Topic: Water Supply


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 The North Bay Business Journal

‘California Forever’ measure qualifies for November ballot

The billionaire proponents of a brand-new city that would rise from the rolling prairie northeast of the San Francisco Bay cleared their first big hurdle Tuesday, when the Solano County Registrar of Voters certified the group had enough signatures to put its proposal before local voters in November. The group backing the measure, called California Forever, must now convince voters to get behind the audacious idea of erecting a walkable and environmentally friendly community with tens of thousands of homes, along with a sports center, parks, bike lanes, open space and a giant solar farm on what is now pastureland. … But the proposal faces opposition from some local leaders, along with environmental groups concerned about the loss of natural habitat. Project opponents said a recent poll they conducted found that 70% of the people surveyed were skeptical.

Aquafornia news Politico

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s largest water agency to consider firing general manager

The board of the agency that delivers water to nearly half of Californians will consider firing its top leader over claims of retaliation, harassment and cultivating a toxic work environment at a special meeting Thursday morning, according to an agenda and three people with knowledge.The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California plans to consider whether to discipline or dismiss its general manager and CEO, Adel Hagekhalil, at a Thursday morning board meeting, according to an agenda posted Tuesday. 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Tribal officials: Colorado River talks ‘nowhere near sufficient’

Native American tribal leaders with a stake in the Colorado River Basin have regular meetings with top Interior Department officials, can claim progress toward major water rights settlements, and often appear on panels at key conferences with federal and state leaders. It’s a significant improvement compared to decades of exclusion of Indigenous people on decisions over the 1,450-mile-long river that supports 40 million people across seven states. But it’s also not enough, according to officials from some of those tribes — who argue their role still falls short of equal footing with states.

Aquafornia news PBS News Weekend

Listen: What frequent water main breaks say about America’s aging infrastructure

U.S. drinking water is among the world’s safest and most reliable, but aging infrastructure across the country is posing challenges. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there’s a water main break every two minutes. Shannon Marquez, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, joins John Yang to discuss why these problems are so common.

Aquafornia news Popular Science

California’s billionaire utopia may not be as eco-friendly as advertised

Silicon Valley billionaires are still aggressively moving forward with their attempt to create a utopian, sustainable “city of yesterday” near San Francisco atop what they describe as “non-prime farmland.” However, an accredited land trust now claims California Forever’s East Solano Plan is intentionally misleading local residents about the “detrimental harm” it will cause ecosystems, as well as its potential to “destroy some of the most self-reliant farmland and ranchland” in the state. … [A]s CBS Sacramento first reported on June 7, Solano Land Trust’s executive director Nicole Braddock contends California Forever’s aim “really goes against our mission of protecting working farms, natural areas, land and water Solano County.” Additionally, the influx of as many as 400,000 new residents would result in “a detrimental impact on Solano County’s water resources, air quality, traffic, farmland, and natural environment,” according to the trust’s board of directors.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: California and tribal partners secure critical water supply to support Native American farmers

Working together to support local Tribal farmers, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe have expedited two water transfers to meet immediate water supply needs and to address long-term demands north of the Tulare Lake area. Working with the Tulare Lake Irrigation District, DWR and the Tachi Yokut Tribe entered into a contractual agreement to institute both a temporary and permanent transfer of water resulting in over 600-acre feet of additional water for the area. 

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Madera sinkhole swallows trailer. 2nd hole in two weeks

A sinkhole opened in the roadway in Madera on Monday, causing a trailer of fertilizer to fall into the hole, according to the California Highway Patrol. A truck driver suffered minor injuries in the crash about 10:25 a.m. on Avenue 13 west of Granada Drive, and the street was expected to be closed for weeks as piping below ground was damaged, according to the CHP and city officials. The city of Madera also asked its residents to reduce water use to aid workers trying to fix the pipe, which does not carry drinking water, officials said on social media. “This is NOT a drinking water issue; drinking water remains safe and unaffected,” the city said on the Madera police Facebook page. “However, to assist in the repair efforts and prevent further complications, which could result in sewage backup, we ask that you please refrain from non-essential water use.”

Aquafornia news Wine Industry Advisor

Drip drop: California’s water supply is replenishing — but unevenly

… All might be well in Lodi, but some other regions reported cuts in their 2024 water supply. In the Westlands Water District, which manages the water supply on the westside of Fresno and Kings counties, a Westlands spokeswoman said the agency was allocated less water than it had contracted for: “[It’s] an incredibly disappointing and unjustifiably low allocation for our district water users,” she said.  How is this possible, given the state’s historic rain and snow in the 2023 water year and optimistic forecasts for the 2024 water year? As of May 31, precipitation stood at 104% of normal for the state, while major reservoirs are at 118% of normal, according to figures compiled by California Water Watch.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Tribes turn to Congress to seal $5B Colorado River settlement

Tribal leaders in the Colorado River Basin are urging Congress to quickly sign off on a $5 billion settlement that would cap four decades of negotiations and speed construction of a new pipeline to deliver water from Lake Powell to reservation lands. The Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement would ensure flows from the Colorado River, its tributaries and aquifers to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe. 

Related Colorado River articles: 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

The future of the Colorado River won’t be decided soon, states say

The future of the Colorado River is in the hands of seven people. They rarely appear together in public. [Last week], they did just that – speaking on stage at a water law conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The solution to the Colorado River’s supply-demand imbalance will be complicated. Their message in Boulder was simple: These things take time. “We’re 30 months out,” said John Entsminger, Nevada’s top water negotiator. “We’re very much in the second or third inning of this baseball game that we’re playing here.” The audience was mostly comprised of the people who will feel the impact of their decisions most sharply – leaders from some of the 30 Native American tribes that use Colorado River water, nonprofit groups that advocate for the plants and animals living along its banks, and managers of cities and farms that depend on its flows.

Related Colorado basin water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Amid budget shortfall, lobbyists push for multibillion-dollar climate bond

Dozens of environmental groups, renewable energy companies, labor unions, water agencies and social justice advocates are lobbying state lawmakers to place a multibillion dollar climate bond on the November ballot. Sacramento lawmakers have been bombarded with ads and pitches in support of a ballot proposal that would have the state borrow as much as $10 billion to fund projects related to the environment and climate change. “Time to GO ALL IN on a Climate Bond,” says the ad from WateReuse California, a trade association advocating for projects that would recycle treated sewage and storm runoff into drinking water. … Negotiations are ongoing in closed-door meetings, but details emerged recently when two spreadsheets of the proposed spending, one for an Assembly bill known as AB 1567 and the other for the Senate’s SB 867, were obtained by the news organization Politico. The two plans, which would be combined into a single ballot measure, include money for wildlife and land protection, safe drinking water, shoring up the coast from erosion and wildfire prevention.

Related water legislation article: 

Aquafornia news Corning Observer

Spannaus to represent Corning on groundwater commission

The City of Corning will now be represented by Martin Spannaus on the Tehama County Flood Control and Water Conservation District Groundwater Commission upon the resignation of Cody Lamb, who had served on the commission since June 2023. Spannaus’s appointment received unanimous approval from the City Council during its May 28 meeting. Spannaus is the city’s former fire chief. … Spannaus and his wife, Joann, live on a cattle and hay ranch west of Corning in the Corning Groundwater Subbasin, which currently sits at a “high” priority rating.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Lake Mead could get more help, thanks to water conservation plan

The Department of the Interior announced a $700 million investment in water conservation projects across the Lower Colorado River Basin on Thursday that has the potential to save more than 700,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead. The funds, which come from the Inflation Reduction Act, will go toward water distribution structures, farm efficiency improvements, canal lining, turf removal, desalination, recycling water, water purification and other projects, according to a statement from the Department of the Interior. 

Related funding articles: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

California lawmaker, water agencies reach deal on water-theft fines

California Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan this week removed the most controversial parts of her bill to expand the state’s ability to fine illegal water diverters, resolving a yearslong fight with public water agencies and farmers. What happened: After Monday’s amendments, Bauer-Kahan’s AB 460 (23R) would still increase the penalties for those who steal water or exceed their allotted share during times of drought. But it no longer expands the Water Resources Control Board’s overall power to investigate and punish what it sees as violations of water rights, which business and water groups said last year would have robbed them of due process. Water users have already begun dropping their opposition. 

Aquafornia news Western Water

New scientific strategy helps make case for holistic management of California rivers

Of California’s many tough water challenges, few are more intractable than regulating how much water must be kept in rivers and streams to protect the environment. … But now, a new strategy developed by scientists to end the stalemate is gaining momentum. … Gov. Gavin Newsom has already made the blueprint a key element of his plans to recover salmon populations and build climate resilience in California’s water systems. Known as the California Environmental Flows Framework, the scientists’ strategy shifts the focus of environmental water management from single species to entire ecosystems. … The blueprint is already being used for rivers that wind through California’s famed vineyards and ancient redwood groves, and streams that feed a Northern California lake of cultural importance to Native American tribes.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news E&E News

Friday Top of the Scroll: Will Election Day divert Colorado River talks?

Amid the debate over how to account for water shared by 40 million people, a top Nevada official asserted Thursday there is at least one point that is unlikely to trigger any new divisions: Election Day. President Joe Biden is headed toward a November rematch with former President Donald Trump — setting up a potential change of party control in the White House, or, alternately, shifts in executive branch agency leadership that would likely accompany a second Biden term. John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said Thursday that Colorado River negotiators are focused on the long term, regardless of who is in the White House.

Related political articles: 

Aquafornia news SF Gate

California gets step closer to building giant new Sites Reservoir

A major project to build a new massive reservoir in Northern California got a step closer to the start of construction, when a judge rejected a lawsuit from environment groups that don’t support the development, the California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Tuesday. The Yolo County Superior Court approved the Sites Reservoir project within 148 days from when the suit was filed, in part due to a new law signed last year by Newsom to speed up the process to build projects geared at meeting the state’s climate goals. The court released its ruling on May 31.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Solano County will determine this month if California Forever project qualifies for the November ballot

Solano County has announced next steps for the controversial California Forever development.  The proposal, backed by tech and finance billionaires, would build a new city of up to 400,000 people between Fairfield and Rio Vista.  Officials will announce by June 12 whether the project gained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Bill Emlen, Solano County Administrator, said there’s not a lot of information yet about how this new city could impact roadways and water supplies. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Commentary: Do California wine grapes use more water than almonds and other crops?

Making wine requires water. But how much? Water is a precious resource in drought-prone California, and its use in agriculture is rightfully a contentious topic. … While a wine glut is compelling some grape growers to remove their vineyards, some readers are suggesting that this might be a good thing from a water use perspective. So I wanted to understand: Just how big of a water suck are California grapevines, really? The TLDR here is that California wine grapes don’t gulp nearly as much water as crops like almonds, pistachios and alfalfa. But the real story here is much more complex … 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colorado

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Negotiators from all 7 Colorado River states gather for conference

The people who decide the fate of the Colorado River are gathering in Boulder this week for an annual conference. Their meeting comes at a pivotal time for negotiations on the river’s future. Negotiators from all seven states that use the river will be speaking publicly at the two-day conference. They’re in the middle of tense talks about how to cut back on demand as climate change is shrinking water supplies. They’ve got to come up with new rules for sharing the river before the current guidelines expire in 2026. … This week’s conference will also feature speakers from tribes, cities and farm districts.

Related Colorado basin water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Commentary: California’s salmon are in trouble from many human causes

… California and the life cycle of salmon have been linked for centuries, beginning when only indigenous people lived in the state. California’s rivers and streams benefit from the nutrients salmon bring with them from the ocean. Salmon create jobs. Salmon are our shared living heritage. … [S]almon are on the brink despite California having some of the strictest environmental laws on the planet. The government’s ability to regulate this species to safety is dubious at best. Consider that the state’s primary plan to protect the Delta by balancing the uses of water has not been updated by the State Water Resources Control Board since Bill Clinton was in office. It’s a telling example of water’s political and regulatory paralysis. There is no shared sense of responsibility to save the salmon because we have devised such self-centered regulatory systems.
-Written by Tom Philp, reporter with the Sacramento Bee. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Commentary: How can California overcome water wars to create a resilient supply?

California is a semi-arid state in which the availability of water determines land use, and in turn shapes the economy. That, in a nutshell, explains why Californians have been jousting over water for the state’s entire 174-year history. The decades of what some have dubbed “water wars” may be approaching a climactic point as climate change, economic evolution, stagnant population growth and environmental consciousness compel decisions on California’s water future. A new study, conducted by researchers at three University of California campuses, projects that a combination of factors will reduce California’s water supply by up to 9 million acre-feet a year – roughly the equivalent of all non-agricultural human use.
-Written by CalMatters columnist Dan Walters.

Related water supply articles: 


2024’s First Major Heat Wave Highlights the Important Topic of Sierra Snowpack During July Headwaters Tour
Explore the Role of Forest Health & Management in Water Supply & Quality Statewide July 24-25

With temperatures spiking across California this week, now is a great time to reserve your spot on our Headwaters Tour July 24-25 when we’ll explore the role of the Sierra Nevada snowpack in the state’s water supply and how heatwaves can accelerate snowmelt.

Aquafornia news TID Water & Power

News release: Brad Koehn appointed general manager at Turlock Irrigation District

The Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Board of Directors has appointed Brad Koehn as General Manager, effective June 21, 2024. Koehn will replace Michelle Reimers who announced her resignation on May 31, 2024, after an 18-year career with the District. Koehn has been with TID for 13 years and has held various leadership roles at the District, most recently serving as the Chief Operating Officer since 2020. … Koehn is a licensed professional engineer and land surveyor in the State of California, and joined the District in 2011 as the Civil Engineering Department Manager. In 2018, he was appointed to Assistant General Manager of the Power Supply Administration. Prior to working at TID, Koehn spent 16 years in private practice engineering, most recently co-owning a local civil engineering firm.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Revealed: a century-old water war is leaving this rural California county in disrepair

Two rural California airports that are crucial to local air ambulance services, firefighting efforts and search and rescue operations are unable to perform critical repairs, blocked by an agency 300 miles away: the city of Los Angeles. The airports are two of several major pieces of infrastructure in California’s Owens valley left in disrepair because of LA policies, an investigation by AfroLA, the Sheet and the Guardian reveals. Los Angeles has owned large swaths of Inyo county, where the Owens valley is located, for more than a century. With ownership of the land comes rights to its water – water that is key to servicing the thirsty metropolis of 3.8 million people. Aqueducts carrying water from Inyo and neighbouring Mono county to LA provided 73% of the city’s water supply last year.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Sites Reservoir clears environmental challenge in court

California is one step closer to building its largest water storage facility in nearly 50 years, after a court ruled in favor of the Sites Reservoir project following a challenge by environmental groups. The Yolo County Superior Court issued the 65 page ruling late last week, marking a possible end to the project’s environmental litigation. The relatively quick ruling stands in contrast to a typical, multi-year litigation period under the Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Gov. Gavin Newsom accelerated the project’s CEQA litigation period in November under an infrastructure streamlining package passed the previous summer. He celebrated the court’s ruling in a news release Tuesday. … The proposed $4.5 billion reservoir would inundate nearly 14,000 acres of ranch lands in Glenn and Colusa counties to store water diverted from the Sacramento River through new a system of dams, pipelines and a bridge.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Map shows US lakes full of water right now

Numerous lakes and reservoirs across the United States have reached full capacity or near full capacity because of two unusually wet winters. This resurgence in water levels is a significant shift from the past few years when many regions faced severe drought conditions. The map below shows all the lakes currently at full capacity across the whole of the U.S. These include several lakes that have been the subject of great concern in recent years after prolonged drought conditions. However, two wet winters in 2023 and this year, have improved the outlook significantly, particularly in California.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: A California case of stealing water comes up nearly empty

It’s not every day that a former source gets indicted. So when a San Joaquin Valley water manager was charged by federal prosecutors two years ago with allegedly stealing millions of dollars worth of water for lavish personal gain, it stopped me cold. It simply did not square with the person that I thought I knew. Former general manager Dennis Falaschi of the Panoche Water District ended up agreeing to a plea deal last week, acknowledging that he stole some water and falsified some income on a tax return. But upon any objective examination, the deal is far more of a black eye to federal prosecutors than to Falaschi himself because the feds had accused him of stealing $25 million worth of water – more water than some California cities use annually. The government utterly failed to prove anything close to its original case.
-Written by columnist Tom Philp. 

Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Water infrastructure systems across the U.S are aging

Water is essential to many of our daily activities, but aging infrastructure jeopardizes these systems. According to the EPA, the country has underinvested in water infrastructure, a sentiment Jerry Burke, who is part of the American Society of Civil Engineers, also shares. … [I]ssues range from constant water main breaks to decades-old water pipes, and they are just two of the reasons why the ASCE gave the country a C in its latest infrastructure report card. The report card is released every four years and highlights the condition and performance of the country’s infrastructure. This past 2021 report was the first time in 20 years that the grade was out of the D range. Each state is also given a report card, with California also obtaining a C-.

Related water infrastructure articles: 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water utilities boost rainwater harvesting incentives

Marin County’s major water providers have raised rebates for rainwater catchment systems because of county funding. The Marin Municipal Water District and the North Marin Water District are offering customers with the systems rebates of 75 cents per gallon of water — 25 cents more than before. The offer is supported by $20,000 in funding from the Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program. The grant marks a collaboration between Marin County and the water utilities to encourage residents to save water. Collecting rainwater to use for irrigation also helps protect the area from potential flooding during storms, and prevents pollutants collected through water runoff from entering bodies of water.

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Congressman LaMalfa talks Sites Reservoir as project gains $67.5 million investment

The Sites Reservoir project is getting more federal funding. Officials with the U.S. Department of the Interior announced on May 30 that the Biden-Harris Administration is investing $242 million toward projects aimed at offering clean, as well as reliable, drinking water in Western communities. From this funding, $67.5 million will be offered for the Sites Reservoir project in Colusa and Glenn counties. The initiative will add up to 1.5 million acre-feet of new water storage west of the city of Maxwell, on the Sacramento River system.

Related water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

First female GM resigns at Turlock CA Irrigation District

Michelle Reimers is resigning as general manager of the Turlock Irrigation District after four years in the job. The water and power utility announced the decision, effective June 21, in a news release Friday. Reimers was its first female GM and had started there as a public information officer in 2006. “She does not have anything specific that she is moving to right away and is looking forward to exploring new ways in which she can impact the water and power industries,” said an email from Constance Anderson, communications division manager.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Milk Producers Council

Blog: Water blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley builds momentum

When the state of California began to implement and enforce the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act some nine years ago, it became clear that without change, there will not be enough sustainably available groundwater to support all of the irrigated acres that are currently in production. With that decline in agriculture, the businesses, communities and tax base that depends on those farms would be very negatively impacted as well. This reality prompted a wide variety of interests in the San Joaquin Valley to form a “coalition of the willing” that came to be known as the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley (Blueprint). The dairy industry was one of those interests. Over 90% of California milk production is located in the San Joaquin Valley, much of which is designated by the State as “critically overdrafted.” On behalf of Milk Producers Council, I have been involved with the Blueprint from the beginning. Here is an update on the progress of the Blueprint.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Opinion: Woodward’s water vision

The completion of Woodward Reservoir 114 years ago has been a godsend to South San Joaquin Irrigation District as well as the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy. It has played a key role as an in-district safety net to help SSJID to weather droughts in much better shape than many other water purveyors in California including Tri-Dam Project partner, the Oakdale Irrigation District. The reservoir that holds 36,000 acre feet of water or enough for just over three complete districtwide irrigation runs is off stream as opposed to Tri-Dam reservoirs at Goodwin, Tulloch, Beardsley, and Donnells as well as the Bureau of Reclamation’s New Melones Reservior. New Melones  holds up to 600,000 acre feet for OID and SSJID as the result of the original Melones Reservoir built by the two districts  being inundated to build it.
-Written by Manteca Bulletin editor Dennis Wyatt.

Aquafornia news CBS - Los Angeles

Lake Casitas reaches full capacity again for the first time in 25 years

After more than two decades, Lake Casitas, a vital water source for the Ojai Valley and parts of Ventura County, has reached full capacity, to the delight of California residents who lived through the drought.  Phone lines were buzzing Thursday at Casitas Boat Rentals as the news spread that the lake is currently at its fullest since 1998. “It’s a really good feeling to know California is healing from all the drought we’ve had,” says Kim Sanford of Ventura. … Just two years ago, during the worst of the drought, the lake level dropped to below 30 percent capacity. However, two rainy winters have completely transformed the situation. The Casitas Municipal Water District emphasizes that despite the lake holding roughly a 20-year supply of water, conservation remains a top priority.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Friday Top of the Scroll: Winter snowpack recedes earlier than usual in southern Colorado

Southwestern Colorado is left with 6% of its peak snowpack earlier than usual this season in part because of a rare, sudden and large melt in late April.  Snow that gathers in Colorado’s mountains is a key water source for the state, and a fast, early spring runoff can mean less water for farmers, ranchers, ecosystems and others in late summer. While the snow in northern Colorado is just starting to melt, southern river basins saw their largest, early snowpack drop-off this season, compared to historical data. For Ken Curtis, the only reason irrigators in Dolores and Montezuma counties haven’t been short on water for their farms and ranches is because the area’s reservoir, McPhee Reservoir, had water supplies left over from the above-average year in 2023. “Because of the carryover, the impacts aren’t quite that crazy bad,” said Curtis, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Mono Lake Committee

Blog: Los Angeles chooses to preserve Mono Lake level gains—will not increase diversions this year

“Planned export is 4,500 acre-feet”—that is the much-anticipated decision from Los Angeles on water diversions from the Mono Basin this year. This means Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) diversions will not increase from last year, even though existing rules would allow DWP to quadruple their exports from the Mono Basin. This is good news for Mono Lake, because the decision will help preserve the five feet of recent wet year lake level gains. Thanks and credit for this decision go to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass for her leadership, city council and agency leaders, community leaders for speaking up for environmental sustainability, and citywide investment in water resilience such as stormwater capture and other local water conservation measures. It follows a request by the Mono Lake Committee and a diverse coalition of supporters in March to not increase diversions. 

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: California’s water rights system still needs fixing

I’ve spent years writing about California water policy and my thoughts on water rights can be summarized simply: the current system is inequitable and must be modernized if the state has any hope of staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. It is only a matter of time before we are in another major drought and our water supply becomes even more scarce. … The bills are currently making their way through the committee process and it is vital they pass. The Coachella Valley’s water future depends on it. AB 1337 (Wicks) gives the State Water Resources Control Board – the agency charged with protecting water use during droughts and times of scarcity – the ability to oversee the amount of water used by all water rights holders when there is a shortage.
-Written by Amanda Fencl, a Western States Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Aquafornia news E&E News

California mulls expanded water storage to combat drought

…Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is looking for new places to store water and preparing to prevent saltwater from creeping into California’s main water hub as part of long-term drought planning outlined in a report published Thursday. The report was prompted in part by last year’s state audit that determined that the state Department of Water Resources did not adequately factor climate change into its forecasts. It lists several ongoing efforts to revamp the State Water Project but does not propose any significant changes in operations … Climate change is likely to further constrict deliveries by the State Water Project, the state-run system of pipes, pumps and reservoirs that provides water to 27 million Californians and irrigates 750,000 acres of farmland.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California climate programs would lose billions in Newsom’s budget

Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocates are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to support a bond measure to help pay for billions of dollars in climate programs endangered by the state’s record deficit and deepening budget cuts. … Climate and public health advocates say cutting or delaying spending on programs that reduce greenhouse gases or help California adapt to climate change will exacerbate natural disasters and weather emergencies and allow air pollution to continue for years to come. California’s climate spending includes programs to enhance coastal resilience as sea levels rise, prepare for wildfires, ensure water security and develop solar and wind energy projects.

Related climate change/water scarcity articles: 

Aquafornia news Reuters

Mexico front-runner Sheinbaum aims to reform water-heavy agriculture sector

Claudia Sheinbaum, front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race, aims to overhaul water governance in the agriculture sector, the top user of the country’s scarce supply, with a potential investment of 20 billion pesos ($1.2 billion) per year. Julio Berdegue, a member of Sheinbaum’s campaign team focused on water and the agricultural sector, told Reuters the candidate’s six-year plan will review existing water concessions, crack down on illegal use, update irrigation technology and revamp national water entity CONAGUA. He cautioned the plan, details of which have not previously been reported, was still in development and could change. Sheinbaum has said she plans to reform the National Water Law and develop a strategy to confront pervasive issues in Mexico, which is suffering from crippling drought, widespread water shortages, and heat waves in recent days so severe that howler monkeys are dropping dead from trees.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Water bill aims to bolster protections for electric utilities, others

Lawmakers aim to amp up protections for water used by Colorado’s largest electric utilities with a broadly supported bill based on recommendations from water experts around the state. Senate Bill 197 would help electric utilities hold onto water rights that could otherwise be declared “abandoned” as the state transitions to clean energy. It would also enhance protections for environmental and agricultural water, and ease access to funding for tribes. The bill grew out of water policy recommendations developed by the Colorado River Drought Task Force in 2023. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, is the legislature’s main effort this year to address those recommendations — and to help Colorado address its uncertain water future. Polis has until June 7 to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his endorsement or veto it.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Dana Munn, longtime water engineer and former Kern River Watermaster, dies at 66

The Kern County water world was deeply saddened to learn that Dana Munn, a fixture in local water for decades, died May 8 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. He was 66. Munn was extremely well regarded among water managers and engineers both at the local and national levels as his Watermaster position gave him the opportunity to work closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and operates the Isabella Dam. “He was just a really calm and sensible voice,” recalled longtime North Kern Water Storage District Scott Kuney. “He was someone who loved to solve a problem. And he was an honorable person down to his roots. People recognized that about him.” Munn’s unflappable demeanor and encyclopedic knowledge of water infrastructure, rights and contracts made him one of the top players in Kern County water for decades.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: CA’s Delta tunnel water project nearing a historic decision

It’s been almost a half-century since I first heard the term “peripheral canal” uttered by William Gianelli, who was then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s top water official. The project, in one form or another, had already been kicking around for decades. The California Water Project became operative in the 1960s and was the most prominent legacy project of Pat Brown, whom Reagan had defeated in 1966. The project dams the Feather River near Oroville and releases impounded water to flow down the Feather into the Sacramento River and eventually into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Pumps at the southern edge of the Delta suck the water into the California Aqueduct, which carries it down the San Joaquin Valley to more pumps over the Tehachapi Mountains into Southern California.
-Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Striking before-and-after photos: Parched Lake Shasta is transformed

For a second consecutive year, Californians can celebrate the rejuvenation of the state’s reservoirs. Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is full again after reaching perilously low levels in the drought-stricken years from 2019 through 2022. The satellite images below, from the NASA, show the lake in April 2022, at left — when it was at 40% capacity — and then a little over two weeks ago, when the lake was a lavish 96% full. On May 7, the lake was at 114% of its historical average level. The so-called bathtub ring that clearly outlined the lake in 2022 — so stark it was visible from space — had disappeared by 2024. The image below provides a closer look at Shasta’s former bathtub ring. Taken Oct. 13, 2022, near the Pit River Bridge, the photo shows the lake when it was 32% full.

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Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Building moratorium in Los Osos could be lifted after decades

Los Osos could end its building moratorium by the end of the year and see new construction for the first time in decades under a plan led by the California Coastal Commission and San Luis Obispo County. The proposal could eventually bring 1% residential growth to a community that has been under a building ban since 1988. The history of Los Osos’ moratorium began with the septic tank discharge prohibition issued by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in 1983. That agency found that the town’s 5,000 septic tanks were sending millions of gallons of effluent down the drain and into both the groundwater and the bay. The county then carried out a multi-decade struggle to site and fund a new water treatment plant, finally launched in 2012 and put into service in 2016. 

Aquafornia news Aspen Daily News

The ‘academic proposal’ for the Colorado River

Two groups of states submitted conflicting proposals in March describing how federal officials should manage reservoirs on the Colorado River after 2026. Former Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Eric Kuhn, along with two other water experts, have their own idea to pitch. Kuhn and his co-authors, University of New Mexico professor John Fleck and Utah State University professor Jack Schmidt want to add more flexibility to dam operations to address environmental and recreation concerns in the Grand Canyon below Glen Canyon Dam (the dam that forms Lake Powell). Kuhn presented what has been called the “academic proposal” during a Colorado Basin Roundtable meeting in Glenwood Springs on Monday. He said the document is not a “proposal” akin to the states’ proposals, describing it as more of an “approach” that can be incorporated with other proposals.

Related Colorado River stories: 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Water agencies, feds agree to new drought resilience program

Major Central Valley water agencies have signed an agreement with the federal government to establish a new drought resiliency framework.  The partnership is funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. The big picture: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Friant Water Authority, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority all signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to establish a South of Delta Drought Resiliency Framework. The MOU establishes an approach to implement drought resiliency projects and framework, which includes a drought plan that allows the agencies to conserve and store or exchange a portion of their water deliveries for use in future years with lower supplies.

Related Central Valley water infrastructure articles:  

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

NASA photos show dramatic change at Shasta Lake

Pictures taken from a NASA satellite earlier this month show a big difference in the water level at Shasta Lake from just two years ago. According to NASA, the older photo shows the lake at around 40% capacity, the low water level leaving a bright outline around California’s biggest reservoir. The more recent aerial photo shows the lake as it is approaching full capacity. As of May 20, Shasta Lake is at 97% of its 4,552,000 acre-feet capacity, about 15% above average for this time of year. The lake was similarly full last year at about 98% of capacity on May 29, 2023. California’s second-biggest reservoir, Lake Oroville, is currently at 100% capacity, 27% fuller than average.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Press Democrat

EPA warns of increasing cyberattacks on water systems, urges utilities to take immediate action

Cyberattacks against water utilities across the country are becoming more frequent and more severe, the Environmental Protection Agency warned Monday as it issued an enforcement alert urging water systems to take immediate actions to protect the nation’s drinking water. About 70% of utilities inspected by federal officials over the last year violated standards meant to prevent breaches or other intrusions, the agency said. Officials urged even small water systems to improve protections against hacks. Recent cyberattacks by groups affiliated with Russia and Iran have targeted smaller communities. Some water systems are falling short in basic ways, the alert said, including failure to change default passwords or cut off system access to former employees. 

Aquafornia news Mono Lake Committee

Blog: Will LA take more Mono Lake water?

Last year was notably wet, raising Mono Lake five feet—and creating a conundrum. Under rules written three decades ago, the lake’s rise over the 6,380-foot elevation threshold means that on April 1, 2024, the maximum limit on water diversions from Mono Lake increased nearly fourfold. Yet decades of evidence show that increasing water diversions will erode the wet year gains, stopping the lake from reaching the mandated healthy 6,392-foot elevation. This flaw in the water diversion rules, now obvious after 30 years of implementation, has real-world results: Mono Lake is a decade late and eight feet short of achieving the healthy lake requirement. The California State Water Resources Control Board plans to examine this problem in a future hearing. 

Aquafornia news St. George News

Cox entertains idea of collaborating with California to bring more Colorado River water to Southern Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday he is open to alternatives to bring more Colorado River water to Southern Utah, including a suggestion from the Utah Senate president to help California fund desalination facilities in exchange for part of its water share. … Earlier in the week, a report by Fox 13 News and the Colorado River Collaborative journalism initiative said that Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, has put forward the idea of providing part of the funds for California to construct desalination facilities to remove salt and brine from Pacific Ocean water to convert it to safe drinking water. In exchange, Utah would get a portion of California’s share of the river’s water.

Related Utah water article: 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Supporting farms and domestic food production for america

In today’s globalized world, ensuring that Americans can depend on local food production is more critical than ever. The California Farm Water Coalition, dedicated to raising awareness about the connection between farm water and our food supply, has released three educational fact sheets shedding light on the water needed to produce the food Californians consume daily, and the risk we face from unsustainable foreign food production. California’s population of 39 million requires a staggering 11.3 trillion gallons of water annually to grow enough food and fiber to meet its needs, as described in the fact sheet, “Where Does Farm Water Go?”. However, current water supplies fall short, leaving a gap of 38 percent between the water used to grow our food and the demand on food production by the state’s population.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

Commentary: California’s weather was made for demagogues

California’s weather was made for demagogues. For as long as records have been kept, the state has typically experienced a series of dry years followed by a series of wet years. The weather lines up conveniently with election cycles. A few years of drought will prompt an excitable politician to declare that projections clearly show the end of the world is upon us unless California takes immediate action. Depending on the circumstances, that action can be the election of that politician to office, or re-election to office, or an oppressive law that takes effect after the perpetrators are out of office, or voter approval of borrowed money for an overpriced project that might be a state-of-the-art boondoggle. In 2018, as Gov. Jerry Brown prepared to head into the sunset of his colorful political career, he signed two new laws that imposed permanent drought-emergency restrictions on the people of California.
-Written by Susan Shelley, columnist with the LA Daily News. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Friday Top of the Scroll: $20 billion: The Delta tunnel’s new price tag

California’s contentious and long-debated plan to replumb the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and pump more water south finally has a price tag: about $20 billion.  The new estimate for the Delta tunnel project — which would transform the massive water system that sends Northern California water south to farms and cities — is $4 billion higher than a 2020 estimate, largely because of inflation. Included is almost $1.2 billion to offset local harms and environmental damage, such as impacts on salmon and rare fish that state officials have called “potentially significant.” The goal of the project is to collect and deliver more water to two-thirds of California’s population and 750,000 acres of farmland during wet periods … But environmental groups and many Delta residents have long warned that the tunnel could put the imperiled Delta ecosystem at even greater risk, sapping freshwater flows needed for fish, farms and communities in the region.

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Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

Legal issues between city, water district remain unresolved

As of Tuesday morning, there was no news from Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Stephen Acquisto on a dispute over the city’s approval of the proposed Sage Ranch subdivision. The issue is whether the city of Tehachapi violated state law when it approved a 995-unit residential project on 138 acres near Tehachapi High School in September 2021. The long-awaited hearing on the first through third causes of action of the case, Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District vs. City of Tehachapi, took about three hours on May 3, with Acquisto questioning attorneys about case law and water.

Aquafornia news Valley Ag Voice

Revised state budget cuts $500 million for water storage, Sites Reservoir slowly inching forward

Governor Gavin Newsom’s May Revision of the state budget plan released on May 10, aims to address a “sizable deficit” of roughly $56 billion into 2026. The multi-billion-dollar deficit is in stark contrast to the $97.5 billion budget surplus that Newsom projected in the 2022-23 state budget. Several budget cuts, amounting to over $30 billion were announced, including a $500 million cut to water storage projects. These discretionary spending cuts delay certain funding sources for water-storage projects such as the planned Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento. While funding awarded under Proposition 1 — a voter-approved 2014 ballot initiative to support various water projects — will not be affected by the budget crisis, the California Farm Bureau explained in a press release that $500 million in discretionary funding to support the project would be cut.

Related state budget article: 

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Pleasanton council authorizes issuance of $19M in water revenue bonds

The Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved finance documents to allow the city to issue water revenue bonds with a principal maximum amount of $19 million, which will help pay for water system improvement projects and the first phase and design work for drilling new wells as part of the city’s Water Supply Alternative Project. Following the council decision to authorize the bond issuance during the May 7 council meeting, staff said pricing and interest rates for the bonds will be established on May 20 or May 21 with the goal of having the city receive the bond proceeds on June 4. “This is similar to buying a house. You don’t just get it from your salary, sometimes you have to go into debt and pay it back over time,” Mayor Karla Brown said during the meeting. “But this will be a big shift in this city.” 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Calif. almond crop projected for major growth in 2024

California’s almond crop this year is expected to increase by 21 percent compared to 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The USDA expects the almond crop to total around three billion pounds, a significant boost from the 2.47 billion pounds produced last year. Driving the news: California’s lofty almond production projections are driven by favorable weather for the first half of the growing season, according to an analysis from the USDA. … If California’s almond crop projections are accurate, 2024 would be the second-best year on record in the last decade. 

Aquafornia news ABC News

US dedicates $60 million to saving water along the Rio Grande as flows shrink and demands grow

The U.S. government is dedicating $60 million over the next few years to projects along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico and West Texas to make the river more resilient in the face of climate change and growing demands. The funding announced Friday by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland marks the first disbursement from the Inflation Reduction Act for a basin outside of the Colorado River system. While pressures on the Colorado River have dominated headlines, Haaland and others acknowledged that other communities in the West — from Native American reservations to growing cities and agricultural strongholds — are experiencing the effects of unprecedented drought.

Aquafornia news California Globe

Blog: New USDA report shows Lake Tahoe will be full this year, highlighting California’s water recovery

According to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Lake Tahoe, situated on the California-Nevada border, will reach it’s “full” level for the first time since 2019, provided further evidence of California’s water recovery. For the last 10+ years, California has had mostly drought years. A mid 2010’s drought, lasting from 2011 to 2017, covered virtually the entire state at its peak. While a few average years followed, a megadrought formed in 2020, once again covering almost the entire state. State reservoirs reached critical lows, with some so depleted of water that hydro-electric power turbines no longer generated electricity. Natural lakes, like Lake Tahoe, also saw water levels go down below its ‘full’ level in the summer of 2019. Beachgoers at the lake had difficulty  getting spots because of the lower levels, and commentators during the 2021 NHL games played next to the lake even noted the size change.

Aquafornia news The Hill

California almond crop forecasts up 21 percent after wet and mild winter

Thanks to favorable weather conditions, California’s almond crop for 2024 is expected to be 21 percent greater than last year’s final output, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports. The almond crop should amount to about 3 billion pounds, as opposed to the 2.47 billion pounds generated in 2023, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Pacific Regional Office, based in Sacramento. … Mature almond trees in the southern Sacramento Valley can consume 41 to 44 inches of water in an average year when water use is unrestricted, while those in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley can use as much as 50 to 54 inches, according to data from the University of California, Davis.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Captured stormwater boosts Los Angeles County’s reserves

Heavy rains this winter and spring sent torrential flows down local creeks and rivers, and L.A. County managed to capture and store a significant amount of that stormwater, officials say. To be exact, they snared an estimated 295,000 acre-feet of water since last October, or 96.3 billion gallons. That’s enough water to supply about 2.4 million people a year — nearly one-fourth of the county’s population. … The county, working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and other agencies, was able to capture and store this amount of water thanks in part to investments totaling more than $1 billion since 2001, Pestrella said. Some of the money has gone toward raising dams and increasing the capacity of spreading grounds, where water is sent into basins and then percolates underground into aquifers.

Related urban water article:

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Editorial: Regardless of outcome, Marin must explore reservoir expansions

Those stunning warnings in 2021 that the Marin Municipal Water District was within months of running out of water led voters to demand change. In the 2022 election, that frustration was evident as voters elected three new directors. The historic drought has taken a toll on the district’s chain of reservoirs, the capacity of which it relies to meet the water needs of the communities MMWD serves. The Lake Sonoma reservoir, which MMWD relies on to import about 25% of its supply, was also depleted by the drought and its releases restricted. The drought was a huge test of the district’s long held policy of maintaining its supply through conservation. The prolonged drought proved that conservation, while vitally necessary, wasn’t enough — and the district was caught in a crisis.

Related Bay Area water supply story: 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

As Lake Oroville nears capacity, DWR says no need to fear spill overs

With Lake Oroville creeping toward capacity, concerns over emergency spillage loom. The California Department of Water Resources, however, said this won’t happen because of controlled outflows and monitoring. DWR Spokesperson Raquel Borray said the dam is being watched closely. … As of Tuesday, Borrayo said, total releases into the Feather River come out to 10,000 cubic feet per second with the majority — 9,350 cfs — going through the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet and the remaining 650 cfs pouring through the low-flow channel. She added that DWR is making adjustments as they are necessary.

Related reservoir storage article: 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Here’s what you need to know about proposals to save the Colorado River

The Colorado River is in trouble. More than two decades of megadrought fueled by climate change have sapped its supplies, and those who use the river’s water are struggling to rein in demand. Now, with current rules for river sharing set to expire in 2026, policymakers have a rare opportunity to rework how Western water is managed. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Friday Top of the Scroll: California heat wave could speed melt of abnormal snowpack

Rainfall and snow storms boosted California’s groundwater supplies and replenished the Sierra Nevada snowpack, but scientists say dry conditions in the summer — and starting as soon as this weekend — could reverse that progress. … temperatures in California — including in San Francisco — are forecast to climb over their usual seasonal highs. That could accelerate the rate at which the state’s snowpack melts, according to Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist and station manager at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory …

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Incredible before-and-after images of reservoirs are proof of California’s winter deluges

After another wet winter, record rainfall has turned California green and replenished the state’s reservoirs, which had been perilously low during the worst days of the drought. Lake Oroville, the state’s second-biggest reservoir, often serves as a rainfall barometer. As of Tuesday, Oroville was at 100% capacity, according to data from the state Department of Water Resources. … The left photograph shows Enterprise Bridge on Dec. 21, 2022, when the lake was at 29% of its total capacity. The right side shows the same area April 24, 2024, when the lake was at 96% of capacity — a figure it has now eclipsed. As of May 7, Lake Oroville was at 128% of its historical level. Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, was 97% full Tuesday, or 115% of its historical level.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Opinion: Giant new Calif. reservoir plan would bring water to 24 million people

California’s reservoirs are not only vital to the state’s complex water systems, providing millions of people and the state’s agricultural economy with needed access to water; they’re also important gauges for how healthy the state is overall. This year’s at-capacity reservoirs have been a boon for a region besieged by drought over much of the past decade, but more work is needed to help ensure a plentiful and water-wise future for the most populous state in America. Enter Sites Reservoir, a long-in-the-works project that aims to be the biggest reservoir development in nearly half a century. It’s been a massive dream for decades, an idea first worked up by landowners and water districts northwest of Sacramento. Thanks to a new infusion of federal cash, the proposal is closer than ever to actually happening — but not without a very real cost.

Related water infrastructure articles: 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Colorado River study says future flows could increase

A new study found that the Colorado River may experience a rebound after two decades of decreased flows due to drought and global warming. “Importantly, we find climate change will likely increase precipitation in the Colorado headwaters,” Professor Martin Hoerling, the study’s lead author, wrote to The Salt Lake Tribune in an email. “This will compensate some if not most of the depleting effects of further warming.” Recently published in the Journal of Climate, the study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science used data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. … The study’s climate projections forecast that there is a 70% chance that climate change will lead to increased precipitation in the Upper Basin between 2026 and 2050. That precipitation increase could boost the river’s flows by 5% to 7%.

Related Colorado River articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Panels that make water of thin air finally getting fixed in tiny Allensworth

Residents of Allensworth are finally getting attention from a company that installed and then abandoned hydropanels, which make water out of thin air, several years ago. As SJV Water reported in March, residents were frustrated they couldn’t get support from Source Global, the company behind the panels, after the panels had fallen into disrepair. Following SJV Water’s story, Source Global dedicated a staff person to oversee operations in Allensworth, said Kayode Kadara, a community leader in Allensworth. … Kadara said Source Global staff has been making calls to residents in town with the hydropanels and technicians have come out to perform upkeep and check the hydropanels. Kadara’s own hydropanels at home were serviced. The hydropanels at Allensworth’s community center still aren’t working though, said Kadara.

Related San Joaquin Valley drinking water article: 

Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Local farmer who hosted a president honored in Sacramento

A local ag industry titan is being recognized for his lifelong service in farming and civic life. Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria has recognized Firebaugh farmer Joe L. Del Bosque as her office’s 2024 Latino Spirit Award Honoree. Following years of migrant farm work, Del Bosque’s family established themselves on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley, where he grew up on the farm with his father, going to work at age 10. He graduated from Fresno State in 1975 and then his started own operation in 1985. Del Bosque Farms produces organic melons, tomatoes, almonds and cherries. Del Bosque is a vocal advocate for farmers and farmworkers impacted by water policies.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

MMWD to study effects of climate change on dam system

The Marin Municipal Water District is embarking on a yearlong study to examine the impact of frequent, severe storms on the utility’s seven dams. The district board authorized spending up to $1.06 million to evaluate the capacity of the dam spillways, and to use climate change projections to assess potential hazards. The study is a response to a critical Marin County Civil Grand Jury report published last summer. The watchdog panel said dam safety plans for the Marin Municipal Water District and the North Marin Water District are failing to account for more regular “atmospheric river” storms brought on by climate change. The grand jury recommended, among other actions, that the water districts update their dam hazard mitigation plans with the latest science on climate change effects on storms. 

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Water grants to help Colorado River Basin, underserved residents

In another move to build water resilient systems in the West and particularly in the Colorado River Basin, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Monday $147 million in federal grants to help underserved communities dogged by water scarcity issues. The funding will support 42 projects in 10 states. In eastern Utah, nearly $6.6 million was granted to the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation which operates the Ute Tribe Water Systems, providing water service to tribal members. 

Related Colorado River Basin articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California’s second-largest reservoir is now full

Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in California, reached capacity on Monday for a second straight year after another relatively wet winter. The rising waters come as state reservoir managers have been reducing outflows from the lake in recent weeks — as winter inflows tailed off and the threat of downstream flooding waned — allowing the reservoir to slowly fill to its current 899-foot elevation, or 3.52-million acre-feet of water. … Lake Oroville contains 28% more water than it historically has on this date. “This is great news for ensuring adequate water supply for millions of Californians & environmental needs,” the state Department of Water Resources posted Monday afternoon on X, formerly Twitter.

Related water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Monday Top of the Scroll: Tunnels may be drilled through Glen Canyon Dam, sources say

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will examine the possibility of drilling tunnels through Glen Canyon Dam to ensure water can pass through it at low Lake Powell elevations, two knowledgeable sources told the Arizona Daily Star. Such a re-engineering project will be among several options the bureau will look at due to new concerns about the ability to deliver Colorado River water through the 61-year-old facility under such circumstances. It could prevent a catastrophic occurrence if lake elevations ever fall so low that no water could get through the dam to serve farms and Lower River Basin cities, including Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin Municipal Water District develops conservation playbook

The Marin Municipal Water District is bolstering its strategy on conservation with policy updates and incentive programs designed to reduce water use by hundreds of millions of gallons annually. The draft “2024 Water Efficiency Master Plan” is a playbook that outlines how water is used today in the county, and how the district can help its 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin cut back. The plan aims to reduce water use districtwide by more than 1,000 acre-feet a year starting in 2025, with even greater incremental reduction targets beyond that. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water. District staffers presented the draft plan to the board at a special meeting on Wednesday.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

California climate change – Delta Tunnels & State Water Project

Perhaps no environmental topic is as controversial in California as the Delta Tunnel. … The tunnel is a key part of the State Water Project’s new risk-informed strategic plan. That strategic plan is known as Elevate to ‘28. It lists five goals that it says will help to make the State Water Project (SWP) “the most reliable, sustainable, and resilient water provider for the people and environment of California, now and for future generations.” To learn more about the plan, ABC10 Meteorologist Brenden Mincheff invited Tony Meyers, the Principal Operating Officer for the State Water Project for a conversation. Here are some key takeaways from that.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Opinion: A water bond could protect Californians in drought years

Last year, California experienced weather whiplash. After years of severe drought, 2023 saw heavy rainfall and snowpack that flooded the state, recharged groundwater and filled our reservoirs. While desperately needed, we cannot pretend that the good times are here to stay. Increasingly dry years are in our future, and it will not be long until we find ourselves facing drought conditions once again. The time to prepare our water infrastructure for the future is now. Currently, lawmakers in Sacramento are working to close a $37.9 billion deficit. While we have made progress at the state level in recent years — including allocating $8.6 billion in state funding for water projects — pulling back on water infrastructure funding now could jeopardize further federal and local funding sources for key projects already underway.
-Written by Senator Anna M. Caballero and Ric Ortega, general manager of the Grassland Water District.  

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Northern Water, Grand County team up to boost Colorado River

Grand County and Northern Water have struck a deal that will send more water running down Western Slope streams to benefit farmers, boaters and the environment. Grand County in northern Colorado is home to nearly 16,000 people, part of Rocky Mountain National Park and the headwaters of the Colorado River. Each year, four major diversion tunnels take up to 350,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water out of the county and push it east to the Front Range. Now, the county and the water provider are agreeing to release water in the opposite direction, to the west.

Related Colorado water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

‘Innovation is the cornerstone’ of the California Water Plan 

Governor Gavin Newsom, with the support of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and other state agencies, signed into effect new developments for the California Water Plan which details water conservation efforts for the next five years. Newsom said that the state has invested $9 billion in the last three years, and that “I want folks to know that we are not just victims of fate, that we recognize the world we’re living in.”   Recognizing that California will be operating with ten percent less water in 2040 than what is currently available, Newsom said “We put out a hotter, drier strategy” to offset the loss. This includes plans for improving water security, desalinization plants, stormwater capture, water recycling, and new strategies for large-scale conveyance.  

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Tribes are submitting Colorado River ideas so they’re at the table, not “on the menu”

Tribes that use the Colorado River want a say in negotiations that will reshape how the river’s water is shared. Eighteen of those tribes signed on to a letter sent to the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that will finalize new rules for managing the river after 2026, when the current guidelines expire. In the memo, tribal leaders urge the federal government to protect their access to water and uphold long-standing legal responsibilities. … The tribes’ letter aims to make sure that Indigenous people, who used the Colorado River before white settlers ever occupied the Western U.S., are not left behind as Reclamation considers those proposals. “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu,” Jay Weiner, a water lawyer for the Quechan Indian Tribe, said. Weiner, who helped craft the letter, said it aims to answer the complicated question: What do tribes want?

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Sierra winter weather advisory issued ahead of spring storm

Winter-like weather will make a brief return to California this weekend, with widespread snow in the Sierra Nevada. The National Weather Service has issued winter weather advisories for much of the Sierra, including Donner Pass, the Tahoe Basin and Yosemite National Park. The spring snowmaker will add fresh powder in some locations, boosting an already healthy snowpack. 

Related weather and water supply articles: 

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Water spills from Lake Casitas for first time since 1998

A steady stream of water spilled from Lake Casitas Friday, a few days after officials declared the Ojai Valley reservoir had reached capacity for the first time in a quarter century. Just two years earlier, the drought-stressed reservoir, which provides drinking water for the Ojai Valley and parts of Ventura, had dropped under 30%. The Casitas Municipal Water District was looking at emergency measures if conditions didn’t improve, board President Richard Hajas said. Now, the lake is full, holding roughly 20 years of water.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Study says California’s 2023 snowy rescue from megadrought was a freak event. Don’t get used to it

Last year’s snow deluge in California, which quickly erased a two decade long megadrought, was essentially a once-in-a-lifetime rescue from above, a new study found. Don’t get used to it because with climate change the 2023 California snow bonanza —a record for snow on the ground on April 1 — will be less likely in the future, said the study in Monday’s journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. … UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, who wasn’t part of the study but specializes in weather in the U.S. West, said, “I would not be surprised if 2023 was the coldest, snowiest winter for the rest of my own lifetime in California.”

Related snowpack articles: 

Publication Colorado River Basin Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River Basin
Updated 2024

Cover of Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Basin

Learn the history and challenges facing the West’s most dramatic and developed river. 

The Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River Basin introduces the 1,450-mile river that sustains 40 million people and millions of acres of farmland spanning seven states and parts of northern Mexico.

The 28-page primer explains how the river’s water is shared and managed as the Southwest transitions to a hotter and drier climate.

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Moab unites to fight a floodplain development

Moab is a growing town of 5,300 that up to 5 million people visit each year to hike nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks, ride mountain bikes and all-terrain vehicles, or raft the Colorado River. Like any western resort town, it desperately needs affordable housing. What locals say it doesn’t need is a high-end development on a sandbar projecting into the Colorado River, where groves of cottonwoods, willows and hackberries flourish. “Delusional,” shameful” or “outrageous” is what many locals call this Kane Creek Preservation and Development project.
- Written by Mary Moran, a contributor to Writers on the Range

Colorado River Shortages Drive Major Advances in Recycled Sewage Water Use
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Phoenix, Southern California betting on purified sewage to fill drinking water needs

After more than two decades of drought, water utilities serving the largest urban regions in the arid Southwest are embracing a drought-proof source of drinking water long considered a supply of last resort: purified sewage.

Water supplies have tightened to the point that Phoenix and the water supplier for 19 million Southern California residents are racing to adopt an expensive technology called “direct potable reuse” or “advanced purification” to reduce their reliance on imported water from the dwindling Colorado River.

Tribes Gain Clout as Colorado River Shrinks
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Tribes hold key state-appointed posts for first time as their water rises in value

A CAP canal in North PhoenixThe climate-driven shrinking of the Colorado River is expanding the influence of Native American tribes over how the river’s flows are divided among cities, farms and reservations across the Southwest.

The tribes are seeing the value of their largely unused river water entitlements rise as the Colorado dwindles, and they are gaining seats they’ve never had at the water bargaining table as government agencies try to redress a legacy of exclusion.

Tour Nick Gray

Northern California Tour 2024
Field Trip - October 16-18

Click here to register!

Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning 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.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

New California Law Bolsters Groundwater Recharge as Strategic Defense Against Climate Change
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Designates Aquifers 'Natural Infrastructure' to Boost Funding for Water Supply, Flood Control, Wildlife Habitat

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater.

The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.

High-Tech Mapping of Central Valley’s Underground Blazes Path to Drought Resilience
Aerial Surveillance Reveals Best Spots to Store Floodwater for Dry Times but Delivering the Surplus Remains Thorny

Helicopter towing an AEM loopA new underground mapping technology that reveals the best spots for storing surplus water in California’s Central Valley is providing a big boost to the state’s most groundwater-dependent communities.

The maps provided by the California Department of Water Resources for the first time pinpoint paleo valleys and similar prime underground storage zones traditionally found with some guesswork by drilling exploratory wells and other more time-consuming manual methods. The new maps are drawn from data on the composition of underlying rock and soil gathered by low-flying helicopters towing giant magnets.

The unique peeks below ground are saving water agencies’ resources and allowing them to accurately devise ways to capture water from extreme storms and soak or inject the surplus underground for use during the next drought.

“Understanding where you’re putting and taking water from really helps, versus trying to make multimillion-dollar decisions based on a thumb and which way the wind is blowing,” said Aaron Fukuda, general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, an early adopter of the airborne electromagnetic or AEM technology in California.


Sierra Headwaters Tour Explores Role of Forest Management in Watershed Health
June 21-22 tour to include stops at forest research station & restoration pilot project

Much of California’s water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada, making it dependent on the health of forests. But those forests are suffering from widespread tree mortality and other ecosystem degradation resulting mostly from the growing frequency and severity of droughts and wildfires.

Upper Colorado River States Add Muscle as Decisions Loom on the Shrinking River’s Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Upper Basin States Seek Added Leverage to Protect Their River Shares Amid Difficult Talks with California and the Lower Basin

The White River winds and meanders through a valley.The states of the Lower Colorado River Basin have traditionally played an oversized role in tapping the lifeline that supplies 40 million people in the West. California, Nevada and Arizona were quicker to build major canals and dams and negotiated a landmark deal that requires the Upper Basin to send predictable flows through the Grand Canyon, even during dry years.

But with the federal government threatening unprecedented water cuts amid decades of drought and declining reservoirs, the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are muscling up to protect their shares of an overallocated river whose average flows in the Upper Basin have already dropped 20 percent over the last century.

They have formed new agencies to better monitor their interests, moved influential Colorado River veterans into top negotiating posts and improved their relationships with Native American tribes that also hold substantial claims to the river.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2024
Field Trip - March 13-15

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamThis tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand 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 some 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 was the focus of this tour.

Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
7830 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89123

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

In One of the Snowiest Places in the West, A Scientist Hunts for Clues to the Sierra Snowpack’s Future
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Central Sierra Snow Lab Manager Andrew Schwartz Aims to Help Water Managers Improve Tracking of Snowpack Crucial to California's Drought-Stressed Water Supply

Photo of Andrew Schwartz, manager and lead scientist at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory.Growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Andrew Schwartz never missed an opportunity to play in – or study – a Colorado snowstorm. During major blizzards, he would traipse out into the icy wind and heavy drifts of snow pretending to be a scientist researching in Antarctica.  

Decades later, still armed with an obsession for extreme weather, Schwartz has landed in one of the snowiest places in the West, leading a research lab whose mission is to give California water managers instant information on the depth and quality of snow draping the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

As Colorado River Flows Drop and Tensions Rise, Water Interests Struggle to Find Solutions That All Can Accept
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Chorus of experts warn climate change has rendered old assumptions outdated about what the Colorado River can provide, leaving painful water cuts as the only way forward

Photo shows Hoover Dam’s intake towers protruding from the surface of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where water levels have dropped to record lows amid a 22-year drought. When the Colorado River Compact was signed 100 years ago, the negotiators for seven Western states bet that the river they were dividing would have ample water to meet everyone’s needs – even those not seated around the table.

A century later, it’s clear the water they bet on is not there. More than two decades of drought, lake evaporation and overuse of water have nearly drained the river’s two anchor reservoirs, Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border and Lake Mead near Las Vegas. Climate change is rendering the basin drier, shrinking spring runoff that’s vital for river flows, farms, tribes and cities across the basin – and essential for refilling reservoirs.

The states that endorsed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 – and the tribes and nation of Mexico that were excluded from the table – are now straining to find, and perhaps more importantly accept, solutions on a river that may offer just half of the water that the Compact assumed would be available. And not only are solutions not coming easily, the relationships essential for compromise are getting more frayed.

Northern California Tour 2023
Field Trip - October 18-20

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning 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.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Foundation Event Nick Gray

Winter Outlook Workshop
Dec. 8th Workshop in Irvine Focused on Ability to Predict Winter Precipitation

The three-year span, 2019 to 2022, was officially the driest ever statewide going back to 1895 when modern records began in California. But that most recent period of overall drought also saw big swings from very wet to very dry stretches such as the 2021-2022 water year that went from a relatively wet Oct.-Dec. beginning to the driest Jan.-March period in the state’s history.

With La Niña conditions predicted to persist into the winter, what can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2023? Does La Niña really mean anything for California or is it all washed up as a predictor in this new reality of climate whiplash, and has any of this affected our reliance on historical patterns to forecast California’s water supply?

Participants found out what efforts are being made to improve sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) precipitation forecasting for California and the Colorado River Basin at our one-day Winter Outlook Workshop December 8 in Irvine, CA.

Beckman Center
Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617

A Colorado River Veteran Moves Upstream and Plunges into The Drought-Stressed River’s Mounting Woes
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Chuck Cullom, a longtime Arizona water manager, brings a dual-basin perspective as top staffer at the Upper Colorado River Commission

Chuck Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. With 25 years of experience working on the Colorado River, Chuck Cullom is used to responding to myriad challenges that arise on the vital lifeline that seven states, more than two dozen tribes and the country of Mexico depend on for water. But this summer problems on the drought-stressed river are piling up at a dizzying pace: Reservoirs plummeting to record low levels, whether Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam can continue to release water and produce hydropower, unprecedented water cuts and predatory smallmouth bass threatening native fish species in the Grand Canyon. 

“Holy buckets, Batman!,” said Cullom, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission. “I mean, it’s just on and on and on.”

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

A Colorado River Tribal Leader Seeks A Voice In the River’s Future–And Freedom to Profit From Its Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: CRIT Chair Amelia Flores Says Allowing Tribe to Lease Or Store Water Off Reservation Could Aid Broader Colorado River Drought Response and Fund Irrigation Repairs

Amelia Flores, chairwoman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes.As water interests in the Colorado River Basin prepare to negotiate a new set of operating guidelines for the drought-stressed river, Amelia Flores wants her Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) to be involved in the discussion. And she wants CRIT seated at the negotiating table with something invaluable to offer on a river facing steep cuts in use: its surplus water.

CRIT, whose reservation lands in California and Arizona are bisected by the Colorado River, has some of the most senior water rights on the river. But a federal law enacted in the late 1700s, decades before any southwestern state was established, prevents most tribes from sending any of its water off its reservation. The restrictions mean CRIT, which holds the rights to nearly a quarter of the entire state of Arizona’s yearly allotment of river water, is missing out on financial gain and the chance to help its river partners.

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning 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.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

As Drought Shrinks the Colorado River, A SoCal Giant Seeks Help from River Partners to Fortify its Local Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Metropolitan Water District's wastewater recycling project draws support from Arizona and Nevada, which hope to gain a share of Metropolitan's river supply

Metropolitan Water District's advanced water treatment demonstration plant in Carson. Momentum is building for a unique interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern California homes and business into relief for the stressed Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water agencies.  

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand 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 some 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 was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Western Water 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?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: 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.

Tour Nick Gray

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

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop 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 was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139

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 Jenn 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 Jenn 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.

Tour Nick Gray

Headwaters Tour 2023
Field Trip - June 21-22 (optional whitewater rafting June 20)

On average, more than 60 percent of California’s developed water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada and the southern spur of the Cascade Range. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

This tour ventured into the Sierra to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state.

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: 


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 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. 

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 Jenn 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.


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 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.

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.”


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. 


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.


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 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.


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.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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 Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map 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

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.


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.


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.

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.

Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?
Dec. 5th workshop in Irvine focused on ability to predict winter precipitation

The Carr Fire devastated land around Keswick Dam, nine miles downstream of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River“Dry, hot and on fire” is how the California Department of Water Resources described Water Year 2018 in a recent report.

Water Year 2018 – from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 - marked a return to dry conditions statewide following an exceptionally wet 2017, according to DWR’s Water Year 2018 report. But 2017 was exceptional as all but two of the water years in the past decade experienced drought.

Was Water Year 2018 simply a single dry year or does it signal the beginning of another drought? And what can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019? Does El Niño really mean anything for California or is it all washed up as a predictor?

Attendees found out at this one-day event Dec. 5 in Irvine, Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

Eventbrite - Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

Beckman Center
Auditorium - Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

In Water-Stressed California and the Southwest, An Acre-Foot of Water Goes a Lot Further Than It Used To
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-As households get stingier with water, a common guide for describing how much they need gets a refresh

The Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline park displays a sign announcing their water conservation efforts at the park in 2014.People in California and the Southwest are getting stingier with water, a story that’s told by the acre-foot.

For years, water use has generally been described in terms of acre-foot per a certain number of households, keying off the image of an acre-foot as a football field a foot deep in water. The long-time rule of thumb: One acre-foot of water would supply the indoor and outdoor needs of two typical urban households for a year.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Despite Risk of Unprecedented Shortage on the Colorado River, Reclamation Commissioner Sees Room for Optimism
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Commissioner Brenda Burman, in address at Foundation’s Water Summit, also highlights Shasta Dam plan

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda BurmanThe Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of California water industry people.

During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees that agreement can be reached.

ON THE ROAD: Picturesque Northern California Valley Could Become the State’s Next Major Reservoir
Sites Reservoir site is a stop on our Northern California Tour Oct. 10-12

The proposed Sites Reservoir is in a rural cattle-grazing area west of the Sacramento Valley town of Maxwell. An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.

Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.

And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

New Leader Takes Over as the Upper Colorado River Commission Grapples With Less Water and a Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission

Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River CommissionAmy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.

Headwaters Tour 2018

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality.

Headwaters tour participants on a hike in the Sierra Nevada.

We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state. 

GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

As Decision Nears On California Water Storage Funding, a Chairman Reflects on Lessons Learned and What’s Next
WESTERN WATER Q&A: California Water Commission Chairman Armando Quintero

Armando Quintero, chair of the California Water CommissionNew water storage is the holy grail primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014 the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage of Proposition 1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem, water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.

Western Water Jenn Bowles Colorado River Basin Map Jennifer Bowles

Domino Effect: As Arizona Searches For a Unifying Voice, a Drought Plan for the Lower Colorado River Is Stalled
EDITOR'S NOTE: Finding solutions to the Colorado River — or any disputed river —may be the most important role anyone can play

Nowhere is the domino effect in Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River, and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan. Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying voice between its major water players, an effort you can read more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.

Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within California.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

As Colorado River Levels Drop, Pressure Grows On Arizona To Complete A Plan For Water Shortages
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: A dispute over who speaks for Arizona has stalled work with California, Nevada on Drought Contingency Plan

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low.

If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1 million households in one year.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.

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

Amid ‘Green Rush’ of Legal Cannabis, California Strives to Control Adverse Effects on Water
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: State crafts water right and new rules unique to marijuana farms, but will growers accustomed to the shadows comply?

A marijuana plant from a growing operationFor decades, cannabis has been grown in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in suburban tract homes.

In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

EDITOR’S NOTE: Assessing California’s Response to Marijuana’s Impacts on Water

Jennifer BowlesAs we continue forging ahead in 2018 with our online version of Western Water after 40 years as a print magazine, we turned our attention to a topic that also got its start this year: recreational marijuana as a legal use.

State regulators, in the last few years, already had been beefing up their workforce to tackle the glut in marijuana crops and combat their impacts to water quality and supply for people, fish and farming downstream. Thus, even if these impacts were perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of Californians who approved Proposition 64 in 2016, we thought it important to see if anything new had evolved from a water perspective now that marijuana was legal.


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We 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.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118

Learn What New Tree-Ring Studies Reveal about Drought Patterns in Southern California
Also hear about efforts to improve weather forecasting, drought preparedness at April 19th workshop in San Pedro

University of Arizona research professor removes tree core sample from bigcone Douglas fir tree.Learn what new tree-ring studies in Southern California watersheds reveal about drought, hear about efforts to improve subseasonal to seasonal weather forecasting and get the latest on climate change impacts that will alter drought vulnerability in the future.

At our Paleo Drought Workshop on April 19th in San Pedro, you will hear from experts at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Arizona and California Department of Water Resources.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

One Year In, A New State Policymaker Assesses the Salton Sea, Federal Relations and California’s Thorny Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: State Water Board member Joaquin Esquivel

State Water Resources Control Board member E. Joaquin EsquivelJoaquin Esquivel learned that life is what happens when you make plans. Esquivel, who holds the public member slot at the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento, had just closed purchase on a house in Washington D.C. with his partner when he was tapped by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago to fill the Board vacancy.

Esquivel, 35, had spent a decade in Washington, first in several capacities with then Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and then as assistant secretary for federal water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. As a member of the State Water Board, he shares with four other members the difficult task of ensuring balance to all the uses of California’s water. 

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

Does California’s Environment Deserve its Own Water Right?
IN-DEPTH: Fisheries and wildlife face growing challenges, but so do water systems competing for limited supply. Is there room for an environmental water right?

Sunset in Sacramento-San Joaquin DeltaDoes California need to revamp the way in which water is dedicated to the environment to better protect fish and the ecosystem at large? In the hypersensitive world of California water, where differences over who gets what can result in epic legislative and legal battles, the idea sparks a combination of fear, uncertainty and promise.

Saying that the way California manages water for the environment “isn’t working for anyone,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shook things up late last year by proposing a redesigned regulatory system featuring what they described as water ecosystem plans and water budgets with allocations set aside for the environment.

‘Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,’ Climate Change and the Future of California’s Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Climate scientist Daniel Swain

Daniel SwainEvery day, people flock to Daniel Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from California, intensifying the drought.

Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the western United States. In a recent interview with Western Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may lie ahead for the state’s water supply. 


2017 Water Leaders Class Releases Policy Recommendations for California’s Water Storage Future

The 2017 Water Leaders class organized by the Water Education Foundation completed its year with a report outlining policy recommendations for the future of water storage in California.

The class of 20 from various stakeholder groups and backgrounds that hailed from cities and towns across the state had full editorial control to chose recommendations. While they did not endorse a specific storage proposal, they recommended that California:


Deepen Your Knowledge of California Water and Visit the Delta
Popular Water 101 Workshop includes optional one-day Delta Tour

Deepen your knowledge of California water issues at our popular Water 101 Workshop and jump aboard the bus the next day to visit the  Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource.

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Flood Management

Atmospheric Rivers

A massive 1986 Northern California flood near Marysville, north of Sacramento, caused the south levee of the Yuba River to breach, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast and are key to California’s water supply.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources Gary Pitzer

The Drought May Be Over, But California Still Wants Residents to Act Like It’s On Forever
State considers adopting permanent wise water use rules starting in April

For decades, no matter the weather, the message has been preached to Californians: use water wisely, especially outdoors, which accounts for most urban water use.

Enforcement of that message filters to the local level, where water agencies routinely target the notorious “gutter flooder” with gentle reminders and, if necessary, financial penalties.

Headwaters Tour 2019
Field Trip - June 27-28

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night 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. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119