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 ABC 10 - Sacramento

El Niño expected to develop later in the year

La Niña is finally over after three years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This winter has not acted like a typical La Niña winter with California getting drenched, especially in Southern California where La Niña typically signals a drier than average winter…. Climate models are nearly certain El Niño will develop later this summer or fall. California is typically wetter during El Niño conditions, although the signal becomes murkier from Sacramento northward.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Could the farm bill save parts of the West from turning into a Dust Bowl? Michael Bennet thinks so

Fine-tuning certain sections of the federal farm bill could help prevent the U.S. West from decaying into a Great Depression-era Dust Bowl, according to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).  The third-term senator is on a mission to ensure that the region’s agricultural sector can continue to thrive amid inhospitable climate conditions, as negotiations begin on the 2023 federal package of food and farm legislation.  “How do we advance the real challenges that producers and rural communities are facing in the context of a 1,200-year drought?” Bennet asked, in a recent interview with The Hill.  Bennet has been a prominent voice in shaping the farm bill, having contributed to the past two renditions. He’s now working on the upcoming version. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

House lawmakers join senators in rallying around Colorado River

A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are forming a “Congressional Colorado River Caucus,” with the goal of collaborating on ways to best address worsening drought conditions across the seven-state basin. … [Rep. Joe] Neguse, who serves as ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, announced the creation of the caucus, which will include members from six of the seven Colorado River states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The lawmakers intend to discuss the critical issues affecting the Colorado River, which provides water for 40 million people across the West. Members of the caucus will work “together towards our shared goal to mitigate the impacts felt by record-breaking levels of drought,” according to Neguse.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

The price of San Diego’s ‘drought-proof’ water could spike a whopping 14 percent

San Diegans are facing a tidal wave of rate increases in coming years for so-called drought-proof water — driven in large part by new sewage recycling projects coupled with the rising cost of desalination and importing the Colorado River. While many residents already struggle to pay their utility bills, the situation now appears more dire than elected leaders may have anticipated. The San Diego County Water Authority recently announced that retail agencies should brace for a massive 14 percent spike on the cost of wholesale deliveries next year…. Officials on the wholesaler’s 36-member board are anxiously exploring ways to temper such double-digit price hikes, even contemplating the sale of costly desalinated water produced in Carlsbad.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly two-thirds of California now out of drought

Nearly two-thirds of California is now out of drought, according to a closely watched map released Thursday by a consortium of federal and academic experts. The map, which is updated weekly on Thursday mornings, shows that the entire central part of the state is clear of drought….And the map does not even take account of the latest atmospheric river to soak the state…. Just 8% of the state remains in severe drought, and none of it is in the extreme or exceptional categories.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Scientists: Largest US reservoirs moving in right direction

Parts of California are under water, the Rocky Mountains are bracing for more snow, flood warnings are in place in Nevada, and water is being released from some Arizona reservoirs to make room for an expected bountiful spring runoff. All the moisture has helped alleviate dry conditions in many parts of the western U.S. Even major reservoirs on the Colorado River are trending in the right direction. But climate experts caution that the favorable drought maps represent only a blip on the radar as the long-term effects of a stubborn drought persist. Groundwater and reservoir storage levels — which take much longer to bounce back — remain at historic lows. It could be more than a year before the extra moisture has an effect on the shoreline at Lake Mead that straddles Arizona and Nevada.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Opinion: California must preserve water from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Despite having a comprehensive system of natural reserves and human ingenuity, conservationists estimated that nearly 95% of the received rainfall in California was diverted to the Pacific Ocean. The wanton runoff ignited bipartisan outrage … Although the runoff can be interpreted as an egregious failure of bureaucracy, water pumping restrictions are informed by environmental regulations that preserve the Delta’s ecological integrity. … In effect, the Delta Smelt’s ecological significance impedes the amount of water that can be pulled from the Delta for millions of Californians as well as for the state’s agricultural complex. And herein lies the crux of California’s water conservation: the increasing gap between a substantiating ecological collapse and booming economic infrastructure.
-Written by Jun Park is a candidate for a master of social work at the University of Southern California.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Colorado River crisis tests a proud region

Despite its arid climate, California’s Imperial Valley produces most of the U.S. winter vegetables, providing the lettuce, celery, cilantro, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and other crops that allow people from Seattle to Boston to eat salads and cook fresh produce year-round. Unlike most agricultural regions, the Imperial Valley—with little rain and no groundwater—depends on a single source of water: the Colorado River. … Now, that lifeblood may be threatened, as competing interests battle over supplies from the depleted river and federal officials threaten to intervene. Despite holding senior water rights, which give them priority in times of scarcity, [farmer Mark] Osterkamp and other Imperial Valley growers face an uncertain future.

Aquafornia news 12 News - Phoenix

Nestlé-backed bill may detrimentally change Arizona water law

A Nestlé plant in the Valley has an issue: it wants to produce a lot of “high-quality” creamer. But it might not have enough water to do so. The company’s solution could allow factories to drain Arizona’s groundwater and could threaten the quality of city tap water, according to water experts. The massive food and drink producer announced last year it would be building a nearly $700 million plant in Glendale, but has since run into issues with its water provider EPCOR. The amount of wastewater Nestlé projected to need turned out to be too much for the Canada-based utility.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Biden says climate change could dry up Colorado River. Is it possible?

President Joe Biden has given a dire warning that the Colorado River will dry up if climate change efforts do not ramp up. He made the comments while speaking to the Democratic National Committee in Las Vegas, Nevada this week, Fox News reported. “You’re not going to be able to drink out of the Colorado River,” Biden said. The president added that climate change was “serious stuff.” … But is this actually possible? Could the Colorado River dry up and will it be as bad as Biden says? Well, the Colorado River has already reached the lowest water levels seen in a century. Experts believe this is down to climate change-caused drought which will only get worse in the coming years.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: SoCal sees record rainfall as storm brings flooding, evacuations and power outages in NorCal

California’s 11th atmospheric river storm of the season barreled through a beleaguered state this week, dropping more rain and snow, sending thousands scrambling for higher ground and leaving more than 300,000 without power. The rain was expected to continue into Wednesday across Southern California, which saw rainfall records Tuesday. … The storm arrives amid near-record snowpack and one of California’s wettest winters in recent memory. Nine back-to-back atmospheric river storms hit the state in late December and early January, and a 10th deluged the state last week. Though conditions are expected to clear after the storm, the relief will be short-lived as yet another atmospheric river has set its sights on California next week, forecasters said — just in time for the first day of spring.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Nevada considers capping water use in Vegas amid Colorado River drought

Lawmakers in Nevada are considering new rules that would give water managers the authority to cap how much water residents could use in their homes, a step that reflects the dire conditions on the Colorado River after more than two decades of drought. Among the Western states that rely on the Colorado River for sustenance, Nevada has long been a leader in water conservation, establishing laws that limit the size of swimming pools and ban decorative grass. Residents now consume less water than they did 20 years ago.

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Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Will Shasta Dam open spillway gates as more rain, snowmelt raise Lake Shasta water level?

It may be hard to believe after all the snow and rain that fell ― and keeps falling ― on the North State this winter, but Lake Shasta water levels are still lower than normal for this time of year. That could change with more storms on the way this week. Predictions about the amount of water released through Shasta Dam later in the year, as snow melts, could also change. … So, could it be that Shasta Dam will make history again? Will it open its gates at the top of the spillway to let water flow? … There’s plenty of space for more rainwater and snowmelt, said Donald Bader​, area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam.

Aquafornia news ABC 15 - Arizona

What it takes to import Harquahala Valley groundwater during water crisis

Mark Sigety has owned land in the Harquahala Valley near Tonopah since 2003. Since then, he says several investors have reached out to buy his half-acre plot along with other parcels in western Maricopa County. … The Harquahala Groundwater Basin is one of three in rural Arizona set aside specifically to import water to the Valley once water gets scarce. It’s known as an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area, or INA. It’s a place where the state or political subdivisions that own land eligible to be irrigated can pump groundwater and transport it into areas where groundwater is regulated in Arizona, known as AMAs, or Active Management Areas. The Phoenix AMA is one of them and covers land from west of Buckeye to Superior.

Aquafornia news Deseret News

More moisture is headed to Utah, the West. Will it help Lake Powell?

Lake Powell is currently close to 180 feet below full pool and coming off a summer last year where several boat ramps were closed and owners were advised to retrieve their houseboats from the docks. Releases from a couple of upstream reservoirs, including Flaming Gorge, were made last summer to help the nation’s second largest reservoir and its Glen Canyon Dam, which provides power generation to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Nebraska. A Monday briefing from the drought integrated information center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is wet relief on the way for Lake Powell, which typically gets its maximum flows well into July.

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Aquafornia news Fairfield Daily Republic

Delta tunnel project up for Solano County board review

Solano County supervisors are scheduled Tuesday to receive an update on the latest Delta tunnel project. “The Delta Conveyance Project is the latest iteration of an isolated conveyance by the state Department of Water Resources to remove freshwater flows from the Delta for use in central and Southern California,” the staff report to the board states. “The (Delta Conveyance Project) includes constructing a 45-mile long, 39-foot diameter tunnel under the Delta with new diversions in the North Delta that have a capacity to divert up to 6,000 cubic feet (of water) per second and operating new conveyance facilities that would add to the existing State Water Project infrastructure.” 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

This map shows the Sierra snowpack’s record levels

The Southern Sierra snowpack is now the biggest on record, at a whopping 247% of average for April 1, according to charts from the California Department of Water Resources. “There is a whole hell of a lot of water up there right now, stored in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the Nature Conservancy, during an online presentation on Monday. … Late last week, California was on the receiving end of a warm atmospheric river, a band of tropical moisture originating from waters near Hawaii. The event raised concerns of rain-on-snow events, when runoff from rain combines with snowmelt to overwhelm watersheds. Such flooding happened over the weekend on the Kern and Tule rivers, triggering evacuations and badly damaging homes. But at higher elevations, the precipitation only added to the Sierra snowpack.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California must intervene on Mono Lake water dispute with L.A.

Even with winter’s remarkable rainfall, Mono Lake will not rise enough to reduce unhealthy dust storms that billow off the exposed lakebed and violate air quality standards. Nor will it offset increasing salinity levels that threaten Mono Lake Kutzadika’a tribe’s cultural resources and food for millions of migratory birds. Any gain Mono Lake makes surely won’t last due to the [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's] ongoing diversions….If DWP won’t voluntarily cooperate in finding a way to protect Mono Lake, then the State Water Board needs to step up and save Mono Lake – again.
-Written by Martha Davis, a board member for the Mono Lake Committee.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: An epic snowpack may test water management in the San Joaquin Valley

Water policy wonks like us at PPIC spend an extraordinary amount of time analyzing information from the past, trying to understand the present, and modeling or speculating about the future. All this work goes toward identifying policy changes that might help California better manage its water. But for all our efforts, nothing improves our understanding of water like a “stress test,” whether that test is severe drought or extreme wet. And it is starting to look like we are going to get one of those stress tests this spring in the San Joaquin Valley. As news outlets have been reporting for some time, there is an “epic” snowpack in the central and southern Sierra Nevada… And while Californians have been laser focused on managing drought over the past decade, it’s now time to start thinking about what to do with too much water, at least in the San Joaquin River and Tulare Lake basins.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

State water agency rescinds controversial Delta order that put fish at risk

As storms swell California’s reservoirs, state water officials have rescinded a controversial order that allowed more water storage in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while putting salmon and other endangered fish at risk. Ten environmental groups had petitioned the board to rescind its order, calling it “arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, and…not supported by substantial evidence.”  The reason for the state’s reversal, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, is that conditions in the Delta have changed as storms boost the snowpack and runoff used to supply water to cities and farms.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Sierra snowpack hits record levels after recent storms

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains has reached record-breaking levels thanks to the deluge of snow smashing California this week. According to data from the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR), the Southern Sierras—from San Joaquin and Mono counties to Kern county—currently have a snowpack 257 percent greater than the average for this time of year, and 247 percent larger than is average for the usual snowpack peak on April 1. Central Sierra and Northern Sierra also have hugely inflated snowpacks, at 218 percent and 168 percent of the average for early March, respectively…. “As of this weekend, the Southern Sierra now appears to have largest snowpack in recorded history…” tweeted Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the Nature Conservancy.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

A plan to ship oil alongside the Colorado River sees revived opposition amid national railway safety debate

Two Colorado Democrats this week are making a last ditch effort to block a proposed 88-mile railway in Utah that they say would drive up climate emissions and could lead to a catastrophic oil spill in the upper Colorado River, contaminating a vital water supply for nearly 40 million Americans that’s already critically threatened by deepening drought. The Uinta Basin Railway was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in 2021 and received provisional approval by the U.S. Forest Service last summer to travel through a 12-mile roadless area of the Ashley National Forest. It would connect the oil fields of Utah’s Uinta Basin to the national rail network and refineries on the Gulf Coast. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Colorado River water-saving deals worth $250M planned by Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is finalizing $250 million in water-saving deals that are expected to preserve up to 10 feet of Lake Mead’s declining surface levels this year, agency Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton announced Friday in Tempe. The commissioner attended a discussion of Colorado River water issues at Arizona State University, organized by Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona. The money will pay Lower Colorado River Basin water users, especially farmers, to forego some of their deliveries this year to help keep the reservoir from sinking further toward the point where it no longer flows past Hoover Dam. The initial funding is essentially an emergency measure that pays people not to use water temporarily.

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Aquafornia news ABC 15 - Arizona

Arizona community worries energy company will hog water supply

Residents in one western Arizona community worry that a clean energy company, which plans to build nearby, could hog their groundwater supply. Brenda is a small town located a few miles north of Interstate 10 in La Paz County. Like nearby Quartzsite, it caters to RV visitors who are looking for sunshine and warmth during the winter months. At Buckaroo’s Sandwich Shop, manager Lisa Lathrop said she has lived in the area for 13 years because “it’s usually quiet out here and nobody knows about us.” That’s about to change. The addition of the Ten West Link, a high-voltage transmission line currently being built to connect Tonopah with Blythe, California, is expected to bring multiple solar power companies to the area. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Gavin Newsom waives permits to put California flood water underground

California’s severely depleted groundwater basins could get a boost this spring, after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order waiving permits to recharge them. State water leaders hope to encourage local agencies and agricultural districts to capture water from newly engorged rivers and spread it onto fields, letting it seep into aquifers after decades of heavy agricultural pumping. … To pull water from the state’s network of rivers and canals for groundwater recharge, state law requires a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife. Many local agencies lacked the permitting during January storms, but this month’s atmospheric rivers and near record snowpack promises new opportunities to put water underground.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Oroville Dam floodgates opened as storms fill massive reservoir

In another sign that the drought is ending across much of California, state water officials opened the floodgates at Oroville Dam on Friday to let water out of the state’s second-largest reservoir to reduce the risk of flooding to downstream communities. … At noon, water began cascading down the huge concrete spillway for the first time in four years. On Friday, Oroville reservoir was 75% full — or 115% of its historical average for early March. It has risen 180 feet since Dec. 1, and continued to expand steadily with millions of gallons of water pouring in from recent storms.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Weather provides mixed bag for Butte County agriculture

Winter storms this year have created hope for many Californians suffering from years of drought but for agriculture, it’s more complicated. More water means crops will be well provided for, but additional weather trends create new hazards for orchards, especially during this year’s almond bloom which requires some consistency in temperature and sunlight. Colleen Cecil, executive director for the Butte County Farm Bureau, said almonds have likely been impacted the most by the weather events, especially since the trees are still in bloom.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Colorado River doomsday averted? Some hopeful but top water official mum

The nation’s top Western water official visited the Coachella Valley on Thursday to highlight federal funding for infrastructure that carries Colorado River water to area farm fields. The visit comes during a break in heavy winter storms across the West that are buoying hopes among regional water officials for a temporary reprieve on potentially huge cuts to river supply. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton was mum on whether heavy snowpack in the Rockies and elsewhere could push back massive reductions she told Congress last spring were necessary to keep the river and its reservoirs afloat. But California officials are cautiously optimistic that major reductions could be averted this year. Noting that overall river flows this year are now forecast to be 113% of average thanks to “huge snowpack” in the Rockies and elsewhere …

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

It’s officially the snowiest season to date in Lake Tahoe

It’s officially the snowiest year to date in Lake Tahoe.  Following a nearly two-week series of storms that dropped more than 15 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada, the official numbers are in. Lake Tahoe has received more snowfall as of March 6 than in any other season — or at least any season since 1971-72, the earliest year for which the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab on Donner Summit has daily measurements. As of March 6, the Snow Lab has measured 580 inches, or just over 48 feet, of snow since Oct. 1.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Has rain helped Lake Mead water levels?

A particularly wet season has swept across the southwestern U.S., a region that has suffered under a severe megadrought for over two decades. But what has this meant for Colorado River reservoir Lake Mead? Storms of rain and snow have hit California particularly badly in recent months, and have spread into neighboring states like Nevada. Reservoirs like Lake Mead rely on seasonal snowmelt and rainfall. Because of the drought, these weather patterns have been less frequent and harder to predict in recent. This means water levels at the largest man-made lake in the U.S., Lake Mead, are rapidly declining.

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Aquafornia news Wall Street Journal

In California, a race to capture the water before it escapes

Neil McIsaac has something many other dairy farmers here don’t: a storm-runoff capture system that can provide backup water for his herd when local reservoirs go dry, as they did last year. Already, he and others involved in the project say it has proven its worth. It has captured 670,000 gallons so far this winter, enough to slake the thirst of his 700 cows for a month, Mr. McIsaac said.

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Was California consulted in recent Colorado River negotiations?

States that use water from the Colorado River are caught in a standoff about how to share shrinking supplies, and their statements about recent negotiations send mixed messages. California officials say they were not consulted as other states in the region drew up a letter to the federal government with what they called a “consensus-based” set of recommendations for water conservation. Leaders in states that drafted the letter disagree with that characterization. The reality of what happened during negotiations may lie somewhere in between, as comments from state leaders hint at possible differences between their definitions of what counts as “consultation.” The squabble is a microcosm of larger tensions between states that use water from the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Opinion: Why the U.S. can’t afford to cut Yuma’s water

Yuma, Ariz. may be well known for its unforgiving summer heat, but did you know that 90% of North America’s leafy greens and vegetables available from November through April of each year comes from here? Yuma’s climate, its rich soil birthed from sediments deposited by the Colorado River for millennia, and over 300 cloudless days per year coalesce to create one of the best places in the world to grow such a diverse mix of crops. … At the crux of this production is water. The Colorado River ends its U.S. run at Morelos Dam, just a few hundred yards from the University of Arizona’s Extension research farm at Yuma. That water no longer makes it to the Sea of Cortez as Mexico consumes it for urban and agricultural uses.
-Written by Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Visit groundwater’s epicenter on April Central Valley Tour; check out groundwater resources

Explore the epicenter of groundwater sustainability on our Central Valley Tour April 26-28 and engage directly with some of the most important leaders and experts in water storage, management and delivery, agriculture, habitat, land use policy and water equity. The tour focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, which has struggled with consistently little to no surface water deliveries and increasing pressure to reduce groundwater usage to sustainable levels while also facing water quality and access challenges for disadvantaged communities. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater expert Thomas Harter, Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis, the tour explores topics such as subsidence, water supply and drought, flood management, groundwater banking and recharge, surface water storage, agricultural supply and drainage, wetlands and more. Register here!

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Despite storms, water challenges persist

As still more storms dumped new snow onto California’s burgeoning snowpack, water managers, farmers and environmentalists gathered in Sacramento last week to discuss long-term challenges to secure a more certain water future. The fresh snowfall contrasted with challenging water realities discussed at the 61st California Irrigation Institute Annual Conference. With a theme of “One Water: Partnering for Solutions,” the event focused on addressing impacts of climate change, including warming conditions and frequent droughts that severely diminish the snowpack and state water supplies. The gathering emphasized solutions that some speakers said could be aided through partnerships among different water interests.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation announces public meeting regarding the 2021 Reinitiation of Consultation on the Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project

On March 14, 2023 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 pm, Reclamation will hold a quarterly meeting to provide an update on the development of the Biological Assessment for the 2021 Reinitiation of Consultation on the Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, pursuant to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Development of the Biological Assessment is one of the first steps in Reclamation’s required compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act as part of the Reinitation of Consultation on the Long-Term Operation of the CVP and SWP. The assessment evaluates potential effects of operating the CVP and SWP on federally listed species and proposed species, as well as designated and proposed critical habitat. The meeting will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams. For meeting materials, including the link to the meeting, please see

Aquafornia news CNN

Feds suspend measures that were meant to boost water levels at drought-stricken Lake Powell

Starting Tuesday, the US Bureau of Reclamation will suspend extra water releases from Utah’s Flaming Gorge reservoir – emergency measures that had served to help stabilize the plummeting water levels downstream at Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest reservoir. Federal officials began releasing extra water from Flaming Gorge in 2021 to boost Lake Powell’s level and buy its surrounding communities more time to plan for the likelihood the reservoir will eventually drop too low for the Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydropower. Lake Powell in late February sank to its lowest water level since the reservoir was filled in the 1960s, and since 2000 has dropped more than 150 feet.

Aquafornia news Vox

Who’s really using up the water in the American West?

The Western United States is currently battling the most severe drought in thousands of years. A mix of bad water management policies and manmade climate change has created a situation where water supplies in Western reservoirs are so low, states are being forced to cut their water use. It’s not hard to find media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas. But when a team of researchers looked at water use in the West, they uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes. Only 14 percent of all water consumption in the Western US goes to residential, commercial, and industrial water use. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: All that rain and snow! How can California still be in drought?

After more than two months of atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones, amid a supersized Sierra snowcap, and with more precipitation forecast for the rest of the month, isn’t California’s drought over? The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that yes, 17% of California is now out of drought. Most of the rest of the state is quite wet as well, although it remains in some level of “drought” as the term is defined by the Drought Monitor. Only 17%? How is that possible? …. Drought was never the right word to apply to this state’s dry streaks. Californians need a term that describes not just how much water is coming in, but how much we use every day and how much we save for later.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

EPA mandates states report on cyber threats to water systems

The Biden administration on Friday said it would require states to report on cybersecurity threats in their audits of public water systems, a day after it released a broader plan to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. The Environmental Protection Agency said public water systems are increasingly at risk from cyberattacks that amount to a threat to public health. … Fox said the EPA would assist states and water systems in building out cybersecurity programs, adding that states could begin using EPA’s guidance in their audits right away. The agency did not respond immediately to questions about enforcement deadlines. EPA said it would help states and water systems with technical know-how. The announcement made no mention of new financial assistance.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

States struggle to find Colorado River cuts as Lake Mead shrinks

The last time the Colorado River Basin agreed to a set of reductions to address drought conditions and dropping levels at Lake Mead was in 2019. … Now, states are looking to cut far more water than the 2019 agreement yielded, and on a much shorter negotiation timeline. After the seven states that rely on the Colorado River to provide water to roughly 40 million Americans missed two deadlines from the federal government to work out a consensus plan, there are two proposals from the basin states on the table that offer different paths for how to meet the target. The two proposals arrive at a similar number of potential new cuts to water use across the basin, but draw a clear line in the sand between California’s desire to protect its senior water rights, much of which are tied up in the agriculture sector, and the desire of the other six states to have California, Nevada and Arizona share the cuts more equitably.

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Aquafornia news

St. George, the fastest growing metro in the US, is looking for water to keep the boom going

In Washington County, there is a ban on growing grass outside new businesses. Only 8% of a home’s landscaping can have a grass lawn in this booming corner of Utah. And if any developers want to add another country club to this golfing mecca, “I don’t know where they would get the water from,” said Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District. … Like lots of spots in the West, the combination of more people and less water makes for an uncertain future around St. George. While this winter’s generous snowpack could buy precious time, the entire Colorado River system remains in danger of crashing if water gets too low at Lakes Powell and Mead. But that reality hasn’t stopped St. George from booming into the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. two years running …

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s snowpack is approaching an all-time record, with more on the way

A remarkably wet winter has resulted in some of the deepest snowpack California has ever recorded, providing considerable drought relief and a glimmer of hope for the state’s strained water supply. Statewide snowpack Friday measured 190% of normal, hovering just below a record set in the winter of 1982-83, officials with the Department of Water Resources said during the third snow survey of the season…. In the Southern Sierra, snowpack reached 231% of average for the date, nearing the region’s benchmark of 263% set in 1969 and trending ahead of the winter of 1983. With just one month remaining in the state’s traditional rainy season, officials are now voicing cautious optimism over the state’s hydrologic prospects.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: California snowpack hits highest level this century for March, could soon become biggest ever

California water officials on Friday recorded the biggest accumulation of statewide snow this century for the start of March, a bounty that is likely to grow with coming storms – and further ease the state’s drought-time water shortages. The official March snow survey… tallied the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades at 190% of average…. The March survey results top the big snow year in 2017, when statewide total snowpack was 184% of average at the start of the month. The numbers fall short, however, of the record snow year in 1983, according to state officials….

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Video: How to keep the world from running out of drinking water

The megadrought that’s plagued the US West for years has impacted everything from the food Americans eat to their electricity supply. And while extreme weather can sometimes trigger wet winters like this one, in California and the rest of the region, the long-term future remains a very dry one. In this episode of Getting Warmer With Kal Penn, we explore what the future of water in the West may look like. In Nevada, Penn investigates the lasting impacts of the Colorado River Compact, the 1922 agreement that doles out water rights to the seven states along its path. Overly optimistic from the start, the system is now on the verge of collapse as water levels in key reservoirs approach dead pool-status.

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

A chess game? Upper Colorado Basin states postpone release of water to Lake Powell

The decision by an interstate agency representing the Upper Basin states to press the federal government to postpone the release of a portion of 500,000 acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah to Lake Powell isn’t only about the better snowpack the West is getting this winter. It’s more of a game of chess between the upper states of the Colorado River and the Lower Basin states, particularly California, said Gage Zobell, a water law attorney at Dorsey & Whitney. Zobell said it’s about “sending a message that [the Upper Basin states] refuse to continue supplying Lower Basin’s limitless demands for water.” 

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Aquafornia news Brown and Caldwell

Blog: Brown and Caldwell to develop Southern California drought mitigation study

Leading environmental engineering and construction services firm Brown and Caldwell has been hired by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) to study alternative water conveyance options to provide supply diversity to the region during severe droughts. Metropolitan’s mission is to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for the 19 million people in Southern California in the face of climate change and extended drought. In response to drought action planning by Metropolitan in collaboration with its 26 member agencies, the study will identify and evaluate potential conveyance options to move primarily Colorado River water and regional storage supplies from the eastern portion of Metropolitan’s service area to the western portion.

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: State Water Board selects Jay Ziegler as the new Delta Watermaster

The State Water Resources Control Board named Jay Ziegler, former external affairs and policy director for the California Office of The Nature Conservancy, as the new Delta Watermaster. He succeeds Michael George, who held the position for two four-year terms. The Watermaster administers water rights within the legal boundaries of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta and Suisun Marsh and advises the State Water Board and the Delta Stewardship Council on related water rights, water quality and water operations involving the watershed. … A resident of Davis, Ziegler brings a wealth of experience to the position. During his 12 years at the conservancy, he led the agency’s policy engagements on water, climate and resilience strategies, biodiversity and environmental and funding initiatives. Previously, he served in multiple roles at state and federal natural resource agencies…

Aquafornia news AP News

Half of California freed from drought thanks to rain, snow

Tremendous rains and snowfall since late last year have freed half of California from drought, but low groundwater levels remain a persistent problem, U.S. Drought Monitor data showed Thursday. The latest survey found that moderate or severe drought covers about 49% of the state, nearly 17% of the state is free of drought or a condition described as abnormally dry. The remainder is still abnormally dry. “Clearly the amount of water that’s fallen this year has greatly alleviated the drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It has not ended the drought completely but we’re in a very different place than we were a year ago.” California’s latest drought began in 2020 and no relief appeared in sight heading into this winter.

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Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

El Dorado Irrigation District crews tend to canals in winter weather

Crews with the El Dorado Irrigation District are working to clear snow and debris from the flumes and canals that deliver water to its customers throughout the latest round of winter weather. Matt Heape, a hydro operations and maintenance supervisor for the district, said the focus Tuesday was taking care of a 22-mile canal system. … To do that, he explained, crews used snowcats to get to remote, wooden locations, sometimes having to snowshoe in further to reach the canals and the surrounding walkways. Much of the day included clearing walkways, plowing snow and keeping systems clear, Heap said.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Rain-on-snow could present fresh risks to California’s snowpack. Here’s why

The gargantuan California snowpack, over twice the normal size for this time of year in some parts of the Sierra, just keeps growing. On Tuesday, yet another storm unloaded several feet of snow in the Lake Tahoe area, completely burying the Sugar Bowl Resort office. Ideally, the snowpack gradually melts during the spring and summer, releasing water when reservoirs aren’t capped by flood control limitations and can maximize storage. All the snow right now is fantastic news for the state’s enduring drought. … But the overabundance also presents potential flood risks. … A spring heat wave, for example, could drive an early melt that results in flooding. A warm atmospheric river aimed at snowcapped mountains could also rapidly melt snow and overload watersheds.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Proposed pause on reservoir releases prompts Lower Basin states to respond

The three states that comprise the Colorado River’s Lower Basin – Arizona, California and Nevada – are weighing in on a proposal to pause some water releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in an effort to prop up Lake Powell. Those states essentially agreed with the idea of suspending water releases, but said water managers should wait a few months to see the full effects of spring runoff, and leave the door open for additional releases if warranted. They also stressed the need for input from all of the states which use water from the Colorado River. On Monday, the four states that make up the Upper Basin – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico – voted to ask the federal government to stop releasing additional water that would flow downstream as part of the 2019 Drought Response Operations Agreement.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers expected to get increased water allocations

Winter storms that bolstered the Sierra Nevada snowpack and added to California reservoirs prompted federal and state water managers to announce increases in anticipated water allocations for the 2023 growing season. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week announced an initial allocation of 35% of contracted water supplies for agricultural customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The announcement brought a measure of certainty for farmers, ranchers and agricultural water contractors, after officials provided zero water allocations for agriculture from the federal Central Valley Project in 2021 and 2022.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

California reservoir water levels before and after winter storm

After another week of severe winter weather, levels in California’s recovering water reservoirs have continued to rise, signaling good news for the state’s summer water supplies. This follows weeks of considerable rain and snowfall in California since the start of 2023. … At the beginning of this water year, which started on October 1, 2022, the state’s largest water reservoir, Lake Shasta, was a third full, at 33 percent. It was at 60 percent as of March 1 and rising, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. That puts it at 84 percent of where it would usually be usually at this time of year.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: How California’s Big Ag wants you to think about all this rain

Despite the continued heavy winter rain and snow throughout California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently extended his executive orders from 2022 that declared a drought emergency statewide. He also asked the state water board to waive water flow regulations intended to protect salmon and other endangered fish species, as well as San Francisco Bay and Delta estuary overall. Some viewed these moves as pragmatic steps to avoid “wasting” the bounty of California’s rains out to sea. Others saw them as a declaration of war against the health of the bay.  In fact, a war against the bay has been going on for decades. Newsom’s order was merely the latest skirmish. The war’s primary aggressors are agricultural interests in the Central Valley.
-Written by Howard V. Hendrix, the author of six novels as well as many essays, poems and short stories. 

Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

California wineries are making changes to battle extreme weather

In communities across California, a Napa winery is implementing a strategy to save water and fight against drought conditions.  Reid family winery uses mounds of rice straw under their grapevines, which they said not only helped double their yield from the year before, but also produced some of the winery’s best quality grapes yet. … The owners said that they were able to water significantly less last year compared to years prior. Since laying the rice straw, they haven’t seen rivulets or erosion in their sloping vineyard.  They predict that they will have to replace the rice straw every 4 to 5 years. 

Aquafornia news CNN

Booming Utah metro wants to pipe in water from Lake Powell so it can keep growing

In a bright-red county in a state allergic to regulations, there is a ban on growing grass outside new businesses. Only 8% of a home’s landscaping can have a grass lawn in this booming corner of Utah, about a hundred miles northeast of Las Vegas. And if any developers want to add another country club to this golfing mecca, … Like lots of spots in the West, the combination of more people and less water makes for an uncertain future around St. George, Utah. While this winter’s generous snowpack could buy precious time, the entire Colorado River system remains in danger of crashing if water gets too low at Lakes Powell and Mead. But that reality hasn’t stopped St. George from booming into the fastest growing metro area in the US two years running, according to the US Census Bureau, and Renstrom says that unless Utah builds a long-promised pipeline to pump water 140 miles from Lake Powell, their growth will turn to pain.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Editorial: Newsom takes page out of Trump’s water playbook

Clean water is California’s most vital need. Our lives and the lives of future generations depend on it. Yet when it comes to protecting the state’s supply, Gov. Gavin Newsom is failing California. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta provides drinking water to 27 million Californians, or roughly 70% of the state’s residents. On Feb. 15, the governor signed an executive order allowing the State Water Resources Control Board to ignore the state requirement of how much water needs to flow through the Delta to protect its health. It’s an outrageous move right out of Donald Trump’s playbook. Big Ag and its wealthy landowners, including some of Newsom’s political financial backers, will reap the benefits while the Delta suffers.

Aquafornia news NBC - Bay Area

‘Things are looking great’: Checking in on South Bay reservoir levels

South Bay reservoirs are handling the recent rain quite well due in part to a delicate dance water managers have been doing to make sure they catch as much water as possible. … To make room for future storms, Valley Water has been strategically releasing water from reservoirs, which is part of the reason why the county average for reservoir capacity right now is only 50%. Valley Water said the winter rain so far still isn’t enough to call off the drought emergency. … The Sierra snowpack is also looking robust. Experts say the hope now is that the Sierra stays cold for the next few weeks to keep the snowpack intact. The goal is for the snowpack to begin melting in mid-spring in time for the runoff to refill the reservoirs again.

Aquafornia news Fox Weather

On this day: The Hoover Dam completed 87 years ago

The Hoover Dam is one of the most impactful engineering feats in American history. Completed on March 1, 1936, the dam spent nearly a century harnessing the mighty Colorado River and transforming parts of the arid Southwest into fertile farmlands and bustling city centers. Here’s a look at the dam’s history and how it shaped the region. The history of Hoover Dam began in 1921, when a young Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, proposed the construction of a dam on the Colorado River. At the time, the Colorado River, which ran uninterrupted from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, was considered dangerous and unreliable. According to the National Park Service, the river would often flood, particularly in late spring and early summer, when snow melted from the Rocky Mountains would surge into the river.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Yet more rain is expected to hit California in March. But warmer storms could melt snow

Soggy, snow-capped California faces the likelihood of yet another month of wet weather, but what remains uncertain is whether this late winter precipitation will augment weeks of record-setting snowpack, or cause it to vanish should warmer rains arrive. Last week, a frigid storm transformed portions of the state into a white landscape while toppling trees, prompting power outages, spurring water rescues and leaving some residents trapped by heavy snow. Now, with forecasts calling for more rain and snow in March — including the potential for at least one more atmospheric river system — California is girding for what comes next. … Typically, California’s snowpack provides about one-third of the state’s water supply and has long been relied upon for its steady, slow melting during the hot, dry months of summer. A deluge of warm rain, however, could cause melting snow to fill rivers too quickly and trigger widespread flooding.

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Aquafornia news USC News

The water wars of the future are here today

Once hailed as the “American Nile,” the Colorado River spans 1,450 miles and supplies nearly 40 million people across seven states plus northern Mexico with drinking water, irrigation for farmland and hydroelectric power. But after decades of drought and overuse, major reservoirs along the river are drying up. As the Colorado River levels drop to historic lows, tensions are rising between the seven states that depend on its flow — Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Their original agreement for distributing the river water lacked foresight and failed to account for dire circumstances like long-term drought. The American Southwest now faces a crisis it knew was coming. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

A California tunnel could save stormwater for millions. Why is it so divisive?

As drought-weary Californians watched trillions of gallons of runoff wash into the Pacific Ocean during recent storms, it underscored a nagging question: Why can’t we save more of that water for not-so-rainy days to come? But even the rare opportunity to stock up on the precious resource isn’t proving enough to unite a state divided on a contentious idea to siphon water from the north and tunnel it southward, an attempt to combat the Southwest’s worst drought in more than a millennium. The California Department of Water Resources said such a tunnel could have captured a year’s supply of water for more than 2 million people. The proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration — one that would cost $16 billion to help 27 million water customers in central and southern California — is spurring fresh outrage from communities that have fended off similar plans over four decades, including suggestions to build other tunnels or a massive canal. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Testimony: Adapting California’s water rights system to the 21st century climate

The climate shifts that California is experiencing—with warmer temperatures, less reliable snowpack, and more intense droughts—have exposed critical weaknesses in the administration of our water rights system under conditions of scarcity. In particular, there are challenges curtailing diversions when supplies are inadequate. And on the flip side, this system also needs the capacity to better facilitate the management of abundance, by permitting the capture of more water from large storms to recharge groundwater basins. In our remarks today we recap some of the key challenges the changing climate is posing for California’s water rights system in both dry and wet times, illustrate how these issues are playing out in the state’s largest watershed, and offer some recommendations for how the legislature could help strengthen the water rights system to better respond to water scarcity and abundance.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Unfair plan to cut California’s Colorado River water use

The immediate question before the seven states that use rapidly vanishing Colorado River water is not how to renegotiate the century-old agreement and accompanying laws that divvy up the supply. California and other states will have to grapple with that problem soon enough, and it won’t be easy. Those accords were hammered out in an era when the Western U.S. was lightly populated, farmland was not yet fully developed and the climate — although few realized it at the time — was unusually wet. Now, when the thirst is greatest and still growing, the region is reverting to its former aridity, exacerbated by higher temperatures caused by global industrialization. But the deadline for that reckoning is still nearly four years off.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Upper Basin states want to pause some releases from a major Colorado River reservoir

Four states that use water from the Colorado River are asking the federal government to pause some water releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, which make up the river’s Upper Basin, voted to suspend additional releases starting March 1. Delegates from those states say the federal government should let heavy winter precipitation boost water levels in Flaming Gorge. The reservoir, which straddles the border of Wyoming and Utah, is the third largest in the Colorado River system, behind only Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency which manages dams and reservoirs in the arid West, has turned to Flaming Gorge to help prop up Lake Powell, where record low levels are threatening hydropower production inside the Glen Canyon Dam.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Judge extends plan to manage flows to California delta and protect endangered fish

A judge has extended a temporary settlement of a long-running dispute over California water rights and how the Central Valley Project and State Water Project manage the Sacramento River flows. … The opinions address how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources’ plan for operating the Central Valley and State Water Projects affects fish species. The opinions make it possible to send more water to 20 million farms, businesses and homes in Southern and Central California via the massive federal and state water diversion projects, and eliminate requirements such as mandating extra flows to keep water temperatures from rising high enough to damage salmon eggs. … A federal judge approved plans to allow the biological opinions to remain in effect over the next three years with added safeguards. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

The parched metropolis: can eco architecture save LA from megadrought?

After weeks of record-breaking rainfall have seen freeways flood, hillsides collapse and the dry concrete gutter of the Los Angeles River transform into a raging torrent, you may have assumed that California’s water-shortage woes were beginning to ease. With many areas receiving their usual annual rainfall in just three weeks, surely the multiyear megadrought is finally abating. Sadly, no. Decades of building concrete gutters – driven by the mindset that stormwater is a threat to be banished, not an asset to be stored – have meant that the vast majority of that rain was simply flushed out into the ocean. Of the billions of gallons that have fallen on the LA area, only a tiny fraction were absorbed into the ground.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Is California’s drought finally over? Here’s the impact of the latest storms

If there’s concern about California’s wet winter turning dry, consider it shushed. The heaps of snow over the past week on top of the parade of deluges in early January have been extraordinary and left much of the state with well-above-average precipitation for the season. The winter storms, which account for the bulk of the state’s rain and snow, are forecast to continue into next month, virtually ensuring a good water year for California. But just how far one year will go to relieving what has been one of the West’s most excruciating droughts is less clear. While many parts of the state are benefiting from brimming rivers and reservoirs, the three previous years, which saw record low precipitation, as well as several painfully dry years over the past two decades, have burdened the state with a gaping water deficit.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Why it’s hard for California to store more water underground

Despite the storms that have deluged California this winter, the state remains dogged by drought. And one of the simplest solutions — collecting and storing rainfall — is far more complicated than it seems. Much of California’s water infrastructure hinges on storing precipitation during the late fall and winter for use during the dry spring and summer. The state’s groundwater aquifers can hold vast quantities of water — far more than its major reservoirs. But those aquifers have been significantly depleted in recent decades, especially in the Central Valley, where farmers have increasingly pumped out water for their crops. And as Raymond Zhong, a New York Times climate journalist, recently reported, the state’s strict regulations surrounding water rights limit the diversion of floodwaters for storage as groundwater, even during fierce storms …

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

This reservoir on the Sacramento River has been planned for decades. What’s taking so long?

Last century, California built dozens of large dams, creating the elaborate reservoir system that supplies the bulk of the state’s drinking and irrigation water. Now state officials and supporters are ready to build the next one. The Sites Reservoir — planned in a remote corner of the western Sacramento Valley for at least 40 years — has been gaining steam and support since 2014, when voters approved Prop. 1, a water bond that authorized $2.7 billion for new storage projects.  Still, Sites Reservoir remains almost a decade away: Acquisition of water rights, permitting and environmental review are still in the works. Kickoff of construction, which includes two large dams, had been scheduled for 2024, but likely will be delayed another year. Completion is expected in 2030 or 2031.

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Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

State Water Project provides ‘modest’ increase in imported water allocation

As Californians braced for record-breaking rain and snowstorms on Feb. 22, the Department of Water Resources announced what it called a modest increase in forecast State Water Project deliveries this year. The SWP now expects to deliver 35 percent of requested water supplies, up from 30 percent forecast in January, to the 29 public water agencies that serve 27 million Californians including residents of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District. The district’s general manager, Tom Neisler, stopped short of calling the increase stingy, but noted that many water-watchers believe the allocation could be much higher — particularly since Gov. Gavin Newsom just a week earlier issued an executive order to suspend environmental laws to allow state officials to hold more water in reservoirs.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Epic winter storm turns Southern California snow white; more rain and snow on the way

Residents across the Southland woke up to an icy wonderland Sunday morning, the result of an frigid winter storm that broke rainfall records and scattered fresh powder at elevations as low as 1,000 feet across the normally warm, sun-drenched region. Mountain communities were slammed by intense snowfall, with Mountain High ski resort clocking an impressive 93 inches of snow… Climatologists say the storms will probably be beneficial for drought recovery after years of prolonged dryness. … The storms have also helped bolster the state’s snowpack, a vital component of the state’s water supply. As of Friday, the Sierra snowpack was 173% of normal for the date. It may get another boost this week.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Who shoulders Mother Nature’s cut of the Colorado River?

Alongside farmers, ranchers and sprawling urban cities, Mother Nature has long sipped her share of the Colorado River — draining away enough water through evaporation and seepage to support nearly 6 million families each year. But as decades of drought strain major reservoirs in the Mountain West, threatening future water supplies and hydropower, states are divided over who should be picking up nature’s tab for the huge amount of water lost on the 1,500-mile-long waterway. The Upper Basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — already account for some 468,000 acre-feet of water that evaporates from its reservoirs each year. 

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Aquafornia news Yale E360

How weather forecasts can help dams supply more water

For Patrick Sing, a water manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the deluge was an opportunity to try something that would be dangerous anywhere else in the country. Sing sits at the controls of Lake Mendocino, a reservoir on the Russian River near Ukiah, in northern California. … Researchers working on the approach in the U.S. say they aren’t aware of any similar projects in other countries, but studies suggest that integrating forecasts has the potential to improve reservoir operations anywhere weather predictions are sufficiently reliable. The approach could also help aging dams respond to more variable precipitation seen with climate change. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Calif. Water Board pauses Delta rules, boosting water supplies for storage

After the first flush of the year saw as much as 95 percent of daily incoming water to the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta sent into the San Francisco Bay, a new decision by the state’s water board this week will reverse course and allow for more water to be stored throughout the state’s reservoirs.  The State Water Resources Control Board has temporarily waived rules that required a certain amount of water to be flushed out to the bay, a decision that comes after the heavy rains California experienced to start the year.  The backstory: On Feb. 13 the California Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation jointly filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition.

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Aquafornia news Patch - Castro Valley

State, federal water deliveries increased again

State and federal water managers announced Wednesday increased deliveries for millions of Californians in response to hopeful hydrologic conditions that materialized over the past several weeks. After a series of powerful storms brought rain and snow to much of California in December and January, increased reservoir levels led the state’s Department of Water Resources to set its delivery forecast at 30 percent of requested water supplies for the 29 public water agencies that draw from the State Water Project to serve 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Friday Top of the Scroll: California invests in critical Central Valley water infrastructure projects

California’s water authorities will spend $15 million in three crucial water management zones within the drought-ravaged southern Central Valley.  The hub of agricultural production in the Golden State, the Central Valley has also faced the most dire impacts from another historic drought, as thousands of wells went dry last year and many communities faced a total lack of safe drinking water. The state’s authorities say they are releasing funds to begin projects to prevent such hardship in future droughts. The Department of Water Resources along with California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot came to the small city of Parlier on Thursday to announce three grants totaling $15 million to improve water infrastructure in the region.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento News & Review

Balancing the water needs of people and the environment: Water Forum brings diverse interests together to tackle tough issues on the Lower American River

Come drought or deluge, how can we develop a lasting water agreement for the greater Sacramento area? That’s the challenging task before the Water Forum, a unique consortium of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments, including the City of Roseville. With eyes particularly on Folsom Lake and the Lower American River, as well as weather, Water Forum members work on water issues both near- and long-term. Recent winter storms, following years of drought, added extra complexity to that job.

Aquafornia news WBUR

With everything on the line, Arizona and California farmers prepare for fight over Colorado River

With the Colorado River teetering on the brink of disaster, farmers who rely on its life-giving water are preparing to make significant cuts to their operations. Near the U.S.-Mexico border, fourth-generation farmer Amanda Brooks grows broccoli, lettuce, dates, citrus and alfalfa on 6,000 acres. Her family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona, nearly touches the banks of the troubled river. … Last year, a top government official warned Congress the river was running dangerously low. Speaking before a Senate committee, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said the seven Colorado River Basin would need to make drastic cuts to their water use to keep the reservoirs stable.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: California drought issues aren’t solved by a bit of rain, flooding

California’s reservoirs may be as full as they’ve been in years thanks to recent rainfall, but it’s still not enough water to meet the state’s demands — and it will never be if the state doesn’t invest in new ways to capture all that precious water. Not enough of the state’s heavy rainfall is draining into California’s underground reservoirs to keep us sated, even through the next summer. January saw torrential downpours. February has been dry. This week, California will see a blanket of snow across much of the state, and some forecasters predict it will even reach coastal communities such as Eureka.
-Written by Robin Epley, opinion writer for The Sacramento Bee.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: California wants to keep (most) of the Colorado River for itself

If the Colorado River continues to dwindle from the same arid trend of the last two decades, it could take as little as two bad drought years to drive the reservoir here on the Arizona-Nevada border to “dead pool.” That’s the term for levels so low that water can barely flow out of Hoover Dam. Mead is already just 29 percent full, its lowest level since it began filling in the 1930s. But dead pool would be a true disaster for farms, towns and cities from San Diego to Denver that depend on water from Mead and other reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin. Lake Powell, upstream on the Arizona-Utah border, is 23 percent full, the lowest since it filled in the 1960s.
-Written by John Fleck, co-author of “Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.”

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Aquafornia news Newsweek

Colorado River drainage basin explained

Life in the southwestern U.S. as we know it exists thanks to the water of the Colorado River, which flows for approximately 1,450 miles from the Rockies to the Gulf of California. The river gets its water from the Colorado River drainage basin, which spreads some 246,000 square miles. A drainage basin is an area where all precipitation flows to the same river, or set of streams. The Colorado River basin is made up of all of Arizona, parts of California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming, and two Mexican states—Baja California and Sonora—although the final two states contribute little runoff to the river.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Anderson Dam retrofit project receives big federal loan; troubled Pacheco Dam project remains in limbo

Two huge dam projects are being planned in Santa Clara County at a price tag in the billions. The Biden administration has decided to help fund one of them but — at least for now — not the other. At a news conference scheduled for Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to announce it has approved $727 million in low-interest loans to the Santa Clara Valley Water District to help fund the rebuilding of Anderson Dam near Morgan Hill. The largest reservoir in Santa Clara County, Anderson has been drained for earthquake repairs since 2020, exacerbating Silicon Valley’s water shortages. Federal dam safety officials were concerned that its 240-foot earthen dam, built in 1950, could fail in an earthquake. But the water district also asked the EPA for twice as much in other low-interest loans — $1.45 billion — to help fund construction of a huge new dam near Pacheco Pass and Henry W. Coe State Park. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California farms, cities to get big jump in water from feds after storms

California farms and cities that get their water from the Central Valley Project are due to receive a large increase in water allocations this year after snowpack and reservoirs were replenished in winter storms, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday. Most recipients of the Central Valley Projects are irrigation districts that supply farms, and some are cities, including those served by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Contra Costa Water District in the Bay Area. Farms that received zero initial water allocations last year, in the third year of the state’s historic drought, are due to receive 35% of their allocation this year, the most they’ve gotten since 2019. Others, including the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, large shareholders with senior water rights, will receive 100% of their contracted water supply.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

LA County breaks ground on new project in Whittier to capture stormwater

After another big storm this week we will see much of the rainwater flowing out to the ocean instead of being captured for use. Los Angeles County officials say saving more of this water will be key for dealing with drought. … Wednesday, the county broke ground on a new project at Adventure Park in Whittier. It is building a 6-million gallon underground storage system that will capture stormwater. … The county has been working for decades to capture stormwater. The San Gabriel River has a series of rubber dams that can be inflated when needed to hold the water. The water is then released slowly where it seeps into the ground. With projects like this one the county says in the next five years it will capture 18 billion gallons of water. That’s enough for 500,000 people for a year.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Water board waives Delta rules that protect salmon

California’s water board decided Tuesday to temporarily allow more storage in Central Valley reservoirs, waiving state rules that require water to be released to protect salmon and other endangered fish. The waiver means more water can be sent to the cities and growers that receive supplies from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta through the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The state aqueduct delivers water to 27 million people, mostly in Southern California, and 750,000 acres of farmland, while the Central Valley Project mostly serves farms. The flow rules will remain suspended until March 31. Environmentalists reacted with frustration and concern that the move will jeopardize chinook salmon and other native fish in the Delta that are already struggling to survive…. But water suppliers applauded the decision, saying the water is needed to help provide enough water to cities and farms. 

Aquafornia news Mono Lake Committee

Blog: DWP’s “new water war” even bigger than LA Times suggests

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times article, “LA’s new water war: Keeping supply from Mono Lake flowing as critics want it cut off,” on the State Water Board’s Mono Lake workshop left readers and workshop attendees, well … wondering. Print space and attention spans are always tight, but the article missed information key to understanding the issue at Mono Lake, the diversity of voices calling Mono Lake protection, and the water supply solutions that are right at hand for Los Angeles. The State Water Board’s five-hour workshop was attended by 365 people, and 49 of the 53 public commenters spoke in support of raising Mono Lake. 

Aquafornia news KVPR - Bakersfield

Breaking down the story of Mira Bella’s drinking water problems

You see them all over the San Joaquin Valley: Sparkling new housing developments promising luxury living outside the big cities. But a recent investigation from our non-profit reporting partners shows the risks of building communities in areas with unreliable access to drinking water. Back in the 1980s, county officials knew the risks of building homes in the Mira Bella development near Millerton Lake in the foothills of Fresno County, but they greenlit the project anyway—and now residents and taxpayers are paying the price. In this interview, KVPR’s Kerry Klein talks with the reporters who produced this story, Jesse Vad of SJV Water and Gregory Weaver of Fresnoland, about the lengths Mira Bella residents are going to to solve their water problems, and what it demonstrates about who does and does not have access to drinking water in California.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: With all this rain and snow, can California really still be in a drought? Look deeper

Only weeks after a series of atmospheric rivers deluged California, the state is once again bracing for powerful winter weather that could deliver heaps of rain and snow, including fresh powder at elevations as low as 1,500 feet. But as worsening climate extremes and water supply challenges continue to bedevil the state, officials cautioned residents Tuesday not to assume that the recent moisture signaled an end to the drought. The entire state remains under a drought emergency declaration that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued in 2021, with millions of residents still under strict watering restrictions.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

‘Everything should be on the table’: Sen. John Hickenlooper on solving the Colorado River water crisis

From leaving some farmland fallow, to pressuring cities to conserve more water, Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says everything should be on the table to use Colorado River water more efficiently and help it sustain life in the southwestern U.S. for years to come.  Hickenlooper is helping convene a group of senators to try to broker a compromise to conserve Colorado River water. The Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922 and established how much water seven states, dozens of tribes, and Mexico can use. But between overuse and a mega drought that has lasted longer than 20 years, the southwest is dangerously close to not being able to get water where it needs to go.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Shrinking water supply will mean more fallow fields in the San Joaquin Valley

Downpours or drought, California’s farm belt will need to tighten up in the next two decades and grow fewer crops. There simply won’t be enough water to sustain present irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater is dangerously depleted. Wells are drying up and the land is sinking in many places, cracking canals. Surface water supplies have been cut back because of drought, and future deliveries are uncertain due to climate change and environmental regulations. … Agriculture is water intensive. And water is becoming increasingly worrisome in the West, particularly with overuse of the Colorado River. There’s plenty of water off our coast, but we’ve only begun to dip our toe into desalination.
-Written by columnist George Skelton.

Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Bay Area likely to see snow on the hills this week from unusual winter storm, forecasters say

When Bay Area residents wake up later this week and get a look outside, they might wonder if they’ve been transported many degrees north, with snow from an unusually cold and windy winter storm possibly carpeting the region’s major peaks and even reaching hills as low as 1,000 feet. “Nearly (the) entire population of CA will be able to see snow from some vantage point later this week if they look in the right direction,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, tweeted Monday. “While snow remains very unlikely in California’s major cities, it’ll fall quite nearby.”

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Aquafornia news The Wall Street Journal

Will California’s excess snow become useable water this year?

After three of the driest years in California history, recent storms brought some of the wettest and snowiest weeks on record to parts of the state. Snowpack accumulated during winter is vital to the state’s water system because the natural form of water storage melts during the spring and fills reservoirs that can then distribute water downstream where needed. The Sierra Nevada snowpack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs when it melts. How fast that happens can greatly impact the state’s water supply system.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Did winter storms replenish California’s depleted groundwater supplies? Here’s what data shows.

Winter storms have filled California’s reservoirs and built up a colossal Sierra snowpack that’s nearly twice its normal size for this time of year. But years of dry conditions have created problems far beneath the Earth’s surface that aren’t as easily addressed. Groundwater — found in underground layers containing sand, soil and rock — is crucial for drinking water and sustaining farms. During drought years, 60% of California’s annual water supply comes from groundwater. … The chart below shows how water on the surface and underground have changed over the years in California’s Central Valley — an agricultural hub that has seen some of the state’s most pressing issues related to groundwater. Compared with 2004, the amount of water on and below the ground in 2022 has dropped by nearly 55 cubic kilometers.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Can Rio Verde Foothills live with a temporary, imperfect water deal?

Maybe cooler heads will prevail in Rio Verde Foothills, after all. For weeks, Arizona has taken a beating in the national press over about 500 homes in this unincorporated community that had lost access to hauled water from neighboring Scottsdale. Those headlines turned Rio Verde Foothills into a political football as elected officials publicly blamed each other for some residents’ dry taps. But behind the scenes, work was happening on middle ground to help these homeowners without tying up any of Scottsdale’s existing water resources.
-Written by columnist Joanna Allhands.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Friday Top of the Scroll: Storms headed for California to boost already healthy snowpack

After a mostly dry February, California may see a return of stormy weather over the next week — a welcome addition to a snowpack that will bring some relief to the historic drought.  The Western Regional Climate Center reported Thursday that despite a relatively slow February for snowfall, a deep snowpack that began accumulating during three weeks of relentless storms last month has grown stronger in California and the Great Basin. … The updated report shows that most of California’s snowpack sites are now measuring above 150% of the 1991-2020 median for snowpack levels. This follows a trend the California Department of Water Resources reported two weeks ago — that statewide snowpack is at 205% of average, thanks to a winter that is outpacing the wettest year on record going back to 1982 and boosting reservoir levels to 9 million acre-feet statewide. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Newsom seeks to waive environmental protections in delta

As January’s drenching storms have given way to an unseasonably dry February, Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking to waive environmental rules in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in an effort to store more water in reservoirs — a move that is drawing heated criticism from environmental advocates who say the action will imperil struggling fish populations. …The agencies are requesting an easing of requirements that would otherwise mandate larger flows through the estuary. The aim is to hold back more water in Lake Oroville while also continuing to pump water to reservoirs south of the delta that supply farmlands as well as Southern California cities that are dealing with the ongoing shortage of supplies from the shrinking Colorado River.

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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.

Aquafornia news MIT Sloan

Blog: Does the US need a federal Department of Water?

Climate change has contributed to dramatic weather events. With severe flooding and drought happening across the nation, the U.S. needs a national water strategy to manage outdated infrastructure and technology, according to a presentation at the most recent MIT Water Summit. … In his presentation at the summit, [Aaron Mandell, founder and CEO of Wacomet Water]  detailed three areas of concern a Department of Water could coordinate at the federal level. Mandell is an advocate for desalination, a technological process that removes minerals from saline water to make it drinkable. The ability to generate potable water on a large scale through this process would represent “an incredible domestic resource” that could help create economic stability.

Aquafornia news Axios Denver

New Colorado College poll shows cost of living and water dominate Western concerns

Affordability and water are the most pressing concerns in the Mountain West, according to the annual Conservation in the West poll released Wednesday. By the numbers: 78% of residents in eight Mountain West states rank cost of living and gas prices as the most serious concerns, the Colorado College survey found. Drought, river levels and water supplies rounded out the top five issues among the 14 polled. All counted as top concerns for at least 60% of registered voters. Why it matters: The elevated worries — an important benchmark for policymakers — show the Western way of life is at risk as inflation and climate change erode dreams of finding new lives in wide-open spaces.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Great Salt Lake’s retreat poses a major fear: poisonous dust clouds

To walk on to the Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere which faces the astounding prospect of disappearing just five years from now, is to trudge across expanses of sand and mud, streaked with ice and desiccated aquatic life, where just a short time ago you would be wading in waist-deep water. … The terror comes from toxins laced in the vast exposed lake bed, such as arsenic, mercury and lead, being picked up by the wind to form poisonous clouds of dust that would swamp the lungs of people in nearby Salt Lake City, where air pollution is often already worse than that of Los Angeles, potentially provoking a myriad of respiratory and cancer-related problems. … [T]he Great Salt Lake is being parched by an antediluvian network of water rights for agriculture rather than thirsty newcomers. About three-quarters of the diverted water goes to growing crops, with the growing of alfalfa …

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California water board urged to declare emergency at Mono Lake

California authorities face renewed pressure to preserve the valuable salty waters of the Mono Lake — as despite recent rainfall, a historic drought and demands from the Los Angeles area have depleted it. In a workshop Wednesday, the state Water Resources Control Board discussed Mono Lake’s current conditions amid the impacts of severe drought and ongoing diversions. Mono Lake is an ancient, naturally saline lake at the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, with a surface area of 70 square miles. It is fed by several rivers and hosts a unique ecosystem and critical habitat for millions of migratory birds. That includes California gulls, whose nesting population on lake islands has steadily declined for the last 40 years due to low water levels, increasing coyote populations and human interference.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Confidence growing in cold, wet weather pattern for California

Ever since the late December and January deluge, California has been pretty dry. Since the beginning of February, Sacramento Executive Airport has recorded 0.56″ of rain. The relatively dry weather since mid-January allowed the state to dry out and lowered flood risk, but another storm cycle heading into the dry season would be incredibly beneficial in terms of breaking out of drought. …There are some signals that a negative Pacific North American (PNA) pattern may set up towards the end of the month and into March. This would set the stage for potentially more rain and heavy snow producing storms but it’s still too far out to tell specific impacts. 

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo

Lake Powell drops to a new record low as feds scramble to prop it up

Water levels in Lake Powell dropped to a new record low on Tuesday. The nation’s second-largest reservoir is under pressure from climate change and steady demand, and is now the lowest it’s been since it was first filled in the 1960s. Water levels fell to 3,522.16 feet above sea level, just below the previous record set in April 2022. The reservoir is currently about 22% full, and is expected to keep declining until around May, when mountain snowmelt will rush into the streams that flow downstream to Powell. Powell, which straddles the border of Utah and Arizona, is fed by the Colorado River. Warming temperatures and abnormally dry conditions have cut into the river’s supplies, and the seven states that use its water have struggled to reduce demand.

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Aquafornia news Orange Coast

South Coast Water District’s desalination project will provide a local, reliable water supply

South Coast Water District plans to decrease its reliance on imported water by creating a local, reliable, drought-proof supply through the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project. The project would also provide emergency water should the delivery of imported water be disrupted by earthquakes or other natural disasters. … The project has been approved by the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission. The desalination plant will use subsurface slant wells to draw seawater in from beneath the ocean floor and pump it to the treatment facility, where it will undergo reverse osmosis and disinfection to produce clean drinking water.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California debates what to do with water from recent storms

Weeks after powerful storms dumped 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow on California, state officials and environmental groups in the drought-ravaged state are grappling with what to do with all of that water. State rules say when it rains and snows a lot in California, much of that water must stay in the rivers to act as a conveyer belt to carry tens of thousands of endangered baby salmon into the Pacific Ocean. But this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked state regulators to temporarily change those rules. He says the drought has been so severe it would be foolish to let all of that water flow into the ocean and that there’s plenty of water for the state to take more than the rules allow while still protecting threatened fish species.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to sign up for Water 101 Workshop; registration now open for spring water tours

As climate whiplash grips California and much of the West, water challenges intensify. Our Water 101 Workshop on Feb. 23 in Sacramento is your once-a-year opportunity to gain a foundational understanding of water in the state and learn more about the impacts of changing hydrology. Registration closes this Friday.

Also, registration is now open for our two spring water tours, the Central Valley Tour April 26-28 and Bay-Delta Tour May 17-19

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Reclamation hopes for 100 percent water allocation from Friant

With a much improved rainfall season and snowpack — at least for one year — the water allocation outlook for the area appears to be looking much better than in past years. The federal Bureau of Reclamation has stated it’s requesting a 100 percent water allocation locally for Class 1 Friant contractors. In addition is stated it plans to request a 20 percent allocation for Class 2 contractors. That’s much higher than in recent years. Last year Class I contractors ended up with a water allocation of 30 percent of normally after originally receiving a water allocation of 15 percent. And that 30 percent was higher than in years before as the state continued to go through a drought. The 20 percent for Class 2 contractors is also new as 0 percent allocation has been the norm for Class 2 contractors in recent years.

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Beef prices expected to rise as drought eats into ranchers’ cattle counts

There’s likely to be a change in the cost of beef at the grocery store. That’s because historic drought and other factors are pressuring producers across the country to reduce their cattle counts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a 3% drop in the country’s cattle and calves inventory as of Jan. 1. The number of beef cows –which amounts to about a third of all cattle and calves in the U.S. – was down 4%, the smallest count in more than 60 years. Most states in the Mountain West saw declines that were slightly less than the national average. Except for Utah, that is, which had a 6.3% drop in its total number of cattle and calves compared to 2021.

Aquafornia news ABC30 - Fresno

House Speaker McCarthy meets with Valley leaders

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spent the day in his Central California home district speaking to farmers, police departments and leaders from Valley cities. It’s the first time he’s been back in Fresno County for a formal visit since being elected to represent the area in the new 22nd district. … Later in the afternoon, the Speaker traveled to Clovis. Among the issues discussed when meeting with leaders and agencies from Fresno County and the cities of Fresno and Clovis–California’s water Crisis. The Speaker pointed to bi-partisan legislation in past years intended to store water when big storms hit. He blamed Governor Gavin Newsom for the water that slipped away after the big storms earlier this year.

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Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Opinion: Colorado River irrigators are already making cuts

Patrick O’Toole, whose family operates a sheep and cattle ranch on the Wyoming-Colorado border, was interviewed last month in Las Vegas, where he expressed the concerns that many farmers and ranchers have regarding unchecked urban growth in cities that rely on Colorado River water. … A recent Rasmussen Reports poll confirms that over 1,000 residents polled in Colorado also don’t want sprawl, and don’t think ag water should be transported to support that sprawl. Notably, 76% believe it is “very important” to protect U.S. farmland from development, so the United States is able to produce enough food to feed its own human population in the future. … Still, some urban water agencies and their supporters want to limit agricultural deliveries in the Colorado River Basin.
-Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance.

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

New Colorado River Senate caucus takes shape

Senators from the seven Western states that use water from the Colorado River have been convening to discuss its future. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, spearheaded the caucus and said the group has been meeting for “about a year,” though news of its existence only recently became public. The caucus meets as a growing supply-demand imbalance threatens the water supply for 40 million people in the Southwest and a multibillion-dollar agricultural industry. Climate change has shrunk the amount of water in the Colorado River’s largest reservoirs, and states have struggled to agree on plans to reduce demand. The federal government has historically left water management decisions to the states, but has expanded its role in recent years.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Newsom waives environmental laws to store more water

Facing an onslaught of criticism that water was “wasted” during January storms, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday suspended environmental laws to give the go-ahead to state officials to hold more water in reservoirs. The governor’s executive order authorized the State Water Resources Control Board to “consider modifying” state requirements that dictate how much water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is allowed to flow into San Francisco Bay.  In January, after floodwaters surged into the bay, farm groups, Central Valley legislators and urban water providers complained that people and farms were being short-changed to protect fish. … Environmental activists say Newsom’s order is another sign that California is shifting priorities in how it manages water supply for humans and ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

$125 million to rent water for Colorado River drought

Upper Colorado River Basin states have a new $125 million pot to rent and dry agricultural land and keep more water in the drought-plagued waterway, in a major expansion of a previous conservation pilot announced by the Biden administration’s Bureau of Reclamation. Colorado politicians called the new funding key to the state’s ability to make its share of emergency water use cuts ordered by federal officials who are scrambling to keep enough water in the major basin reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and meet minimum allocations to Lower Basin states. About 40 million people rely on Colorado River water. The system pilot pays farmers, ranchers and other river users, potentially including municipal or industrial consumers, for temporary and voluntary use of their valuable water rights.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wildfire and drought are shrinking California snowpack

For decades, Californians have depended on the reliable appearance of spring and summer snowmelt to provide nearly a third of the state’s supply of water. But as the state gets drier, and as wildfires climb to ever-higher elevations, that precious snow is melting faster and earlier than in years past — even in the middle of winter. That’s posing a threat to the timing and availability of water in California, according to authors of a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that the effects of climate change are compounding to accelerate snowpack decline. … There are several systems at work to create this unwanted effect, including climate change, forest management practices and worsening drought and wildfires. In 2020 and 2021, the state saw a nearly tenfold increase in wildfire activity in snowy places compared with the years 2001-19, according to the study.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Newsom signs order to protect California’s water supply from extreme weather

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order on Monday to safeguard his state’s water supplies from the effects of extreme weather. The order will help expand California’s capacity to capture storm runoff during wet years by accelerating groundwater recharge projects, according to the governor’s office. While a string of storms earlier this winter resulted in California’s wettest three weeks on record, the Golden State is already experiencing an unseasonably dry February, according to Newsom’s order…. In addition, the order directs state agencies to provide recommendations on California’s drought response by the end of April — including provisions that may no longer be necessary.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Pure Water Project turns wastewater into drinking water

It may not be the most pleasant thought, but the wastewater that flows through the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility in Agoura Hills could one day come out of your faucet. “We’re taking the water that we would normally discharge into Malibu Creek and we’re going to create a local drinking supply out of this,” said Michael McNutt with the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District. It’s called the Pure Water Project and in a race against climate change, McNutt says the region must create additional sources for a clean water supply, one that is more resilient to drought. Currently, the district says it solely relies on the State Water Project. … To showcase the technology, the district has set up a $4 million demo facility on its campus to pilot the process and educate the public. 

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Policy group warns of steep ag losses without coordinated action on water

Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley may be able to blunt a sharp decline in the years ahead if policymakers and the industry can come together on a series of strategies for reducing demand for irrigation while also increasing water supply, according to a new assessment from a prominent policy organization. The report this month from the Public Policy Institute of California examined the biggest challenge confronting the state’s ag industry — a one-fifth decline in annual water supply expected by 2040 because of groundwater sustainability measures and climate change — then recommended softening the impact by loosening water-trading rules, incentivizing farmland reuse and investing in storage, including groundwater recharge.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Understanding California’s relationship with the Colorado River

It may feel like California is flush with water at the moment, after a winter of historic storms that replenished drought-starved lakes and left the Sierra Nevada snowpack at the deepest it’s been in 28 years. But follow the Colorado River, which supplies 15% of California’s water, back to bottomed-out reservoirs like Nevada’s Lake Mead, and it becomes clear the future of water in the Golden State is still very much in flux. After decades of drought and overuse, the Colorado River system is on the verge of collapse. To prevent that, every state that draws water from the river must significantly cut back on what it takes in the coming years. How much that affects California, which receives by far the largest portion of any state, will depend on how we fare in a battle now being waged between states, Native American tribes, agricultural giants and the federal government.

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Aquafornia news Newsweek

Monday Top of the Scroll: California reservoir levels before and after rain seen from space

In the wake of the deluge of rain that battered California at the start of the year, many of the state’s most important reservoirs and lakes have seen water levels rise. The increase in water levels between last fall and now at two key California reservoirs—Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta—can be seen clearly in photographs taken from space by NASA’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite and by the OLI-2 sensor on Landsat 9. … As of January 29, 2023, when the most recent picture was taken, Lake Shasta’s water levels stood at 986.93 feet above sea level, according to the California Department of Water Resources, amounting to around 56 percent of its capacity, and 87 percent of the average water levels for this time of year. On November 18, when the first picture was taken, the lake’s water levels were measured at 917.95 feet above sea level, around 31 percent of the lake’s capacity.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘Double-edged sword’: why the badly-needed rains in California could fuel catastrophic fires

Deep underneath the sodden soils and the berms of snow that now coat California, fuels for fire are waiting to sprout. Grasses and other quick-growing vegetation, spurred by the downpours that saturated the state at the start of the year, quickly turn to kindling as the weather warms. … While experts say it’s still too early to predict what’s in store for the months ahead and if weather conditions will align to help infernos ignite, it’s clear the rains that hammered California this winter came as a mixed blessing, delivering badly-needed relief while posing new risks. Along with seeding the tinder of tomorrow, the inclement weather hampered efforts to perform essential landscape treatments needed to mitigate the risks of catastrophic fire. … The cold, rainy conditions also helped forests recover from the drought, which will make them more burn-resistant. Water tables are looking far better and bug species that wreak havoc on vulnerable trees are being better kept at bay.

Aquafornia news Escalon Times

Harder reintroduces bill to stop the Delta tunnel

Representative Josh Harder (CA-9) on Thursday, Feb. 9 reintroduced his Stop the Delta Tunnel Act which prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a federal permit necessary for the State of California to build the Delta Conveyance Project, commonly known as the Delta Tunnel. The Delta Tunnel would ship water from the Central Valley south and would cost taxpayers $16 billion. The project was first proposed more than 60 years ago. Rep. Harder is a longtime opponent of the Delta Tunnel project, first voicing his opposition in 2018. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Garamendi, DeSaulnier, and Thompson.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California should invest in water solutions, not a bullet train

California is well acquainted with transformative construction: think Oroville Dam, the Bay Bridge and the Arroyo Seco Parkway (also known as the Pasadena Freeway).  The state is once again in charge of the nation’s biggest public works project, a 171-mile high-speed rail line between Bakersfield and Merced – the “starter” portion of the long-sought bullet train linking Los Angeles and San Francisco. … Instead of spending an additional $100 billion or more to drill rail tunnels through seismically active mountains and disrupt communities, the state should embark on a massive public works effort to meet its water needs. Advances in stormwater capture and recycling hold great promise. Los Angeles could meet 70% of its water needs locally by 2035 if enough investment is made in recycling and cleaning up its groundwater basins.
-Written by Dana Goldman, dean of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC; and Alain Enthoven, an economics professor emeritus at Stanford University.  

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Friday Top of the Scroll: Here’s a look at California water supply conditions

The first week of February brought only modest amounts of rain and snow but despite that, California’s snowpack and many of the state’s largest reservoirs are in good shape. According to data tracked by California’s Department of Water Resources, the statewide snowpack is at 135% of the average peak. Typically the snowpack peaks in late March to early April. … As of midday Thursday, Lake Shasta is at 58% of capacity, which is 86% of the average for this date. Lake Oroville is at 67% of capacity. That is 113% of the average for today’s date. Shasta and Oroville are the two largest surface water storage facilities in the state. Water storage will gradually increase at both sites in the coming weeks and months as the Sierra snowpack melts off.

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Aquafornia news Comstock's magazine

Opinion: California’s long and complicated history with water

“Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” is an aphorism attributed, albeit erroneously, to Mark Twain. Whatever its source, it accurately describes California’s decades-long conflicts over this existential liquid. From 19th-century battles between farmers and hydraulic gold miners over debris polluting rivers to 21st-century political duels over spawning salmon, Californians have squabbled incessantly over how water should be captured, allocated, conveyed and priced. The battles are growing more intense as climate change widens the gap between supply and demand. Thus, the search for a grand compromise that would satisfy the three major water interest blocs — farmers, municipal users and advocates for fish and other wildlife — has become increasingly difficult.
-Written by columnist Dan Walters.

Aquafornia news KDRV - Medford

Klamath National Forest reports more snow than normal this winter

The Klamath National Forest says today the snowpack across the Forest is more than the normal average for its February 1 snow survey results. The Klamath National Forest (KNF) says today it has completed its February 1 snow surveys as part of California’s Cooperative Snow Survey program, which helps the State forecast the quantity of water available for agriculture, power generation, recreation, and stream flow releases later in the year. … KNF says measurements for the February 1 survey show the Forest’s snowpack is at 125% of the historic average snow height (snow depth) and at 129% of the historic average Snow Water Equivalent (SWE, a measure of water content) across all survey points (see result table). Historically, snowpack reaches its annual maximum by late-March/early-April.

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

Amid Colorado River cuts, a fishing guide hopes the ‘leftovers’ are enough

A grinning fisherman often needs two hands to hold a massive lake trout on a sunny day at the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which straddles the Wyoming-Utah border. Jim Williams has been a guide here for more than 30 years, and said some of the best trophy fish in the Rockies call these waters home. … But this habitat has seen some drastic changes in a short amount of time. In the past two years, the reservoir has dropped to its lowest level since the 1980s. Marinas and river channels are running dry. … One of Flaming Gorge’s primary uses is storage for the rest of the Colorado River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees federal water management, released an extra 500,000 acre feet of water from the reservoir last year. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California faces threat of back-to-back mega-quakes

The mega-quakes in Turkey this week showcase how a magnitude 7.8 quake could trigger a magnitude 7.5 aftershock on a different fault, with 60 miles of distance between the epicenters. A similar seismic scenario could occur in California. … In a U.S. Geological Survey report published in 2008 detailing a hypothetical magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Southern California, scientists said a plausible aftershock scenario included a magnitude 6.95 quake that would shake Sacramento and Modesto three days after the mainshock, endangering the stability of the levees, which are crucial for maintaining flood control and water movement from the northern Sierra Nevada to cities across the state.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Josh Harder: ‘We will not let them take our water’

The Delta Tunnel — a $16 billion 45-mile long, 40-foot tall “straw” designed to siphon off water for Southern California urban areas before it enters the Delta — is winding down its environmental document comment period. The tunnel would directly impact the water security of almost 2 million Northern San Joaquin Valley residents, countless farmers and imperil Delta ecological systems.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Policy brief – The future of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley produces more than half of the state’s agricultural output, and it is an important contributor to the nation’s food supply. In terms of revenues, Fresno, Kern, and Tulare Counties are the nation’s top three agricultural counties. In 2018, about 4.5 million acres of cropland were irrigated in the region, using 16.1 million acre-feet (maf) of water. The valley is also home to significant dairy and beef industries. Farming and related industries play an outsized role in the San Joaquin Valley’s economy, accounting for 14 percent of GDP, 17 percent of employment, and 19 percent of revenues. Valley agriculture employs around 340,000 people; its crops produce more than $24 billion in revenues … Ensuring the economic and environmental sustainability of San Joaquin Valley agriculture is key for the region’s wellbeing, but this sector faces a future with less water for irrigation—an essential input.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: As Colorado River shrinks, water evaporation becomes critical to California’s future supplies

Much of the Colorado River’s water is diverted from reservoirs and transported in canals to the farmlands and cities of the desert Southwest. But some of the water also ends up going elsewhere — vanishing into thin air. Water lost to evaporation has become a central point of contention in the disagreement between California and six other states over how to divide reductions in water use. A proposal submitted by Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming calls for relying heavily on counting evaporation and other water losses from reservoirs and along the river in the Lower Basin — the portion of the watershed that begins near the Grand Canyon and stretches to northern Mexico.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water & Fresnoland

Debacle in the hills: How Fresno County officials ignored water warnings and why taxpayers are paying the price

A high-end housing development in the foothills above Fresno that was approved despite unreliable groundwater supplies is now getting a $4.2 million taxpayer bailout to bring in surface water that may, or may not, materialize. The gated Mira Bella community, with its $800,000 Mediterranean-style homes near the shimmering waters of Millerton Lake, lives up to its name – it looks beautiful.  Its beauty faded quickly for homeowners, however, after they learned they were responsible for fixing failing wells and a dilapidated distribution system. The situation went from bad to worse as it became clear drilling deeper, or new wells, into the rocky formation beneath Mira Bella wasn’t an option.  Then drought hit and one of the community’s wells collapsed. 

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Wet La Niña winter likely to bring more water into Lake Powell

One of the Colorado River’s two major reservoirs is expected to collect better than average runoff this year, thanks to an unusually wet La Niña pattern that dropped a deluge of snow up and down the basin. Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest reservoir that sits on the border of Utah and Arizona, is expected to receive 117 percent of its average inflows as the heavy snowpack melts in the western Rockies during the all-important April through July time frame, said Cody Mosier, a hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. Snowfall in recent months has brought snowpack levels across much of the Upper Colorado River Basin to roughly 139 percent of the region’s 30-year-average … Part of the rosier outlook for the river is an improvement in soil moisture conditions, Mosier said. Lower soil moisture conditions across the basin have made runoff far less efficient over the last two years.

Aquafornia news The Hill

California plays ‘hardball’ with Colorado River states over cutbacks

A multistate quest to protect a dwindling Colorado River has devolved into a high-stakes battle pitting California against its neighbors. At odds are two dueling proposals as to how seven states should apportion critical consumption cuts that could help save the lifeblood of the Western United States.  Despite engaging in months of negotiations, the states failed to produce a unified agreement by the Jan. 31 deadline stipulated by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. Instead, they offered two competing proposals: one from California and one from the six other basin states. “There need to be some long-term solutions here to reduce water supply, and there’s a lot of money to do it,” David Hayes, a former climate policy adviser to President Biden, told The Hill.

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Aquafornia news Food & Water Watch

Hydrogen production would exacerbate water shortages

While it is touted as a crucial ‘clean energy’ source, a major expansion of hydrogen production would significantly exacerbate water shortages – a particular concern in states grappling with long-term droughts. New research from Food & Water Watch projects that the Department of Energy’s vision for producing 50 million metric tons (MMT) of hydrogen annually by 2050 could require up to one trillion gallons of freshwater every year.  As of 2020, about 10 MMT of hydrogen was being produced – the vast majority of it using natural gas (‘gray’ hydrogen). The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projects that by 2050 more than two-thirds will come from renewable energy sources.

Aquafornia news The Mendocino Voice

Ukiah to expand recycled water project, offset a whopping 50% of water use by treating wastewater

The city of Ukiah has received a $53.7 million grant to expand its water recycling project across multiple schools and parks, enabling the city to offset 50% of its average water use with treated wastewater by fall of 2024. Ukiah’s program falls under an overall goal by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase California’s use of recycled water, which according to the Volumetric Annual Report of Wastewater and Recycled Water stood at 731,586 acre-feet per year (afy) in 2021. Ukiah’s multimillion dollar grant and others like it aim to support dramatic capacity increases, with a goal of reaching 2.5 million afy of recycled water by 2030. … Elsewhere in California, cities are taking on unprecedented water recycling infrastructure … 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

California storms left behind a ‘generational snowpack.’ What that means.

California’s mountain snowpack is the largest it’s been in decades, thanks to a barrage of atmospheric rivers in late December into January. The snow is a boon for the state’s water supply but could also pose a flood risk as the season progresses. Measurements completed last week show that Sierra Nevada snow water content is rivaling or outpacing the 1982-83 season, the biggest snow year in the past 40 years. Up to two feet of additional snow fell on the region this weekend. … Statewide snowpack is double the norm for the time of year. Some locations with longer records are ranking in the top 3 for early February snow since the 1940s and ’50s, according to [Desert Research Institute's Benjamin] Hatchett. Most important, at least a full season’s worth of snow has fallen so far across the Sierra, and more storms could arrive in February and March.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

With nearly half the rain season to go, S.F. has already hit a critical milestone

As of Saturday, seven months into the 2022-23 rain season, San Francisco had received a full season’s worth of rainfall, according to meteorologists. A quarter of an inch that fell in the morning and early afternoon on Saturday put San Francisco over the top by 2 p.m.: It brought the total precipitation during the current rainfall season — July 1 to June 30 — up to 22.89 inches, according to meteorologist Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services. “This equals their full season (July-June) normal,” he tweeted. For comparison, downtown San Francisco normally gets 12.87 inches of precipitation from July 1 to Jan. 30, Null tweeted.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Santa Barbara News-Press

Council to hear review of Santa Barbara water supply

Santa Barbara’s available water supplies are sufficient to meet demands for at least the next three years, according to city officials. That conclusion is part of an analysis included in an overview of the city’s water supplies to be presented by staff to the City Council today. After the water supply update, council members will be asked to approve and adopt the city’s Water Supply Management Report for the 2022 Water Year, finding that Santa Barbara’s water supplies are in long-term balance with the city’s Enhanced Urban Water Management Plan.

Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

In the Mojave, a fight brews over an ancient aquifer holding trillions of gallons of water

Deep below the Mojave Desert is liquid gold — trillions of gallons of water in an underground aquifer stretching hundreds of square miles on either side of Interstate 40. It’s been there for thousands of years, but only a tiny bit of it is actually tapped and harvested. So it could be a way to ease some of California’s water woes. Private companies are trying to do just that, but they’re running into obstacles from conservationists who question the ethics of it, and Native tribes who have a spiritual connection to water in this region. … Cadiz, Inc. is leading the effort to tap the aquifer, and they’re creating one pipeline that will connect to the Colorado River, and another that will go through central valley communities that don’t currently have access to water. Meanwhile, they’re emphasizing that they’re a water storage company.

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.

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

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

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

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

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map
Published March 2021

Delta Map for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

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

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

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

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

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

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. 

Foundation Event

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

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

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


2019 Class Report

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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


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.