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 Mono Lake Committee

Blog: Will DWP increase Mono Basin diversions this year?

Water diversions to Los Angeles—and away from Mono Lake—began just after noon on January 31. With the turn of a control wheel, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) opened the aqueduct, sending Mono Basin water into the Mono Craters tunnel and on a 300-mile journey down the aqueduct system. … On April 1, the maximum limit on water exports will increase nearly fourfold. Will DWP choose to maintain the same export level as recent years? Or will it choose to quadruple its water diversions—and push Mono Lake’s level downward? This year is also shaping up to be the year for action on the California State Water Resources Control Board’s rules that govern the DWP diversions, and the flaws that have become visible over the 30 years since those rules were set forth.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Climate change, cost and competition for water drive settlement over tribal rights to Colorado River

A Native American tribe with one of the largest outstanding claims to water in the Colorado River basin is closing in on a settlement with more than a dozen parties, putting it on a path to piping water to tens of thousands of tribal members in Arizona who still live without it. Negotiating terms outlined late Wednesday include water rights not only for the Navajo Nation but the neighboring Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes in the northeastern corner of the state. The water would come from a mix of sources: the Colorado River that serves seven western states, the Little Colorado River, and aquifers and washes on tribal lands. The agreement is decades in the making and would allow the tribes to avoid further litigation and court proceedings, which have been costly.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

New study: California’s urban runoff flows down the drain. Can the drought-plagued state capture more of it?

California fails to capture massive amounts of stormwater rushing off city streets and surfaces that could help supply millions of people a year, according to a new analysis released today. The nationwide report, by researchers with the Pacific Institute, ranks California ninth nationwide among states with the most estimated urban runoff. … The analysis reports California sheds almost 2.3 million acre-feet of precipitation from pavement, roofs, sidewalks and other surfaces in cities and towns every year. If it were captured and treated, that would be enough to supply more than a quarter of California’s urban water use, or almost 7 million Southern California households each year.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Cal Am fires its first defensive legal volley against the water district in public buyout case.

An effort toward a public takeover of the private water utility California American Water has taken years to get to this point. Activists asked voters to approve a ballot measure to that end in 2005, and it failed. They tried again in 2014, and lost again. They prevailed in 2018 with the passage of Measure J, which compelled the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to acquire Cal Am’s local system “if and when feasible.” More than five years later, the matter has moved to the courts. In October 2023, the board of the water district determined that yes, it was feasible—and that it would pursue acquisition of Cal Am’s system. Because the utility company had rejected the public district’s previous offer of $449 million to buy it, the district would proceed by filing an eminent domain case. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: How California storms suddenly changed state’s water supply outlook

Even before the major storm forecast for this weekend, a wet February has eased fears that California would end the rainy season with too little water. In fact, many parts of the state are now likely to wrap up with average or above-average rain and snow totals. The state’s March snow survey, taking place Thursday, will show that snowpack in California’s mountains is around 80% of average for the date, a substantial leap from the end of January when it hovered around 50%. Rainfall, meanwhile, stood at 103% of average statewide Wednesday, up from about 80% last month. While the numbers are not exceptional, they mark enough of an improvement since the start of the year — when some water managers began to talk about drought — that reservoirs are sufficiently primed with precipitation to avoid major water shortages in 2024, even if the rest of the rainy season disappoints.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Will a $16-billion water tunnel destroy California’s delta?

In the heart of California, at the place where two great rivers converge beneath the Tule fog, lies the linchpin of one of the largest water supply systems in the world. [T]he Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta … is also the site of a bitter, decades-long battle over a proposed plan known as the Delta Conveyance Project — a 45-mile tunnel that would run beneath the delta to move more water from Northern California to thirsty cities to the south. State officials say the tunnel is a critical piece of infrastructure that would help protect millions of Californians from losing water supplies in the event of a major earthquake or levee break. … Opponents say the tunnel is a boondoggle that would further imperil the delta’s fragile ecosystem, which has already been eroded by heavy water withdrawals for agriculture and cities. 

Related article:

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe

Auditor blasts Arizona Land Department over leases to Saudi-owned farm with low rent, no water rules

Arizona’s Auditor General has released a scathing report, criticizing the State Land Department for leasing land to a Saudi-owned company in western Arizona at cheap rates. The company, Fondomonte, used the land — and the groundwater beneath it — to grow alfalfa for dairy cattle in the Middle East. State Auditor General Lindsey Perry says the Land Department’s practices for valuing the land it leases don’t align with what’s recommended. In addition, state law requires the department to conduct a mass appraisal of its properties at least once every 10 years to determine its agricultural rental rates. But the last one was done in 2005. This resulted in $3.4 million less in revenues going into the land trust that provides revenues for K-12 education and other beneficiaries.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

City tells court that water district’s arguments ‘lack merit’ and that district has sufficient water for Sage Ranch

The environmental impact report prepared by the city of Tehachapi for the proposed Sage Ranch residential development made the case that the project would not result in any significant, unmitigated impacts — and included a water supply assessment suggesting sufficient water exists for the project over the required 20-year horizon. The city of Tehachapi and Sage Ranch developer Greenbriar filed documents they believe support that position in Sacramento County Superior Court on Monday, Feb. 26 to defend the EIR approved by the Tehachapi City Council in September 2021. At the same time, the council approved a masterplan for  the project that would transform 138 acres near Tehachapi High School by adding 995 residential units over seven years.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Colorado River talks break down on drought response plans

Negotiations among the seven states that share the drought-stricken Colorado River have stalled ahead of a March target date to propose new operating plans for the waterway, as officials split over which states should absorb the brunt of cuts triggered by the region’s ongoing drought. The states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in the Upper Basin and Arizona, California and Nevada in the Lower Basin — are now expected to submit separate plans to the Biden administration early next month, rather than a single cohesive plan, according to representatives of states from both regions. “If there is interest in getting to a seven-state consensus compromise, all seven states have to actually compromise and recognize this is a massive problem that needs solving, not a party primary or campaign rally,” J.B. Hamby, chair of the Colorado River Board of California, told E&E News.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Biggest storm of the year to bring up to 10 feet of snow and “near to impossible” travel conditions to Sierra this week

A powerful winter storm system is expected to hammer California later this week, bringing 5 to 10 feet of new snow between Thursday and Sunday to the Sierra Nevada, white-out conditions and the potential for extended highway closures. … Snow will begin falling Thursday, and become most extreme on Friday at amounts of 2 to 4 inches an hour, posing “near to impossible” conditions for drivers … The powerful blizzard is the latest and most dramatic example of a winter that started slow but has steadily increased, improving California’s water picture with every passing week, and all but guaranteeing that there will be few, if any water restrictions this summer for most communities in the state.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Coloradans could spend $2.5B replacing water-hungry grass

One of Colorado’s leading urban water conservation strategies — turf replacement — could require up to $2.5 billion to save 20,000 acre-feet of water, according to a recent report commissioned by the state’s top water policy agency. Colorado communities are facing a drier future with water shortages and searching for ways to cut down water use. … This turf-focused strategy has gained new momentum since 2020 and 2021, when the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin became shockingly apparent (to more than just water experts) as two enormous reservoirs, lakes Mead and Powell, fell to historic lows.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news New York Times

How California’s rainy season is shaping up so far

With its Mediterranean climate, California receives most of its annual precipitation in just a few months, with the bulk of it falling from December to February. That means that by the time March 1 comes around, we usually have a good sense of how much water we’re going to have for the rest of the year. The state keeps track based on a “water year” that runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, so the whole winter rainy season will fall in the same year’s statistics. As of Sunday, California had received slightly more rain than usual this winter — 105 percent of the average, according to state data. In some parts of the state, though, it’s been much rainier than normal. Los Angeles, which just endured one of its wettest storm systems on record, had received 159 percent of its annual average rainfall as of Sunday. San Diego was at 133 percent, and Paso Robles at 160.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Scripps News

Protests erupt as Mexico City could run out of water this summer

It has been far too dry for far too long in Mexico as a combination of drying reservoirs and increasing population has caused concerns of a water crisis.  According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of Mexico, including areas around and to the north of Mexico City, are in a long-term drought. … Local media reports that reservoirs could completely be out of water by late August if conditions don’t improve. … Elizabeth Carter, an assistant professor of civil engineering and earth sciences at Syracuse University … notes … that the U.S engineering projects in rivers that feed many of Mexico’s northern freshwater sources run dry before reaching Mexico. She cites the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, and the Central Arizona Project (Colorado River) as examples. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Funding could be biggest hurdle faced by the Delta tunnel as water users weigh costs versus benefits of the $16 billion project

The controversial Delta Conveyance Project may have bigger problems than legal action over its recently approved environmental impact report.  Who’s going to pay the estimated $16 billion price tag? The concept, a tunnel to take Sacramento River water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to thirsty towns and farms further south, relies on the end users footing the bill. But over the decades that the project has languished in various iterations, those end users have become less enthusiastic to open their wallets. In fact, the single largest recipient of delta water via the State Water Project – and the single largest payer – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, has committed only $160 million for project planning this time around.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

A Phoenix resident missed a big water leak. Could smart meters help?

Like a lot of homeowners in neighborhoods with decades-old plumbing, Ken Hoag experienced a leak in the pipe leading under his yard from the curbside city meter to his house. Only this was no trickling stream, but a gusher that would cost him more than $1,000. City meter readers must check meters manually or, at homes with updated meters, they must at least drive through the neighborhood for it to ping their equipment with current water volumes. In Hoag’s case last fall, that took long enough that no one from the city alerted him of unusual readings until 160,000 gallons had drained away under his yard over parts of two billing cycles. He hadn’t noticed so much as a puddle to suggest a problem and was shocked when he got the first of those bills on Nov. 22.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin City slated for water pipeline overhaul

The Marin Municipal Water District is planning to replace several miles of leaking pipes in Marin City at an estimated cost of about $5.9 million. The district will soon be reviewing bids for the first phase of the project, which officials say is needed to reduce water loss and improve the resilience of the area’s drinking water system. “This is an underserved community,” said Jed Smith, a district board member, said during an operations committee meeting on Feb. 16. … The first phase of project has an estimated cost of $3.8 million. It would replace approximately 9,200 feet of a 65-year-old leak-prone cast-iron pipe with welded steel pipe on various streets. The work would take about 332 days to perform, with completion scheduled around Jan. 31, 2025. The project also will replace 197 service laterals — piping owned by the Marin water district that connects the water main pipeline to the service meter and customer-owned pipes.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: Major winter storm to bring up to 10 feet of snow in Sierra Nevada this week

After a warm weekend of 70-degree temperatures in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, a big change is coming this week. A major winter storm is expected to impact Northern and Central California from Thursday through Sunday. Whiteout conditions are likely in the Sierra Nevada, where 4 to 10 feet of snow is expected above 6,000 feet. The snow line could drop below 2,000 feet in the Sierra and parts of the Bay Area on Saturday. … A weak weather system is expected to bring light rainfall to the California coast Monday and Tuesday. Up to a tenth of an inch of rain is forecast for the Bay Area and up to a quarter inch in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Facing a dwindling water supply and a federal deadline, Western states have yet to agree on Colorado River management plan

The Colorado River’s water serves 40 million people — including 2 million Utah residents. … The states are negotiating their preferred plan for those operations for Reclamation to consider. Their plan has to consider extreme drought and climate change in the American West, which make for a shrinking river. Reclamation asked the states to submit their plan in March so the agency would have time to analyze it. But now, Amy Haas, executive director of the Colorado River Authority of Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she thinks it is unlikely that the seven states will have a unified plan by then — which means the feds won’t yet be able to consider their proposal.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Fox 5 San Diego

Portions of San Diego’s First Aqueduct to shut down for yearly inspections and maintenance of water supply pipelines for the region

Portions of San Diego’s First Aqueduct will shut down this week for yearly inspections and maintenance of water supply pipelines for the region, the San Diego County Water Authority announced this week. The San Diego County Water Authority’s historic First Aqueduct delivers treated and untreated water from just south of the Riverside County/San Diego County border to the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside, transporting up to 120 million gallons of water per day to the San Diego region. Portions of the San Diego County Water Authority’s historic First Aqueduct are scheduled to shut down from Feb. 25 to March 5 as the Water Authority works to maintain a safe and reliable water supply for San Diegans.

Aquafornia news Today's News-Herald

U.S. Court decision could upend Central Arizona water deal on Colorado River

For five years, a $24 million water transfer agreement has threatened to establish a potentially dangerous precedent, and turn the Colorado River into a commodity. Now that deal will be put on hold under a decision in U.S. District Court. U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi ruled against that water transfer agreement on Wednesday. It was a decision made on the grounds that federal Reclamation officials’ approval of the agreement last year, absent an environmental impact study in that agreement, may have been “arbitrary and capricious.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Fox Weather

Grape vines love pace of California’s atmospheric river storms this year while people suffer

Amid all the tragedy wrought by the series of atmospheric river-fueled storms this winter in the West, there is a silver lining. California’s winemakers are expecting a “bumper” crop. “With the rainfall from last year and the high vigor of the canopy in 2023, we are expecting even bigger yields for 2024,” said Jordan Lonborg, Vineyard Manager at Tablas Creek Vineyard. “The rainfall we have received thus far will go a long ways in supporting the crop that will most likely be what we call a ‘bumper’!” The winery is in Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California. Tablas Creek’s owner, Jason Haas shared his vineyard manager’s optimism for the vines but said people have been hit hard.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Friday Top of the Scroll: February’s storms doubled California snowpack, March could bring more wet weather

At the start of the year, the California snowpack sat at an abysmal 25% of average, but after a series of storms, the Sierra is glittering white — over the last week, storms added up to 4 feet of snow to the range. … Statewide, the snowpack is now 86% of normal for this time of year. And 70% of the April 1 average, which is the end of the water year and the typical height of the state’s frozen reservoir. Storms over the last month more than doubled the size of the snowpack. At his lab north of Lake Tahoe, over the past week, more than 3 1/2 feet of snow fell during three February storms.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Experts urge California to avoid water pitfalls in the delta

Some of the thorniest debates over water in California revolve around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where pumps send water flowing to farms and cities, and where populations of native fish have been declining…. State water regulators are considering … “voluntary agreements” in which water agencies pledge to forgo certain amounts of water while also funding projects to improve wetland habitats. … To learn more about these issues, I spoke with Felicia Marcus and Michael Kiparsky, two experts who wrote a report outlining what they say should be “guiding principles for effective voluntary agreements.” … Marcus said if voluntary agreements go forward without adequate standards in place, “the ecosystem will continue to collapse and more species will go extinct.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado snowpack to 96% of normal after February snowstorms

After this winter’s faltering start, the snowstorms in January and February boosted Colorado’s snowpack from around 10% to nearly 100% of normal accumulation for this time of year. … The Colorado River Basin, which provides water to 40 million people across the West, receives much of its water supply from the mountain snowpack in Colorado and other Upper Basin states. The snowpack conditions generally range between 75% and 105% of normal across the Upper Basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Modeling of the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — indicates that snowpack conditions are much higher than usual, ranging from 120% to 250% of normal.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California Forever: Analyzing billionaire promises for new city

… [CEO Jan] Sramek said California Forever has secured enough water for the 50,000 initial residents of the proposed community, and maybe even the first 100,000. The water rights came from the land the company has bought, he said, and are sourced from groundwater and the Sacramento River. The company could buy more water to supplement that, but wouldn’t need it for the first buildout, he said.

Aquafornia news Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom

News release: How California has captured water from storms

California is taking advantage of this year’s storms to expand water supplies, building off of last year’s actions to capture stormwater. Last year, the Newsom Administration’s actions resulted in three times more groundwater recharge capacity than would have otherwise occurred. Since 2019, the Governor has allocated $1.6 billion for flood preparedness and response, part of the historic $7.3 billion investment package and to strengthen California’s water resilience. Here’s what the state is doing this year to capture water:

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: State report identifies future desalination plants to meet statewide water reliability goals

As California continues to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, the State must work to identify future sources of safe, reliable water for all. This week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a report identifying future planned desalination projects to help meet the brackish water supply goals identified in California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future. As a key strategy in the Water Supply Strategy, desalination is the process of removing salts and minerals from brackish water and seawater to produce water suitable for drinking water, irrigation and other supply needs. Brackish water is a mix of freshwater and saltwater and occurs in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. In 2020, over 100,000 acre-feet of brackish water was desalinated for drinking water, which was two-thirds of the desalinated water produced and used in California.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California reservoir managers could sharply limit water to farms and cities this year

Even after all the rain and snow in California this month, state and federal water managers announced Wednesday that they’re planning to limit deliveries from the state’s biggest reservoirs this year because seasonal precipitation has lagged. Their plans, however, don’t fully account for the recent storms. The State Water Project, with Lake Oroville as its centerpiece, expects to ship 15% of the water that was requested by the mostly urban water agencies it supplies, including many in the Bay Area. The estimate is up from 10% in December but still low. The federally run Central Valley Project, which counts Shasta Lake among the many reservoirs it operates primarily for agriculture, expects to send 15% of the water requested by most irrigation agencies in the San Joaquin Valley and 75% to most in the Sacramento Valley.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Mendocino County News

Opinion: If the Russian River goes dry, affluent Marin County has as much at stake as Mendo

PG&E has decided to withdraw the proposal that was submitted by the Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPMC), Sonoma Water, and Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT) to include the building of new infrastructure to continue some level of water transfer from the Eel River to the Russian River after removal of Scott and Cape Horn Dams as a part of their decommissioning plan being submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). What does this mean for the communities dependent on the Russian River? … If the ability to divert water from the Eel River to the Russian River ceases completely, it could have severe consequences for the 650,000 people who depend on the Russian River including Marin County.
-Written by Adam Gaska. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CBS - Colorado

Projects funded to prevent tons of salt from entering Colorado River each year

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently awarded $20.9 million for six projects along the Colorado River aimed at reducing the costly amount of salt in its water. Five of the projects are in Colorado. In a Feb. 12 press release, the BLM estimated economic damages currently caused by excess salinity in the Colorado River water at about $332 million per year. That economic damage mostly comes from the inability to plant certain types of crops which need the river’s water for irrigation, as well as costs associated with treating the river’s water for residential and commercial usage, according to a BLM report released six years ago. ”This funding will prevent approximately 11,661 tons of salt each year from entering the Colorado River,” the BLM announced in its press release.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Here’s how much California’s snowpack has improved after recent storms

After a slow start to the year, the Sierra Nevada snowpack has grown by leaps and bounds in recent weeks, thanks to a series of heavy storms with especially big impacts in the northern Sierra.  The latest measurements from the California Department of Water Resources places the statewide snowpack at 85% of normal for this time of year, according to data as of Tuesday. In comparison, the snowpack was just 52% of average on Jan. 30 and a paltry 25% of average on Jan. 2. But the gains haven’t been evenly distributed. “Recent storms have provided a boost (to) the snowpack, but the Central and Southern Sierra still have not caught up from the deficit accumulated earlier this season,” said Michael Anderson, DWR’s state climatologist.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Appeal-Democrat

Sites analysis touts potential of reservoir

According to a new analysis by the Sites Project Authority, the proposed Sites Reservoir would be 80% full after recent storms had the long-planned project been in place. In development for several years, Sites Reservoir is considered one of the largest reservoir projects in California. It is an off-stream water storage project that will be situated north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Sites Valley, 10 miles west of Maxwell where Colusa and Glenn counties meet. Officials said once built, the reservoir will capture and store a portion of stormwater from the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – and release water to benefit communities, farms, businesses, and wildlife across the state during drier years.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Colorado River water supply a serious problem for most Nevadans, poll says

More than 70 percent of Nevadans consider water supply and lowering river levels a serious issue, but only a little more than half believe climate change is, a Colorado College poll released Wednesday shows. Water continues to be a hot-button issue for voters who are looking for leaders who can best address diminishing water availability as the Colorado River faces historic challenges. Nevada, the driest state in the nation, is second only to Arizona among Western states for concern about water. … Though water appears to be at the top of most Nevadans’ priority lists, only 56 percent of state residents feel climate change is an extremely or very serious problem.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Still reeling from pandemic, Sacramento delta residents eye major land, water management deals

… [F]or those who live and work along the [Delta's] 57,000 acres of waterways, controversy over how to manage the delta’s levees, land and ecosystems has long been a part of this area’s legacy.  That’s particularly true now, amid big proposed changes to the area’s land and water use. State officials recently approved an environmental study on the Delta Conveyance Project, a plan to add a 35-foot-wide, 45-mile tunnel to speed up collection of water and add to the state’s storage following years of drought. Officials hope the project will improve supplies that have drastically dwindled due to climate change, but some fear it could draw water from local farms and further deplete the area’s wetland habitats.

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

Why was water released from Hodges Reservoir?

CBS 8 is Working for You to investigate the Lake Hodges water supply, after receiving a huge response to our report on the release of more than 600 million gallons of water into the ocean. Now, CBS 8 has learned, the city of San Diego has lost its access to Lake Hodges water, due to a state order by the Division of Safety of Dams, which shut down a pipeline operated by the San Diego County Water Authority. The city of San Diego is under the state order to keep Lake Hodges water levels low – at 280 feet – because Hodges Dam was found to be unsafe. Neighbor Michael Citrin was not happy to learn that, since January, the city of San Diego has released 619 million gallons of water from Lake Hodges, and there is no end in sight as another storm is on its way next week.

Aquafornia news The Denver Post

Friday Top of the Scroll: Colorado River states at risk of not reaching deal by March deadline

The seven Colorado River states face a quickly approaching deadline to present a unified plan for how to manage the drying river that provides water for 40 million people across the West. But major disagreements remain ahead of next month’s target — and the Upper Basin states, including Colorado, say they may submit their own proposal to the federal government instead. … The Upper Basin states are creating their own proposal to present to federal officials in case a seven-state consensus is not reached in time, according to the basin’s statement.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

No more Delta smelt? The Delta tunnel project threatens their extinction for good

A project to move water from the Sacramento region down to Southern California was recently approved by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The $16 billion Delta Conveyance Project is causing major controversy around environmental concerns. This is a very complex issue, Californians are in need of water all over the state. But with a project like the delta tunnel, environmentalists say the 50 species of fish in the delta are at risk as well as the wildlife and people who depend on the fish.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Virtually explore the Delta; remembering Bob Johnson; grab a spot while they last for upcoming tours & events

We’ve expanded our digital Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta library. You can now virtually visit the Delta by watching a series of short videos that show its multiple dimensions: a hub of California’s water supply, an agricultural cornucopia, a water playground and a haven for fish and other wildlife. Find out how you can access our video series, plus learn more about our upcoming tours and events and read about Bob Johnson, former Reclamation Commissioner and our Board Past President, who passed away recently. 

Aquafornia news Wired

The city of tomorrow will run on your toilet water

… Normally in the US, all [household] water would flush out to a treatment facility, and eventually out to a body of water; 34 billion gallons of wastewater is processed this way across the country every day. But with multiple problems for cities now converging—extreme heat, water shortages, and rapid population growth—increasingly scientists are finding clever ways to extract more use from water that’s flushed away. … What Epic Cleantec has achieved is to essentially shrink down what a water recycling plant does into a system that fits in a high-rise basement, lightening the burden on municipal wastewater treatment and reducing pressure on water supplies.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

SLO County could see new water conservation requirements

Some San Luis Obispo County residents may need to cut their water use in the coming years under new regulations proposed by the state — one city as much as 30%. The new regulation framework, titled “Making Conservation a California Way of Life,” was rolled out by the California State Water Resources Control Board in the fall. The agency was still considering public feedback received on the proposed regulations as of Monday and will likely release an updated draft in March, according to spokesman Edward Ortiz. As currently proposed, the regulations would require some cities in San Luis Obispo County, but not all, to reduce residential and commercial water use by 2035, according to the state water board’s data.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Before and after: Sierra Nevada snowpack expands steadily over past month, satellite photos show

What a difference a month makes. On Jan. 1, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply, was a meager 28% of its historic average. October, November and December had brought few storms, leaving ski resorts with many runs closed and water managers around the state beginning to get nervous that California could be heading back into the kind of dry conditions that defined the 2020-22 drought. But since then, winter has arrived. Multiple atmospheric river storms have sent the Sierra Nevada snowpack back to respectable levels. On Wednesday, it was 74% of the historic average.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Commentary: Will cataloging California’s top policy issues inspire politicians to think long term?

California’s public policy issues tend to stretch across multiple years or even decades, while the attention spans of politicians are abbreviated by election cycles and term limits. The short-term mentality of governors and legislators undermines the continuity that’s needed to deal with long-term issues. Many examples of the syndrome exist but a classic is a project that has been kicking around in one form or another, with multiple name changes, for at least six decades – moving water from the Sacramento River around, through or under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the head of the California Aqueduct. It was touted as the last major link in the state’s water system, and originally it was to be a 43-mile-long “peripheral canal” around the Delta when first proposed in the 1960s.
-Written by CalMatters columnist Dan Walters.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Politico

Fixing a hole

…. Southern California has done a great job saving water — so good a job that it’s now facing a budget deficit. The Metropolitan Water District, the state’s largest water supplier, is considering double-digit rate increases after its 19 million customers saved so much water over the past two years that sales dropped to their lowest levels since the 1970s. … The problem has been building for decades but became urgent over the past two years when water sales came in 11 and then 24 percent less than forecast. At the same time, inflation drove up costs. While the district has chosen to dip into its reserves in the past to avoid large rate increases, Met General Manager Adel Hagekhalil argued that’s not enough anymore in light of increasing extreme weather swings. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: El Niño is fading — but La Niña may be on way. What it means for California weather

… El Niño’s time in the limelight is coming to an end. The warmer-than-average Pacific waters that define El Niño are cooling off and temperatures are expected to drop below normal in the coming months. The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña watch last week, meaning conditions are favorable for La Niña to develop this summer.  … From April to June, there’s a 79% chance of El Niño transitioning to “neutral” conditions, with sea surface temperatures closer to normal. The shift, coinciding with the typical end of the wet season, suggests less precipitation in California in the spring. … La Niña is typically associated with drier-than-normal conditions in Central and Southern California.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Dozens of Colorado farmers, ranchers and one city cut Colorado River water use in exchange for $8.7M

Coloradans gunning to join this year’s effort to save water in the Colorado River Basin could help conserve up to 17,000 acre-feet of water — much more than the 2,500 acre-feet saved in 2023 — and receive about $8.7 million in return.  The voluntary, multistate program pays water users to temporarily use less water. … After a stumbling relaunch in 2023, this year’s program is moving forward with more applications, more potential water savings and more money for participants. This year’s application period closed in December with 124 applications, according to the Upper Colorado River Commission. Of those, Colorado water users submitted 56; Utah, 32; New Mexico, one; and Wyoming, 35.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey Peninsula water lawsuit heads to appeals court

A quasi-governmental agency has appealed a Monterey County Superior Court decision that ruled the agency overstepped its bounds when it blocked a regional water district from acquiring the local assets of California American Water Co. In January 2022, the Local Area Formation Commission, or LAFCO, denied the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s petition for what’s called the district’s latent powers to buy out Cal Am’s local infrastructure. Latent powers essentially refer to whether or not the water district has the financial wherewithal and expertise to acquire and operate the Cal Am system. The water district sued, alleging the behavior of several LAFCO commissioners in denying the petition was inappropriate. 

Aquafornia news JD Supra

Blog: California water challenges remain despite significant precipitation in 2023

The winter of 2022-23 brought historic levels of precipitation to California after years of deep drought, dwindling reservoirs, and groundwater depletion. In the first quarter of 2023, most of the state received rainfall exceeding historic averages, with some areas experiencing 200%, or even 300% of average levels. … Despite heavy precipitation over the past year, California’s drought resilience remains in question, as critical infrastructure projects face staunch opposition and climate change increases the likelihood of extreme and prolonged droughts. … This blog post summarizes key actions taken by state and federal officials in 2023 with respect to California’s water supply and provides an outlook for 2024.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Long-term Colorado River rescue plan at an impasse? North vs. south in West

Will seven Western states be able to rapidly craft a voluntary plan to keep the Colorado River afloat for decades to come? It’s increasingly unclear, as negotiations have foundered between two sides, according to key players. There are sharp differences between northern and southern states’ proposals. … For now, negotiations between the two sides have ground to a halt, even as a deadline looms to produce a draft agreement by next month. The last time representatives from all seven states met face to face was in early January.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Western Water Notes

Blog: Nevada tries new approach for water law cases

Nevada state courts have long grappled with settling water conflicts and defining the terms upon which water is managed in the nation’s driest state. Who gets priority to water when there is a conflict or in times of scarcity? What is the public’s interest in water? What is the state’s responsibility in protecting water for the public alongside those with water rights? These are all questions the court has had to grapple with. … In January, the Supreme Court’s water commission began a three-year pilot program that requires district court judges, certified as specialty water law judges, to hear water cases.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

What improved snowpack means for Lake Powell and a resurfacing Glen Canyon

… Keeping [Lake] Powell full enough to generate hydropower is a strategy the U.S. Department of Interior signaled it will prioritize — even if it comes at the expense of other natural, recreational and cultural assets on the Colorado River — until at least the end of 2026. That’s when the federal government and seven states that rely on the river will have to re-imagine what to do in a drier, hotter and less water-secure future. The river remains overallocated and has lost about a third of its flow in recent years. For now, motorized boaters who love Lake Powell are breathing a sigh of relief that the federal government intends to keep the reservoir full enough that at least some of the marinas remain open. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news California Globe

Opinion: California is hardly harvesting the deluge

A historic barrage of atmospheric rivers hit California. Across the Sierra Nevada and down through the foothills into the valley, rivers turned into raging torrents, overflowing their banks and flooding entire communities. California’s Central Valley turned into an inland sea, as low lying farms and grasslands were incapable of draining the deluge. That was 1861, when one storm after another pounded the state for 43 days without respite. Despite impressive new terminology our experts have come up with to describe big storms in this century – “bomb cyclone,” “arkstorm,” and “atmospheric river” – we haven’t yet seen anything close to what nature brought our predecessors back in those pre-industrial times over 150 years ago. But we are getting rain this year. Lots of rain. According to the National Weather Service, by the time 2024’s first two atmospheric rivers are done with California, the state will have been inundated with an estimated 11 trillion gallons of water. That’s 33 million acre feet, in just 10 days. Are we harvesting this deluge?
-Written by Edward Ring, a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. 

Aquafornia news Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation publishes overview of Colorado River evaporation history

The Bureau of Reclamation today published an overview of historical natural losses along the lower Colorado River. The Mainstream Evaporation and Riparian Evapotranspiration report looks at water surface evaporation, soil moisture evaporation, and plant transpiration. It will be used by Reclamation as a source of data as it manages regional water operations and to improve the agency’s modeling efforts. … The report provides an overview of average mainstream losses from both river and reservoir evaporation, as well as the evaporation and transpiration associated with vegetation and habitats along the river. The report states that approximately 1.3-million-acre feet of losses occur annually along the lower Colorado River mainstream. Based on data from 2017 to 2021, approximately 860,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water is lost to evaporation occurring annually from Lake Mead to the border with Mexico. A further 445,000 acre-feet is lost to evaporation and transpiration from natural vegetation and habitats.  

Related news release: 

Aquafornia news KUER - Salton Sea

Like Utah, California has had pipeline dreams to save its drying Salton Sea

Most people don’t know that California’s largest lake — the Salton Sea — was a mishap. Birthed in 1905 when the Colorado River experienced massive floods, the accidental lake soon became a community commodity. It once was a recreation destination, filled with fish and migratory birds, that supported the surrounding agricultural communities throughout the Imperial and Coachella valleys. … Other than its origin story, the Salton Sea and Utah’s Great Salt Lake share some commonalities. Both are drying terminal lakes hurt by the West’s drought and where water is siphoned off for human needs before water levels can replenish. In both places, dust is a consequence of the exposed lakebeds — and both have a pungent aroma. The ecological, environmental, and in Utah’s case, economic, impacts of the lakes’ declines have pushed both states into varying degrees of action to save them.

Aquafornia news Yuba Net

Opinion: Unimpaired flow proposal could devastate local agriculture, our community and the environment

While the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is working hard to ensure the reliability of our water supply, the district is facing potential state regulations that would have dire negative impacts for agriculture, our community, fire protection, wildlife and aquatic habitat. State recommended regulations would affect NID operations and service, decreasing water supply and raising the cost of water to all customers if implemented. The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) is working to update an action plan to improve water quality and save imperiled fish populations, including salmon and delta smelt, in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta). … If adopted, this alternative would effectively negate NID’s long-standing water rights to the Yuba and Bear River systems. A cascading effect would ensure a significant decrease in the amount of water NID has available for its customers while negatively impacting all aspects of the district’s operational and financial viability.
-Written by Rich Johansen, president of the Nevada Irrigation District. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Thursday Top of the Scroll: El Niño rains lift California snowpack to near normal levels

San Francisco and parts of California have been pounded with rain and vexed by flooding and power outages in recent days, but there’s a silver lining to the storm clouds: The state’s alpine snowpack is verging on the average levels for this winter. The update is especially welcome news following this season’s early months, marked by less-than-average snowfall. The snowpack is now around three-quarters of average with the recent precipitation. This winter has been accompanied by an El Niño weather pattern, characterized by warmer-than-average sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. This can cause warm, wet storms to be flung eastward from the Pacific Ocean across the nation.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Costa, Valadao introduce measures to help Valley farmers

Two Congressmen representing the Central Valley have introduced measures to assist California communities ravaged by drought and extreme heat, as well as to advance and promote policies essential to U.S. agriculture. On Feb. 1, California Congress Member David Valadao, R-22nd District, and Nevada Congress Member Dina Titus, D-1st District, introduced the Water Conservation Economic Adjustment Act (Act). According to a press release from Valadao’s office, the bill “aims to make additional resources available for regions experiencing adverse economic changes caused by drought and extreme heat.” The Act amends the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 by adding environmental conditions that contribute to increased water supplies, including drought and extreme heat, to the list of events that may make communities eligible for financial assistance.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

How California’s atmospheric rivers will change the Colorado River

… The rain and subsequent flooding [in California] could mean good things for the water crisis gripping the southwestern U.S., though—especially the Colorado River and its basin if the precipitation reaches the upper basin. The Upper Colorado River basin covers Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, while the lower basin covers Arizona, California, and Nevada. If the moisture unleashed from the atmospheric river reaches the Upper Colorado River Basin, it could improve its flows which have been incredibly low in recent years.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Livermore Independent

EPA advocates for river flows to the Sacramento River Delta

The Bay Delta Plan should focus more on the amount of water flowing through rivers and less on habitat restorations to restore its ecosystems, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comments submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board. The Water Board, which is in the process of revising its draft Bay Delta Plan for public review, will decide what river-flow requirements and water-quality controls will govern uses within the Sacramento River watershed. The EPA’s comments came as part of the plan’s public comment period, which closed on Jan. 19.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news BNN

Efficiency push in California water fluoridation trial: a potential game-changer for public health policies

As the California federal courtroom buzzes with anticipation, a monumental bench trial unfolds, its focal point – the potential risks posed by fluoridated water. The case, overseen by a seasoned judge, has been extended to allow the parties involved ample time to present their respective arguments. However, the judge’s recent remarks hint at an underlying dissatisfaction with the trial’s pace, urging the counsel to adopt a more streamlined and focused approach. The trial, by its sheer significance, has captured the nation’s attention. It grapples with public health concerns stemming from water fluoridation, a prevalent practice aimed at curbing tooth decay. Given its implications, the testimony of the former scientific director of the National Toxicology Program, who links fluoride to lower IQ in children, weighs heavily in the courtroom. The final phase of the trial is expected to delve into new evidence and science, further shaping the narrative.

Aquafornia news CNN

LA County captured enough rain this week to provide water to 65,600 residents for a year

While this week’s atmospheric river drenched Southern California with record-breaking rainfall, some water managers were busy capturing some of that runoff to save for dry days ahead. Others were busy fending off an environmental disaster. Los Angeles County Public Works captured 2.7 billion gallons of stormwater as the rain fell in sheets, public information officer Liz Vazquez told CNN in an email – enough water for 65,600 residents for a year. In all, stormwater capture facilities across Southern California snagged around 15,000 acre-feet – or around 4.9 billion gallons – for recharge into groundwater since Sunday night, according to Rebecca Kimitch, a spokesperson for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California rainfall totals: Maps show where winter storms brought the most precipitation so far

After a slow start to California’s wet season, precipitation has picked up dramatically in the past month, as winter storms have driven heavy rain and snow across the state. The latest tempest brought devastating impacts, including destructive mudslides and at least three deaths. But the storms have also provided benefits, making up precipitation deficits since the beginning of the current water year, which is measured from Oct. 1, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2024. That includes the Sierra Nevada snowpack. … Statewide precipitation this water year has been 98% of normal, according to the latest figure from the Department of Water Resources. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Yale Environment 360

As use of A.I. soars, so does the energy and water it requires

Two months after its release in November 2022, OpenAI’s ChatGPT had 100 million active users, and suddenly tech corporations were racing to offer the public more “generative A.I.” Pundits compared the new technology’s impact to the Internet, or electrification, or the Industrial Revolution — or the discovery of fire. Time will sort hype from reality, but one consequence of the explosion of artificial intelligence is clear: this technology’s environmental footprint is large and growing. A.I. use is directly responsible for carbon emissions from non-renewable electricity and for the consumption of millions of gallons of fresh water, and it indirectly boosts impacts from building and maintaining the power-hungry equipment on which A.I. runs. As tech companies seek to embed high-intensity A.I. into everything from resume-writing to kidney transplant medicine and from choosing dog food to climate modeling, they cite many ways A.I. could help reduce humanity’s environmental footprint. 

Aquafornia news Ag Info

Almonds use less water than you think

Danielle Veenstra is an almond grower as well as the senior manager for reputation management and sustainability communications for the Almond Board of California. She comments on how the production of almonds uses much less water than you think.

Aquafornia news Politico

A Republican’s quixotic quest against dam removal

Water is flowing unimpeded down the Klamath River to the Pacific Ocean for the first time in more than a century — and Rep. Doug LaMalfa is depressed. “It’s our worst defeat since I’ve been a legislator,” he said in an interview ahead of PacifiCorp’s emptying of three reservoirs on the Klamath River in order to demolish the dams that stand in front of them. It’s the largest dam removal project in the country, and it’s a harbinger of the shifting politics around rivers in the age of climate change. The traditional fault lines that have long pitted anti-dam environmentalists and tribes against pro-dam farmers and utilities, who benefit from their water and electricity, are blurring. … LaMalfa knows times are changing. “I feel like just one anti-aircraft gunner with 10,000 enemy fighter planes coming at you at once,” he said.

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

How one of the nation’s fastest growing counties plans to find water in the desert

Like many places across the West, two things are on a collision course in Utah’s southwest corner: growth and water. Washington County’s population has quadrupled since 1990. St. George, its largest city, has been the fastest-growing metro area in the nation in recent years. And projections from the University of Utah say the county’s population — now at nearly 200,000 people — could double again by 2050. The region has essentially tapped out the Colorado River tributary it depends on now, the Virgin River. So, the big question is: where will the water for all those new residents come from? … The district’s 20-year plan comes down to two big ideas: reusing and conserving the water it already has.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Moab unites to fight a floodplain development

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

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Tracking California’s water supplies

After a rainy and snowy start of February, California’s water situation is starting to look promising for the year. All but one of the major reservoirs are storing in excess of 100% of their average, and five out of the 12 are nearing capacity, since they are over 75% full. Also, no part of the state is currently under drought conditions. But that doesn’t mean California no longer faces chronic water shortages. Droughts are becoming more common and more extreme as the climate crisis intensifies, and communities dependent on depleted underground aquifers and parched Colorado River supplies do not have enough water to meet the demands of their farms and cities. . … Last year’s Sierra Nevada snowpack tied with 1952 for the highest on record at the end of the snow season. So far this year, on Feb. 5, the snowpack was 72% of average for that date.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Phoenix

Cattle are a part of Arizona’s history. Climate change, overgrazing concerns cloud their future

When you drive through parts of rural Arizona, it’s hard to imagine that cattle ranchers once came here for the grass. But Eduardo Pagan, a history professor at Arizona State University, says the state looked different a couple of centuries ago. … Cattle ranching helped shape rural Arizona into what it is today. It was one of the five C’s that once formed the backbone of the state’s economy, along with copper, citrus, cotton and climate.  But many ideas we have about the history of grazing are wrong, and researchers say that cattle have emerged as a major driver of climate change. Conservationists say it’s time to re-examine grazing on public lands. … Ranching has changed the way wildfire moves across the landscape. Ranching also helped introduce invasive plants, as new grasses were planted to offset overgrazing. Grasslands have been turned into deserts. Streambeds that once nourished shady cottonwoods and willows bake in the sun after cows eat the young trees. Wildfires burn bigger and hotter. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Watch wonderful rush of water released down iconic Oroville Dam spillway for flood safety

The California Department of Water Resources on Wednesday began releasing water from Oroville Dam’s main spillway. The release into the Feather River ensures storage space remains in Lake Oroville for flood control protection, according to water officials. “DWR coordinates releases closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators and adjusts releases as needed to account for continuing rain and snowmelt,” the agency wrote in a YouTube comment on the video. The Lake Oroville reservoir is the largest storage facility in the State Water Project, which delivers water to 27 million Californians. The main spillway continues to perform well and operate as designed, DWR said, ever since a 2017 incident when one of the dam’s two spillways was heavily damaged and there were fears of major flooding.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news California Globe

Opinion: Comparing the Delta tunnel versus desalination

… One of the biggest concerns about desalination projects is the financial cost to build them. … [A] relevant comparison is the estimated cost for the Huntington Beach Desalination plant versus the estimated cost for the proposed Delta Tunnel. We must bear in mind that the Delta Tunnel, if it is ever built, probably won’t add one drop to California’s water supply.
-Written by Edward Ring, a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

‘Abnormally dry’ conditions spike as California struggles with below-average snowpack

A Thursday update from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the eastern slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada are drying — and the lack of snow accumulation could accelerate unfavorable conditions. The second manual snow survey of the water season — which began Oct. 1 — showed moderate improvement to the state’s snowpack but conditions remain “far below normal,” according to a news release from the California Department of Water Resources. A weekly map that illustrates drought intensities across the country shows the state’s “abnormally dry” status spiked more than 6% to nearly 9.5%. Before Tuesday, abnormally dry conditions in California remained in the 3% range since Dec. 5. California has not seen conditions this dry since Aug. 15, when 25.44% of the state was considered abnormally dry.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Desert Review

Commentary: The commonsense thinking behind the Imperial Valley’s water rights

Last week, we briefly reviewed the history of how the Imperial Valley claimed and leveraged its water for the good of the nation, cementing its water rights in 1901, long before the major urban growth in the late 20th century and beyond. Those rights were vindicated with other laws and agreements over the decades to come, but the first major stamp of approval came in 1922 with the Colorado River Compact between six of the seven states which relied on the Colorado River. In recent years, however, some accusations have been making the rounds claiming that the Law of the River, including the 1922 Compact, should be overruled because more water was allocated among the states than the typical flow. The original legal guidelines, the critics claim, had no consideration of climate change, and now we need to rewrite the laws to take it into account.
-Written by columnist Brett Miller.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KSBW - Central Coast

State money coming to help Big Basin Water Company customers

Santa Cruz County is getting state money to help bring safe drinking water to customers in the Santa Cruz Mountains. On Tuesday, the county announced they are receiving an $850,000 state grant to help assure access to safe drinking water for the community served by Big Basin Water Company. The emergency one-time grant was sought in response to the urgent drinking water supply, safety and reliability situation faced by customers of Big Basin Water. The privately owned utility is now operated under a court-appointed receiver, Serviam by Wright LLP. The receivership was sought by the county and obtained by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Attorney General due to water outages, chronic supply shortfalls, and substandard infrastructure. The funding may be used to address system deficiencies, including drinking water shortages and necessary system upgrades.

Aquafornia news Redding Record Searchlight

Inside Whiskeytown Dam’s Glory Hole spillway, where few others have gone

As one of two people who descended 260 feet down into the Glory Hole spillway at Whiskeytown Dam on Tuesday, Scott Colburn has gone where few others have gone before. A civil engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Colburn inspected the Glory Hole to make sure it was structurally sound. He was joined on his venture by James Hudleston, a mechanical engineer for the bureau. Colburn said they did not find any troubles with the concrete structure, which is an emergency spillway to prevent the lake from flowing over the top of the earthen Whiskeytown Dam, which the bureau operates.

Aquafornia news Vallejo Times Herald

California Forever revisions shrink proposed footprint by 1,100 acres

California Forever refiled its East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative on Monday, shrinking the proposed footprint of its new community to 17,500 acres from 18,600 acres. Language has been added to ensure that, if passed, Solano County will have the right to enforce the development agreement, including all guarantees made by California Forever to the voters, through the duration of the development agreement. … On water, the plan has adapted to include language ensuring it will meet standards of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and other regulations to “protect groundwater uses in the long term and assure that neighboring uses are protected.” Imported water will be used to augment groundwater replenishment “to the extent it is needed,” the new details explain. Additional water sources will be identified “in other parts of the state,” according to new language.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Environmentalists see Nevada Supreme Court ruling bringing state’s water management ‘into the 21st century’

The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that the state can restrict new groundwater pumping if it will impact other users and wildlife, a decision that strikes a blow to the plan of a developer that at one time hoped to build a new city of 250,000 people in the Mojave Desert and could shift how groundwater is managed in the driest U.S. state. The court’s ruling paves the way for Nevada’s water regulators to manage groundwater depletion throughout the state, an issue of increasing importance as flows from the Colorado River and the levels of many of the region’s aquifers decline. State regulators can now view surface water and groundwater as a single source—something that has not historically been done in the state or elsewhere in the Southwest.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Calif.’s Sierra snowpack is below average. Will 2 big storms help?

California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack is half what is considered normal for this time of year, in part due to warmer storms that have delivered more rain than snow this winter. But there’s hope that an atmospheric river soaking the state Wednesday and Thursday — as well as a second system expected to arrive Sunday — might provide a boost, even if it’s a small one. The first storm started to push into California on Tuesday night. Snow was falling in the northern part of the state in the Cascades and Mount Shasta area late Wednesday morning, said Sara Purdue, also a forecaster with the weather service. It’s not expected to start snowing in the greater Sierra Nevada Range until later today. Snow levels are expected to start out high in this first storm, hovering around 6,000 to 7,000 feet in the Sierra on Wednesday.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news AP News

Spring a leak? Google will find it through a new partnership aimed at saving water in New Mexico

New Mexico is teaming up with Google to hunt for leaky water pipes using satellite imagery as the drought-stricken state prepares for a future in which growing demand puts more pressure on already dwindling drinking water supplies. State officials made the announcement Tuesday as they rolled out a 50-year plan that includes nearly a dozen action items for tackling a problem faced by many communities in the western U.S., where climate change has resulted in warmer temperatures and widespread drought. New Mexico is the first state to partner with Google for such an endeavor, state officials said, noting that the payoff could be significant in terms of curbing losses and saving municipalities and ratepayers money over the long term.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Here’s why water is being released from several Northern California reservoirs this week

Northern California water managers are preparing for a stretch of wet weather by releasing water from several major reservoirs this week. At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the California Department of Water Resources began releasing water down the main spillway at Oroville Dam. Initial releases were at 6,000 cubic feet per second. By Wednesday afternoon, water was being released at 12,000 cubic feet per second. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also began releases on Wednesday. Shasta and Keswick Dams were both releasing water at 15,000 cubic feet per second. Water is also being released from New Melones Reservoir at 1,500 cubic feet per second. … Each of these reservoirs is currently holding more water than average for this point in the season. With a couple of rounds of significant rain in the forecast, water managers are making releases to maintain that water storage as runoff comes in.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news USA Today

Water crisis in West: It wasn’t always this hot, dry, study says

Cities scorching in 110 degree heat for days as water reserves dry up — that’s life in the West now. But new research confirms the region hasn’t always seen this devilish combination of extreme heat and blistering drought. Scientists have reviewed 500 years of data to determine that the past 100 years have been both abnormally hot and dry — giving them new confidence that the droughts and record heat waves plaguing the region are fueled by climate change. There’s a term for what’s going on: A “hot drought.” That means they now believe the region has been hit with heat and drought “unprecedented in frequency and severity” when compared to the past 500 years.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Water bills at the Utah Legislature and where they are in the process

The following is an excerpt from the Salt Lake Tribune’s new Open Lands newsletter, a twice-a-month newsletter about Utah’s land, water and air from the environment team. Some of the bills making the biggest splash on the Hill so far include small revisions with big implications. Take Sen. Hinkins’s SB125, for example. Back in 2022, lawmakers made waves by requiring every secondary water connection in Utah to have a meter by 2030, which is no small lift. Utah has the largest secondary system in the nation, which is good in some ways because it allows us to water our lawns and gardens without using expensive treated water, but bad in other ways because we never knew how much we were using (or wasting).

Aquafornia news E&E News

Will a shrinking Colorado River shrivel the produce aisle?

… At last year’s annual meeting of the Family Farm Alliance, Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, ticked off a few of her favorite [fruits and vegetables], listing lemons from California’s Imperial Valley and cantaloupe and leafy greens from Yuma, Arizona. “We are committed to you,” Touton told the group, “to make sure you can keep doing what you want to do, which is to continue to grow food to feed this country.” … But with the ongoing drought plaguing the Colorado River, that’s going to be a complicated promise to keep. … Given that agriculture consumes as much as 79 percent of annual flows, the sector will undoubtedly need to absorb a large share of cuts as states and the Biden administration work out a plan over how to conserve water over the next 20 years.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California officials hopeful for more snow as season nears its peak

There’s a structure that stands near a snow survey point at Phillips Station, off Highway 50 near South Lake Tahoe. This time last year it was partially covered in snow. On Tuesday, snow levels reached nowhere near that high. “Obviously, our snowpack is still below average,” said Sean de Guzman with the Department of Water Resources. “We’re only at halfway of where we need to be at this time of year.” Tuesday was the second snow survey conducted by de Guzman’s department this year. … Current totals are dwarfed by the massive snowfall from last winter. … Rizzardo noted that it’s an El Niño year and storms are warmer, meaning they bring more rain as opposed to snow.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Here’s where California’s snowpack stands with winter half over

California has received barely half of the snow it typically gets by this point in winter, reinforcing concerns of a “snow drought” as state water officials conduct the second snow survey of the season this week. State surveyors will report about 50% of average snowpack across California’s high country on Tuesday, with winter moving into its second half and the clock on cold, powder-producing storms beginning to run down. Snow in the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascades and Trinity Mountains is vital for California, providing nearly a third of the state’s water. Below-average snowpack bodes poorly not just for municipal and agricultural water supplies but for forest health and wildfire danger.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Monster Pacific storm to ‘firehose’ California with rain, flooding and wind

A potent storm with plenty of moisture will throw heavy rain and gusty winds at the West Coast of the United States this week, with most of the focus on California from Wednesday to Thursday. As AccuWeather meteorologists have warned since mid-January, the upcoming storm will trigger an atmospheric river that can bring rain heavy enough to trigger flooding, mudslides and major travel disruptions. … This new storm will deliver a narrow zone of intense rain, or an atmospheric river, from well out over the Pacific and toward coastal areas of California. The firehose effect of rain will shift southward from Northern California on Wednesday to Southern California on Thursday.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Turf is out. Native grasses are in. Here are 4 lush low-water options

Tearing out your lawn can be a tough decision, especially if you have children or dogs who love to roll and play. Or — no judgment here — maybe you just enjoy the visual serenity of a swath of green in a region where the hills go brown in the summer. The good news is there are low-water, lushly green native lawn alternatives to tall fescue, the most popular water-guzzling king of turf grasses. … Native grasses usually require less water than traditional turf lawns because their roots grow much deeper — up to 10 feet deep in some cases — allowing them to find water stored in the ground and weather longer periods of drought. They’ve also adapted by going dormant during certain parts of the year, like Bermuda, a warm-season grass, which does fine in hot summer months but turns brown during the winter.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Why Southern Nevada water officials are gearing up for a rough 2024

In states dependent on the dwindling Colorado River, planning is key. That’s what the Southern Nevada Water Authority does every year with the release of its Water Resource Plan, which serves as a yearly check-in for how conservation measures are faring amid low water availability. The authority’s board approved the plan at its January meeting. The authority is a coalition of the region’s government entities in charge of securing water resources for the state in the long term. Such a task is further complicated by Nevada’s small allowance of Colorado River water and historic lows in Lake Mead, which supplies about 90 percent of the state’s water. Last year’s weather offered a reprieve from Nevada’s extremely dry and hot climate, but the valley’s water managers are gearing up for a more intense 2024. 

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Monday Top of the Scroll: Weather alert issued as ‘Pineapple Express’ hurtles towards West Coast

The West Coast is likely to face torrential rain in the coming days as the 3,000 mile long “Pineapple Express” atmospheric river will bring wet conditions to the region. Landslides, moderate flooding and high winds are expected over … California, Oregon and Washington throughout this week as the weather system travels eastward in from the Pacific Ocean from Tuesday onwards. … In California, from Wednesday through to Friday, up to seven inches of rain can be expected at higher elevations while one to five inches can be expected at lower levels. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Commentary: California could spend billions to reduce a fraction of water use

… Nearly 39 million Californians wind up using about 5% of the original precipitation to water their lawns, bathe themselves, operate toilets and cook their food. … The ludicrous nature of those propagandistic appeals is quite evident in the state Water Resources Control Board’s new plan to force local water agencies into cutting household water use even more, no matter the multibillion-dollar cost, and with penalties if they fail to meet quotas. The water board says the plan, which was authorized by the Legislature in 2018, would reduce household use by 440,000 acre-feet a year when fully implemented. That would be about 5% of current use, which is only about 5% of average precipitation – scarcely a drop in the bucket.
-Written by CalMatters columnist Dan Walters.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado Springs, Western Slope forge Blue River water rights deal

A proposed agreement to boost water storage on the Western Slope and send more water to Colorado Springs is in the final stages of approval after years of debate.  The deal focuses on water rights on the Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado River that begins in southern Summit County and flows northward into Dillon Reservoir. If approved, the agreement would set in motion a plan to build one new reservoir for Western Slope use and expand Montgomery Reservoir — which will increase the water supply for Colorado Springs. … Colorado Springs Utilities could use its conditional water rights to build three reservoirs to store Colorado River Basin water and release it through the Hoosier Tunnel.

Aquafornia news

Over $500K awarded to the Water Institute at Fresno State

A $569,000 grant was awarded to the California Water Institute’s Research and Education Division at Fresno State for a project that addresses drought and flooding by planning for sustainable use of surface groundwater, officials announced on Wednesday. Officials say the grant was awarded by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The project, “Climate Resiliency through Regional Water Recharge in the San Joaquin Valley,” will educate rural communities on groundwater recharge and establish a collaborative response team, as well as a plan for effective floodwater management, ensuring vulnerable communities are prioritized.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

California’s reservoirs maintain capacity as snowpack struggles to rebuild

California nears competition of a January that has seen far less rain and snow than the previous year leaving a significantly lower snowpack while reservoirs statewide remain at historic highs. The month began with a disappointing snowpack measurement in the Central Sierra Nevada at the Phillips Station snow survey. Snowpack levels were measured at 30% of the average for Jan. 2, which was a stark contrast to the over 200% above average snowpack measurement taken at the same location on Jan. 10, 2023.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Shasta Lake is filling up fast. Could the spillway be used at some point?

The recent rainfall has further boosted the outlook at Shasta Lake this year. Water levels have risen nearly 10 feet in just the past week. Currently, California’s largest reservoir is only 43 feet from capacity and over 40 feet higher than it was at this point in 2023. Highlighting the recent climb in water levels: the dam’s ‘drum gates’ have been raised to protect water from possibly seeping over. With more rainfall expected in the weeks ahead, the Bureau of Reclamation is still not concerned about too much water, yet. ”We still have room in the reservoir for flood control,” explained Don Bader, Area Manager for the Bureau. “So we still have another 10 feet of room that we can have more storms come in before we would start flood operations.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Remaking Cadiz in the name of environmental justice

It’s hard to think of a California company that carries more toxic baggage than Cadiz Inc. The Los Angeles firm has been trying for more than 20 years to advance a plan to siphon water from under the Mojave Desert and pump it to users throughout Southern California. It has long been stymied by environmental objections, but kept on life support by wielding political influence and regular financings such as private stock placements and junk bond-rated debt. Now Cadiz is trying a new tack. Under its newly installed chief executive, the veteran government aide Susan Kennedy, it has affiliated itself with the so-called human right to water movement, which ties the inaccessibility of clean water for disadvantaged communities to other social justice quests such as developing more affordable housing.
-Written by Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik.

Aquafornia news KSLTV - Salt Lake City

Snowpack totals are in a ‘comfortable spot’ for northern Utah

Utah’s outdoors is looking pretty, especially for people in the water business. “Things have improved a lot since the end of January,” said Laura Haskell, drought coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Resources. She says all that snow northern Utah finally got the past few weeks put us in a comfortable spot. “We are right about where we should be for snowpack. Right about average, typical for this time of year,” she said. That snow is equal to about 8 inches of water on average. Haskell hopes it gets to 16 inches of snow water equivalent by the first of April when the snowpack typically peaks. It will only add to reservoirs, which are already at about 80% full in northern Utah thanks to last winter.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Environmentalists, local water agencies sue over Delta tunnel project

A month after California’s water regulator gave its seal of approval to a controversial water infrastructure project that could replumb the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the plan is coming under renewed legal fire. Eight lawsuits filed by several counties, local water agencies and a coalition of environmental advocates claim the Department of Water Resources violated laws protecting the beleaguered estuary when it approved the project. The complaints allege the Delta tunnel project, formally called the Delta Conveyance, would imperil the region’s environmental health and human survival, from endangered and threatened fish species to low-income residents and multigenerational farms. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Fronteras

‘We need to get good partners’ to secure water for AZ, agency says

The head of a state agency that’s looking for new water sources for Arizona is unhappy with the governor’s budget proposal. Two years ago, then-Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona lawmakers agreed to invest $1 billion in a desalination plant, among other projects to augment Arizona’s water supply. The money was to be allocated over three years. But last year’s budget included roughly half of the $333 million expected for the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, or WIFA. And Gov. Katie Hobbs has proposed just $33 million for the agency in her plan for the upcoming fiscal year. All of that has Chuck Podolak concerned. He’s WIFA’s director, and has been speaking out about the need to fully fund his decades-old agency. He joined The Show to talk more about it and the conversation began with where the authority is in the area of trying to find new sources of water for the state.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona water-importing proposals dominated by desal plants

Detailed plans for seawater desalination, mostly from Mexican coasts, dominate a list of more than 20 project ideas sent to an Arizona agency for importing water into this increasingly thirsty state. The desalination projects, submitted to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, are proposed for all over the region’s map. The locations range from Baja California’s Pacific Coast to Southern California’s coastline to near biosphere reserves in northern Sonora to that Mexican state’s western coastline. One would retrofit and reopen the mothballed Yuma Desalting Plant, built more than 30 years ago but never fully used. The much-discussed, Israeli-based IDE Technologies desal project to bring desalted water by pipeline 200 miles north from Puerto Peñasco, Sonora to the Phoenix area was submitted again to the authority, whose board agreed in late 2022 to negotiate over it but then backed off.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Watch: Bill Maher, Gavin Newsom tee off on almond farmers over water use

During an interview on Saturday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO, Gov. Gavin Newsom and host-comedian Bill Maher took a moment to knock California’s almond production for its excessive use of water.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Commentary: Why are top California Democrats ducking Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Delta tunnel project?

The three top Democrats seeking to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the United States Senate managed to clearly answer every question California’s McClatchy opinion team recently managed to pose. Except for one. It happened to deal with one of Feinstein’s signature issues: Water. Here was the question: “Climate change is requiring California to adapt its water management and develop new supplies. What is your position on Governor Newsom’s Delta Conveyance Project…?” One said yes. Two said they were studying the matter. Asked the identical question, our incumbent Senator, Alex Padilla, said he was analyzing a recently-published environmental document. Three out of four of California’s leading Democrats are flunking a key leadership test. The Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta is ground zero in California water. It is home to the two largest water diversion projects that two-thirds of the state depends on.
-Written by Tom Philp, Sacramento Bee columnist.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

‘Snow drought’ darkening California’s water outlook

Despite a spate of recent storms, scientists say California needs more winterlike weather to bolster its water supply and avoid another drought. … [M]uch of California and Nevada have seen below average rainfall since the water year began on Oct. 1. Both are still reeling from severe drought, particularly in Nevada’s Colorado River basin. … Much-needed large winter storms haven’t materialized, particularly in the northern Sierra, which was at 66% of average as of Jan. 18, and the southern Sierra, sitting at 40% of average … California climatologist Michael Anderson said a high pressure system off the coast has been consistently disrupting or slowing down atmospheric river events.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Bay City News

Environmental groups sue to block Delta Tunnel project

Environmental groups on Friday sued the California Department of Water Resources for approving a plan to divert water from the environmentally sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta to Central and Southern California. The lawsuit says the water agency failed to consider ecological and wildlife harms in giving the go-ahead for the giant tunnel known as the Delta Conveyance Project taking water from Northern California. Advocates say the project will modernize the state’s aging water system, which is currently not equipped to capture water amid climate change conditions. Opponents say the tunnel would divert billions of gallons of water from the Sacramento River, harming delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other imperiled fish.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

‘Not out of the woods’: Lake Mead water levels projected to drop by 2025

Lake Mead, the source of almost 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water, is expected to near 2022’s historic low by the end of 2025, this month’s Bureau of Reclamation projection shows. Based on the most likely scenario for Colorado River inflow, federal scientists predict the reservoir will dip to 1,044 feet in December 2025 — just 4 feet higher than the lowest level seen since it was first filled, which was about 1,040 feet in July 2022. Forecasts that go out further in the future allow for a larger margin of error, and climate conditions largely dictate Colorado River flows. In addition to an estimate on the most probable inflow scenario, the agency releases estimates for a maximum and minimum inflow into the reservoir.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Politico

Monday Top of the Scroll: Senate candidates steer clear of California’s biggest environmental issue

Water is the third rail of California politics — and the state’s Senate candidates are carefully steering around it. Water is a perpetual problem in California, with bitter fights over scarce resources even in rainy years. But the leading candidates to fill the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat have made almost no moves to differentiate themselves or highlight their records on one of the state’s most intractable political issues. … None of the top four candidates has a fleshed-out water platform.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

San Diego could be first to float solar on drinking water

A south San Diego water district is thinking about powering itself with energy from the sun. Leaders at Sweetwater Authority, which serves National City, western Chula Vista and Bonita, hired a contractor to study how floating solar panels on its namesake reservoir could reduce its budget. If successful, Sweetwater could be the first drinking water reservoir in the United States to host renewable energy of this kind.   

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Editorial: California should rethink its water conservation plan

In the wake of a megadrought, California is planning for a drier future. Regulators shouldn’t rush to impose conservation efforts that cost more than they’re worth … A 2018 law calls for urban retail water suppliers to reduce usage starting next year. How much they need to save will increase until 2035. Lawmakers charged the state Water Resources Control Board with working out the details. Its draft rules have come under scrutiny, though. That water utilities and other providers don’t like them is no surprise. That the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has concerns was unexpected.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KSUT - Ignacio, Colorado

Climate change is shriveling critical snowpacks across the Mountain West, study finds

In the Mountain West, strong snowpacks keep ski resorts in business, allowing them to maintain snow and ice through spring. When snowpacks melt, the water fills rivers and reservoirs, providing water to communities for drinking and farming. Big snowpacks also alleviate drought conditions, reducing the risk of wildfire. Several snowpacks, however, are shrinking across the region and beyond due to climate change, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. Researchers at Dartmouth College studied 40 years of snowpack data from more than 160 Northern Hemisphere watersheds and landscapes that channel snowmelt and rainfall into a reservoir. They found roughly 20% of them have climate-driven snowpack loss. In the Mountain West, which includes the Colorado River, Rio Grande, and Great Salt Lake watersheds, areas where snowpacks have shrunk between 20% and 30%.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Friday Top of the Scroll: How California reservoirs will change after getting week of rain

Several reservoirs in Northern California could rise this weekend as an atmospheric river brings heavy rain to the region. An atmospheric river is forecast to saturate much of the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon and Northern California, over the next week. An atmospheric river is a “long, narrow region in the atmosphere—like rivers in the sky—that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than a dozen similar storms battered California last winter, and although the deluge alleviated much of the state’s drought, it also wreaked havoc through flooding and mudslides. The incoming rain could bring up to 6 inches of rain to the Shasta Lake area and around 3 inches to Lake Oroville.

Related articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Nick Cahill California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

SOLD OUT – Click here to join the waitlist!

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamExplore the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2023
Field Trip - October 18-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beckman Center
Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

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

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

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

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-family residential customers who are behind on their water bills in San Diego County's Helix Water District can get a one-time credit on their bill through a rate assistance program funded with money from surplus land sales.As California slowly emerges from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt.

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

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

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map
Published March 2021

Delta Map for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

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

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

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

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

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

Related articles: 


2020 Class Report

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

Western Water 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. 

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

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

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


2019 Class Report

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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


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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map

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

Dear Western Water reader, 

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Western Water Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Bundle Gary Pitzer

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

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

~John Wesley Powell

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

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

Dear Western Water readers:

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

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

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

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

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

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


2018 Class Report

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventbrite - Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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