them was banned in 1961, the otters began
returning to parts of the state. Their recovery in the Bay Area
is relatively recent, however, and as of last year the state
range map for river otters still depicted the region as an
unoccupied expanse. This spring, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife released an updated map showing where river
otters live in the Bay Area.
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is warning
water rights holders that failure to file their annual reports
will result in significant fines. Annual water use reports for
all appropriative water rights including permits, licenses,
registrations and certificates, were initially due on April 1.
According to the Board, only 57 percent of those with
appropriative water rights had filed the required reports for
2018 as of April 2.
California water users have been consistently frustrated over
the seemingly endless water curtailments imposed on them. …
Unfortunately, the messages from the regulators, political
leaders, and media are not always consistent and the public is
often left uncertain and confused. We wanted to show just how
much water can be “lost” by California’s current water system
The added water volume means crews contracted by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers are having to pull back from where they had
been working on the lake’s auxiliary dam, its service spillway
and the lake’s emergency spillway, said the corps’ project
manager, Anthony Burdock.
A California water district is disputing claims made in a
lawsuit filed by Attorney General Xavier Becerra that it is
violating state laws over a dam project. Westland Water
District, which covers Fresno and Kings counties, was
responding to the lawsuit filed over the Shasta Dam, the
potential heightening of which the attorney general strongly
Since our great awakening in the 1960s, the Bay Area has become
a proud leader in protecting our local environment, from the
redwoods and ridgelines to San Francisco Bay. … But some
wealthy developers don’t care, despite decades of being told,
“no, we won’t build on the Bay anymore.” With Donald Trump’s
help, Cargill Salt and luxury home developer DMB Associates
keep putting their profit above the health of our Bay.
A 13 year dream of a waterfront regional park came into sharper
focus at a recent Oakley City Council meeting. Although the new
plan fleshed out a lot more details, the city is still
searching for the estimated $60 million required to pay for it.
Humboldt County could soon join a number of agencies around
California teaming up to license the Potter Valley Project, a
water development in the Eel and Russian river basins. The
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning
unanimously affirmed support for the coalition, which proposes
a “two-basin solution” to fix the various environmental
problems created by the enormous development.
California native Mayor Richard Bailey didn’t grow up in
Coronado. However, when elected to Coronado City Council in
2012 he became acutely aware of the decades long beach closures
in Coronado and Imperial Beach due to toxic waste flowing from
Tijuana into the Pacific Ocean.
I recently sat down with California water expert and Delta
Independent Science Board (ISB) member Jay Lund to talk about
some of the challenges and opportunities for scientists and
decision-makers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I am
pleased to share highlights from our conversation in this
month’s Delta Stewardship Council Chair’s blog.
In the 1960s a portion of the wetlands community of Devereux
Slough was filled in to make way for the Ocean Meadows Golf
Course. Now, with the help of grant funding from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service and multiple state and local partners,
permanently protected wetlands are being created within the
100-acre North Campus Open Space.
Recent rains and snow pack could force California’s Department
of Water Resources to release Oroville Dam’s main spillway as
early as next week. Currently, the 2019 snowpack for California
is now the fifth largest on record dating back to 1950,
according to DWR officials.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funding expansion of the
Sacramento Weir. The approximately $350 million project
involves widening the 1,950-foot weir an additional 1,500 feet
north. The weir’s 48 manually operated gates will remain
intact. The expansion is constructing a passive weir to
essentially allow excessive floodwaters to flow over the river
channels and into the bypasses — in turn widening the surface
area, which means the Sacramento Weir will be used less
frequently for more severe flooding events.
The U.S. Drought Monitor recently reported that, for the first
time in its nearly 20-year history, none of the contiguous
states was showing symptoms of severe or exceptional drought.
That report includes Arizona, as this year’s abnormally wet May
helped push the state out of a 10-year drought period.
During a weekend that’s widely known as the unofficial start of
summer in California, visitors who trekked to Lake Tahoe for
Memorial Day were met with a flurry of snowflakes that turned
the landscape into a winter wonderland in May.
This is the second installment of answers to some common
questions regarding water problems in California. Part I
examined some common questions on water supplies (questions
1-5). Part II looks more at common questions on water uses and
The California Department of Water Resources is preparing for
the potential use of the spillway this week. DWR Spokesperson
Erin Mellon said the decision will be based on Mother Nature.
… Recent wet weather has raised Lake Oroville to near
Marin County water district officials expressed encouragement
after an early agreement was reached that seeks to end
longstanding conflicts of a major regional water supply 100
miles to the north. The agreement centers around the
relicensing of the Potter Valley Project hydropower plant in
Mendocino County, which holds a supply of water that affects
fish, farmers and communities stretching from Marin to Humboldt
Major proposed infrastructure outside of the U.S., like the
Trans Mountain expansion pipeline in Canada, could lead to a
sudden influx of non floating oils being sent to California’s
refining centers near San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is a
huge issue, as non floating oils represent type of oils that
are either heavier than water or, following rapid breakdown
after a spill (known as “weathering”), begin to submerge into
the water column and sink.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering
tripling the maximum allowed contamination of perchlorate, a
potentially cancerous chemical, in water, but local water
officials say Santa Clarita would not be impacted, officials
said Monday. … Perchlorate is commonly used in solid rocket
propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for
vehicles, matches and signal flares, according to the EPA.
The bill drew stiff opposition from environmental and health
groups, from the Sierra Club to the American Lung Association.
They argued that if Don Pedro’s electricity was counted as
renewable, then the owners of dozens of other large dams would
want the same treatment. That would mean that demand for solar
and wind power could falter.
In a recent interview, Mark Arax explained how water shapes
culture in different parts of California, why the state might
be crashing into its environmental limits, and why drought
often makes farmers grow rather than shrink.
One hundred and fifty years after John Wesley Powell’s
expedition down the Colorado River, the magnitude of his
accomplishment remains a fascinating chapter in the history of
the American West and a key moment in the understanding of the
region’s geology and hydrology. In a Q&A with Western
Water’s Gary Pitzer, Emeritus Professor Charles Wilkinson from
the University of Colorado Law School and a scholar of the
American West, assesses Powell’s legacy.
In contrast to the “grey” infrastructure of blacktop pavement and
hardened shorelines, green infrastructure incorporates features
like permeable pavement, landscapes called bioswales that remove
debris and pollution out of surface runoff, and living shorelines
instead of concrete channels and piles of rocky rip-rap at
water’s edge. Unfortunately, current redevelopment proposals for
Mission Bay are a worrying example of rushed planning processes
that fail to evaluate the strategic use of green
When the first white settlers arrived in California’s remote
eastern Owens Valley, the name given to its indigenous tribes
was Paiute, or “land of flowing water” in the local language.
But for more than a century, the water in the valley has flowed
in just one direction: toward Los Angeles, nearly 300 miles
(480 km) away.
San Francisco Bay enthusiasts are pleased that the waters of
San Francisco Bay are becoming cleaner and clearer, but
researchers are worried that this might invite a new problem –
blooms of toxic phytoplankton. Although these microscopic,
toxin-producing algae are already found in the Bay, with
clearer waters permitting more light to reach these
photosynthetic algae, it’s feared that the Bay could turn into
a toxic soup of both freshwater and marine harmful algae…
Our local economy depends on agriculture, and our agriculture
depends on the thousands of families that toil the fields
throughout the year. We all belong to the same ecosystem, we
all are part of the great state of California and we must do
Parts of the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers are closed to
recreation. But the high water levels don’t just mean people’s
vacations are getting cut short. … Hilda Warren lives near
the river and says she’s starting to get worried, watching the
water levels rise day by day.
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
The city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority
are assessing pumped-water energy storage as a way to integrate
more renewable power, stabilize the power grid, reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and foster economic growth. Their
proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility would take water
from the existing San Vicente Reservoir and use electricity to
pump it to a smaller, higher elevation reservoir.
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
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.
The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network’s largest
conservation project to date is moving upstream. This month the
group secured over half a million dollars to complete the
second phase of its effort to improve habitat for endangered
salmon in Lagunitas Creek between the ghost towns of Jewell and
A plan to underground about 2.5 miles of the Escondido Canal
through and near the San Pasqual Indian reservation has moved
forward with an agreement reached recently for Escondido to pay
the tribe for an easement through its land. The 14-mile-long
Escondido Canal transports water from Lake Henshaw to Lake
Wohlford where it is stored for use by Escondido and Vista
Irrigation District consumers.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
Hermosa Beach, partnering with neighboring cities, was supposed
to receive the money from the State Water Resources Control
Board to help design and build the Greenbelt Infiltration
Project … meant to help clean the Herondo Drain Watershed,
which has consistently had elevated levels of bacteria. But the
city put the funding in jeopardy in March when the council
voted to dissolve a deal with neighboring cities and instead
find a new home for the project.
Before the threat of rising seas was widely understood,
California created an agency to protect its famous beaches from
overdevelopment. Now the state Coastal Commission is pouring
resources into a war against the effects of climate change, and
it could lead toward the removal of oceanfront homes.
Last week three local entities — California Trout, Mendocino
County Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPC) and Sonoma
Water — announced they will be signing a project planning
agreement with the hopes of looking at pathways to relicense
the Potter Valley Project. The Potter Valley Project is a
hydropower project that sits in the middle of the Eel River and
Russian River watershed basins and is integral in providing
water to both Mendocino County and northern Sonoma County.
May 24, 2019, marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of
John Wesley Powell’s ambitious expedition through the
canyonlands of Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, including the Grand
Canyon. … In a new USGS story map, readers can follow
Powell’s epic journey from a remote sensing perspective.
A Pleasanton company has an unusual idea to cool data storage
machines that they say uses a fraction of the energy and cuts
greenhouse gasses. But local environmentalists are against the
plan because of the possible impact it could have on San
Each year, humans produce, prescribe, and ingest more
antibiotics than they did the year before. … But the drugs’
influence persists in the environment long after they’ve done
their duty in human bodies. In a new study that surveyed 91
rivers around the world, researchers found antibiotics in the
waters of nearly two-thirds of all the sites they sampled…
Because the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate
PFAS chemicals, states are left not only to research and track
them, but also to develop regulations to clean up already
dangerous levels of pollution. And, according to recent data
from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
at Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group,
the West isn’t doing a great job.
The Del Mar Mesa community in San Diego, Calif., has clean
running water. Given this fact, the sight of nearly 20 girls in
an affluent neighborhood carrying buckets of water up a ravine
was out of the ordinary, to say the least. “What we’re trying
to do is represent what African women do on a day-to-day basis:
the fact that they have to travel several miles — several hours
— to just get water,” said Emma Reeves, an 18-year-old
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
Del Puerto Water District and Central California Irrigation
District have developed the reservoir project without many
public concerns rising to the surface. That was until Patterson
city staff members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. Maria
Encinas, a city management analyst, asked about a risk
assessment for adjacent communities like Patterson. A failure
in the dam on Del Puerto Creek, on the west side of Interstate
5, would appear to flood part of the city of 23,700, including
perhaps the downtown area in Patterson.
Although flooding hasn’t occurred in Clarksburg since the
construction of the levee system in the early 1900s, the
community is considered a moderate to high hazard flood area,
according to a county report. For that reason, a flood risk
reduction feasibility study has been prepared for the town
similar to those conducted for Yolo and Knights Landing with
funds from the California Department of Water Resources.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
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
Maintaining the cleanest water possible is one of the most
significant priorities of the Port of San Diego’s environmental
initiatives. This was the message of a nearly one-hour
presentation and discussion, held between port district staff
and the Board of Port Commissioners on May 14, on keeping
pollution out of San Diego Bay.
Earlier this month the governor’s Drought Interagency
Coordinating Group unanimously voted to inform the governor
that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should
continue. This means Arizona has been in a state of drought for
more than 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than
110 years of record keeping. Now that our drought has been
extended yet again, it leaves many to wonder what it will take
to get us out of this drought.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
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
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.
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…
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
Even though the Russian River watershed has received roughly
130 percent of the average rainfall this season, it is time to
discuss the impacts of overwatered landscapes as the dry
weather returns and irrigation controllers turn on.
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…
An investigation into the Bay Conservation and Development
Commission found mismanagement and disorganization so rampant
that the once-celebrated watchdog agency allegedly neglected
its primary responsibility — to protect San Francisco Bay. A
state audit of the regulatory agency known as the BCDC
describes slow and inefficient enforcement, a huge backlog of
cases and an inability to perform key duties.
It’s hard to respond effectively to a crisis when you don’t
have clearly defined priorities. This is true for sudden-onset
crises, like floods and wildfires, and also for slow-onset
crises, like droughts.
In an effort to combat climate change and reduce smog, former
Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a landmark law that requires
California’s utilities to produce 60 percent of their
electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.
But hydroelectric power from large dams doesn’t qualify as
renewable, because of another state law, passed nearly 20 years
ago, that aimed to protect salmon and other endangered fish.
That’s not right, says State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.
For years, nonprofits, politicians, state agencies and the U.S.
Forest Service have pointed to the East Fork of the upper San
Gabriel River as one of the more polluted fresh water rivers in
the state. This week, Heal the Bay … rated the upper East
Fork and the portion adjacent to the Cattle Canyon picnic area
— exactly where thousands would recreate on summer weekends —
100 percent Green, the highest rating in its 2018 River Report
Rather than unquestioningly celebrating Powell and his legacy,
this year gives us the chance to think about a couple of
points: First, how are we telling Powell’s story now, and how
have we told it in the past? Is it, and has it been, accurate
and useful? Second, whose stories have we excluded, ignored,
and forgotten about in the focus on Powell?
A facility designed to increase water supply reliability for
the Inland area was dedicated in a light rain at the foot of
the hulking Seven Oaks Dam near Highland on Thursday, May 23.
Officials used a new concrete diversion box to move water
rushing from the dam to a new sedimentation basin and beyond.
The water is intended to spread out and seep into a groundwater
basin, which officials have said is historically low due to a
As the Colorado River’s flow declines, water supplies in seven
states are imperiled by potential shortages. That includes
Arizona, which passed legislation outlining steps it would take
if water from the river continues to decrease. But what does a
water shortage mean for Phoenix?
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
The southernmost portion of Southeast Alaska, including
Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Metlakatla, has
been in a drought for the last two years… Last week, though,
the drought was updated to a D3, or “extreme” drought, the
second-highest category the U.S. Drought Monitor measures. It’s
the first time those conditions have ever been recorded in
Alaska, according to the Drought Monitor.
In retrospect, it’s clear: We’ve misunderstood how rivers work.
They don’t follow wishful parameters of the Army Corps of
Engineers’ 100-year flood guidelines, or the routes we’ve
penciled in between levees, or even the climatic expectations
of the past. A national program that presumes we can
choreograph today the floods of tomorrow is fundamentally
flawed. It’s time to recognize that the rivers will have their
way. Therefore we need to get out of the way.
The Santa Clara stretches 84 miles and through two counties
from the San Gabriel Mountains to the ocean just south of
Ventura Harbor. Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars
have been invested to protect and restore the river, work that
some say has reached a tipping point.
While there are all kinds of water safety issues to be aware
of, the State Water Resources Control Board wants the public to
know about one that may not be so obvious — freshwater harmful
algal blooms, or HABs. As California confronts the realities of
climate change, HABs have become increasingly common in rivers,
lakes and reservoirs, and they can be especially dangerous to
children and pets.
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.
There are more concerns over lake levels in Oroville as Butte
County leaders take initiative to explore alternative options
for safety measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR), a
leg of the State Water Project, manages the Oroville Dam. On
Wednesday, DWR officials remained adamant in saying they have
no plans to release water from the Oroville Dam spillway.
University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Charles Wilkinson …
described the Western icon and one-armed Civil War veteran as a
complex character, a larger-than-life person and an early
visionary of wise water use in an arid West. Wilkinson spoke
recently with Western Water about Powell and his legacy, and
how Powell might view the Colorado River today.
Called the Monterey Bay Opportunistic Beach Nourishment
Program, the plan entails hauling beach-quality sand from other
inland locations as a result of construction, development or
dredging projects. The sand would be added to stockpiles at
different locations and then be applied to dry sand areas above
high tide marks…
Precipitation in California is highly variable from year to
year, and climate change is increasing this variability. … To
address this and other challenges, the state passed Assembly
Bill (AB) 1668 and Senate Bill (SB) 606 in June 2018. Known
jointly as the Water Conservation Legislation, these bills were
drafted in response of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 executive
order to “make water conservation a California way of life.”
There are six key components…
The Bureau of Reclamation updated its 2019 allocation for the
Central Valley Project South-of-Delta, increasing the westside
water allocation to 70 percent of the contract total. Said
Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant: “The late storms
provided an added boost to the already above average
precipitation for 2019. Snowpack throughout the state is still
about 150% of average for this time of year.”
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.
~John Wesley Powell
Powell scrawled those words in his journal as he and his expedition paddled their way into the deep walls of the Grand Canyon on a stretch of the Colorado River in August 1869. Three months earlier, the 10-man group had set out on their exploration of the iconic Southwest river by hauling their wooden boats into a major tributary of the Colorado, the Green River in Wyoming, for their trip into the “great unknown,” as Powell described it.
Legislation that would require the state to enhance its river
and stream gauging system has cleared the state Senate. … The
bill requires the Department of Water Resources and Water
Control Board to improve and enhance the monitoring system,
including filling those gaps that are found, as well as assess
a funding source to complete the work.
The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150
farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week,
where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water
officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the
goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions.
The idea is simple, the task gargantuan: Remove 1.7 million
cubic yards of sediment to return the circa 1920 dam to full
functionality, protecting Pasadena, South Pasadena, Highland
Park and other northeast Los Angeles communities downstream —
including the Rose Bowl, Brookside Park and the Arroyo Seco
Parkway — from the potential flooding of a 100-year storm.
Barbara Vlamis is smiling. Often, the executive director of the
Chico-based advocacy group AquAlliance wears a steely
expression, as her work involves David-versus-Goliath battles
against powerful interests—namely, government agencies and
water brokers. Now, she’s satisfied, even a bit celebratory.
The California Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would require
additional environmental review for groundwater transfers that
would affect desert areas, which would put a major roadblock in
front of a controversial water project proposed in the Mojave
Desert by Cadiz Inc.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
By late spring, the Pacific jet stream is typically rushing
over the Northwest, but this year its trajectory never shifted
to the north and remains over California, hurling storms from
the Pacific Ocean onshore. Jon Gottschalck, chief of the
operational prediction branch at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, says the reason for the jet
stream’s wayward activity are complicated, but he and his
colleagues at NOAA think El Niño is definitely at play.
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.
While Belvedere officials consider a series of flood control
projects that could cost up to $27.1 million, the city has
appointed a new advisory committee that represents some of the
hillside homeowners who say that money shouldn’t come out of
their pockets. … An engineering consultant has designed
several iterations of the projects, which are meant to
safeguard the community from the forthcoming effects of
I ran down a quick summary this morning of the relevant data,
comparing recent use with the cuts mandated under the DCP. It
shows that, at this first tier of shortage, permitted use is
less than the voluntary cuts water users have been making since
2015. In other words, all of the states are already
using less water than contemplated in this first tier of DCP
For more than a century, the zanja system, a series of
irrigation ditches that brought water from the Río de
Porciúncula (now the LA River) to the homes and fields of Los
Angeles, was the lifeblood of the region. At its height in
1888, 52 miles of zanjas, half open earth and half concrete,
ran within the city limits. An additional 40 miles of zanjas
ran outside the city proper. Controlled by the local
government, the water that flowed in these zanjas enabled life,
and occasionally death, to flourish in Los Angeles.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a drought emergency
across nearly half the state. The drought declaration covers
the Olympic peninsula, the North Cascades, the eastern Cascades
and most of southwest Washington. It allows local governments
to tap into $2 million in state funding to respond to hardships
caused by the drought. … Snowpack is now at its fourth-lowest
level in the past 30 years.
An abandoned iron mine on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National
Park could be repurposed as a massive hydroelectric power plant
under a bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.
… The bill could jump-start a $2.5-billion hydropower project
that critics say would harm Joshua Tree National Park, draining
desert groundwater aquifers and sapping above-ground springs
that nourish wildlife in and around the park.
Coastal communities should not rule out a sea-level rise in
excess of 6.5 feet, according to the study published this week
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …
Should this worst-case scenario come to pass, good portions of
cities like New York City and Miami on the East Coast and Los
Angeles and San Francisco on the West Coast would be underwater
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
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to
investigate becoming a stakeholder in the Potter Valley
project, a massive water development in the Eel and Russian
river basins. … The idea is to protect the Russian River’s
water supply for Potter Valley residents while mitigating the
effects of the Scott Dam on Eel River fish populations.
As part of efforts by Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) to assess its 2014-2016 turf replacement
program during the California drought, we evaluated how yards
changed after converting a lawn through a MWD rebate in LA
County. We also evaluated trends in participation across
In 2016, California became the first state to pass legislation
regulating dairy methane, requiring the farms to cut their
manure emissions 40% by 2030. … Enter Neil Black. Black’s
company builds multimillion-dollar projects at the state’s
largest dairies to capture the gas.