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 Desert Sun

Monday Top of the Scroll: Senators add $4 billion for Colorado River drought relief into Inflation Reduction Act

The massive climate and healthcare package that passed Sunday in the Senate includes $4 billion to help shore up the rapidly dwindling Colorado River and its massive reservoirs. California officials who are pushing to meet an August deadline for huge water savings in Lake Mead and Lake Powell praised the bill’s passage…. Officials with two powerful southern California agencies — the Imperial Irrigation District serving rural farmers and the Metropolitan Water District serving greater Los Angeles — are haggling over 400,000 acre-feet in possible reductions, as reported Thursday by The Desert Sun.

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Aquafornia news UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Blog: Informing equitable stormwater investments in L.A. County

In a drought-prone area like Los Angeles, rainwater provides tremendous potential to boost local water supply, as well as provide multiple other ecosystem and community benefits. That’s why in 2018, L.A. County voters approved Measure W, a tax that raises about $280 million annually to capture, clean and reuse water runoff. Measure W and the program it created, the Safe Clean Water Program, funds projects to clean and strengthen the local water supply and build community resilience. Research by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Stantec is helping to ensure that these investments benefit all Angelenos, especially residents of disadvantaged communities, as the program already calls for. 

Aquafornia news Patch - Palm Desert

Salton Sea, Indian Tribe to get 5,000 acre-feet of water annually

A natural resources investment company announced Thursday it intends to allocate up to 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to the Salton Sea and Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe as part of a public-private partnership intended to help reinvigorate the dying Salton Sea and ensure reliable potable water for communities on tribal land. Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc. said that an agreement with the Salton Sea Authority, tribe and Coachella Valley Water District will be part of a wider water distribution enterprise known as the Cadiz Water Conservation & Storage Project, which originally focused on drawing water from the Colorado River and delivering it to Southern California metropolitan areas via a single pipeline.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

In dry California, salty water creeps into key waterways

Charlie Hamilton hasn’t irrigated his vineyards with water from the Sacramento River since early May, even though it flows just yards from his crop. Nearby to the south, the industrial Bay Area city of Antioch has supplied its people with water from the San Joaquin River for just 32 days this year, compared to roughly 128 days by this time in a wet year. They may be close by, but these two rivers, central arms of California’s water system, have become too salty to use in some places as the state’s punishing drought drags on. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California water war: San Joaquin Valley landowners battle over scarce resource

Water is the lifeblood in the parched San Joaquin Valley, sustaining endless acres of trees, seeds and pastures that feed a hungry nation. But a controversial pipeline sits empty, as dry as dust, caught in an angry feud between two of California’s largest land barons, Silicon Valley developer and farmer John Vidovich and Pasadena-based longtime cotton king J.G. Boswell Company. Vidovich needs the pipe to move water. The Boswell Company wants it blocked, saying it threatens the company’s own water supplies, which run through a canal over the pipeline’s underground route. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California family gets drinking water from air with new device

The drinking water for a family near Keyes comes from an unusual source: It’s extracted from air. Such systems could help parts of the Central Valley with polluted wells, and parts of the world where water is always in short supply. The idea is being tested by the Valley Water Collaborative, which has delivered free bottled supplies since last year in parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties. The new system yields just 10 gallons a day, but that’s enough for the drinking and cooking needs of a typical household.

Aquafornia news CBS News

Friday Top of the Scroll: Millions at risk of power and water shortages as two of the nation’s largest reservoirs on the brink of “dead pool status,” U.N. warns

Millions of people in the Western U.S. are at risk of seeing reduced access to both water and power as two of the nation’s biggest reservoirs continue to dry up inch by inch. The United Nations issued a warning on Tuesday that the water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at their lowest ever and are getting perilously close to reaching “dead pool status.” Such a status means that the water levels are so low that water can’t flow downstream to power hydroelectric stations. At Lake Mead, located in Nevada and Arizona, the country’s largest artificial body of water, levels have gotten so low that it’s essentially become a graveyard – human remains, dried-out fish and a sunken boat dating back to World War II …

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Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Arizona and California farmers, targets for Colorado River cuts, draft their conservation strategy

Knowing they are targets, farmers in southern Arizona and California who receive irrigation water from the Colorado River are discussing a plan that could go a long way toward meeting a federal conservation mandate in the drying basin. With key reservoirs Mead and Powell at record lows and despite the continued decline of the Salton Sea, federal officials are demanding historic cuts in water use next year, on the order of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet, or roughly one-third of the river’s recent annual flow.

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Aquafornia news KTVU - Oakland

Critically low water levels at Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir

No matter where you look at Lake Shasta you can see the dramatic “bathtub ring” – bright orange soil contrasting with the blue water and the green tree line. It’s a visual reminder of the severity of California’s drought, and one not seen on a day-to-day basis in places like the Bay Area. But for those who work and live at Lake Shasta, it serves as a daily warning. … The lake was last completely full in 2019. The all-time low point for Lake Shasta was in 1977 when the lake was 230-feet below its maximum level.  The very next year, after a very wet winter, it was nearly full.   

Aquafornia news E&E News

EPA preps cyber rule for water sector

EPA is poised to announce a new rule that would require states to oversee more than 1,000 water utilities’ cybersecurity plans, according to a top White House official. Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security that EPA will be issuing a rule “shortly” to expand the regular reviews to include cybersecurity as threats at facilities mount across the country.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Drought and old pipes could slow Colorado River to a trickle

In their pleas to Western states to cut back on water use from the Colorado River Basin, federal officials are keenly focused on keeping Lake Powell’s elevation at 3,490 feet — the minimum needed to keep hydropower humming at Glen Canyon Dam. But if federal efforts can’t stop the reservoir from shrinking to new lows — its elevation is 3,536 feet as of Monday — the lights going out might not even be the worst problem. If it dips 60 feet below its current level, the already dwindling Colorado River could trickle down into a fraction of what is expected for states below the dam, a new analysis by conservation groups found.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Whitewater rafting from ridgetop to river mouth: seeing the multiple benefits of California water

The forests and meadows of the Sierra Nevada, Coast Range, and Cascade Mountains are the source waters for much of the Sacramento River Basin and the State of California. Healthy headwaters ensure increased water supply reliability and reduced flooding risks, improved water quality, reduced impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increased renewable energy supplies, enhanced habitat, and improved response to climate change and extreme weather.

Aquafornia news Sierra Club Magazine

Do you know where your water comes from?

It wasn’t until she was 26 and had one degree in environmental science and another in water recycling that Nina Gordon-Kirsch learned where the water in her faucet came from. The Mokelumne River, which carries snowmelt from the Sierras through the Central Valley and out to the San Francisco Bay delta, is surprisingly little-known considering how many lives depend on it.

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Aquafornia news 12 News - Phoenix

Arizona may see drastic cut in Colorado River water

This month will be a moment of truth for Arizona cities. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to release its “24-month study” that announces how much water Lake Powell and Lake Mead will release in 2023. Meanwhile, seven western states must also present a plan to dramatically cut 2-4 million acre-feet of water. According to federal records, that amounts to as much as 25% of water allocated to the states.

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Aquafornia news Nossaman LLP

Blog: Draft EIR released for Delta Conveyance project

A key priority of the Newsom Administration – the Delta Conveyance Project – has officially entered its next chapter. On July 22, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released its draft environmental impact report (Draft EIR) for the Delta Conveyance Project. The Delta Conveyance Project is DWR’s and Governor Newsom’s plan to build an underground tunnel to bring water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the State Water Project pumps near Tracy in order to reduce the risk from earthquakes and climate change to the State’s water supplies.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Food choices are the real drivers of water usage

960,000 acres of land in California are used to produce alfalfa, using 2 million gallons of water per acre, per year, all of which goes to feed livestock. What kind of livestock? Mostly dairy cows, of which there are 2.5 million in California alone. … It turns out, states [author Richard] Oppenlander, “60 to 70 percent of California water goes to livestock and crops to feed them.” …Once I learned that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, (raising the cow, growing grain for the cow, cleaning the cow) buying non-dairy milk sounds like a much wiser choice. Once I learned that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, giving up meat altogether seems like the only choice.

-Written by Patsy Ouellette, a longtime environmental advocate.​

Aquafornia news NPR News for Southern California

Listen: As our climate permanently changes how is California fighting aridification?

Climate change has had a major impact across the world, specifically in California, one example of it has been the increasingly disastrous wildfires and drought issues we see today. With aridification, or the gradual change to a drier climate, changing the state, it does leave many wondering what can be done to limit its effects on Californians. The stricter statewide regulations on water, the state has shown a willingness to take the situation seriously–but the recent resignation of a California drought official did put into question just how urgent California officials are viewing aridification.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Can Lake Powell be drained? Different solutions to Western drought

Basking in the sunshine on a boat at Lake Powell is the quintessential backdrop for a perfect summer getaway. The human-made reservoir straddling the Utah-Arizona border has been a beloved destination spot that has spanned generations for many families. The glistening green waves against red rock canyons is home to many summer memories — but also to one of the nation’s greatest water reserves. … The blue-green water levels are getting lower and lower each year, raising questions about the future of the lake for tourism and recreation as well as generating hydroelectric power. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Opinion: Calif.’s great water experiments have failed. It’s time for real solutions.

As California’s prolonged drought continues, the State is at a crossroads. Recent headlines have been dominated by devastating wildfires and a growing number of the State’s poorest communities without water.  These catastrophic conditions demand answers and solutions from our leaders. … With the cost of living continuing to climb, the San Joaquin Valley’s most vibrant sector – agriculture – cannot continue to feed our communities, state, nation, or the world, if we do not have the most basic resource necessary to grow food, water. 
-Written by William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms, director of the Westlands Water District, and chairman of the Valley Future Foundation.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

California cities introduce rules and fines on water use during the drought

As California enters yet another year of a continued drought, cities and counties across the state implemented water restrictions in the hopes of reducing strain on the states water sources. According to the state, banning the watering of non-functional lawns will save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water a year. In April, Contra Costa Water District asked users to reduce water usage by 15%. The district proposed a temporary drought surcharge of up to 15% starting in July. 

Aquafornia news Business Insider

Steak costs more these days. Drought may keep prices high for years.

The brown hills of Northern California are peppered with cattle. They spend their days slowly meandering under the sun, munching drought-withered grass. Cattle are California’s fourth-biggest agricultural commodity, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state’s agricultural department. But increasingly dry conditions are making the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone’s ranch was dry for the first time in the 46 years his family has owned it.

Aquafornia news Union Democrat

New Melones Reservoir dips to lowest level in 5 years, federal officials cite ‘unprecedented drought’

New Melones Reservoir, the Golden State’s fourth-largest capacity reservoir, was 70% empty Wednesday — its lowest level in five years — due to the drought described by officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as “unprecedented.” Federal authorities closed the lower boat ramp at Tuttletown Recreation Area in Tuolumne County earlier this month because of the lowering water levels. … On Wednesday, the reservoir was holding 722,889 acre-feet of water, three-tenths of its 2.4 million acre-foot capacity, and it was 70% empty, according to state Department of Water Resources data.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Optic

Las Vegas issues emergency declaration over water concerns

Mayor Louie Trujillo has issued a declaration of emergency for The City of Las Vegas due to the threat to the city’s water supply caused by the recent wildfires and subsequent flooding.  Earlier this week, a culvert designed to stop contaminated water from going from the Gallinas River into Las Vegas’ reservoirs failed, causing Peterson Dam to be filled with ash and debris from the fire. The dam, which was not full of water at the time, was taken offline, meaning no more water can be pulled from that reservoir at this time. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Can Newsom finally win long Delta water conflict?

Will the fifth time be the charm for California’s decades-long effort to replumb the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta so that more Northern California water can be transported to Southern California? Don’t count on it. Last week, the state Department of Water Resources released a draft environmental impact report on the latest iteration of the 57-year-long effort to change the Delta’s role in water supply, a 45-mile-long tunnel officially named the “Delta Conveyance.” The 3,000-page document immediately drew the responses that have accompanied past versions — big municipal and agricultural water agencies were in favor of it because it would, they hope, increase water deliveries south of the Delta, and environmentalists were against it, saying it would further damage the Delta’s already bruised ecosystem.
-Written by Dan Walters, columnist for CalMatters.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado River basin farms stunted by megadrought, as more sacrifice lies ahead

Colorado River basin water has transformed Nancy Caywood’s fields in the desert southwest of Phoenix into carpets of green cotton and alfalfa for generations. But in June, the alfalfa was expected to dry up, and a vast majority of the cotton wasn’t even planted. The irrigation canal that serves her property was shut down amid a 22-year megadrought that has hurt growers across the seven states that comprise the basin. Vultures gathered in the muddy pools of her canal, feasting on the dying fish, a week after her hay was cut in early June, likely for the last time this year.

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Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

What do increased releases from Folsom Dam mean for region’s water levels?

Rising river levels? It’s been a surprising sight in recent days for people out along the American River. California is in year three of a severe drought and people are being asked to conserve, but water releases from Folsom Dam are being dramatically increased this week. Parts of the American River Parkway that had been dry ground just a few days ago are now covered with water, which is something surprising to many people along the shoreline.

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

California drought is causing ranchers to sell off cattle, which will have a lasting impact

California is on year three of one of the worst droughts in state history, and it’s hurting our farmers and ranchers. Jim Rickert owns Prather Ranch and has been ranching in the Northstate for more than five decades. He said this could be one of the worst droughts in his lifetime. … Rickert said this has meant making some tough and emotional choices like the decision to sell off part of their herd. … Inflation also plays a role in their hard times. He said their input costs have increased exponentially thanks to inflation. Farming necessities such as fertilizer, hay, and even power bills for needing to pump water have all increased.

Aquafornia news KYMA

Imperial County hosts 2022 Colorado River Summit addressing drought

The 2022 Colorado River Summit was held Thursday for the community and stakeholders to come together to inform each other of the drought issue, the drastic measures that may be coming our way and how those measures can be mitigated by working together. Imperial County, Comite Civico Del Valle, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business (COLAB), Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE), and the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association hosted the forum.

Aquafornia news The Center Square

Education, water banks could ease Utah’s water challenges, report says

Utah’s main crop is a thirsty one and with water becoming more limited, some are wondering if farmers should consider a crop that uses less, according to a report released by Gov. Spencer Cox Wednesday.  The report, the third in Cox’s “Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water,” calls for new strategies such as split stream leases and water banking. The 20-page report focuses on agriculture. The previous reports highlighted infrastructure investments and communities. 

Aquafornia news The Vacaville Reporter

Water ABCs for Solano teachers begins Aug. 3

It’s no con the western United States is amid a prolonged drought, one which some scientists believe is the most serious in more than 1,000 years. So how we conserve water and manage it is key to the economic and societal health of California and Solano County and the decisions we make today will affect us all in the years and decades to come. To that end, the Solano Resource Conservation District will host its Second Annual Water Institute for Teachers from Aug. 3 to 5. (Among the partners in the institute is The Water Education Foundation’s Project WET program).

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Upper Colorado River leaders push back against federal ask for conservation

One of Colorado’s top water officials says he cannot enforce recent federal demands to start conserving more on the Colorado River. State engineer Kevin Rein oversees the state’s water rights system. In a meeting with the Colorado River District board on Jul. 19, Rein assured members he would not be mandating conservation among their municipal, industrial and agricultural users. The district covers 15 counties in Western Colorado.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Water woes are biggest worry for Californians as drought drags on

As the drought punishing California drags on, water is a top — and growing — worry for residents of our parched state, outpacing wildfires and climate change, according to a new poll about environmental issues. With reservoirs and snowpack shrinking, Californians listed the state’s water supply as their number one environmental worry, with 68% of adults saying it’s a big problem — up from 63% a year ago. … [F]ewer than half said they have done a lot to reduce their water use, and 16% say they have done nothing. … 69% of Californians said people in their area are not doing enough to conserve.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Blog: August is coming. Prepare for climate calamity

Lake Siskiyou is beautiful this time of year. About 200 miles north of Sacramento, the artificial reservoir — formed by a dam on the Sacramento River — is ringed by quiet beaches that offer a cool respite from triple-digit heat. The views of Mt. Shasta are spectacular. When I visited last week, I saw double-crested cormorants, ospreys and great blue herons soaring over the water and ducklings swimming with their mother. It’s a great spot to take a few days off from work. It’s also not immune to the climate challenges confronting California and the American West as we enter August — a crucial month for water supplies, wildfires, extreme heat and possible power shortages.
-Written by Sammy Roth, LA Times climate reporter and columnist.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California drought official blasts Newsom administration

In his time at the California State Water Resources Control Board, Max Gomberg has witnessed the state grapple with two devastating droughts and the accelerating effects of climate change. Now, after 10 years of recommending strategies for making California more water resilient, the board’s climate and conservation manager is calling it quits. The reason: He no longer believes Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration are willing to pursue the sorts of transformational changes necessary in an age of growing aridification.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Lawmakers call on Kern stakeholders to engage on water investment

Farmers and water managers may need to do more to engage with lawmakers from outside the Central Valley before the state Legislature can be persuaded to make important investments in water storage and other infrastructure projects, members of Kern’s Sacramento delegation told an audience Tuesday of the Water Association of Kern County. The three locally elected representatives — Assemblyman Vince Fong and state Sens. Shannon Grove and Melissa Hurtado — made the request in the context of their frustration with big-city, coastal lawmakers they said misunderstand how things work in not only the water world but in-state energy production as well.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California revives Delta tunnel project for water deliveries

Here we go again. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration revived the Delta tunnel project Wednesday, unveiling a downsized version of the controversial, multibillion-dollar plan to re-engineer the fragile estuary on Sacramento’s doorstep that serves as the hub of California’s over-stressed water-delivery network. After three years with little to no public activity, the state released an environmental blueprint for what’s now called the Delta Conveyance — a 45-mile tunnel that would divert water from the Sacramento River and route it under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta so that it can be shipped to farms and cities hundreds of miles away.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: California water: New $16 billion Delta tunnel plan released by Newsom administration

Three years ago, amid shaky political support and uncertain funding, Gov. Gavin Newsom killed plans by his predecessor, Jerry Brown, to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Delta to more easily move water south. Now a slimmed down version of the project — which has been one of the most contentious water issues in California since the early 1980s — is back. On Wednesday, Newsom’s administration released details of his new plan, which calls for building one tunnel instead of two.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

A mid-August deadline looms where the basin states drawing off the Colorado River must come to agreement on how they will conserve 4 million acre-feet of water

Local farmers may soon be forced to bite the bullet and find ways to use significantly less water in 2023 — potentially for a lot longer. This drastic measure may come as a result of an emergency water conservation effort to prevent further depletion of the Valley’s main source of water, the Colorado River. If less water flows down the Colorado River, the consequences could be catastrophic for the two reservoirs — lakes Mead and Powell — that feed into the so-called basin states. For example, if water levels in Lake Mead continue dropping, it could bring water and hydropower to a grinding halt, all due to a relentless drought over two decades.

Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Opinion: Policies will ensure not having to choose between water and economic growth

Reading the headlines about water issues in Arizona can be disconcerting. Our state is now more than 20 years into an historic drought with conditions projected to worsen in the coming years. We can no longer rely on the water resources that once seemed abundant. Dwindling Colorado River supplies coupled with inadequate groundwater regulation in large parts of Arizona have put the entire state in a tough position. But this is not a reason to despair – or to panic. We don’t need to discourage growth or declare that Arizona is closed for business because of the water challenges we face.
Written by Jaime A. Molera, former Arizona state school superintendent, partner of Molera Alvarez, and the Arizona director for The Western Way, a nonprofit organization that builds support for market-driven solutions to environmental challenges.

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Aquafornia news California Water Research

Blog: Delta ISB review of Delta tunnel project proceeding under huge time pressure

On June 8, 2022, DWR’s Director, Karla Nemeth, made a presentation on the Delta tunnel project to the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB), with several of the scientists who had worked on the project. She said that she supported the Delta ISB’s review of the project. But unlike the twin tunnels project, the Department of Water Resources did not release the Administrative Draft EIR for the single tunnel. DWR is instead planning for the Delta ISB to review the new project for the first time during the CEQA comment period on the Draft Delta Conveyance EIR, which could be as short as 90 days.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California drought: Before and after satellite images show devastating impacts

Sometimes, it takes zooming out to a bird’s eye view to fully understand the devastating impacts of drought in California. Images captured from space by government and private satellites offer a sobering look at how the current drought — in year three — is affecting the state’s land and natural resources. The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows about 97% of California in moderate or worse drought, with much of the Central Valley and southern portions of the state in the worst conditions.

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Aquafornia news Foothills Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Feds double water supply for Valley farms, cities

More water will flow into farms and cities on the Valley’s east side after a decision by the federal government to increase the supply streaming down canals. On July 20, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced it will increase the water supply delivered to contractors along the eastern side of the Valley to 30%, doubling the original allocation of 15% announced in February. The amount of Class 1 water, for contractors with first rights for water deliveries, was confirmed by Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, in a July 22 update on its website.

Aquafornia news Successful Farming

Report: Nut farmers expanded as drought deepened in California

As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78%, according to new research by Food & Water Watch. In a brief but critical report issued last week, the climate and consumer advocacy group found that California’s nut farms have grown steadily over the past 12 years, even as the state’s water crisis has deepened. Between 2017 and 2021 alone, almond and pistachio crops expanded so quickly that they required an additional 523 billion gallons of irrigation water.

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Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

Two water board directors respond to criticism from city, Golden Hills

Contentious comments by representatives of the city of Tehachapi and Golden Hills Community Services District have been made at meetings of the local water board for a number of months. Generally, board members don’t respond. But at the July 20 meeting of the Board of Directors of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District, some directors didn’t hold back. … In June, Golden Hills and the city told directors they believe 75 percent of all water imported from the State Water Project by the local water district should be allocated on a first priority basis to M&I use, presumably leaving 25 percent of the water for agriculture.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Billionaire Tom Steyer bets on weather stations to battle climate

Solar-powered weather stations that beam real-time information to farmers are the first investment for Galvanize Climate Solutions, the firm launched last year by billionaire Tom Steyer and Katie Hall to battle climate change. Galvanize led a $40-million funding round for San Francisco-based Arable, whose weather equipment gives farmers information on how much sunlight and water crops are getting, and can help optimize when to irrigate or fertilize. Such visibility is becoming increasingly important amid tight on-farm labor and with drought shrinking water reserves.

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: CA DWR to release draft environmental impact report for Delta tunnel this week

The California Department of Water Resources has announced that it will be releasing their Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) early this week for the Delta Conveyance Project, AKA the embattled Delta Tunnel. Documents for federal review of the project will be released later this fall. … The changes in the plans include changes to the intakes, the tunnel itself, the power lines, the route and the operations, according to DWR. Here are some of the highlights of the proposed changes: 

Aquafornia news jfleck at inkstain

Blog: Does the Upper Colorado River basin routinely take shortages in dry years?

As stakeholders negotiate the current crisis on the Colorado River, we believe the representatives of the states of the Upper Basin – our states – are making a dangerous argument. Their premise is simple. With deep cutbacks needed, the Upper Basin states argue that their part of the watershed already routinely suffers water supply shortages in dry years. … Our review of those data suggests that, on average, overall Upper Basin use is slightly greater in dry years, and less in wet years.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

SJV water districts get $800,000 in federal grants to save water

Two agencies in the San Joaquin Valley are closer to funding water conservation projects thanks to an $800,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation.  The money comes from the Bureau’s Agricultural Water and Conservation Efficiency grants.  About $362,000 will go to the Corcoran Irrigation District in Kings County and $430,000 will go to the Lost Hills Water District in Kern County.  The money will partially fund projects aimed at water savings and streamlining water transportation and storage. The rest of the funding will come from local contributions.

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Aquafornia news KCBX - San Luis Obispo

Hearst Castle under water restrictions as severe drought continues to hit the Central Coast

One of the most famous attractions at Hearst Castle in San Simeon is the marble-framed outdoor Neptune pool. While severe drought is causing California State Parks to implement water restrictions at the castle, they say the iconic pool will remain full, even as most irrigation stops and portable toilets replace bathrooms. California State Parks, which operates and preserves the Hearst estate, turned off much of the water at there earlier this month amid the statewide drought.

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Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Folsom Lake’s water level is dropping quickly. Here’s why

The water level in Folsom Lake has been dropping quickly in recent weeks. The level peaked in early June just shy of 456 feet, which is about 89% of Folsom’s total capacity and 110% of the average for that point in the year. Overall, that is more than double the amount of water that was stored last year…. A decreasing water level is to be expected throughout the summer months as water managers make releases needed to keep cool water flowing into the American River, keep the delta saltwater-free and export water to Southern California. But those that pay close attention to the water and releases at the reservoir may have noticed that water is leaving the lake a little quicker than normal. That is because additional releases are being made to make up for water shortages at Lake Shasta. But fortunately, Lake Oroville’s water level is high enough to support its water requirements.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Drought is decimating my farm. How California should help us

As I drive across my family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, it feels as if I’m traveling on a chessboard. I cross one square with crops and then another without crops — our fields that must lay fallow. Our farm’s crops have been decimated by the drought. Last year, reduced water deliveries in the state led to 395,000 acres of cropland being idled, according to UC Merced researchers, and about 8,750 agricultural workers lost their jobs. … Without enough water, farmers in California can’t survive. The state’s aging water supply infrastructure has not kept up with the growth of the state. 
-Written by Joe L. Del Bosque, CEO and president of the family-owned Del Bosque Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Follow the water!

People often have strange ideas about how water works.  Even simple water systems can be confusing.  When water systems become large complex socio-physical-ecological systems serving many users and uses, opportunities for confusion become extreme, surpassing comprehension by our ancient Homo sapien brains. When confused by conflicting rhetoric, using numbers to “follow the water” can be helpful.  The California Water Plan has developed some such numbers.  This essay presents their net water use numbers for 2018, by California’s agricultural, urban, and environmental uses by hydrologic region. 

Aquafornia news KCET - Los Angeles

Can desalination be a solution for drought in SoCal?

California is currently suffering through its worst drought in over 1,200 years, a fact painfully illustrated by a hot, dry summer, nearly empty reservoirs, and a historically diminished Colorado River. New water restrictions have gone into effect across the state. As California scrambles to conserve water, desalination plants, facilities that use reverse osmosis filters to purify seawater and transform it into drinking water, have increasingly become part of the discussion.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water officials scrutinize costs for bigger reservoirs, new pipelines

Marin Municipal Water District officials, continuing their quest to boost supply, met this week for a detailed cost assessment on expanding reservoirs and connecting to new sources. District staff stressed to the board that — unlike other options under review such as desalination and recycled water expansion that can produce a continual flow of water — enlarging reservoirs or building pipelines to outside suppliers does not guarantee water will be available when needed. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County supervisors to get latest water updates

As the California drought continues to impact agriculture as well as the lives of residents, local government bodies have requested regular updates on water resources. Once again, the Butte County Board of Supervisors will hear the latest updates regarding the drought, groundwater and water-related activities within the county. In December, the board contracted Luhdorff and Scalmanini Consulting Engineers to create an analysis of drought impacts on the county in 2021.

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Deepening drought prompts readoption of curtailment regulation for the Delta

With three consecutive years of drought reducing state and federal water project reservoirs to historic lows, the State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday readopted measures for the Delta to protect drinking water supplies, prevent salinity intrusion and minimize impacts to fish and the environment. The State Water Board decision updating an emergency curtailment and reporting regulation authorizes staff to determine the amount of water available to certain right holders during the drought, preserving drinking water for 27 million Californians and the irrigation supply for more than three million acres of farmland.

Aquafornia news Arizona Department of Water Resources

News release: AZ water leaders lay out plans for facing the emerging crisis in the Colorado River system

Arizona’s water leaders on July 13 laid out the path forward for contending with the extraordinarily difficult choices facing all of the Colorado River system’s water users over the next several months. In a sobering presentation to the Arizona Reconsultation Committee (the panel assembled to help develop an Arizona perspective on new operational guidelines for the river system by 2026), Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke described the unprecedented challenges facing the system currently.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Taking a big leap to solve California water problems: How uncommon partners are finding common ground on the water

There we were, 19 of us on the stony shore of the Tuolumne River, feeling a bit stranded like the crew of Gilligan’s Island. Our “Finding Common Water” rafting excursion was planned around “no water Wednesday,” when river releases are held back for water conservation and infrastructure maintenance. The trip’s goal: Get off our desk chairs and onto rafts, out of the ordinary and into an extraordinary setting — a hot, highly regulated, wild and scenic river —  to push us out of our comfort zone and get to work on addressing real water problems.

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Aquafornia news Southern California News Group

Here’s how low California’s reservoirs are and what to expect in the future

There has not been much good news about California’s water supply lately, but there could be some relief on the way. The North-of-Delta Offstream Storage project, often referred to as the planned Sites Reservoir, was authorized by Congress in 2003. The long delayed project got a financial boost in March when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion — about half of the cost to design, plan and build it. … The new reservoir could increase Northern California’s water storage capacity by up to 15% and would hold enough water to supply about 1.5 million to 3 million households for one year — although much of the water would be for agricultural purposes.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Shasta Lake at 38% capacity heading into the hottest months of the year

[Aquafornia Editor's Note: The Los Angeles Times story below wrongly states that Shasta Lake is part of the State Water Project. It is part of the federal Central Valley Project. We still believe this photo essay is worthy to share because of the importance Shasta Lake plays in California.] 

Shasta Lake, one of the state’s largest reservoirs, is currently at 38% capacity, a startling number heading into the hottest months of the year. Part of the State Water Project, a roughly 700-mile lifeline that pumps and ferries water all the way to Southern California, the reservoir is the driest it has been at this time of year since record-keeping first began in 1976. California relies on storms and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada to fill its reservoirs. The state received a hopeful sign of a wet winter in late December when more than 17 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada. But the winter storms abruptly ceased, ushering in the driest January, February and March ever recorded. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: A painful deadline nears as Colorado River reservoirs run critically low

States in the Colorado River basin are scrambling to propose steep cuts in the water they’ll use from the river next year, in response to a call by the federal government for immediate, drastic efforts to keep the river’s main storage reservoirs from reaching critically low levels. The request comes with the Southwest still in the grip of a severe two-decade drought that shows no signs of letting up…. [E]xperts in Western water issues writing Thursday in the journal Science say significant policy changes could stabilize the river over the long term, even if the drought continues. But concessions that “may be unthinkable at the moment” must be implemented soon, they wrote.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Drought drives Las Vegas to cap size of home swimming pools

Limiting the size of new swimming pools in and around Las Vegas might save a drop in the proverbial bucket amid historic drought and climate change in the West. Officials are taking the plunge anyway, capping the size of new swimming pools at single-family residential homes to about the size of a three-car garage. Citing worries about dwindling drinking water allocations from the drying-up Lake Mead reservoir on the depleted Colorado River, officials in Clark County voted this week to limit the size of new swimming pools to 600 square feet (56 square meters) of surface area.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Drought leaves Mexico’s second biggest city without water

Drought has drained the three reservoirs that provide about 60% of the water for the [Monterrey, Mexico] region’s 5 million residents. Most homes now receive water for only a few hours each morning. And on the city’s periphery, many taps have run completely dry. … “It should be a wake-up call,” said Samuel Sandoval Solis, an expert in water management at UC Davis who described the situation in Monterrey as a “crystal ball” for Southern California. Both are densely packed metropolitan centers that rely heavily on faraway water sources. … Southern California cities, which import about 55% of their water from the Colorado River and Northern California, have already been forced to reduce water usage and face the prospect of further cuts as drought persists …

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Going, going….water at some of Bakersfield’s most popular parks is almost gone

The lake at the Park at River Walk is fast disappearing, as are the Truxtun Lakes and some other city-owned water features. Blame the drought. The City of Bakersfield Water Resources Department has cut off flows to city-owned recreation and water recharge facilities to hold on to what little surface water it’s receiving from the dwindling Kern River for drinking water, according to Daniel Maldonado, a water planner with the department. … Local resident Calletano Guiterrez understood the city has to contend with the drought but hoped at least some water could be set aside for what he said he and his family have come to love about Bakersfield.

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Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Big water pipelines, an old pursuit, still alluring in drying west

Across the country’s western drylands, a motley group of actors is responding to the region’s intensifying water crisis by reviving a well-worn but risky tactic: building water pipelines to tap remote groundwater basins and reservoirs to feed fast-growing metropolitan areas, or to supply rural towns that lack a reliable source. Government agencies, wildcat entrepreneurs, and city utilities are among those vying to pump and pipe water across vast distances — potentially at great economic and environmental cost. Even as critics question the suitability of the water transfers in a new climate era, supporters in California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, the federal government, Indian tribes, and other states are prepared to spend billions on water-supply pipelines.

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Aquafornia news Denver Post

The West’s most important water supply is drying up. Soon, life for 40 million people who depend on the Colorado River will change

[Lake Powell's] water is receding because the Colorado River is drying. Climatologists aren’t sure when, or if, Powell will ever fill again. Rather, they expect conditions to worsen. The chalky ring around Powell is just one sign of many that the 40 million people who directly depend on the Colorado River must fundamentally change their way of life, experts agree. And it’s going to hurt, experts say. “This is not a drought, this is aridification,” Rhett Larson, a water law professor at Arizona State University, said. “This is not something we can wait out. This is not something we can survive. This is the new world we live in.”

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Indigenous leader calls for changing Colorado River management

It’s crunch time for the Colorado River. The river’s badly depleted reservoirs keep dropping, and the federal government has announced that major water cutbacks need to happen soon to prevent supplies from reaching perilously low levels. The future of the Southwest’s main water lifeline hinges on whether the seven states of the Colorado River Basin will effectively address the river’s chronic overuse and shrinking flows after more than two decades of drought intensified by global warming. … There are also 30 federally recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin, and I’ve been interested in learning more about the roles they will play in shaping how dwindling supplies water are apportioned and conserved.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun 

Las Vegas water district OKs proposal for pool-size limits 

The Clark County Commission approved a new measure to mitigate the falling water level of Lake Mead on Tuesday, limiting residential pool sizes in the Las Vegas area. The commission Tuesday unanimously approved a new ordinance prohibiting the Las Vegas Valley Water District from serving residents with pools with a total surface area of over 600 square feet. The new code will only apply to single-family residential customers who received a pool permit for their “pool(s), spa(s), and/or water feature(s)” after Sept. 1, 2022.

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Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: State Water Board delivers $3.3 billion to California communities to boost drought resilience and increase water supplies

Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water. The State Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. The marked increase also comes as a result of last year’s $5.2 billion three-year investment in drought response and water resilience …

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Despite more stored water than in 2021, California will keep closing spigots

As drought conditions persist and with the potential for another dry winter due to La Niña, some good news: the California State Water Resources Control Board learned Wednesday reservoirs in the northern and central parts of the state have more water than at this time last year. State Water Project reservoirs across Northern and Central California remain below historical averages after three consecutive years of drought. But with a combination of people cutting water use, curtailments, farmers fallowing fields and a focus on storage, the reservoirs in the State Water Project are either above or near where they were last year. 

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Aquafornia news Northern California Public Media

Santa Rosa encouraging water conservation through free audits, rebates and expertise

There’s a lot of big ideas for solving California’s perpetual water shortages. Desalinate ocean water. Tow giant bags of water or use a pipeline to pull water out of the mouth of the Columbia River. But there are also less ambitious and perhaps more practical ways too. The city of Santa Rosa is looking to help, one drip at a time. Thomas Hare and Holly Nadeau are water resource specialists from the Santa Rosa’s water department, On a recent Wednesday, in the Oakmont district, they were welcomed to the home of Leslie and Greg Gossage…ready to get down to some detective work.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: What will happen if Lake Mead dries up? Look to the Salton Sea.

Recently, historic record-low water volume in Lake Mead and Lake Powell has been headline news. While the trend of dropping water levels at two of the nation’s largest water reservoirs has been widely recognized for years (perhaps decades), a discussion about what it truly means for those who rely on its source for water and electricity downstream is rarely heard. Lake Mead’s water level continues to fall to historic lows, bringing the reservoir less than 150 feet away from “dead pool” — so low that water cannot flow downstream from the dam. The loss of water entirely from this source would be catastrophic.
-Written by Richard Thomas, a retired business owner and author in La Mesa. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Our experts weigh in on the drought

The water news in California has been grim. As PPIC Water Policy Center senior fellow Jeff Mount says, “we’re in year three of a miserable drought”—with “miserable” being the operative word. We sat down with Mount, senior fellow Alvar Escriva-Bou, and center director Ellen Hanak to discuss recent water news. We’re in year three of a serious drought. How different is it from last year? Jeff Mount: One difference is that the State Water Board has been very proactive. They announced curtailments earlier and they are moving much more quickly than last year. They have the right authorities to deal with the drought.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: On the Colorado River the feds carry a big stick. Will the states get hit?

The seven Colorado River basin states have until mid-August to come up with a plan to drastically cut their water use. Federal officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the river’s giant reservoirs from declining to levels where water cannot be released through their dams and hydropower production ceases. If state leaders fail to devise a plan, they could face a federal crackdown. 

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Aquafornia news CNN

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Lake Mead forecast: More Southwest water cuts likely in 2023

More extreme water cuts are all but certain in the Southwest starting next year – including new water cuts for California – according to the latest government forecast for the Colorado River and Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir. Lake Mead, which provides water to roughly 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico, is losing water at an alarming rate amid an extraordinary, multi-year drought made worse by the climate crisis.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water district vets desalination, recycled water cost

The Marin Municipal Water District took a deeper look at some of the more complex and expensive options on the table for new supply: desalination plants and recycled water. The district board and consultants with the Jacobs Engineering firm held discussion Tuesday on the preliminary cost estimates, water yields and challenges of building desalination plants and expanding the district’s recycled water system.

Aquafornia news Ag Info

Delta smelt: CA wants to “step away” from single-species management

A small fish called the Delta Smelt has been a big topic for farmers in California, as the state cites its 2016 Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy for limiting the amount of water from the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta, earmarked for agriculture. Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, spoke during the Western Food and Ag Issues Summit hosted by Agri-Pulse. He says although the state of California is bound by the federal Endangered Species Act to protect the fish, the agency is working towards a more encompassing solution.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s idle cropland may double as water crisis deepens

California’s historic drought may leave the state with the largest amount of empty farmland in recent memory as farmers face unprecedented cuts to crucial water supplies. The size of fields intended for almonds, rice, wine grapes and other crops left unworked could be around 800,000 acres, double the size of last year and the most in at least several decades, said Josue Medellin-Azuara, an associate professor at University of California Merced.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Saving water is complicated. Metro Phoenix can make this simpler

Most cities across metro Phoenix have enacted the first stages of their drought preparedness plans. It’s a smart move. Because even if those first stages don’t mandate action, they place more emphasis on saving water.  Which is a message we all need to hear. … It’s true. We could completely cut off taps across metro Phoenix and still not change the trajectory of shortages on the Colorado River. … Cities don’t use enough water to make up that difference. But saving water is still in our best interest …
-Written by Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic columnist. 

Aquafornia news Southern California News Group

Opinion: Build more houses! Use less water! California, can you have it both ways?

Thousands of new apartments will be built in Irvine, and this create cognitive dissonance for Stan Jones. The planned 24-acre lagoon at “Cotino, Storyliving by Disney” in Rancho Mirage, and the 17-acre Wavegarden Cove Pool and Resort in Palm Desert, do much the same for Paul Burt of San Pedro. Larry Anderson shakes his head, too. He tracks construction within a 40-mile radius of Hemet and counts more than 7,000 new units planned or already rising, even as the governor implores Californians to dramatically cut water use to deal with historic drought and officials scold us for falling short.
-Written by columnist Teri Sforza. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

They sounded alarms about a coming Colorado River crisis. But warnings went unheeded

The Colorado River is approaching a breaking point, its reservoirs depleted and western states under pressure to drastically cut water use. It’s a crisis that scientists have long warned was coming. Years before the current shortage, scientists repeatedly alerted public officials who manage water supplies that the chronic overuse of the river combined with the effects of climate change would likely drain the Colorado’s reservoirs to dangerously low levels. But these warnings by various researchers — though discussed and considered by water managers — went largely unheeded.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s almond industry poised to adapt to climate change

In California’s fields, farmers are already facing the impacts of climate change every day. They are heading into yet another potentially devastating fire year, and the third year in a row of drought.

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Aquafornia news Dana Point Times

Orange County Grand Jury says county needs consolidated approach to water

Orange County needs a unified approach to water conservation and drought as California faces the driest 22-year period in over a thousand years, the Orange County Grand Jury recommended in a new report published late last month. The June 22 Grand Jury report stated that Orange County water providers need to “consolidate their resources and establish a unified voice to lead the County more efficiently in its water policies and planning.” Orange County has two water supply agencies: Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) and Orange County Water District (OCWD).

Aquafornia news Produce Blue Book

Agriculture minus three basic things

American agriculture is going to have to do without three things that it has long taken for granted, according to a recent article by Chloe Sorvino, who leads food and agriculture coverage for Forbes. Those things are cheap energy, free water, and a reliable climate…. Permanent crops are obviously more vulnerable than annual ones. If the latter are plowed under or the land for them is fallowed, there is always next year. But trees and vines take a certain number of years to mature and produce. To say that water in California is free is simply not true.

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Aquafornia news FairPlanet

Tapping solar canals

In California, climate change is already a reality. Annual devastating wildfires, years long droughts and over-pumped groundwater systems are symptoms of the onset of a global environmental catastrophe. Researchers worldwide are desperately looking for ways to avert the worst case scenario and, should it already be too late, deal with the new environmental challenges in the most effective way possible. The Solar Canal Project, a kilometer-long network of irrigation canals in California which will be used to generate renewable energy, is emerging as one promising solution to these challenges.

Aquafornia news Fresh Water News

Two new Colorado River reservoirs are rising on the Front Range, are they the last of their kind?

As two major new water storage projects designed to capture the flows of the drought-strapped Colorado River are rising on Colorado’s urban Front Range, observers say they represent the end of an era on the river. The projects, Northern Water’s Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Berthoud, and Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion, in Western Boulder County, both more than 20 years in the making, will store an additional 167,000 acre-feet of water, the majority from the Colorado River. That’s enough water for more than 320,000 new homes.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Times photographer embarked on a watershed journey

It was late 2020, less than a year into the pandemic, but Luis Sinco wasn’t thinking about COVID-19. He was overwhelmed by catastrophe. Fires were burning, glaciers were melting, and the West was again in drought. But from talking to his kids and friends and people around him, the award-winning Times photographer sensed little dire urgency, little connection between the climate crisis and the routines of everyday life. … [Sinco] set off on his own. In between assignments, he traveled roughly 1,500 miles, from the river’s headwaters in the Rocky Mountains down to where the Colorado once regularly reached its terminus, in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

Aquafornia news Water Resources IMPACT

St. Francis Dam and the End of Mulholland’s Reign

Thanks to the 1974 fictionalized movie Chinatown, many people know the infamous story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, built to capture runoff from the Sierra Nevada in the Owens Valley for delivery to Los Angeles.  Construction of the aqueduct, started in 1908, compared in complexity to the building of the Panama Canal. It required 3,900 workers at its peak and involved the digging of 164 tunnels. At the time it was the longest aqueduct in the world … 

Aquafornia news Monterey Weekly

Blog: We need more water in order to build more housing. But sometimes, the lack of water is a convenient excuse not to build.

David Schmalz here, thinking about the Seaside Basin, which, along with the Carmel River and recycled water from Pure Water Monterey, is one of three major water sources serving residents in the Monterey Peninsula.  Water is a highly complex topic on the Peninsula and in the county at large, and what follows is no exception. Still, it’s important: water facilitates life, and its availability, or lack thereof, changes the world we live in. It’s one fundamental reason we can, or cannot, build much-needed housing.  I’m thinking about the Seaside Basin for this reason: recent decisions made by the Seaside City Council, as it relates to that water supply, will have an impact on housing in the city in a major way. 

Aquafornia news California Water Research

Blog: Expert panel recommended that Water Board require documentation of model weaknesses

On June 27, 2022, the legislature authorized the Acting State Auditor to perform an audit of the reasons for major errors Department of Water Resource’s snow runoff forecasts in 2021. The Department of Water Resources’ Director, Karla Nemeth, told the legislature that “the forecasting work is undertaken exclusively by the Department of Water Resources. The State Water Board is not responsible for this action and as such should not be a party to the audit.” The State Water Resource’s Control Board’s Executive Director, Eileen Sobeck, agreed.

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Aquafornia news Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Blog: Feeling the effects of drought in the Twelfth District

At the San Francisco Fed, we are students of the economy. We monitor ongoing and future risks to the economy, including climate risk. The economic impacts of a changing climate—including the frequency and magnitude of severe weather events—affect each of our three core responsibilities: conducting monetary policy, regulating, and supervising the banking system, and ensuring a safe and sound payment system. … Of course, it’s not just California and Utah grappling with a record drought—impacts are being felt across the Twelfth District. According to the journal Nature Climate Change, the megadrought in the Western United States has produced the region’s driest two decades in at least 1,200 years

Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Calif. farmer says worsening drought could have big impacts on consumers

As much of the Western United States suffers from drought and cities turn to water restrictions to help conserve water, farmers in California are becoming increasingly worried about how it will impact consumers around the country. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen’s farmers in California’s Central Valley are preparing to harvest almonds in an area that produces about 80 percent of the state’s supply. … Jacobsen is a fourth-generation farmer on both sides of his family, meaning he and his ancestors have seen many good and bad years for harvesting.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Feds bump up supplies for Friant water users

Months after crying foul over a diversion of water resources, it appears that water agencies reliant on Friant Dam will see a boost in water supplies, Federal water officials announced on Friday. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation raised allocation to Class 1 contractors within the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project from 15 to 20 percent. Class 2 Friant contractors have not received an allocation for two straight years. The trend, Federal officials announced, will continue for the time being.

Aquafornia news

Bay Area water agencies set to discuss severe drought conditions

The Bay Area’s largest water agencies on Tuesday were expected to assess their current drought situations and possibly discuss further restrictions on water use. Valley Water in the South Bay, which supplies water for thousands in the Santa Clara Valley, will report that between June 2021 and May 2022, customers used 3% less water compared to 2019. That’s far short of the 15% reduction goal set by the district’s board.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

As drought shrivels Lake Powell, millions face power crisis

Dwindling water levels at Lake Powell, which is now at 28% of its 24m acre-feet capacity, have put the Glen Canyon dam at risk. In March, water levels fell below 3,525 feet – considered a critical buffer to protect hydropower – for the first time. If the lake drops just another 32ft, the dam will no longer be able to generate power for the millions who rely on it…. The Bureau of Reclamation… forecasts that even with significant proposed cuts to water allowances there is a 23% chance power production could halt at dam in 2024 due to low water levels and that it is within the realm of possibility that it will happen as soon as July 2023.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Shasta Dam construction relic emerges again in dry year

When Shasta Reservoir levels drop 90 feet down from the top of the dam remnants of the “head tower,” a structure used during the dam’s construction in the early 1940s, becomes visible. To locals and water wonks alike, it’s a reminder that it’s going to be another dry year. … The lake’s historic lowest level was in the summer of 1977 when it was down 230 feet below the dam’s crest. Last year’s lake level was the second lowest on record, and yes, the head tower was exposed — along with roads, train tunnels, and car bridges.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Arizona to spend $1.2 billion on water security

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed B1740 yesterday, investing $1.2 billion over three years to fund projects that will bring additional water to the state to secure Arizona’s water future, improve existing water infrastructure and implement effective conservation tools. The projects will help ensure that Arizona families, businesses and agriculture continue to have adequate long-term water supplies.

Aquafornia news J. - Jewish News of Northern California

This ‘water warrior’ is walking 200 miles to trace East Bay water source

Where does your drinking water come from? Berkeley native and self-described “water warrior” Nina Gordon-Kirsch wants you to know. This month, Gordon-Kirsch, 33, is walking roughly 200 miles from her home in Oakland to the headwaters of the Mokelumne River, the source of drinking water for most of the East Bay. She aims to call attention to the knowledge gap between urban residents and their water, a resource she says is taken for granted.

Aquafornia news KJZZ

Every last drop: How much can at-home conservation impact Arizona’s water shortage?

The Southwest’s ongoing drought has put the spotlight on water conservation. Experts agree it’s an important part of the solution. But what does conservation mean to the average Arizonan? Shorter showers? No more grass lawns? What really matters might surprise you. Let’s say you’re standing at the kitchen sink with an empty peanut butter jar. You want to put it in the recycling bin, but you’re going to rinse it out first. Is it worth the water? In our daily lives, there are many ways to save water …

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Blog: “A new zone of uncertainty” – What West Virginia v. EPA means for water and environment

In a 6-3 decision last week, the Supreme Court restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to curb climate pollution from power plants. … The decision leaves intact the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and even allows it to regulate power plants on a case-by-case basis. The greater significance of the case, rather, may be the new inroad it creates for challenges to environment and water protections…. Hesitancy on the part of federal agencies could be damaging for U.S. water issues, many of which cut across state boundaries. James Eklund, an environmental lawyer and architect of the Colorado Water Plan, said that ambitious action by the Bureau of Reclamation has been central to averting the worst water shortages in the American West.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

California housing: Drought

As state officials and experts continue to push for more housing to address the state’s worsening affordability crisis, people often bring up another issue gripping California: drought. How is it that California Gov. Gavin Newsom can call for the creation of millions of new housing units while demanding that people cut back on long showers and watering their lawns? In fact, new research shows there’s plenty of water to accommodate the growing population as long as the decades-long trend of diminishing water use per capita continues. 

Aquafornia news Lodi News

Water agencies once at odds collaborating on ‘Dream’ project

Historically, the relationship between the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District and the East Bay Municipal Utilities District has been tense at times, hindering the opportunity to collaborate on regional projects. The tension, NSJWCD attorney Jennifer Spaletta said, was over EBMUD building the Camanche and Pardee reservoirs and ending up with senior water rights along the Mokelumne River. But over the last two decades, the two agencies have worked to resolve their issues, and ultimately came to the mutual understanding that they needed to work together in order to solve future water supply challenges.

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

FWA announces allocation increase to 20 percent

Ask and ye shall receive — at least partially. And the Friant Water Authority is hopeful there’s more to come. FWA announced on Friday the Bureau of Reclamation has increased its 2022 water allocation for Friant Division Class 1 contractors from 15 to 20 percent. FWA added as in the past two years, Friant Division Class 2 contractors continued to received 0 percent, “which continues to reflect the hydrology for the 2022 water year is very dry.”

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Recent drop in Lake Powell’s storage shows how much space sediment is taking up

The Bureau of Reclamation last week revised its data on the amount of water stored in Lake Powell, with a new, lower tally taking into account a 4% drop in the reservoir’s total available capacity between 1986 and 2018 due to sedimentation. Bureau data on the reservoir’s water-storage volume showed a loss of 443,000 acre-feet between June 30 and July 1 — a 6% drop in storage from 6.87 million acre-feet (which is 28.28% of live storage based on 1986 data) to 6.43 million (26.46% of full).   

Aquafornia news Greeley Tribune

How this tribe survives in Colorado’s worst drought region with as little as 10% of its hard-won water supply

Ute Mountain Ute irrigation manager Michael Vicenti looked out from his reservation — toward the Navajos’ sacred “winged rock” and across the arid Southwest — then focused in front of his feet on three-foot-high stalks of blue corn. They stood straight. But these growing stalks, established on one inch of water per week, now would require twice that much. And Vicenti winced, confiding doubts about whether Ute farming can endure in a hotter, drier world. Each evening he calls operators of McPhee Reservoir to set the flow into a 39-mile clay canal — the Utes’ only source of water — and makes a difficult choice. Either he saves scarce water or he saves corn. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Monday Top of the Scroll: California urban water use shrank in May as drought wears on

Californians are starting to save water, but not enough to meet Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for conservation in the face of one of the worst droughts in recorded history. Urban water use fell 3.1% in May compared to the 2020 baseline set by the governor, according to figures released Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board. While that’s well short of the 15% call issued by Newsom last July, it does show that Californians are beginning to heed the governor’s call for reduced consumption. Water use actually rose in March and April … preliminary results for June show that water usage fell by nearly 8% compared with two years ago.

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Aquafornia news CNN

Megadrought: As the West runs out of water, property owners and officials find ways around century-old laws

With a megadrought draining water reserves in the West, states are looking for alternatives to handle water rights, many of which were set more than 100 years ago when water supplies were far more abundant. Back then, just posting a sign next to a water diversion was enough to be considered a right, one which could still be honored now. But the climate crisis is now straining those rights. There just isn’t enough water in California to satisfy what’s been allotted on paper.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento’s drought level? Status map + no rain this summer

It is unlikely the Sacramento area will receive a substantial amount of rain anytime soon, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasts for this weekend show temperatures climbing above the average for this time of year which is around 94 degrees, weather service spokesman Craig Shoemaker said. And it’s expected to remain dry in the area for awhile. … This interactive map depicts drought status levels in Sacramento and throughout the country, using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

California lawmaker nabs Natural Resources slot

California’s newest member of Congress will be serving on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Connie Conway, a Republican who represents the 22nd District in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley, got assigned to Natural Resources by House GOP leadership, Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) the ranking member of the committee, announced today. In a statement, Conway said that she understood “the diverse water and energy challenges impacting the livelihoods of Central Valley residents and farmers.” She added that she looked forward to “working with my colleagues to address the drought and rising energy costs by modernizing outdated environmental laws and improving water storage infrastructure.”

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Aquafornia news The Gazette

Colorado tells Lower Basin states to cut water use to meet federal demand to conserve

Colorado has no plans to make additional cuts to water use next year to meet the Bureau of Reclamation’s demand to conserve millions of acre-feet of water, a step needed to preserve power production in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Instead, Colorado officials insist that other states should do the cutting. … [Amy Ostdiek, a section chief with the Colorado Water Conservation Board,] told The Gazette the Upper Basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — dramatically reduced their water use in 2021 because of drought conditions. …But, at the same time, total water use in the Lower Basin has not been cut enough to preserve levels in the lakes, said Ostdiek.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

How much water can be saved on Colorado high country agricultural land?

In the middle of 300 acres of picturesque hay meadows just north of Kremmling, not far from the headwaters of the Colorado River, a metal pillar surrounded by fencing rises 10 feet from the ground. It looks something like a miniature cellphone tower with various technical instruments and antennas jutting out at the top. … It is providing farmers and researchers with critical information about how much water Colorado agriculture could potentially conserve in the drought-stricken West.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: California deepens water cuts amid drought, hitting farms

California regulators have begun curtailing the water rights of many farms and irrigation districts along the Sacramento River, forcing growers to stop diverting water from the river and its tributaries. The order, which took effect Thursday, puts a hold on about 5,800 water rights across the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers’ watersheds, reflecting the severity of California’s extreme drought. Together with a similar order in June, the State Water Resources Control Board has now curtailed 9,842 water rights this year in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, more than half of the nearly 16,700 existing rights.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. wins water battle with Mono County amid worsening drought

A state appellate court has reversed a judge’s ruling that would have required the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to conduct an environmental review before making annual decisions about deliveries of water on pastureland it owns east of Yosemite. The city agency on Thursday said the previous ruling had “set an impossible standard” as it faces the complex challenges of servicing ratepayers and meeting environmental requirements in a time of drought, dwindling snowpack and changing water availability. 

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.

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Good Times

Local water resource managers prepare for another dry summer

Summer is here, and water resource managers around the state are gearing up for another dry season. In Santa Cruz County, unique geology and three distinct basins make protecting the water supply a complicated and fractured process involving multiple water agencies. From the Pajaro Valley to the Santa Cruz Mountains, here’s what they’re doing.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado outlines its plan for how the state will deal with water shortages worsened by climate change and population growth

Colorado’s water leaders have released an updated blueprint detailing how the state will manage and conserve water supplies as climate change and population growth strain the system in unprecedented ways. The first Colorado Water Plan was released in 2015 after back-to-back years of historic drought and sought to address the possibility that the state might not have enough water in the next few decades…. The reservoirs on the Colorado River, which starts in the mountains of Colorado and supplies more than 40 million people in the West with water, have hit critically low levels in the last year. 

Aquafornia news Riverbank News

Drought concerns deepen as snowpack melts away

The snowpack on the far reaches of the Stanislaus River watershed in late June was as anemic as it gets in mid-August. Atop the 11,404-foot summit of Sonora Peak — the highest and eastern most point where water from melting snow makes its way into the middle fork of the Stanislaus River — the view was reminiscent of a typical precipitation year leading up to Labor Day and not the Fourth of July weekend. Small splotches and not wide swaths of snow were on the horizon looking south toward Yosemite. … This is the result of 60 percent of California being in an exceptional drought — as in exceptionally bad.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Ducey signs $1.2B water plan as Arizona faces cutbacks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Wednesday that will provide $1.2 billion over three years to boost long-term water supplies for the desert state and implement conservation efforts that will see more immediate effects. The legislation that was hammered out over months during the just-completed legislative session is viewed as the most significant since the state implemented a groundwater protection plan in 1980. Climate change and a nearly 30-year drought forced the move, which comes as Arizona faces cutbacks in its Colorado River water supply and more loom.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

East Valley farmers and cities may get more surface water this summer

Farmers and cities on the east side of the Valley may get more water than they originally thought.  Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, said in a recent memo on its website it is confident its contractors will not only get the 15% allocation of surface water deliveries announced in February but that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will likely increase the amount to 20%, possibly as early as this week. … Better snow and rainfall in the Sacramento area late in the spring has allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to budget more water to be delivered to the San Joaquin Exchange Contractors …

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Aquafornia news NPR

Airplanes shooting lasers sounds sci-fi, but in Colorado, it’s just science

Laser technology is being used to more accurately measure mountain snowpack — crucial information for farmers and water managers in drought-stricken areas like the Colorado River Basin. … Let’s escape now to Colorado, where some mountains are still covered with snow. Scientists there have been using lasers aimed from airplanes to assess how much water is in that snow. It’s crucial information for the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin. Stephanie Maltarich reports from high in the rocky mountains.

Aquafornia news Fresh Plaza

California pistachio growers face more water challenges

The next six weeks, California pistachios will be on close watch around how much–if any, the current drought in the state is affecting its growth or “nut fill.” … So while some growers are located in areas with good groundwater and/or are receiving some supply of surface water, others have zero surface water and also limited sources of groundwater. … At the same time, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is starting to be implemented. This legislation, which passed in 2014, requires that all groundwater basins in California be sustainable and agencies were formed to ensure compliance with the act.

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Aquafornia news Business Wire

News release: New studies show Metropolitan’s grass removal incentives are driving transformation of Southern California’s landscapes

As Southern California faces the most challenging drought in its history, two new studies highlight the value and wide-ranging success of Metropolitan Water District’s Turf Replacement Program, which gives cash rebates to residents who swap their water-guzzling lawns for more water-efficient California Friendly and native plants. One study found that for every 100 homes that converted their yards using a rebate, an additional 132 nearby homes were inspired to convert their own grass without receiving a rebate to help fund the projects. This “multiplier effect” more than doubled the value of Metropolitan’s investment in making Southern California more sustainable. 

Aquafornia news Politico

The Southwest is bone dry. Now, a key water source is at risk.

California and six other Western states have less than 60 days to pull off a seemingly impossible feat: Cut a multi-way deal to dramatically reduce their consumption of water from the dangerously low Colorado River. If they don’t, the federal government will do it for them. A federal Bureau of Reclamation ultimatum last month, prompted by an extreme climate-change-induced drop in water levels at the nation’s largest reservoirs, reopens years of complicated agreements and political feuds among the communities whose livelihoods depend on the river. The deadline represents a crucial moment for the arid Southwest, which must now swiftly reckon with a problem that has been decades in the making.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California is missing an entire year of rainfall since mid-2019, new figures show

California’s water issues may be complicated. But the rainfall shortage driving the state’s current drought comes down to basic math. … Over the three-year period that ended June 30, most Northern California cities received only about half to two-thirds of their historical average rainfall, according to data that [Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Half Moon Bay] compiled. And each passing year without soaking winter rains has been steadily drying the state out a little more — further dropping reservoirs, parching soils and forests and depleting groundwater.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

There are no simple solutions to California’s complicated water problem. This is why

In March the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invited the backers of Sites Reservoir — a mammoth water storage project in the Sacramento Valley that’s being personally led by [Fritz Durst, a farmer in Yolo County] — to apply for a $2.2 billion construction loan. … But the reservoir, planned for a spot straddling the Glenn-Colusa county line, 10 miles west of the Sacramento River, won’t dig California out of its current mega-drought. Even if all goes according to plan — a pretty big if — Sites wouldn’t finish construction until 2030. … The only way out of this, for the time being, is conservation, forcing farmers and homeowners alike to make do with less water.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water supplier examines costs of new supply sources

The Marin Municipal Water District took a first look this week at how much water it could receive from new sources such as desalination or expanding reservoirs, and how much they would cost. On Tuesday, consultants with the Jacobs Engineering firm provided the district’s board with an overview of the preliminary cost and water production estimates for several supply options. More expensive options included desalination, dredging existing reservoirs, expanding the recycled water system and building pipelines to connect with other Bay Area water suppliers.

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Aquafornia news Protocol

West megadrought intersects with data center water use

The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead — the country’s largest reservoir — is nearing “dead pool” levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought. Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country’s data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use. Exactly how much water, however, is an open question given that many companies don’t track it, much less report it.

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Local groups reel after court rules LADWP can cut irrigation

The futures of tourism, wildlife and ranching in Mono County are now at the mercy of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – according to environmental groups – now that a court has upheld the agency’s authority to cut irrigation water. For about 100 years, the agency has leased its land and provided water for ranchers to graze cattle in Long Valley and Little Round Valley. But Wendy Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Inyo, said the damage from allowing less water to irrigate these valleys would be widespread. … Schneider also said she worries about the survival of trout and the potential for increased dust storms and fire danger.

Aquafornia news California Policy Center

The Abundance Choice – Part 9: Can reservoirs be part of the solution?

We must immediately differentiate between in-stream reservoirs and off-stream reservoirs. They have distinct attributes. In-stream reservoirs in general are considered far more disruptive. To note just a few of the most obvious problems with in-stream reservoirs, the dam constitutes an immovable blockade of a naturally flowing river, the canyons behind the dam are inundated, and fish swimming upstream cannot reach their spawning grounds. There are nonetheless arguments for some in-stream dams, particularly if they’ve already been built. The Shasta Dam is the prime example …

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Manteca could overtake Tracy population by 2030

If there is a promised land for home developers in San Joaquin County, it might just be Manteca. Lathrop thanks to the 15,001-home planned River Islands community was — once aberrations involving Paradise and Santa Cruz growth due to people returning to rebuilt homes after being  burned-out in a PG&E sparked wildfire and the return to in-person learning at University of California campuses — the fastest growing city in California in 2021. … Mountain House will likely be checked to a large degree by water. It needed a 10,000  acre-foot water transfer from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to try and weather the drought this year after the state cut off their water deliveries.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado’s water leader thinks most of the needed Colorado River cuts should be made by Arizona, Nevada and California

Last month, the federal government dropped a bombshell on the states that share the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation gave Colorado and the other six states in the basin just two months to come up with a plan to drastically reduce the amount of river water they use. If they don’t, the federal government has threatened to use its emergency authority to make the cuts it feels are necessary. … Becky Mitchell, the commissioner of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, .. said most of that responsibility should be on the states in the lower part of the river basin: Arizona, Nevada and California. 

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California’s drought is dire. But there’s a surprising bright spot that may make this year better than last

The outlook for California’s drought is grim. The first five months of the year have been the driest on record. Snowpack in the mountains, at its usual April 1 peak, was the smallest it’s been in seven years. Reservoirs are hovering near historic lows for the season, including Lake Shasta, the state’s largest. But there’s one, albeit small, bright spot: spring runoff. The water that pours from the mountains to rivers and streams, one of the most important barometers of state water supplies, is up substantially from over a year ago — though still far below normal.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California almond growers are feeling the squeeze

[T]he prospect of harvesting 2.8 billion pounds this year — just shy of the 2.9 billion pounds in 2021 and the record 3.1 billion pounds in 2020 — has industry leaders both excited and worried. That’s because about 1.3 billion pounds of unsold almonds are still sitting in piles at processing and packing facilities. The problem comes at a time when inflation and a historic drought are pushing the costs of production and water supplies to an all-time high, and the price of almonds has fallen to an all-time low of about $2 per pound. It’s a sharp reversal for the industry after four decades of relentless expansion across 1.6 million acres in California’s agricultural Central Valley from Tehama County to southern Fresno County.

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Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

What do increased releases from Folsom Dam mean for region’s water levels?

Rising river levels? It’s been a surprising sight in recent days for people out along the American River. California is in year three of a severe drought and people are being asked to conserve, but water releases from Folsom Dam are being dramatically increased this week…. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Folsom Dam, said a small portion of the increased water is going to farms and cities downstream. But the majority of the higher flow is to help flush out salt water that is pushing up into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Aquafornia news Berkeleyside

Berkeley native begins 240-mile trek to East Bay’s water source

Berkeley native Nina Gordon-Kirsch departed Tuesday on a 240-mile walk from her home in Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood to the headwaters of the Mokelumne River, the primary source of the East Bay’s drinking water. Gordon-Kirsch, a 12th grade teacher, will be bringing a two-person film crew and hopes her journey will inspire students to think about issues of water conservation and reuse. The trek is her attempt to show “all the steps it takes” for water to arrive at our faucets.

Aquafornia news Ripon Advance

Democrats reject three Valadao amendments addressing Calif. drought

U.S. House Appropriations Committee Democrats voted down all three drought-related amendments offered by U.S. Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) to the fiscal year 2023 Energy and Water Appropriations bill during the committee’s June 28 markup of the legislation. … The first amendment offered by Rep. Valadao addressed water storage capacity issues. It would have extended the California storage provisions of the federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act through the end of 2023, as well as the authorization of appropriations for water storage projects, according to information provided by the congressman’s staff.

Aquafornia news Paso Robles Press

California farmers preparing for state water curtailment orders

Farmers up and down California are once again facing an uncertain season ahead of them as a state water curtailment order issued in August 2021 continues to take its toll on farming and ranching families. In July 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order calling a drought emergency and asking for water conservation. Soon after, farmers and ranchers in California received curtailment orders from the California Water Board (CWB) to either immediately or prepare to suspend their senior water rights.  Water rights are a complicated and century-long system that farmers and ranchers are all too familiar with — because water is their lifeline.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Will the Colorado River dry up? What we know about looming water cuts

The seven states that rely on the Colorado River must come up with a plan to cut 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water use. By mid-August. And if they don’t, the federal Bureau of Reclamation will act for them. It’s a massive amount of water to find in a short amount of time. And there are more questions than answers about what this entails. But let’s walk through what we know. Could the Colorado River dry up? Maybe. Depending on how you define “dry up.”

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Utah will soon have water judges. This is what they’ll do and why it matters.

For the last 25 years that Scott Martin has been practicing water law in Utah, the concept of appointing water judges or creating a water court has been a topic of conversation many times. … But as the finite resource becomes more scarce, the conversation of appointing water judges in Utah has turned into a reality. A new rule passed by the Utah Judicial Council that goes into effect on Nov. 1 will establish at least three district court water judges throughout the state. The district court judges will volunteer to be a water judge and then be approved by the Judicial Council.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Water deal to keep taps flowing in Bakersfield even as Lake Isabella levels continue to drop

Bakersfield City water managers learned from California’s last “epic” drought – don’t wait to make a deal. In 2015,  city water managers scrambled to keep taps flowing for more than 20,000 Bakersfield residents as the Kern River ran so low the city had zero water entitlement coming down the river. The river is the only source for Bakersfield’s northeast water treatment plant but at only 11% of normal, there just wasn’t enough.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: New legislation clarifies that government code section 53069.45 does not cap fines that an irrigation district may impose under irrigation district law for water theft

Last week Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2505 into law, clarifying that irrigation districts may impose increased penalties for water theft under Government Code section 53069.45, in addition to the fines or penalties currently available under the Irrigation District Law.   Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) authored AB 2505 in response to growing concern that Government Code section 53069.45 could cap the amount of fines irrigation districts may impose under the Irrigation District Law. Senate Bill 427, which the Governor signed into law last July, added Section 53069.45 to the Government Code. 

Aquafornia news West Side Connect

Committee approves audit of state water operations

Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) announced Monday that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee has approved his request to audit California’s water operations. Gray suspects the audit will shine a light on the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board and their failures to accurately forecast California’s water supply and the impacts of those flawed forecasts on reservoir operations and the allocation of water to rights holders. Gray cited the overestimation and premature release of 700,000 acre-feet of water last year as one of his prime considerations.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

LA Council calls for reports on regional drought

Calling the regional drought a major emergency in need of long-term regional solutions, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday requested a series of reports on projected municipal water supplies and expansion of efforts to recycle water and support long-term conservation. … The council unanimously approved a motion asking for reports from the city’s Department of Water and Power and the Metropolitan Water District — Southern California’s regional water wholesaler — on a variety of topics, most notably on current and projected drought conditions and efforts to increase water supplies through recycling and conservation measures.

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Aquafornia news Christian Science Monitor

Drinking water in short supply? There’s a solution in the air

High above the Pacific Ocean, tucked in the steep contours of mountainous Malibu, [David Hertz and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz] supply their house, pool, and network of firefighting hoses with water harvested from the air.  The couple use their property – dubbed Xanabu – as a demonstration site for atmospheric water generation. … Globally, 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. This urgency is driving support for innovations in atmospheric water generation to address the two biggest hurdles to widespread use: scaling it up, and making it accessible – and affordable – to people in regions that need it most.  

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Extreme heat, drought will permanently scar California and its social fabric

Unprecedented dryness across the western United States is meeting with increasingly warm temperatures to create climate conditions so extreme that the landscape of California could permanently and profoundly change, a growing number of scientists say. The Golden State’s great drying has already begun to reduce snowpack, worsen wildfires and dry out soils, and researchers say that trend will likely continue, along with the widespread loss of trees and other significant shifts. Some say what’s in store for the state could be akin to the conditions that drove people thousands of years ago to abandon thriving cities in the Southwest and other arid parts of the world as severe drought contributed to crop failures and the crumbling of social norms.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

California dairy uses lots of water. Here’s why it matters.

When we picture California agriculture, we tend to think of almond and citrus orchards and the massive tracts of strawberry and lettuce fields that we can see from the highways dividing the western part of the state from the east. But dairy is, in fact, king. There are an estimated 1.7 million cows living on dairy farms in California, and the industry brought in $7.5 billion in 2020, including $2 billion in export sales. And because most people in the state don’t see the abundance of dairy farms—most of them function like feedlots surrounded by fields of feed crops such as alfalfa and corn growing nearby—they may not be aware of the fact that they use millions of gallons of water a day.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin district to vet costs, benefits of new water sources

Marin Municipal Water District will hold a series of meetings focused on adding new water sources. The district, which serves 191,000 central and southern Marin residents, launched a water supply study in March as it faced depleting its local reservoir supplies after two years of severe drought. On Tuesday, staff will provide the district Board of Directors a first-time overview of the various water supply options the agency could consider as it looks to bolster its supply … desalination, increasing local reservoir storage, groundwater banking in Sonoma County, increasing water imports from the Russian River, expansion of recycled water systems, conservation measures and a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Aquafornia news California Water Research

Blog: Tales from the Water Wars — Jonas Minton’s testimony on true collaboration

Jonas Minton, the Senior Water Policy Advisor for Planning and Conservation League, passed away on June 22, 2022. He was 73. I had the privilege of serving on an expert panel with Jonas on April 2, 2018…. Jonas Minton provided many great observations that day. The observations which most show his legacy are in his testimony on truly collaborative processes. In my opinion, Jonas’ ability to facilitate collaborations between stakeholders in truly fair, equitable, and transparent processes was his greatest gift to the California water community. He will be greatly missed.

Aquafornia news Petaluma Argus-Courier

Opinion: Drought is our new normal

As California’s multi-year droughts become longer, hotter and more frequent, communities like Petaluma will need to work much harder to adapt to this new reality. That’s according to John Shribbs, president of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and a longtime science teacher at Casa Grande High School, who says that scientists warned us for decades that the dramatically rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels would spawn more destructive wildfires, longer droughts, more intense heat waves, ongoing sea level rise and collapsing ecosystems.
-Written by the Argus-Courier’s former publisher John Burns.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Ring the alarm – Today’s water crisis isn’t a fire drill

News headlines in mid-June captured what Audubon’s Western Water team knows well: the Colorado River Basin and Great Salt Lake are in trouble—both facing historically unprecedented risks. Both may be headed towards ecological disasters, years in the making, the result of a pernicious combination of climate change aridifying the region and water management that does not adequately prioritize the environment. In the Colorado River Basin and at Great Salt Lake, warming temperatures and declining river flows threaten people and nature. And, we know there’s significant quality wildlife and bird habitat still worthy of attention and investments.

Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Court upholds EIR for Kern River diversion and storage project

A California Court of Appeal held that the EIR for a public water authority’s river diversion and water storage project adequately described the unadjudicated waters to be diverted and adequately analyzed impacts to water rights and groundwater supply.  Buena Vista Water Storage District v. Kern Water Bank Authority 76 Cal. App. 5th 576 (2022). Until 2010, the Kern River had been designated by the State Water Resources Control Board as a fully appropriated stream, and only those who held an appropriative water right could divert Kern River water.  

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Pipelines? Desalination? Turf removal? Arizona commits $1B to augment, conserve water supplies

The Colorado River’s precipitous decline pushed Arizona lawmakers to deliver Gov. Doug Ducey’s $1 billion water augmentation fund — and then some — late Friday, their final night in session. Before the votes, the growing urgency for addressing the state’s oncoming water shortage and the long timeline for approving and building new water projects nearly sank the legislation. 

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Aquafornia news Mother Jones

This Democrat wrote a water recycling law. It could benefit her financially

As a member of Congress from the nation’s driest state, Rep. Susie Lee has a major stake in the health of the Colorado River Basin, which is currently enduring historic drought. … In office, Lee has pushed for federal funding for an array of “common-sense solutions” to the crisis—including water recycling … Last year, she authored a measure that will make hundreds of millions of dollars available for water recycling projects. But Lee’s interest in this issue appears to be more than simply political. The two-term Democrat also has a portion of her considerable personal wealth invested in a company that stands to benefit from the water recycling legislation she has championed. 

Aquafornia news Greenbiz

Will water pricing be the next carbon pricing?

The price of water — essential for human life, nature, communities and businesses — is often subsidized, reflecting a commonly held belief that everyone should have abundant access to clean water…. In the Western United States, cutbacks to one of the Southwest’s most important watersheds, the Colorado River, are imminent and possibly economically crushing to farmers … California agriculture lands are straining to access groundwater that used to be plentiful. … Some companies that want to stay one step ahead of the pressing water crisis are adopting strategies that set higher internal prices on water than what they actually pay to their local utility or municipality.  

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

‘Where there’s bodies, there’s treasure’: A hunt as Lake Mead shrinks

They appeared to be just a couple of special-education teachers, freed up by Flag Day, out for a morning of bass fishing on Lake Mead. Matt Blanchard and Shawn Rosen had settled into their 18-foot motorboat, put beers on ice and waited their turn at the last functioning boat launch on this rapidly disappearing body of water. It wasn’t until the old Bayliner was chugging away that Rosen mentioned an ulterior motive for their mid-June excursion.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 -Sacramento

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California water supply forecast to be audited

There’ll be an audit of California’s water supply forecast after the state overestimated and prematurely released 700,000 acre-feet of water last year, officials announced Monday. A news release from Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) announced that Gray’s request for audit was approved. It aims to examine the impacts of the flawed forecasts and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State Water Board. … California’s water operations overestimated the forecast by 68% for the Sacramento River  region, 45% for the San Joaquin River region and 46% for the Tulare Lake region, according to a state report. Those overestimations left the operators with less stored water than was necessary, according to Gray’s news release.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Feds seek ideas on how to manage a drier Colorado River

For many decades, the Colorado River was managed with the attitude that its water levels would remain roughly stable over time, punctuated by alternating wet and dry periods. But in the face of possibly the river’s driest period in 1,200 years, a new approach is now needed to managing the river’s reservoirs — one that can account for “deep uncertainty” about future climate and runoff conditions, says the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. And for the next two months, the bureau wants to hear from the public about how it should go about operating reservoirs including Lake Mead, Lake Powell and other parts of the river system under such conditions.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Researchers hope new tools can forecast rainfall or wildfire season severity months in advance

In the parched southwestern United States, few forecasts are as important as the future height of Lake Mead, which tells federal authorities how much water to release to the 20 million people living downstream of the giant reservoir. This year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is testing out a new tool it hopes will make those projections a little better: A model that can predict — months in advance — the summer rainfall associated with the North American Monsoon. 

Aquafornia news Dana Point Times

In wake of Poseidon desal plant’s denial, South Coast Water looks to fill hole in county’s water portfolio

As the State of California faces a record drought, ocean desalination has been highlighted as a potentially more reliable alternative to imported water. Following the California Coastal Commission’s (CCC) unanimous vote to deny permits for the Brookfield-Poseidon Desalination plant in Huntington Beach last month, the South Coast Water District (SCWD) is working to obtain all major permits for its own desalination plant near Doheny by the end of the year. The local water district is looking to produce up to five million gallons of potable drinking water a day by 2027 through its proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination project. 

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

As drought pummels northern Mexico, Baja weighs buying water from Mexicali’s farmers 

The drought is hitting northern Mexico so hard that the state of Baja will likely have to buy water from farmers in the agricultural region of Mexicali.  That’s what Vicente Calderón, my collaborator on the Tijuana River Pollution crisis series, reported last week. He tapped José Armando Fernández Samaniego, the Baja secretary for water management, sanitation and protection, for more details and here’s what he learned.   If the people of Baja don’t reduce their water use by at least 20 percent per household, the government will probably have to buy extra water at an inflated price – perhaps three times its value…. Tijuana relies on the Colorado River for almost all of its water.  

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s drought means less water to go around. Who is winning the pursuit for water — and who is losing?

After three years of drought, the massive state and federal water projects that serve California’s cities and farms have less water to distribute, forcing water managers to increasingly ration supplies. This year, squeezed extra tight by the prolonged drought conditions, both the state and federal water projects are expecting to deliver mere fractions of what cities and farms are asking for. … Everyone gets less water during a drought. But the breakdowns of the state and federal projects’ water allocations show some groups — particularly farmers who have longtime rights to divert water — faring better than others.

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

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.

Click here to register!

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

Travel 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.

Click here to register!

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.  

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

As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?
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.

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.

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2020 Class Report

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

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

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

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

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

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

Foundation Event

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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