President Trump signed a disaster declaration Saturday for 17
Northern California counties that endured battering rains and
landslides this year, making them eligible for federal relief.
The move followed three emergency proclamations this year by
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who directed Caltrans to seek federal
assistance for a string of brutal February storms that doused
rural areas across the state, damaging roads and bridges.
Napa County’s latest watershed symposium came at a time when
tensions are high over how to protect trees and reservoirs in
the area’s mountains. Close to 200 people from various
backgrounds came to Copia on Thursday for an A-to-Z look at
what’s happening in the watersheds. Scientists, elected
officials, wine industry members and citizen activists all
After months of tense, difficult negotiations, a plan to spread
the effects of anticipated cutbacks on the drought-stricken
Colorado River is nearing completion. On Monday,
representatives of the seven states that rely on the river will
gather for a formal signing ceremony at Hoover Dam, the real
and symbolic center of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
The agency charged with monitoring water quality standards
throughout the Greater Los Angeles region found that local
cities have committed more than 2,000 water quality violations
within a five-year period, but the violators suffered little if
We’re likely seeing the effects of a batch of runaway arctic
air slinking far enough south to energize and reinvigorate the
subtropical jet stream. If true, we can thank the “relentless
grind” of warmth in the Arctic this month for our unusually
rainy May here in the Bay Area.
There is a unique partnership happening in Arizona between
farmers, those involved in the malting process, and brewers
that is saving thousands of gallons of water from being taken
from the Verde River.
This year 126 fish have been counted going over Los Padres Dam
on the Carmel River. The number may not sound high but it is up
from single digits in years past. Last year the count was 25
fish and during the peak of the drought, there were zero fish
years. “After five years of drought it’s really welcome news,”
said Brian Leneve with the Carmel River Steelhead Association.
Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet
says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to
die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably
believe the next scare to come down the information highway. So
it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam
Tens of thousands of people flooded into San Francisco in the
1850s looking for gold, but there wasn’t nearly enough drinking
water to quench the thirst of the boomtown. So speculators
looked south of the city to San Mateo County in hopes of
delivering clean water to San Francisco and big money to their
own pockets. And they weren’t going to let anything get in
Although they spend their lives hidden beneath the surface,
fish are directly affected by the weather happening outside
their aquatic world. This is particularly true of species that
rely on watersheds in regions like California, where the
availability of water changes dramatically with the seasons.
Halting plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River was the
theme of a well-attended fundraising event hosted May 4 by the
Siskiyou County Water Users Association. Guest speakers,
including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Siskiyou County Supervisor
Brandon Criss, former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams
and Attorney James Buchal, author of “The Great Salmon Hoax”
discussed problems they foresee with dam removal which they
believe is far from a done deal.
When the federal government reduced how much arsenic it would
allow in drinking water in 2006, the water system in Jim
Maciel’s Central Valley community was suddenly considered
unsafe to drink. Bringing that arsenic content back down to a
safe level required a lot of work, as he explains to a few
colleagues at a water leadership institute in Visalia.
The Mountain View City Council approved the water district’s
18-foot-deep basin project in 2013 in exchange for the park
upgrades. Designed to accommodate a 100-year flood, the
McKelvey Park basin is one of two basin projects of the larger
Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project, which water district
officials claim will provide natural flood protection for
approximately 2,200 properties in Mountain View and Los Altos.
The commission, created in 1965 and comprised of 27 members
appointed primarily by state and local officials, is supposed
to protect the environmental health of the bay. If they won’t
take their job seriously, Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislative
leaders and local officials should replace them with people up
to the task.
Federal engineers are raising alarms that a “significant flood
event” could breach the spillway of Southern California’s aging
Prado Dam and potentially inundate dozens of Orange County
communities from Disneyland to Newport Beach. After conducting
an assessment of the 78-year-old structure earlier this month,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was raising
the dam’s risk category from “moderate” to “high urgency.”
The Western-San Bernardino and Orange County judgments, signed
April 17, 1969, helped establish five watermasters and settle
water rights throughout the watershed that supplies the water
agencies within San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.
The agreements settled decades of lawsuits over water rights…
Colorado is swimming in snowpack this year, with the state’s
southwest corner at 19.5 inches, 220% of the median for May 14
and 1.6 inches above the usual April 2 median peak, federal
data show. So reservoirs are filling, and the generous snowfall
has nearly eliminated a drought that hydrologists said in
January would take years for recovery.
The Yurok Tribal Council recently voted in favor of a
resolution to establish the Rights of the Klamath River.
According to the Yurok Tribe, the resolution “establishes the
Rights of the Klamath River to exist, flourish, and naturally
evolve; to have a clean and healthy environment free from
pollutants; to have a stable climate free from human-caused
climate change impacts; and to be free from contamination by
genetically engineered organisms.”
A four-year long restriction for new water connections has
ended in many parts of Nipomo. Last week, the Nipomo Community
Services District Board of Directors voted to proceed with an
upgrade to the supplemental water pipeline it has with Santa
Maria. … The additional water allows the NCSD to now accept
applications for new connections.
Stakeholders throughout the Colorado River Basin just wrapped
up arduous negotiations on a drought plan. There’s little time
to rest, however. Stakeholders are expected to begin the even
more difficult task of hammering out sweeping new guidelines
for delivering water and sharing shortages that could
re-imagine how the overworked river is managed.
California Trout, Mendocino County Inland Water & Power
Commission, and Sonoma Water have officially put a foot forward
to explore a planning agreement for the project’s future. The
coalition is championing a “two-basin solution” that could
mitigate the effects of the Scott Dam on fish populations in
the Eel River while ensuring that the Russian River basin
doesn’t lose its water supply, which Potter Valley residents
have relied on for over 100 years.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
has “neglected its mission” to protect the bay and surrounding
wetlands, the California state auditor reported Tuesday. The
commission, which issues permits for activities like boating,
dredging and dumping, has a backlog of 230 open enforcement
cases, some decades old.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at
using a “free” resource — rain water stored in the soil — and
found that optimizing its use could go a long way to help meet
demand for five California perennial crops. Their findings
appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
This river provides water for one-third of Latinos in the
United States. Latinos make up the bulk of agricultural workers
harvesting the produce this river waters. We boat, fish, swim
and recreate along its banks. We hold baptisms in its waters.
Therefore, it is critical to engage the growing Latino
population on water-smart solutions.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
Oregon Water Resources Department is in the process of
validating a call on Upper Klamath Lake tributaries, including
the Wood River, filed by senior water right holders — the
Klamath Tribes — on April 18. … Water users that irrigate can
call the watermaster’s office if they believe someone with a
junior water right to theirs is irrigating with water that
should be coming to them.
When asked about his priorities, California’s recently
appointed Natural Resources Secretary quickly rattles off a
range of topics: climate change; strengthening water supply
resilience; and building water capacity for communities,
agriculture, and the environment, among them.
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
California Trout, Mendocino County Inland Water & Power
Commission and Sonoma Water announced that they have entered
into a planning agreement to explore pathways to relicense the
Potter Valley Project in the wake of Pacific Gas and Electric’s
decision to withdraw from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission relicensing process for the project.
Five years ago, Deb Fallows and I made the first of what became
many visits to the farming town of Winters, California. …
When we first visited five years ago, the main question for the
area’s nut-tree farmers, and for California’s agricultural
economy as a whole, was whether the state’s drought-ravaged
water supplies could support such commercially valuable but
The “backwash basins” were damaged during the flooding that
occurred because of the heavy rainfall in late February, and
they need to be repaired as soon as possible because they help
the city provide drinking water to its residents during the
peak demand months coming soon.
What happens when there is not enough surface water to go
around in a watershed? California water rights law says that
certain water users must curtail their water diversions — in
other words, reduce the amount of water they divert or stop
diverting water altogether. … But following water right
priorities is not always straightforward, and other aspects of
state and federal law complicate the picture …
The DCP … provides assurance against curtailments for water
stored behind Hoover Dam. This is especially important for the
Southern California water agencies, whose ability to store
water in Lake Mead is crucial for managing seasonal demands.
Some significant challenges must still be addressed, however.
Dig out that umbrella, and even the tire chains. It’s mid-May,
but a series of rare, winter-like storms will soak the Bay Area
and much of California through next week and bring up to 2 feet
of new snow to the Sierra Nevada.
Because of the wet weather this winter, the district is
proposing to lower its Stage Two Drought Condition to a Stage
One Drought Condition, which would lift many mandatory drought
The lawsuit against the Fresno-based Westlands Water District
was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State
officials have for years maintained that raising the height of
the dam would violate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a
higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, in
violation of state law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially added the
Copper Bluff Mine in Hoopa to the Superfund National Priorities
list, one of seven sites added across the county and the only
one in California. … In the meantime, the mine continues to
leak acid drainage. Anywhere from 3 to 500 gallons of
contaminants are leaked into the Trinity River per minute…
Elkhorn Slough has received a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of the Interior, which will be used to help restore
approximately 63 acres—about 83 football fields—of tidal
wetlands at the Slough. … Additional funds — equaling a $26.7
million — have been pledged by state and local governments,
private landholders, and conservation groups.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors last week voted
unanimously to move ahead with a $7.5 million improvement
project for the park’s two popular lakes. … Lindo Lake is
thought to be the only natural freshwater lake in San Diego
County, according to the Lakeside Historical Society.
A jury in Oakland, Calif., ordered Monsanto on Monday to pay a
couple more than $2 billion in damages after finding that its
Roundup weed killer caused their cancer — the third jury to
conclude that the company failed to warn consumers of its
flagship product’s dangers. Thousands of additional lawsuits
against Monsanto, which Bayer acquired last year, are queued up
in state and federal courts.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has turned two
big lakes into a monster battery capable of storing enough
energy to power tens of thousands of homes. It involves using
the excess wind and solar power L.A.’s renewable energy sites
produce during the day to pump water from Castaic Lake uphill
7.5 miles to Pyramid Lake.
Estimates vary, and can change as the water year progresses,
but the Kern River basin, the rivers and streams that collect
the water that flows into Isabella Lake and downstream toward
Bakersfield, is estimated to be at 172 percent of normal,
possibly more. And all that ice and snow is starting to melt,
big time. Are local water managers ready?
Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally
binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste
except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say.
… Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the
United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship
plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
Rivers may seem especially appealing as the weather becomes
warmer in the spring and summer, but experts and local
officials warn that the waters may not be as welcoming as they
seem. The snowpack that accumulated during a wet and cold
winter is beginning to melt into rivers, making for extremely
cold water and fast currents. “It’s a very dangerous
combination,” said Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the state’s
Department of Water Resources.
People who live along the southern border all say the same
thing: When it rains, it stinks. The reason is a failing, aging
network of pipes that run from Mexico to wastewater treatment
plants in the U.S. When heavy rains fall, the pipes often break
and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not
only a putrid odor but public health and environmental
Forecasts are calling for a stretch of wet weather across the
Western United States, especially in Northern California, so
meteorologists and emergency officials are keeping watchful
eyes on river gauges and radar reports. All it takes is one
thunderstorm parked over a snow-covered area to wreak havoc
State officials tasked with debris cleanup say they have been
directed not to enter an estimated 800 burned Butte County home
sites within 100 feet of a waterway. They’ve been told to wait
for representatives of several state and federal agencies to
reach an agreement on environmental assessment guidelines.
According to an engineering investigation released by the San
Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District on March 7, the
Bunker Hill Basin, which stores the groundwater used by the San
Bernardino Valley, remains 570,718 acre-feet below full water
storage following the 2017-18 water year. … The water year
brought a reported 56 percent of average annual precipitation
and 161,708 acre-feet of groundwater production.
There’s three roads that go up to the hill. Because of flooding
and mudslides, all three of them were blocked. So here we were,
an island. There was no way to get supplies. No way to get
medication. No way to get propane deliveries for heat. People
who work on and off the hill couldn’t go to their jobs. The
whole town was impacted, especially the businesses and
restaurants who depend on the tourism.
The West is still in the midst of a long-term water shortage in
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, primary reservoirs that serve 40
million people. For that reason, the Upper Basin states —
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — have to also come up
with their own drought contingency plans. That means Colorado
might be heading into choppy waters as one of the requirements
of a drought contingency plan — demand management — could pit
communities and regions against each other …
Up a remote canyon in the towering eastern Sierra, a Southern
California company has an ambitious plan to dam the area’s
cold, rushing waters and build one of the state’s first big
hydroelectric facilities in decades. The project, southeast of
Yosemite near the town of Bishop (Inyo County), faces long
regulatory odds as well as daunting costs. But residents of the
Owens Valley downstream and state environmentalists are not
taking it lightly.
State water regulators gave local sanitation officials three
more years to carry out their plan to reduce the amount of
chloride that ends up in the Santa Clara River. … The
sanitation district … was mandated to reduce the amount of
chloride, or salt, that discharges from wastewater treatment
plants into the Santa Clara River, largely due to concerns by
downstream farmers that chloride was damaging salt-sensitive
crops such as strawberries and avocados.
The California Energy Commission is offering the city of San
Luis Obispo a $3 million loan to build a 261-kilowatt solar
photovoltaic system as well as a 264-kilowatt hydroelectric
generation system — both located at the city water treatment
plant on Stenner Creek Road behind Cal Poly. By generating its
own power at the treatment facility, SLO could earn savings of
$266,863 annually compared to its current power bill.
In Ukiah Thursday, at least two dozen people who depend on the
Potter Valley Project for their farming operations gathered at
the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds to hear an update on the
facility’s future. “New information to come shortly, and a lot
of work still to do,” said Janet Pauli, chairwoman of the
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, a Joint
Powers Authority that is exploring the possibility of acquiring
the facility that Pacific Gas and Electric owns, but has
Various parties have recently claimed that the Klamath River
Compact Commission has authority over the proposal to remove
four dams in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. … This
argument, while creative, is wrong. The Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (or FERC) will decide whether the
proposed dam removal is in the public interest.
Armed with test tubes and trash bags, a team of environmental
advocates are looking at homeless camps in Riverside as part of
a broad effort to clean up the 2,840-square-mile Santa Ana
River Watershed. The long-term goal is to protect the water and
revive enjoyment of a 96-mile river that once was a center of
life in Southern California.
To get access to Colorado River water, the tribe is hoping its
federal water settlement will finally become law. Earlier this
month, Arizona’s congressional delegation sponsored another
settlement bill after similar efforts in 2017 and 2016. If a
water rights settlement became law, the Hualapai Tribe would
get 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year.
The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility
said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably
started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history.
While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as
Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be
days and days of blackouts.
Counter-intuitively, the same environmental groups that have
championed the state’s climate goals want to kill all pumped
storage instead of evaluating each project on its own merits.
… Come hell or high water, there is no way that we can get to
100% renewable resources, which, by nature, are intermittent
and unreliable, without adequate storage.
When people think of natural disasters in California, they
usually think of earthquakes, drought or wildfire. But the
worst disaster to ever hit the Golden State was the Great Flood
of 1862. When people of European descent first arrived in
California, the native people told them tales of great deluges
in which the rivers overran their banks and large areas of land
were inundated. The newcomers paid little heed to these
stories, and often settled in low-lying areas with easy access
to water sources.
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
In an annual California event that marks the changing of the
seasons in the High Sierra, Yosemite National Park officials
plan to open Glacier Point Road to motor vehicles on Friday
morning. … Two years ago, after the wet winter of 2017 that
broke California’s five-year drought and dumped enormous
amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada, park crews opened Glacier
Point Road on May 11. Other than that, this year’s May 10
opening is the latest in eight years, since 2011.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could
provoke conflict. … But as the time for crafting a new set of
rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result will
be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board will hold
workshops Thursday and Friday in Newport Beach about proposed
copper regulation in Newport Bay. … Copper enters the water
via “anti-fouling” paint on boat hulls. … But water experts
say the copper also harms the gills and nervous systems of fish
and kills invertebrates that other marine animals feed on.
A new category of El Niño has become far more prevalent in the
last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries.
Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become
more intense. This new finding will arguably alter our
understanding of the El Niño phenomenon. Changes to El Niño
will influence patterns of precipitation and temperature
extremes in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Reforestation will improve watershed conditions by restoring
severely burned areas to forested conditions, reducing
sedimentation and turbidity, and improving water quality for
downstream users. It will also improve habitat by providing
stabilization that reduces erosion of stream banks and meadows.
Sometimes erosion can be caused by fallen trees or rodents, but
now they’re finding faults intentionally caused by homeless
people carving out campsites. … Tim Kerr, general manager for
the American River Flood Control District, said his engineers
find about two new trenches a month. The danger comes during
flood season when fast-moving water nears the top of a 22-foot
A Q&A with Valerie Olson, assistant professor, and Emily
Brooks, post-doctoral researcher — both environmental
anthropologists at UC Irvine. They have a new project aimed at
getting a better understanding of how communities, particularly
the underserved, think about and use their water, and how the
agencies that provide water can better serve them.
Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to withdraw permits for
the proposed Twin Tunnels project in favor of a smaller single
tunnel, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, issued a letter to the
governor expressing support for the decision while also
outlining alternative water plans.
When it rains in California, it pours. But when it doesn’t,
California’s drought years can have a devastating impact on the
state. California’s water experts are looking for ways to
better store water during rainy years like 2019 so the state
can have it during years when the rain and snow inevitably dry
Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.
When California embarked on its quest to reduce emissions of
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a global model to
stave off climate change, its first target was the state’s
electric power industry. … But for purely political reasons,
the list omitted two power sources that are both free of
greenhouse gases and renewable: large hydroelectric dams and
The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a
widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain
development in babies, California officials said Wednesday. The
move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a
toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous
than previously thought.
Drought affects just 2 percent of the country — about the
smallest area since the federal government began official
monitoring in 2000. Meanwhile, NOAA data show the last 12
months (May 2018 to April 2019) were the wettest on record for
Only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain unimpeded
and free-flowing from their source to where they empty,
according to a study published today in Nature. Free-flowing
rivers are ecologically crucial — replenishing groundwater,
bolstering biodiversity, and reducing the impacts of droughts
The Ukiah City Council recently approved contributing another
$50,000 to a local group’s effort to explore the possibility of
buying the Potter Valley Project. … Sean White, the city’s
director of water resources, described the dam facility as
“essentially a diversion of Eel River water through a tunnel
that provides major benefits to Lake Mendocino, which provides
a significant amount of our water supply.”
The effect of wildfires on snowmelt is more widespread and
longer lasting than people thought and has ramifications across
the region, where cities … rely heavily on melting snow to
replenish water supplies. What’s more, human-caused global
warming is feeding the spread of fires, which contributes more
to the deterioration of snow, thus extending and intensifying
the fire season.
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
It’s true that a report published late last month in the
journal Environmental Health found a link between California
tap water and cancer. The study noted high levels of arsenic,
plus numerous other contaminants that may be more toxic in
combination than they are separately. … The problem is very
serious — but not necessarily statewide.
These saltwater landscapes of the West are in a constant flux,
transforming from low salinity chartreuses and cyans to
alkaline magenta, finally settling into evaporated salty white
wastelands. Soaring in a small plane above the landscapes,
photographer Aya Okawa captures these unique ecosystems at
different stages of their progressions, as salt becomes more
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
Before California’s Central Valley became known as an
agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest
expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North
America. … Much of that landscape has been transformed into
farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a
unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local
governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide
resources for a variety of wildlife.
Removal of the century-old dam is being watched closely around
the country as a potential model… In 2016, the first year
after it was removed, researchers found that no steelhead trout
swam past its former site to a tagging location seven miles
upriver. … So far this year, 123 steelhead have traveled
Get a firsthand view of California’s diverse water resource
issues with two of our summer tours — to the Sierra Nevada
headwaters that were blessed this winter with a plentiful
snowpack, and a Southern California coastal region chronically
prone to drought.
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted
Tuesday to allow access across its lands for critically needed
state wetlands projects at the Salton Sea, designed to tamp
down dangerous dust storms and give threatened wildlife a
boost. In exchange, California will shoulder the maintenance
and operations of the projects, and the state’s taxpayers will
cover the costs of any lawsuits or regulatory penalties…
The USDA report, released Tuesday, finds that between $47
billion and $65 billion could be added to the U.S. agricultural
economy annually if infrastructure for what the report calls
“precision agriculture” — a term for farming practices that
emphasize digitally-based data collection and e-connectivity
(often via broadband) — is deployed in rural agricultural
economies on a large scale.
A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California
suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past
mistakes. California’s highly variable climate has made it a
crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.
California wildlife authorities say new facilities built at the
state’s Kern River Hatchery will allow breeding of Kern River
rainbow trout that will be planted throughout the Kern River
Basin. The program will allow the territory to be stocked with
its native fish rather than domesticated strains.
DWR has not yet disclosed whether it intends to withdraw the
WaterFix bond resolutions, which are subject to numerous
challenges in litigation DWR filed to validate the bonds. It
remains unclear what will happen with the validation action now
that the project and cost estimates these items are based on no
In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346
species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A
handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the
state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the
California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. … About a dozen
species are currently at risk of extinction, according to Dan
Applebee, an environmental scientist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In a formal response to the drilling proposal, a dozen
environmental organizations expressed concerns about the
effects on ground and surface water if exploration leads to an
industrial-scale mine. … Among those who have spoken against
the plan are officials at Death Valley National Park.
The settlement that brought this protracted legal battle to a
close will protect the fragile Eel River Canyon, conserve
native fish habitat and bring economic benefits to five North
Coast counties. … The settlement opens the way for the
creation of the Great Redwood Trail, which was recently
approved by the California State Legislature and which will
allow for public use and enjoyment of the rail corridor.
We’ve made it through most of the prime water season and have
had a few blockbuster winter storms. For many large reservoirs
in California the mission for reservoirs switches from flood
control to water storage and there isn’t much room left for
storage. All major Northern California Reservoirs are more than
90 percent full and many will reach capacity in a month or so.
In the past several years, Los Angeles-based Renewable
Resources Group has helped sell 33,000 acres of land to
California’s most powerful water agency, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. Documents obtained by Voice of
San Diego raise fresh questions about those deals. Now,
Renewable may be working on another deal that could rearrange
the distribution of water in California forever.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the snowpack in the
Upper Basin is nearly 140% above average as of April 15 and it
forecasts that seasonal inflow to Lake Powell will be at 128%
of average. … “These developments may lessen the chance of
shortage in 2020,” Terry Fulp, BOR’s Lower Colorado regional
director, said in a prepared statement.
Once one of most extensive wetland areas in North America, the
edges of the San Francisco Bay have become covered with farms,
industry, and urban areas, squeezing out the marches and their
animal and plant occupants. But at the lower end of the Napa
River, a remarkable effort is underway to undo a century and
half of damage to the once-thriving marshes.
Paddlers of every skill and age from the U.S. and abroad will
be making their way down the Sacramento River on May 26 in the
California River Quest. … The course flows through riparian
forests and oak woodlands “teaming with wildlife and plants” as
well as a section that runs through a lava canyon, said
By monitoring tiny changes to the Earth’s gravitational field,
the GRACE satellites have been pinpointing the distribution of
fresh water on our planet for almost two decades. But as Marric
Stephens explains, a new follow-on mission is also helping with
plans for a space-based gravitational-wave detector
Manson Construction, the contractor that dredges the Oceanside
harbor and pumps the sand onto the beach, has another obstacle
to overcome this spring — the grunion. The small, silvery,
sardine-like fish spawned on the beach near the municipal pier
two weeks ago. The contractor has had to avoid that area until
after the eggs hatch, which occurs this weekend. But, there are
several more chances for grunion runs this month.
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of
Snowpack in every part of Colorado’s high country is sporting
layers of dust, according to a new statewide survey of the
state’s winter accumulation. … Dust is darker than snow. Just
like a black T-shirt on a sunny day, it absorbs more sunlight,
causing what’s underneath it to heat up more rapidly.
With no parting glance at their devoted human caretakers, 142
rare red-legged frogs swam to freedom on Friday — one small
jump for the frogs but a giant leap for the threatened species.
Our official state amphibian, the frogs vanished from these
pristine mountain meadows 50 years ago.
Ted Kennedy sums up what he sees along the river in the Grand
Canyon: “It’s buggy out there.” That is to say, an experiment
to change the flow of water from a dam near the Arizona-Utah
state line appeared to boost the number of aquatic insects that
fish in the Colorado River eat. Scientists are hoping to better
understand those results with a second bug flow experiment that
started this month and will run through August.
While the state agency responsible for policing Los Angeles
County’s polluted urban and stormwater runoff boasts
significant progress in its monumental task, a National
Resources Defense Council report this week criticizes the
water-quality panel for lackluster enforcement.
For the third time in the last five years, Phillips 66 plans to
pay to settle accusations that its Rodeo refinery released
chlorine into San Pablo Bay. State water regulators announced
Wednesday that the Houston-based company will pay $80,000 for
violating chlorine limits in water it released into the bay
more than a dozen times over a five-month period last year.
Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained
public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that
more than 19 million people are exposed to water contaminated
with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. …
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California reports one
of the highest levels across the military, at 8 million parts
It’s taken four years but fishermen along California’s North
Coast who have seen crab and salmon seasons truncated and even
closed altogether will finally see some relief after $29.65
million in federal disaster relief funding was approved by
Congress. It was in the 2015-16 year the Dungeness crab fishery
and the Yurok Chinook salmon fishery both collapsed due to poor
Newsom … said he would announce his administration’s detailed
strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor
was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say
if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic
fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of
high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multi‐year drought, were designed to prevent disputes that
could provoke conflict. But as the time for crafting a new set
of rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result
will be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
The giant reservoir, formed by Glen Canyon Dam, was under 40
percent full the last week of April. And a lot of water is
still being released from the reservoir, more demands on the
water are expected, and the water supply above the reservoir,
in the sprawling Colorado River system, is expected to
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear
River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver
water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for
the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
Approximately 7.3 million skiers and snowboarders hit the
slopes this season at resorts in California and Nevada, a 17%
increase over the previous year, according to preliminary
numbers from Ski California, the nonprofit trade group for the
states’ ski resorts.
Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the divisive twin tunnels project
Thursday, calming fears that have roiled the delta communities
and dominated California water politics for more than a decade.
It is a signature decision for the young administration.
It’s been 35 years since new federal leases for drilling along
the Pacific Coast have been issued. … But while the practice
is banned in state waters, without federal legislation the
possibility for renewed production in waters more than 3 miles
from shore still remains. Richard Charter is a longtime ocean
protection advocate. He talked with KQED’s Brian Watt about the
Trump administration’s efforts to upend longstanding policy on
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its
operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking
off a series of events that historically has ended with a
volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions
will be used in the valley for irrigation,
enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.
A wet winter is not necessarily good news regarding the
potential for wildfires in the summer, especially where summers
tend to be dry. This is because the extra precipitation can
lead to a more robust growth of grasses and other vegetation
that can become fuel for fires as they dry out.
A multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against Calistoga over
water rights has been dismissed on appeal. The California Court
of Appeal on April 29 rejected Debbie R. O’Gorman’s $10 million
lawsuit against the city,
The Department of Water Resources recorded 47 inches of snow at
Phillips Station with a snow-water equivalent of 27.5 inches,
which is 88% above average for this time of year… Statewide,
the Sierra Nevada snowpack is doing even better, with an
average snow-water equivalent of 31 inches, which is 44% above
average for this time of year, according to the release.
DCP puts safeguards in place to help manage water use now and
better deal with a potential shortage. Utah, Arizona and the
five other Colorado River basin states wisely chose to include
conservation measures in the DCP — and shared in their
sacrifice to avoid costly litigation and imposed cuts. Congress
and the states should be commended for this bipartisan,
When concerned La Cañada residents attended a meeting in
December to learn about the county’s plans to remove more than
2.8 million tons of sediment from nearby Devil’s Gate Dam
starting this spring, fear and anxiety predominated. Many
hadn’t heard about the project and didn’t know diesel trucks
would haul sediment loads near schools and recreation areas in
hundreds of daily trips eight months out of the year for up to
The drought contingency plan is in the can (well, mostly), and
an unusually wet winter means we’ll likely avoid the water
shortage declaration everyone was expecting in 2020. If this
were the past, we’d take a few months off to revel in our
success. But thank goodness we’re not living in the past.
Arizona’s water leaders know that the drought plan didn’t solve
The construction doubled the previous width of the dam from the
top to the bottom of the buttress, which was previously
susceptible to seismic activity. New valves and pipelines were
also included to control the lake level and allow for quicker
drainage in the event of an emergency.
There’s a need to use the available surface water from rivers,
lakes, and reservoirs so the groundwater can replenish itself.
That’s where the new Southeast Fresno Surface Water Treatment
Facility comes in. … Michael Carbajal, Director of Public
Utilities for the City of Fresno. says that before 2004, we
used 100% groundwater to meet drinking water demand. “We’re
hoping to get up over 50% meaning, 50% of our drinking water
demand through surface water,” says Carbajal.
The Newsom administration announced it is withdrawing permit
applications that the Brown administration had submitted to the
State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of
Fish and Wildlife, and several federal agencies. Instead, the
administration said it will begin environmental studies on a
Santa Maria residents are being asked by the city to cut down
on the amount of water softeners used through the end of the
year. City officials say the city will begin delivering
better-quality municipal water with a lower mineral content.
… Using water softeners in addition to this new municipal
water could be damaging to pipes and fixtures.
Yes, some fish died — including endangered Chinook salmon — but
overall rebuilding the Fremont Weir has done its job and saved
hundred of others. That was the response of Allen Young, public
information officer for the California Department of Water
Resources, after reports surfaced last week that at least 13
Chinook salmon and other fish couldn’t make it through the weir
designed to get them safely into the Sacramento River and died.
There’s only one San Francisco Bay. But the Bay Area is made up
of nine counties and 101 cities, each with its own politics,
local rules and shorelines, differences that can make it
complicated to figure out how to protect billions of dollars of
highways, airports, sewage treatment plants, homes and offices
from the rising seas, surging tides and extreme storms climate
change is expected to bring in the years ahead. A new report
released Thursday aims to make that gargantuan challenge a
The property, a peaceful meadow at 6,820 feet elevation
near Echo Summit, is also home to … a monthly event that
attracts hordes of reporters and photographers who tromp
through the property on snowshoes. … Carol Pearson would
usually watch the proceedings from the window of the small
cabin, built in 1938, where she’s lived the past 20 years. Now
Pearson, 67, has been displaced by fire. Her cabin burned to
the ground in a chimney fire April 12, killing one of her cats.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired
deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming
farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money
with no relief in sight. Though nearly four years have passed
since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District
agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the
deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be
measured in inches.
“3.1 million acre-feet of the (Imperial) Valley’s entitlement
to Colorado River water is now up for grabs in Sacramento and
it ought to concern all of us,” IID Board President Erik Ortega
said Tuesday afternoon in El Centro. “That’s why I’m calling
today for the general manager to bring back to this board a
plan for the divestment of IID’s energy assets in the Coachella
With the Trump administration trudging ahead and re-writing
another Obama-era environmental law, wary California regulators
last month approved new protections for wetlands in the Golden
State. … Hoping to freeze the new wetlands rules, a coalition
consisting of several California water suppliers and the city
of San Francisco sued the water board late Wednesday in state
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center,
testified today (April 30, 2019) before the Assembly
Subcommittee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, at a hearing on
balancing water needs into the future in the San Joaquin
Valley. Here are her prepared remarks.
The full buildout recommendations were based on Southern
California Association of Governments population projections
… The plan also recommends a new 2.88 million gallon (MG)
well to increase groundwater supply for the existing system.
For the near-term plan, an additional 9.25 MG of storage is
recommended ⎯ assuming the 5.5 MG capacity for the existing
system is implemented ⎯ for a total of 14.75 MG.
To better measure the water in our snow, California is sending
sharper eyes up into the sky. Two sensors peer out from a
turboprop aircraft, soaring from Mammoth Yosemite Airport over
the white Sierra Nevada – collecting data that tells us almost
exactly how much water we’ll have this summer.
One of the most frequently recurring themes of last week’s
business conference of California agricultural appraisers was
the impact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as
SGMA, is having on land values. … Another recurring theme was
the tight availability of farm employees and the rising costs
associated with those employees. One result has been the
increase in plantings of nut crops, which require fewer people
to tend and harvest.
In the Western US, climate change is a major driver behind the
near doubling in burned area that we’ve experienced over the
past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the
frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire
season in some regions.
Imperial Irrigation District general manager Henry Martinez and
California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot have
reached an agreement in principle that the state will be
responsible for construction and maintenance of more than 3,700
acres of wetlands aimed at controlling toxic dust and restoring
wildlife habitat. In exchange, the water district will sign
easements for access onto lands it owns that border
California’s largest lake.
Every day, an estimated 100 million gallons of runoff
contaminated with various pollutants flows through L.A.’s
massive storm drain system to foul our rivers, creeks and,
ultimately, our coastal waters. … Today, NRDC urged the
Newsom Administration to encourage the Los Angeles Regional
Water Quality Control Board to address this serious public and
environmental health threat.
The $800 million Swan Lake North Pumped Storage Hydroelectric
Project, 11 miles north of Klamath Falls, would move water
between two 60-plus-acre reservoirs separated by more than
1,600 vertical feet, pumping the water uphill when energy is
available and sending it downhill through generating turbines
when energy is needed.
A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based
congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal
agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the
Tijuana River … Local and state officials as well as
environmental activists have decried the condition of the
Tijuana River for years, which regularly causes beach closures
along the county’s coastline, particularly after heavy rain.
Some lawyers say the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, may be
built on shaky legal ground and could be vulnerable to
litigation — depending on how the Bureau of Reclamation
implements it. One California water district has already sued
to block it.
The Don Pedro hydropower project, just west of Yosemite
National Park, has been churning out carbon-free electricity
for nearly a century. … None of the electricity is counted
toward California’s push for more renewable energy on its power
grid. A new bill advanced by state lawmakers last week would
change that — and it’s being opposed by environmental groups,
who say it would undermine the state’s landmark clean energy
law by limiting the need to build solar farms and wind
In a new study published in the journal Climate Dynamics, they
used their new technique to look at California winters. …
They found that in Northern California, La Niña and El Niño
conditions result in nearly equivalent amounts of winter
precipitation. However, La Niña winters tend to be much colder,
resulting in conditions more favorable for increased mountain
An extra wet winter and spring this year means waterfall season
in Yosemite National Park is off to a thunderous, gushing
start. This is also a great time to see many of the park’s
lesser-known falls that only last for a short time.
As California’s Central Valley grew into the nation’s leading
agricultural corridor, the region gradually lost almost all of
the wetlands that birds depend on during their migrations along
the West Coast. But a dramatic turnaround is underway in the
valley. Dozens of farmers leave water on their fields for a few
extra weeks each season to create rest stops for birds. The
campaign has not only helped salvage a vital stretch of the
north-south migration path called the Pacific Flyway but also
tested a fresh model for protecting wildlife.
Part of sustaining salmon populations is improving the survival
and fitness of young salmon as they grow for weeks to months
before out-migrating to the Ocean. … This year, UC Davis
Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout have four
different studies over approximately 100 miles using floating
cages with baby salmon inside.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
Tracy Hall says she’s lucky to have friendly neighbors who
allow her to live in an RV on their property while water laps
at a temporary barrier on the edge of her property. But Hall
and others are tired of the disruption to their lives that
started more than two years ago when the formerly dry lake in
Lemmon Valley filled with stormwater runoff and urban effluent.
The city of Escondido thought it had finally figured out how to
raise the $35 million to $50 million it needs to replace the
Lake Wohlford Dam. But then a complicated and prohibitively
expensive problem arose.
The development of the Arcata Marsh as an integral part of
wastewater treatment in Arcata was the primary focus of two
professors at Humboldt State University, George Allen and
Robert Gearheart, who developed a process that uses what was a
former salt marsh as a means to treat sewage that is then
discharged into Humboldt Bay. On May 7, Gearheart … will be
honored by the Environmental Law Institute at its annual awards
dinner in Washington, D.C.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to
develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water
needs in the face of climate change.The executive order
includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new
water course for the state. Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s
intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements
to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking
water to impoverished communities.
Despite cost increases and weather-related delays, construction
of the 1.6 billion-gallon Trampas Canyon Reservoir in south
Orange County is well underway and officials continue pointing
to long-term savings to be gleaned by reducing the need for
imported water. … Construction costs have soared from the
2016 estimate of $56 million to $83 million today…
Westminster, Colo.’s, comprehensive plan estimates how much
water each type of building would use. Then the city built GIS
software that overlays water resources and infrastructure over
the comprehensive plan—making it easy to see, for example, how
much water a proposed strip mall might use. It’s a step up from
the typical water-per-capita measure that most cities rely
on… It also helps planners guide developers to smarter
In 2017, a swarm of seismic activity occurred near California’s
Long Valley Caldera in the Mammoth Mountain area. During the
same period of seismic activity, the area had high levels of
flooding due to snowmelt. The 2016-2017 winter brought heavy
snow that created one of the largest snowpacks ever recorded in
California’s history. A record amount of snowfall occurred in
the same region this year, raising the question of whether the
same occurrence will happen in 2019.
This research will supply information needed for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to update the 1970’s-era water control
manuals, which dictate the storm-season operations of both
reservoirs. Yuba Water’s goal is to have a new water control
manual approved about the same time the agency completes
construction of a new, planned secondary spillway at its New
Bullards Bar Dam, estimated for completion in 2024.
Researchers from the environmental
advocacy group Environmental Working Group estimated
that the contaminants found in public water systems in
California could contribute to about 15,500 cancer cases there
over the course of a lifetime. These contaminants include
chemicals such as arsenic, hexavalent chromium and radioactive
elements such as uranium and radium. The study was published
Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health.
In the DCP, there was no consideration of deeper conservation,
no consideration of mechanisms to shift our state to less
thirsty crops, and no consideration of what kind of development
is sustainable. There was no consideration of our other rivers
and the need for ecological flows.
Importantly for the water rights community, SB 454 will reduce
the financial burden on the existing Water Rights Fund caused
by the establishment of the Hearings Office. As the laws and
budget are currently structured, the Water Rights Fund is the
primary source of financial support for the Hearings Office.
The Water Rights Fund is supported by fees paid by water rights
holders, some of whom might never utilize the Hearings Office.
In Riverside County, right along the Santa Ana River, local
leaders and community members came together to commemorate 50
years of peace along the River. Nearly 100 people celebrated
two 1969 court judgments for the water rights of the Santa Ana
River that are still in place.
A federal official is attempting to “obstruct” the flow of
water to restore habitat at Walker Lake, the conservancy
responsible for administering federal restoration funds alleged
in District Court last week. After years of litigation, lawyers
for the Walker Basin Conservancy said that “at some point, the
court must put a stop to the federal water master’s
obstruction.” The receding desert lake outside of Hawthorne is
fed by the Walker River, which rises in California and snakes
through Western Nevada.
Crystal Geyser Water Company of Calistoga has partnered with a
nonprofit watershed conservation group for the protection and
restoration of forested watersheds and natural sources of
drinking water. … The partnership has created a new
initiative, called Spring for Life, and was announced April 16.
The Camp Fire destroyed thousands of homes and dozens of
businesses, and also the water supply for an undetermined
number of people. The fire destroyed or damaged the 9 miles of
PG&E’s Upper Miocene Canal, which is the flume system along
the West Branch of the Feather River. That also cut off water
to ranches and homes along the Middle Miocene Canal … and the
Lower Miocene Canal (or Powers Canal) along the west side of
Table Mountain to Oroville.
Senate Bill 1 … would encourage state agencies, such as
regional water quality control boards, Fish & Wildlife, the Air
Resources Board, and CalOSHA, to resist Trump administration
rollbacks by allowing them to consider applying federal
standards for protection in effect as of January 19, 2017, the
day before Donald Trump took office, and maintain them in case
he is re-elected next year.
A spring surge of meltwater, seeping through vertically tilted
layers of rock, caused a seismic swarm near California’s Long
Valley Caldera in 2017, according to research presented at the
2019 SSA Annual Meeting. The unusual event prompted U.S.
Geological Survey researcher Emily Montgomery-Brown and her
colleagues to look back through 33 years of seismic and water
records for the region. They found that rates of shallow
seismicity were about 37 times higher during very wet periods
versus dry periods.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
North America is not a snow globe, and as the real globe warms,
one trend is clear: winter is shrinking and snow is melting. In
the last 50 years alone, the frozen mantle that caps the
Northern Hemisphere in the dark months has lost a million
square miles of spring snowpack. …Coastal ranges like the
Sierras and Cascades, where winter temperatures hover close to
the freezing point, are most at risk.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft … has
ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s
Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above
them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know
where this type of remedy will be most effective.
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
The 80 homes that make up Tooleville nestle against the mighty
Friant-Kern Canal, thousands of gallons of fresh water flowing
each day past the two-street town. But none of that water can
help Tooleville’s decades-old problem of contaminated water,
chronicled at the start of this decade in a three-part series
by The Bee on the San Joaquin Valley water crisis. Nearby
Exeter might, though, giving a rise of newfound hope.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
Last month the U.S. Drought Monitor declared California
drought-free for the first time since 2011, thanks to a series
of winter storms. But the long-term prognosis is for more
droughts and severe weather, which will profoundly affect state
agriculture. While farmers and lawmakers are taking notice, few
see an immediate threat.
A U.S. appeals court is forcing the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to make a final decision on whether it will ban
the use of a common pesticide linked to developmental disorders
in children. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on
Friday ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether it
will ban the use of chlorpyrifos across the country. The agency
has until mid-July to make its determination.
While all other Central Valley Project contractors’ allocations
were previously increased to 100% of their contract totals in
recent months, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday
that agricultural districts South-of-Delta will receive only
65% percent of their historic water allocation. … In light of
current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, Westlands Water
District officials said this minor increase in water allocation
On April 9 after three years and two unsuccessful ballot
measures — Measure C failed by a razor-thin margin in June —
the Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved
greater protections for native woodlands from development and
buffer zones for watersheds. But the contentious path to the
Water Quality and Tree Protection ordinance vote may not be the
last word from supporters and opponents of tougher rules, from
inside and outside the wine business.
Local river protection groups and a state regulatory board are
protesting what they characterize as an attempt by Nevada
Irrigation District to circumvent the federal law. At issue is
the relicensing process for NID’s Yuba Bear hydroelectric
project — which includes French, Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman
lakes and Rollins Reservoir, as well as four powerhouses.
Despite a decades-long rescue effort, the tiny delta smelt
appears closer than ever to vanishing from its only natural
home, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Now, some worry it
won’t be long before the only place the once-abundant species
exists is within the confines of an artificial tank.
For some, like almond grower Jose Robles of Modesto, climate
change was an afterthought, if that. That’s something they talk
about in Sacramento, he says, not where he lives and works. But
in December, the ground under Robles’ almond trees was a carpet
of green, full of mustard plant and clover. … His neighbors
really don’t understand it.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
By the 1930s, the Leslie Salt Company had consolidated over a
dozen small producers into the world’s largest industrial salt
production company, and half of the South Bay’s extensive
marshes, whose ducks and salmon once far outnumbered humans,
were gone. Now, the south San Francisco bay shoreline’s next
mammoth transformation is well underway: a 50-year project to
return the salt ponds back to the bay, restoring them once
again into tidal marsh for the first time in 150 years.
A trio of federal wildlife management agencies said Friday that
listing the Northern California summer-run steelhead on the
Endangered Species Act may be warranted, but said more public
input is needed before a final determination is made.
The problem with Kirman is that it does not have a place where
the trout can spawn naturally. There is no stream running into
or out of the lake where the trout could find moving water to
spawn. That means the fishery was and is entirely dependent on
plants of fingerlings or subcatchables from the Department of
Fish and Wildlife hatcheries. And that is a big problem.
The Sierra Club and other conservationists have expressed
worries that without CEQA’s strict protections, next winter’s
first rains could result in mud flows into drinking water
supplies, or the disturbance of the range of an endangered or
threatened species. They are concerned that controlled burns
will create air pollution that will impact people in
California’s inability to compromise and work together has put
a big question mark on the Lower Basin Drought Contingency
Plan. And that directly impacts Arizona’s ability to
proactively plan for our new, drier water future.
The Department of Water Resources issued notice that it will
seek an updated environmental permit to operate the State Water
Project through a state-based approach in partnership with the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … Historically,
DWR has received environmental coverage for its pumping
operations through environmental parameters issued by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
California is a wonderful place to study water. So many
interesting and important problems, thoughtful and insightful
authors, and much to be learned. Here is a selection of
readings (updated from a 2012 post) on California water.
Work to protect Lake Gregory from a disastrous earthquake is
done. And, just in time for summer. Crews recently finished
retrofitting the 80-year-old seismically unsound dam that
protects the lake, at the heart of Crestline, bringing an end
to years of traffic, noise and other impacts — current and
potential — on the unincorporated mountain community.
Since Jim Madaffer became chairman of the board of the San
Diego County Water Authority, two long-time staffers have left
and talk has begun heating up about a multibillion-dollar
tunnel project to give San Diego a second connection to water
from the Colorado River. The tunnel plan would be the single
largest, most expensive and complex project the Water Authority
has ever attempted.