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
Water makes the world go ‘round, and a major player in
California’s breadbasket doesn’t want to part with more than
they have already. The city of Bakersfield, and the Kern County
Water Agency are suing nearby water districts over their plan
to skim water from Kern County sources for transport to other
parts of the state — water that county officials say they need
for themselves. The Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project is a
$246 million dollar water storage project planned for
California’s south San Joaquin Valley.
The Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently
ruled in Wyatt v. City of Sacramento that a City’s imposition
of a surcharge in the form of a “general tax” on
property-related utility services payable to the City’s general
fund did not violate Proposition 218 (Prop. 218). The
appellate court decision confirms that a surcharge imposed on a
utility enterprise is a cost of providing utility services and
is therefore properly part of the Prop. 218 analysis of
determining whether revenues exceed funds required to provide
Two decades ago, Nicole Horseherder, a member of the Navajo
Nation, coordinated a community meeting. Beneath the shade of
Juniper trees at her late grandmother’s house, several dozen
people gathered to find a way to protect their pristine water.
The springs and wells along Black Mesa, a semi-arid, rocky mesa
that overlies the Navajo Aquifer, were increasingly drying up,
as tens of billions of gallons of potable water were used to
extract, clean, and transport coal mined in the region. This
meeting was the start of a long struggle to safeguard the
community from coal projects, which threatened the drinking
water supply of both the Navajo and Hopi people.
The [State Water Resources Control Board] Division of Water
Rights released a report on climate change. The report
outlines staff recommendations to make water availability
analysis more robust, and actions to support an effective water
rights response to climate change within the existing water
rights framework in California. The report and related
material are available on the Division’s climate change
webpage. Staff will present a summary of the report at the
State Water Resources Control Board Meeting on February 16,
The Colorado River supports over 40 million people spread
across seven southwestern states, 29 tribal nations, and
Mexico. It’s responsible for the irrigation of roughly 5.5
million acres of land marked for agricultural use. Local and
regional headlines show the river is in crisis. The nation
mostly isn’t listening.
With Democratic New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland poised to become
the first Native American Interior secretary, tribal
governments historically marginalized by the agency expect not
only a greater respect for their autonomy, but also a more
significant role in the nation’s land and water management
A proposed water recycling project in Southern California could
result in Nevada getting some of the Golden State’s share of
water from the Colorado River. The Southern Nevada Water
Authority could invest up to $750 million into the water
treatment project. In return for the investment, it could get a
share of California’s water in Lake Mead. If built, the project
would give the region another tool to protect itself against
the ongoing strain of drought conditions on the Colorado River.
[T]he president of New York-based hedge fund Water Asset
Management … has called water in the United States “a
trillion-dollar market opportunity.” The hedge fund invested
$300 million in farmland in Colorado, California, Arizona and
Nevada as of 2020, including $16.6 million on 2,220 acres of
farmland with senior water rights in Colorado’s Grand Valley
just upstream from where the Colorado River crosses into Utah.
I’ve written in the past about the San Diego County Water
Authority’s efforts to divest from its parent agency the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. That
includes the bad blood between the two agencies stemming from
MWD’s water cutbacks to San Diego in 1991, and how local
leaders felt they were mistreated. What I didn’t realize was
just how far back the tension goes between San Diego leaders
and MWD. All the way back to the Great Depression…
New federal legislation that will enable the Colorado River
Indian Tribes to lease a portion of its federal water
allocation is gaining broad support from Arizona stakeholders.
Following the conclusion of a listening session held by the
Arizona Department of Water Resources in December, 2020,
interested parties were invited to submit public comment on the
Much has been said about a “new normal” in the Colorado River
Basin. The phrase describes reduced flows in the 21st century
as compared to those during much of the 20th century. Authors
of a new study contemplate something beyond, what they call a
“new abnormal.” The future, they say, might be far dryer than
water managers have been planning for. … In the 133-page
report, they identified a wide variety of alternative
management ideas, not simple tweaks but “significant
modifications or entirely new approaches.”
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation last week signed an
agreement with Resource Environmental Solutions, a Texas-based
ecological restoration company, to provide restoration services
following the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. The
agreement with RES brings North Coast tribes one step closer to
their decades-long goal of dam removal.
Utah legislative leaders on Thursday unveiled plans for a new
$9 million state agency to advance Utah’s claims to the
Colorado River in hopes of wrangling more of the river’s
diminishing flows, potentially at the expense of six
neighboring states that also tap the river. Without any prior
public involvement or notice, lawmakers assembled legislation
to create a six-member entity called the Colorado River
Authority of Utah, charged with implementing “a management plan
to ensure that Utah can protect and develop the Colorado River
The volatility of stock market trading has made global
headlines over the past couple of weeks thanks to the frenzy
surrounding a US video games retailer. It’s a dizzying yarn of
Reddit vigilantes taking coordinated action to bankrupt hedge
funds that were short selling GameStop stocks, resulting in
rollercoaster share prices, trading restrictions and US
congressional hearings. It provides a stark illustration of the
absurdity of the stock market, and yet, late last year, the US
state of California decided to allow water to become a tradable
Three rural Valley cities finalized deals with the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation to cement permanent access to water from the
Central Valley Project on Monday, the Federal bureau announced.
The cities of Avenal, Coalinga, and Huron converted their water
contracts with Federal water authorities along with
Firebaugh-based Pacheco Water District and Panoche Water
District, and Los Banos-based San Luis Water
The Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) Board of Directors is
hosting a virtual information meeting to update local board
members and agencies about the proposed purchase of water
infrastructure and water rights contracts. As reported here in
March last year, TUD and PG&E announced they were in
exclusive negotiations about the potential transfer of the
Phoenix Hydroelectric Project. The proposed agreement includes
the Phoenix Powerhouse, the Main Tuolumne Canal, the pre and
post 1914 water rights, the Lyons Dam and Reservoir, Strawberry
Dam and Pinecrest Reservoir.
State engineers in the Arkansas River basin are beginning to
crack down on more than 10,000 ponds without legal water
rights, which they say are harming senior rights holders. Last
month, Colorado’s Division of Water Resources in Division 2
rolled out a new pond-management plan, which they say will help
relieve pressure in the over-appropriated basin by restoring
water to senior rights holders. The first step was mailing on
Jan. 14 informational brochures to 317 pond owners. Even though
the ponds targeted in this effort may have existed for many
decades, they don’t have a legal right on the books to divert
and store the water.
Mayors and county supervisors in towns along the Colorado River
were already upset five months ago when the state water
agency endorsed an investment company’s plan to take water
from farmland near the river and sell it to a growing Phoenix
suburb. Now, they’re incensed that the agency, which initially
suggested holding back a large portion of the
water, changed its stance and will let the company
sell most of the water to the town of Queen Creek. Elected
leaders in communities along the river say they intend to
continue trying to stop the proposed deal, which would need to
be approved by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
California’s increasingly volatile warming climate is making
droughts more intense, and complicating water management. A
just-launched commodity futures market for the state’s water
provides a new tool for farmers, municipalities and other
interested parties to ensure against water price shocks arising
from drought-fueled shortages. Taking a Wall Street approach to
an essential natural resource has prompted both fear and hype.
Will California experience a new Gold Rush in water? Will
speculation boost the cost of water? Perhaps both the fear and
the hype are unwarranted. -Written by Ellen Hanak, economist and director of the
Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy
Since the early 1920s, the Long Valley plains east of Yosemite
have inspired comparison to a rustic Western paradise
… Much of this great, green expansiveness, however, owes
to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which
aggressively purchased land and water rights here more than a
century ago. The department’s routine annual deliveries of free
surplus water to its tenants have helped sustain ranching
operations and habitat for many decades. But that relationship
is now at risk of ending, and could carry dire consequences for
one of California’s most striking and violently formed
Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug
against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes,
pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay
of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these
orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a
multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But
that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has
depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded
ecosystems. The land is literally sinking…
The business of water allocations – simply put, who receives
water from the State Water Project (SWP) and who gets to decide
how much – is the subject of two new episodes in the Delta
Conveyance Deep Dive video series. In Part One, State
Water Operations Chief Molly White explains the operations and
regulations that govern the process of allocating water to the
state’s 29 Public Water Agencies and addresses the question of
how the proposed Delta Conveyance Project would affect that
In the driest years for Monterey County, the water available in
the Salinas River is not enough to supply a single household.
In the wettest year of the past three decades, 1995, there were
100,000 acre-feet of water available, more than the total urban
usage in the county. Although the flow fluctuates wildly, the
average amount is far more than what is needed, for example,
for thirsty coastal cities desperate for housing. The water has
been available for decades – the right to use it is protected,
encouraged and even required by state law – but it’s been
flowing into the ocean, a casualty of Monterey County’s
Jeff Lukas calls the Colorado the “charismatic megafauna of
Western rivers.” This riverine equivalent of grizzly bears,
bald eagles, and humpback whales gets lots of attention,
including national attention. Some of that attention is
deserved. It has the nation’s two largest reservoirs, among the
nation’s tallest dams, and many of the most jaw-dropping
canyons and eye-riveting national parks in the country. It also
has 40 million to 50 million people in Colorado and six other
southwestern states, plus Mexico, who depend upon its water,
and a history of tensions that have at times verged on the
political equivalent of fist-fights.
The water crisis is one of the greatest human, environmental,
economic and financial challenges of our time. No person or
business, no matter the industry, can survive without clean
water — and that supply is dwindling and in danger. Scientists
predict by 2030, global water demand will more than double
supply. This growing crisis is playing out here and now. The
largest companies, in particular, have a critical role to play.
It is also in their own interest to act as it has major
financial implications on their bottom line.
California water issues are notoriously complicated by a
massive diversity of users, ecosystems, applications and
futures. Indeed, water in the Delta has been described as
a “wicked problem” indicating that these problems cannot
be ignored and defy straightforward characterization and
solutions. Below we highlight how a Swiss cheese model might be
applied to vexing long-term declines in native fish populations
It’s hard to say what spurred “confidential mediation” over the
Kern River that began last week. Could it be the relentless
“Bring Back the Kern!” campaign by a group of young,
Bakersfield residents? Could it be a sentence in a recent
letter from the State Water Resources Control Board that said,
in part, it “will schedule a hearing in the near future to
address water availability with respect to the Kern River…”?
Could it be both? No one involved in the mediation would say.
A plan to bring water from the South Fork of the Kern River
through Isabella Lake and down 60 miles to farm fields west of
Bakersfield was unanimously approved by the Rosedale-Rio Bravo
Water Storage District board of directors on Tuesday. If the
environmental documents supporting that plan survive what is
sure to be a barrage of lawsuits brought by other Kern River
rights holders, Rosedale-Rio Bravo farmers could see South Fork
water in their furrows as early as this spring …
The convergence of a multi-decadal, climate-fueled
drought, a trillion-dollar river-dependent economy, and a
region with growth aspirations that rival any place in the
country has peaked speculative interest in owning and profiting
from Colorado River water.
The old axiom goes, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for
fightin’” — it reflects the never-ending horse-trading that
involves distribution of water in the arid Southwest and the
tug of war between the region’s agricultural communities and
the ever-growing urban centers, including Las Vegas, Phoenix
and areas of Southern California. Traditionally, water rights
have been brokered by state and local governments, as well as
regional water districts. This is changing, though, as private
equity firms have been purchasing water rights in localities
along the Colorado River, from the Western Rockies through the
valleys of Southern California.
There is a myth about water in the Western United States, which
is that there is not enough of it. But those who deal closely
with water will tell you this is false. There is plenty. It is
just in the wrong places…Transferring water from agricultural
communities to cities, though often contentious, is not a new
practice. Much of the West, including Los Angeles and Las
Vegas, was made by moving water. What is new is for private
investors — in this case an investment fund in Phoenix, with
owners on the East Coast — to exert that power.
Farmer Michael Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District is a
landmark decision by the California Court of Appeals concerning
the millions of acre-feet of Colorado River water used annually
to meet the needs of Southern California’s agricultural empire.
The issue was the nature of landowners’ rights to use Colorado
River water to irrigate their fields.
For many years, leasing water has simply been a “what if”
scenario for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, which unlike
many other tribes in Arizona with water rights, do not
have the ability to lease, exchange or store it underground.
But that could soon change if their proposal makes its way
through Congress. And it could have profound impacts on
how water is bought, sold and moved in this state. -Written by Joanna Allhands, digital opinions editor for
the Arizona Republic.
Without an accessible and relatively clean water supply, dairy
farming is not possible. Much of California enjoys a
Mediterranean-style climate, where precipitation is not a year
around expectation. And yet California is home to the largest
dairy industry in the United States. So how are we doing?
In September, Tucson declared a climate emergency, setting
the ambitious goal of going carbon neutral by 2030. The desert
city has gradually implemented policies over the past decade to
further rainwater harvesting with the aim of bolstering
conservation, lowering water bills and creating more green
The history of our city is one of oil, land and water scandals,
of genocide and segregation. … Should we change the names of
any buildings, streets or charities bearing the names Chandler,
Huntington, Mulholland or Hellman?
Opposition is building against San Diego’s dream of erecting a
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River in the name of
resource independence. The pipe, which wouldn’t produce savings
for ratepayers until at least 2063, faces its next trial on
Thursday, when water managers meet to vote on spending another
$1.7 million to do the next planning step.
The Yuba Water Agency is in the process of applying for a new
license to continue its hydroelectric operations along the Yuba
River, but agency leaders say some requirements issued by the
State Water Resources Control Board threaten the effort by
making it too costly. The agency filed lawsuits in state and
federal court Friday to essentially vacate the state board’s
requirements to obtain what is called a water quality
The last three administrations have been active in Klamath
Basin issues regardless of political party. Negotiations for a
basin-wide agreement began under the Bush Administration and
continued under the Obama Administration until faltering in the
House of Representatives — though each president’s approach has
varied. Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm
Alliance, said Biden’s experience in the Obama Administration
could prove an asset, if he brings a similar approach.
Intersecting events such as major floods, decades-long
megadroughts, and economic or governance upheavals could have
catastrophic effects on the water supply for the 40 million
people who live in the southwestern United States and
Getting water through a tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta would be pricey. So pricey, some Kern County water
districts were looking for an “off-ramp” by potentially selling
their main state water supply out of the county. The request
was shot down on Nov. 6 by the Kern County Water Agency, which
holds the contract for state water on behalf of 13 area water
Tanya’s a New Mexican, former chief counsel to the New Mexico
Interstate Stream Commission, and current member of the
commission. She served as a legislative aide to New Mexico Sen.
Jeff Bingaman, in Interior in the Officer of Water and Science,
and as executive director of the Colorado River Board of
There’s some fascinating tension around a proposed wastewater
reclamation collaboration in Southern California. The project,
if it goes forward, would provide some 150 million gallons per
day (~170,000 acre feet per year) of treated effluent. Water
now being discharged into the ocean would instead be available
for aquifer recharge within Southern California.
Why are our food producers, including many century-old family
farms with 100-year-old water rights, facing a shortage of
water? Because we drain Oregon’s largest lake to artificially
increase water supply in California.
Voluntary agreements have been proposed as a collaborative,
modern and holistic alternative to the State Water Resources
Control Board’s staff proposed update to the Bay-Delta Water
Quality Control Plan. … Westlands and other public water
agencies are eager to reengage in the process to finalize the
voluntary agreements, as they offer the best path forward for
Mexico is obligated under a 1944 treaty to deliver to the
United States a set amount of water from the Rio Grande and its
tributaries over a five-year period. … The last-minute
agreement signed Oct. 21 settles the conflict. Mexico will
transfer ownership of water stored in two border reservoirs to
the United States to make up the deficit.
Having been turned away by the California Supreme Court last
week, farmer Michael Abatti looked to have lost his years-long
fight with the Imperial Irrigation District over who owns
valuable water rights on the Colorado River. But Abatti
apparently isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
In a critical step for the proposed public takeover of
California American Water’s Monterey-area water system, the
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s board of
directors on Thursday night certified the final environmental
impact report for the effort.
The tumultuous, years-long legal fight between farmer Michael
Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District — two of Southern
California’s powerbrokers — is now finished. On Wednesday, the
California Supreme Court declined Abatti’s petition for review,
leaving in place an appellate court’s decision that declared
IID the rightful owner of a massive allotment of Colorado River
If all you’ve ever seen of the Fresno River is through Madera
as you drive over it on Highway 99, you’d be forgiven for
thinking it’s just a weed-infested, shopping cart collector
rather than a real river. But there’s a lot to this unobtrusive
waterway, which just made history as the first river in 40
years about to go through a rights settlement under the State
Water Resources Control Board.
Protecting the health of California’s rivers, estuaries, and
wetlands has been the grandest—and perhaps thorniest—of the
many challenges facing the state’s water managers. The San
Joaquin River watershed, the state’s third largest and an
important water source for irrigating farmland in the San
Joaquin Valley, epitomizes this challenge. Yet California is
making progress here, bringing a glimmer of hope.
Professor Holly Doremus is a leading scholar and teacher in the
areas of environmental law, natural resources law, and law and
science in her work at Berkeley Law. In a webinar hosted by the
University of California Ag and Natural Resources, Professor
Doremus discusses water rights and how dynamic and adaptable
they are to changing values and conditions.
Justice Ronald B. Robie, who served as the Department of Water
Resources’ (DWR) fifth director, was honored with a Lifetime
Achievement Award from the California Lawyers Association’s
Environmental Law Section for his 60 years of contributions to
the environmental law field. Robie is a longtime member of the
Water Education Foundation’s Board of Directors.
A slew of Bakersfield locals told board members how much an
actual, wet river means for residents. Speakers asked board
members to make the Kern a priority and finally allocate
unappropriated water on the river that has been in limbo at the
board for the past 10 years.
As the Colorado River Basin’s managers wrestle with thorny
questions around the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a colleague
who works for a Lower Colorado River Basin water agency
recently asked a question that goes to the heart of the future
of river management: With land in the Lower Colorado River
Basin, why doesn’t Utah have a Lower Basin allocation?
The report analyzes the environmental effects of Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District’s proposed buyout and
operation of the 40,000-customer Cal Am-owned system within the
district boundaries, including the proposed
6.4-million-gallon-per-day desalination plant and
ACWA on Oct. 15 submitted “A Roadmap To Achieving the Voluntary
Agreements” to Gov. Gavin Newsom and top members of his
Administration that calls on the state to take the necessary
steps to re-engage on Voluntary Agreements regarding the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and its tributaries.
On September 17, 2020, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a
decision on whether Nevada’s public trust doctrine permits
reallocation of water rights previously settled under Nevada’s
prior appropriation doctrine. The majority found that the
public trust doctrine does not permit such reallocation.
In the area that the Moapa Valley Water District serves, water
users are facing an uncomfortable future: People are going to
have to use less water than they were once promised. Over the
last century, state regulators handed out more groundwater
rights than there was water available. Today state officials
say that only a fraction of those rights can be used, which
could mean cuts.
The Georgetown Divide Public Utility District reported Sept. 23
that its release of 2,000 acre-feet of water from Stumpy
Meadows Reservoir to be transferred to the Westlands Water
District has been successfully completed.
According to river flow data, there is currently almost no
water flowing into Walker Lake, a common condition. Today,
where the riverbed meets the lake is an ooze of mud. The lake
is all but biologically dead. But a decades-old public trust
lawsuit made a move forward in its glacial process through
federal courts last week, and advocates are hopeful Walker
Lake, a cornerstone of the regional economy and ecology, can
one day be revived.
Tensions between Mexico and the United States over water
intensified this month as hundreds of Mexican farmers seized
control of La Boquilla dam in protest over mandatory water
releases. The protesters came from parched Chihuahua state,
nearly 100 square miles of land pressed against the U.S.
border, where farmers are opposing the delivery of over 100
billion gallons of water to the United States by October 24.
Fifty years ago this week, the Bakersfield City Council
committed an audaciously historic act. On Monday evening Sept.
28, 1970, council members decided to sue Tenneco West for a
slice of the Kern River.
Climate change is affecting natural resources in California,
with water being one of the most important in the state. Water
source is critical for municipalities, agriculture, industry,
and habitat/environmental purposes. Will future supply meet
future demand? How will the economic value of water change over
The Blue Communities project found its origins in Canada’s
fights against bottled water extraction and water
privatization. … The goal of the project is to have local
governments commit to become a Blue Community by passing local
resolutions to protect the human right to water.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
Some of the largest users of the Ventura River recently
released their proposal to settle litigation and potentially
stave off a water-rights adjudication. The plan includes
multiple habitat restoration projects intended to help
endangered steelhead trout, but largely avoids any changes to
water use. Before it goes to a judge, however, other parties
likely will weigh in, including the state.
Lawyers representing Mineral County and the Walker Lake Working
Group announced this week they intend to take a water rights
case with broad implications back to federal appeals court to
ask whether Nevada can adjust already allocated water rights to
sustain rivers and lakes long-term.
Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County
commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to
extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan
to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River
to southwest Utah.
Investors will be able to make wagers on the price of water
later this year with the launch of futures contracts, which are
expected to better balance supply and demand for the commodity
and hedge price risks. … The index, itself, sets a weekly
spot rate price of water rights in California, the majority of
which are owned and managed by water districts that deliver
water to individual farms…
Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state’s
fundamental obligation to protect natural resources for future
generations did not allow it to reallocate water rights issued
under state law. The decision appeared to rule against
litigants pushing to restore Walker Lake, where the use of
upstream water rights has decreased the amount of water that
reaches the lake.
At the September meeting of Metropolitan’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Laura Lamdin, an associate engineer in
water resource management, gave a presentation on how the
United States and Mexico built a collaborative relationship,
the many accomplishments that have come as a result, and a look
at the work currently in progress.
The absence of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the
Supreme Court this coming term is unlikely to change the
outcome of two looming battles over water rights and Endangered
Species Act records, but legal experts say her death will have
a lasting impact on environmental jurisprudence at the nation’s
Practically every drop of water that flows through the meadows,
canyons and plains of the Colorado River Basin has reams of
science attached to it. Our latest article in Western
Water news examines a new report that synthesizes and
provides context for that science and could aid water managers
as they prepare to rewrite the operating rules for a river
system so vital to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.
Protesters gathered on Sunday in drought-hit northern Mexico in
an attempt to retain control of a dam key to government efforts
to diffuse tensions over a water-sharing pact with the United
States. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has
been working to maintain a good relationship with U.S.
President Donald Trump, said on Friday that Mexico must comply
with its obligations.
Over the years, these groups united against a single cause: the
Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “Groundwater Development
Project,” a proposal to pump 58 billion gallons of water a year
300 miles to Las Vegas from the remote rural valleys of Nevada
and Utah. … In May, their three decades of resistance to the
pipeline ended in victory: The project was terminated.
In recent years, a wide range of water-related factors have
contributed to political instability, human dislocation and
migration, agricultural and food insecurity, and in more and
more cases, actual conflict and violence.
The U.S. Supreme Court kicks off its new term next month with a
unique “original jurisdiction” water dispute—the likes of which
could become more common as the climate changes. The justices
are set to hear Texas v. New Mexico, virtually, on their first
day of oral arguments Oct. 5. Here’s how original jurisdiction
water cases work, what’s at stake this term, and what’s on the
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state cannot
reshuffle existing water rights to prevent environmental
damage, despite recognizing a legal principle that requires the
government to preserve natural resources for future
generations… The Nevada court, in a 4-2 decision, separated
itself from the California Supreme Court, which reached the
opposite conclusion in a landmark 1980s case.
Dr. Ellen Bruno is a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the
Department of Ag and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. At a
recent Silver Solutions webinar, she shared some of the
preliminary results on a paper she is working on… The study
considers the impacts of agricultural water pricing and the
effect on water use and land use change.
The years-long fight between the Imperial Irrigation District
and farmer Michael Abatti over control of Colorado River water
could be nearing its grand finale in the California Supreme
Court. After Abatti requested last month that the state’s
highest judicial body take up his case, the water district
filed its opposition on Monday.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt writes that
a “Grand Bargain” in California water is needed to end the
“political culture of deferral” and allow major water projects
to advance. On the contrary, what’s needed is an adult
regulator that will make hard choices that water users refuse
The housing developer and the powerful water utility, locked
into past contracts, are caught in a fight, playing out in
hydrologic reports and hearing rooms, over what might seem a
simple question: How much water is there? That answer is
complicated by how much is at stake — a Colorado River
tributary, the survival of an endangered Nevada fish and the
future of development in a sweeping area outside Las Vegas.
Mexico’s water wars have turned deadly. A long-simmering
dispute about shared water rights between Mexico and the United
States has erupted into open clashes pitting Mexican National
Guard troops against farmers, ranchers and others who seized a
dam in northern Chihuahua state.
The Mexican National Guard said Wednesday that two people had
died in a gunfight with military police near a protest at a dam
that diverts water away from an area hit by drought to the
United States. … The protest comes amid plans to divert more
to the United States due to a “water debt” Mexico has accrued
under a 1944 water-sharing treaty between the countries.
Restoring specific “functional flows” would better support fish
migration and spawning, water quality, dry-season base flows,
and physical conditions that support aquatic species. A panel
of experts, moderated by PPIC senior fellow and study coauthor
Jeff Mount, discussed how to put this approach into practice.
We invite you to watch the event video.
The water wars are far from over, a point made clear in a
just-released feature-length documentary, “Until the Last
Drop.” If you can block from your mind the old Folgers “good to
the last drop” commercials, the film title will evoke a
combination of dripping water with a fight to the last drop of
At their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Siskiyou County
Board of Supervisors discussed issues that Big Springs area
residents are still facing regarding alleged privatized water
sale for illegal marijuana grows. Despite an urgency ordinance
prohibiting the trucking of water and a rally near one of the
alleged extraction sites on Aug. 22, residents say they’re
still noticing trucking going on.
Arizona’s top water regulator has endorsed a company’s proposal
to take water from farmland near the Colorado River and sell it
to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek. The plan,
which still would require federal approval, has generated a
heated debate about whether transferring water away from the
farming community of Cibola could harm the local economy, and
whether the deal would open the gates for more companies to buy
land near the river with the sole aim of selling off the water
The organizers of the Advocacy and Water Protection in Native
California Speakers Series are hosting a new webinar series
aimed at taking action against environmental racism and for
water justice in California. Humboldt State University Native
American Studies and Save California Salmon are organizing the
“Mobilizing for Water Justice in California” Webinar Series on
A developer is suing Nevada’s Division of Water Resources after
the state again denied plans to construct new homes at Coyote
Springs, the latest setback in a decades-long effort to build a
sprawling master-planned community about 50 miles north of Las
Vegas. Coyote Springs Investment alleges state officials made a
series of decisions that amount to an “unconstitutional taking”
of the water rights it owns and planned to use.
The new suit, filed Tuesday on behalf of three different tribal
groups and the Sierra Club, argues states and tribes have a
right to place conditions on federal projects that could
degrade waters within their borders or to reject them
altogether. “These changes that cut into the tribe’s ability to
protect its waters and fish harm us all,” Anthony Sampson,
chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada, said in a
My puzzlement was goosed by a report that surfaced last week at
a board meeting of one of its member agencies suggesting that
the general managers of agencies representing the majority of
the Water Authority’s actual water-using member agencies don’t
seem to want it.
A group of residents in Laughlin, Nev., which sits along the
Colorado River, are organizing a campaign to oppose a pipeline
that would divert billions of gallons of river water to
southwest Utah, reflecting intensifying struggles over water in
the U.S. West.
Attorneys for farmer Michael Abatti on Monday filed a petition
requesting that the California Supreme Court take up a case
against the Imperial Irrigation District, continuing the battle
for control over California’s Colorado River water allotment.
This latest court filing calls on the court to rule that
Imperial Valley farmers have a right to water ownership, which
currently resides with the district.
Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority voted 4-1 to pass the
replenishment fee despite significant public opposition. …
Although residential users will see an estimated $24 per month
increase, Searles Valley Minerals will see a 7,000-percent
increase in water costs.
There is some debate about what counts as water theft – or even
if it exists at all, as water is a natural resource that we all
have access to. But the team looked at three separate case
studies involving improper water use: growing marijuana in
California, strawberries in Spain, and cotton in Australia.
With all permits in place, on Aug. 20 the Georgetown Divide
Public Utility District announced the State Water Resources
Control Board Division of Water Rights approved the temporary
transfer of up to 2,000 acre-feet of GDPUD’s water to the
Westlands Water District. The transfer of the water began Aug.
19 and is expected to continue until Sept. 23.
As the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage, or LEAPS,
hydroelectric project proceeds with licensing approval from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, local roles have been
defined with a water delivery agreement following years of
litigation over project details.
Tuolumne Utilities District doesn’t believe differing opinions
about finite resources, like water, are “battles.” Differing
opinions are simply the result when you ask any group how to
prioritize the use of a finite resource when need outstrips
The Hoopa Valley Tribe has filed a federal lawsuit to block the
U.S. Department of Interior from signing a water delivery
contract with an agribusiness in the Central Valley, an
agreement which would divert water out of the Trinity River
basin 400 miles away.
If built, it would … pump groundwater into four new
reservoirs … Tribal members and environmentalists say the
project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the
Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw
vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats
for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and
risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand
A win for state water rights came earlier this month after the
Marion County Circuit Court ruled that the Bureau of
Reclamation cannot release water from Upper Klamath Lake for
flows down the Klamath River.
A Lompoc religious nonprofit is accusing a Wyoming-based
organic farm and cannabis company of stealing water it uses to
grow food and blocking access to a well on a neighboring
parcel, despite a decades-old legal agreement allowing them to
do so, according to a lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County
We deserve complete, dependable information and accurate cost
data including well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the
need and economic viability of the pipeline. Instead, studies
by the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Washington
County Water Conservancy District are biased, incomplete and do
not fairly consider feasible, much less costly alternatives.
The City of Bakersfield is poised to ink a deal with Buena
Vista Water Storage District that will provide at least some
water in the riverbed through the main part of the city between
April and June — even in drier years.
A California appellate court on Wednesday denied Imperial
Valley farmer Michael Abatti’s request for a rehearing in his
long-running legal fight with the Imperial Irrigation District
over control of Colorado River water. The decision could likely
spell the end to his legal challenges.
In the 2020–2021 session, the Court likely will issue rulings
that could alter the landscape of interstate water disputes and
impact millions of people and thousands of businesses who rely
on interstate water resources. A preview of the four cases
slated for the 2020–2021 session and potential implications
As it is our most vital resource, we each have a moral
responsibility to see that everyone has access to it. But, what
occurs when access to clean water is sold off and exploited?
The result is lower quality and a threat to public health in
the name of easy profit.
Earlier this year, Reclamation released water from Upper
Klamath Lake — impounded by the Link River Dam in Klamath Falls
— to boost streamflows for coho salmon in the lower Klamath
River. But the Klamath Irrigation District sued, claiming the
bureau does not have an established right from the Oregon Water
Resources Department to use the stored water.
Groundwater recharge projects already play an important role in
California. That role is about to expand rapidly, as local
groundwater managers begin to take more concrete actions to
meet their responsibilities under California’s landmark
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
With a new water supply delayed by state regulatory agencies
and political infighting, the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District board has asked the state water board not
to impose Carmel River water reductions due to an inevitable
violation of an approaching river cutback order milestone…
The newly passed Drought Contingency Plan spurred additional
conservation and left more water in the lake. An unusually wet
year also helped, because it allowed states to fall back on
other supplies. But the fundamental problem remains: The river
still isn’t producing the amount of water we use in a typical
year. We’re still draining the mighty Colorado.
In many respects, the Arizona Water Blueprint – a data-rich,
interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure
created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State
University – could not have been rolled out at a better time.
Research into Arizona’s varied sources of water is approaching
an all-time high.
Following the Imperial Irrigation District’s recent win on a
monumental water case in California’s appellate court against
Michael Abatti, the water district is back in court filing the
opening brief against the other large water district is
Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District.
A Kern County water agency is facing a wall of opposition
against its plan to harvest up to 12,000 acre feet of water
from the South Fork of the Kern River above Lake Isabella and
bring it to valley farms and homeowners in northwest
Demonstrators in northern Mexico have burned several government
vehicles, blocked railway tracks and set afire a government
office and highway tollbooths to protest water payments to the
Recharge is playing a growing role in maintaining groundwater
as an effective drought reserve and in slowing or reversing the
effects of years of unsustainable groundwater pumping. But
implementing recharge projects is not easy. Water managers face
a range of hurdles.
The Third Appellate District has ruled that the State Water
Resources Control Board has the authority to issue temporary
emergency regulations and curtailment orders which establish
minimum flow requirements, regulate unreasonable use of water,
and protect threatened fish species during drought conditions.
The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated
its support once again for the fishery releases proposed by the
Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. The action reaffirmed
FERC findings in February 2019 that dismissed pleas from
environmental and sport-fishing groups for much higher flows.
In 1961, Placer County voters overwhelmingly approved the sale
of bonds to finance construction of the Middle Fork American
River Hydroelectric Project (MFP). Nearly 60 years later, with
the bonds fully paid and financial reserves fully funded, the
first-ever distribution of net revenue from the MFP has been
With state and federal administrations fighting in court about
delta water operations—and with a pandemic and election year
both underway—work has slowed on voluntary agreements meant to
avoid severe cuts to northern San Joaquin Valley water
supplies. At issue is the first phase of a State Water
Resources Control Board plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
As part of a settlement reached with fishing and environmental
groups, the California State Water Resources Control Board says
it will increase transparency and conduct heightened
evaluations when deciding water quality standards and flow
limits for the state’s critical waterways. …
Environmentalists celebrated the deal as a “landmark
settlement” that stands to boost protections for fish by
improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the San
On appeal, the court held that the District’s water allocation
methodology in the “equitable distribution plan” was reasonable
and not an abuse of discretion, and that Abatti and the other
farmers in IID only hold an interest in, or right to, water
Legal scholars believe that the Lake Powell pipeline would
likely violate the 1922 Colorado River Compact as a
transfer of upper basin water (WY, UT, CO, NM) for lower basin
use (CA, NV, AZ). The lower basin has priority, and the compact
arguably prohibits transfers from the upper to lower basin
absent explicit congressional authorization
Farmers once again clashed with Mexican military forces Sunday
to protest releases of water from a dam to repay a water debt
owed to the United States. … Under a 1944 treaty, Mexico owes
the United States about 415,000 acre-feet yearly that must be
paid by Oct. 24. Mexico has fallen badly behind in payments
from previous years and now has to quickly catch up on water
“The people of Bakersfield need a flowing river — with water in
a thriving river parkway, quality of life in Bakersfield will
be significantly improved,” says the petition, posted recently
by local resident Jonathan Yates on Change.org.
The Imperial Irrigation District and farmer Michael Abatti have
been locked in a years-long legal battle with as many twists as
the river over which it has been fought. The saga might finally
come to an end, though, after a California appellate court
handed down a ruling on Thursday that found IID is the rightful
manager of the portion of the Colorado River guaranteed to the
The latest proposal would trim the budget by $2 billion and the
storage capacity by about 300,000 acre-feet, according to Jerry
Brown, the new executive director of the project. Sites would
use existing canals for conveyance rather than build new
pipelines. The plan also eliminates a pumped-storage system for
generating and storing energy during high flow events. He said
the business case for that element of the project “just didn’t
The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its opening brief in
a case against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California that it launched last year in an attempt to halt the
implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan for
the Colorado River. IID wants to see it paused until the Salton
Sea is also considered.
The Karuk Tribe is set to hold its World Renewal Ceremonies in
Six Rivers and Klamath national forests from July through late
September. In honor of these long-standing tribal traditions,
outsiders will be prohibited from entering the water or
launching watercraft during the ceremonies, the U.S. Forest
Service has announced in a press release.
Less than a week before Christmas in 2016, the State Water
Resources Control Board held a single public hearing in our
community. The topic? Draining our community’s water supply and
sending it to the Bay Delta.
Napa County’s water world is a blur of agencies serving busy
cities and remote, rural subdivisions, prompting a new study to
recommend a degree of unity… Among the big ideas is forming a
countywide water district. There are smaller ideas too, with
opportunities for collaboration in different ways.
The Third Appellate District in Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation
Co. v. State found that the State Board could promulgate
emergency drought regulations and issue curtailment orders
necessary to protect threatened fish. While riparian and
pre-1914 appropriative water right holders have the highest
priority among water right claimants, the court held that those
rights must yield to the State Board’s broad authority to
regulate reasonable uses of water under article X, section 2 of
the California Constitution.
An independent audit of Baja California’s water agency alleges
that former employees of the utility colluded with
international corporations to defraud the state out of at least
$49.4 million, according to an auditor and the governor of the
state.Local and international corporations — including such
well-known U.S. names as Coca-Cola, FedEx and Walmart — for
years took water for use in their Mexican factories, retail
stores and distribution centers without fully paying for it,
Baja California officials have alleged.
On June 18, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed
the State Water Resources Control Board’s (“State Water Board”
or “Board”) authority to regulate what it deems to be an
unreasonable use of water, in this case through adoption of
emergency regulations establishing minimum instream flow
requirements to protect migration of threatened fish species
during drought conditions.
For more than a decade, California’s governors have pushed for
“voluntary agreements” to establish rules for water diversions
by major urban and agricultural water districts, and to redress
their environmental impacts. Voluntary agreements crumbled
recently, after the state’s largest water districts walked away
from the table.
The Turlock City Council was entertaining thoughts of backing
out of the project, which would have left only Ceres
undertaking the project to deliver treated Tuolumne River water
to homes. Last week the council voted unanimously to proceed
with the project. The two cities form the Stanislaus Regional
Water Authority which is expected to award a design-build
contract to CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc. this month.
On June 18, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed
the lower court’s determination that the State Water Resources
Control Board lawfully adopted emergency regulations and
curtailment orders … in 2014 and 2015 during a period of
severe and persistent drought conditions.
Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and
Nevada have been operating under a set of guidelines approved
in 2007. Those guidelines and an overlapping drought
contingency plan will expire in 2026. Arizona water officials
are gathering Thursday to start talking about what comes next,
while other states have had more informal discussions.
American Indian tribes in California’s Klamath Basin praised
Monday’s decision by the United States Supreme Court not to
hear the Klamath Project irrigators’ Fifth Amendment water
rights case, Baley v. United States. By not hearing the case,
the Supreme Court upheld the Klamath Tribes’ treaty water
rights as the most senior water rights in the Klamath Basin.
These water rights are critical to protect the tribes’
fisheries and traditional way of life.
With a global pandemic, a catastrophic economic recession and
record-high unemployment, one would think the state has enough
issues to tackle. But proponents of a state water grab that I
have been fighting since the day I was sworn into office in
2012 disagree. Where others see turmoil and anguish, they see
opportunity. Apparently, they believe in the adage, “Never let
a crisis go to waste.”
Farmers won’t get paid for river water they lost out on during
a drought in southern Oregon, because Native American tribes
have water rights that rank above those of irrigators,
stretching back to “time immemorial” — a ruling the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to disturb on Monday.
With dry conditions resulting in low flows and threatening the
survival of coho salmon, the State Water Board today sent
notices of water unavailability to110 junior water right
holders in the Scott River basin in Siskiyou County, urging
them to stop diverting.
For the first time, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District has formally expressed opposition to the California
American Water desalination project, backing the proposed Pure
Water Monterey recycled water project expansion instead… At
the same time, the district took another step toward potential
acquisition of Cal Am’s Monterey water system with the release
of a draft environmental impact report on the proposed public
The water agency is close to finishing a water transfer
agreement with Westlands Water District. The agreement will
call for selling up to 2,000 acre-feet of water to Westlands,
the largest agricultural water district in the United States,
made up of more than 1,000 square miles of farmland in western
Fresno and Kings counties.
There’s a reckoning coming, unless cities and farm districts
across the West band together to limit consumption. The coming
dealmaking will almost certainly need to involve the river’s
largest water user, the Imperial Irrigation District. But at
the moment, it’s unclear to what extent the district actually
controls the Imperial Valley’s Colorado River water. That was
the issue debated in a San Diego courtroom last week
Nevada restricted groundwater pumping Tuesday in an area north
of Las Vegas, potentially killing a real estate project that
threatens an endangered fish clinging to existence in a handful
of spring-fed desert pools…
On Monday, June 15, POLITICO held a virtual deep-dive panel
discussion on the policies and legislation needed at the state,
regional and federal levels to meet the water needs of Western
states and secure long-term solutions at a time when the
attention and resources of local and state leaders are consumed
by the pandemic crisis.
Nevada is in a new era of water management. As the driest state
in the nation, responsible and sustainable management of
Nevada’s limited water resources is the foremost priority of
the Nevada Division of Water Resources. As part of this
commitment, Monday the Nevada State Engineer issued Order No.
1309 for one of Nevada’s most important and unique hydrographic
basins called the Lower White River Flow System.
The Fourth Appellate Court of California heard the Abatti
parties vs. Imperial Irrigation lawsuit, Friday, June 12. The
appeal was generated after Imperial County Superior Court Judge
Brooks Anderholt ruled in Abatti’s favor of repealing the
Equitable Distribution Plan in August 2017, which could ration
agricultural water users by historical and straight-line
measurements to deal with the longest drought in modern
Water is power in California’s Imperial Valley, and a
years-long fight over allocations from the Colorado River to
the agriculture-heavy region landed back in court on Friday.
Attorneys representing local farmers and the Imperial
Irrigation District squared off in front of a three-judge panel
at the state appellate court level over a water-rights lawsuit
expected to be decided in 90 days.
Projected higher inflows to Shasta Lake caused the Bureau of
Reclamation earlier this month to rescind its “Shasta Critical
Year” designation after hydrologic conditions changed
sufficiently. … For growers with senior water rights under
the Exchange and Settlement contracts with the Central Valley
Project, this means full allocation water deliveries will be
“In short, the city is looking to sell/transfer up to 5,000
acre-feet of water in 2020. This water is in excess to what the
city would need to meet demands in 2020 and would not impact
any existing customers north or south of Highway 50…” said
Christine Brainerd, city of Folsom communications director. …
The city retains the rights to the water.
Since it was founded in 1871, the City of Turlock has relied on
well or ground water to meet the water needs of its citizens,
farmers and businesses. Today, with the growth of Turlock to
nearly 75,000 residents, successful farming, a growing local
business community, Turlock needs more water and must move to
surface water usage.
Central Arizona has been booming — more people, more houses,
more need for water. There’s also a long-term drought, and less
water to buy from the Central Arizona Project canal system .
It’s leading Phoenix exurbs to cast about, looking for new
buckets. Other regions of the state say: don’t come here.
Comments, questions and concerns are now being accepted, again,
for the Lake Powell Pipeline. This comes after the Bureau of
Reclamation issued the draft Environmental Impact Statement for
the pipeline, which is designed to pump water to Washington
While the budget for next year has yet to be passed, the
Central Valley Water Quality Control Board is already taking
drastic steps to prepare for a significant reduction in
staffing. Farmers could face a potential fallout further down
the road. “All told, the board is looking at around a 30 to 35%
reduction in productivity,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer for the regional board, during a meeting Thursday.
In his time with the commission, which has the responsibility
for applying the boundary and water treaties between the United
States and Mexico, the two nations have taken huge steps
forward in assuring that commitments to the primary binational
water agreement in the Southwest – the 1944 Mexico-U.S. Water
Treaty – were faithfully upheld.
In a ruling published last week, a California Superior Court
made a sweeping ruling against Inyo County’s attempted eminent
domain takeover of Los Angeles’ land and water rights. The
years-long pursuit by Inyo has effectively been sent back to
the drawing board and will require not only a complete restart,
but also comprehensive environmental review, in order for Inyo
When former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt suggested in a
recent opinion piece that a portion of agricultural water
rights on the Colorado River should be transferred to urban
areas, it no doubt conjured up some strong emotions… But
Babbitt’s proposal makes sense and he is right about the need
to recognize the mismatch in population between the urbanized
West and rural areas where most of the basin’s water is
On May 21, the Southern Nevada Water Authority board of
directors voted to indefinitely defer its groundwater
development project, which opponents had dubbed the “water
grab.” The unanimous vote brought an end to more than three
decades of acrimonious battle with the Great Basin Water
California water law is complex, governed by both state and
federal law, part property law and part environmental law. The
system incorporates a traditional water rights riparian system
with the appropriative system found elsewhere in the West with
the result being confusion that often leads to more questions
As big corporations consume mass amounts of water, the smaller,
local communities near the plants, factories and corporate
offices have fewer resources. Water shortages then become
prevalent as the corporation continues to use up the nearby
sources. … In order to make a meaningful change for smaller
communities, big corporations will need to work on
The company’s long-term goal is still to complete a project to
allow the transfer of up to 1.6 billion gallons of water a year
from an aquifer under its land to six Southern California water
agencies. But for the short-term, Cadiz is looking toward
agricultural development on its 45,000 acres of land about 30
miles northeast of Joshua Tree National Park.
The water rights behind the proposed Lake Powell pipeline are
not actually coming from the project’s namesake lake, but
rather from the major reservoir upstream on the Green River.
Now, Utah water officials’ new request to overhaul those rights
has handed opponents a fresh opportunity to thwart the proposed
pipeline just as federal officials are about to release a
long-awaited environmental review of the $1.2 billion
While Imperial Irrigation District has the largest right within
California, it was not the Imperial Valley that was responsible
for California’s overuse. That was the Metropolitan Water
District. We are among the very oldest users on the Colorado
River and have built a community, ecology, and way of life here
in the desert dependent upon the waters of the Colorado that
have sustained us since 1901.
Under the 1944 treaty, the US is committed to sending 1.5mn
acre-feet of water from the Colorado River basin to Mexico in
12-month periods, which represents 10% of the river’s average
flow, according to the US Congressional Research Service.
Meanwhile, Mexico must send 1.75mn acre-feet in five-year
cycles from the Rio Grande’s six major tributaries that cross
The National Audubon Society has reached an agreement with the
Arizona Department of Water Resources to help fund the Colorado
River Indian Tribes’ on-going efforts to conserve 150,000
acre-feet of water in Lake Mead over the next three years.
It was during the drought in the late-1980s that Robin Kulakow
and her fellow birdwatchers began noticing that Putah Creek was
running dry. The same observation was being made at places such
as Camp Davis, a popular site near the university where youth
paddled their canoes and participated in other activities.
Arthur L. Littleworth, a Riverside community leader and
preeminent water attorney with Best Best & Krieger LLP, is
profiled in a new documentary released by Riverside TV, the
city’s in-house production studio.
A local non-profit is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
a Southern California water district, over a long term water
transfer program. AquAlliance works to protect the Sacramento
River watershed. It is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit that
charges the proposed transfer would send too much water out of
Northern California and would cause severe impacts on area
communities, farms, and the environment.
Citing conservation gains and a third straw to the bottom of
Lake Mead, the Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday
voted to shelve a proposal for a multi-billion pipeline that
would have moved water from Northern and Eastern Nevada to Las
Vegas. The vote means the pipeline staunchly opposed by rural
communities, American Indian tribes and conservationists is
dead – or at least going into a long, deep coma.
On May 7, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a
much-anticipated ruling in Modesto Irrigation District (MID) v.
Tanaka, (Super. Ct. No. 34-2011-00112886-CU-JR-GDS) holding
that the question of whether a landowner of noncontiguous real
property has a riparian right depends upon the intent of the
parties at the time of conveyance of the land, and such intent
may be inferred from extrinsic evidence.
Taking the opportunity to bring in some extra revenue, the
Georgetown Divide Public Utility District Board of Directors
approved the sale of up to 2,000 acre-feet of water to
Westlands Water District at a price of $350 an acre-foot.
South Feather Water & Power Agency proposes to transfer the
water from July through November 2020 to participating agencies
of the State Water Contractors and the Central Valley Project
(CVP). The transfer would involve up to 5,000 AF of water
previously stored in Little Grass Valley Reservoir under Permit
1267, and up to 5,001 AF of water previously stored in Sly
Creek Reservoir under Permit 2492.
The return of drought to California has been widespread—58% of
the state now experiences some level of dryness, according to
the U.S. Drought Monitor—with extreme drought concentrated in
4% of the state, primarily in the northwestern region of
Siskiyou, Trinity and Humboldt counties.
Water is flowing through the heart of Bakersfield in the Kern
River and local water managers are shaking their heads in
disbelief and frustration. Except, that is, for Art Chianello.
Chianello is Bakersfield’s Water Resources Department director
and the man behind the healthy flow currently being enjoyed by
numerous residents as springtime temperatures heat up.
Four years ago, nine activists in the small town of Weed,
Calif., were railing against an Oregon timber company
threatening the city’s water supply. … Now, the Weed 9 are
going one step further. Two weeks ago, they filed a “SLAPPback”
lawsuit against the attorneys who represented the timber
company. They are seeking damages.
There is a better, more equitable pathway for reducing the
deficit without forcing arbitrary cuts. It involves 3 million
acres of irrigated agriculture, mostly alfalfa and forage
crops, which consume more than 80% of total water use in the
basin. By retiring less than 10% of this irrigated acreage from
production, we could eliminate the existing million acre-foot
overdraft on the Colorado River..
There are 29 federally recognized tribes across the Colorado
River Basin. Together, these tribes have water rights to
roughly 20% of the water that flows through the river annually.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) and the
Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) were critical partners in
making the Drought Contingency Plan possible.
In mid-April of 2020, Restore the Delta hosted a webinar where
they discussed the history of water planning and the voluntary
agreements, including their numerous concerns. … Before
addressing the main topic of the webinar, Executive Director
Barbara Barrigan-Parilla noted that there are many in the Delta
who aren’t on the webinar due to lack of reliable internet
service in rural communities, affordability issues, and/or lack
of access to devices.
Rural and urban Nevada can both rest a little easier now that
the massive pipeline project is not at the forefront of the
Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans. But there is still
plenty of work to do to protect and expand the water supply in
Las Vegas while doing the same in rural parts of the state.
For the past decade, Kane County leaders have argued their
southern Utah community will need water piped from the Colorado
River to meet future needs, but the local water district
abruptly announced Thursday it was pulling out of the costly
Lake Powell pipeline project, leaving Washington County as the
only remaining recipient of the water.
Oregon Water Resources Director Thomas Byler sent a letter to
Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office manager Jeff Nettleton
on Thursday, confirming it has taken exclusive charge of Upper
Klamath Lake… The order said it prohibits U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation from diverting stored water in Upper Klamath Lake
through Link River for purposes of a 50,000 acre-feet flushing
flow without a water right.
When the Water Forum Agreement was officially signed 20 years
ago, the occasion marked an unprecedented show of regional
cooperation. For years, interests representing business, the
environment, water suppliers and others had sparred over the
water needs of people vs. the environment of the lower American
From the safety of their coronavirus shelters, the water
warriors of the Monterey Peninsula carry on the fight, and so
can you. … The environmental merits of removing the local
water system from private ownership and placing it under the
control of a government agency will be discussed in a virtual
public scoping meeting on April 21 at 5pm, via Zoom video