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.
A coalition of conservation groups is working to prevent the
development of a dam in the Del Puerto Canyon. The proposed Del
Puerto Canyon Reservoir [in Stanislaus County] would reportedly
store more than 80,000 acre-feet of water…. In a lawsuit
filed on November 20, the plaintiffs assert that the project
would negatively impact the habitat of several species.
The Metropolitan Water District likely won’t pick up the slack
to cover planning costs for the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta tunnel. That’s a huge shift from MWD’s “all in” support
of the previous tunnel project.
Hopes are rising in the southern Central Valley that the
farmland expected to be fallowed in coming years because of
drought and groundwater restrictions won’t sit idle but will
instead be consolidated to make room for new land uses
including solar power generation.
While Republican members of Congress praised the most recent
step toward approving raising the height of Shasta Dam, fishing
and environmental groups criticized it as the illegal actions
of a “lame duck federal agency.”
California oil regulators ignored their own regulations and
issued improper permits for hundreds of new wells last year,
according to an audit … finalized this week. … The audit
was requested after stories in The Desert Sun
revealed that CalGEM employees used so-called “dummy”
folders to approve new injection wells for
several oil companies that do risky steam injection.
If an options agreement between the [Ridgecrest] City Council
and Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority comes to
fruition, recycled water from the city’s wastewater facility
could help balance the groundwater basin… Both the council
and the groundwater authorities at their respective meetings
last week approved the option agreement between the two parties
for recycled wastewater.
A recent exchange of letters between a public utility and a
state water authority highlights the continued stalemate in the
effort by the Monterey Peninsula to develop a new water supply
and end the overdrafting of the Carmel River.
Climate change and overuse are causing one of the Colorado
River’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell, to drop. While water
managers worry about scarcity issues, two Utah river rafters
are documenting the changes that come as the massive reservoir
hits historic low points.
The proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir [in western Stanislaus
County] would store 82,000 acre-feet of water for downstream
agricultural users. The coalition said the dam would flood an
“important cultural and recreation site for the surrounding
community and destroying valuable wildlife habitat.”
The consolidated Oroville Spillway cases are currently
scheduled to go to trial in April of 2021. A large judgement
for monetary damages could potentially bankrupt the State Water
Project, according to filings by the Department of Water
Marin County flood planners are turning to Santa Venetia voters
to help pay for an estimated $6 million project to upgrade the
timber-reinforced berm that protects hundreds of homes from
Things got a little wild at the San Diego County Water
Authority meeting last week when its 36 directors argued over
whether they should spend more money studying a controversial
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River. Outrage after
leaders apparently skipped over female directors waiting to add
comments during a discussion period sparked some to change
their vote on the matter.
While many people look towards the mountains for accessing
beautiful nature, the San Joaquin Valley Floor is home to many
amazing sights of nature and in particular, birds. Not only is
Tulare County home to over 100 types of birds, it is part of
the Pacific Flyway – one of the most important bird migration
paths in the world.
Alfalfa is proving in University of California studies to be
remarkably resilient when flooded with large amounts of water
early in the year to refill ground depleted by deficit
irrigation, or to recharge groundwater drawn down by pumping.
Without an accessible and relatively clean water supply, dairy
farming is not possible. Much of California enjoys a
Mediterranean-style climate, where precipitation is not a year
around expectation. And yet California is home to the largest
dairy industry in the United States. So how are we doing?
Joining a growing list, Turlock and Modesto Irrigation
Districts filed a Petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission asking that the commission find that the State of
California has waived certification under the Clean Water Act.
… The Districts are seeking a new FERC license for two
hydropower projects on the Tuolumne River, the Don Pedro
Project and the La Grange Project.
By burning and brushing, nurturing important plants and
keeping lands around their homes clear of dead brush and
debris, Native peoples carefully stewarded the lands to sustain
the biodiverse ecologies California is known for. Their
work resulted in a richly productive landscape that provided
food and habitat for not only humans but many land, air and
water animals. That included the salmon, a staple of tribes in
the West for millennia. All that changed when California became
a U.S. state in 1850.
What are key California water priorities for the coming year,
in light of ongoing disruptions from the pandemic, the
recession, lingering drought, and a record-breaking fire
season? The PPIC Water Policy Center brought together three
panels of experts to discuss possibilities at our annual water
In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden last week, the
American Water Works Association urged the incoming
administration to prioritize COVID-19 relief for water
utilities and investment for the overall water infrastructure
A refillable water station will replace a drinking fountain at
Main Beach as part of Laguna Beach’s ongoing effort to reduce
single-use plastics from littering beaches and the ocean and
ultimately harming marine mammals. The water station – planned
for a January installation – is thanks to a collaborative
effort by the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition and several other
If you look up into [San Joaquin] Valley skies this week and
see a large, oddly shaped device hanging from a helicopter,
don’t be alarmed. It’s part of a research project to map
underground water supplies. Beginning Monday, flyovers are
expected in areas west and south of Fresno – including Fowler,
Kingsburg, Lemon Cove, Orange Cove, Orosi, Parlier, Piedra,
Reedley, Sanger, Selma, Woodlake.
As it explores a potential state role in funding conveyance
projects, the Commission seeks public input on criteria for
assessing resilience, public benefits of conveyance, and
financing mechanisms. The workshops are not associated with the
proposal to improve conveyance through the Sacramento-San
The Department of Water Resources recently published a summary
report of a comprehensive needs assessment of safety at
Oroville Dam. It comes after the reconstruction of the
spillways that were damaged and failed in 2017.
A Kernville hatchery that has served local anglers for almost a
century will soon close down again 20 months after it reopened
following three years of renovations. The Kern River Hatchery
… must close for repairs Dec. 1 mainly because a 50-year-old
pipeline that delivers water to the facility needs to be
After decades of new and deeper wells, degraded water quality
and groundwater level declines, residents in the [Madera] area
have a chance to influence how local groundwater will be
managed and used for decades to come — and the deadline to
participate is quickly approaching.
A proposed dam in California’s Central Valley is billed as a
vital agricultural resource. But conservationists say it would
also flood important cultural and recreational sites for
surrounding communities and destroy wildlife habitat.
Now based in California, 39-year-old engineer and entrepreneur
Meena Sankaran is working to make water cleaner and more
reliable — by making it smarter. Using sensors and analytic
tools, Sankaran’s startup KETOS provides real-time monitoring
of both water usage and quality, alerting, say, a farmer to a
leak, or a municipality to a contaminant.
The Kings River Conservation District, along with co-applicant
Tulare Lake RCD, received this grant to help remove invasive
species and debris from levees and riverbank along the Kings
River, improve water flow, strengthen flood protection,
increase carbon capture, and improve delivery of clean water to
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River’s hydrology began tumbling
into a historically bad stretch. … So key players across
seven states, including California, came together in 2005 to
attack the problem. The result was a set of Interim Guidelines
adopted in 2007… Stressing flexibility instead of rigidity,
the guidelines stabilized water deliveries in a
drought-stressed system and prevented a dreaded shortage
declaration by the federal government that would have forced
water supply cuts.
Karuk Tribe natural resources spokesperson Craig Tucker joined
John Howard to talk about the historic agreement, its impact on
the region’s Salmon fisheries, and the potential for
replication in other places where dams are contested.
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.
Join us as we guide you on a virtual journey through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
This virtual experience focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, the southern part of the vast region, which is facing challenges after years of drought, dwindling water supplies, decreasing water quality and farmland conversion for urban growth. The tour gives participants an understanding of the region’s water use and issues as well as the agricultural practices, including new technologies and water-saving measures.
Fewer properties over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin will be
subject to severe water restrictions after the San Luis Obispo
County Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 17 to revise the
basin’s “area of severe decline,” eliminating roughly 37,000
The California Natural Resources Agency recently announced the
investment of almost $50 million in Proposition 68 funding for
projects to promote salmon recovery. More than $220 million in
Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 funds have also been dedicated
for multi-benefit flood protection projects in the past two
years that will benefit salmon.
The Trump Administration Thursday released the Shasta Lake
Water Resources Investigation Final Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement to increase water storage capacity in the
Shasta Lake reservoir by 634,000 acre-feet,
On Nov. 17, California, Oregon, PacifiCorp, and the Yurok and
Karuk Tribes announced a new agreement with the Klamath River
Renewal Corporation to reaffirm KRRC’s status as dam removal
entity and provide additional funding for the removal of four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The agreement is the
latest development in a decade-long effort…
Current estimates of young salmon lost to the south Delta pumps
are based on a smattering of studies from the 1970s and should
be updated, according to a new analysis. “They don’t represent
current operations,” says Ukiah-based consultant Andrew Jahn,
lead author of the analysis reported in the September 2020
issue of San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science.
Work crews have been busy this week along Twin Cities Road near
Courtland. They are conducting core sampling, the first step in
drafting an environmental impact report for a tunnel plan known
as the Delta Conveyance Project.
Millions of people across our nation, and countless millions
throughout the world depend on California’s farms and ranches
for the food they eat every single day. California leads the
nation as the country’s largest agricultural producer and
exporter and serves as a vital link in the world’s food supply
HR 8775, the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental
Protection Act, would create an interagency working group
called the Salton Sea Management Council to coordinate projects
around the lake’s receding shoreline.
An annual search for a tiny endangered and contentious fish in
the sprawling California Delta has once again come up empty.
The state’s annual Fall Midwater Trawl found no Delta smelt in
September’s sampling of the critical waterway. … Hoping to
reverse the trend, Westlands Water District and the California
Department of Water Resources announced completion of a Delta
habitat restoration project on Wednesday.
Rangeland ecologists at the University of California, Davis,
found that when ranchers invest even one week a year in
practices that keep cows away from creeks — like herding,
fencing and providing supplemental nutrition and water — they
can improve riparian health by as much as 53 percent.
In the weeks before the coronavirus began tearing through
California, the city of Commerce made an expensive decision: It
shut down part of its water supply. Like nearly 150 other
public water systems in California, the small city on the
outskirts of Los Angeles had detected “forever chemicals” in
its well water.
Two key projects that the bond measure was passed to help fund,
Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir, have stalled.
Without the public breathing down their neck in a severe
drought, the state has managed to treat the reservoirs as back
America’s largest dam removal project has been brought back to
life with a new agreement among California, Oregon, tribes and
a utility owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. The decadeslong
effort to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Northern
California that have had a devastating impact on salmon runs
had appeared in danger following an unexpected July regulatory
The Kern County Water Agency board of directors voted
unanimously to approve an agreement with the Department of
Water Resources to pay $14 million over 2021 and 2020 as its
initial share of the early planning and design phase for what’s
now being called the Delta Conveyance Facility.
Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered
a letter to the city on Monday criticizing its use of the
Stonebridge wells for municipal use and “a pattern of
exercising no discretion” in issuing permits for new wells.
How did two of the most important waterfowl refuges in the
United States reach such a sad state? The decline of the Tule
Lake and Lower Klamath refuges was a hundred years in the
making. There are no villains here; rather it is simply a tale
of too little water to go around on an arid landscape.
For a city built in an arid desert basin in Nevada, the USA’s
driest state with around 10 inches of rainfall a year, this
doesn’t sound too surprising. But the climate emergency and
recent droughts have changed the complexion and urgency of the
The lower Colorado River Basin, which is primarily in Arizona,
is projected to have as much as sixteen percent less
groundwater infiltration by midcentury compared to the
historical record. That’s because warming temperatures will
increase evaporation while rain- and snowfall are expected to
remain the same or decrease slightly.
Children and staff at Westside Elementary School in Thermal
have had to rely on bottled water due to issues from an aging
well. But change is here. Thanks to a $880,155 grant from
the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience
(SAFER) program, a consolidation project recently broke ground,
granting Westside Elementary access to the Coachella Valley
Water District and a reliable source of clean water.
Meadows in the Sierra Nevada are critical components of
watersheds. In addition to supplying water to over 25 million
people in California and Nevada, meadows contain large
quantities of carbon belowground. … A new study led by
researchers at the University of Nevada Reno demonstrates for
the first time that meadows throughout the region are both
gaining and losing carbon at high rates.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Oregon counterpart signed a landmark
deal Tuesday to take control of four aging dams targeted for
removal on the Lower Klamath River, an agreement designed to
push the controversial $450 million plan over the finish line.
… The agreement “ensures that we have sufficient backing” to
get the four dams demolished, said Chuck Bonham, director of
the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For decades it’s been an environmental jewel wedged between the
urban sprawl of Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Rey. But now the
Ballona Wetlands State Ecological Reserve, home to diverse
plant and animal wildlife, has become a battleground for
conservationists and other activists.
The incoming Biden administration is widely expected to undo
President Trump’s regulatory rollbacks on a range of water
rules including stream and wetland protections, drinking water
contamination, and the permitting of controversial energy and
Opposition is building against San Diego’s dream of erecting a
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River in the name of
resource independence. The pipe, which wouldn’t produce savings
for ratepayers until at least 2063, faces its next trial on
Thursday, when water managers meet to vote on spending another
$1.7 million to do the next planning step.
A research team from California State University, Chico will
continue its exceptional work to re-establish juvenile salmon
and salmonid habitats along the Sacramento River, after
learning it would continue to be funded by the United States
Bureau of Reclamation.
The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of
learning more about this river via an expanded and more
sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details
about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and
flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice
Plans to regulate groundwater for the first time ever in the
Ukiah Valley Basin are moving forward. And though the details
are wonky and a little esoteric, the results could affect water
and ag policy for years to come. Last week, the Ukiah Valley
Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency discussed how their
mammoth project of sustainably managing the groundwater is
Bear Republic Brewing Company started by trucking three
6,000-gallon trucks of waste from the Cloverdale brewery
location to a facility in Oakland roughly 90 miles away
one-way. This solution was simply unsustainable for many
reasons, and Bear Republic eventually partnered with Cambrian
Innovation to install two anaerobic reactors on site.
A helicopter making low-level passes over the Santa Ynez Valley
towing a large hexagonal frame is using a technology first
developed in World War II to peer as far as 1,400 feet below
the surface to map the groundwater basin.
The last three administrations have been active in Klamath
Basin issues regardless of political party. Negotiations for a
basin-wide agreement began under the Bush Administration and
continued under the Obama Administration until faltering in the
House of Representatives — though each president’s approach has
varied. Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm
Alliance, said Biden’s experience in the Obama Administration
could prove an asset, if he brings a similar approach.
Whatever came down in the first rains of the season was a mere
drop in the bucket. The precipitation, the first for the rain
year that began Oct. 1, measured .15 inches in downtown
Sacramento, according to the National Weather Service. That
puts the city at 8 percent of normal for rainfall this year,
according to weather service records… A new storm system
is coming on Tuesday night, with showers continuing on into
Thursday, forecasters said.
The Ridgecrest City Council Nov. 18 will discuss entering into
an agreement with the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
regarding treated wastewater. … The agreement would be for
five years, during which the city would provide for sale to the
IWVGA available recycled water produced at its wastewater
treatment plant upon 30-day notice to the city.
All of these wineries focus on energy efficiency, water use
efficiency, soil and nutrient management, pest management,
biodiversity and wildlife conservation. They participate in
sustainable certification programs such as the Certified
California Sustainable Winegrowing program. For each,
sustainability involves an ongoing process of evaluation and
The Yuba Water Agency is in the process of applying for a new
license to continue its hydroelectric operations along the Yuba
River, but agency leaders say some requirements issued by the
State Water Resources Control Board threaten the effort by
making it too costly. The agency filed lawsuits in state and
federal court Friday to essentially vacate the state board’s
requirements to obtain what is called a water quality
The Tulare County Farm Bureau presented a check for $65,000 to
Ben Curti and Tessa Hall of Curtimade Dairy to assist in their
legal fees as they defend against accusations of groundwater
pollution from the city of Corcoran…
As chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board,
Felicia Marcus had to confront the issue directly. Marcus, who
is now the William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford’s
Water in the West program, headed the EPA’s Southwest Region
under President Bill Clinton. … Here are her answers about
what has been done and what still needs to be done to untangle
the physical, financial and political barriers blocking fair
access to clean drinking water in California.
A report by the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday revealed what
anyone living in California or the Southwest already know: We
need rain. Badly…Much of the worst aspects of dry conditions
are centered on the Colorado River Basin of western Colorado,
which bodes ill for the millions of homes and businesses
downstream that rely on a robust flow of water from the
river…Extreme drought is growing in Northern California, but
only in the northern reaches of the state along the Sacramento
The creation of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency 50 years ago
challenged us to bring people together to pull this majestic
lake back from the brink. Today, TRPA is the backbone for 80
organizations and thousands of property owners working toward
the common goals of clean water, a healthy watershed and
A 19-month study of the safety of the Oroville Dam project has
found no “unacceptable risks.” The Department of Water
Resources released its Comprehensive Needs Assessment on Oct.
30, and notes its findings generally agree with those of an
Independent Review Board and a regular five-year review by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…
Intersecting events such as major floods, decades-long
megadroughts, and economic or governance upheavals could have
catastrophic effects on the water supply for the 40 million
people who live in the southwestern United States and
The Metropolitan Water District board voted to begin
environmental planning work on what would be one of the largest
advanced purified wastewater treatment plants in the world.
Metropolitan officials said the approval marks a significant
milestone for the Regional Recycled Water Program…
This Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Cloverdale City Council’s lone new
agenda item is a costly one to Cloverdale residents — a
proposed hike in the city’s water and sewage rates. The
increases in both water and wastewater rates … is something
that city officials say is needed to help start capital
improvement projects related to the city’s water and wastewater
The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a series
of regulations on where and how hemp growers can operate in
unincorporated areas of Riverside County, prohibiting grows
where water availability is already a challenge.
After fires marred the San Lorenzo Valley near Santa Cruz,
in August, the local water district issued a “Do Not Drink Do
Not Boil” notice to residents. Volatile organic compounds
including benzene, residents were warned, could be seeping into
the water system — just as the toxic chemicals did in Santa
Rosa and Paradise, California, in the wake of wildfires in 2017
Dow Chemical Company and Shell Oil Company have been hit with a
lawsuit by the central California county of Madera alleging
they knowingly polluted Madera’s drinking water wells by
manufacturing and selling fumigants, used in agricultural
fields, laced with a toxic chemical.
Getting water through a tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta would be pricey. So pricey, some Kern County water
districts were looking for an “off-ramp” by potentially selling
their main state water supply out of the county. The request
was shot down on Nov. 6 by the Kern County Water Agency, which
holds the contract for state water on behalf of 13 area water
California regulators sent a survey on Monday to 150 of the
state’s largest water providers in an attempt to shed light on
the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The State
Water Resources Control Board wants to know how economic
slowdowns related to the virus have affected utility finances
and, at a household level, how many residents have overdue
To protect smelt and salmon, there need to be reasonable water
temperature standards in the Delta. The existing water
temperature standard in the lower Sacramento River above the
Delta is 68oF, but managers of the state and federal water
projects pay it almost no heed.
For over a century, one of the most important salmon runs in
the United States has had to contend with historic dams – and
now four of them are set to be taken down….The dams built on
the Klamath River have been identified as one cause of the
drop in salmon numbers.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has signed a record of decision,
finalizing an environmental impact statement that gives
clearance for the Friant-Kern Canal project to proceed. The
canal needs repairs as a result of land subsidence.
Three California Conservation Corps crews are working seven
days a week to help Napa County protect Lake Berryessa from
potential run-off from homes and other structures burned in the
LNU Lightning Complex Hennessey Fire.
On the Oregon border lies Lower Klamath National Wildlife
Refuge. For over a century, visitors have flocked to Klamath’s
wild tule marshes and open waters to canoe, fish, bird watch
and hunt. … But this year, something sinister lies beneath
the Klamath Basin’s immense beauty.
Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have
run up against significant legal, financial and political
roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have
cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects
have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.
The public can finally get a look at how Madera officials plan
to correct severe groundwater over pumping and replenish
aquifers in that area. For some farmers, that correction will
mean pumping limits of up to 50 percent from what’s allowed
California’s war with Washington over the environment will soon
come to an end. … President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to
act quickly to restore and strengthen dozens of protections on
public lands, water and wildlife. In addition, California’s
efforts to fight climate change will no longer face hurdles put
up by the White House, which has downplayed the global threat.
A team of experts released their findings Monday, concluding
that no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville
Dam. The report goes on to say that the largest earthen dam in
America is safe to operate. However, the Oroville Dam is not
completely in the clear.
Private wells in the central San Joaquin Valley are at risk of
water quality issues, failing equipment and declining
groundwater supplies. To help residents address these concerns,
The Fresno Bee contacted public officials, water advocates and
other experts to answer frequently asked questions about common
Burning rice straw after harvest was a traditional and
economical practice that was phased out in 2000. … The side
effect is it has created millions of acres of seasonal wetlands
in the rice-growing region of the state – and with a variety of
conservation contracts, provided additional income for growers
whose costs rose when straw burning was prohibited.
How wildfires can affect water quality are well documented. But
increasing—and increasingly intense—Western conflagrations are
leading to fears they also could constrict the water quantity
available in some of the nation’s most water-stressed
areas….“It’s absolutely a threat to our water supply—the
quantity and quality of the water that’s able to flow across
the landscape,” said Dave Eggerton, executive director of the
Association of California Water Agencies…
There’s a concept called “demand management” in the news in
Colorado, and here’s a simple definition: Landowners get paid
to temporarily stop irrigating, and that water gets sent
downstream to hang out in Lake Powell. It’s an idea long talked
about because of increasing drought and the very real danger of
both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping into “dead pool” where
no hydropower can be generated.
There’s some fascinating tension around a proposed wastewater
reclamation collaboration in Southern California. The project,
if it goes forward, would provide some 150 million gallons per
day (~170,000 acre feet per year) of treated effluent. Water
now being discharged into the ocean would instead be available
for aquifer recharge within Southern California.
Cold weather is headed toward Northern California, with
forecasters warning of severe weather in the Sierra Nevada as
the first snow of the season touches down on the peaks, and
frosty temperatures in the Sacramento Valley. NWS
meteorologists predict that 2 to 7 inches of snow could
accumulate at higher elevations.
Recently the Santa Clarita Planning Commission approved a
project that would qualify as “backward planning”: planning
that pays no attention to modern issues, instead using methods
long abandoned by others. To me, as a member of the local
Groundwater Sustainability Advisory Committee, the worst of
these is the plan to concrete a portion of Bouquet Creek along
with the groundwater recharge areas on the property.
Managing water resources in the Colorado River Basin is not for
the timid or those unaccustomed to big challenges. … For more
than 30 years, Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of
Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Region, has been in the
thick of it, applying his knowledge, expertise and calm
demeanor to inform and broker key decisions that have helped
stabilize the Southwest’s major water artery.
A 2007 deal creating guidelines governing how Lake Powell and
Lake Mead are operated in coordination isn’t scheduled to
expire until 2026. But water officials in Colorado River Basin
states are already beginning to talk about the renegotiations
that will be undertaken to decide what succeeds the 2007
In autumn swarms of flying insects cloud the skies on the lower
Colorado River near Bullhead City, Ariz. Caddisflies are a
nuisance to recreationists who want to boat, swim or fish on
the river. So city officials have started an unprecedented
experiment to get rid of them.
Water monitoring data collected in 2010–15 show that more than
7 million people in the US across 27 states had
utility-supplied tap water that had detectable 1,4-dioxane,
according to the Environmental Working Group. The problem of
1,4-dioxane pollution isn’t unique to the US. However, the US
situation reveals a number of regulatory barriers. There is no
federal limit on 1,4-dioxane in drinking water. And getting it
out of water is challenging.
Why are our food producers, including many century-old family
farms with 100-year-old water rights, facing a shortage of
water? Because we drain Oregon’s largest lake to artificially
increase water supply in California.
There could be lead in your tap water. There could be PFAS in
your bottled water. Microplastics might be in both. Do you
choose neurotoxic heavy metals or carcinogenic “forever
chemicals”? That’s the predicament facing Americans every time
they take a drink of water. … There are no EPA or FDA
standards for microplastics in drinking water, though
California decided to start monitoring for microplastics by
AWWA has released three new resources about per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to support water systems’
information needs and ability to educate the public and policy
makers about issues related to PFAS in drinking water.
California American Water has re-filed its desalination project
permit application less than two months after withdrawing it on
the eve of a special Coastal Commission meeting. While the
company made changes to its desal project proposal in the
re-filed application, it has not yet met with Marina city
officials to resolve the issues prompting the city to oppose
Clarity on which wetlands and waterways count as “waters of the
U.S.” or WOTUS, subject to federal oversight, has been elusive
for years. … Trump officials’ narrow definition … is facing
lawsuits in a half-dozen federal courts. New litigation is
guaranteed if Biden officials attempt to revert to the
Obama-era rule or craft their own program.
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has occurred on a nationwide scale
wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12 million
well-drilling records across the country. In a new study,
[UC Santa Barbara] researchers found that Americans in
many areas from coast to coast are drilling deeper for
groundwater….The study confirmed that drilling deeper wells
is common in California’s food-producing Central Valley…and
household wells remain vulnerable to pumping by deeper
The San Joaquin Valley has received a specially addressed
message from the Union of Concerned Scientists about what it
thinks people across the region should be doing about looming
water shortages, worsening air quality and generally more
volatile weather in the years ahead.
Voluntary agreements have been proposed as a collaborative,
modern and holistic alternative to the State Water Resources
Control Board’s staff proposed update to the Bay-Delta Water
Quality Control Plan. … Westlands and other public water
agencies are eager to reengage in the process to finalize the
voluntary agreements, as they offer the best path forward for
The U.S. Geological Survey announced the completion of a new
mobile tool that provides real-time information on water
levels, weather and flood forecasts all in one place on a
computer, smartphone or other mobile device. The new USGS
National Water Dashboard, or NWD, provides critical information
to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public…
The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. said its investigation of
benzene contamination in the water supply of fire damaged areas
such as Paradise, California has determined that the cause is
not from pipe made from high-density polyethylene, but was from
the burned-out environment.
After more than a decade of East Orosi residents struggling
without clean drinking water, the State Water Board on Tuesday
took a huge and critically necessary step by issuing a
mandatory consolidation order for a neighboring district to
connect East Orosi to safe water, ushering in the long-overdue
promise of safe drinking water for the marginalized Tulare
A declaration suit filed in Superior Court in Sacramento by
attorneys for some of the leading environmental groups in
America accuses the California Department of Water Resources of
trying to prevent anyone in California from filing a court
action challenging … the financing of a single tunnel that
would be built under the Delta for 35 miles.
Years in the works, Menlo Park’s first recycled water system is
up and running, carrying wastewater from local households to
the Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club, where a new treatment
facility cleans the water for irrigation use, keeping the golf
course a lush emerald green.
The federal government has approved plans to fix a sag in the
Friant-Kern Canal. The Bureau of Reclamation gave its approval
Tuesday – signing a Record of Decision giving environmental
clearance for the project – following action from the Trump
administration to invest about $5 million to study and begin
pre-construction work on the canal.
Local leaders, farmers and others in the Central Valley report
additional progress in addressing salinity in surface water,
and salt and nitrates in groundwater, in compliance with a
program adopted last fall by the State Water Resources Control
Even in the wealthiest countries, basic water services are not
universal. At least 1.1 million people in the United States do
not have hot and cold water running water in their house and a
shower or tub for bathing, a new study finds. This “plumbing
poverty” is highest in cities and most acute in those like San
Francisco that have the greatest income inequality.
The Colorado State University Hydraulics Lab has been working
on the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion project for the last 11
months. … Designers of the dam project in California
contacted the university’s lab to produce a physical design
that will have the ability to raise an existing dam’s
Storage projects partially funded by Proposition 1 should help
the state balance the swings in precipitation that characterize
the California climate… Yet, six years after the bond’s
passage, the water storage projects that will benefit from
Proposition 1 likely remain at least a decade away from
The National Weather Service is forecasting a “major change” in
the weather across the Bay Area on Friday and through the
weekend, with temperatures dropping, winds kicking up and the
potential for rain.
As a rice farmer in Yolo County, Kim Gallagher should be used
to the sight of thousands of birds swarming her flooded fields
this time of year—but when she sees a flock take off,
scattering the sky with a confetti of fluttering wings, her
enjoyment is clear.
The Bureau of Reclamation has once again proposed raising
Shasta Dam, which is already the largest reservoir in
California, after several proposals in the past decade. Each
time, it has faced fierce public opposition from state
government, environmentalists, locals and Native Americans.
Residents of the Santa Ynez and Lompoc Valleys may see an
unusual sight in the skies this November, and it won’t be a
UFO. It will be a low-flying helicopter carrying a large
hexagonal frame. This unique equipment is part of a project to
map aquifers and improve the understanding of groundwater in
Mexico is obligated under a 1944 treaty to deliver to the
United States a set amount of water from the Rio Grande and its
tributaries over a five-year period. … The last-minute
agreement signed Oct. 21 settles the conflict. Mexico will
transfer ownership of water stored in two border reservoirs to
the United States to make up the deficit.
After months of meetings and thoughtful review, the West Valley
Water District Board of Directors today adopted 10 major
reforms crafted with staff and vetted by department managers
that will deliver increased transparency, accountability and
savings for ratepayers.
The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes has
recently launched new tools focused on forecasting the
Atmospheric River scale. The new tools, offer a 7-day forecast
and review of the past 7 days for the Atmospheric River scale.
What’s in the Tijuana River? Ammonia, a byproduct of raw
sewage. Phosphorous, an ingredient in soaps and cleaners that’s
banned in the U.S. Metals used in the industrial plating
industry. Parasitic worms. And DEHP, a chemical added to
plastics. And of course, there’s poo.
Though the monthly average is just over 1 inch, October is a
highly variable month, and it’s not unusual to end the month
with little or no rain in the Bay Area. It is however
exceptionally bad timing to do it twice in a row for only the
second time in the last 170 years, as the state reels from
fires, heat and smoke, on the heels of a record-breaking dry
winter and as most forecasts [for California] call for a drier
than normal winter ahead.
The San Joaquin Valley and urban Southern California are worlds
apart in many ways. Yet each face growing water challenges and
a shared interest in ensuring reliable, affordable water
supplies to safeguard their people and economies. Both regions’
water futures could be more secure if they take advantage of
shared water infrastructure to jointly develop and manage some
Two years ago, Cape Town, South Africa, a city of 4 million
people, informed its shocked citizens that the city was just a
few months away from running out of water due to drought. It
was a wake-up call for all of us to become much better stewards
of our own water. … California of course continues to have
its own foreboding water challenges.
On October 27, 2020, a California water PFAS lawsuit was filed
by the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency against several
companies, in which it is alleged that the companies are
responsible for PFAS water contamination in southern
Nationwide, almost half a million homes do not have piped
water, with the majority – 73% – located in urban areas. In
fact, almost half the houses without plumbing are located in
the country’s top 50 cities. Among these, San Francisco,
Portland, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Austin and Cleveland have the
highest proportion of plumbing poverty, according to the new
study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences. The largest actual number of homes without piped
water were found in New York and Los Angeles.
A brief review of the evidence comparing current trends in
drinking water intake in the U.S. to requirements across age
and racial/ethnic groups reveals that most people do not drink
enough plain water. While fluids can come from a variety of
sources, there are many benefits of choosing water over
“As temperatures rise, climate change compounds the already
difficult circumstances of vulnerable communities, increasing
inequities related to access to clean water, clean air and
socioeconomic opportunities” said J. Pablo Ortiz-Partida,
climate scientist at UCS and co-author of the guide.
Should the public have access to documents that show why the
federal government changed its stance on the impact an EPA rule
would have on vulnerable species? That’s the question the
Supreme Court will set out to answer Monday in the case Fish
and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, which deals with a Freedom
of Information Act request for documents underpinning a 2014
rule for cooling water intake structures at power plants.
Erin Brockovich, the longtime California water advocate, called
for people around the country to “show up” to their local
governments and demand cleaner water, speaking at a National
Press Club event Friday.
If plastic pipes or tanks are melted, or even just heat up, or
loose pressure, drinking water can become contaminated. In the
case of Big Basin Water Co., the system lost water pressure and
much of its infrastructure was destroyed. That triggered the
State Water Resources Control Board and the Big Basin Water Co.
to put a Do Not Drink, Do Not Boil water advisory into effect.
After more than a decade of East Orosi residents struggling
without clean drinking water, the State Water Board on Tuesday
took a huge and critically necessary step by issuing a
mandatory consolidation order for a neighboring district to
connect East Orosi to safe water, ushering in the long-overdue
promise of safe drinking water for the marginalized Tulare
Judith Marshall joined the corps’ Portland office in 2011 to
manage several projects, including the agency’s 13 dams in the
Willamette River Basin. She quickly learned the corps was out
of compliance with several major environmental laws for
virtually all of them. She got nowhere when she raised her
concerns to her supervisors. Then she was harassed and bullied.
Now Marshall is blowing the whistle.
Launched in a post-World War II chemical boom, PFAS have slowly
made their way into water systems around the country. They flow
through reservoirs and faucets and bleed into aquifers and
irrigation systems that sustain crops and livestock that end up
on our plates.
The California State Water Resources Control Board and a group
of environmental organizations each have filed a petition for
review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit of
FERC orders finding that the Water Board waived its authority
under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to issue a water
quality certification in the ongoing relicensing of Merced
Irrigation District’s Merced River and Merced Falls Projects.
Global climate experts are predicting a moderate to strong La
Niña weather event this year, meaning a stormy season for most
parts of the world but possibly drier-than-normal conditions in
In a critical step for the proposed public takeover of
California American Water’s Monterey-area water system, the
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s board of
directors on Thursday night certified the final environmental
impact report for the effort.
DWP officials said the undertaking of a new spillway gate
structure to control flow from the lake through Rush Creek and
into Mono Lake will be one of the largest environmental
restoration projects in the Mono Basin.
Recognizing the central role that atmospheric rivers play in
both flood risk and water supply – two of Yuba Water’s core
mission areas – the agency is investing in new research and
tools to better understand, forecast and manage for these
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency filed a lawsuit Tuesday
alleging toxic chemicals from products manufactured by those
named in the case were discharged into the environment.
Raytheon Technologies, Chemours, DuPoint and 3M Co. are among
dozens named in the lawsuit “for their roles in introducing
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the water
The San Joaquin Valley and urban Southern California each face
growing water challenges and a shared interest in ensuring
reliable, affordable water supplies to safeguard their people
and economies. Both regions’ water futures could be more secure
if they take advantage of shared water infrastructure to
jointly develop and manage some water supplies.
Lobbing another hurdle at California’s $16 billion plan to
tunnel underneath the West Coast’s largest estuary,
environmentalists on Thursday sued to freeze public funding for
the megaproject championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Led by Sierra
Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, a familiar
coalition of critics claim the cash-strapped state is pursuing
a “blank check” for a project that isn’t fully cooked.
When driving over the Yolo Bypass in the winter, one can’t help
but notice the flooded fields. … Historically, the area used
to be wetlands and floodplain habitat, but now, farmers grow
rice there. After harvest, the fields are flooded to not only
help decompose the leftover rice straw but also, as a surprise
to many, recreate a surrogate habitat for many area wildlife,
most notably birds.
The [Monterey County] Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to
spend about $2.66 million in cannabis tax revenue over three
years to cover the local cash match for a Salinas Valley well
destruction program. The majority argued the well destruction
program would have a broad community benefit by battling
seawater intrusion threatening Salinas Valley agricultural and
residential water supplies.
Yoshimitsu Chikamoto, a climate scientist at Utah State
University, used dynamic climate modeling to try to predict
water supply in the Colorado River. They found ocean surface
temperatures have a larger impact on predicting drought than
atmospheric processes like precipitation. … Chikamoto said
oceans provide a long-term memory that can be used to forecast
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains a
database of all the nation’s dams and their risk levels, raised
the risk classification for the Mojave Dam in San Bernardino
County, California, to high. The 200-foot-high earthen dam was
built in 1971 and, if it fails, threatens communities as far
away as 140 miles.
The future of our existing dams, including 2,500 hydroelectric
facilities, is a complicated issue in the age of climate
change. Dams have altered river flows, changed aquatic habitat,
decimated fish populations, and curtailed cultural and treaty
resources for tribes. But does the low-carbon power dams
produce have a role in our energy transition?
After nearly 30 years the Joshua Basin Water District will soon
close out its payment agreement with the Mojave Water Agency
for the Morongo Basin Pipeline. … The Morongo Basin Pipeline
is a 71-mile underground pipeline built by the Mojave Water
Agency that brings water from the California aqueduct in
Hesperia to the Mojave River in south Apple Valley…
The tumultuous, years-long legal fight between farmer Michael
Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District — two of Southern
California’s powerbrokers — is now finished. On Wednesday, the
California Supreme Court declined Abatti’s petition for review,
leaving in place an appellate court’s decision that declared
IID the rightful owner of a massive allotment of Colorado River
At the Oct. 22 meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta
Watermaster Michael George gave a detailed presentation on
estimating water use in the Delta… He also discussed
implementation of the state’s policy of reducing reliance on
the Delta and provided updates on the preparations for the next
Located right below Slab Creek Dam and Reservoir and priced at
$16.5 million … the project has two main functions. One
includes a recreational flow release on a nine-mile stretch
below the reservoir that will improve boating, rafting and
kayaking opportunities… The other release feeds water into
the powerhouse to drive the turbine.
In a review of Feather River fall-run Chinook salmon in
September 2019, I described their status through the 2018 run
and expressed optimism for the 2019 run. My assessment proved
overly optimistic, as the 2019 run numbers came in lower than
expected. The lower-than-expected returns appear to be the
consequence of the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway failures.
Researchers at the Plumas National Forest in Northern
California received a startling result: Sticks and logs they
gathered from the forest floor to assess wildfire risk had a
moisture level of just 2%. The reading was the lowest ever
recorded in 15 years of measurements at a site in the forest’s
southwest corner. It also was a warning: The area was
tinderbox-dry and primed to burn.
Reclamation, working with the Sacramento River Settlement
Contractors and federal and state fish and wildlife agencies,
are implementing fall water operations to benefit salmon
populations in the Sacramento River.
After the river was concretized, Indigenous People, activists,
and environmental organizations demanded the restoration of the
L.A. River and its tributaries back into a functioning natural
river ecosystem. Now with the climate crisis, we can no longer
afford to have a concretized river system that solely provides
As the state looks at investing in water infrastructure to ward
off the most detrimental of droughts effects on the State, it
must consider projects that support the environment, as well as
people and farms.
The proposed structure will span the width of the existing
channel and feature an operable weir crest gate that can be
raised for diversion to the intake structure and lowered to
bypass diversions. An engineered roughened channel will be
constructed in the section of the stream directly downstream of
the diversion structure for future fish passage. The new intake
will be equipped with a trash rack and fish screens.
If all you’ve ever seen of the Fresno River is through Madera
as you drive over it on Highway 99, you’d be forgiven for
thinking it’s just a weed-infested, shopping cart collector
rather than a real river. But there’s a lot to this unobtrusive
waterway, which just made history as the first river in 40
years about to go through a rights settlement under the State
Water Resources Control Board.
Protecting the health of California’s rivers, estuaries, and
wetlands has been the grandest—and perhaps thorniest—of the
many challenges facing the state’s water managers. The San
Joaquin River watershed, the state’s third largest and an
important water source for irrigating farmland in the San
Joaquin Valley, epitomizes this challenge. Yet California is
making progress here, bringing a glimmer of hope.
It won’t take much, and the Pass Area as we know it may look
dramatically different come wet weather this fall and winter.
That’s according to public safety officials from various
Riverside County agencies who are working to get the word out
about the danger of “flood after fire.”
The lake is particularly small and low right now for a few
reasons, said Matt Graul, the East Bay Regional Park District’s
chief of stewardship. Wildcat Creek runs dry in the rainless
months of summer and early fall, but has been hit harder than
ever since the Bay Area received less rainfall than typical
last winter. Once the rains start and fill the creek, there
should be water again in the lake, he said.
At the October meeting of the California Water Commission,
Aaron Fakuda representing Temperance Flat Authority and Bill
Swanson, Principal Engineer with Stantec discussed the
project’s status with the Commission.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, was a
landmark legislation whose effects will be felt over the
decades that it is phased into implementation. With the long
time horizon it may be easy for some to lose sight of what’s
Adrian Harpold and his team are conducting a field study on the
impact of wildfire on the Illilouette Creek watershed in the
Yosemite wilderness area in California. They’re looking at how
much water makes it to streams for people and downstream
agriculture after a fire, and how much water stays in the
For decades it’s been done on a relatively small scale near
Bakersfield, and recent studies confirm it doesn’t threaten
crop safety. So why aren’t more local oil producers giving
farmers the briny water that comes up from the ground along
with oil? In a word, money.
Hundreds of years ago, a giant lake — Lake Cahuilla — in
southern California and northern Mexico covered swathes of the
Mexicali, Imperial, and Coachella Valleys, through which the
southern San Andreas Fault cuts. … If the lake over the San
Andreas has dried up and the weight of its water was removed,
could that help explain why the San Andreas fault is in an
A clean water and flood protection measure that would extend an
existing Santa Clara Valley Water District program indefinitely
has nearly $340,000 in its campaign coffers. A bulk of
donations have come from unions, the construction and
engineering sectors and political action committees, according
to the latest financial statements filed with the state.
It’s little surprise California American Water’s proposed
desalination project and the fate of a public buyout effort
aimed at acquiring the company’s local water system are at the
core of the contests for two seats on the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District board of directors…
Catalina Island’s water utility wants to significantly increase
the rate it charges water users. This won’t happen immediately.
The process is long and technical. Visitors to Catalina may not
know it, but Southern California Edison provides water services
to the island.
The supply and demand of California water are geographically
and seasonally disconnected, a trend that could be exacerbated
by climate change. Agriculture, urban and environmental use
compete for limited supply in the state’s $1.1 billion water
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi has filed an official objection to a
plan backed by Sonoma County and his House Democratic colleague
Jared Huffman to remove Scott Dam on the Eel River and drain
Lake Pillsbury, a popular recreation spot for nearly a century.
Members of local tribes, fishermen and conservationists are
calling on Warren Buffett to undam the Klamath. People across
the country joined members of the Karuk, Yurok, Klamath and
Hoopa Valley tribes on Friday for a day of action to get the
attention of Buffett, the owner of Pacific Power and the
Klamath River dams…
I can see clearly the challenge ahead for implementation of the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Actcal act because I now
have first-hand experience with the kinds of water disputes
that can arise when the local parties involved are not given a
chance to work things out collaboratively.
Completely dry riverbeds, record low flows, and diminished fish
populations — that’s what staff and volunteers from a local
environmental nonprofit found when they surveyed tributaries of
the Eel River earlier this month.
If all goes according to plan, recycled water from the city’s
planned $45 to $60 million wastewater treatment facility may be
used to help balance the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin
as mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Kristine Diekman is a professor of art, media and design at Cal
State San Marcos, where she teaches media theory and
production, and sound studies. She’s also a media artist
working in documentary and experimental film, new media and
community-based media. Since 2014, Diekman has been working on
a digital media project, “Run Dry,” which tells the story of
the water crisis in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
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…