House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop
wants the House to fast-track legislation that would pave the
way for hundreds of millions of dollars for water and
sanitation development across Indian Country.
Despite that reduction in flow, total storage behind Glen
Canyon and Hoover dams has dropped only 2.6 million acre feet.
That is far less than you’d expect from 12 years of 1.2 maf per
year flow reductions alone. That kind of a flow reduction
should have been enough to nearly empty the reservoirs. Why
hasn’t that happened? Because we also have been using less
U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34
million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a
threatened trout species to return to some of its native
spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century.
Construction of the side channel with fish-friendly screens is
a major step toward someday enabling Lahontan cutthroat trout
to make the same 100-mile journey — from a desert lake
northeast of Reno to Lake Tahoe atop the Sierra — that they did
before the dam was built in 1905.
According to river flow data, there is currently almost no
water flowing into Walker Lake, a common condition. Today,
where the riverbed meets the lake is an ooze of mud. The lake
is all but biologically dead. But a decades-old public trust
lawsuit made a move forward in its glacial process through
federal courts last week, and advocates are hopeful Walker
Lake, a cornerstone of the regional economy and ecology, can
one day be revived.
The day after Congress passed a bill that included potential
consequences to PacifiCorp if it reneged on an agreement to
remove four Klamath River dams, the Yurok Tribe’s senior water
policy analyst urged people to “make noise in anyway that you
The Klamath Basin used to be the third most important
salmon-bearing watershed in the Pacific Northwest. Now, only a
fraction of those runs remain. The multiple reasons for their
decline are complex and interconnected, but they all have to do
with how water moves through the system.
In Utah, there is a significant effort underway to build a
water delivery pipeline from Lake Powell to transport part of
Utah’s Colorado River entitlement to Utah’s St. George area. As
the federal environmental review for the proposed Lake Powell
Pipeline in Utah continues, Utah’s six fellow Colorado River
Basin states weighed in as a group, cautioning that unresolved
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows,
canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of
science attached to it. Our latest article in Western
Water news examines a new report that synthesizes and
provides context for that science and could aid water managers
as they prepare to rewrite the operating rules for a river
system so vital to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.
A crisis could be approaching. The two giant reservoirs on the
Colorado River are both below 50 percent of capacity. If
drought causes even more drastic drops, the Bureau of
Reclamation could step in to prioritize the making of
electricity by the hydro plants at lakes Mead and Powell. No
one knows what BuRec would do, but it would call the shots and
end current arrangements.
Over the years, these groups united against a single cause: the
Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “Groundwater Development
Project,” a proposal to pump 58 billion gallons of water a year
300 miles to Las Vegas from the remote rural valleys of Nevada
and Utah. … In May, their three decades of resistance to the
pipeline ended in victory: The project was terminated.
In 2010, tribes joined the company that owns the dams and other
stakeholders in an agreement to remove the dams in 2020. The
plan was later delayed to 2022, and now it may stall again
because of a recent decision by federal regulators.
The organizers of the Advocacy and Water Protection in Native
California Speakers Series are hosting a new webinar series
aimed at taking action against environmental racism and for
water justice in California. Humboldt State University Native
American Studies and Save California Salmon are organizing the
“Mobilizing for Water Justice in California” Webinar Series on
The new suit, filed Tuesday on behalf of three different tribal
groups and the Sierra Club, argues states and tribes have a
right to place conditions on federal projects that could
degrade waters within their borders or to reject them
altogether. “These changes that cut into the tribe’s ability to
protect its waters and fish harm us all,” Anthony Sampson,
chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada, said in a
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians once warned that a
proposed mine would obliterate a sacred site equal to the
Biblical Garden of Eden. Now, the southwest Riverside County
tribe is sounding a similar alarm about the Lake Elsinore
Advanced Pumped Storage Project, or LEAPS, a hydroelectric
project proposed for the Lake Elsinore area.
The written version of remarks delivered by Eric Kuhn at the
Aug. 25 Western Resource Advocates webinar on the Lake Powell
Pipeline, featuring Eric, WRA’s Bart Miller, and Alice Walker,
attorney for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians.
Men and women from Native American tribes in Northern
California stood in a circle, alongside university students and
locals from around the town of Mariposa. … For the next two
days, the group would be carefully lighting fires in the
surrounding hills. Also sprinkled through the crowd were
officials from the state government, which a century ago had
largely prohibited California’s tribes from continuing their
ancient practice of controlled burns.
A mobile home park on the Pala Band of Mission Indians
reservation has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to fix problems with its broken drinking
water and sewer systems that may have caused drinking water to
be contaminated with fecal matter and disease-causing
The snow along the mountains of Nevada’s Great Basin trickle
down when the spring turns into summer. This produces a flurry
of wildlife and natural resources in our area ponds, rivers,
and lakes. … Along the majestic Truckee River, fishermen
would collect thousands of trout from the late 1800’s to the
1900’s. Eventually, this would cause the near extinction of our
state’s native species, the Lahontan cutthroat trout.
North Coast elected officials rang alarm bells Tuesday around
what the region’s congressional representative called a
“slow-walk” on the removal of four Klamath River dams that have
threatened fish populations and led to pollution.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections Friday that
suggest Lake Powell and Lake Mead will dip 16 feet and 5 feet,
respectively, in January from levels recorded a year earlier.
Despite the dip, Lake Mead would stay above the threshold that
triggers severe water cuts to cities and farms, giving
officials throughout the Southwest more time to prepare for the
future when the flow will slow.
The hopes of seeing those dams removed, hopes that burned so
bright four years ago when hundreds gathered in Requa near the
river’s mouth to announce a new removal agreement, have dimmed
considerably since a July 16 ruling by the Federal Energy
The Hoopa Valley Tribe has filed a federal lawsuit to block the
U.S. Department of Interior from signing a water delivery
contract with an agribusiness in the Central Valley, an
agreement which would divert water out of the Trinity River
basin 400 miles away.
North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman will lead a live-streamed forum
that will examine the impacts of the Klamath Dams on tribes,
fisheries, the environment and downstream stakeholders on
Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m.
FERC concluded that the nonprofit that was going to take
ownership of the dams didn’t have the experience or expertise
to oversee such a complicated project. PacifiCorp therefore
needed to stay on as co-licensee. But if PacifiCorp couldn’t
walk away clean, it lost a huge incentive for removing the dams
at all. It might just as well stick with the status quo.
The decades-long battle over an effort to raise the height of
Shasta Dam took another turn Thursday when the Trump
Administration released a new environmental report on the plan,
just five years after completing a similar study.
Through three governors, California has set a path to tear down
four aging dams on the Klamath River astride the Oregon border.
It would be the biggest such removal project in the nation,
done in the name of fish preservation, clean water flows and
political consensus. But the undertaking is hitting a snag, one
that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to undo.
A nonprofit that developed low-cost handwashing stations for
the homeless population in California is teaming up with
community nonprofit Red Feather to bring this potentially
life-saving infrastructure to Native American communities.
The average annual flow of the Colorado River has decreased 19
percent compared to its 20th century average. Models predict
that by 2100, the river flow could fall as much as 55 percent.
The Colorado River, and the people it sustains, are in serious
For us, dam removal is absolutely necessary to restore our
struggling fisheries, maintain cultural practices, and provide
tribal members who struggle to make ends meet access to
traditional subsistence foods.
The Bishop Paiute Tribe is experiencing low water pressure
reservation wide due to high water usage and minimal storage
and pumping capacity. … With temperatures rising, and more
community members staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
water usage has gone up significantly.
The Environmental Justice for All Act would amend the Civil
Rights Act to … require federal agencies to consider health
effects that might compound over time when making permitting
decisions under the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts.
In many respects, the Arizona Water Blueprint – a data-rich,
interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure
created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State
University – could not have been rolled out at a better time.
Research into Arizona’s varied sources of water is approaching
an all-time high.
Desperate to complete a historic but complicated dam removal on
the California-Oregon border, Gov. Gavin Newsom has appealed to
one of the world’s wealthiest men to keep the project on track:
financier Warren Buffett. Newsom dispatched a letter to Buffett
and two of his executives Wednesday urging them to support
removal of four hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath
In response to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman’s recent visit with
Klamath Basin ranchers, farmers, tribes and community
officials, Reclamation is launching a new science initiative to
inform Klamath Project operations.
S. Craig Tucker, consultant to the Karuk Tribe, and Mike
Belchik, senior water policy analyst with the Yurok Tribe,
joins Scott Greacen (Friends of the Eel) and Tom Wheeler (EPIC)
for a spirited discussion on the new news about the state of
After four years of review, FERC granted the transfer of the
license for the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron
Gate dams (collectively known as the Lower Klamath Project) to
the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, a nonprofit that would
carry out the dam removal. But it requires PacifiCorp, the
utility that currently operates the dams, to remain on the
The Karuk Tribe is set to hold its World Renewal Ceremonies in
Six Rivers and Klamath national forests from July through late
September. In honor of these long-standing tribal traditions,
outsiders will be prohibited from entering the water or
launching watercraft during the ceremonies, the U.S. Forest
Service has announced in a press release.
While farmers lauded Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman’s historic
joint visit to the Klamath Basin on Thursday, area tribes
expressed concern that their perspective on water issues had
not been adequately heard.
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman promised to seek a
resolution to the decades-long water conflicts in the basin
after meeting with growers, local water officials and other
Researchers in the Grand Canyon now spend weeks at a time,
several times a year, monitoring humpback chub, which has
become central to an ecosystem science program with
implications for millions of westerners who rely on Colorado
Today, the Yaqui catfish, a whiskery-looking creature that
evolved at least 2 million years ago and was once common enough
for people to catch for food, is functionally extinct in the
United States. There may be a few still hidden in Arizona’s
ponds, but not enough to keep a population alive.
On June 24, 2020, the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of California denied the preliminary
injunctive relief requested by a coalition of fishery and
environmental groups regarding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
operations of Shasta Dam and Reservoir, and related temperature
management actions on the upper Sacramento River.
Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and
Nevada have been operating under a set of guidelines approved
in 2007. Those guidelines and an overlapping drought
contingency plan will expire in 2026. Arizona water officials
are gathering Thursday to start talking about what comes next,
while other states have had more informal discussions.
House Democrats attached a provision to the bill that would
look to introduce additional dam and hydropower safety
inspections and analysis to the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission permitting process. … House Democrats included
various provisions that would boost drinking water protections
and infrastructure, harden water systems against the threat of
climate change, and provide a financial lifeline for tribal
water and wastewater systems.
American Indian tribes in California’s Klamath Basin praised
Monday’s decision by the United States Supreme Court not to
hear the Klamath Project irrigators’ Fifth Amendment water
rights case, Baley v. United States. By not hearing the case,
the Supreme Court upheld the Klamath Tribes’ treaty water
rights as the most senior water rights in the Klamath Basin.
These water rights are critical to protect the tribes’
fisheries and traditional way of life.
A proposal by the Trinidad Rancheria to connect to
McKinleyville’s water system received a mostly chilly reception
from the public during a meeting last week of the Humboldt Bay
Municipal Water District. A majority of more than three dozen
written comments submitted to the district were in opposition
to the pipeline, with many saying they are against the
rancheria’s proposed hotel.
Farmers won’t get paid for river water they lost out on during
a drought in southern Oregon, because Native American tribes
have water rights that rank above those of irrigators,
stretching back to “time immemorial” — a ruling the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to disturb on Monday.
States have grappled in the last two decades with declining
water levels in the basin’s main reservoirs — Mead and Powell —
while reckoning with clear scientific evidence that climate
change is already constricting the iconic river… For water
managers, the steady drop in water consumption in recent years
is a signal that conservation efforts are working and that they
are not helpless in the face of daunting environmental changes.
Lack of running water has long plagued the Navajo Nation. About
a third of homes don’t have it; in some towns, it’s 90 percent.
While several factors contribute to that, many tribal members
say Peabody Energy Corp., the largest U.S. coal producer,
pulled so much water from the Navajo Aquifer before closing its
last mining operation there last August that many wells and
springs have run dry—at a time Covid-19 has hit the Nation
harder than any state.
The Tribe has been working with Sonoma County to develop 147
housing units as well as a resort and winery. Now that this
ongoing development can be performed on land officially held in
trust by the U.S. federal government, the Tribe is no longer
subject to local land use restrictions. As such, the Lytton
Tribe must assess all potential options to best meet future
wastewater needs. Collaboration with their Windsor neighbors as
well as an environmental assessment identified two primary
President Trump’s wall now stretches along 200 miles of
U.S.-Mexico borderland. Progress hasn’t slowed during the
coronavirus pandemic; in some places it’s even accelerating.
But there’s a tiny swath of tribal land on the Colorado River
where that’s not the case.
Having hit a roadblock in negotiations with the City of
Trinidad, the Trinidad Rancheria has turned a beseeching eye
toward the county’s largest water supplier — the Humboldt Bay
Municipal Water District — in hopes of securing a reliable
water source for future development, including a controversial
five-story, 100-room hotel near Cher-Ae Heights Casino.
Colorado is home to the headwaters of the Colorado River and
the water policy decisions made in the Centennial State
reverberate throughout the river’s sprawling basin that
stretches south to Mexico. The stakes are huge in a basin that
serves 40 million people, and responding to the water needs of
the economy, productive agriculture, a robust recreational
industry and environmental protection takes expertise,
leadership and a steady hand. Colorado has that in Becky
Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project are breathing a
sigh of relief after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced
Tuesday it will not further reduce this year’s water allotment,
which is already less than half of demand. … On the other
hand, tribal members that depend on ample salmon runs for their
way of life argue the runs will continue to suffer in warm, low
rivers without enough flow for them to migrate and spawn.
The new rule issued by EPA allows federal agencies to limit the
time frame within which tribes or states are allowed to review
and issue conditions on applicable federal permits to less than
the one-year limit provided for under the CWA. The new rule
also provides that under Section 401, tribes and states are
only able to impose conditions related to “water quality
On May 21, the Southern Nevada Water Authority board of
directors voted to indefinitely defer its groundwater
development project, which opponents had dubbed the “water
grab.” The unanimous vote brought an end to more than three
decades of acrimonious battle with the Great Basin Water
When former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt suggested in a
recent opinion piece that a portion of agricultural water
rights on the Colorado River should be transferred to urban
areas, it no doubt conjured up some strong emotions… But
Babbitt’s proposal makes sense and he is right about the need
to recognize the mismatch in population between the urbanized
West and rural areas where most of the basin’s water is
As big corporations consume mass amounts of water, the smaller,
local communities near the plants, factories and corporate
offices have fewer resources. Water shortages then become
prevalent as the corporation continues to use up the nearby
sources. … In order to make a meaningful change for smaller
communities, big corporations will need to work on
While Imperial Irrigation District has the largest right within
California, it was not the Imperial Valley that was responsible
for California’s overuse. That was the Metropolitan Water
District. We are among the very oldest users on the Colorado
River and have built a community, ecology, and way of life here
in the desert dependent upon the waters of the Colorado that
have sustained us since 1901.
The National Audubon Society has reached an agreement with the
Arizona Department of Water Resources to help fund the Colorado
River Indian Tribes’ on-going efforts to conserve 150,000
acre-feet of water in Lake Mead over the next three years.
The imbalance on the Colorado River needs to be addressed, and
agriculture, as the biggest water user in the basin, needs to
be part of a fair solution. But drying up vital food-producing
land is a blunt tool. It would damage our local food-supply
chains and bring decline to rural communities that have
developed around irrigated agriculture.
The Klamath Project, a U.S. government-operated waterworks that
steers runoff from the towering Cascades to more than 200,000
acres of potatoes, alfalfa, wheat, onions and other produce on
both sides of the state line, is running low on supplies. The
local water agencies served by the project say they may not
have water to send to farms beyond next month.
It’s been more than a decade since discussions began about what
would happen to wastewater if the Lytton Tribe were to have
their lands west of town put into federal trust. At its May 20
meeting, the Windsor Town Council voted unanimously to move
forward to the next step, creating an agreement to have the
wastewater treated in the town’s facility.
The council will consider a resolution approving an agreement
between the town of Windsor/Windsor Water District and the
Lytton Rancheria of California for the extension and provision
of wastewater services for residential development and
ancillary cultural, community and tribal government facilities
on the land located west of Windsor.
The Trinidad Rancheria is alleging that the City of Trinidad
has failed to work with the tribe to provide water for its
proposed hotel. Because of this the rancheria has informed the
city that a much-anticipated stormwater project will be put on
hold until the dispute is resolved.
For Indians, confronting economic uncertainty and food
shortages has been part of life since Europeans arrived in our
lands. … This is why the Yurok Tribe is fighting so hard to
remove Klamath River dams and restore the salmon runs that have
fed our people since the beginning of time.
The building of a new hotel on the Trinidad Rancheria has
encountered another hurdle as the tribe is now demanding that
the City of Trinidad supply the water necessary to supply the
hotel or else the tribe will withhold required upgrades to a
stormwater management improvement project in Trinidad Harbor,
according to a letter the tribe sent to the City of Trinidad.
Sprawled across a desert expanse along the Utah-Arizona border,
Lake Powell’s nearly 100-foot high bathtub ring etched on its
sandstone walls belie the challenges of a major Colorado River
reservoir at less than half-full. How those challenges play out
as demand grows for the river’s water amid a changing climate
is fueling simmering questions about Powell’s future.
A new article by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) calls
efforts to mitigate land subsidence in the Coachella Valley “an
emerging success story,” a finding that is echoed by analysis
completed by local water agencies.
As expected, irrigators in the Klamath Project are getting less
water than they will likely need this summer thanks to a
combination of dry weather and more water being kept in-stream
to protect threatened coho salmon.
The US Drought Monitor update released Thursday morning lists
far Northern California as the most impacted by a lackluster
rain and snow season. Some areas such as Eureka and Mount
Shasta are down more than 15″ of rain from their averages for
the season so far.
Under the drought contingency plan hammered out by Colorado
River Basin states last year, Arizona agreed to voluntarily
reduce its water use by 192,000 acre-feet, or about 7%, leaving
that water in Lake Mead to help reduce the likelihood of
greater cutbacks down the road. Tom Buschatzke, director of the
Arizona Department of Water Resources, says data from a new
Bureau of Reclamation report show that plan is working.
The case was filed in late 2001, the year there was an
announcement that no water would be available for Klamath
Project irrigation from Upper Klamath Lake. The plaintiffs
claim that if the water is taken under the Endangered Species
Act, the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires
payment of compensation for the water right, a form of
property, that has been taken.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections for the
Colorado River’s water supply for the next two years. … Lake
Mead is projected to fall into “Tier Zero” conditions for 2021
and 2022. That’s a new designation under the Drought
Contingency Plan which requires Arizona, Nevada and Mexico take
cuts in their water supply.
On March 13, 2020, water users in the Klamath Reclamation
Project (Project) petitioned the United States Supreme Court to
review the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Baley,
et al. v. United States, et al. (Baley). The decision denied
the water users’ takings claims for the 2001 Project water
shutoff on water law grounds.
While the virus has attuned the whole country to the idea of
“wash your hands for 20 seconds,” at least 15% of Navajo Nation
homes have no running water at all, according to the official
tribal tally. … The lack of water access has roots in the
history of tribal reservations and federal land use, the
byzantine nature of western water law, and the broader lack of
infrastructure funding for the Navajo Nation, tribal members
and experts said.
Without the river, there would not have been an Emigrant Trail
through this site, gold would not have been discovered in
Dayton and who knows when the Comstock Lode would have been
discovered and Nevada might not even be Nevada today!
Farms and ranches in the Klamath Project will likely have far
less water during the 2020 irrigation season than they did a
year ago, with at least one forecast predicting water supplies
will be less than half of typical demand.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has issued a new three-year
operating plan for the Klamath River, dedicating more water for
endangered salmon while avoiding a “worst case scenario” for
farmers and ranchers. In exchange, a local tribe and fishing
groups agreed to suspend a lawsuit filed against the agency in
The Hoopa Valley Tribe applauded Fresno County Superior Court’s
refusal to validate a proposed contract between Westlands Water
District and the Bureau of Reclamation. … The contract would
have allocated up to 1,150,000 acre-feet of water annually to
Westlands, most of which would be imported from the Trinity
River, which has sustained the Hupa people since time
The Yurok Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s
Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources …
have successfully obtained a new three-year plan from the
Bureau of Reclamation for operating the Klamath Irrigation
Project to increase springtime flows in the Klamath River.
Here on the largest Native American reservation, one that spans
portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, politicians and
health officials are mounting a frantic effort to curb the
spread of the coronavirus. The impact could be especially
devastating, officials fear, in an extremely rural area larger
than West Virginia, with roughly 175,000 residents and only
four inpatient hospitals.
The COVID-19 virus outbreak is affecting us all, whether we
live in a big city or rural Siskiyou County. The economy is
grinding to a halt and governments are planning a massive
response to keep money flowing to small businesses and
employees – the lifeblood of the entire economy. It is through
this lens that I encourage Klamath Basin residents to
view Klamath River Renewal Corp.’s dam removal and river
restoration project as an economic bright spot.
When county Board of Supervisor member Peggy Judd asked former
Gov. Bruce Babbitt to share his thoughts on rural counties
taking on responsibilities relating to groundwater management,
he responded, “I couldn’t say no.”
Many of Arizona’s Native tribes have long-standing claims to
water rights that haven’t yet been settled, and a discussion of
efforts to negotiate possible agreements took center stage at a
meeting of Gov. Doug Ducey’s water council. The meeting grew
tense after Arizona’s top water official gave a presentation on
the status of tribes’ unresolved water claims, and then didn’t
allow leaders of four tribes to speak.
The case, titled Baley v. United States, was filed 19 years ago
when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation re-allocated Klamath River
irrigation water to threatened and endangered species. A
favorable outcome would mean upwards of $30 million
collectively in compensation for irrigators named in the case.
A District Court judge has once again scuttled the Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s plans to obtain and pump rural
groundwater about 300 miles from eastern Nevada, prompting one
Clark County commissioner to call on the water authority “to
look in a different direction.”
The message was loud and clear for state water officials at a
public meeting Monday evening in Redding: Don’t send any more
water south through a proposed Delta tunnel project. A group of
more than 100 Native Americans rallied on the lawn of the
Redding Civic Auditorium before they marched into a scoping
meeting held inside the Redding Sheraton Hotel across the
Climate change has dramatically decreased natural flow in the
Colorado River, jeopardizing the water supply for some 40
million people and millions of acres of farmland, according to
new research from the USGS. The decline is expected to continue
unless changes are made to alleviate global warming and the
impacts of drier, hotter temperatures.
Owens Valley Indian Water Commission is pleased to announce the
Commission awarded the Big Pine Tribe a $100,000 Agriculture
Assistance Grant torepair segments of the Tribe’s irrigation
system to ensure tribal members have access to water for
agricultural and general purposes.
The Four Corners drought of 2017 and 2018 caused $3 billion in
losses and prompted the Navajo Nation to issue an emergency
drought declaration. Now, new research in the Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society suggests a sizable portion of
the drought’s impacts stemmed from human-caused climate change.
Faced with a deepening water shortage, the Arizona legislature
may try to use casino gaming compacts to pressure tribes into
water settlements. … One of the key targets of the ploy is
the Navajo Nation, with a huge outstanding claim.
The Lake Local Area Formation Commission has approved a
proposal to annex Middletown Rancheria land into the Callayomi
County Water District in order to ensure a safe, reliable
source of water for the tribe’s homes and casino.
In the early days, these pot farms were small and scattered.
But in recent years the industry has intensified. A wave of
newcomers planted larger farms, using greenhouses and
artificial lights to extend the growing season and yield up to
three marijuana crops in a single year. The cannabis boom has
polluted waters with fertilizers, fuels and pesticides,
triggered erosion that buries the rocky habitats where salmon
and trout spawn and grow, and drained streams of water in the
This commentary is based on speakers notes from an ACWA Talk
given by Anecita Agustinez at the ACWA Fall Conference 2019.
This talk was prepared for the first TED-talk inspired workshop
and was presented in San Diego, California to a large audience
from many backgrounds.
In the early years of the 20th century, leaders across the West
had big dreams for growth, all of which were tied to taking
water from the Colorado River and moving it across mountains
and deserts. In dividing up the river, they assigned more water
to users than the system actually produces.
Federal water managers are about to start reexamining a
12-year-old agreement among Western states that laid down rules
for dealing with potential water shortages along the Colorado
River. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he asked the
Bureau of Reclamation to start the review at the beginning of
2020, rather than by the end of 2020, which is the deadline
under the existing agreement.
Federal water managers are about to start reexamining a
12-year-old agreement among Western states that laid down rules
for dealing with potential water shortages along the Colorado
River. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he asked the
Bureau of Reclamation to start the review at the beginning of
2020, rather than by the end of 2020, which is the deadline
under the existing agreement.
The Colorado River is arguably one
of the hardest working rivers on the planet, supplying water to
40 million people and a large agricultural economy in the West.
But it’s under duress from two decades of drought and decisions
made about its management will have exceptional ramifications for
the future, especially as impacts from climate change are felt.
States in the U.S. West that have agreed to begin taking less
water next month from the drought-stricken Colorado River got
praise and a push for more action Thursday from the nation’s
top water official. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman told federal, state and local water managers that
abiding by the promises they made will be crucial to ensuring
that more painful cuts aren’t required.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said
Wednesday that Nevada has been a national leader in water
conservation by reducing demand on the Colorado River and
investing in infrastructure over the past two decades. In Las
Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual
conference, Burman declined to say, however, whether she sees
Nevada’s share of the river’s water increasing…
There are two things already baked into the desert’s cake
guaranteed to inject a bit of what ails the rest of the state —
the full flowering of the regulatory scheme mandated by the
state’s 2014 Groundwater Sustainability Act and reductions in
Colorado River allocations made necessary by a drying Colorado
River Basin that is already badly over allocated.
The planned downtown Palm Springs entertainment arena, like
many desert projects, is a thirsty one, requiring almost 12
million gallons of water each year to accommodate an American
Hockey League affiliate team and other visitors.
The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference
whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water
permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other
projects. … The question in the case is whether states
unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project
on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in
litigation over pipelines and other projects.
As conventional wisdom has it, the states were relying on bad
data when they divided up the water. But a new book challenges
that narrative. Turn-of-the-century hydrologists actually had a
pretty good idea of how much water the river could spare, water
experts John Fleck and Eric Kuhn write in Science be Dammed:
How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.
They make the case that politicians and water managers in the
early 1900s ignored evidence about the limits of the river’s
A new federal program hopes to fill knowledge gaps on how water
moves through the headwaters of arguably the West’s most
important drinking and irrigation water source. The U.S.
Geological Survey announced the next location for its Next
Generation Water Observing System will be in the headwaters of
the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. It’s the second watershed in
the country to be part of the program…
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
During days when solar panels feed more energy into the grid
than utilities want to buy, the projects would use the excess
power to pump water from Walker Lake or Pyramid Lake into the
newly constructed reservoirs. Once there, the water would sit
as a giant pool of potential energy. When demand for power
increased at night as solar production waned, the water could
be released downhill and run through a power plant.
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
Ambiguity exists in the language of the river’s foundational
document, the Colorado River Compact. That agreement’s language
remains unclear on whether Upper Basin states, where the
Colorado River originates, are legally obligated to deliver a
certain amount of water over a 10-year period to those in the
Lower Basin: Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Native American tribal water rights are guaranteed by the
federal government to the extent that endangered species, like
salmon in the Klamath River, aren’t placed in danger, according
to a court decision on Thursday.
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring
October 14, 2019 “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in California. … I
thank the governor for the proclamation. However, last month –
on California Native American Day — the governor also vetoed
legislation, Senate Bill 1, that could have helped the state
protect our salmon from Trump’s environmental rollbacks. This
The problem in the 1920s was neither the lack of good science
nor the inability of decision-makers to understand the basin’s
hydrology. … In an era driven by politics of competition for
a limited supply of river water and federal dollars, those
decision-makers had the opportunity to selectively use the
available science as a tool to sell their projects and vision
for the river’s future to Congress and the general public.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
After touring film festivals in two dozen cities across the
country, the documentary, Visions of the Lost Sierra, will be
released online Wednesday for all to view. … Visions is a
short film exploring how the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork
Feather River has connected communities and inspired outdoor
enthusiasts for generations.
Arizona’s portion of the Drought Contingency Plan became a
unique example in the basin of tribal leaders asserting
themselves in broader discussions about the river’s management.
… With the drought plan done, some tribal leaders say their
water rights can’t be ignored any longer.
Here’s the nut: Water supply in the Colorado River could drop
so far in the next decade that the ability of the Upper
Colorado River Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New
Mexico – to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in
Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
The Goshute, Ely and Duckwater Shoshone tribes all consider the
site, known as the swamp cedars, sacred and believe the trees
are threatened by a proposal to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas.
… Tribal members are pushing for greater recognition of
the site in order to strengthen their case against Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s proposal to pipe groundwater
from the area to Las Vegas.
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
Prescribed burns have to become a central component of forest
management if humans want to effectively battle the climate
crisis, the vice chairman of the Yurok Tribe told members of
Congress on Tuesday.
It was on the Colorado River that González, now 82, taught her
children, just like her parents and grandparents taught her, to
fish with canoes and traps made from willow trees which
flourished on the riverbanks. Now, the river stops at the
US-Mexico border and the lakes are dry and native vegetation is
confined to reforestation projects.
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
In Arizona, the mountainous city of Flagstaff normally gets 8.3
inches of rain in monsoon season but had 2.08 inches — the
driest in more than 120 years of record keeping. The Grand
Canyon airport, Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Nation and Show Low
also had record low rainfall.
Alicyn Gitlin, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter, said the project would threaten an
endangered species, interfere with the Grand Canyon’s already
degraded hydrology and damage sites held sacred by two Arizona
Arizona’s top water official presented new long-term
projections Friday showing that Pinal County doesn’t have
enough groundwater to provide for the fast-growing area’s
cities, farms and many planned subdivisions over the coming
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
For E. Joaquin Esquivel, California has made great strides in
fighting climate change and transitioning to a cleaner energy
sector. Now, he said, it’s water’s turn. “Water, I think, is
ready for that moment,” said Esquivel, the chairman of the
California State Water Resources Control Board who took over
from longtime chair Felicia Marcus in February.
Giving legal rights to a river helps compensate for the fact
that the rights of those living along it are frequently being
violated. Even with all the executive orders and legislation on
the books, companies exploiting the environment rarely pay for
its destruction in the way local communities do.
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
Lake Powell’s long decline may be on hiatus after this year’s
snowy winter, but activists still are raising concerns that
climate change could render Glen Canyon Dam inoperable. This
time, they are taking their concerns to court, asking a federal
judge to invalidate the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 20-year
operating plan for the towering dam..
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
Thousands of fall-run salmon have returned to Battle Creek in
Shasta County. The Coleman National Fish Hatchery opened the
fish ladder Tuesday morning so the salmon will begin to flow
into their holding ponds. However, local native American tribes
are not exactly praising the return to the hatchery, saying the
population is still at risk.
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
A Native American tribe has granted personhood to a river in
northern California making it the first known River in North
America to have the same legal rights as a human, at least
under tribal law. The Yurok Tribe based near the southern
border of Oregon confirmed the new status on the Klamath River.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
The river is carrying year-round flows down a stretch on the
Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier District that until recently
was dry for more than 70 years except after big rains. And
here, unlike through downtown Tucson, the water is once again
coming up from the aquifer naturally — not being added
artificially through effluent.
A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less
than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon
National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado
River and the endangered fish habitat it protects.
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
As populations in the West rise, managers of our precious water
supplies have to figure out how to deal with increasing demand
in the midst of climate change. In Southern Nevada, we rely on
the Colorado River. But the Truckee River is the lifeline in
Northern Nevada, and climate change is affecting them in a much
In essence, the Yurok resolution means that if the river is
harmed, a case can be made in Yurok tribal court to remedy the
problem. Currently, says Yurok Tribe General Counsel Amy
Cordalis, laws like the Clean Water or Endangered Species acts
can be used to protect rivers by addressing symptoms of
problems like diseased fish or pollution. But the Yurok
resolution seeks to address the river’s problems directly and
holistically, including the impacts of climate change.
An improved understanding of cannabis cultivators’ water use
practices is a particularly pressing need. Given the propensity
of cannabis growers to establish farms in small, upper
watersheds, where streams that support salmonids and other
sensitive species are vulnerable to dewatering, significant
concerns have been raised over the potential impacts of
diverting surface water for cannabis cultivation.
In a decision hailed by some as a victory for tribal rights and
ecological preservation, the Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld
voiding 40-year lease extensions for geothermal energy
production on 26 plots of California land deemed sacred by
Free water is available to Needles residents who happen to live
in one of the areas the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has
determined to have earned prior perfected water rights (PPR):
Well-drilling, pumping, piping and treating not included.
Neighbors within an area must agree on an equitable plan for
distribution of the water.
Our beaches, bays and waterways are central to who we are as
San Diegans and to our unique way of life. But in a heavily
urbanized region clean water doesn’t just happen; it takes hard
work and stewardship.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
There is not enough water to support important wetlands and
springs in a semi-arid desert ecosystem that straddles the
Nevada-Utah border if all permitted and proposed groundwater
rights are put to use, according to a U.S. Geological Survey
study of the Snake Valley. There also may not be enough
groundwater to satisfy the desires of the Las Vegas area, whose
water agencies have eyed the valley for decades…
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Through a $3 million contract with the California State Water
Resources Board, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will
conduct a statewide drinking water needs analysis to identify
risks and solutions for water systems and private wells
throughout the state.
The state’s moves open up more opportunities for extension of
drinking water service, operations and maintenance for domestic
wells, and even demands action for Salton Sea conservation. The
myriad issues east valley residents face are exacerbated by the
public health impacts of the receding Salton Sea.
Salmon and steelhead that were once abundant in this great
watershed are now at risk of extinction, a preventable disaster
that can be averted by moving forward with the planned removal
of four aging hydroelectric dams. While the Klamath River was
once the third-largest salmon producer on the west coast, its
fish runs have been declining for decades.
Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the
1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and
declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall
throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that
many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep
the fish from being lost.
It didn’t take long for the completion of the Drought
Contingency Plan to create value to Arizona and the Colorado
River Basin. Its focus on stabilizing Lake Mead and creating
incentives to “bank” water in the reservoir already are paying
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years of drought and the dramatic
decline in water levels at the river’s key reservoirs have
pressed water managers to adapt to challenging conditions. But
even more extreme — albeit rare — droughts or floods that could
overwhelm water managers may lie ahead in the Basin as the
effects of climate change take hold, say a group of scientists.
Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the
bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego,
acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from
consideration until next year.
The Round Valley Indian Tribes announced this week that they
have signed an agreement to join with users of both the Eel
River and Russian River to seek a “Two-Basin Solution” for the
re-licensing of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River.
“We never were a people that would fight fire,” said William
Tripp, the Karuk Tribe’s eco-cultural restoration specialist.
“We worked with fire. Fire was inevitable and still is and
forever will be on this landscape and many landscapes like it.”
That’s why the Karuk Tribe is making the use of fire a central
component of its climate adaptation plan.
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
This delivery, on top of water already being provided, comes at
a critical time for fall waterfowl migration, and has become
available through extensive coordination and efforts by Klamath
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Nevada and Arizona, concerned that a 20-year drought has dried
up much of the river, are trying to rein in water use in an
effort to save the disappearing river. The river’s water levels
next year are projected to be just below the threshold of 1,090
feet laid out in the Drought Contingency Plan that was signed
earlier this year…
Crowfoot oversees a sprawling agency of 19,000 employees
engaged in the stewardship of the state’s forests and natural
lands, rivers and waterways, coast and ocean, fish and wildlife
and energy development. Now in its 36th year, the Water Summit
features a variety of policymakers, experts and stakeholders
discussing important topics in water across California and the
A few years ago, Paul Kehmeier did something unusual: He
decided not to water about 60% of his fields. He was one of a
few dozen farmers and landowners in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah,
and New Mexico who volunteered for a pilot program meant to
test out a new water-conservation strategy: Paying farmers to
temporarily leave their fields dry, to save the Colorado River.
Water users in the Colorado River Basin have survived the
drought through a combination of water storage infrastructure
and voluntary actions to protect reservoir storage and water
supply. Adoption of drought contingency plans this summer,
developed over years of collaborative negotiation, takes the
next step by implementing mandatory action to reduce risk and
protect limited water supplies.
At the 2019 California Water Law Symposium, Professor Dave Owen
from UC Hastings gave the following overview presentation of
California water rights, including types of water rights,
governing agencies, and sources of regulatory authority, as
well as a brief overview of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater
There are a lot of reasons our watershed is unique. It’s a high
elevation terminal watershed, what could be more special? Well,
another contributing factor is that the terminus of the Truckee
River watershed exists on the largest Native American
Reservation in Nevada.
A mobile home park on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation in
Thermal had elevated levels of arsenic in the water system,
prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to direct
the park’s owner to make fresh water available to residents and
find ways to mitigate the contaminants, the federal agency said
ASU Now spoke to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for
Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy,
about the cutbacks and what they will mean for Arizona’s
agriculture and the state’s roughly 7 million residents.
Environmental groups are raising concerns over a provision in
draft legislation they believe could exempt the Las Vegas
pipeline — a proposal to pump eastern Nevada groundwater about
300 miles to Southern Nevada — from further litigation and
federal environmental review.
Rocky Mountain water managers worried about climate-driven
depletion across the Colorado River Basin are mulling a “grand
bargain” that would overhaul obligations among seven
southwestern states for sharing the river’s water. This
reflects rising concerns that dry times could turn disastrous.
A new legislative audit has concluded Washington County water
bosses will likely be able to generate sufficient revenue to
pay the massive costs of building and operating the proposed
Lake Powell pipeline, but only through large fee, rate and tax
increases and if the county triples its population during the
next 50 years.
The headwaters of Blue Creek is also among the tribe’s most
sacred sites, said Gene Brundin, a member of the tribe’s
cultural committee. The stream begins at a place called Elk
Valley near Chimney Rock and its cold water ensures the
viability of the salmon runs, he said.
Just a few months after completing the Drought Contingency Plan
for the Colorado River states, water managers in the southwest
will likely have to implement it starting in 2020. That’s
according to new projections for the levels of key reservoirs
in the southwestern river basin, and Arizona is first in line
to take water cutbacks.