The new study capitalized on the unique data set available from
Yosemite’s Illilouette Basin, which is the only watershed in
the U.S. West with a restored fire regime where enough
hydrological data have been collected to allow model
validation. The results demonstrate how large-scale forest
restorations may affect water resources, a topic of
considerable interest across much of the region.
The initial objectives of the restoration project were to:
improve habitat for the Delta smelt, reduce saltwater
intrusion, reduce submerged aquatic weeds and reduce invasive
non-native fish species that feed on native fish. Carl Wilcox,
a CDFW policy advisor explained the objectives are now more
broad and include accommodations for recreational and economic
activities that are key to the region’s residents.
The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and
federal approval for a project that will expand a migration
corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s
main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain
restoration action on the West Coast…
Like many things in the Bay Area, the seeming dearth of a
robust local seafood scene can be traced in part to the cost of
doing business — and that, in turn, can be traced to the
region’s high real estate costs.
Santa Barbara County prosecutors say they’ve reached a
settlement with a small private water district over claims it
was diverting water from a creek without proper permits. The
action involved the Montecito Creek Water Company. It has
limited water rights for Hot Springs Creek. But, State Fish and
Wildlife officials say the water company didn’t have a permit
to divert water.
Scientists at UC Davis have developed five new types of the
berry set to hit the market this fall. … Researchers say
these new strawberries are the best of both worlds: the
strawberries will use less water, fertilizer and pesticides and
still produce more, healthier, higher-quality strawberries.
Winter-run Chinook’s need for cool temperatures has meant
recent catastrophic losses when temperatures got too high, but
a few recent studies have altered our understanding of this
species’ temperature tolerance. This new knowledge may allow
water managers to actually release less cold water overall,
while still improving winter-run survival.
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
Visitors are being encouraged to stay out of the water at
Mission Bay due to high bacteria levels. On July 17, the San
Diego County Department of Environmental Health issued an alert
for the Bonita Cove part of the Bay that stated: “Bacteria
levels may exceed health standards. Avoid water contact in the
advisory area.” In addition to Bonita Cove, visitors are being
told to not enter the water at Leisure Lagoon.
An Oregon-based sustainable certification organization, Salmon
Safe, encourages farms, vineyards, buildings and even golf
courses throughout Washington, Oregon, California and British
Columbia to mitigate their impacts on salmon habitat by doing
things like reducing pollution-heavy stormwater runoff. For a
brewery, that means getting its facilities certified or
sourcing ingredients from farms that have restored
salmon-inhabited streams and limited their use of water and
District Fire Chief Todd McNeal, who proposed the project, said
the draft point will allow firefighters to pull raw water from
the reservoir during an emergency and take pressure off the
The fence was part of security measures to protect the city’s
supply of drinking water. But now that we no longer use the
Silver Lake and Hyperion reservoirs for potable water, the
question arises – could the fence ever come down?
Cities such as San Francisco want to buy assets from the
bankrupt electricity provider to control the power supply for
their communities. An amendment inserted late in the
legislative process makes those purchases more difficult by
subjecting them to the approval of state regulators.
It’s not unusual to spot the national bird flying around Lake
Oroville every summer. What’s unusual this year is the amount
currently calling Lake Oroville home. Environmental scientists
from the Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division
are keeping an eye on seven nesting pairs of bald eagles, four
of which are successfully raising a total of eight young
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) urged people to avoid
physical contact with the water at San Luis Reservoir in Merced
County until further notice and avoid eating fish from the lake
due to the presence of blue-green algae. DWR increased the
advisory from warning to danger after detecting an increased
amount of microcystins.
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
Monterey County’s Nacimiento Dam safety program is seriously
deficient with an outdated program document, insufficient staff
and a long list of outstanding dam safety repairs and
maintenance estimated to cost more than $50 million that needs
to be addressed in short order.
A coalition of 55 environmental, fishing, and water policy
groups has written Gov. Gavin Newsom, backing his Water
Portfolio planning process, and announcing that they plan to
take an active part with their own proposals for the plan.
The quake struck outside of Ridgecrest, but it was also felt
about 150 miles to the east, at Devils Hole, a detached 40-acre
area of Death Valley National Park that is across the
California border in Nevada. That shaking is shown in a
remarkable video released by the National Park Service. The
clip shows water violently sloshing around, rising and falling
10 to 15 feet, according to a park estimate.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Earlier this year, President Trump launched – by executive
order, of course – a new process designed to circumscribe
dramatically states’ longstanding authority to review
applications for federal permits for any activity that may
result in a discharge to a water body within a state’s
boundaries. That proposal is fundamentally flawed, both on its
merits and in the procedures USEPA is using to implement it.
The three design schemes look totally distinct on paper and
come with different names — “Island,” “Soft Edge,” “The Yards”
— but they all have the same goal: restore wildlife habitat,
plant people-friendly landscapes and develop flood-control
strategies for a place that has been the subject of so much
neglect, speculation, dreaming and debate: the L.A. River.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
Groundwater overdraft is a major problem globally and has been
a persistent and growing problem in California for decades.
This overdraft is predominantly driven by the economic value of
water for agricultural production and cities.
Agricultural scientists across the globe including at Stanford
University and the University of California at Davis have in
recent years been making new discoveries showing that healthy
soil holds more carbon than previously thought and that good
soil management can serve as an important carbon sink.
Initially, farmers had been contracted $285 per acre/feet for
conserved water and the IID welcomed all participants. However,
due to the farmers’ innovation and ingenuity, the total
acre/feet saved the past three years exceeded the amount needed
for the QSA transfer.
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
Tashiana Osborne is a PhD student with the Scripps Institution
for Oceanography at UC San Diego where she works within the
Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes on atmospheric
river research: As a graduate student, you already have an
incredible amount of experience, including working as a storm
chaser and intern at NASA. Can you tell us a little more about
your current research?
For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have
been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the
original source of clean electricity. Our efforts have been
stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or
isn’t, green enough. That’s why I have begun the process of
modifying our state Constitution to recognize safe, abundant,
carbon-free hydropower as a reliable source of renewable energy
in our fight against climate change.
Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of
fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest
wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including
last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever. A
new study, published this week in the journal Earth’s Future,
finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s
being driven by climate change.
Keystone projects for the midcounty planning effort, mandated
by the state for all groundwater-dependent agencies, include
stormwater runoff management, Soquel Creek Water District’s
Pure Water Soquel advanced water treatment plant, and the city
of Santa Cruz’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental water
supply that would primarily make use of unused winter river
runoff, likely through new storage options.
More than 25 threatened spring-run Chinook salmon have returned
to the San Joaquin River so far this year, the first spring-run
salmon to swim up the river in more than 65 years. On Battle
Creek to the north, at least 50 endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon reintroduced in 2018 have also returned — the first to
return to the creek since dams built in the early 1900s blocked
and damaged their habitat.
Summers in San Francisco may soon feel more like the warmer
East Bay. The East Bay may soon feel more like Sacramento. And
Sacramento — well, it might just be too hot to stick around any
longer. One of the most detailed studies on rising temperatures
suggests that few places in the United States will be
unaffected by extreme heat by the middle of this century.
Assembly member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, authored AB 137, which
would prohibit people from altering the stability of levees or
bypasses, as well as prohibit people from living and camping on
the structures. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor
Fish die-offs in freshwater lakes are an increasing threat in
California, and experts say climate change is to blame. … In
a 2014-2017 report, the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife found that high summer temperatures were not only
worsening the quality of the water, but drying out freshwater
bodies that hosted endangered species.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
Between 1890 and 1910, almost 90% of Humboldt Bay’s salt
marshes, about 8,100 acres, were diked and drained for
agricultural uses or walled off from tidal inundation with the
construction of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. Now … the
earthen dikes are beginning to fail, both because they haven’t
been maintained and because they aren’t tall enough to hold
back the rising tides brought on by rising sea levels.
In black and white, John Trotter documents the use of water
from the Colorado River, tackling the social, political, and
environmental impact of the way it’s dealt with. Spanning over
years and kilometres, his ongoing essay is a dire political
Benthic macroinvertebrates, including insect larvae, worms,
snails, and other backbone-lacking creatures, often rule the
alpine waterways. However, their high-altitude homes put them
on the front lines of climate change, which threatens to have
major impacts on mountain streams. This is particularly true of
streams in the Sierra Nevada of California…
In the 1990s, he played a central role in some of the country’s
biggest environmental decisions. … He could have chosen to
wrap up his career when he left office at the end of the
Clinton administration in 2001. But Babbitt has
remained actively engaged in issues he cares about.
Faced with mounting opposition to its $315 million plan to
restore the tidal marshland on Franks Tract in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state has begun seeking input
from residents, boaters, fishermen and others on possible
The seep, which has been flowing off and on since May, has
again stopped, said Chevron spokeswoman Veronica
Flores-Paniagua, with the last flow Tuesday. … Chevron
reported that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out
of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in
the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield.
While elected officials in Sacramento work to secure funding to
ensure that the levees along the San Joaquin River are
reinforced to be able to withstand a 200-year flood, the City
of Lathrop has been performing the work necessary to continue
development within the floodplain while that work is completed.
… The city has received financial backing from a number of
developers that don’t want to see development stop until the
costly repairs are mad.
Your perfect river might be one where you float gently along on
inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous
rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft. No problem.
California has got it all when it comes to river rafting, from
gentle half-day float trips for first-timers and mellow family
adventures to adrenaline-pumping, white water, multi-day
Amid the vital habitat for wildlife, officers found that the
suspects were using pesticides and fertilizers, including a
55-gallon drum of Roundup, and had an open trash pit and water
pit used for premixing chemicals.
The California condor’s dramatic recovery from near-extinction
was aided by removal of toxic substances from the land, which
accumulated in animals whose carrion they ate. But that
recovery may be threatened in coastal condors by DDT-related
contaminants in marine mammals, according to a preliminary
study led by an San Diego State researcher.
A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten
Sinema would put aside hundreds of millions of dollars for
water storage projects, water recycling, and desalination
plants. … The bill is also sponsored by California Democratic
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Colorado Republican Senator Cory
While the local sewerage agencies followed state and federal
law in reporting spills to governmental agencies, the public
wouldn’t necessarily know much about them. In this case, it has
taken Heal the Bay, a statewide environmental organization, to
dig them out of bureaucracies’ files.
Crews are digging and removing 66,000 yards of dirt to make
room for an underground vault. It will be used to catch
rainwater during a storm in order to alleviate flooding around
the park. Behind the fence, crews are hauling away dirt.
Workers will eventually put the 6 million-gallon water vault 22
Government scientists predict 40 places in the U.S. will
experience higher than normal rates of so-called sunny day
flooding this year because of rising sea levels and an abnormal
El Nino weather system. A report released Wednesday by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that
sunny day flooding, also known as tidal flooding, will continue
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will decide July 15 if
California American Water will be permitted to build its $329
million desal plant. The supervisors will be hearing appeals
brought by Public Water Now and the Marina Coast Water District
challenging the county Planning Commission’s decision to allow
Cal Am to proceed with this seriously flawed venture. There are
some major problems with the proposed plant.
People who fish for carp have a love for them, as I learned
when I joined my guides at the middle of the river in Long
Beach. Lauren Mollica, a former pro skateboarder who now works
primarily as a carpenter, has been fishing the L.A. River for
about a year, and she waxes rhapsodic about the scent freshly
caught carp leaves on one’s hands.
Climate-conscious local and state officials are increasingly
embracing electricity sources that float on water, as they seek
ways to convert their least-coveted spaces into hubs of
electricity. This summer alone, developers broke ground on
California’s largest floating solar project, located on a
wastewater treatment pond in Sonoma County.
The Kern County Public Health Services Department recently
received water samples from eight different locations in Lake
Isabella, and two water samples indicated the presence of
blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, at a cautionary level. This
type of algae can be considered potentially harmful.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
A longtime court case involving the shutoff of water to
multiple water users in the Klamath Basin in 2001 attracted
wide-ranging attention from Pacific Northwest-based
organizations and those within the legal community in
Washington, D.C. Nearly 90 minutes of oral arguments were heard
Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals at the Federal Circuit.
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
The Aurora ship has been sitting vacant for years in San
Joaquin County. Its owner wants to move it to Isleton’s public
marina, refurbish it and open it up as a business. If it moves
to Isleton’s waterfront, the ship could be used to host
weddings and parties, be a bed and breakfast and provide a home
for the owner’s family to run the business.
Seeking to implement updated scientific methods to its
operations in the Golden State, the Bureau of Reclamation
released a draft environmental impact report on the coordinated
operations between the federal Central Valley Project and
California’s State Water Project on Thursday.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, reveals an
elegant formula to explain why some trees died and others
didn’t — and it suggests more suffering is in store for forests
as the climate heats up.
The nation’s coasts were hit with increased tidal flooding over
the past year, part of a costly and perilous trend that will
only worsen as sea levels continue to rise, federal scientists
A vintner in Northern California is upgrading a concrete fish
barrier to return native salmon and steelhead to valuable
spawning habitat that has been blocked for nearly a century. A
cooperative “Safe Harbor” agreement between the landowner
Barbara Banke, proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and NOAA
Fisheries … fostered the improvements.
Rain – and plenty of it – was the big weather story in June,
adding to a record-breaking 12 months of precipitation for the
contiguous U.S. It’s the third consecutive time in 2019 (April,
May and June) the past 12-month precipitation record has hit an
The $650 million project involves a joint financial partnership
between Padre Dam, Helix, San Diego County and the city of El
Cajon. The Helix board voted 4-1 last week to continue funding
the Advanced Water Purification project, which is expected to
have reclaimed water flowing into faucets by 2025.
What is at stake is the water supply for the Monterey
Peninsula. Consuming water drawn from the Carmel River is no
longer feasible, neither ecologically nor legally. But the
power to decide on an alternative supply is largely vested in
the hands of public officials from outside the region.
The golf course property, now earmarked by its nonprofit owner
the Trust For Public Land for “rewilding” after a fierce
community battle over its future, sits in the headwaters of the
Lagunitas Creek watershed. The watershed … is a spawning and
rearing ground for coho salmon and steelhead trout, both of
which are on the endangered species list.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
The Department of Water Resources released the final guidelines
for the Riverine Stewardship Program on July 1, 2019. The grant
program supports planning and implementation of projects that
restore streams, creeks, and rivers to enhance the environment
for fish, wildlife, and people.
If Robert P. McCulloch had not flown over the beautiful waters
of Lake Havasu, there would never have been a Lake Havasu City.
But if Parker Dam didn’t exist, there would never have been a
Lake Havasu in the first place. It’s a bit like the riddle of
the chicken and the egg.
A massive flow of fresh water is being released from Friant Dam
on Tuesday as Millerton Lake reached capacity. … Officials
are releasing 1,700-1,000 cubic feet per second into the San
Joaquin River. Stroup said Millerton Lake has received above
average snow melt forcing them to release the water to make
room for more run off.
Agricultural water suppliers must develop annual water budgets
and drought plans that meet requirements of recently enacted
legislation, and are meeting with state officials to comply
with the updated law—a process that could ultimately affect
water costs for California farmers and ranchers.
The plan is historic: It acknowledges that southwestern states
need to make deep water use reductions – including a large
share from agriculture, which uses over 70% of the supply – to
prevent Colorado River reservoirs from declining to critically
low levels. But it also has serious shortcomings. It runs for
less than a decade. And its name suggests a response to a
New legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier,
D-Discovery Bay, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom,
calls for the development of a plan to deal with abandoned and
derelict commercial vessels in the Delta. A draft of that plan
is now available for review and public comment.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
Despite being on opposite sides of the immigration debate,
environmental groups who oppose border barriers generally
mirror cattle rancher John Ladd’s concerns about the river.
They say a wall or fence across the San Pedro could have
devastating consequences to its hydrology, as well as the
endangered species that call the river home.
Remember the parade of atmospheric-river storms that deluged
the Bay Area last winter, giving us the wettest rainy season in
20 years? There are a lot more of those on the way, scientists
say. But California will also experience more periods of
extreme dryness, according to a new study led by Scripps
Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
The bill that will provide support for necessary repairs to the
Friant-Kern Canal is continuing to make forward progress in the
California legislature. Senate Bill 559 (SB-559) … was voted
through the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in the
Assembly on July 2. The bill itself is seeking $400 million to
make important upgrades and repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
San Diego faces a hidden earthquake threat — to its water
supply. A quake, even one so far away that nobody in San Diego
feels it, could force mandatory water-use restrictions. That’s
because most of San Diego’s water comes from hundreds of miles
away through threads of metal and concrete that connect us to
distant rivers and reservoirs.
The California Senate on Monday sent legislation to Gov. Gavin
Newsom that will spend $130 million a year over the next decade
to improve drinking water for about a million people. …
Newsom had proposed a tax on most residential water bills to
address the problem. Instead, the Senate approved a bill that
would authorize spending up to $130 million each year on the
state’s distressed water districts, with most of it coming from
a fund aimed at fighting climate change.
Industry veteran Gloria Gray took the helm at the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California. In this interview, Gray
shares how she plans to steer the largest water supplier in the
nation through changing political priorities and climate
conditions to continue safeguarding the future of California’s
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water) has resumed
pre-construction activities in Alviso, California, delivering
on a long-made promise to protect shoreline communities in
Santa Clara County from devastating flooding.
Marijuana growers are literally sucking salmon streams dry.
According to research that TU and partners cited for the
journal Bioscience, some forms of outdoor cultivation use an
average of 6 gallons per day per marijuana plant. … Their
combined water demand can easily exceed available streamflow in
the tiny tributaries salmon and steelhead rely on to survive
the long, hot summers typical of this region.
A new study will explore the viability of a regional pipeline
to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple
users in San Diego County and across the Southwest. The San
Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved
funds for the two-year study at its June 27 Board meeting.
On June 28, farmers gathered in Los Banos to ask questions of
President Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue. GV Wire
took the opportunity to ask growers if they believed Trump was
doing enough to bring water to farmers. Generally, they said
they like how things are progressing.
Weather conditions that make this a landmark year, like more
rain, could be part of the reason for the algae blooms in
Horseshoe Lake, putting the upper Bidwell Park lake off limits
for use for the foreseeable future.
The original treaty was implemented before the 1970 National
Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act and a
host of legal shifts that bolstered Indigenous rights… These
hallmarks of change emphasize the need to include environmental
protection and equity in an updated treaty.
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
Wildfire and drought dominate the climate change debates in the
state. Yet this less-talked-about reality has California
cornered. The coastline is eroding with every tide and storm,
but everything built before we knew better — Pacific Coast
Highway, multimillion-dollar homes in Malibu, the rail line to
San Diego — is fixed in place with nowhere to go.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
The standoff between Sacramento County and the California
Department of Water Resources over the Delta’s future took a
twist in June, moving from quiet canals and pear orchards along
the river to a courtroom in the central city. That’s where
county officials were granted a temporary restraining order
against DWR to halt what they call risky and illegal drilling.
Only one undammed river in the American Southwest still flows
freely, and it begins just south of the border, in Sonora,
Mexico. From there, the San Pedro River courses north into
Arizona, a rare and unbarricaded corridor that is a haven and
vital water source for a vast array of plants and wildlife…
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
Santa Barbara County Water Agency should seek a completely new
contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rather than simply
renewing the 1995 Cachuma Project contract in 2020, a grand
jury found during an investigation into the contract process.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
The Lake Hodges facility near San Diego, a relatively small 40
megawatt generating station, is one of 40 pumped storage
facilities around the United States, and its operator says it
is helping the state meet its ambitious goals. San Diego is
planning a larger system at another site, the San Vicente
reservoir, again using two water sources at different
Each of the selected projects strike at the heart of the Sierra
Nevada watershed improvement program, SNC’s large-scale
restoration initiative designed to improve ecosystem and
community resilience in the region.
Oscar Meinzer (1942) credits Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with
having advocated the infiltration theory slightly before
Palissy’s time, basing his theories on observations made when
he was in charge of canals in the Milan area. … Such a
scenario might explain why California DWR staff and like-minded
academics and nonprofits have all jumped on the bandwagon of
managed aquifer recharge.
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
The experiment to super-energize water recharging efforts at
Fresno’s Leaky Acres appears to be working. … Tommy Esqueda,
then the director of Public Utilities, described the system to
me as “putting ‘unique’ straws in the ground. The depth and
spacing of these ‘straws’ are designed to maximize groundwater
Signs of the strong winter that the Central Sierra experienced
in 2018-19 are all around Tuolumne County two weeks into
summer, from a record tying late opening for Tioga Pass in the
High Sierra on Monday to the nearly brimful New Melones
Reservoir in the foothills.
An important blueprint for the success of farming in the
Central Valley is being developed to present to California
government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done
to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The
blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business
due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
Between 2012 and 2015, very little rain and snow fell on
California. Aquifers shrank and the land dried out. … New
research suggests the loss of deep-soil water best explains why
the mountain range’s trees were unable to withstand the drought
To find out what’s in Southern California’s oceans, Spectrum
News 1 went below the streets of Los Angeles into a storm drain
to track the flow of water. We’re diving into a question
scientists are facing: what is in L.A.’s water?
Colorado officials are planning to build multiple large
reservoirs on the prairie northeast of Denver to capture more
of the South Platte River’s Nebraska-bound water, then pump it
back westward to booming metro suburbs struggling to wean
themselves off dwindling underground aquifers.
The unusually wet winter (with an assist from new Colorado
River Drought Contingency Plan water reduction rules) has
substantially reduced the near-term scare-the-crap-out-of-me
risks on the Colorado River for the next few years, according
to new Bureau of Reclamation modeling.
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta historically has been an
agricultural paradise. But sometimes there is a disconnect
between the agricultural community and the urban culture. A
fourth generation farmer has made it her mission to reconnect
the two in hopes of inspiring the next generation to consider
farming as a career.
Researchers have mapped the impact of groundwater pumping on
surface water in individual watersheds before. But it’s only
recently that computing power has improved enough to look at
groundwater’s interaction with surface water, known as
integrated modeling, on a scale as large as the United States.
The rapid proliferation of the quagga mussel has major
implications for power plant reliability. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation installed a groundbreaking solution at Parker Dam
in Arizona that virtually eliminated the invasive species from
hydropower cooling systems.
A civilian watchdog panel called has upon several agencies to
clear up muddy communications to help end spats among members
receiving and distributing water as they move toward another
25-year deal for Lake Cachuma water.
Since the turn of the 20th century, the Colorado River and its
tributaries have been dammed and diverted to sustain the growth
of massive cities and large-scale farming in the American
Southwest. Attempts to bend the river system to humanity’s will
have also led to all kinds of unintended consequences. In
Colorado’s Paradox Valley, those unintended consequences take
the form of earthquakes.
Federal public health officials are urging people to take
precautions to protect themselves against a microscopic
parasite that can live for days in swimming pools and water
playgrounds and cause severe intestinal problems. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention published a report last week
about the increased number of outbreaks caused by the fecal
In their analyses, they write that the plan poses risks to
threatened fish; that the process is rushed; that they didn’t
receive enough information to provide a complete scientific
review; and that the Trump administration may be skewing the
science to make the environmental impact look less serious.
The Newsom Administration and the State Legislature approved a
commitment of $70 million in the 2019-2020 State Budget for a
comprehensive series of innovative fish and wildlife habitat
enhancement actions identified in the collaborative Bay-Delta
Voluntary Agreement proposals. This is a significant, early
investment in the success of the Voluntary Agreements.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
As another fire season looms, here in the small city of Grass
Valley, as in much of Gold Country where historic mining towns
nestle up to sprawling, wooded mountains, things are different
this year. What used to be a leisurely wind down to summer,
marked by high school graduations and the excitement of
vacation, has become a rush to action.
The update reported an excellent May in terms of Colorado River
Basin run-off, yet Central Arizona Water Conservation District
board members underscored that still-half-full reservoirs point
to the need for continued conservation.
When it comes to Nestle Corp.’s harvesting of spring water for
bottling from the nearby San Bernardino National Forest, it
always seems that any final resolution of this long-running
controversy is always somewhere in the future.
As the United States moves into the summer months, a recent
study examines whether a drought in California can be linked to
one in the Midwest. The Stanford-led study published in
Geophysical Research Letters finds that regions may fall victim
to water scarcity like dominos across the nation, the
university news service reported.
Keith Parker’s groundbreaking biology research regarding a new
subspecies of Pacific lamprey, recently published in the
science journal Molecular Ecology, may be the key to saving his
tribe’s way of life. … Parker hopes that his research will
open the door to further investigation of the lamprey, because
the future of his tribe lies with this bizarre-looking,
Plans to capture stormwater runoff by installing rubber dams at
San Juan Creek will move forward… SMWD is working with the
city of San Juan Capistrano and South Coast Water District for
the first phase of the project, which, when completed, is
expected to provide 5.6 billion gallons of reliable drinking
water each year.
As the 2018-19 water year came to a close Sunday,
record-setting snowpack in the Sierras and above-average rain
means several reservoirs are near full capacity heading into
the dry summer months. Here’s a look at the past 12 months of
Tribal leaders urged House lawmakers Wednesday to support a
handful of bills that would guarantee water to their tribes in
Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and fund the water treatment
plants and pipelines to deliver it.
After a disaster, Sonoma Water will try to restore service as
quickly as possible. The agency already has installed isolation
valves so that it can cut off water around breaks and has some
emergency water reserves in place. It estimates that water
service could be restored in as few as three days after a
moderate earthquake. The grand jury concluded that was an
overly rosy prediction.
We salute Rep. Jared Huffman and Sen. Kamala Harris for their
recent introduction of the Northwest California Wilderness,
Recreation and Working Forests Act, which would better protect
and restore lands and streams vital for water supply, salmon
and steelhead and the growing outdoor recreation economy in
Rising sea levels caused by climate change are prompting the
city of Monterey to prepare for a worst-case scenario, which
could include waves flooding Cannery Row, wreckage of
underground infrastructure and threats to our protected
In the long-term puzzle of ensuring that the Colorado River —
the main artery of the American West — provides water to the
millions of people in the basin who depend on it, the
challenges are mounting. Does 2019’s water stand a chance of
making a meaningful impact? Water experts say the answer is:
Sadly, not likely.
Heavy snowfall in winter and spring in the Sierra Nevada,
followed by relatively cool then rising temperatures in June,
has led to an ongoing risk of avalanches into the summer —
posing a threat to long-distance hikers on the famed Pacific
Crest Trail, experts say.
When the Camp Fire struck last November, the upper Miocene
Canal, constructed mostly of wooden flumes, was destroyed. Now,
the most important part of the canal, receiving water from the
Feather River to the north, cannot convey water down through
the rest of the canal system.
The polling firm FM3 Research found that a plurality of
California voters surveyed (27 percent) said climate change is
behind state wildfires. Another 17 percent of voters believe
that human error is the leading cause of wildfires, 12 percent
believe it’s forest mismanagement and 11 percent believe it’s
Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz, Keller
Beach in Richmond and Aquatic Park in San Mateo were announced
as four of the top 10 most polluted in the state, referred to
as “beach bummers.”
Each day, people living on the streets and camping along waterways across California face the same struggle – finding clean drinking water and a place to wash and go to the bathroom.
Some find friendly businesses willing to help, or public restrooms and drinking water fountains. Yet for many homeless people, accessing the water and sanitation that most people take for granted remains a daily struggle.
Most of the seven states that get water from the Colorado River
have signed off on plans to keep the waterway from crashing
amid a prolonged drought, climate change and increased demands.
But California and Arizona have not, missing deadlines from the
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?