California hosts a substantial, complicated water rights system
that allocates water across the state. In addition to a dual
system — riparian and appropriate rights — today state courts
are recognizing expanded public trust values in determining
how the state’s water resources should be best used.
Water rights are governed mostly by state law. Water quality
issues, which may affect allocation, are regulated separately by
both federal and state laws. Water rights can be quite
Recently, Governor Newsom announced his framework and support
for Voluntary Settlement Agreements (VSAs) — a monumental
effort that could bring to an end the conflict and litigation
over water that flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
With great hope and guarded optimism, I applaud the governor’s
President Trump believes he “got it done” in fixing
California’s troubled and contentious water system. What he
actually produced is another wrecking-ball delay and a lawsuit
to try to halt his lopsided solution.
Coal-fired power plants are closing, or being given firm
deadlines for closure, across the country. In the Western
states that make up the overallocated and drought-plagued
Colorado River, these facilities use a significant amount of
the region’s scarce water supplies. With closure dates looming,
communities are starting the contentious debate about how this
newly freed up water should be put to use.
Protecting the North Coast’s waters and the communities that
depend on them is a top priority, Congressman Jared Huffman
told a town hall at the Eureka High School auditorium Friday
night. Making sure fishermen get timely compensation when
they’re barred from fishing and ensuring there is enough water
in the area to protect fisheries are two key issues, the San
Rafael Democrat said.
Groundwater sustainability plans that have been submitted to
the state are now online at the DWR SGMA Portal. Plans are open
to public comment for 75 days after they were posted online.
Below is a table of the submitted plans, the counties they
cover and details about the public comment period for that
In the latest update, the cost of implementing the voluntary
agreements has soared by over $4 billion to a whopping $5.3
billion. Governor Newsom failed to mention the enormous and
growing costs in his oped praising the voluntary agreement
The Imperial Irrigation District has been found not guilty of a
contempt of court complaint brought against it by farmer
Michael Abatti as part of his contentious fight over water
rights in the Imperial Valley.
First things first: you’d be wise to forget everything you’ve
read or heard recently about “voluntary agreements,” which
according to the usual suspects, will bring a just and peaceful
end the seemingly never-ending battle over California water.
Not true. Not even close.
Last week, Newsom unveiled a compromise framework that would
enhance flows through the Delta by up to 900,000 acre-feet a
year and restore 60,000 acres of habitat for wildlife,
particularly salmon, facing decline or even extinction due to
While the Ventura River may be beautiful, a legal case over its
water is turning ugly. Thousands of people like Jessica
Colborn, born and raised in Upper Ojai, are being served legal
papers. This is because of their wells that use water from the
The Ventura City Council announced Monday that it may request a
six-month extension from the court for the thousands who were
sent legal notices or served with a court summons in the case.
… The litigation dates back to 2014 when Santa Barbara
Channelkeeper filed a lawsuit alleging the city of Ventura
was taking too much water from the Ventura River,
hurting habitat for steelhead trout and other wildlife.
From an ecologist’s perspective, river habitat and species
population sizes and life histories were shaped by unimpaired
flow patterns (including volume and natural variability) across
seasons and years. Science from across the world, other regions
in the US, and right here in California suggests that we can
take some of that flow for other uses, but must preserve
adequate volume and natural patterns of variation if we want
native species to survive.
People crowded into an Ojai junior high school auditorium
recently after thousands received legal notices or a court
summons from the city of Ventura. The city notified 14,000-plus
property owners in the Ventura River watershed of a potential
adjudication of water rights. That move came years after the
city faced legal action over its own water use.
Time and time again seemingly well-intentioned initiatives and
repeated attempts to develop a comprehensive water management
solution have failed, despite cautionary tales. However, 2019
witnessed the horizon of a new initiative called the Voluntary
Agreements that could do what few, if any, past plans, efforts,
or reports could do – unite water management and develop
The concept of unimpaired flows has endured (much longer than
reasonable in my opinion). While it was argued that unimpaired
flows would allow resource assessments to be founded on the
“natural” hydrology of the stream network, this had fundamental
The Chino City Council on Tuesday night approved selling
3,500-acre-feet of surplus groundwater to the Fontana Water
Company for more than $2 million. … As of June 2019, the city
of Chino’s stored groundwater reserves totaled approximately
120,000-acre-feet, which is equivalent to 31.1 billion gallons
A company’s proposal to take water from farmland along the
Colorado River and sell it to a growing Phoenix suburb has
provoked a heated debate, and some Arizona legislators are
trying to block the deal with a bill that would prohibit the
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.
Watershed adjudications take a long time and their outcomes are
impossible to predict. Thus the interest expressed by some
major water purveyors (like the City of Ventura, Casitas
Municipal Water District, Ventura River Water District and
Meiners Oaks Water District) in pursuing a court-sanctioned
settlement agreement. Negotiations on a settlement have begun
and could avert the need for a lengthy basin-wide adjudication.
Utah first proposed building a 140-mile pipeline from Lake
Powell on the Utah-Arizona border more than a decade ago. The
plan, however, was waylaid by environmental and other reviews
during the Obama administration. … Reclamation signaled to
the state that it wants to move swiftly on the plan, in
recognition of how it was stalled at FERC…
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
Under a new bill in the Arizona state Legislature, some water
tied to land that borders the Colorado River could not be
transferred into central Arizona. It comes after recent
proposals to do just that.
State legislators plan to tackle widespread problems of
groundwater overpumping in rural Arizona this session,
proposing bills that would make it easier to limit
well-drilling in farming areas where residents have asked for
help from the state to safeguard their dwindling water
Over the next few weeks, all owners of any real property that
overlies the watershed’s four groundwater basins, as well as
users who take or could take water from the Ventura River, will
receive a notification or summons about the court proceedings
as part of an ongoing legal process and as required by the
California water policy leaders say balancing the supply of
groundwater by implementing the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, or SGMA, and addressing policies related to
water supply and water quality, will continue to be priority
issues in 2020.
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District officials have
agreed to move forward with detailed analysis and planning for
a potential public acquisition and ownership of California
American Water’s local water system. On Monday, the water
district board unanimously approved spending up to $1.24
million on work by a team of consultants to prepare the
district to make a formal offer for the Cal Am system…
A Placerville development company that illegally discharged
sediment and stormwater from its construction site has agreed
to pay $171,000 in a settlement with the Central Valley
Regional Water Quality Control Board,
On Monday, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
board is set to consider approving $1.24 million on consultants
to prepare for a potential vote by the summer on a resolution
of necessity to acquire Cal Am’s local system.
Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for
many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to
develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is
accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big
farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign
agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped
up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
Following a string of utility-sparked wildfires that have
killed scores of Californians and destroyed billions in
property, the former top regulator of California’s electric
grid says it’s time for sweeping change — a public takeover of
Pacific Gas & Electric and possibly other private utilities,
which would be transformed into a state power company.
By practicing careful and sustainable water management
practices, the tribe has cultivated wild plants, including
taboose, nahavita, as well as fruit trees and other vegetables.
… However, starting in the mid-1800s with the arrival of
European settlers making a claim to water rights in the Owens
Valley, this once-lush area was transformed dramatically into a
virtual desert in just decades.
Nicole Neeman Brady serves as principal and chief operating
officer at L.A.-based Renewable Resources Group, which … is
in the business of developing energy and water projects,
raising the potential for conflicts of interest if the company
seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on
Aside from advanced economies and Mediterranean climates that
sustain long growing seasons, California, Spain and Australia
share an intermittent feature that reshapes their overburdened
water systems every time it rears its ugly head: drought.
A district that recharges renewable water supplies to allow new
housing development brings in about $13.4 billion a year in
economic benefits, says a study written for a homebuilders’
group. … The report goes against the grain of
recommendations made over the years by academics,
environmentalists and others to limit enrollment of new
subdivisions in the district, saying that could cause a major
economic setback for the state.
Central Valley agriculture faces a looming existential water
crisis from the interlocking problems of drought, climate
change, and falling underground water tables. Yet the potential
answer to this problem is incredibly simple and only a lack of
political will may defeat it. The solution is to send south to
California the abundant waters of the Columbia River.
The study demonstrated the following: big legislative reforms
in water management in these three areas have always come about
as a consequence of important droughts. … One of the main
differences lies in how water ownership is managed and how the
market is regulated in this field.
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.
A private company and the town of Queen Creek are proposing a
water deal that would leave 485 acres of farmland permanently
dry near the Colorado River and send the water used
on that land to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb. The company
GSC Farm LLC is seeking to sell its annual entitlement of 2,083
acre-feet of Colorado River water — about 678 million
gallons — to Queen Creek for a one-time payment of $21
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.
The newest water agency in California, the Santa Clarita Valley
Water Agency, or SCV Water, has been one big success story.
Formed on Jan. 1, 2018, it’s hard to believe this new agency is
approaching its second anniversary. It was not easy!
According to a 111-page analysis by a group of financial
consultants and bankers released on Nov. 6, not only is a
buyout of the behemoth Cal Am feasible, it would also cause the
cost of water to drop significantly if the water utility was
replaced by a public agency.
It will cost Monterey Peninsula ratepayers about $574.5
million, all in, to acquire California American Water’s local
water system, but that cost can be covered in rate savings
under public ownership with some leftover to lower local
customers’ water bills.
Five of the seven water-stressed western states along the
Colorado River—Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and
Wyoming—don’t yet track how they use their limited water in any
kind of systematic, accessible way, teeing up potential
shortages as the region dries.
A newly released study finds a public takeover of California
American Water’s local system is feasible. Voters ordered this
study with the approval of a local ballot measure, Measure J,
one year ago. The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
released the study Wednesday.
Plans to exercise federal county-of-origin rights to tap New
Melones waters are in the works. According to documents for
next Tuesday’s Tuolumne Utilities District board of directors
meeting, staff will be recommending the board authorize General
Manager Ed Pattison to submit a formal letter of request to the
United States Bureau of Reclamation for a water supply
The 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.
The study of whether it makes sense to build a pipe to carry
water from Paradise to Chico has died, at least for now. …
The idea was that Cal Water’s Chico Division would buy Paradise
Irrigation District water, and reduce its total dependence on
wells. … The pipe would also provide a buyer for PID water,
something the district needs to survive. Most of its customers
were burned out by the Camp Fire.
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
The Oct. 28 meeting of the El Dorado Irrigation District Board
of Directors included an update on the effect of power outages
on the district and a legislative update with a focus on
protecting the area’s water rights.
The State Water Board is central to addressing many of
California’s major water challenges, including protecting water
quality for drinking and for the environment, addressing
drought and water conservation, and managing the allocation of
surface water. We talked to Sean Maguire, a civil engineer who
was appointed to the board by former governor Brown in December
2018, about priority issues.
The network of clear streams comprising California’s Strawberry
Creek run down the side of a steep, rocky mountain in a
national forest two hours east of Los Angeles. Last year Nestlé
siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek
and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label.
EDF created an online story map … to provide a more holistic
view of groundwater supplies and challenges in the seven-state
Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, New
Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming), drawing from recent
research. Here are four key highlights from the story map that
demonstrate the importance of groundwater and the challenges of
groundwater management in the arid West:
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offers attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop was held Thursday, February 20 and covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
Under an agreement to “bank” water outside of the Santa Clarita
Valley, local water officials … and their water banking
partners, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District and Irvine
Ranch Water District, opened six new groundwater wells and a
conveyance system to the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County.
The court denied the petitioner’s challenge, which questioned
the validity of the county’s Environmental Impact Report,
according to the Statement of Decision. Crystal Geyser
purchased the former Coca Cola water bottling facility on Ski
Village Drive in 2013 with hopes of bottle sparkling spring
water and eventually producing Juice Squeeze drinks there.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
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.
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and
unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers,
policymakers and the public better understand growing practices
since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became
legal for recreational use.
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.
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.
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
Back in May, the board of the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management
Agency unanimously agreed to pay the United Water Conservation
District for about 15,000 acre-feet of water. Officials said
the relatively low-cost release would help recharge aquifers
still struggling after years of drought. That much was clear.
Other details were more murky.
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.
The California Water Boards sent at least 270 letters to
farmers in the Emerald Triangle, warning them to come into
compliance with regulations or face possible fines and even the
loss of their cultivation licenses.
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.
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.
By any reckoning, the steelhead trout won a significant legal
victory this week, along with CalTrout and the Environmental
Defense Center, which have been arguing the case for two
decades. But it remains uncertain exactly how much more water
will have to be released downstream from Lake Cachuma to create
a habitat wet enough along the main stem of the Santa Ynez
River for the federally endangered fish to wage a meaningful
When water is diverted from rivers, the remaining water moves
more slowly and warms more easily. Algae and bacteria thrive in
warm, stagnant water and are more likely to grow in excess,
increasing the chances of a HAB event.
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…
At the Association of California Water Agencies‘ spring
conference, a panel of lawyers covered the basics of the legal
framework for the Delta. The panel was billed as ‘All the
Acronyms You Need to Know”, but no 1.5 hour panel discussion
could possibly cover all that. However, the panel did a good
job of hitting the main ones and highlighting current issues.
Heather Hansman’s new book Downriver: Into the Future of Water
in the West explores the water emergency with remarkable calm
and even-handedness. She focuses on a single river, the Green
River, where ranchers, frackers, rafters, fishermen, and
urbanites all fight for their share of the water, while
contending with Byzantine state policies.
Dates are now set for two key
Foundation events to kick off 2020 — our popular Water 101
Workshop, scheduled for Feb. 20 at McGeorge School of Law in
Sacramento, and our Lower Colorado River Tour, which will run
from March 11-13.
In addition, applications will be available by the first week of
October for our 2020 class of Water Leaders, our competitive
yearlong program for early to mid-career up-and-coming water
professionals. To learn more about the program, check out our
Water Leaders program
Woodland is sitting atop what is essentially an underground
reservoir containing millions of gallons of freshwater. And for
much of the past three years, the city has been banking excess
water during the winter months to use during the summer when it
isn’t allowed to make withdrawals from the Sacramento River.
A new method to measure pore structure and water flow is
described in a study published in the journal Water Resources
Research. With it, scientists should be able to more accurately
determine how fast water, contaminants, nutrients and other
liquids move through the soil — and where they go.
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.
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
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.
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
The Superior Court of California in the County of Siskiyou said
the company owns the exclusive right to divert and use 4.07
cubic feet per second of Beaughan Springs water and the City of
Weed acknowledged that it has no ownership interest in the
water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
If credibility were measured like rainfall, the Trump
administration would be in the midst of a prolonged drought —
as evidenced most recently in its handling of plans to send
more water to California’s Central Valley.
The newly formed water market would create a place where
farmers in the Rosedale district can buy and sell water based
on their needs. So if one farmer has too much for his crops in
a certain year, he’d be able to sell it on the market to
another who might not have enough.
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
Santa Barbara County prosecutors say they’ve reached a
settlement with a small private water district over claims it
was diverting water from a creek without proper permits. The
action involved the Montecito Creek Water Company. It has
limited water rights for Hot Springs Creek. But, State Fish and
Wildlife officials say the water company didn’t have a permit
to divert water.
Water hidden beneath the earth’s surface comprises 98% of the
planet’s fresh water. On average, this groundwater provides a
third of all total water consumed… Before we even start to
improve groundwater management, we must better understand and
measure it, says international groundwater expert Craig
Simmons, from Flinders University in Adelaide.
A project to pump billions of gallons of water out from under
the Mojave Desert and sell it to people in Southern California
could be slowed by a bill approved for the first time on
Thursday by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
A longtime court case involving the shutoff of water to
multiple water users in the Klamath Basin in 2001 attracted
wide-ranging attention from Pacific Northwest-based
organizations and those within the legal community in
Washington, D.C. Nearly 90 minutes of oral arguments were heard
Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals at the Federal Circuit.
The plan is historic: It acknowledges that southwestern states
need to make deep water use reductions – including a large
share from agriculture, which uses over 70% of the supply – to
prevent Colorado River reservoirs from declining to critically
low levels. But it also has serious shortcomings. It runs for
less than a decade. And its name suggests a response to a
A new study will explore the viability of a regional pipeline
to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple
users in San Diego County and across the Southwest. The San
Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved
funds for the two-year study at its June 27 Board meeting.
The original treaty was implemented before the 1970 National
Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act and a
host of legal shifts that bolstered Indigenous rights… These
hallmarks of change emphasize the need to include environmental
protection and equity in an updated treaty.
Pure Water Monterey, the highly touted recycled water project,
is in default on a water purchase agreement with California
American Water after failing to meet a Monday deadline for
delivering potable water even as the project’s costs rise amid
Colorado officials are planning to build multiple large
reservoirs on the prairie northeast of Denver to capture more
of the South Platte River’s Nebraska-bound water, then pump it
back westward to booming metro suburbs struggling to wean
themselves off dwindling underground aquifers.
Researchers have mapped the impact of groundwater pumping on
surface water in individual watersheds before. But it’s only
recently that computing power has improved enough to look at
groundwater’s interaction with surface water, known as
integrated modeling, on a scale as large as the United States.
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
When it comes to Nestle Corp.’s harvesting of spring water for
bottling from the nearby San Bernardino National Forest, it
always seems that any final resolution of this long-running
controversy is always somewhere in the future.
Tribal leaders urged House lawmakers Wednesday to support a
handful of bills that would guarantee water to their tribes in
Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and fund the water treatment
plants and pipelines to deliver it.
The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly
negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced
County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a
move that could create a promising new water source — or spark
a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley
It’s hard to respond effectively to a crisis when you don’t
have clearly defined priorities. This is true for sudden-onset
crises, like floods and wildfires, and also for slow-onset
crises, like droughts.
After 68 years of litigation and more than a half-century of
settlement talks, a dispute between the water district that
serves Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton has officially ended. The
agreement settles a lawsuit filed in 1951 and lays out how the
Fallbrook Public Utility District and Marine Corps Base Camp
Pendleton will share water rights to the Santa Margarita River.
In the ceaseless conflict over how to use the state’s available
water — and maybe then some — a varied group of water users and
lawmakers sang a refrain older than Nevada: “Everyone is going
to court in the end.” … The ghosts of litigation — past,
present and future — loomed over the Thursday Senate Natural
Resources Committee hearing that stretched until 8 p.m. and
offered insight into why it’s so difficult to update Nevada
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.
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 …
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.
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.
For rural communities in the central coast region of
California, the name “Harvard” does not connote excellence. For
these communities, where water is scarce and becoming scarcer,
it evokes greed and exploitation. As California takes its first
steps to regulate groundwater in the midst of a worsening water
crisis, Harvard’s endowment fund is investing millions into
vineyards that pump inordinate amounts of water from
California’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins.
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
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.
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,
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California issued a decision … finding that the
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians lacked standing to seek
adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved
groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.
At first blush, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest action on water
seems fanciful and naive. But it has logic and conceivably
could work. Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything
the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry
Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for
California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water
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.
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.
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.
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.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,
alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality
Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and
Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to
suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a
thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network
of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm.
Instead of the food crops grown all around this site,
Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for
birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only
receives water a couple times a year.
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first
systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to
urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural
areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations.
… The study, published in Environmental Research Letters,
found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre
feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working
with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park
Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre
feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than
the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Our predecessors settled in a valley bordered by mountains that
increase the rainfall and help store water as melted snow
underground. They also experienced drought and, in response,
they thoughtfully set aside thousands of acres of land needed
to capture and replenish the primary source of the water they
Officials met in Imperial Beach Friday to discuss the sewage
pollution that continues to plague South Bay shorelines —
shuttering beaches more than 100 days every year. The event was
billed as an “inaugural dialogue,” which in the future will
include a host of other binational issues, including climate
change and commerce.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix
on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the
Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning
fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive
fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes
Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the
Crystal Geyser initially announced its intention to open the
facility to bottle fruit juices with much fanfare in 2013.
However, legal challenges have so far foiled its plans. The
Winnemem Wintu Tribe and WATER (We Advocate Thorough
Environmental Review) have filed two lawsuits to prevent the
project, both of which are moving through the court system.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental
Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality
standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. …
“The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA
misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined
almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin
McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December
to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction
of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue
voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw
this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the
executive director, and many of the activist staff.
This post provides an overview of our recommendations for
actions the State Water Resources Control Board can take
before, during, and after droughts to make water rights
administration and oversight more timely, fair, and effective.
… Here are five actions the Board can take to build on past
gains and its institutional knowledge from past drought
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a
complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior
to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights
perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy
choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address
this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from
farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome
cannabis growers with open arms.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits
against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River
tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to
learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court
battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own
lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water
Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss
California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the
recent drought and the future of its water wars.
Modern interpretations of the public trust are said to have
originated from a sixth-century Roman law that asserted, “[b]y
the law of nature these things are common to mankind — the air,
running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”
Antioch’s plan to build a long-awaited brackish desalination
plant got a major boost this week when the City Council
officially accepted a $10 million state grant that will pay
toward design and construction. The city’s grant was one of
three statewide to be awarded in March 2018 from the Department
of Water Resources for desalination projects under Proposition
The Millview County Water District will receive a $3 million
loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
program to help secure access to its wells. According to the
USDA, the money will be used to help the water district
“purchase property to gain access to its water source.
Currently, Millview does not own the water rights to the four
well sites, making it difficult to service the wells if there
are any issues with them, such as contamination.”
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
South Coast agencies purchased more than 27,000 acre-feet of
supplemental water during four drought years to make up for
lowered allocations from Lake Cachuma and the State Water
Project, and for most of those deals, payback includes water in
addition to money. Agencies’ so-called “water debt” means that
when the city of Santa Barbara purchased from the Mojave Water
Agency last year, for example, it was committing to paying back
1 acre-foot of water for every 4 acre-feet it purchased.
Past droughts have stress-tested California’s water management
institutions, and some of the vulnerabilities they revealed
still linger today. Given that climate change is expected to
increase the frequency and intensity of future droughts,
recognizing and addressing institutional vulnerabilities is
Ventura has released reports detailing the environmental
impacts of two sizable projects expected to increase the city’s
water supply and reliability… One involves tapping into the
city’s long-held investment into state water. The other project
would capture effluent from Ventura’s wastewater treatment
plant, treat it and turn it into drinking water.
Lawmakers in Colorado want the U.S. state to study the
potential of blockchain technology in water rights management.
Republican senator Jack Tate, along with representatives Jeni
James Arndt (Democratic) and Marc Catlin (Republican), filed
senate bill 184 on Tuesday, proposing that the Colorado Water
Institute should be granted authority to study how blockchain
technology can help improve its operations.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the
twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of
hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
A trial date has been set for Apple Valley’s eminent domain
lawsuit against Liberty Utilities, a case that will determine
whether the town will win the right to take the company’s water
system. … Liberty filed its CEQA suit a month after the Town
Council voted to take the company’s water system by eminent
domain. In court documents, the company alleged an “incomplete
and misleading” environmental impact report prepared for
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in
Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the
top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts
on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and
find out what the next generation of integrated water
management planning looks like.
Although ending groundwater overdraft will bring long-term
benefits, it entails near-term costs. We find that only about a
quarter of the Valley’s groundwater deficit can be filled with
new supplies at prices farmers can afford. The rest must come
from managing demand. We estimate that ending the overdraft
will require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated
cropland out of production.
A letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein could have helped
lead to Felicia Marcus’s ouster as State Water Resources
Control Board chair last week. Surprised? Don’t be: The
moderate Democratic senator has a long alliance with Central
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against
water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable,
and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance
involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and
adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public
servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her
tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we
owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered
farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin
Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water
Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin
Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board.
… Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water
Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus.
… Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells
contaminated with nitrates.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are
still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to
be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than
they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently
recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural
runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the
Agricultural and environmental leaders spoke at the Water
Market Exchange Symposium in the Satellite Student Union on
Jan. 24 to share their perspectives on a water market exchange
program. The symposium featured speakers from water agencies,
environmental interests, disadvantaged community interests and
water market administrators.
“The judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our
property under the Constitution,” said U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Charles Evans Hughes in Elimra, New York in 1907. That
quote exemplifies the reason that five irrigation districts on
tributaries to the San Joaquin River as well as the city of San
Francisco filed lawsuits recently against the State Water
Resources Control Board. They are defending their water
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow
requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a
percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this
‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on
farms, communities throughout California and the environment.
We join many other water agencies in our belief that
alternative measures …
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named
Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has
nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served
as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over
twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing
before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on
the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the
Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.
Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes
again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions
available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells.
This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley.
The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper
water wells to support irrigated agriculture. Groundwater
supplies around the world are being threatened by excessive
pumping, but drilling deeper wells is not a long-term solution.
A better solution is to manage water use and avoid excessive
declines in groundwater levels.
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water
toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the
Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a
lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the
local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district
might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate
water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s
latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on
Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s
cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
An arbiter has sided with five local tribes in a dispute over
what San Diego County water officials argued was a request that
left them with an unexpected $2.1 million budget deficit after
the tribes won back lost water rights. The dispute arose after
the federal government restored water rights to the San Luis
Rey Indian Water Authority, which represents the tribes.
It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive,
but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming
border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry
up. Now seeking water rights from the Green
River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he
has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty,
Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the State
Water Board the amount they used. But Louis and Darcy Chacon
reported an amount that just didn’t make sense. The Chacons
reported they used more than 1 trillion acre-feet of water
annually from 2009 to 2013, more than is available on the
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
Several dozen Northern California and Lane County residents
picketed outside Roseburg Forest Products’ Springfield
headquarters Tuesday, protesting what they call a water grab
and frivolous lawsuit by the wood products company. About
50 people, some from the town of Weed, Calif., held signs …
late Tuesday morning, objecting to what Roseburg Forest
Products considers its water rights to the Beaughan Springs,
which provides the main source of drinking water for Weed.
This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that
have potential applications statewide.
A group of powerful Imperial Valley farmers and their
irrigation district need to work together for the benefit of
the region, according to Superior Court Judge L. Brooks
Anderholt. He warned a fight between the two sides over rights
to Colorado River water and the need to address a prolonged
drought across the Southwest could spur action by Congress, or
end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
A fierce local battle over water rights unfolding in a small
Southern California courtroom Wednesday could threaten federal
plans to replenish rapidly dwindling Colorado River water
supplies. A third-generation farmer is seeking an injunction to
block the Imperial Irrigation District from signing on to the
seven-state compact. The hearing comes a day-and-a-half after
the longtime general manager for the district, Kevin Kelley,
announced he will retire at year’s end, though he could stay on
as a consultant.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
This tour ventured through California’s Central
Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an
imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering
about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state,
the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40
percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout
As the Colorado River Basin becomes
drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains:
How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?
Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and
its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it
to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full
federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights
claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights
to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.
A public agency and a powerful farmer are gearing up for a
high-stakes court battle to determine who owns the largest
share of Colorado River water in the
West, complicating the river’s future as seven western
states scramble to avoid severe water shortages. There’s a
long history of fighting over water in California’s Imperial
Valley, which has a legal right to more than 1 trillion
gallons of Colorado River water each
year — twice as much as the rest
of California, and as much as Arizona and
Lawmakers and water developers, citing well-founded concerns
about an increasingly arid future, are considering multiple
high-priced water development projects and a sweeping water law
rewrite. But while the future of Wyoming water is debated in
the public square, public and private rights holders are
quietly transferring billions of gallons of it to industry in
exchange for cash. The practice is legal, lucrative and without
direct financial benefit to the state.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
Researchers at the University of California recently
highlighted a flaw in state law that may prohibit diverting
streamflow to recharge groundwater. The problem is that
groundwater recharge by itself is not considered a “beneficial
use” under state law, and meeting that definition is a
requirement to obtain a permit to divert water. Officials at
the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water
rights, say the reality is not so clear-cut.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817