Topic: Water Rights

Overview

Water Rights

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 contentious.

Aquafornia news High Plains Public Radio

Another dry year on the Colorado River could force states, feds back to negotiating table

Colorado River water managers could be pulled back to the negotiating table as soon as next year to keep its biggest reservoirs from declining further. The 2019 Drought Contingency Plan was meant to give the U.S. and Mexican states that depend on the river a roadmap to manage water shortages. That plan requires the river’s biggest reservoir, Lake Mead, to drop to unprecedented levels before conservation among all the lower basin states — Arizona, Nevada and California — becomes mandatory. California isn’t required to conserve water in the reservoir until it drops to an elevation of 1,045 feet above sea level.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: Can California start taking droughts seriously, please?

Drought may be the sneakiest of natural disasters. Although human history teems with people engulfed by abrupt aridity — the Akkadians of four millenniums ago, the Maya in the ninth and 10th centuries A.D., the Great Plains farmers of the 1930s — even today drought is a poorly appreciated phenomenon. … The American West is once again facing drought, one of the worst on record. Across a vast region encompassing nine states and home to nearly 60 million people, the earth is being wrung dry. 
-Written by Farhad Manjoo, NY Times opinion columnist.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers face water rights curtailments

The California priority water rights system is being put to the test, as state regulators impose emergency regulations and send notices of water unavailability to farmers who are trying to negotiate their crops through another drought year. Reacting to worsening dry conditions, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations last week to curtail water diversions in the Russian River watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Racial tension builds in Klamath Tribes water, drought crisis

For decades, an agonizing war over [water] has divided indigenous people and the descendants of settlers of [the Klamath basin], which like much of the American West, is now plagued by drought. Family farmers often describe the conflict as one that pits them against federal bureaucrats who protect the suckerfish, imperiled as the lake grows more inhospitable. That portrayal, say members of the tribes, dismisses a tougher truth … about race, equity and generational trauma to a people whose history includes slaughter, forced removal of children, federal termination of their tribal status and loss of land …

Aquafornia news The Santa Barbara Independent

News release: Central Coast Water Authority files legal action against Santa Barbara County regarding management of the State Water Project

The Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA) and its eight member cities and water districts has filed a significant and unprecedented lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court against the County of Santa Barbara regarding management of the State Water Project. CCWA manages, operates and finances the portion of the State Water Project in Santa Barbara County.  

Aquafornia news Aspen Times

Conservation groups want recreation water right tied to Colorado’s natural river features

Three conservation groups aiming to keep more water in rivers for recreation are working on a revision to a state law. American Whitewater, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates are proposing an amendment to legislation that would allow natural river features such as waves and rapids to get a water right. Under the state’s current statute, in order to get what is known as a recreational in-channel diversion water right, it must be tied to a man-made structure in the river, such as a design feature that creates the waves in many kayak parks. 

Aquafornia news The Mercury News

California Water: In Russian River’s fabled vineyards, the harvest of a drought

Rich with promise and potential, the grapes that create the Russian River Valley’s famed wines are ripening in the intense midday heat. But soon they’ll face the fight of their lives, deprived of water as the state diverts scarce supplies from agriculture to the region’s thirsty cities and subdivisions. … [Last] week, in a contentious step, the State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved an emergency regulation to halt agricultural diversions for up to 2,400 of the region’s water rights holders. Citing state law, the regulation prioritizes “health and safety,” saying agricultural use is “an unreasonable use of water and is prohibited.”

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Two Central Coast water organizations fight over new restrictions

The Central Coast Water Authority, along with a number of its customers — namely eight nearby California cities and water districts — filed a lawsuit Friday claiming the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District overstepped its authority by passing a new resolution that imposes an undue burden on their water rights. The lawsuit, filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, accuses the district of meddling in its affairs by improperly imposing restrictions on its right to transfer and exchange water with other entities.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

If Lake Powell’s water levels keep falling, a multi-state reservoir release may be needed

Lake Powell’s water level is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the latest 24-month projections from the Arizona and Utah reservoir show that it’s likely to drop even further — below a critical threshold of 3,525 feet by next year. A 20-year megadrought and a hotter climate has contributed to shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River. If Lake Powell’s levels continue to dwindle, it could set off litigation between the seven states and the 40 million people that all rely on the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Madera ranchers circle the wagons over county groundwater plan

Central Valley cattle ranchers are gearing up for a fight against what they see as groundwater rustling. Their fear is that newly formed groundwater agencies in some areas could devalue their land by not giving them a fair share of their own groundwater. Ranchers believe those fears were realized on June 8 when the Madera County Board of Supervisors approved a groundwater allocation that will partially exclude rangeland. Ranchers who own rangeland that has never been irrigated won’t receive a share of the county’s “transitional water” allotment.

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Aquafornia news Governor Gavin Newsom's Office

News release: Engineer Nichole S. Morgan appointed to State Water Board

Nichole S. Morgan has been appointed to the State Water Resources Control Board, where she has been Assistant Deputy Director of Financial Assistance since 2019 and served in several positions from 2009 to 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Drought exposes need to upgrade water facilities

Severe drought highlights the need for greater investment to improve aging California water facilities, and increases calls for allocation of federal and state resources to tackle the problem. A national coalition that includes the California Farm Bureau urged U.S. Senate leaders last week to take action to address the shortcomings of aging water infrastructure, and to include “a broad range of water uses” in any federal infrastructure legislation. 

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California tells Central Valley farmers to brace for water shortages

The seriousness of California’s drought is being driven home to thousands of farmers in the Central Valley. State regulators warned 6,600 farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed on Tuesday that they’re about to lose the right to pull water from the estuary’s rivers at some point this summer. The watershed covers a major swath of the Central Valley. 

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Aquafornia news WhoWhatWhy

Wall Street is thirsting for your water

While water in the West becomes scarcer and droughts more frequent and more severe — thanks in part to changing weather patterns and rising temperatures triggered by carbon emissions — Wall Street views water as an “asset class,” a commodity like stocks, bonds, and real-estate that can generate enormous returns for shareholders, even in severe droughts. Or maybe, especially in water shortages. Institutional investors like One Rock are snapping up water rights just like others are snapping up rental properties to lease back to Americans at a profit…

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California drought sparks perpetual fight about water

California never has enough water to meet all demands and even when supplies are relatively robust there’s a triangular competition over their allocation. Farmers, municipal users and environmental advocates vie for shares of water that has been captured by California’s extensive network of dams and reservoirs. … When California experiences one of its periodic droughts and reservoirs shrink from scant rain and snowfall, its perpetual conflict becomes even sharper.
-Written by Dan Walters, a CalMatters columnist

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Aquafornia news CNN

A water war is brewing in Oregon after Klamath Basin shutdown

Tricia Hill tears up when she talks about the emotional toll the water shut-off in southern Oregon has had on her family. Amid historic, climate change-driven drought, the federal government in May shut down the water supply from the Upper Klamath Basin on the California-Oregon border to protect native fish species on the verge of extinction. As a result, Hill and other farmers like her in the region have been cut off from water they have used for decades.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Seeking a balanced plan – Sacramento River operations for 2021

With the harshest dry year in recent memory, the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (Settlement Contractors) are working closely with federal and state agencies, as well as our conservation partners, to continually improve our operations and serve water for multiple benefits, including water for cities and rural communities, farms, birds, fish, and recreation.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Abatti responds to IID’s Supreme Court filing

Imperial Valley grower, landowner and former elected official Michael Abatti has responded to the Imperial Irrigation District’s official filing in his U.S. Supreme Court petition. The official response was filed sometime Monday, June 7. In March, Abatti filed for a “writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District, to which the district was ordered by the High Court to provide a formal response last month.

Aquafornia news South Tahoe Now

Whose water is it? Lake Tahoe water levels dropping quickly as demand increases

Those watching the level of Lake Tahoe know it is dropping quickly, and it’s not just because of a lack of snowfall this year and another year of drought. Understanding why the lake drops, and who causes it to drop (yes, there is a person – the watermaster), is key to knowing why the lake should be at its natural rim of 6,223 feet above sea level by the beginning of August. As of June 8 the lake is two feet above that rim. 

Aquafornia news OPB

Podcast: Klamath Basin water conflict could offer opportunity to revisit solutions

The Klamath Basin is suffering the worst drought in the state. Competing need for the water by local tribes seeking to sustain endangered fish populations, farmers and ranchers, and commercial and tribal fisheries has been a persistent issue, and has led to conflicts in the past. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which took 10 years to plan, was a turning point and a compromise for the parties needing access to the water. 

Aquafornia news Palo Alto Online

New water management plan ponders steep cutbacks

When the Palo Alto City Council publicly backed the Bay-Delta Plan in 2018, it was swimming against the political tide. The plan, formally known as the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary plan, sets limits on how much water agencies can siphon from the three tributaries of the San Joaquin River. While it aims to protect salmon, steelhead and other river species, it has also attracted intense opposition and litigation from water districts that claim that the new restrictions will undermine the reliability of their water supply.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Amid mega-drought, rightwing militia stokes water rebellion in US west

Fears of a confrontation between law enforcement and rightwing militia supporters over the control of water in the drought-stricken American west have been sparked by protests at Klamath Falls in Oregon. Protesters affiliated with rightwing anti-government activist Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights Network are threatening to break a deadlock over water management in the area by unilaterally opening the headgates of a reservoir.

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Aquafornia news Eureka Times Standard

Environmental advocates call for Klamath Basin water allocations

Tribes and environmental advocates fear flows along the Klamath River could be reduced to a trickle if the State Water Resources Control Board doesn’t take action on water use upstream on the Scott and Shasta rivers. Andy Marx, board president of Friends of the Shasta River, said the river “virtually dried up” over Memorial Day weekend as a result of excessive irrigation diversions.

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Opinion: Stop fighting over water long enough to agree on just this

California’s water wars are legendary, complex and ongoing. To avoid getting too far in the weeds, media often boil it down to a dispute over who should have priority to a limited supply of water — people or fish. The real beauty of aerial snow surveys is that it’s one thing that farmers and environmentalists can agree on. 
-Written by Garth Stapley, The Modesto Bee’s Opinions Page editor.

Aquafornia news KMPH

Latest water war over Kings River involves claim by water district in Kern County

A water war is under way in Sacramento right now that could have far-reaching impacts on families in the Central Valley. … Hearings got under way Wednesday, as Semitropic Water Storage District in Kern County makes its administrative appeal to the State Water Resources Control Board for water rights to the Kings River. It filed its first petition in 2017, asking for access to 1.6 million acre feet of floodwater from the Kings River.

Aquafornia news Sierra Magazine

In the Klamath River basin, the drought punishes everyone

This May, while collecting live fish for their annual aquatic pathogen assessment on the Klamath River in Northern California, Yurok Tribe biologists made a shocking discovery: over 70 percent of the young, ocean-bound Chinook salmon captured in their traps were dead. Almost all of the fish tested upstream were infected with Ceratonova shasta, a parasite that relies on both fish and annelid worms as hosts. Barry McCovey, senior fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe, expects most of the infected fish to die.

Aquafornia news The Desert Review

IID Board takes action to protect water rights and address Coachella Valley concerns

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors adopted a resolution Tuesday, June 1, to better serve IID’s Coachella Valley energy customers and better protect Imperial Valley’s water rights, according to a press release. The Board’s resolution seeks to provide a local alternative to AB 1021 by Assemblyman Chad Mayes (I-Yucca Valley) that would create a number of adverse consequences for the region, if passed into law, including giving Coachella Valley energy ratepayers a say over IID’s water rights and policy in Imperial Valley.

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Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Kern County Water Summit: Two perspectives on the State Water Board report, recommendations for an effective water rights response to climate change

Earlier this year, the State Water Resources Control Board released a report, Recommendations for an Effective Water Rights Response to Climate Change, that considered how the State Wate Board could include climate change when considering new water right applications.  Since the report’s release, it has been the subject of much discussion and has sparked concerns amongst existing water right holders.  At the Kern County Water Summit, hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, a panel addressed the topic.  

Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Irrigators say they plan to force open Klamath headgates and release water

Rising tensions in the Klamath Basin could come to a boil soon, as two Klamath Project farmers plan to breach the fenced headgates of the federal irrigation project’s main canal and try to release water, likely triggering a standoff with the federal government. Farmers Grant Knoll and Dan Nielsen bought property next to the headgates in April for $30,000 and have set up camp on the site. They are staffing a large canvas tent with volunteers from the local branch of People’s Rights, a national organization formed in 2020 by militant activist Ammon Bundy, and they’re trying to rally support.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Mega-dairies, disappearing wells, and Arizona’s deepening water crisis

Cynthia Beltran moved to Sunizona with her seven-year-old son last autumn even though the area lacks functional drinking water wells, because it was all she could afford. She cannot afford the $15,000 cost of deepening her well, which dried up last year, and had been paying for a local firm to deliver water in a tanker. But at $100 a week it became too expensive, so now she will be relying on a friend to help her fetch water from her mother’s well. … Nearly 20 wells in Sunizona alone were deepened between 2015 and 2019, after they dried up. 

Aquafornia news Zocalo

Opinion: California’s next water war is starting underground, in the Mojave Desert

Can California regions regulate groundwater without destroying their businesses and communities? That’s the question being posed as regions and localities implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the historic 2014 state law that brought regulation to California’s diminishing groundwater supplies.
–Written by columnist Joe Matthews

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Amid historic drought, a new water war in the West

The brewing battle over the century-old Klamath Project is an early window into the water shortfalls that are likely to spread across the West as a widespread drought, associated with a warming climate, parches watersheds throughout the region. In Nevada, water levels have dropped so drastically in Lake Mead that officials are preparing for a serious shortage that could prompt major reductions in Colorado River water deliveries next year. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed 41 counties under a state of emergency.

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Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

IID files response to Abatti’s Supreme Court case

The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its initial response to Imperial Valley grower, landowner and former elected official Michael Abatti’s U.S. Supreme Court case. … Abatti is seeking to overturn a previous appellate court ruling that asserts Imperial Irrigation District is the “sole owner” of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do “not (have) an appurtenant water right” but rather are entitled merely to “water service” that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion.

Aquafornia news KCRW

Opinion: Joe Mathews on the fight over groundwater rights in the California desert

Can California regulate groundwater without destroying its own communities? That’s the question being posed as regions implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the historic 2014 state law regulating California’s diminishing groundwater supplies. Groundwater is buried in aquifers, underground spaces between rocks, soils, and sand. Layers of aquifers are called groundwater basins. California has hundreds of them. Eight-five percent of Californians depend on groundwater …

-Written by Joe Mathews, who writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Farmers buy land, make camp by shut Klamath irrigation canal

Two farmers with ties to anti-government activist Ammon Bundy have purchased land by a shut-off irrigation canal in Oregon that would normally deliver water to a massive federal irrigation project along the California-Oregon border and have set up a protest encampment there, Jefferson Public Radio reports. The move comes after federal regulators shut off all water deliveries from the project’s main “A Canal” due to extreme drought and the need to balance the water demands of farmers with threatened and endangered fish species …

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

‘Ammon Bundy coming.’ Water cutoffs ignite rebellion in CA

In the summer of 2001, local farmers and other activists armed with saws and blowtorches breached a chain-link fence and opened the headgates of a federal canal that supplies farmland in Oregon and far Northern California. Local farmer Grant Knoll was among the activists there that year. The protesters forced the gates open three times but were eventually blocked by U.S. marshals. Now, with a drought just as severe as two decades ago — and with farmers’ water again cut off — he’s prepared to fight again.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield.com

As water flowed through the Kern River, court finds Bakersfield violated agreement

Who has the right to water in the Kern River? It has been the subject of fierce legal battles throughout Bakersfield’s history, and on Friday, the Ventura County Superior Court tried to answer a part of that question. In a court ruling, Judge Kevin DeNoce found the city of Bakersfield must supply the North Kern Water Storage District with 20,000 acre feet of water it owed the district in 2020 and pay the district $2.8 million to reimburse groundwater pumping costs the district incurred last year. It’s the latest court decision in a long-running dispute, and it threatens to limit the city’s ability to use water from the Kern River.

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Basin roundtables push back on Colorado Water Conservation Board’s proposed code of conduct

The [Colorado] state water board is encouraging all nine basin roundtables to adopt a code of conduct requiring members to communicate in a professional, respectful, truthful and courteous way. But some Western Slope roundtables are pushing back. Over roughly the last month, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Rebecca Mitchell has been visiting the remote roundtable meetings on Zoom, answering questions about the code of conduct and urging the roundtables to adopt it. The goal of the document is to make sure everyone feels comfortable speaking up in meetings. 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Managing for fish and wildlife during a dry year in the Sacramento Valley

With the driest year in memory, the water resources managers and landowners in the Sacramento Valley are working hard to serve multiple benefits throughout the region with limited water supplies. This has required all hands-on deck and creative management within the region as all surface water supplies have been significantly reduced, with hundreds of thousands of farmland acres idled throughout the region, urban suppliers working with their citizens to implement various conservation measures to reduce water use and there will undoubtedly be challenges for domestic groundwater wells.

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Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

After years of protests, Crystal Geyser abandons bottling facility plans in Siskiyou County

Crystal Geyser bought the nearly 145,000 square foot bottling plant in 2013. Since then, it’s been the target of protests by local activists and members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. Opponents say if it ever started operating, it would draw down too much water, and cause air and noise pollution. … They are in the midst of suing the beverage company in an effort to get a new environmental impact report. 

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Field note – The importance of partnerships with Andrew Braugh

The Shasta-Klamath Region organizes work around protecting California source water and volcanic aquifers, working with family farms to improve water management, and protecting legacy fly-fishing waters like the McCloud River, Hat Creek, and Fall River. In 2021, we are heavily invested in conservation projects in the Shasta and Scott watersheds. These key Klamath tributaries will be critical for recovering salmon populations in the Mid-Klamath Basin after dam removal.

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Aquafornia news Capital Press

Zero water allocation pushes Klamath Project farms to the brink

What was already forecasted to be a historically bleak water year in the Klamath Project has quickly become a living nightmare for farms and ranches fighting for survival in the drought-stricken basin. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shut down the Project’s A Canal for the entire irrigation season May 12 in response to worsening conditions — allotting zero surface water from Upper Klamath Lake for thirsty crops and livestock. It is the first time in more than a century the A Canal will deliver no water. Meanwhile, irrigators are left to wonder how they will pay the bills as fields turn to dust.

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Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

SF sues state board over proposed Tuolumne River flows

San Francisco has sued a state agency over proposed Tuolumne River flows that it claims would be “devastating” to Bay Area water users. The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts joined in the lawsuit as “real parties in interest,” due to similar concerns about their customers not getting enough water. The suit is one more twist in the decades-long battle over how much water to provide for salmon and other fish downstream from Don Pedro Reservoir.

Aquafornia news ABC 15

Arizona’s continuing population growth puts pressure on water supply

Millions of people are betting on Arizona. They’re buying homes, starting businesses, and families. The future of how we use our water resources may dictate the future of their success. … That question was addressed four decades earlier with the Groundwater Management Act of 1980. The idea was the law would ensure when water was taken out, just as much was put back in, creating what they called a safe yield goal by 2025. Unfortunately, a new study released by ASU researchers with the Kyl Center shows the law is not living up to its promise as deep, thousands of years old aquifers continue to be over-pumped.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Silent no more: Klamath Tribes gather to protect fish, homelands

A group of protesters gathered at Sugarman’s Corner in downtown Klamath Falls on Saturday, preparing to welcome a 25-car caravan of mostly Klamath Tribal members calling for solutions to the Klamath Basin’s water crisis. A man walked by the demonstrators, eyeing their signs with statements like “Peace and Healing in the Klamath Basin,” “Water Justice is Social Justice” and “Undam the Klamath.” 

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Aquafornia news Reno Gazette-Journal

Ross de Lipkau continues environmental work of his relative, John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” Sierra Club founding member John Muir penned those words more than a century ago as he launched a decades-long battle to advocate for preservation of the American West. … More than a century later, Muir’s legacy of environmental awareness lives on through his great-grandson, Reno attorney Ross de Lipkau, one of the state’s leading water rights experts.

Aquafornia news KJZZ

Arizona lawmakers float idea of piping water from the Mississippi

The drought has some members of the Arizona Legislature wondering if the state should look for a new source of water: the Mississippi River. Conservationists wonder if lawmakers should try a different approach. As Arizona braces for a drought contingency plan to kick in, the Legislature has floated the idea of damming the Mississippi and piping the water here. The idea received overwhelming support among lawmakers, though it is unclear if the project is viable. Sandy Bahr, with the Sierra Club, told KJZZ’s The Show last month the state needs to adjust its thinking about water, especially in times of drought.

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Aquafornia news Mount Shasta News

Crystal Geyser Water Company pulls out of Mount Shasta plant

After seven years of controversy, Crystal Geyser Water Company announced last week that it has given up on opening its Mount Shasta facility. A representative for the company said Crystal Geyser was “challenged every step of the way” since it purchased the nearly 145,000 square foot facility in 2013.

Aquafornia news Euronews

Could trading water on the stock market actually be good for the environment?

Last year, for the first time, it became possible to trade water on Wall Street through futures contracts. Normally reserved for commodities like oil or precious metals, water became the latest asset to join the financial market. But how could this practice impact the planet? The trading in the future prices of highly-prized commodities, where buyers agree to purchase an asset at a set date in the future for an agreed price, began in Japan in the seventeenth century with the trading in rice futures. The latest commodity to begin trading in futures is water supplied in American’s most populous state, California.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

State plans to order drought restrictions, but it doesn’t have good water data to do it

As California descends deeper into drought, state regulators are planning to do something they’ve done few times in modern history: order thousands of people, farms, and even cities and towns that hold historic water rights to stop drawing water from the rivers, lakes and ponds they rely on. The move is intended to make sure the dwindling flows in California’s waterways are reserved for those with the most senior water rights, as well as for fish and other wildlife. Many of those with lesser rights would have to turn to storage, groundwater or another source, if they have it.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco sues state over bid to restrict its Sierra water supplies

The city of San Francisco is reviving a long-simmering feud with the state over water, filing a lawsuit Friday that charges state regulators with trying to take away the city’s coveted Sierra Nevada water supplies. The suit claims the state water board is demanding the city forfeit too much water from the Tuolumne River as part of a licensing deal for two dams in the faraway basin. State regulators have said the water is needed to maintain proper river flows and support struggling salmon, but city officials contend the demands would leave Bay Area residents and businesses vulnerable to water shortages.

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Aquafornia news Mountain Democrat

No water service now for EID’s Folsom territory

El Dorado Irrigation District’s territory extends across the county line to a small piece of Folsom — a total of 190 acres. A developer is planning to turn that acreage into a subdivision. Currently the property is all range land and there is no request for water service. The earliest that water service could be requested may not be until 2023. El Dorado Irrigation District has been a multi-county agency since the early 1980s, according to Jesse Saich, EID communications manager. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Water crisis ‘couldn’t be worse’ on Oregon-California border

The water crisis along the California-Oregon border went from dire to catastrophic as federal regulators shut off irrigation water to farmers from a critical reservoir and said they would not send extra water to dying salmon downstream or to a half-dozen wildlife refuges that harbor millions of migrating birds each year. In what is shaping up to be the worst water crisis in generations, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will not release water this season into the main canal that feeds the bulk of the massive Klamath Reclamation Project, marking a first for the 114-year-old irrigation system. 

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Friday Top of the Scroll: Report: Drought to hit rural Latino communities hardest

Rural, low-income Latino communities across California were hardest hit by the last drought and could see drinking water shortages again this year as extreme drought spreads across the state, according to a report released Thursday by non-partisan advisors to California’s lawmakers. The report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office warns state officials to prepare by ramping up monitoring of wells in vulnerable communities and lining up emergency drinking water supplies to send there. 

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona is depleting groundwater in many areas, researchers warn

In 1980, Arizona began regulating groundwater in the state’s largest cities and suburbs under a landmark law that called for most of these areas to achieve an overarching goal by 2025: a long-term balance between the amount of water pumped from the ground and the amount seeping back underground to replenish aquifers. Forty-one years later … [g]roundwater is still overpumped in most of the state’s “active-management areas,” or AMAs. And in many places, aquifer levels continue to decline.

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Aquafornia news Siskiyou Daily News

Farmers will get zero allocation from Klamath Project in 2021

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that more than 1,000 farmers in the Klamath Basin will not receive any reserved water from Upper Klamath Lake — a devastating prospect for farmers who have already planted fields, hired crews and made plans for the growing season ahead. … Farmers in Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc counties were already reeling over the prospect of receiving less than 10% of their allotment, or a total of 33,000 acre-feet of water. The latest announcement feels “like a punch to the gut,” farmers said …

Aquafornia news Cal Coast News

Lustful eyes cast on Paso Robles Water Basin

On its surface, the idea of banking water to bridge the certainty of future rain-deficient periods seems like an innovative and non-controversial planning procedure. In the end, however, it all depends on who holds the keys to the bank. The notion of water banking has grabbed local attention lately following a controversial and divided 3-2 vote March 3 by San Luis Obispo County supervisors, a vote which numerous North County entities view as opening the door to selling and exporting county water resources to the highest outside bidder.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News - Arizona PBS

Researchers spelunk the Grand Canyon to document its beautiful, confounding springs

Ben Tobin has questions about the Grand Canyon’s caves. The University of Kentucky geologist started learning about caves as a young man, in part because his mother was a geologist, and a childhood fascination grew over time. … When he was in college, an internship in Arkansas doing cave tours got him hooked, and eventually his work brought him out West, to Grand Canyon National Park. Tobin specializes in what’s known as karst hydrology. These are underground systems made up of soluble rock such as limestone. To Tobin, caves are like another world, with blind animals, fossils and archeological finds. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Fail: Tule Basin drinking water plan kicked back for a redo

When Sandra Chavez’ mother discovered she had stage four cancer last year, one of Sandra’s first thoughts was about their water. Her family’s private well is contaminated with nitrates and Chavez wondered if years of drinking the water could have caused her mother’s sickness. Chavez and her family have relied on bottled water since they found out their well water was unsafe in 2015. But sometimes they don’t have enough and are forced to drink the contaminated water. So when Chavez found out about a new program providing free bottled water delivery for families with nitrate-contaminated wells, she was frustrated she hadn’t been contacted.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for next week’s Lower Colorado River Tour

Only one week remains to register for our May 20 virtual Lower Colorado River Tour where you can hear directly from experts offering a range of perspectives on the most contested and meticulously managed river in the United States. Practically every drop of water in the Colorado River is already allocated, but pressure on the hard-working river continues to grow from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat and climate change.

Aquafornia news High Country News

The Gila River Indian Community innovates for a drought-ridden future

A riverbed that has been parched since the end of the 19th century — a portion of the historic lifeblood of the Gila River Indian Community — is now coursing again with water, luring things like cattails and birds back to its shores. … The revival of this small segment of the 649-mile (1045-kilometer) Gila River, which has served the tribes that make up the Gila River Indian Community — the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) — for roughly 2,000 years, was an added benefit of a grassroots infrastructure overhaul, known as “managed aquifer recharge,” or MAR, which aimed to restore the local groundwater basin. 

Aquafornia news Sonoma Water

News release: Defining groundwater conditions in three local basins

Well owners in Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley are invited to join community meetings on groundwater conditions and sustainable management of this critical water source.  The Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) are nearing completion of major plans that identify issues with current and future groundwater resources and that describe how these challenges will be addressed. 

Aquafornia news The Mendocino Voice

Huffman hosts drought summit, water managers ask for aid, presidential emergency

Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, along with prominent North Coast water managers and politicians gathered at a virtual summit yesterday morning to discuss the severe drought facing the North Coast and the entire state. At the summit (a recording of which is available on YouTube), State Senator Mike McGuire stated that the state legislature is moving forward on a several billion dollar drought relief package, which would include $1 billion in grants to help ratepayers and utilities pay off back bills and $500 million to help smaller low income communities develop enhanced drinking water supplies, among other things (read the full list below).

Aquafornia news YourCentralValley.com

Drought forces California farmers to destroy crops

With the uncertainty of water, some Central Valley farmers are destroying their crops ahead of the summer season in order to survive. It’s impacting jobs and soon possibly the grocery shelves. Every crop at Del Bosque Farms is planted meticulously, and every drop of water is a precious commodity. Joe Del Bosque started the family farm in 1985. He grows melons, asparagus, cherries, almonds, and corn, but the drought brings a flood of concern.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Fears of a massive salmon die-off this summer in Sacramento River water conflict

An entire run of endangered winter-run chinook salmon, as well as the fall-run salmon that make up the core of the California fishery, are in danger of being wiped out this year if the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation keeps diverting water to farmers at its current rate. With state water resources constrained by the extreme drought, that’s the alarm that environmental, fishing and tribal groups are sounding after reports show the Sacramento River will reach dangerous temperatures during spawning season, based on federal scientific scenarios that analyze the bureau’s planned water releases. 

Aquafornia news Victorville Daily Press

Judge makes preliminary ruling against Apple Valley taking over water system

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge has made a ruling against the Town of Apple Valley in its attempt to take over its largest supplier of water. In a tentative decision issued Friday, Judge Donald Alvarez found that Liberty Utilities had “disproved” the town’s arguments that its acquisition of the company’s water system would be in the public’s interest and a necessity. … The town filed its eminent domain lawsuit in January 2016 when the system was owned by Ranchos Water Company in response to what they said was a public outcry over rising water rates.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Editorial: Gov. Newsom must resolve California and Stanislaus water wars

Don’t be fooled. Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision Monday to declare drought in most of California, including here, is no reason for most farmers in Stanislaus County to break out the party hats. They know full well that words on a declaration will not generate an extra drop of water for their orchards and row crops. They also know that a drought declaration could take some power over the water we do have from our locally elected irrigation leaders — who represent institutions guiding us through periodic droughts for more than 100 years — and hand it to nonelected Sacramento bureaucrats.

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Aquafornia news Food & Water Watch

Blog: Newsom expands California drought emergency, commits $5.1 billion to water infrastructure and debt relief

Governor Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of the drought emergency to 41 of the state’s 58 counties, dedicating $5.1 billion to boost water infrastructure and an additional $1 billion to paying off nearly the entirety of Californian household water debt. Yet, while the governor’s plan includes $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling measures, it does nothing to speed up the process to bring overdrafted water basins into full and sustainable operation. The deadline is currently 2040 for critically overdrafted basins and 2042 for remaining high and medium priority basins.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Extremely dry conditions spill across the American West

Spring is generally a time of renewal for the watersheds of the western United States. Warmed by the lengthening days, the region’s towering mountain ranges shed their mantle of snow, releasing freshets of water into welcoming streams and reservoirs. This year, though, the cycle is in disarray. Outside of the Olympic and Cascade ranges of Washington state, winter snows were subpar. The spring melt has been a dud. From the Klamath to the Colorado and Rio Grande, watersheds are under stress once again, and water managers face difficult tradeoffs between farms, fisheries, and at-home uses. 

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Arizona looks to Mississippi River to soothe water shortage

Arizona legislators are looking eastward to ease the impact of a two-decade drought in the Colorado River Basin. According to Arizona Rep. Tim Dunn, who represents the area of Yuma, the Legislature is asking Congress to fund a technological and feasibility study for diverting floodwater from the Mississippi River to replenish the Colorado River. Whether that comes in the form of a diversion dam or pipeline, Dunn says the plan would benefit both the Midwestern and Southwestern United States.

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Aquafornia news KGW8

Klamath Basin water crisis: A microcosm for climate change in the West

A conflict over access to water in the Klamath Basin is signaling the way climate change could play out across the western United States. After a drier-than-normal spring, farmers and indigenous tribes in the Klamath Basin are at odds over water in Upper Klamath Lake. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the Klamath Basin is experiencing “extreme drought,” … Centuries ago, the area was wetlands; but in the early 20th century, the land was opened up to agriculture. Members of the Klamath Tribes say tree removal and drainage hastened drying as the climate warmed. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Mining industry, builders sought changes in Arizona water bill

Newly released emails reveal that lawyers and lobbyists for mining companies, developers and the agriculture industry had a hand behind the scenes in shaping Arizona’s newly adopted law on clean-water rules for rivers and streams. The emails show the involvement of these influential groups went beyond their public endorsements of the legislation. Their lawyers and lobbyists were given access to offer input while the final legislation was being drafted, and the emails show they suggested specific language, offered “wordsmithing” tweaks and requested significant changes that state officials incorporated into the bill. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation increases flow releases from New Melones Reservoir for Bay-Delta requirements

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced a plan to increase flow releases from New Melones Reservoir to assist with meeting Delta salinity and outflow requirements. Additional flow releases will begin on the lower Stanislaus River on May 10 and will reach a total flow of 1,000 cubic feet per second and again on May 11 to reach 1,500 cfs. This increased flow of 1,500 cfs will likely occur for an extended duration. During the increased releases, water levels will be higher and currents faster. Visitors should use caution when near or on the Stanislaus River during these increased flows.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute Of California

Blog: Is California ready for drought?

California is now in its second year of drought, hard on the heels of the last one in 2012-16. But drought is not an equal-opportunity crisis; it can be more or less disruptive depending on geography, storage, how water supplies are managed—and, of course, precipitation. And some sectors—notably rural water water systems and the environment—are more vulnerable.

Aquafornia news CBS 5 Investigates | azfamily.com

Arizona water users preparing for first-ever cuts to CAP

Arizona cities, towns, farmers and ranchers are preparing for the first-ever cuts to the state’s allotment of Colorado River water. The cuts are the result of a drought that’s lasted 26 years and will likely take effect in 2022. The so-called “Tier 1″ water shortage will affect some water users more severely than others. … Farmers and ranchers in Pinal County are already preparing, but it’s going to be a costly process.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

United Water Conservation District reaches $1M settlement with Ventura

A water district locked in a long-running legal battle over residential rates with the city of Ventura recently agreed to pay $1 million, but the fight does not appear to be over. City Attorney Gregory Diaz said Friday he expected the United Water Conservation District to exercise its option to appeal. Ventura has filed lawsuits every year against the water district since the agency implemented increased charges in 2011-12. This settlement is for fiscal year 2019-20. The district charged residential customers three times more than agricultural customers for groundwater, and the city challenged its methodology. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Our latest Western Water article examines efforts to help consumers afford water as bills pile up amid pandemic

As California slowly emerges from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt. … Our latest article in Western Water explores the hurdles to helping consumers, how some water agencies have devised workarounds and how far more lasting solutions remain out of reach.Western Water is just one of the publications produced by our journalism team…

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

West Marin water well project challenged by environmentalists

The North Marin Water District failed to adequately study whether there will be enough water for endangered fish in Lagunitas Creek if it builds a new well in West Marin, an environmental group alleges. The well is intended to address worsening saltwater contamination in the water supply. Save Our Seashore, a nonprofit in Inverness, filed an appeal against the project with the Marin County Planning Commission. … The commission is expected to hold a hearing on the issue on May 24. 

Aquafornia news High Country News

How ‘sustainable’ is California’s groundwater sustainability act?

In scale and ambition, California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has few parallels. And the work becomes increasingly urgent as the climate crisis makes water shortages increasingly severe. … This emphasis on local expertise points to SGMA’s possibilities — and its potential pitfalls — especially when it comes to deciding what “sustainable” water management means. Each management body has wide discretion to define “sustainability” — and the path to sustainability by 2040 — for its particular basin.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Don’t expect Miracle May this month on the Colorado River

The Colorado River Basin appears to be out of miracles this spring. Five years after a “Miracle May” of record rainfall staved off what had appeared to be the river’s first imminent shortage in water deliveries, the hope for another in 2021 “is fading quickly,” says the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest report, released Thursday. That’s one more piece of bad news for the Central Arizona Project. A first-time shortage is now likely to slash deliveries of river water to Central Arizona farmers starting in 2022 but won’t affect drinking water supplies for Tucson, Phoenix and other cities, or for tribes and industries that get CAP water.

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Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press

Opinion: Abatti and friends knock on the U.S. Supreme Court door

The dispute between Imperial Valley farmer Mike Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District over water rights entered a new chapter last month. Mr. Abatti filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to review last year’s California appellate court’s ruling in the IID’s favor. Our local Imperial County Farm Bureau and the California Farm Bureau, along with some individual valley farmers, then filed amicus briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Mr. Abatti’s petition for review. Mr.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

Klamath, Modoc, Siskiyou county leaders throw support behind Basin ag

At a rare joint meeting between all three of their leadership boards, Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc Counties discussed ways to support agricultural communities during the Klamath Basin’s historic drought this year. Farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project will receive 33,000 acre-feet of water, less than 10% of their normal allocation, more than a month later than normal. Irrigators on tributaries to the Lower Klamath River, like the Scott River, are also expecting water deliveries to be curtailed during the summer.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: River flows helps CA Delta estuary, fish — not wasted water

It’s that time of drought again. During one of the driest years on record, once again curtailing water deliveries to local farms, Fresno-area lawmakers wasted little time trotting out one of their favorite falsehoods. That every year, including the parched ones like 2021, California “wastes” millions of gallons of water by “flushing it to the ocean.” Central San Joaquin Valley residents have heard this declaration so often and for so long, from the mouths of politicians and parroted on talk radio, that many of us believe it’s true. 

-Written by Marek Warszawski

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Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency board finalizes water rate increases

Water customers with the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency can expect rate increases to kick in over the next five years, after board members voted in late April to approve the fees. The PVWMA serves coastal growers and farmers in south Santa Cruz and north Monterey counties through 21 miles of water pipelines running near Highway 1. The water, which is a blend of recycled water, groundwater and Harkins Slough Recovery well water, supplements farmer’s on-site agricultural wells. 

Aquafornia news Red Bluff Daily News

Tehama County Supervisors approve groundwater monitoring station in Corning

A new groundwater monitoring station is coming to Corning’s public works yard on Gallagher Avenue just across from a warehouse that stores various road signs and equipment. Public Works Flood Control Manager Ryan Teubert presented the project Tuesday to the Tehama County Board of Supervisors. It consists of construction at the yard, which will be funded and performed by the California Department of Water Resources. 

Aquafornia news North Coast Journal

Crisis on the Klamath

The federal government is strictly curtailing irrigation this year in an attempt to protect endangered fish important to Indigenous tribes. Farmers say this will make it all but impossible to farm, while tribal groups say the plan doesn’t go far enough to save their fisheries. In mid-April, a farming region in southern Oregon began to release water from the Klamath River into its irrigation canals. … [A]ccording to the federal government, it was an illegal maneuver that could further jeopardize the survival of multiple endangered species and food sources important to Indigenous tribes and fisheries in the region.

Aquafornia news San Joaquin Valley Sun

Reclamation halts water deliveries to Northern California farmers

More than a month after announcing it was suspending water deliveries to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the Bureau of Reclamation delivered equally bad news to farmers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Their water supplies, tabbed at 5 percent of their contracted amount, were not available for delivery via the Central Valley Project due to limited supply. 

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Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Colorado is examining water speculation, and finding it’s ‘all the problems’ in one

Melting snow and flowing irrigation ditches mean spring has finally arrived at the base of Grand Mesa in western Colorado. Harts Basin Ranch, a 3,400-acre expanse of hayfields and pasture just south of Cedaredge, in Delta County, is coming back to life with the return of water. … The ranch has the No. 1 priority water right — meaning the oldest, which comes with the ability to use the creek’s water first — dating to 1881.  … [The ranch's owners] have been accused of water speculation — which means buying up the ranch just for its senior water rights and hoarding them for a future profit.  

Aquafornia news E&E News

Endangered species: Feds deny protection for salamanders threatened by dam

The Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will deny federal protections to three salamander species that environmentalists fear could be put in danger by a proposed California dam project. Pressed by a lawsuit to make a decision, the federal agency concluded the Shasta salamander, Samwel Shasta salamander and Wintu Shasta salamander don’t need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act even if plans proceed to expand the Shasta Dam by raising it.

Aquafornia news The Revelator

Public health crisis looms as California identifies 600 communities at risk of water-system failures

A familiar scene has returned to California: drought. Two counties are currently under emergency declarations, and the rest of the state could follow. It was only four years ago when a winter of torrential rain finally wrestled the state out of its last major drought, which had dragged on for five years and left thousands of domestic wells coughing up dust. That drinking-water crisis made national headlines and helped shine a light on another long-simmering water crisis in California: More than 300 communities have chronically unsafe drinking water containing contaminants that can come with serious health consequences, including cancer.

Aquafornia news Grist

Western tribes already lacked water access. Now there’s a megadrought.

In 2021, access to running water and clean drinking water is a given for most Americans. The Census Bureau has even considered dropping a question on plumbing access from the U.S. census questionnaire. But many of the nation’s tribes still lack running water, access to clean water, and even flushing toilets. Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing, according to the U.S. Water Alliance, and more likely to lack piped water services than any other racial group. That problem is at an inflection point for the Navajo Nation and 29 other tribes in the Colorado River Basin, which stretches from the Rocky Mountains to Mexico.

Aquafornia news California Farm Bureau

Blog: President’s message – Water investments would help to assure essential farming jobs

One thing that’s been re-emphasized, time and again, during the pandemic travails of the past 14 months: Farming is essential. During the coming few months, as California struggles through another drought, we’ll learn whether our elected and appointed public officials feel the same way. [A]n overarching, long-term problem needs to be solved to make sure farm employees can not just work safely, but can have jobs, period: water supplies.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California drought declaration would trigger war over water supply

Experts say a statewide drought declaration … could bring significant consequences for the regulatory structure governing California’s complicated water-delivery system. Many farmers believe an emergency order could loosen environmental regulations and free up water supplies for them. Environmental groups fear the very same thing – that more of California’s dwindling water supply could be directed to farming at the expense of fish and wildlife.

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Aquafornia news KYMA

Home Grown: Dispute over water rights possibly going to U.S. Supreme Court

In today’s Home Grown, a local lawsuit over ownership of the Colorado River water might be taken higher to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Michael Abatti versus the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) lawsuit has been ongoing in the valley, disputing over whether water rights belong to the landowners or if they are controlled by the IID. … Abatti won the lawsuit in Imperial County Superior Court, but Katie Turner, attorney with Sutherland and Gerber says it didn’t make it to the California Supreme Court.

Aquafornia news National Law Review

California district court finds species conservation is not one of Twitchell Dam’s “other purposes”

A federal judge’s decision rebuffed environmental groups’ effort to increase water flow from California’s Twitchell Dam, stating that wildlife conservation was not among the dam’s authorized purposes and that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) had no authority to modify the water releases for conservation purposes. U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. sided with defendants in San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper v. Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District, rejecting plaintiffs’ claim that by failing to release enough water to benefit protected steelhead trout, the Bureau and local water district were in violation of the ESA.

Aquafornia news White Mountain Independent

Drought intensifies forcing rationing of Colorado River water

The US Bureau of Reclamation last week warned water users to brace for a 500,000 acre-foot cut in water from the Colorado River as a historic drought continues to tighten its grip on the Southwest. The cutback comes on top of a 200,000 acre-foot reduction Arizona water users agreed to last year in an effort to put off this day of reckoning. The Central Arizona Project provides more than a third of the state’s water. The reductions will mostly impact farmers. The sparse snowpack this winter soaked into the ground during the hot, dry spring — producing little runoff.

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Aquafornia news Brownstein Water

Blog: Bridging intention and outcomes

On March 24, 2021, the Groundwater Resources Association of California and California Groundwater Coalition hosted the virtual 2021 Groundwater Law & Legislation Forum, featuring a keynote address from California’s Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and updates on pending groundwater legislation, DWR’s SGMA implementation, and ACWA’s position on potential bond measures. One panel focused on the intersection of environmental justice, groundwater management and the role the legislative process can play…

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

New report looks into water insecurity in tribal lands across Colorado River Basin

A recent report looked into why Indigenous communities within the Colorado River Basin are struggling to get clean, reliable running water. A household in tribal lands is 19 times more likely than a white household to not have indoor plumbing, and during the pandemic this had catastrophic effects on some Indigenous communities. According a 2019 report outlining the action plan for closing the water access gap throughout the United States, “race is the strongest predictor of water and sanitation access,” and it’s Indigenous people who face this problem most.

Aquafornia news Arizona Central

Arizona preparing for cutbacks on Colorado River water amid drought

With the Colorado River’s largest reservoir just 38% full and declining toward the threshold of a first-ever shortage, Arizona water officials convened an online meeting this week to outline how the state will deal with water cutbacks, saying the reductions will be “painful” but plans are in place to lessen the blow for affected farmers next year. Lake Mead’s decline is expected to trigger substantial reductions in water deliveries in 2022 for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. The largest of those cuts will affect Arizona, slashing its Colorado River supplies by 512,000 acre-feet, about a fifth of its total entitlement.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Join us May 6 for a fun-filled virtual open house

Join us May 6 for our annual open house where you can test your water trivia knowledge, win prizes and meet the people behind our programs that foster a deeper understanding of California’s most precious natural resource – water. The Foundation’s open house will be held next Thursday via Zoom from 4:30–5:30 p.m. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Facing droughts, California challenges Nestlé over water use

After another dry winter that threatens to worsen water shortages across California, state officials have accused a water bottling company of diverting too much water from forests in the San Bernardino area. The officials issued a draft cease-and-desist letter to the company last week – the latest development in a battle that has dragged on for years.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Shandon-San Juan Water District applies for Nacimiento and Santa Margarita lake water

A North County water district representing irrigated agriculture near Shandon is asking the state for allocations of Lake Nacimiento and Santa Margarita Lake water, which it proposes to pipe into the nearby Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. While pitched as a potential solution to the Paso basin’s overdraft, the proposal is already getting blowback from two county supervisors.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

KDD diversion continues, Reclamation could release more lake water in response

While most irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin are enduring a spring without surface water, canals in Klamath Drainage District have been flowing since the middle of April. And KDD says no laws were broken to make deliveries to its customers. KDD opened the Ady and North canals on April 15, diverting water from the Klamath River to serve its patrons. The Bureau of Reclamation, whose operations plan for 2021 emphasized that no water deliveries be made to the Klamath Project prior to May 15, sent a letter to KDD asking them to immediately cease the diversions.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Navajo Nation wins revival of Colorado River water rights suit

The Navajo Nation can pursue its lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to secure water from the Colorado River for the reservation, the Ninth Circuit said Wednesday, reversing a lower court’s dismissal of the tribe’s breach of trust claim. The tribe doesn’t seek a judge’s determination of its rights to the river, which the Interior Department says would fall under the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Instead, the tribe seeks an order for Interior to determine the extent to which it needs water, to develop a plan to secure… 

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Supreme Court tells IID to respond to Michael Abatti

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday instructed the Imperial Irrigation District to submit a response to California farmer Michael Abatti’s request that their longstanding legal battle be taken up by the nation’s highest court. Scott Harris, clerk of the Supreme Court, wrote to Jennifer Meeker, an attorney for the water and power district, to say that even though IID didn’t feel the need to answer Abatti’s petition, ”the Court nevertheless has directed this office to request that a response be filed.” This comes two weeks after Frank Oswalt, IID’s general counsel, said the district didn’t need to submit a response …

Aquafornia news CBS Los Angeles

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: ‘Historic’ drought forces water restrictions in NorCal, but restrictions could soon extend statewide

The Marin Municipal Water District on April 20 enacted a series of water conservation rules, including banning home car washes, no watering of outdoor lawns between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., and no refilling decorative pools or fountains. A day later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for the Russian River watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Marin County borders Sonoma. Newsom chose to make the declaration in those two counties only, rather than statewide, as some officials and farmers in the agricultural-rich Central Valley had hoped. But Newsom said a broader drought declaration could come as conditions change.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Drought-hit California orders Nestlé to stop pumping millions of gallons of water

California water officials have moved to stop Nestlé from siphoning millions of gallons of water out of California’s San Bernardino forest, which it bottles and sells as Arrowhead brand water, as drought conditions worsen across the state. The draft cease-and-desist order, which still requires approval from the California Water Resources Control Board, is the latest development in a protracted battle between the bottled water company and local environmentalists, who for years have accused Nestlé of draining water supplies at the expense of local communities and ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Wave: Eastern Sierra News

The countdown to proposed LADWP pumping begins

With a snowpack at 20-percent of normal, as of April 1, Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power begin a month of discussion over the proposed pumping plan for the 2021-22 run-off year. LADWP intends to pump from 64,600 to 78,980 acre-feet of water from well fields in the Owens Valley. Inyo’s Water Commission will meet this evening at 6 p.m. for its initial discussion of the plan, laid out with proposed volumes from Laws to Lone Pine. 

Aquafornia news Vice Magazine

‘Everyone Loses’: The government is rationing water at the California-Oregon Border

Along the Oregon-California border, the Klamath River Basin is a crucial water source for Indigenous tribes, endangered species, and farmers. This year, though, there is simply not enough to go around.  The Western US is enduring another major drought, and the Klamath River Basin is at a historic low. This resulted in different groups being forced to compete and make their case for why water, now precious and scarce, should be diverted to their needs. It’s a stark reminder of the tough, no-win decisions that citizens will continue to face amid the worsening climate crisis. 

Aquafornia news Prescott eNews

Blog: Arizona groundwater explained

News of drought and climate change impacts on Arizona’s water supplies has become more alarming with the release of each new study. To prepare for a drier future, Arizona will need an informed public. For help in understanding the state’s water management situation, a brief new reference work is now available from the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center.

Aquafornia news KMTR

The fight for water around the Colorado River basin

The Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon, providing water for about 40 million people and 5 and a half million acres of farmland. To some, the water is as valuable as oil. In 1922, the seven U.S. states through which the river flows signed onto the Colorado River Compact, a water-sharing agreement that divvies up the river’s annual flow. The water must be shared equally between Upper Basin states: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico; and the Lower Basin: California, Arizona and Nevada. There’s been infighting ever since.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

As drought threatens Klamath’s future, scholars tout tribes’ TEK strategies

Humboldt State University’s Native American Studies Department and Save California Salmon recently launched a spring webinar series, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge,” a look at how tribes’ traditional fisheries and fire management practices could address environmental crises. As California prepares for yet another year of drought, Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy, department chair of Native American Studies at HSU, said local tribes are concerned about the health of rivers.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Nestlé doesn’t have valid rights to water it’s been bottling, California officials say

California water officials on Friday issued a draft order telling Nestlé to ”cease and desist” taking much of the millions of gallons of water it pipes out of the San Bernardino National Forest to sell as Arrowhead brand bottled water. The order, which must be approved by the California Water Resources Control Board, caps years of regulatory probes and a public outcry over the company’s water pipeline in the San Bernardino Mountains, where opponents argue that siphoning away water harms spring-fed Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Friday Top of the Scroll: Drought brings threat of dry wells in San Joaquin Valley

Thousands of wells that bring water to San Joaquin Valley homes are at risk of drying up this summer, leaving families without running water for drinking, cleaning and bathing. While no one knows the extent of the threat from this second year of drought conditions, Jonathan Nelson with the Community Water Center says “the alarm bells are sounding.” Homes, farms and entire communities that rely on shallow wells as their only source of water are vulnerable to declining groundwater levels from dry conditions and agricultural pumping.

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Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: Citing potential water waste, court sides with California dam operators

A federal court has ruled that Best Best & Krieger LLP client City of Santa Maria and others are correctly not releasing more water from a dam above the City, as doing so would be in conflict with the dam’s Congressional purpose. … The lawsuit claims the defendants are violating the Endangered Species Act by not releasing enough water from Twitchell Dam on the Cuyama River, thereby not providing sufficient water for federal law-protected Southern California Steelhead trout to spawn.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Trump-era Clean Water Act rule takes effect in Colorado on April 23, 2021, while Colorado public officials renew efforts to craft a state-level dredge-and-fill permitting program

Following a temporary delay in Colorado federal court, the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) will now take effect in Colorado on April 23, 2021.  Under the NWPR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers will no longer require permits for operations affecting certain categories of streams and wetland areas previously subject to the Clean Water Act.  

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Newsom declares drought emergency – but only for Sonoma and Mendocino counties

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, but resisted calls to issue a statewide proclamation — at least for now. Newsom’s emergency order primarily affects communities and water districts in the Russian River watershed, which includes the cities of Santa Rosa, Ukiah and Sebastopol. Some 360,000 people live in the area. 

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Learn about infrastructure and environmental restoration during Lower Colorado River Tour

Visit key infrastructure and environmental restoration sites along the lower Colorado River during our online tour May 20 of the iconic river as it weaves through the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. Our Lower Colorado River Tour starts at Hoover Dam near Las Vegas and stops at major agricultural regions, tourist destinations and key wildlife areas such as the Salton Sea and a wildlife refuge in Yuma, Ariz. resulting from a tribal-city partnership.

Aquafornia news Vox

This stunning timelapse shows the megadrought’s toll on the West’s largest reservoir

Just how bad is the drought in the Western US? The shrinking of Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, is a troubling indicator. The massive man-made lake, which straddles the border of Arizona and Nevada, is now only at 39 percent of its full capacity, down from 44 percent in April 2020. That’s equivalent to a 10-foot drop in the water level, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Reclamation. Which means mandatory restrictions on the amount of water surrounding states draw from Lake Mead could be triggered in the next few months.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last call to learn from leading water policy and legal experts at Water 101 workshop

Time is running out to register for this week’s Water 101 Workshop, which offers a primer on California’s water history, laws, geography and politics. One of our most popular events, this once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23. California’s water basics will be covered by some of the state’s leading policy and legal experts, and participants will have an opportunity to engage with the guest speakers individually during live Q&A in breakout rooms.

Aquafornia news Nevada Current

Drought, demands on groundwater making water law even more contentious

Water law adjudication, already a complicated field, will only become more so because of the climate crisis, extended droughts, and increasing demand for groundwater in Nevada, the Supreme Court was told last week. The court Friday held its first meeting for the newly created commission to study the adjudication of water law cases. Members of the commission range from ranchers to conservationists to mining industry representatives and scientists. 

Aquafornia news Law360

Blog: Judge says species protection not among dam purposes

A California federal judge rejected environmental groups’ suit aimed at securing more water releases from a dam near Santa Maria for protected trout’s benefit, deciding that species conservation was not among the purposes Congress included in the project’s authorization. 

Aquafornia news Village News

Rainbow MWD places $1.3M in reserves

The San Diego County Water Authority was successful in its rate lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the SDCWA provided a check to the Rainbow Municipal Water District for Rainbow’s share of the settlement. On March 23, the Rainbow board voted 5-0 to place the money into the district’s reserves rather than to attempt to provide refunds to each individual ratepayer.

Aquafornia news Orange County Water Association

Report: The role of asset management in support of OC Sanitation’s mission

Publicly owned treatment works in California have been observing a trend of permit requirements issued by EPA Region 9 and the State to develop and utilize an Asset Management Program as part of their NPDES/Wastewater Discharge Order. In the case of OC San, an Asset Management Plan has already been in place; however, with many of its major assets aging, the development of a more robust AMP became a priority for the agency.

Aquafornia news Red, Green, and Blue

Blog: Yurok and Karuk Tribes respond to Klamath Operations plan during severe drought

The Klamath River Basin is in a dire situation this year. The plan curtails irrigation diversions to less than 10% of demand while failing to meet the biological needs of salmon and other fisheries downstream. … Reclamation also announced $15 million in immediate aid to the Klamath Project through the Klamath Project Drought Relief Agency, an additional $3 million in technical assistance to Tribes for ecosystem activities in the basin, as well as funding for groundwater monitoring in the basin.

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Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Changes to Shasta water release designed to protect salmon

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will begin releasing warmer water from the upper layers of the Shasta Reservoir directly into the Sacramento River to maintain flows, while saving colder water for the winter-run Chinook salmon migration.

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Aquafornia news KUNC

With first-ever Colorado River shortage almost certain, states stare down mandatory cutbacks

The Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs are likely to drop to historically low levels later this year, prompting mandatory conservation by some of the river’s heaviest users. The latest Bureau of Reclamation reservoir projections, which take into account river flows in a given year, show a likelihood that Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada stateline will dip below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet in elevation in May and remain below that level for the foreseeable future. A first-ever official shortage declaration from the Department of the Interior is almost certain later this year.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation adjusts Sacramento River operations to benefit salmon amid drought conditions

Reclamation announced today that spring-time operations at Shasta Dam will adjust to benefit endangered winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River during this critically dry water year. … No additional water from Shasta Reservoir will be released during this temporary adjustment—only the withdrawal elevation and timing of water releases will change.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Tiny Borrego Springs inks major water deal to guarantee its survival

Borrego Springs, the small desert town at the entrance to California’s sprawling Anza-Borrego State Park, has won a judge’s approval for an agreement under which large  farmers, resort owners and its own water district will slash water use by 74% by 2040. Officials say the cuts are needed to keep the town of 3,000 alive.

Aquafornia news Noozhawk

Water Authority fears Santa Barbara county at disadvantage by failing to approve amendments

Leaders of the Central Coast Water Authority fear that Santa Barbara County is at a disadvantage in obtaining state water because of the county’s failure to adopt an amendment to the State Water Project that allows local water districts to buy and sell water supplies outside the county. The CCWA is an umbrella organization for all of the State Water Project members in Santa Barbara County. 

Aquafornia news KRCR

Yurok Tribe: Klamath River salmon stock conditions dire, fishery canceled for 5th year

The Yurok Tribe said it’s sounding the alarm as culturally invaluable salmon edge closer to extinction. The Yurok also said it is canceling its commercial fishery for the fifth time this year. Tribal officials said past water management decisions and climate change have put Klamath river salmon stocks at risk. The tribe said it’s gravely concerned about the rapidly declining salmon stocks in the Klamath River Basin … Tribal officials said [Reclamation's] plan provides bare-minimum flows for imperiled Klamath salmon and sucker fish populations.

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Aquafornia news North Coast Journal

Releases on the Trinity River to significantly increase flow this week

Restoration flows will begin tomorrow, April 16, on the Trinity River to help improve conditions after another critically dry water year. A flow schedule based on the expected amount of water available to support salmon restoration efforts on the Trinity River is brought forward by the Trinity Management Council each year. This week’s two-day schedule is slated to increase daily average flows from 300 cubic feet per second to 1,300 cubic feet per second.

Aquafornia news The Brentwood Press

State and local groundwater sustainability efforts make progress

While high-profile surface-water initiatives like WaterFix and the Delta Conveyance Project grab most of the headlines pertaining to water management in the state, efforts to make significant changes to the way groundwater is utilized have been underway since 2014. Now, the state and the local water agencies are seeking public comment on documents related to the management of groundwater. In 2014, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a three-bill legislative package collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to better manage groundwater supplies over the long term.  

Aquafornia news University of California

Blog: A path toward clean drinking water for all Californians

California was the first U.S. state to legally recognize access to safe, clean and affordable water as a human right. But substantial parts of the state lack access to drinking water that meets those criteria. A new study published by the California State Water Board and supported by UCLA research identifies a risk for failure among a significant portion of the state’s small and medium-sized public water systems. 

Aquafornia news Fox40

Recreational waterways can still be dangerous despite drought conditions, officials warn

The Yuba Water Agency manages water storage and deliveries to downstream customers while having a hand in preserving fish habitats and recreational areas. Currently, the agency has already begun doubling its reservoir releases at a time when visitors to the river are also expected to go up. Due to the time of year, those releases from upstream reservoirs are dictated by irrigation needs of downstream growers. 

Aquafornia news Capital Press

Klamath Project to receive historically low water allocation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delivered a gut-punch to Klamath Project irrigators Wednesday, announcing a historically low water allocation as the basin struggles with extreme drought. Farms and ranches in the Project will receive an initial allocation of just 33,000 acre-feet — the lowest total since the shutdown of 2001 and barely 8% of historical demand. That is dramatically lower than the bureau’s original estimate of 130,000 acre-feet based on hydrological conditions at the beginning of March.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Raising Shasta Dam threatens McCloud River, sacred tribal lands and salmon

Shasta Dam, which rises over 600 feet, flooded much of our tribe’s homeland and inundated dozens of our sacred sites. It stopped our salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. And by holding back water when it is needed by the river, Shasta Dam has driven our salmon to the brink of extinction. That threat continues in the proposal to raise Shasta Dam. That project would flood more of our sacred sites and further harm salmon. The Trump administration made that project their top priority water infrastructure project in the nation. 
-Written by Caleen Sisk, the spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Southern California leans on more Colorado River water to combat record dry season

Southern California, like most of the West, is in the middle of a record dry season. To combat it and keep the metropolitan area well-watered, they’re relying more heavily on the Colorado River, with water pumped directly from the south end of Lake Havasu. Last Wednesday, the Metropolitan Water District began pumping from Lake Havasu at full capacity for the first time in years, drawing water from the Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant located just north of the Parker Dam. The eight-pump flow is equivalent to about 3,000 acre feet of water being pumped per day, according to MWD Manager of Colorado River Resources Bill Hasencamp.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Epic drought means water crisis on Oregon-California border

Hundreds of farmers who rely on a massive irrigation project that spans the Oregon-California border learned Wednesday they will get a tiny fraction of the water they need amid the worst drought in decades, as federal regulators attempt to balance the needs of agriculture against federally threatened and endangered fish species that are central to the heritage of several tribes. Oregon’s governor said the prolonged drought in the region has the “full attention of our offices,” and she is working with congressional delegates, the White House and federal agencies to find relief for those affected.

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Aquafornia news Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Opinion: Why Wall Street investors’ trading California water futures is nothing to fear – and unlikely to work anyway

Water is one of the world’s most vital resources. So is there reason to freak out now that profit-hungry hedge funds and other investors can trade it like a barrel of oil or shares of Apple? That’s exactly what CME Group recently did in California when it launched the world’s first futures market for water in December 2020. Put simply, a futures market lets people place bets on the future price of water. 
-Written by Ellen Bruno, of University of California, Berkeley and Heidi Schweizer, of North Carolina State University.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The pillars for sustainable water management in the Sacramento River basin

On Wednesday, March 3rd, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) Board of Directors officially adopted our 2021 Priorities. The water leaders in this region look forward to working with our many partners in 2021 to cultivate a shared vision for a vibrant way of life in the Sacramento River Basin. We will continue to re-imagine our water system in the Sacramento River Basin as we also work to harmonize our water priorities with state, federal, and other regions’ priorities to advance our collective goal of ensuring greater water and climate resilience throughout California for our communities, the economy, and the environment. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for next week’s Water 101 workshop

There’s just one week left to register for our Water 101 Workshop, which offers a primer on the things you need to know to understand California water. One of our most popular events, this once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Creating a place for nature in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley’s quest for groundwater sustainability will result in large amounts of irrigated agricultural lands being retired. A new book explores how some of these lands could be restored to natural areas that bring multiple benefits. We talked to Scott Butterfield, a senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy and one of the book’s editors, about this vision.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Controversial project is becoming a pipeline in the sand for local water agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority is no stranger to conflict – virtually all of its dealings over the past decade have been shaped by its feud with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Now that feud is fueling fights within the agency itself.

Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press

IID decides to stand pat on Abatti’s Supreme Court petition

Imperial Irrigation District apparently has decided not to sweat Michael Abatti’s decision to appeal his case against the district to the nation’s highest court. IID announced Monday it will not file a response to Abatti’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court over his ongoing legal dispute with the district over water rights. The exception would be if the court requests a response. IID General Counsel Frank Oswalt said in a press release that a response is unnecessary.

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Opinion: Failure to prepare deepens the pain from dry years

It’s that time of year, when we find out it’s that kind of year. We appear at the doorstep of a “critically dry year,” and most reservoir levels are significantly below average. Those conditions bring painfully to mind the awful drought years of 2014 and 2015, and threaten water supplies for California farms and cities, and for the protected fish species that must also get by in these lean years.
-Written by Danny Merkley, director of water resources, and Chris Scheuring, senior counsel for the California Farm Bureau.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Southern California water agency looking to buy water during drought

With California in the throes of a second year of drought conditions, the mega-water agency of Southern California served notice Tuesday that it’s prepared to spend up to $44 million to buy water from Northern California to shore up its supplies. The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million urban residents, authorized its staff to begin negotiating deals with water agencies north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where supplies are generally more plentiful.

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Aquafornia news KOLD News 13

Extreme conditions now sparking drought contingency plan for first time

Extreme drought conditions throughout the West are lowering levels in the crucial water reservoir, Lake Mead. Scars of long years of low precipitation are hard to go unnoticed at Lake Mead, and the hot, dry summers have been felt for the last several years in Arizona. 2020 was especially dry, with little monsoon. Now, the West is in uncharted territory. Lake Mead is projected to drop by several feet this year, from elevation 1,083 to about 1,068, according to officials with the Central Arizona Project. The lake is hovering around 39 percent of its full capacity.

Aquafornia news New Mexico In Depth

A century of federal indifference left generations of Navajo homes without running water

[T]he 800 to 900 people in Tohatchi, and another 600 to 800 in Mexican Springs, eight miles to the west, all depend on a single well and single pump. If the pump running it fails, or if the water level in it drops — both issues that have troubled nearby Gallup this year — water will cut out for the homes, the head-start center, the schools, the clinic, the senior center, five churches, and the convenience store and gas station. … [T]he Navajo Nation has waited more than a century for pipes and water treatment plants that would bring drinking water to all of its people while watching nearby off-reservation cities and farms grow, swallowing up water from the Colorado River Basin that the tribe has a claim to.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Tensions rise in water battle along Oregon-California line

One of the worst droughts in memory in a massive agricultural region straddling the California-Oregon border could mean steep cuts to irrigation water for hundreds of farmers this summer to sustain endangered fish species critical to local tribes. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water allocations in the federally owned Klamath Project, is expected to announce this week how the season’s water will be divvied up after delaying the decision a month.

Aquafornia news Outdoor Life

California waterfowl threatened by dry refuges, botulism

With a salmonella outbreak in eight states already under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control, officials are watching in California for another disease that impacts waterfowl. Botulism killed thousands of waterfowl and other birds last year on two national wildlife refuges near the border of California and Oregon. Some estimates were as high as 60,000 dead birds. The Lower Klamath Basin and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges were among the first created more than 100 years ago. Millions of waterfowl and shore birds, along with songbirds, migrated along the Pacific Flyway into the two refuges and beyond. Today, between severe restrictions on water flowing into and out of the refuges and a crippling drought that shows no sign of letting up, the refuge marshes are going dry. 

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Aquafornia news Valley News

Rancho Water receives $3.5M grant for Vail Dam rehabilitation 

The Rancho California Water District received a nearly $3.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency which will fund up to 75% of Phase 1 of the Vail Dam Hazard Mitigation Project. Phase 1 has already begun and includes pre-construction activities such as design, environmental compliance and permitting to upgrade the dam at Vail Lake, located east of Temecula. Vail Lake, a reservoir with water storage capacity of approximately 45,000 acre-feet or 14.7 billion gallons of water, was acquired by Rancho Water in 1978 and is an component of Rancho’s diversified water supply portfolio for providing water supplies to over 150,000 urban and agricultural water users in the cities of Temecula and Murrieta, and the surrounding areas. 

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

California appoints analyst to study Salton Sea water importation

California remains far behind its targets for addressing exposed playa around the Salton Sea, according to data released in the 2021 Salton Sea Management Program annual report. But state officials expressed optimism in a public workshop that they are finally beginning to catch up to those goals. The state was supposed to implement dust suppression projects or build wetlands habitat across 3,500 acres of exposed playa by the end of 2020 to tamp down dust that’s imbued with a century’s worth of salts, pesticides and other agricultural runoff. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Updated Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project hot off the press

Our Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project has just been updated to reflect the latest developments affecting California’s largest surface water delivery system. The 24-page guide explores the history of the Central Valley Project, from its roots as a state water project that stalled amid the Great Depression to its development as a federal project that stretches from Shasta Dam in far Northern California to Bakersfield in the southern San Joaquin Valley. 

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Markets, water availability prove key in land values

Despite market unknowns created by the pandemic and lower commodity prices, California agricultural land values remained largely stable, an indication buyers have confidence in the long-term land market in the state: This was a key takeaway from a virtual business conference held by the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. The conference also discussed impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on California land values. Even though record supplies of the state’s highest-value crops led to lower prices for farmers last year, appraisers said the softer prices also helped move those products. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California needs comprehensive groundwater management

While California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act promised comprehensive protection of the state’s groundwater, significant gaps remain in its coverage.  The Department of Water Resources now has an opportunity to reduce or eliminate those gaps and should seize the moment. We know all Californians will experience another year of water shortages and warmer, drier conditions that will require conservation and which are likely to fuel destructive wildfires in our forests and around our communities. We are all in this together. Groundwater is critical for California, particularly in dry years when it provides up to 60% of the water supply for farms and people. 
-Written by Jeanette Howard, director of The Nature Conservancy’s freshwater science team; Melissa M. Rohde, a groundwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy; and Barton H. Thompson, senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment, and faculty director of Water in the West at Stanford University.

Aquafornia news BBC News

The water fight over the shrinking Colorado River

Scientists have been predicting for years that the Colorado River would continue to deplete due to global warming and increased water demands, but according to new studies it’s looking worse than they thought. That worries rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh, 68, of Steamboat Springs, who relies on the water from the Colorado River to grow feed for her cattle. … Recent reports show that the river’s water flows were down 20% in 2000 and by 2050 that number is estimated to more than double.

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Aquafornia news Cal Coast News

SLO County supervisors open the door to water banking

A barely-noticed action early in March by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors likely has placed greater control of the region’s water supply in the hands of a few individuals and private water agencies. On a split 3-2, north-south vote, supervisors on March 3 approved an amendment to the county’s contract with the state of California for deliveries from the State Water Project (SWP). An approval that creates the opportunity, some say, for a controversial practice called “water banking.”

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: Q/A with Delta Conveyance Project Executive Director Tony Meyers

In the first episode in the Delta Conveyance Team Spotlight video series, [DWR] spoke with the project’s Executive Director Tony Meyers about his long and eventful career in engineering, including work on some of DWR’s most ambitious and significant infrastructure projects. In this excerpt, he reflects on the appeal of large-scale engineering projects and speaks about the importance of the Delta Conveyance Project in protecting the security of California’s water supply.

Aquafornia news US Department of the Interior

News release: Robert Anderson nominated as solicitor of the Department of the Interior

Robert (Bob) Anderson’s nomination as Solicitor of the Department of the Interior was formally transmitted by the White House to the United States Senate today. Bob has served as Interior’s Principal Deputy Solicitor since January 20, 2021. … For 20 years, Bob was a law professor at the University of Washington and directed its Native American Law Center. He has been the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School for the past twelve years. He is a co-author and editor of the leading federal Indian Law treatise, Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, and is a co-author of a leading textbook on American Indian Law. He has extensive expertise and has published many articles in the fields of natural resources law, water law, and American Indian law.   

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore California’s water basics & the lifeblood of the Southwest during upcoming virtual events

Our two-day Water 101 Workshop begins on Earth Day, when you can gain a deeper understanding of California’s most precious natural resource. One of our most popular events, the once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23. California’s water basics will be covered by some of the state’s leading policy and legal experts, including the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in the state, as well a look at hot topics and current issues of concern.

Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Opinion – Are water wars about to boil?

Not counting long and ugly court battles, the two most likely solutions to California water wars are voluntary agreements or involuntary edicts. Our Modesto Bee Editorial Board long has favored voluntary agreements, or compromises negotiated mainly between local irrigation districts (representing our farmers) and state and federal officials. The other side, chiefly represented by environmental and fishing interests, would prefer that the California State Water Board simply take huge amounts of water from our Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers, mostly to benefit fish — what could be called involuntary edicts. 
-Written by Garth Stapley, The Modesto Bee’s opinion editor.

Aquafornia news California Fisheries Blog

Blog: Drastic measure to meet Delta outflow

For seven days in mid-March 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation substantially increased Folsom Lake storage releases. Roughly, the releases tripled in volume (Figure 1). The release of over 20,000 acre-feet of water is significant for a year in which Folsom storage is not much better than it was in the worst year on record – 1977 (Figure 2).1 With the release in mid-March, the lake level dropped 3 feet. Yes, there was rain in the forecast and a decent snowpack, but certainly no flood concerns. So why? The reason was to meet state water quality requirements for Delta outflow. Delta outflow increased from 7,000 cfs to 12,000 cfs for a few days (Figure 3).

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Colorado River Indian Tribes will get $209K to stop water loss from irrigation canals

The Colorado River Indian Tribes will receive $209,000 for irrigation canal projects, Congressman Paul Gosar announced Tuesday. The federal funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior to help CRIT pay for canal lining. The project is intended to help stop water seepage from the canal. CRIT relies on the Colorado River as its primary source of water, and water conserved with help the Tribes meet existing demand during times of drought, Gosar said. The project will line nearly 4,000 feet of the earthen canal with a membrane covered in sprayed concrete. The stretch of canal has been identified as having the most significant seepage rate of all 232 miles of canals in the Colorado River Irrigation Project, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at “water banking,” an idea also being weighed in Colorado

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. Lawmakers on Monday weighed whether so-called “water banking” would be preferable to prevailing water law doctrines that govern surface and groundwater rights disputes in the driest state in the U.S. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

A battle over water comes to a sweet end

Nearly five years ago we brought you the story of a little town an hour south of the Oregon border that was doing battle with a big timber company over who owned the rights to a pristine spring that gurgles in the shadows of Mount Shasta, the majestic snow-capped dormant volcano. After $1.5 million in legal fees and countless hours of argument and activism, the City Council of that town, Weed, Calif., recently approved a deal securing use of the water in perpetuity. It was a David-over-Goliath victory for Weed, population 2,700. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State will hear Kern River water rights case

Is there water available on the Kern River and, if so, how much? Parties to the long-running river dispute will finally get a hearing by the State Water Resources Control Board on those questions, at least. The big question — who should get the water? — will have to wait. Still, this is the first significant public movement on the Kern River in the past 11 years.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Agencies: Arizona farmers should expect less water in 2022

State officials are putting farmers in south-central Arizona on notice that the continuing drought means a “substantial cut” in deliveries of Colorado River water is expected next year. A joint statement issued Friday by the state Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project said an expected shortage declaration “will result in a substantial cut to Arizona’s share of the river, with reductions falling largely to central Arizona agricultural users.” The Central Arizona Project is an aqueduct system that delivers Colorado River water to users in central Arizona and southern Arizona, including farmers, cities and tribes.

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Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Deal to help fish threatened by federal agencies

Water releases designed to benefit the critical outmigration of juvenile salmon on the Stanislaus River as well as assist farms and communities along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley already starting to suffer the effects of two consecutive dry years is languishing in the federal bureaucracy. Up to 100,000 acre feet is proposed to be released that belongs to the South San Joaquin and Oakdale irrigation districts that would provide a critical impulse flow from April 15 to May 15. That water based on measurements at Vernalis south of Manteca where the Stanislaus River joins the San Joaquin River would significantly improve the survivability of the threatened salmon.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Michael Abatti asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case against IID

The fight between Imperial Valley farmer Michael Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District over control of the district’s massive allotment of Colorado River water could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court if Abatti gets his way. He and his lawyers have announced that they have petitioned the nation’s highest court to take up the litigation that has dragged on since 2013….Abatti is seeking to have the country’s apex court hand control of IID’s water over to landowners, a move that would leave most of the valley’s water with a few larger agricultural operations.

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Aquafornia news Galt Herald

Groundwater status, plan discussed at meeting

Seven agencies that have been working together to sustain the groundwater in the Cosumnes Subbasin, which includes the communities of Galt, Herald, Wilton and Rancho Murieta South, held a workshop March 24. The presentation was intended to help residents understand how groundwater will be used in the next two decades in the Cosumnes Subbasin. The group has until Jan. 31, 2022 to submit its plan to the state on how it intends to meet its target of replacing 20,000-acre feet per year (AFY) in underground basins called aquifers to sustain the groundwater. One of the takeaways from meeting is the plan will cost $2.25 million in the early years. 

Aquafornia news University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Report: The first SGMA groundwater market is trading – The importance of good design and the risks of getting it wrong

A groundwater market, which caps total pumping within one or more basins, allocates portions of the total to individual users and allows users to buy and sell groundwater under the total cap, is a promising tool for basins implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … [G]roundwater markets can be a useful tool for achieving basin sustainability, but they are not a good fit for every basin or groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). … The Fox Canyon groundwater market benefitted from the four enabling conditions (water scarcity, fixed allocations, agricultural stakeholder support, and capacity and funding) described below.

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Aquafornia news Mammoth Times

County scores win to keep Long Valley green – for now

The huge, lush green meadows that stretch between the S.R. 203 junction with U.S. 395 and Crowley Lake may seem like they have been there forever but in reality, their existence has been under threat for several years after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power threatened to withdraw much of the water from the meadowlands a few years ago, stating it needed the water for its own uses. If implemented, the proposed ‘de-watering’ of much of the massive meadows would have turned them into sage and dust, destroying wildlife habitat, historic cattle grazing leases, the fishing habitat along Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River and much more. 

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Ag land values rely heavily on water availability

California agricultural land values that are rising and falling the most are doing so under the perception of water availability – no surprise there. This is putting farmland in the Fresno Irrigation District (FID) in a positive light as that agency has done a good job over the years managing conjunctive use of irrigation water.

Aquafornia news Latham & Watkins

Blog: California water law – Legal challenges of water supply assessments

Mark Twain is often credited with saying, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” This remains true in California, where drought conditions, climate change, and population growth throughout the state’s history have made water an increasingly valuable and regulated resource. The legal landscape involves complex questions related to water quality, water sustainability, and competing claims to water rights. One notable area of controversy involves the adequacy of water supply for new development projects.

Aquafornia news Your Central Valley.com

Explaining California’s complex water system with emotion and storytelling

California has one of the most complex and complicated water systems in the nation. There are hundreds of water districts, different reservoirs and rivers and canals controlled by different jurisdictions, and lots of politically charged legislation.   Understanding this system is a difficult undertaking, but those at the Modesto Irrigation District believe they’re up to the task.   Through emotional storytelling and strong characters, the MID set out to explain how the rivers in their district nourish communities by talking to the men and women who depend on them. The interviews and stories eventually turned into a feature-length documentary called Until the Last Drop.  

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Indigenous food sovereignty movements are taking back ancestral land

In recent years, the Wiyot Tribe in Northern California secured ownership of its ancestral lands and is working to restore its marine habitats; the nearby Yurok Tribe fought for the removal of dams along the Klamath River and has plans to reconnect with salmon, its traditional food source; and the Quapaw Nation in Oklahoma has cleaned up contaminated land to make way for agriculture and cattle businesses.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

No movement on groundwater protection bills

Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act established pumping regulations in the state’s most populous areas but set no such limits on rural parts of the state. In recent years, some rural areas have come under increased pressure from agricultural pumping that has dropped groundwater levels dramatically. … Lawmakers introduced several bills in the current legislative session to regulate or provide more options for managing the state’s groundwater. One would have banned most new wells in the Upper San Pedro and Verde Valley river basins. Another would have set spacing limits for new wells in areas that are overdrawn. Another, introduced by Rep. Regina Cobb of Kingman, would have given county supervisors the power to establish groundwater limits or regulations in their area. 

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Abatti files petition with U.S. Supreme Court

Imperial Valley grower, landowner, and former elected official Michael Abatti has filed a petition for “writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District, according to a press release from Abatti and his legal team. Michael Abatti, Imperial County farmer Abatti is seeking to overturn a previous appellate court ruling that asserts Imperial Irrigation District is the “sole owner” of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do “not (have) an appurtenant water right” but rather are entitled merely to “water service” that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion, the press release states.

Aquafornia news KUNC

Colorado River tribes aim to establish ‘one unified voice’ in policy talks

The Fort Yuma-Quechan Indian Tribe is situated at a nexus in the Colorado River Basin. That’s true in a geographic sense. The tribe’s reservation overlays the Arizona-California border near Yuma, Arizona. The two states are heavily reliant on water from the Colorado River. The reservation also abuts the U.S.-Mexico border where the river flows into Mexico for use in cities and on farms. One of the river’s largest irrigation projects, the All-American Canal, was dug through the tribe’s land, and flows from the reservation’s northeastern boundary to its far southwestern corner, on its way to irrigate crops in California’s Imperial Valley. The confluence of the Colorado River and one of its historically important tributaries, the Gila River, is nearby.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. By some estimates, the amount of farmland that will have to be taken out of production to balance groundwater demand and supply is equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park — a transition that could serve a huge blow to the agricultural economy, rural communities and the environment. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Monday Top of the Scroll: California weighs changes for new water rights permits in response to a warmer and drier climate

As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply. A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Aquafornia news Grist

Farms, feathers, and fins share water in California

The rivalry between farms and wildlife for water and land was long seen as a zero-sum game, especially in California where water is such a precious commodity that the state’s water futures are traded on the stock exchange. That competition has been particularly sharp in the Central Valley: 95% of the region’s historic wetlands have transformed into farmland, and the region’s increasingly scarce water supply has been prioritized for farming. As a result, some of the migratory birds that rely on the Central Valley for habitat, food, and water sources have seen steep declines in the past century. 

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: Appellate decisions limiting groundwater pumping in an overdrafted basin

A California Court of Appeal recently issued two opinions affirming a physical solution limiting the right to pump groundwater by a landowner who has never pumped from the groundwater basin or who has not established the amount or reasonableness of pumping. A landowner filed the underlying lawsuit in 1999 to quiet title to its claimed superior groundwater rights in a groundwater basin that had been in a state of overdraft for decades. The lawsuit became a comprehensive groundwater adjudication involving approximately 70,000 landowners in the Antelope Valley area of California, including two separate classes and the United States.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: California’s complex water rights system explained at water 101 workshop

From the very first gold miners making claims to divert streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills to the later wrangling that enabled irrigation of Central Valley farmland and drinking water to be sent to growing cities in California, water rights are an indispensable cornerstone of the state’s water supply and delivery system.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Water law alert – Groundwater well permitting, Yampa River basin

As a result of increasing demand for water, exacerbated by the decades-long drought in the Colorado River system, the Colorado State Engineer is considering a proposal that would impose stricter limitations on the permitting of new groundwater wells in the Yampa River Basin upstream of where the Yampa River meets the Little Snake River.  The Yampa River flows west from its headwaters near Steamboat Springs, in northwest Colorado.  After it is joined by the Little Snake River, it flows to meet the Green River near the Colorado-Utah state line.  From there, the Green River flows south as a major tributary of the Colorado River.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Valuing water in the Sacramento Valley: Celebrating World Water Day

With World Water Day this week and the dry year emerging throughout the Sacramento Valley, we take this moment to reflect on the value of water as we cultivate a shared vision in the region for a vibrant way of life. We encourage you to watch and read the following vignettes that all showcase the value of water.

Aquafornia news Fox 13 Salt Lake City

Romney and the looming Colorado River clash

One of the most critical negotiations for Utah’s future is coming at a time when Utah’s delegations in Washington D.C. may be less influential than every other party at the table. The Colorado River Compact, hammered out in 1922 with few amendments over the years, expires in 2026. Every other state in the compact other than Utah has a majority Democratic or split delegation in Washington. Those states? Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. 

Aquafornia news Pagosa Daily Post

Blog: Colorado establishes water equity task force

Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Dan Gibbs, executive director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, announced recently the establishment of a Water Equity Task Force to better understand existing equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) challenges in Colorado water issues and inform the Colorado Water Plan. … The 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act (HB 05-1177) ushered in a new area of regionally inclusive and collaborative water planning. That spirit was further codified in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, which ensured that all water uses in Colorado are interconnected and of equal value. 

Aquafornia news Capital Press

Further arguments loom in Klamath re-quantification ruling

An Oregon judge has agreed to hear further legal arguments over his ruling that tribal water rights in the Klamath basin must be re-quantified. Because the judge’s legal opinion from last month hasn’t yet been reduced to an order, that means the Klamath tribes can enforce their water rights to shut off irrigation in the meantime.

Aquafornia news Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard

Blog: California’s largest groundwater rights judgment affirmed

After 22 years of litigation, a California appellate court has affirmed a trial court judgment defining groundwater pumping rights for thousands of landowners plus cities, water districts and Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley desert north of Los Angeles. The March 16, 2021 opinion by the Fifth District Court of Appeal is one of three recent opinions rejecting challenges to a 2015 trial court judgment declaring groundwater rights and imposing a “physical solution” to reduce pumping and to ensure sustainability of the Antelope Valley’s largest single source of water supply.