Topic: Water Supply

Overview

Water Supply

California’s climate, characterized by warm, dry summers and mild winters, makes the state’s water supply unpredictable. For instance, runoff and precipitation in California can be quite variable. The northwestern part of the state can receive more than 140 inches per year while the inland deserts bordering Mexico can receive less than 4 inches.

By the Numbers:

  • Precipitation averages about 193 million acre-feet per year.
  • In a normal precipitation year, about half of the state’s available surface water – 35 million acre-feet – is collected in local, state and federal reservoirs.
  • California is home to more than 1,300 reservoirs.
  • About two-thirds of annual runoff evaporates, percolates into the ground or is absorbed by plants, leaving about 71 million acre-feet in average annual runoff.
Aquafornia news Associated Press

Native American tribe, New Mexico ink water leasing deal

A Native American tribe has agreed to lease more of its water to help address dwindling supplies in the Colorado River Basin, officials announced Thursday. The agreement involves the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and The Nature Conservancy. The tribe has agreed to lease up to 6.5 billion gallons (25 billion liters) of water per year to the state to bolster flows for endangered species and increase water security for New Mexico. The water would be released from the Navajo Reservoir in northwestern New Mexico to feed the San Juan River, which flows into the Colorado River.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Burbank airport fears impact of California bullet train

Several serious concerns emerged this week about the impact of California’s planned bullet train on Hollywood Burbank Airport, Burbank’s water supply and a massive commercial development if construction proceeds on a proposed 13.7-mile route through the area. Despite the issues, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved its route plan on Thursday. … City water officials say the construction will temporarily take out 75% of the city’s water supply and force it to recertify its system with state regulators afterward. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: California drought – State officials plan to deliver more water than the 0% first expected

After a wet December, California water officials say state reservoirs likely will be able to provide cities and farms more than the scant emergency supplies initially projected for 2022. The Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that the State Water Project now has enough water in storage to meet 15% of the water requests from across California, still a dismally small figure but better than the 0% allocation announced last month.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

AQUAFORNIA Breaking News: December Storms Allow for Modest Increase in Planned State Water Project Deliveries

News release from the California Department of Water Resources: Today, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced it is increasing the State Water Project allocation to 15 percent of requested supplies for 2022. Last month, due to low water levels, the Department announced that the initial allocation would cover only critical health and safety needs of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive State Water Project supplies.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

Water board tables Delta drought regulation

The State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday withdrew an emergency drought regulation for the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Despite a dry January, board staff said the regulation, known as a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP), would not improve conditions if implemented as planned in February. They found no potential benefits to Shasta and Trinity reservoirs, which have the greatest need for water. 

Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

UN report: The world’s farms stretched to ‘a breaking point’

Almost 10% of the 8 billion people on earth are already undernourished with 3 billion lacking healthy diets, and the land and water resources farmers rely on stressed to “a breaking point.” And by 2050 there will be 2 billion more mouths to feed, warns a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). … California effectively acts as America’s garden. But climate change is exacerbating droughts and water shortages in the state, and farmers are struggling to adapt.

Aquafornia news NBC 7 San Diego

Record-setting December rains spell relief for San Diego area farmers

San Diego County is in the midst of moderate drought conditions, even after experiencing its 28th-wettest December on record, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). For farmers like Charley Wolk in Fallbrook, last month’s rain was money to their ears. … The avocado farmer who also owns Bejoca Grove and Landscape Management Company says the showers helped provide much-needed financial relief for farmers who can pay anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000 a month for their water bills.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Cal Water asks kids for ideas to solve water issues

They say children are sponges who soak up ideas and concepts more quickly than adults. That’s why one of the state’s largest water providers is hoping to soak in some of their thoughts on ways to solve local water issues. Last month, California Water Service (Cal Water) along with the California Association of Science Educators (CASE) and consulting firm DoGoodery, has launched the eighth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge. The free, project-based competition invites fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade classrooms in Cal Water service areas to develop and implement solutions for local water issues. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Foundation seeks insightful writer to join our journalism team and cover West’s most important natural resource – water

We’re looking for a special kind of writer to join our team who is eager to produce the kinds of insightful and challenging stories we pursue, such as our latest Western Water article on how drought and climate change are threatening to upend collaboration in the Colorado River Basin. Are you a journalist enthralled by the history, policy and science behind Western water issues? Then you might be just the right person to join our team.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse

Drought is revealing a human security crisis in farming communities

Sweeping cutbacks in water allocations to farms are leading to widespread underemployment in some of California’s most vulnerable communities.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Drought impacting businesses around Big Bear Lake

Despite the heavy rains and record snowfall this past December, the Department of Water Resources said California remains in a drought. The next few months will be telling, especially for an area like Big Bear, which receives its water in the form of rain. … The ongoing drought has had many impacts on Big Bear Valley, especially for businesses that rely on the lake. Big Bear Marina owner, Steve Fengler, said that during last spring and summer seasons, he had to physically move his docks and storefront to deeper water.  

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Opinion: Water district board member lays out plan to build 3-year supply

This year, our reservoirs were reaching near historic lows in September. We were faced with the realistic prospect of running out of water by the summer of 2022. Then the “atmospheric river” storm in October set rainfall records in Marin. Despite predictions of a dry winter, the rain continued and now five of our seven reservoirs are full, eliminating the danger of running out of water this summer. The pendulum swung fast. But the lessons of the past year are clear: We must prepare now for what broad scientific consensus tells us the future holds, particularly the extreme swings in precipitation due to climate change.
-Written by Monty Schmitt, representing San Rafael’s District 2 as a member of the Marin Municipal Water District Board of Directors.

Aquafornia news El Dorado Water Agency

News release: Grant to help water supply forecasting

The El Dorado Water Agency has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART Drought Response Program: Drought Resiliency Projects. EDWA’s proposed project is for an intelligent hydroclimatic information system for water and power management in the American River Basin and was one of 18 projects selected in the Western United States. This project will provide critical real-time data and support water supply forecasting needed to help the region better prepare for, identify and respond to drought. 

Aquafornia news Appeal Democrat

Cal Water begins improvements in Marysville

California Water Service announced it has begun a water infrastructure improvement project in Marysville, which could cause some disruptions for residents. The project includes the installation of 1,221 feet of a new 6-, 8-, and 12-inch ductile-iron water main and replacement of all existing individual customer service connections, Cal Water said in a news release. The utility company also said crews were installing two new fire hydrants to improve access for firefighters.  

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Proposed ballot measure would create water infrastructure

The More Water Now campaign was formed to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act to appear as a state ballot initiative in November. Nearly every expert in California agrees that more water infrastructure is necessary; that conservation alone will not protect Californians from the impact of climate change. Projects to capture storm runoff and recycle urban wastewater are urgently needed, and this initiative provides the funding to get it done.
-Written by Edward Ring, lead proponent of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act, a proposed state ballot initiative.​

Aquafornia news Western Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: As the Colorado River shrinks, can the basin find an equitable solution in sharing the river’s waters?

Climate scientist Brad Udall calls himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Busy Interstate 5 stop won’t go dry, but the water will be pricey

The popular motorist pitstop town of Kettleman City has sealed a deal to keep from running out of water. Kings County officials finalized a deal with the Mojave Water Agency this week to purchase 235 acre feet of water for Kettleman City from the southern California water agency at a cost of $1,400 per acre foot for a total of $329,000. … Kettleman City sits next to the California Aqueduct, which transports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta south to farms and cities as far away as Los Angeles through the State Water Project, which is managed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). 

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

Dry month so far balanced out by extra-wet December

Despite lackluster numbers so far in January, the Tuolumne River Watershed received more than enough rainfall in December for the Turlock Irrigation District to feel optimistic that precipitation numbers could end up above average by the month’s end.  December storms proved to be incredibly productive within the watershed, according to TID hydrologist Olivia Cramer, dumping 11.4 inches of rainfall throughout the course of 31 days. Cramer informed the TID Board of Directors during their Tuesday meeting that 11.4 inches is well above the month’s average of 5.86 inches, nearly doubling the amount of rainfall the area has seen historically. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water utility nears decision on easing limits, penalties

Water-use limits and penalties might soon be repealed in response to bountiful supplies in the county’s largest reservoirs. On Tuesday, the Marin Municipal Water District board will consider rescinding rules that took effect in December that set water allotments for residents and charged penalty rates for overuse. The discussion could result in the first rollback of drought rules adopted last year when the district and its 191,000 residents faced the dire potential of depleting local reservoir supplies by 2022.

Related articles: 

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?
Drought and climate change are raising concerns that a century-old Compact that divided the river’s waters could force unwelcome cuts in use for the upper watershed

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir that has seen its water level plummet after two decades of drought. Climate scientist Brad Udall calls himself the skunk in the room when it comes to the Colorado River. Armed with a deck of PowerPoint slides and charts that highlight the Colorado River’s worsening math, the Colorado State University scientist offers a grim assessment of the river’s future: Runoff from the river’s headwaters is declining, less water is flowing into Lake Powell – the key reservoir near the Arizona-Utah border – and at the same time, more water is being released from the reservoir than it can sustainably provide.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Nearly 250 people express interest in connecting to Orland waterlines

Since the Dec. 31 cutoff, nearly 250 parcel owners with dry wells or water insecurity in and out of Orland have expressed interest in connecting to the city’s waterline. The California Department of Water Resources allocated considerable funding to various water projects around the state last year to aid in water insecurity. Glenn County, which has been facing multiple dry wells, entered into a partnership with DWR as well as the North Valley Community Foundation to identify solutions to the issues.

Aquafornia news The Counter

Water scarcity is about to get a lot worse. Irrigated agriculture doesn’t have a plan

In much of the West and Southwest, the climate crisis is projected to raise average temperatures while reducing snowpack for much of the foreseeable future. These trends will significantly increase the risk of drought in an area heavily dependent on irrigation for food production. So what’s the plan? For many farming communities, there is none. That’s according to a new report on drought preparedness … Patterson Irrigation District, a public utility that delivers water from the San Joaquin River to more than 12,000 acres of farmland in California’s Central Valley, is one irrigation organization with a formal plan. 

Aquafornia news EurekAlert!

New research advocates a basic strategy for native fish

Rivers need water—a fact that may seem ridiculously obvious, but in times of increasing water development, drought, and climate change, the quantity of natural streamflow that remains in river channels is coming into question, especially in the Colorado River basin. Newly published research poses a tough question in these days of falling reservoir levels and high-stakes urban development: whether the continued development of rivers for water supply can be balanced with fish conservation. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Business Times

Opinion: S.F.’s drought response is all wet

S.F. has plenty of water — more than four years’ worth without adding another drop. So why are we hoarding it?
-Written by John McNellis.

Aquafornia news Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services

Arizona lawmaker seeks to override HOA rules against turf

Rep. John Kavanagh is in a turf war. Over turf. The Fountain Hills Republican has proposed a state law to override any rules of a homeowner association that requires lawns to be seeded with real grass. Instead, it would permit residents to tear all that out and replace it with artificial turf. And any dispute would be resolved in court. His HB 2131 may get a fight from the Arizona Association of Community Managers, the organization that represents companies that manage HOAs. But an association spokesman said Wednesday it was still studying the issue and had no immediate comment.

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun Times

Congressman Jim Costa leads effort to ensure San Joaquin Valley water is prioritized in infrastructure law roll-out

Last week, Rep. Jim Costa continued to advocate for key California infrastructure priorities as funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) begins to roll out. In a letter to U.S. Dept. of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, Costa provided recommendations on how the Biden administration can prioritize the distribution of IIJA funding to help improve water infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Aquafornia news Point Reyes Light

Water pipeline to face review

The proposed water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge will undergo standard environmental review, losing its emergency exemption after recent rains spared Marin County from the harshest impacts of the drought and assuaged the urgency of the project.  Marin Water, which had planned to start construction on the pipeline next month, will soon begin a review of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act. It says the project will give the county’s largely self-contained water systems more flexibility in the long term. 

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

On Jan. 1, where the Monterey Peninsula gets its water from changed dramatically. A new pipeline being installed in Seaside will help adapt

Maybe you’ve been wondering why Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard is being torn up right now, and what’s up with the massive pipe sections being staged on its median. The answer to both of those questions is at least in part because as of Dec. 31, 2021, California American Water finally had to scale back its pumping of the Carmel River to its legal limit of 3,376 acre-feet annually. There are already two pipelines under the road – both projects of Marina Coast Water District, another utility – one of which is currently being used to pipe water from the Pure Water Monterey project south into the Cal Am system. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California plans to spend $37 billion fighting climate change

Some of the details will likely change over the next few months as the governor’s office negotiates with the Legislature, which must approve the budget. But here are nine things you should know about how Newsom would tackle the climate crisis. … It also adds $750 million to last year’s $5.2 billion for drought response, including $180 million for water suppliers to plug leaks, tear out grass and improve efficiency; $145 million in emergency assistance for communities at risk of going dry; $75 million to protect fish and wildlife; and $30 million for replenishing groundwater.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Aging aqueducts could leave Utahns without water in big earthquake

Four major aqueducts along the Wasatch Front are the heart of a system that ultimately delivers drinking water to more than 2 million people. A report on these structures details how three of them cross the Wasatch Fault zone and the fourth is in an area of risk for landslides or other ground movement. In the event of the “Big One,” these aging water delivery systems would fail and be offline for several months, maybe as long as six months, as custom parts from out of state would have to be shipped to Utah.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Satellite images show Mount Shasta’s transformation after an exceptionally dry summer

After one of its driest summers in years, satellite images show that Mount Shasta is blanketed in its signature snow once again after December storms swept across Northern California. The images show the mountain nearly entirely devoid of snow in early September, after a very hot summer for the region compounded the lack of snowpack after two severely dry winters, dissipating the snowpack earlier than normal. Just four months later, the mountain appeared transformed, covered in snow once again.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California drought: Santa Clara County residents exceed water conservation targets

After months of falling short, Santa Clara County residents have finally begun to hit the target when it comes to water conservation. Following two record-dry years, the Santa Clara Valley Water District declared a drought emergency in June and asked the county’s 2 million residents to cut water use by 15% from 2019 levels. After failing to achieve that goal for four months, county water use fell 16% in October. But there was a catch: Unusually heavy rains that month caused people to turn off yard sprinklers. 

Aquafornia news Fronteras

Tribes find a seat at the table during Colorado River talks

Last month, a group of Colorado River users gathered in Las Vegas to discuss the future of water in the Southwest. At the same time, another group was having a similar discussion. A group of conservationists called Save the Colorado met on Zoom to talk about Glen Canyon Dam, climate change and tribal rights to the Colorado River. Tribal nations were once excluded from talks about how to divvy up the state’s water supply, but that has changed over the years. Timothy Williams, chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, says that could play a big role when states gather to renegotiate rights to the river.

Aquafornia news Fox 10 (Phoenix)

Listen: Industries continue to boom across Arizona despite potential challenges for water and cost of living

For those who grew up in the Phoenix area, they know how different our state looks in the present day, when compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Arizona has grown quickly, and much faster than other states, and a new state report finds the growth is only going to accelerate over the next 10 years, but can Arizona handle that much growth?

Aquafornia news KALW

Marin County slows process on building emergency water pipeline

Last week, the Marin Municipal Water District announced that it was slowing down its plans to build an emergency water pipeline. The district was initially moving quickly in its timeline to consider building a pipeline under the bridge that would carry third-party water sources to Marin. Typically, projects like pipelines or any other construction that has the potential to directly or indirectly physically change the environment must undergo processes in the California Environmental Quality Act.

Aquafornia news Sonoma County Gazette

Russian River flows at risk: New studies show potential path forward for Potter Valley project

A group of studies released last month paint a clearer picture of how Sonoma and Mendocino counties can meet future water needs while reducing environmental impacts in the face of a decision by PG&E to cease operation of an aging hydroelectric power project. The Potter Valley Project (PVP) is located approximately 15 miles north of the City of Ukiah on the Eel River. The Project’s facilities include two dams, a diversion tunnel and a hydroelectric plant located in Potter Valley in the headwaters of the Russian River. 

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Listen: A look at Western water reservoir levels

Western states welcomed wet weather bringing rain to dry, drought stricken areas. The end of the year storms also placed snow in the Sierra Nevada and other Pacific Northwest mountain ranges. Western reservoir levels have changed, but that doesn’t mean folks can take “drought” out of their vocabulary. USDA meteorologist, Brad Rippey, gives insight and shares what impacts the December precipitation will have in recharging reservoirs across the west coast and south west states come spring and summer.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CA Natural Resources Agency

News release: State agencies detail progress implementing Water Resilience Portfolio

A new report conveys significant progress made in the past 18 months to implement the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Newsom Administration’s water policy blueprint to build climate resilience in the face of more extreme cycles of wet and dry. … Recent progress includes assisting tens of thousands of Californians who depend on small water systems or domestic wells that have drinking water supply problems, dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve streamflow for salmon and other native fish species, advancing the removal of four obsolete dams that block salmon passage on the Klamath River, providing extensive financial and technical assistance to local sustainable groundwater management agencies, restoring streams and floodplains, and steadily improving the state’s ability to manage flood and drought.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California rain is 132% of average right now. What’s next?

After an atmospheric river unleashed a torrent of rain over Northern California in October, the state saw another moisture-rich system in November and then a parade of storms across December. With a wet start this season, the rivers are rushing, the waterfalls flowing and the reservoirs beginning to rise. The snowpack is signaling a remarkable turnaround after two dry seasons. The Hyatt Power Plant is back online at Lake Oroville after it was forced to shut down due to historic low reservoir levels in August. … This is all promising, but the drought is not over.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Arizona farmer struggles with water shortage

Arizona rivers and reservoirs saw record low water levels last year as megadrought and rising temperatures continue. The forecast for 2022 isn’t much better. In this episode of Arizona in Focus, Nancy Caywood, a farmer in Casa Grande, learns how to live with less water and what that means for her future and ours.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: To fight climate change, we must redesign San Diego communities

As the world struggles for consensus on climate action and national policy focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of climate change occur all around us. … The San Diego region is a case in point. Its beaches and coastal bluffs are being eroded by ocean storms and sea level rise. Its inland valleys and mountains suffer from severe drought, leaving them vulnerable to wildfires. Long-term drought and higher temperatures contribute to the loss of natural habitat and wildlife. Its population, industry and agricultural economy rely heavily on water from shrinking, faraway sources — the Sacramento Delta in Northern California and the Colorado River.
-Written by Robert Leiter, former director of land use and transportation planning for the San Diego Association of Governments; Julie Kalansky, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Cary Lowe, a California land-use attorney who has written widely on environmental and planning topics. ​

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: In Ojai, a glimpse of how to nurture land in a drier world

The Ojai Valley in Ventura County is a magical place. Consider its elements: the sweet smell of California citrus blossoms in the spring, the open space preserved by orchards, the seasonal creeks that run free through the cultivated lands. But the Ojai Valley is also a place in peril. That’s because the water source that keeps this inland Ventura hamlet thriving is nearly dry. Lake Casitas reservoir was built in the late 1950s, when decades of plentiful rain hid the true nature of California’s arid climate. Back then, the official projections for water-resources potential were optimistic. Today, that story has changed dramatically.
-Written by Stephanie Pincetl, a professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and founding director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Kings Co. nears deal to stave off water shortage in Kettleman City

After months of uncertainty as water supplies dwindled, Kings County is set to resolve Kettleman City’s water crisis for the next year – for a price. The Kings County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve an agreement with the Mojave Water Agency on Tuesday for the transfer of 235 acre-feet of water. Kings County will pay $329,000 – $1,400 per acre-foot – as part of the agreement, which will come from the Kettleman City Community Services District Reserve Fund.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes spending $1B on water infrastructure

[Arizona] Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed spending $1 billion from the state’s general fund over three years to help “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” In his final State of the State address, the governor said the budget he sends to lawmakers will prioritize water infrastructure including desalination. … Long discussed as an idea to deliver some of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River without drawing down Lake Mead, seawater desalination on the Sea of Cortez would pump treated water to Morelos Dam near Yuma for distribution in Mexico. The U.S. parties paying into the program would then take some of Mexico’s river water as compensation.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: David Arend selected as Lower Colorado Basin deputy regional director

In late-December 2021, Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin named David Arend as deputy regional director for the lower basin’s regional programs and operations. Arend has nearly 20 years of experience serving with Reclamation. … In his new capacity, Arend will oversee a diverse group of core operational programs in Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. His new management responsibilities include oversight of the Lower Colorado Dams Office (Hoover, Davis, and Parker dams), Engineering, Power, Safety & Occupational Health, Security, Public Affairs, the Salton Sea Program, and the Region’s Phoenix Area Office.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Anderson Dam – Cost to rebuild key Bay Area dam nearly doubles to $1.2 billion

In the latest setback for a project that has been fraught with delays and cost overruns for more than a decade, the price tag to rebuild Anderson Dam — Santa Clara County’s largest — to improve earthquake safety is nearly doubling, from $648 million to $1.2 billion. The news comes one year after the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the government agency that owns the dam near Morgan Hill, announced that another of its large construction plans, a proposal to build a huge new reservoir near Pacheco Pass, also had doubled in price, from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion.

Aquafornia news Victorville Daily Press

Allison Febbo appointed GM of the Apple Valley-based Mojave Water Agency

Allison Febbo has been appointed to serve as general manager for the Apple Valley-based Mojave Water Agency. On Dec. 1, Febbo replaced Kathy Cortner, who transitioned to a special projects role within the MWA until her retirement sometime in early 2022, agency officials announced Monday. Febbo, who has served as assistant general manager since Jan 2021, has a 23-year background in water resources, hydrology, and water operations.

Aquafornia news Mercury News and East Bay Times

Editorial: California should stop burying its head in winter snow

When it comes to water conservation, California is burying its head in the winter snow. Future generations will not look kindly at our leaders’ complete failure to strategically address the state’s water shortages, which will only get worse with climate change. Two years of some of the worst drought conditions in state history haven’t slowed Big Ag’s demands for more water. Meanwhile, urban users aren’t coming close to meeting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call to voluntarily cut their water use by 15% from 2020 levels.

Aquafornia news Aspen Times

Phoenix among those voluntarily losing Colorado River water

The city of Phoenix last week outlined how it will voluntarily contribute water to a regional plan to shore up the country’s largest reservoir that delivers Colorado River water to three states and Mexico. The river cannot provide seven Western states the water they were promised a century ago because of less snow, warmer temperatures and water lost to evaporation. Water managers repeatedly have had to pivot to develop plans to sustain it for the long-term.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Fresh Fruit Portal

Avocado production: Water footprint and socio-economic implications

The market for avocados is among the fastest expanding markets worldwide, and consumption, particularly in North America and Europe, has increased during recent decades due largely to a combination of socio-economic and marketing factors. Avocado production, however, is associated with significant water conflicts, stresses and hot spots, as well as with other negative environmental and socio-economic impacts on local communities in the main production zones. … It is evident that increasing demand and production of avocados is already causing water stress conditions in some countries, and has the potential to affect many others.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

LAFCO finalizes denial of Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s Cal Am takeover

The Monterey County Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-2 Wednesday to finalize its denial of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s planned takeover of California American Water. The 5-2 LAFCO vote followed its initial vote Dec. 6 to dismiss the water district’s application for the buyout, an acquisition mandated by a 2018 ballot measure. General Manager Dave Stoldt of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District said he wasn’t surprised by the vote.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Napa City Council passes water management plan update and water shortage plan

Despite the 2021 drought, which resulted in mid-year restrictions on outdoor irrigation and trucked water, the city of Napa is projecting it will likely meet water demands through 2045 with only minor restrictions in the case of dry years or multiple dry years. That is, of course, unless the city faces historically unprecedented dry conditions, in which case greater restrictions could be put in place to limit the demand on the city’s water resources. That’s according to the city’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan, a long-term evaluation of the city’s water supply and demand through 2045, approved by the Napa City Council late last month. 

Aquafornia news Payson Roundup

Christmas storms ease drought, boost reservoir levels

The series of winter storms did Arizona reservoirs more good than predicted and eased the drought — but have still left the West in dire need of lots more of the same. The Christmas Eve storm produced 20,000 acre-feet of runoff into Salt River Project reservoirs, according to SRP’s watershed manager Charlie Ester. The C.C. Cragin Reservoir, on which Payson depends, rose by 10 feet and now is about 39% full. Roosevelt Lake — fed by the Salt River — rose by about one foot. The chain of reservoirs now stands at 70% full compared to 77% a year ago. The Salt and Verde rivers plus Tonto Creek on Tuesday were flowing at 2,678 cubic feet per second — about five times normal.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water utility might amend drought measures

Steady rains and refilled reservoirs are prompting the Marin Municipal Water District to consider rolling back water use restrictions and penalties adopted during the worst of the drought last year. The district board signaled this week that it would prefer a gradual lifting of its drought rules rather than a complete repeal. … Newsha Ajami, an urban water policy specialist at Stanford University, agreed that the district should take a more cautious approach on how its water is used, considering the emergency it faced just months ago.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Join Jan. 13 Q&A for Colorado River Water Leaders program; staff writer position open; save the date for our Lower Colorado River Tour in March

The West is experiencing extraordinary and historic turmoil surrounding water resources and drought, despite recent storms that plumped up much-needed snowpack in the mountains. At the Foundation, we are gearing up this year to focus even more on the Colorado River Basin, the West’s iconic river that supplies 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and irrigates more than 4 million acres of crops.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Preparation will mitigate water crisis, not restricting water rights

December brought significant snowpack to the Sierra, breaking records set in the 1970s. But areas like Mendocino and Sonoma are still showing severe drought conditions, and our state’s reservoirs have a long way to go to recover from last year’s historic lows. … The city of Ukiah recognized years ago that investing would be critical for ensuring a reliable water supply, given our region’s dependence on the Russian River and increasing drought conditions. In addition to implementing conservation measures for business and residential properties, we shifted emphasis to recycled water supplies and groundwater.

-Written by Sean White, director of water & sewer for the city of Ukiah. 

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

California GOP eyes state budget surplus for water, other priorities

The Senate’s nine Republicans are calling on the Democrats controlling the Legislature and governor’s office to use the anticipated $31 billion surplus to provide economic and drought relief to Californians. The tax revenue has been so large this year that policy analysts expect it will trigger a rarely deployed policy known as the Gann limit. That means the state must return a portion of the funds directly to taxpayers or spend it on certain priorities, such as education and infrastructure. 

Aquafornia news NBC Los Angeles

Friday Top of the Scroll: California drought conditions improved in December

Severe drought conditions that plagued California one month ago diminished in parts of the state due in part to a series of early winter storms, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report shows. Most of California, except for the extreme northwest corner, remains is some level of drought this week, but conditions improved significantly in the most severe categories. The weekly report released Thursday shows exceptional drought was nearly erased after 28 percent of the state was under the most severe category in the first week of December.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Regional Water Authority

News release: Sacramento region awarded over $14 million in state grants for drought and climate change resiliency

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the award of over $14 million in grant funding for projects in the greater Sacramento area that advance drought and climate resiliency. Over $4 million was awarded to a coordinated application submitted through the Regional Water Authority, which represents 20 water providers serving 2 million people in the Sacramento region. Funded projects include planning for the Sacramento Regional Water Bank, and groundwater wells for the Fair Oaks Water District and Orange Vale Water Company. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Snowpack up 160% in ‘good start’ to 2022

After two consecutive years of drought, the state Department of Water Resources conducted the season’s first manual survey of the snowpack Dec. 30 and found a promising result—deep snow totaling 160% of average for the time of year. State Climatologist Michael Anderson said storms in December that dumped several feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and brought much-needed precipitation were “a great start to the water year.”

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: California Democrats should steal these GOP ideas

Major water projects have always been financed by the people who use the water — farmers, homeowners, industrialists — through monthly bills. The one exception is for so-called public benefits, such as fish protection and recreation. Everybody pays for that. Now, Republicans are proposing that the state general fund pony up with money collected from all taxpayers from Crescent City to Calexico. This previously seemed like a bad idea to me. Why should taxpayers in Orange County pay to irrigate excessive almond orchards in the arid San Joaquin Valley, especially when much of the crop is exported to Asia?
-Written by LA Times columnist George Skelton. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California drought: Researchers optimistic state can build new housing and have enough water for expanding population

It’s the decades-long conflict even our recent surge of storms can’t wash away — How to build the thousands of new housing units we desperately need and at the same time ensure there’s enough water for an expanding population. … While the recent storms may bring short-term relief, many experts believe a true end to the current drought, could still be a long ways off. Marin County is currently working on plans for a new emergency water pipeline across the Richmond – San Rafael Bridge. 

Aquafornia news Daily Democrat

Sen. Bill Dodd introduces remote water monitoring bill

Sen. Bill Dodd introduced a new remote water monitoring bill this week aimed at encouraging more efficient use of water. With California experiencing longer and more frequent droughts, the new legislation that was authorized on Wednesday will allow for the remote sensing of water diversions and create a more accurate measurement of available resources, according to a press release from Dodd’s office. … This latest proposal, Senate Bill 832, would authorize the California Department of Water Resources to allow remote sensing technology to measure diversions from major water users including agriculture and municipal water districts. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

In a drying West, Utah governor proposes major water investments

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox [R] unveiled his $25 billion budget proposal last month near what was once the shore of the Great Salt Lake. But instead of waves lapping behind him, the waterline was barely visible in the distance. One of the longest periods of prolonged drought in modern memory has shrunk the lake by more than 10 feet in recent decades, just one barometer in parched Western states that are feeling the increasingly dire effects of a changing climate that is sapping reservoirs, contributing to extreme fires and reducing snowpack and river flow.

Aquafornia news KUNC

With less water on the surface, how long can Arizona rely on what’s underground?

In Arizona, verdant fields of crops and a growing sprawl of suburban homes mean a sharp demand for water in the middle of the desert. Meeting that demand includes drawing from massive stores of water in underground aquifers. But some experts say they’re overtaxed, and shouldn’t be seen as a long-term solution for a region where the water supply is expected to shrink in the decades to come.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Forbes

Housing beware: Water scarcity is only the surface of the issue

In November this year, San Francisco declared a water shortage emergency and called for reducing usage by 10%, impacting nearly three million city customers. In March, Utah also declared a state of emergency as 90% of the state was in extreme drought conditions. These are just 2 of the 17 states that experienced water shortages in the past year. State and local governments are now motivated to protect their communities going into 2022 and beyond, with little consensus on water sources that are shared by so many, like the Colorado River. 

Aquafornia news California Agriculture News Today

New Sacramento museum educates residents about farms’ water needs

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently. The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California rain exceeds 2021. Are we still in a drought?

The dusty hills of Griffith Park are sprouting shades of green. In Pasadena, water is streaming through arroyos that only weeks ago sat caked and dry. And from the perfect vantage point downtown, the distant San Gabriel Mountains are gleaming with crowns of snow. After one of the driest years in recent memory, Los Angeles — and California — is off to a notably wet start. … But while all that moisture gave a much-needed boost to statewide drought conditions, … experts emphasized that California will need to maintain this wet trend in order to truly climb out of its dry spell.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news ABC 15 Arizona

More water cuts – Arizona, Nevada, California try to keep Lake Mead levels up

Arizona, California, and Nevada have agreed to further reduce their usage of Colorado River water over the next two years as the states figure out ways to prevent critically low water levels in Lake Mead. The river accounts for 40% of Arizona’s water supply. The states were already preparing for mandatory water cuts in 2022 resulting from the Tier 1 shortage federal declaration.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Major extra cuts to be made in Arizona deliveries of Colorado River water

The Central Arizona Project’s governing board took the first steps Thursday toward approving Arizona’s share of a plan to save a half-million acre-feet a year of Colorado River water in order to prop up ailing Lake Mead. The plan, adopted unanimously by the board, calls for Arizona users of the river water — mostly those on CAP supplies — to shoulder more than 40% of that total, or 223,000 acre-feet in 2022. The cuts are all supposed to be voluntary and temporary, and to be compensated by either state or federal money, totalling $100 million a year for the entire conservation program.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 -Sacramento

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California reservoirs continue to rise after major storms

California has seen big changes in reservoir levels so far this rainy season and the trend is up for the foreseeable future. At the beginning of the water year for 2020-2021, some major reservoirs, such as Lake Oroville, were at record lows. California’s well-known reliance on water capture and transport was under severe strain until a record October storm provided quick relief. More storms in December have continued to add water to the big reservoirs and more snowpack which will become future water in the Spring and Summer.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Water in 2021 – Looking back on a year of extremes

In California, 2021 was the year that climate change hit home. The increasingly frequent, warmer droughts that climate scientists have been predicting have arrived. Although this past December brought some welcome storms, California remains in the grips of an historic, fast-moving drought that has followed close on the heels of the last one. The non-partisan PPIC Water Policy Center tackled the thorny issues of this moment—as we often do—by providing data and analysis to inform tough conversations about managing drought today and into the future.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Record snowfall in Northern California may help the state’s electric grid in 2022

The deluge of snow in recent days along the Sierra Nevada mountain range has been a record-breaker. And that’s not only good news for ski resorts but it may lead to a healthy boost in hydroelectricity production in California this coming summer, which would help the state’s often-strained electric grid. … The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, at Donner Pass and nearly 7,000 feet elevation, recorded 8 more inches of snow Wednesday morning, bringing the total for the month of December to 210 inches, the most the lab has measured for any December. Snowfall for the season thus far is at 264 inches.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Western tribes push for a larger role in water management

When officials from California, Arizona and Nevada signed a deal this month to take less water from the shrinking Colorado River, a large portion of the water savings came through agreements with two Native tribes. Indigenous leaders have also been invited by the Biden administration to play a key role in future negotiations on coping with shortages. The rising involvement of tribes in discussions about managing the West’s scarce water supplies marks a dramatic turn in a century-long history of being left on the sidelines.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Can California water rights enter the digital age?

From an unremarkable office in Sacramento, Matthew Jay can pinpoint any moment in California history when somebody was granted the right to transfer water from any particular lake, river, stream or creek. An analyst with the California State Water Resources Control Board, he is a custodian of millions of pieces of paper. Some are over a hundred years old and are crammed into towering filing cabinets and vaults. The room is so heavy that its floor needed to be reinforced.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California water to farms, cities reduced to protect Delta smelt

[T]o protect Delta smelt — a nearly extinct fish that’s come to symbolize California’s never-ending fight over water — regulators throttled back the pumps that supply drinking water to 25 million people from Silicon Valley to Orange County and millions of acres of farmland … On Dec. 20, the state and federal managers of the two arena-sized pumping stations near Tracy substantially reduced pumping for two weeks. The decision was made as part of the complex, scientifically-based formulas that govern how much water can be pumped while protecting fish like the smelt.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: California Waterblog 2021 “Wrapped”

We compiled and analyzed California Waterblog statistics from 2021 to provide some insight as to which blogs viewers found the most alluring or noteworthy (as measured by total unique views). As expected perhaps, top blogs tended to focus on reservoirs, drought, climate and fish, roughly in that order. And as we descend into a highly uncertain 2022, where our new drought may tighten or loosen its grip (maybe both), these topics will continue as critical issues for California – its ecosystems, egosystems, unique biota, and peoples.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Antelope Valley Press

Sediment removal from behind dam delayed

A years-long project to increase water storage capacity by removing sediment from the reservoir behind the Littlerock Dam has been postponed by delays in permitting at the state level. The Palmdale Water District’s Littlerock Reservoir Sed­i­ment Removal Project has been in the works for more than 25 years. The project calls for removing more than 1.16 million cubic yards of sed­iment that has built up behind the dam since 1992, reducing the water storage capacity by 500 acre-feet, according to District off­ic­ials.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation and Sites Project Authority extend public comment period for proposed water storage project

Reclamation and Sites Project Authority announce an extension of the public comment period on the proposed Sites Reservoir Project. Public involvement is an important part of the environmental review process. The extension will allow for additional opportunity to participate and help inform the content of the project’s environmental analyses. On Nov. 12, 2021, Reclamation released a Notice of Availability announcing the public review and comment period for the Sites Reservoir Project Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and dates of virtual public meetings.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation application period gets underway for aging infrastructure with funding from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

The Bureau of Reclamation has initiated the first application period for Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) projects that will address aging water and power infrastructure across the West. Newly enacted funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be applied to the program following the new application period requirements set out in the separate Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260) which became law in December of 2020.

Related article:

Aquafornia news Daily Beast

Cloud seeding technology that triggers rainfall is could be a big solution to fixing future droughts

The American West is facing a historic drought, so many Western states like Arizona, California, Colorado, and Wyoming have embraced cloud seeding as a way to hopefully keep crops alive and maintain water supplies. The United Arab Emirates unleashed a fleet of cloud-seeding drones this past summer to help residents in Dubai beat the heat. China recently announced plans to develop an expansive cloud-seeding system over the next decade to produce artificial rainfall over 224,00 square miles across the country.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

With Colorado River cutbacks starting, farmers will plant less

More than two decades of dry winters and drying Colorado River reservoirs will finally produce a long-feared landscape of drier farms in central Arizona starting this month. Desert farmers, especially the 900 or more in Pinal County, start the new year with massively reduced allocations from the canal that delivers water hundreds of miles from the river. Their irrigation districts are using state money to drill new wells to replace some of the losses with groundwater, another resource that’s at a premium in the fast-growing region. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: The importance of California’s agricultural water supplies

Wendell Berry famously said that eating is an agricultural act. That makes all of us into farmers, and nowhere is that more true than in water terms. For farming is irreducibly the process of mixing dirt, water and sunshine to bring forth from the ground what we need to eat. And no matter who you are, it’s true:  somebody, somewhere, must devote a lot of water to the process of feeding you. Some have been sidestepping this fact in the ongoing policy evolutions over the way we must capture, store and move water in California.
-Written by Chris Scheuring, senior counsel for water policy at the California Farm Bureau.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: Precipitation since Oct. 1 tops previous full ‘water year’ in California

More precipitation has fallen on California during its current “water year” than in the full prior 12-month span, the National Weather Service says. The downpours and mountain storms of recent weeks have helped boost the state’s precipitation volume to 33.9 trillion gallons thus far for the water year that began Oct. 1, compared to the previous water year’s 33.6 trillion gallons, the service said Sunday. Lake Tahoe by comparison contains roughly 40 trillion gallons. The water year refers to 12 months of precipitation that falls starting Oct. 1, through Sept. 30.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS – Plentiful early-season Sierra snowpack signals ‘remarkable turnaround’ amid historic drought

A series of record-setting blizzards in recent weeks … have combined to offer California a glimpse of hope after two years of historic and punishing drought. Snowpack across the Sierra Nevada appears far ahead of historical averages — an unexpected respite from years of bone-dry forecasts, leaving climatologists cautiously optimistic about drought conditions improving across the state….

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

Explore the lower Colorado River, where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.

Click here to register!

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press

Opinion: 2021 – A year’s review on the IID board

One year ago this month, I was sworn into to the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors and elected its vice president. As the board’s youngest member in its 110-year history, and elected by voters with the highest margin of victory in a generation, our community placed their trust in our Valley’s future in me. As I was reminded in my election last year, trust has been eroded so deeply and for so long.
-Written by JB Hamby, the IID Division 2 director. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Las Vegas proposes to ban grass for new homes

Grassy yards would be banned at all new housing and commercial developments in the Las Vegas metro area as officials try to expand water use limitations and the region prepares for a hotter and drier future. The Southern Nevada Water Authority passed resolutions on Monday to prohibit the yards and the use of evaporative cooling machines, also known as “swamp coolers,” at the new developments. Swamp coolers are used by many people instead of traditional air conditioners, but use more water. 

Aquafornia news High Country News

At the Colorado River conference, ‘It’s really no longer a drill’

Last week, at Caesars Palace, a luxurious hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, nearly a thousand water managers, scientists, and government officials convened at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference to discuss the future of the imperiled watershed.  The tone was one of urgency: The Colorado River, which spans seven states, 30 tribal nations and two countries, is carrying much less water than it used to. At the same time, a lot more people are vying for what’s left.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Washington Post

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Drought-denting rains, feet of mountain snow to plaster West Coast

California and the West Coast remain entrenched in a crippling drought that’s left some reservoirs dry and vegetation desiccated, but the atmosphere will deliver another welcome dose of water this week. A soaking slug of heavy rain and feet of mountain snow will plaster the western United States, with up to 10 feet of accumulation and blizzard conditions in the mountains amid a replenishing of the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack. The storm could bring issues for holiday travelers, however.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Sites Reservoir clears a critical funding hurdle

The atmospheric river storm that brought some rain and snow to the parched state may serve as a reminder that California is still waiting to build planned infrastructure for storing water in wet years for use in dry years. The California Water Commission last week took a key step forward on funding four water storage projects. They now are eligible to receive funds from $2.7 billion earmarked for public benefits of new projects authorized through the Water Storage Investment Program.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: 500-plus plan could save Lake Mead (for now), but we’re not done

The takeaway from the “500-plus plan,” the recently inked effort to save Lake Mead, can be summed up in just three words: We’re. Not. Done. That doesn’t make the deal any less consequential. Arizona, California, Nevada and the federal government have agreed to voluntarily conserve at least 500,000 acre-feet of water, over and above mandatory cuts, for the next two years. In 2022, that’s roughly twice as much water as we would otherwise be leaving in the lake. 
-Written by Joanna Allhands, an Arizona Republic columnist.​

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Danger in Droughtsville: California’s urban water at risk

Droughtsville, California, is in trouble. Its water supply is endangered as multiple crises intensify: worsening droughts, competition for scarce supplies, sea level rise, groundwater contamination, earthquakes, wildfires and extreme weather. All of these factors, and more, threaten Droughtville’s ability to provide clean water to its residents.  The city is fictional, but the threats are not. … CalMatters delved into the details of what scientists and planners have determined could jeopardize the water supply of a typical California city — and some potential solutions.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Colorado River water leases to central Arizona would be a helpful step

A small proposal that would nevertheless move water policy considerably in the right direction is pending before the federal Bureau of Reclamation. An investment company, Greenstone, purchased some farm land along the Colorado River. It proposes to sell the Colorado River water rights associated with the land to the town of Queen Creek, which would use the Central Arizona Project distribution system to transport it. It would be enough water to support an estimated 6,000 households.
-Written by Robert Robb, Arizona Republic reporter.

Aquafornia news Water Finance & Management

How San Jose water uses asset management to keep the water flowing

Sustaining the nation’s water infrastructure is an ongoing task. San Jose Water (SJW), based in San Jose, Calif., has heeded the call to seriously address asset management. Serving more than one million people in the greater San Jose metropolitan area, SJW operates one of the largest and most technically sophisticated urban water systems in the United States. The system consists of three water treatment plants along with approximately 2,400 miles of pipelines, 340 pumps and motors, 100 wells, 120 tanks and reservoirs, and hundreds of thousands of other assets such as valves, fire hydrants, meters, electrical systems and chemical systems. 

Aquafornia news KLAS

Federal drought funding includes $40 million to ‘stabilize’ Lake Mead water

A federal plan to spend $210 million on water conservation programs includes $40 million for “conserving 500,000+ acre-feet of water over the next two years to stabilize the decline of Lake Mead.” The plan also includes $10 million for efforts to suppress wildfires in the West. … U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) was an original co-sponsor of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act, which was signed into law in 2019.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

“Pray for snow, not rain”: State enacts holiday water cutback despite rain in forecast

Following a sizable atmospheric river dumping rain and snow in the San Joaquin Valley and central Sierra Nevada mountain range and another on the way for Christmas, it appears that Valley communities won’t be earning any immediate extra water supplies. Earlier this month, California’s Department of Water Resources announced that, for the first time ever, it would start the 2022 water year with a zero water allocation for water users relying on the California aqueduct and other state canal systems. Monday, the agency informed state water contractors that, due to current environmental regulations, they would enact the “Integrated Early Winter Pulse Protection.”

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: The Central Valley needs real solutions for its water shortage

In the San Joaquin Valley, water is becoming a commodity equal to life and death. California is a powerhouse of food production, growing some 40 percent of the country’s fruit, vegetables and nuts. However, the agriculture industry depends on a water supply that’s increasingly fragile and unreliable as the climate warms. As a means to increase access to livable drinking water, community and elected leaders alike are rallying behind “Building More Dams.” But this is simply not a viable solution.
-Written by Monike Reynozo, an advocate and leader in the Delano community, and has worked on climate issues and electoral campaigns.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California likely to crack down on water waste with daily $500 fines

After two years of drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom remains reluctant to put limits on statewide water use. His administration, however, is looking to take a first step. Next month, the State Water Resources Control Board is expected to adopt temporary prohibitions on outdoor water practices, including hosing down driveways, filling up decorative fountains and watering lawns within 48 hours of rain. A violation of these rules would carry the threat of a $500-a-day fine.

Aquafornia news WBUR

Phoenix pours $280 million into pipeline to prepare for less water from parched Colorado River

The Colorado River is drying up — and it’s fair to say Phoenix, Arizona, would be drastically different without it. To reach residents in the city, water goes through a 190-mile journey through a system of canals. But decades of drought, low snowpack in the mountains and overuse have put tremendous pressure on the reservoirs that supply water to 40 million people in the Southwest.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Storms restore Marin County reservoirs to above-average levels

In a stunning turnaround, Marin County water supplies that were once at risk of going dry next year have refilled to above-average levels following a series of unusually early downpours. Marin water officials are reevaluating some drought restrictions and penalties that were adopted earlier this year, especially with more rain in the forecast this week. The Marin Municipal Water District has recorded about 34 inches of rain since July, which is about 240% of normal by this time of year and about 14 inches more than it received in the entire winter of 2020-2021. 

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Napa City Council to consider water management plan

With California’s drought still looming, the Napa City Council will consider passing the city’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan on Tuesday, a state-required, 255-page document that evaluates the city’s water supply and demand through 2045. California requires water suppliers that provide water to more than 3,000 customers — such as the city of Napa — to create the plan and update it every five years, which effectively means that future predictions are constantly being projected and updated based on changing conditions, said to Joy Eldredge, the city’s deputy utilities director.

Aquafornia news Estuary News Magazine

The new face of the Metropolitan Water District

On June 9, the district’s 38-member board selected a new General Manager not of the traditional mold: Adel Hagekhalil.  Hagekhalil is of course an engineer—that’s a given. He is also an immigrant who arrived from Lebanon in 1984 with, he says, two bags to his name. His skills and passion led him through a series of jobs under five LA mayors that would not, ordinarily, seem to groom him for the Met. He served a stint as director of StreetsLA; he spent almost a decade as assistant director of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Here’s what California should do with all that rainwater

Snowmelt and rainwater rush down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in vicious winter torrents that last a few days … As a consequence, Los Angeles County was engineered differently from the north …we have diverted it to concrete channels…. But in adjusting to a warming planet and more frequent droughts, and recognizing the damage done by channelizing our local rivers, we are going to have to reverse that a bit. We’re going to have less water to count on from Sierra snowmelt and aqueducts, so we’ll have to hold on to more of our own.

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Environmentalists sound alarm over proposed water initiative

A proposed ballot measure that would dedicate $100 billion to bolster California’s water supply is drawing a sharp rebuke, not only for the amount of spending but also for the dramatic sidesteps it would allow in the environmental review process. For example, the proposal would make the controversial plan for a Huntington Beach desalination plant eligible for a huge taxpayer subsidy — even though the private, for-profit Poseidon Water company currently intends to pay for the $1.4 billion in construction costs. 

Aquafornia news Clean Technica

Blog: Climate change impacts on California’s Central Valley

While different places in the United States experience different climate impacts (e.g., more extreme precipitation in eastern states, stronger hurricanes in the Gulf, and dryer and hotter conditions across southwestern states), the Central Valley is expected to experience quite a few: hotter temperatures, droughts, wildfires, and extreme precipitation events. Because of this, and because of the Valley’s history of environmental and socioeconomic inequities and injustices, we are devoting a blog series to the region.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Californians have a lot of ideas for how to get more water. Most of them are really bad

When it comes to water, Californians have a lot of big ideas for how to get more of it. One of the latest is in Marin County, where water managers are looking to build an eight-mile pipeline atop the towering Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The line would allow water to be moved across San Francisco Bay from other parts of the state, to prop up sagging local supplies. But for every grand plan pushing forward like this one, a dozen others – often more ambitious and sometimes outright wacky - get only eye rolls and a quick thumbs-down.

Aquafornia news Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein

News release: Feinstein, Padilla to Interior – Prioritize California drought projects when disbursing bipartisan infrastructure bill funds

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) today called on the Interior Department to prioritize $8.3 billion in Western water infrastructure funding for California projects that will promote preparedness and resiliency to climate-driven droughts.

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Opinion: Looming water cuts call for solutions

Lake Mead is shrinking. Last seen full in 1983, a 157 foot “bathtub ring” of salty white mineral deposits is the visible record of a slowly unfolding crisis. For the first time ever, federal officials have declared an emergency water shortage for the Colorado River. Nevada’s water cuts will take effect on January 1, 2022. Extended droughts, extreme temperatures, and chronic overuse of the Colorado river basin require our attention. It’s a wakeup call to change the country’s reckless relationship with desert water. Policymakers, farmers, and 40 million residents who depend on the Colorado River must find ways to use less.
-Written by Linda Stout, a longtime Las Vegas resident and climate activist. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Water Online

Details on Biden’s plan to protect water systems from hackers emerge

As hacking attempts have become a larger threat to some of the country’s most critical infrastructure, President Biden’s administration is getting ready to follow through on promises to tighten cybersecurity efforts and better protect that infrastructure. … U.S. authorities recently revealed that at least four ransomware attacks had infiltrated water and wastewater facilities in recent months, with bad actors nearly managing to poison drinking water in Florida, California, and Maryland.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: San Diego, Los Angeles water agencies frame water sale as an end to hostilities

As heavy rain swept across Southern California on Tuesday, another rare water event was taking place. The Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to buy thousands of acre-feet of water from the San Diego County Water Authority. Usually, water sales go in the other direction. The transaction is significant on a number of fronts. The water should help some of MWD’s member agencies that are in dire straights due to drought and severe cutbacks from the State Water Project.
-Written by UT columnist Michael Smolens.  

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Scarcity the theme of Colorado River conference

Sobering. Troubling. The new abnormal. Crazy bad. These were the words used to describe conditions on the Colorado River at the largest annual gathering of water managers and experts in Las Vegas this week. … Water scarcity — and a sense of urgency to address it — has underscored this year’s Colorado River Water Users Association conference. In 2000, the storage system was nearly full, but over the past two decades, the river’s two largest buckets, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have fallen to just one-third of their capacity.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news MIT Technology Review

Opinion: How we drained California dry

The most brutal of summers in the San Joaquin Valley has come to a rest at last. Since June, the temperature has broken the 100° mark for 67 days, a new record. Drought won’t let go its grip on the land. Eight of the past 10 years have been ugly dry. This October morning, after a month holed up, I decided to leave my house in the suburbs and roam the middle of California, the irrigated desert at its most supreme. Out in the country, I smell fall in the air. To celebrate its arrival, I’m going to visit an old friend, a farmer named Masumoto, who has 80 acres in Del Rey and is putting the last of his raisins in a box.
-Written by author Mark Arax. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Can a rock climber help ‘restore’ Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley?

For nearly 100 years, since it was dammed and flooded to provide a stable supply of drinking water to San Francisco residents, Hetch Hetchy Valley has been off limits to campers, boaters and fishers and is accessible to day visitors only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. … [Rock climber Lucho] Rivera wants to open more eyes to Hetch Hetchy’s potential as a recreation destination. To that end, he and [Mecia] Serafino, a 41-year-old climber and San Francisco native, recently joined the board of directors at Restore Hetch Hetchy, a Berkeley nonprofit with a singular mission: to persuade the powers that be to drain the valley and reopen it to visitors. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Thursday Top of Scroll: California advances big new reservoir project amid drought

Amid a severe drought, California regulators on Wednesday advanced what could be the state’s first major new water storage project in years despite warnings it would hasten the extinction of an endangered salmon species while disrupting the cultural traditions of some native tribes. The plan is to build a new lake in Northern California that, when full, could hold enough water to supply 3 million households for one year. Supporters need about $4 billion to build it. Wednesday’s vote by the California Water Commission means the lake — named Sites Reservoir — is eligible for about $800 million in taxpayer money, or about 20% of the project’s price tag.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Camille Touton sworn in as Bureau of Reclamation commissioner

Maria Camille Calimlim Touton has been sworn in as Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner by Secretary Deb Haaland. Camille has served as the Bureau of Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner since January. … In her capacity overseeing the Bureau of Reclamation, Camille will help manage the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $8.3 billion investments in drought and water resiliency, including funding for water efficiency and recycling programs, rural water projects, WaterSMART grants, and dam safety to ensure that irrigators, Tribes, and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support.

Aquafornia news Boise State Public Radio

Colorado River conference hears calls for tribal inclusion as crisis deepens

A big conference about the shrinking Colorado River – the main source of water for millions of people in the Southwest – began this week in Las Vegas. Discussions among dozens of scientists and government officials focused on the West’s historic drought. The Colorado River Basin is in dire straits. Opening remarks at the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting focused on the severe and prolonged drought that’s brought two of the nation’s largest reservoirs to their lowest levels on record.

Related article:

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California, Arizona and Nevada agree to take less water from ailing Colorado River

Trying to stave off dangerously low levels of water in Lake Mead, officials in California, Arizona and Nevada have reached an agreement to significantly reduce the amount they take from the Colorado River. The problem took on new urgency this summer when the federal government declared a first-ever water shortage in the 86-year-old reservoir near Las Vegas. The agreement, which was signed Wednesday after four months of negotiations, aims to keep an extra 1 million acre-feet of water in the lake over the next two years.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Charts show where California reservoir totals stand after the latest rainstorms

A recent new round of heavy rain and snow following a dry November soaked a thirsty California landscape — but it wasn’t enough to significantly improve the state’s water storage levels, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources. Even after the atmospheric river storm Sunday and Monday, on top of a similar downpour in October, most reservoirs in Northern California saw little change, and remain below water levels both one year ago and historic averages, according to the data.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news NPR

Megadrought is renewing debates about how to manage water in the arid American West

The Western megadrought is revealing a famed desert landscape long drowned by a controversial dam. It’s raising questions about the future of this oasis, and water in the American West. Parts of the West got much-needed rain and snow this week, but it comes as the region experiences one of its driest periods in a thousand years. The drought, amplified by climate change, is renewing debates about how to manage water in the arid West. NPR’s Nathan Rott takes a look at one debate playing out on the Utah-Arizona border over what some see as America’s lost national park.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Bay Area farmers happy to get latest round of precipitation

Farmers in the Bay Area were excited that the latest storm brought another round of much-needed rain in the hopes it will bring them closer to the end of what has been a difficult drought. Many in the agricultural and farming industries of the Santa Clara Valley are relieved the region took in substantial rainfall over the past few days. … [F]armers in the region have had to find ways to adapt because of the drought, such as implementing drip-irrigation systems. So when rain comes naturally – they hope the ground soaks up as much as possible.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Major new reservoir proposed for Santa Clara County faces key vote

After more than four years of planning, study and political debate, a proposal to build a $2.3 billion reservoir in Santa Clara County — the largest reservoir constructed in the Bay Area in more than 20 years — will reach a make-or-break moment Wednesday. The California Water Commission, a 9-member panel appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is scheduled to vote on whether the project, which would be located near Pacheco Pass, will continue to be eligible to receive $496 million in state funding.

Aquafornia news KTVU San Francisco

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California’s major reservoirs are still far drier than average

The just-passed atmospheric river gave California a lot of precious, badly needed water. But how well did our all-important reservoir systems do? For California, water storage, above and underground are the key to California’s economic fate. As of midnight Monday, California’s major reservoirs keep getting more water from the weekend’s storm as the runoff finds its way into them. … Shasta, the state’s largest is only 25% full. But that’s less than half of its normal volume this time of year. Lake Oroville: 31% full.  Trinity: 29% full; less than half of normal. New Melones: 37% full. San Luis: 24% full, not even half of normal.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: Initiative to fund and fast track water projects is badly needed

To cope with worsening droughts, over the past few decades Californians have made impressive gains in water efficiency. Total water diversions in California for agriculture and cities – roughly 30 million acre feet per year for agriculture and 8 million acre feet per year for cities – have not increased even while California’s population has grown and irrigated farm acreage has increased. But conservation alone cannot guarantee Californians have an adequate supply of water.
-Written by Edward Ring, a senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State’s early zero water for ag projection could have far reaching implications

Storms hammering California this week will likely bump up the state’s Dec. 1 projection of zero water for agricultural contractors. But questions about how and why the Department of Water Resources made that projection – and what it means for the future – have left an unsettled wake among San Joaquin Valley agricultural water districts that rely on supplies from the State Water Project. Water managers are wondering if this is, essentially, an unraveling of the “Monterey agreement.”

Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press

Opinion: Drought promises new challenges for IID

Everyday there are sources of news about some aspect of the severe drought affected by the Colorado River. However, no regular updated news from the Imperial Irrigation District seems to be the norm. Imperial Irrigation District’s long history of established perfected water rights provides questionable limited control of allocated river water. “Use it or lose it” is a rule of the river. Using less water than the permitted amount allows water agencies with junior water rights to claim the unused water.
-Written by columnist John Dantice.  

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

How do you spend trillions of dollars? What Biden’s infrastructure bills will mean to Bay Area communities

Amid a historic drought, water is never far from Bay Area residents’ minds. Marin County is suffering from water shortages like its peers, but unlike other parts of the Bay Area has no backup ways to get water when it runs dry. Though the county gets 25% of its water from neighboring Sonoma, the drought is forcing cutbacks in that supply as well. … The bill has an entire section for Western water infrastructure, including $1.15 billion for water storage and conveyance projects like the one Marin is undertaking. Bay Area water districts could use such money to expand reservoirs, as well. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado wants tougher laws against water speculation as droughts loom

Want to understand water speculation in Colorado?  Let’s say you’re in line at a pizza shop. Hear us out.  There’s a big sign at the pizza counter saying, “Limited quantities due to climate change. Buy only what you can eat.”  But the guy in front of you buys five pizzas for $20 each. He starts reselling them by the slice for $5 a piece. The store owner says, “You can’t do that here.”  The pizza glutton walks away, saying, “Fine. I’ll put them in the freezer and I’ll eat it all later.”  … [S]peculation on water purely for profit is supposed to be illegal already in Colorado. But under current law, there’s no way of telling what’s in the water buyer’s heart.

Aquafornia news KALW

Water pipeline planned for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

The Marin Independent Journal reports the proposed plan would deliver water from the Yuba River more than 100 miles before pumping it over the bridge into Marin County. The operation would also involve the cooperation of the East Bay Municipal District and the Contra Costa Water District in transferring and storing water destined for Marin. The proposed eight-mile long pipeline would cost an estimated $100 million to construct. There has been opposition to the pipeline from some elected officials. Conservationists have filed suit to block the project.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Utah could be violating Colorado River Compact, report warns

Over the last 20 years, the water flow in the Colorado River has declined by roughly 20%. But some states in the river’s basin, including Utah, haven’t adjusted to the dwindling supply. And if it doesn’t make adjustments, Mexico and other states in the Lower Colorado River Basin could demand the Beehive State scale back its water use. That’s according to a new report from the Utah Rivers Council that argues Utah is currently using more water than it’s allowed to under the Colorado River Compact, an agreement among states dating back to 1922 that essentially divvies up the water in the river.

Aquafornia news NBC Los Angeles

Saving rain runoff in LA is as simple as a traffic median

Every time it rains, Angelenos might be thinking: are we saving any of that rain water? Thursday’s storm brought some much needed rainfall, but with a burgeoning drought, many Southern California residents are wondering if we benefitted at all. Some of Thursday’s storm water went to waste in concrete drainage channels. Otherwise fresh runoff was carrying trash and other pollutants eventually out to sea. There is a better way — and Esther Woo can show you.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Battle for Kern River water goes deep into rights, history

The state hearing on whether there is “loose” water on the Kern River got started Thursday and was quickly snared in a thicket of procedural issues, arcane water rights and water diversion practices. After two very full days of testimony and legal wrangling, the upshot is that there is no upshot, just yet. Administrative Hearing Officer Nicole Kuenzi hasn’t decided whether she’ll make a ruling on whether there is unappropriated water on the river until completion of a second set of hearings, which will look specifically at high-flow river water.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Coachella Valley Water District

News release: CVWD mourns loss of former director

Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) is mourning the passing of former Board Director Franz De Klotz. …  After being appointed to the CVWD Board in 2010, De Klotz won election to a full term on the board that same year and served as vice president during that tenure before opting not to run for another term…. De Klotz was known nationwide for his expertise and enthusiasm in agriculture and water sustainability.  

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Editorial: Governor’s drought solutions: Too little, too late

Four words sum up Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest effort to ease the impact of the drought: too little, too late. California needs to take far more aggressive action to ensure a reliable source of water for 2022 and beyond. Newsom’s administration is targeting unreasonable waste by urban users, who consume 20% of the state’s water. It’s time for him also to get aggressive with Big Ag, which sucks up the other 80%. Proposed rules for urban users recently unveiled by the State Water Resources Control Board would prohibit things such as watering landscaping within 48 hours of rain, spraying down sidewalks and washing vehicles with a hose that lacks a shut-off nozzle.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun News

Editorial: Startlingly low snowpack this fall bodes poorly for water supply

November brought unusually warm temperatures in Las Vegas and elsewhere in the Mountain West, which made for some lovely fall days. But not for our water supply. Those warm temperatures that made for shirt-sleeve conditions in Las Vegas and much of the Southwest were murder on the snowpack that feeds the region’s rivers. In an example of how climate change is threatening the viability of the West, the region emerged from November with lower-than-average snowpack in every one of its river basins, particularly in the Southwest.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Monday Top of the Scroll: Rain, snow fall as California braces for brunt of storm

A major winter storm hitting Northern California with rain and snow was expected to intensify Monday and bring travel headaches and the threat of localized flooding after an especially warm and dry fall in the U.S. West…. The multiday storm could dump more than 8 feet (2.4 meters) of snow on the highest peaks in California and Nevada and drench other parts of the states as it pushes south and east before moving out midweek…. The storm will bring much needed moisture to the broader region that’s been gripped by drought caused by climate change. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

A category ‘AR 3’ atmospheric river is about to hit California. Here’s what that means

The winter storm that could dump several feet of snow in the Sierra and soak the Sacramento Valley with rain is listed as a “strong” category “AR 3” system by the scientists who study the powerful storms that supply California with most of its water. In 2019, the scientists who study the storms known as “atmospheric rivers” agreed to a ranking scale similar to the “Cat” system used to describe a hurricane. An “AR 1” is the weakest system. An “AR 5” is the most destructive. The five categories the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Oceanography list are “weak,” “moderate,” “strong,” “extreme,” and “exceptional.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Western Water

A Colorado River veteran takes on the top Water & Science post at Interior Department

For more than 20 years, Tanya Trujillo has been immersed in the many challenges of the Colorado River, the drought-stressed lifeline for 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and the source of irrigation water for more than 5 million acres of winter lettuce, supermarket melons and other crops. … Trujillo talked with Western Water news about how her experience on the Colorado River will play into her new job, the impacts from the drought and how the river’s history of innovation should help.

Related articles: 

A Colorado River Veteran Takes on the Top Water & Science Post at Interior Department
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tanya Trujillo brings two decades of experience on Colorado River issues as she takes on the challenges of a river basin stressed by climate change

Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science For more than 20 years, Tanya Trujillo has been immersed in the many challenges of the Colorado River, the drought-stressed lifeline for 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and the source of irrigation water for more than 5 million acres of winter lettuce, supermarket melons and other crops.

Trujillo has experience working in both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River, basins that split the river’s water evenly but are sometimes at odds with each other. She was a lawyer for the state of New Mexico, one of four states in the Upper Colorado River Basin, when key operating guidelines for sharing shortages on the river were negotiated in 2007. She later worked as executive director for the Colorado River Board of California, exposing her to the different perspectives and challenges facing California and the other states in the river’s Lower Basin.

Tour Nick Gray Jennifer Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Tour Nick Gray Jennifer Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.

As Climate Change Turns Up The Heat in Las Vegas, Water Managers Try to Wring New Savings to Stretch Supply
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Rising temperatures are expected to drive up water demand as historic drought in the Colorado River Basin imperils Southern Nevada’s key water source

Las Vegas has reduced its water consumption even as its population has increased. Las Vegas, known for its searing summertime heat and glitzy casino fountains, is projected to get even hotter in the coming years as climate change intensifies. As temperatures rise, possibly as much as 10 degrees by end of the century, according to some models, water demand for the desert community is expected to spike. That is not good news in a fast-growing region that depends largely on a limited supply of water from an already drought-stressed Colorado River.

MWD’s Jeff Kightlinger Reflects On Building Big Things, Essential Partnerships and His Hopes For the Delta
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Veteran Water Boss, Retiring After 25 Years With SoCal Water Giant, Discusses ‘Permanent’ Drought, Conservation Gains & the Struggling Colorado River

Jeff Kightlinger, longtime general manager of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.When you oversee the largest supplier of treated water in the United States, you tend to think big.

Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for the last 15 years, has focused on diversifying his agency’s water supply and building security through investment. That means looking beyond MWD’s borders to ensure the reliable delivery of water to two-thirds of California’s population.

Pandemic Lockdown Exposes the Vulnerability Some Californians Face Keeping Up With Water Bills
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Growing mountain of water bills spotlights affordability and hurdles to implementing a statewide assistance program

Single-family residential customers who are behind on their water bills in San Diego County's Helix Water District can get a one-time credit on their bill through a rate assistance program funded with money from surplus land sales.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.

Water affordability concerns, long an issue in a state where millions of people struggle to make ends meet, jumped into overdrive last year as the pandemic wrenched the economy. Jobs were lost and household finances were upended. Even with federal stimulus aid and unemployment checks, bills fell by the wayside.

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.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map
Published March 2021

Delta Map for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

This beautifully illustrated 24×36-inch poster, suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom, highlights the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, its place as a center of farming, its importance as an ecological resource and its vital role in California’s water supply system. 

The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization, farming, fish and wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Red alert sounding on California drought, as farmers get less water

A government agency that controls much of California’s water supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. The National Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.

Related articles: 

Post

2020 Class Report

Members of the 2020 Water Leaders class examined how to adapt water management to climate change. Read their policy recommendations in the class report, Adapting California Water Management to Climate Change: Charting a Path Forward, to learn more.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

Milestone Colorado River Management Plan Mostly Worked Amid Epic Drought, Review Finds
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Draft assessment of 2007 Interim Guidelines expected to provide a guide as talks begin on new river operating rules for the iconic Southwestern river

At full pool, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. but two decades of drought have dramatically dropped the water level behind Hoover Dam.Twenty years ago, the Colorado River Basin’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch. The weather turned persistently dry. Water levels in the system’s anchor reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead plummeted. A river system relied upon by nearly 40 million people, farms and ecosystems across the West was in trouble. And there was no guide on how to respond.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta By Gary Pitzer

Is Ecosystem Change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Outpacing the Ability of Science to Keep Up?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Science panel argues for a new approach to make research nimbler and more forward-looking to improve management in the ailing Delta

Floating vegetation such as water hyacinth has expanded in the Delta in recent years, choking waterways like the one in the bottom of this photo.Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.

Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.

A Key Player On Colorado River Issues Seeks To Balance Competing Water Demands In The River’s Upper Basin
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Colorado’s water chief Becky Mitchell, now the state’s point person on the Upper Colorado River Commission, brings decades of water know-how to state, interstate assignments

Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board since 2017 and the state’s representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission.Colorado is home to the headwaters of the Colorado River and the water policy decisions made in the Centennial State reverberate throughout the river’s sprawling basin that stretches south to Mexico. The stakes are huge in a basin that serves 40 million people, and responding to the water needs of the economy, productive agriculture, a robust recreational industry and environmental protection takes expertise, leadership and a steady hand.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

Questions Simmer About Lake Powell’s Future As Drought, Climate Change Point To A Drier Colorado River Basin
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A key reservoir for Colorado River storage program, Powell faces demands from stakeholders in Upper and Lower Basins with different water needs as runoff is forecast to decline

Persistent drought in the Colorado River Basin combined with the coordinated operations with Lake Mead has left Lake Powell consistently about half-full. Sprawled across a desert expanse along the Utah-Arizona border, Lake Powell’s nearly 100-foot high bathtub ring etched on its sandstone walls belie the challenges of a major Colorado River reservoir at less than half-full. How those challenges play out as demand grows for the river’s water amid a changing climate is fueling simmering questions about Powell’s future.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Framework for Agreements to Aid Health of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a Starting Point With An Uncertain End
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Voluntary agreement discussions continue despite court fights, state-federal conflicts and skepticism among some water users and environmental groups

Aerial image of the Sacramento-San Joaquin DeltaVoluntary agreements in California have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state regulators.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

Can a Grand Vision Solve the Colorado River’s Challenges? Or Will Incremental Change Offer Best Hope for Success?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: With talks looming on a new operating agreement for the river, a debate has emerged over the best approach to address its challenges

Photo of Lake Mead and Hoover DamThe Colorado River is arguably one of the hardest working rivers on the planet, supplying water to 40 million people and a large agricultural economy in the West. But it’s under duress from two decades of drought and decisions made about its management will have exceptional ramifications for the future, especially as impacts from climate change are felt.

Western Water Jennifer Bowles Jennifer Bowles

Exploring Different Approaches for Solving the Colorado River’s Myriad Challenges
EDITOR’S NOTE: We examine a debate that emerged from our Colorado River Symposium over whether incrementalism or grand vision is the best path forward

Jenn Bowles, Water Education Foundation Executive DirectorEvery other year we hold an invitation-only Colorado River Symposium attended by various stakeholders from across the seven Western states and Mexico that rely on the iconic river. We host this three-day event in Santa Fe, N.M., where the 1922 Colorado River Compact was signed, as part of our mission to catalyze critical conversations to build bridges and inform collaborative decision-making.

Post

2019 Class Report

Members of the 2019 Water Leaders class examined the emerging issue of wildfire impacts on California’s water supply and quality. Read their policy recommendations in the class report, Fire and Water: An Emerging Nexus in California, to learn more.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Can a New Approach to Managing California Reservoirs Save Water and Still Protect Against Floods?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pilot Projects Testing Viability of Using Improved Forecasting to Guide Reservoir Operations

Bullards Bar Dam spills water during 2017 atmospheric river storms.Many of California’s watersheds are notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.

However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water supply and flood protection capabilities.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources Gary PitzerDouglas E. Beeman

As Wildfires Grow More Intense, California Water Managers Are Learning To Rewrite Their Emergency Playbook
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Agencies share lessons learned as they recover from fires that destroyed facilities, contaminated supplies and devastated their customers

Debris from the Camp Fire that swept through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise  in November 2018.

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems and upend an agency’s finances.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Lessons From the Flames: Advice From Water Managers Who Have Lived Through Disaster

California water managers who have lived through a devastating wildfire and its aftermath have shared key lessons from their experiences.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Understanding Streamflow Is Vital to Water Management in California, But Gaps In Data Exist
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A new law aims to reactivate dormant stream gauges to aid in flood protection, water forecasting

Stream gauges gather important metrics such as  depth, flow (described as cubic feet per second) and temperature.  This gauge near downtown Sacramento measures water depth.California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.

That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jennifer Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

How Private Capital is Speeding up Sierra Nevada Forest Restoration in a Way that Benefits Water
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: A bond fund that fronts the money is expediting a headwaters restoration project to improve forest health, water quality and supply

District Ranger Lon Henderson with Tahoe National Forest points toward an overgrown section of forest within the Blue Forest project area. The majestic beauty of the Sierra Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation. Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris, it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.

Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous, stream-choking mudflows. 

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

A Rancher-Led Group Is Boosting the Health of the Colorado River Near Its Headwaters
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: A Colorado partnership is engaged in a river restoration effort to aid farms and fish habitat that could serve as a model across the West

Strategic placement of rocks promotes a more natural streamflow that benefits ranchers and fish. High in the headwaters of the Colorado River, around the hamlet of Kremmling, Colorado, generations of families have made ranching and farming a way of life, their hay fields and cattle sustained by the river’s flow. But as more water was pulled from the river and sent over the Continental Divide to meet the needs of Denver and other cities on the Front Range, less was left behind to meet the needs of ranchers and fish.

“What used to be a very large river that inundated the land has really become a trickle,” said Mely Whiting, Colorado counsel for Trout Unlimited. “We estimate that 70 percent of the flow on an annual average goes across the Continental Divide and never comes back.”

Announcement

Registration Now Open for the 36th Annual Water Summit; Take Advantage of Early Bird Discount by Registering Today
Join us Oct. 30 for key conversations on water in California and the West

Registration opens today for the Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to water management as California and the West weather intensified flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss event, visit our Water Summit event page.

Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee, materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches with key people in the water world.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 

Announcement

2019 Water Summit Theme Announced – Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning
Join us October 30 in Sacramento for our premier annual event

Sacramento RiverOur 36th annual Water Summit, happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on issues affecting water across California and the West.

Announcement

Explore a Scenic But Challenged California Landscape on Our Edge of Drought Tour
August 27-29 Tour Examines Santa Barbara Region Prone to Drought, Mudslides and Wildfire

Pyramid LakeNew to this year’s slate of water tours, our Edge of Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being implemented to address them.

Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has lagged behind much of the rest of the state.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater Gary Pitzer

As Californians Save More Water, Their Sewers Get Less and That’s a Problem
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Lower flows damage equipment, concentrate waste and stink up neighborhoods; should water conservation focus shift outdoors?

Corrosion is evident in this wastewater pipe from Los Angeles County.Californians have been doing an exceptional job reducing their indoor water use, helping the state survive the most recent drought when water districts were required to meet conservation targets. With more droughts inevitable, Californians are likely to face even greater calls to save water in the future.

Western Water Colorado River Bundle Gary Pitzer

150 Years After John Wesley Powell Ventured Down the Colorado River, How Should We Assess His Legacy in the West?
WESTERN WATER Q&A: University of Colorado’s Charles Wilkinson on Powell, Water and the American West

We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.

~John Wesley Powell

Explorer John Wesley Powell and Paiute Chief Tau-Gu looking over the Virgin River in 1873.Powell scrawled those words in his journal as he and his expedition paddled their way into the deep walls of the Grand Canyon on a stretch of the Colorado River in August 1869. Three months earlier, the 10-man group had set out on their exploration of the iconic Southwest river by hauling their wooden boats into a major tributary of the Colorado, the Green River in Wyoming, for their trip into the “great unknown,” as Powell described it.

Announcement

Headwaters Tour Explores the Role of Forest Management in Watershed Health From Research to Application
June 27-28 tour will include stops at forest research station and a pilot project aimed at forest restoration

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada, making the state’s water supply largely dependent on the health of Sierra forests. But those forests are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality.

On our Headwaters Tour June 27-28, we will visit Eldorado and Tahoe national forests to learn about new forest management practices, including efforts to both prevent wildfires and recover from them.

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.

Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Bruce Babbitt Urges Creation of Bay-Delta Compact as Way to End ‘Culture of Conflict’ in California’s Key Water Hub
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Former Interior secretary says Colorado River Compact is a model for achieving peace and addressing environmental and water needs in the Delta

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt gives the Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.  Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful, provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Delta tunnels plan.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

‘Mission-Oriented’ Colorado River Veteran Takes the Helm as the US Commissioner of IBWC
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Jayne Harkins’ duties include collaboration with Mexico on Colorado River supply, water quality issues

Jayne Harkins, the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission.For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.

Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Colorado River Stakeholders Draft a Drought Plan, the Margin for Error in Managing Water Supplies Narrows
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Climate report and science studies point toward a drier Basin with less runoff and a need to re-evaluate water management

This aerial view of Hoover Dam shows how far the level of Lake Mead has fallen due to ongoing drought conditions.As stakeholders labor to nail down effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times ahead.

The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving, when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the cause.

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water California Water Map Water & the Shaping of California Gary Pitzer

No Longer a ‘Boys Club’: In the World of Water, Women Are Increasingly Claiming Center Stage
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Since late 2017, women have taken leading roles at Reclamation, DWR, Metropolitan Water District and other key water agencies

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The 1992 election to the United States Senate was famously coined the “Year of the Woman” for the record number of women elected to the upper chamber.

In the water world, 2018 has been a similar banner year, with noteworthy appointments of women to top leadership posts in California — Karla Nemeth at the California Department of Water Resources and Gloria Gray at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Post

2018 Class Report

The 2018 Water Leaders class examined ways to improve water management through data. Read their recommendations in the class report, Catch the Data Wave: Improving Water Management through Data.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Shortages Loom in the Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Seek to Secure Their Water Rights
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A study of tribal water rights could shed light on future Indian water use

Aerial view of the lower Colorado RiverAs the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?

Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.

Announcement

Can El Niño Tell Us Anything About What’s Ahead for Water Year 2019?
Learn what is and isn't known about forecasting Water Year 2019 at Dec. 5 workshop in Irvine

Nimbus Dam winter releasesJust because El Niño may be lurking off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in Water Year 2019?

Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter, leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019?

At Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine, water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop predictive ability.

Western Water Klamath River Watershed Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

California Leans Heavily on its Groundwater, But Will a Court Decision Tip the Scales Against More Pumping?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pumping near the Scott River in Siskiyou County sparks appellate court ruling extending public trust doctrine to groundwater connected to rivers

Scott River, in Siskiyou County. In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.

Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.