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 Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Managing water and farmland transitions in the San Joaquin Valley

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval acknowledged the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s (SGMA) importance to the valley in his opening remarks. … As water supplies decline, said Central Valley Community Foundation CEO Ashley Swearengin, it is key to bring all the valley’s many players to the table to hammer out coping strategies. The need for coordination is paramount, given the magnitude of the challenge. As PPIC research fellow Andrew Ayres explained, reducing groundwater pumping ultimately will help the valley maintain its robust agricultural industry and protect communities. But even with new water supplies, our research found that valley agriculture will need to occupy a smaller footprint than it does now: at least 500,000 acres of farmland will likely need to come out of intensively irrigated production.

Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

The US needs minerals for green tech. Will Western mines have enough water?

On a 107 degree morning in the mountains east of Phoenix, a miner in a hard hat plunges down the nearly 7,000-foot shaft of what may soon be the biggest underground copper mine in the United States. But for now, the Resolution Copper mine isn’t taking out copper. It’s taking out groundwater, at a rate of around 600 gallons per minute. Because this copper is so deep underground, in geologic formations dating back more than a billion years, the mining takes place far below the water table. The mine is removing that aquifer water so the operations don’t flood. And the mine is giving away this water for free to nearby farmers, about 6 billion gallons so far.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

After a wet water year, can Colorado hope for a repeat? Not quite.

As March rolled into April, Ken Beck was keeping his eye on the snowdrifts piled on slopes around Vallecito Reservoir in Colorado’s southwestern mountains. Snow reports showed there was about 300,000 acre-feet of water in that snow waiting to flow into the reservoir, he said. … Beck, superintendent of the Pine River Irrigation District, which manages the reservoir located northeast of Durango … was in good company: Reservoir managers around the state saw water levels rise this year, a boon to downstream users who depend on stored water for drinking, growing crops, supporting industries and managing ecosystems. And as the year progressed, precipitation just kept coming in the form of rain, hail and severe storms.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Opinion: Proposed Shasta Dam Raise is bad for salmon, tribes and CA

For years, the politically-connected Westlands Water District has fought to raise Shasta Dam. This debate has been renewed by House Resolution 215, introduced by California Central Valley Congressman David Valadao (R-Hanford), which would override a California law that blocks the dam raise. That project would harm salmon, California’s fishing economy and Indigenous Americans. This is a big deal for the fishing community. California’s salmon fishery is closed this year for only the third time in history. … This closure was caused by the mismanagement of Central Valley rivers during a drought. Low spring flows, caused by storing too much water for summer agricultural deliveries, is a major cause of the fishing shutdown. Raising Shasta Dam would represent another blow to the survival of salmon runs and fishing jobs.
-Written by Scott Artis, executive director of the Golden State Salmon Association.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water and high prices aid California potato farmers

After a four-year decline in potato production nationwide, this season’s crop appears poised to buck the trend, spurred by strong demand and improved water supplies. While higher processing contract prices are driving much of the increased acreage, California’s mostly fresh-market growers may see prices decline once harvest starts elsewhere, said Almuhanad Melhim, a fruit and vegetable market analyst for Rabobank’s RaboResearch division. … During the past few years, processors have been short on russet potatoes that go into french fries, so they snapped up fresh-market russet supplies, driving up fresh prices. To encourage more processed potato production this year, processors increased contract prices substantially.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greely, Colo

Colorado River growers say they’re ready to save water, but need to build trust with states and feds

The Colorado River is in trouble, and farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of the crisis. A new report surveyed more than 1,020 irrigators across six of the seven states that use the river’s water: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. About 70% said they are already responding to water shortages but many identified a trust gap with state and federal agencies that are trying to incentivize further water savings. The report, from the Western Landowners Alliance and the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute, sheds light on attitudes in an industry that has an outsized role in the fate of the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news American Council on Science and Health

Blog: Innovation abounds – Floating cows and vertical farms  

Last week, the U.N. hosted a summit on sustainable development, including access to clean water. I have previously written about declining water levels in the western U.S. and the use of desalination to transform seawater into freshwater. Although over 17,000 desalination plants are operating worldwide, there are only about 325 in the U.S., with 45% in Florida, 14% in California, and 9% in Texas. The reason they have not been more widely adopted is traditionally, they are expensive to build and use a lot of energy. Most of the desalination plants operating today heat the salt water and pump it through specialized membranes that separate the water from the salts. 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo

Colorado River’s Upper Basin will re-up a plan that pays farmers and ranchers to use less water

Some states in the arid West are looking to invest more money in water conservation. Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico have agreed to re-up a water conservation program designed to reduce strain on the Colorado River. Those states, which represent the river’s Upper Basin, will use money from the Inflation Reduction Act to pay farmers and ranchers to use less water. The four states are re-implementing the program amid talks with California, Arizona, Nevada and the federal government to come up with more permanent water reductions by 2026.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: More than 90% of California out of historic drought as water year ends

Less than one week until California’s new water year begins, experts say the state is nearly free of drought — but there is no guarantee that another wet winter is soon to arrive.  The state, according to the Sept. 19 U.S. Drought Monitor, is 93% free of drought, a big improvement since measuring at 72% drought-free three months ago.  Only small regions of drought remain along the state’s southeast corner bordering Arizona and in the northernmost region at the Oregon border.

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Aquafornia news The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Solutions: These farmers are harvesting scarce water from fog

A nonprofit in Peru is gaining attention for its work in developing a simple system that gathers moisture from fog and channels it to storage containers for use in areas where water is in short supply. The systems are dropping in price and increasing in efficiency, experts say. The “fog catchers” have been installed in several countries and were even considered for possible use in the San Francisco area. … “It’s a very intriguing idea,” says Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California-Davis. … Lund explored the idea of demisting fogs over San Francisco in the aftermath of the droughts in the Bay Area between 2012 and 2016, but concluded it would likely not be economically viable.

Aquafornia news Aspen Journalism

Colorado River managers vote to continue conservation program, with tweaks, in 2024

Colorado River managers [last week] decided to continue a water conservation program designed to protect critical elevations in the nation’s two largest reservoirs. The Upper Colorado River Commission decided unanimously to continue the federally funded System Conservation Program in 2024 — but with a narrower scope that explores demand management concepts and supports innovation and local drought resiliency on a longer-term basis. … The System Conservation Program is paying water users in the four upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah — to voluntarily cut back with $125 million from the Inflation Reduction Act. According to Upper Colorado River Commission officials, nearly $16.1 million was spent on system conservation in 2023. 

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Evolution of drought response and resilience in California’s cities

… In recent decades, California has experienced five prolonged drought periods (1976-77, 1987-1992, 2007-09, 2011-16, 2020-22). Urban water agencies have responded with investments in supply and demand management measures, which have made California’s cities more resilient to drought effects. What motivated these investments? Our current habits of water use in California’s cities are shaped by past policies and habits.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Report: California Water Plan 2023 – Navigating climate challenges with equity and resilience

… To better prepare and plan for a future with climate extremes, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the Public Review Draft of California Water Plan Update 2023. … [The plan] focuses on three intersecting themes: addressing the urgency of climate change, strengthening watershed resilience, and achieving equity in water management. … public comments can be made through Oct. 19, 2023.

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Aquafornia news

NASA tech lets scientists see snow water through the trees

NASA scientists are testing a technology that could more accurately measure water stored in snow as seen from a satellite in orbit. Melting snow provides much of the water that the western United States depend on for agriculture and power. But warming winters due to climate change led to decreased seasonal snowpacks high up in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountains. That in turn affects the volume of water that travels downriver to irrigate crops and turn hydroelectric turbines.

Aquafornia news Vallejo Times-Herald

Senator Dodd recognizes Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week

In appreciation of the critical role the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta plays in California’s economy and environment, Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, is recognizing the last week of September as Delta Week. “The Delta is a cherished watershed and the very lifeblood of California’s water system,” Dodd said in a news release. … Dodd’s Senate Concurrent Resolution 119 established Delta Week, which this year kicks off Sunday. As part of the annual tradition, it will be preceded on Saturday by Coastal Cleanup Day, which offers Californians a chance to participate in local waterway cleanup events.

Aquafornia news Stateline

Feds’ cash stream supports Colorado River conservation — but the money will dry up

Despite a megadrought, states in the West have been able to avoid drastic cuts to their allocations of Colorado River water this year not only because of surprising storms but also thanks to generous financial incentives from all levels of government that have encouraged people to conserve. The temporary Colorado River water-sharing agreement that Arizona, California and Nevada announced in May depends on an injection of $1.2 billion from the federal government. Some of the 30 tribal nations in the river basin also are getting federal dollars. The Gila River Indian Community, for example, will receive $233 million from the feds over the next three years, mostly to conserve water. Fueled by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the feds will spend a total of $15.4 billion for drought resiliency programs …

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Editorial: Can California Gov. Gavin Newsom show some guts on these 5 controversial bills?

Gov. Gavin Newsom has before him about a thousand bills approved by the California Legislature that now await his fate but some are far more explosive and politically consequential than others. These bills in Newsom’s pile could reveal how the governor is evolving as a leader, and now he has less than a month to review them. … Here is an obscure bill that will reveal a lot about how much Newsom listens to his inner circle or his own common sense. Two water districts in Southern California want to switch water suppliers and leave the San Diego County Water Authority, the long-time primary provider for the region. The county’s Local Agency Formation Commission said yes, including an exit fee intended to address impacts to the SDCWA budget. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California just passed these climate and environment bills

[Editor's note: Scroll to fourth section of story for water-related bills] A bill headed to Newsom’s desk would ban the use of drinking water to irrigate purely decorative grass that no one uses. Another bill approved by lawmakers would allow cities to ban the installation of artificial turf at homes, based on research showing that fake grass can result in microplastics washing into streams and the ocean. Assembly Bill 249 would tighten standards for lead testing in schools’ drinking water. In the latest chapter in San Diego County’s ongoing water drama, lawmakers approved a bill that could make it harder for local water agencies to withdraw from larger regional water authorities — but too late to stop the contentious bureaucratic divorce already underway in San Diego County due to high water costs. Assembly Bill 779 would tweak California’s work-in-progress groundwater rules to “level the playing field for all groundwater users, particularly small farmers and farmers of color,” according to three UCLA law students who helped write the bill.

Aquafornia news Jfleck@inkstain

Blog: Lower Basin use on track to be lowest in nearly four decades

I’ve emerged from my cozy book writing cave (The new book’s going well, thanks for asking!) to some stunningly optimistic Lower Colorado River Basin water use data. Forecast use in 2023 (based on the Sept. 18 USBR forecast model) has dropped below 6 million acre feet, currently just 79 percent of the total baseline Lower Basin allocation of 7.5 million acre feet. Californians are on track for their lowest take on the river since 1949, according to my crazy stitched-together dataset (USBR decree accounting reports plus pre-1964 numbers assembled some time ago by some folks at MWD). Arizona and Nevada’s use is the lowest its been since 1992. Relative to their baseline allocations, Arizona (at 69 percent) and Nevada (at 65 percent) are still doing the heaviest lifting, but California (at 86 percent) is seriously pitching in too.

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Aquafornia news Write for California

Blog: Everything you need to know about San Luis Reservoir

Nestled in the heart of California’s vast Central Valley lies a shimmering oasis, a testament to human ingenuity and the ongoing quest for water management: the San Luis Reservoir. This magnificent reservoir, holding both natural beauty and immense significance for the Golden State’s water system, is much more than just a large lake. Here’s everything you need to know about this impressive structure. The San Luis Reservoir was constructed as a result of a collaboration between the federal and state governments in the 1960s. It stands as a primary off-stream storage facility and is a key component of both the California State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP). The aim was to cater to the growing water demands of the state’s booming population and agricultural sectors.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Will Lake Mead water levels rise again? What we know about El Niño

Last week, Lake Mead water levels started to even out after experiencing a steep increase for the last five months, but it isn’t expected to last for long. After years of drought, Lake Mead, which is in Nevada and Arizona, reached drastically low levels last summer, prompting fears that a dead pool—the point where water levels are too low to flow downstream—would occur much sooner than originally thought. Water levels started to recover this year because of above-average precipitation and snowpack that melted throughout the summer. The lake has since recovered more than 20 feet, supplemented at times by excessive rainfall such as that from storm Hilary in August. AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva told Newsweek that he doesn’t expect the lake to rise much more this water year, which ends September 30.

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Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

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

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

Aquafornia news Pomerado News

San Diego expected to approve water-rate hikes of almost 20 percent

San Diego water bills would rise nearly 20 percent under a rate-increase proposal the City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday. The increase, which city officials began studying last fall, would be the first comprehensive rate hike approved by the council in nearly eight years. It would include a 10.2 increase this December and an 8.75 percent jump in January 2025. City officials say they need additional revenue increases to cover rising costs for imported water, upgrades to thousands of aging pipes and a long list of short-term and long-term capital projects. The capital projects include the Pure Water sewage-recycling system, which has been under construction since last year, and upgrades needed to several aging city dams that state officials have deemed in poor condition.

Aquafornia news Business Insider

Las Vegas wants to ensure firms have a water-conservation plan

Las Vegas isn’t just a hot spot for revelers. Thousands of businesses, particularly from California, have moved to the region over the past few decades, and the population is booming alongside other Southwestern cities. All of that growth in a region plagued by extreme heat, drought, and a dwindling water supply raises tough questions for city and state officials who want to spur economic growth without draining the Colorado River dry. In one example of that challenge, Arizona’s governor in June halted construction in areas around Phoenix, citing a lack of groundwater.

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

Bill passes forcing county vote on water district exits, but won’t affect Fallbrook, Rainbow

A bill requiring a countywide vote before individual water districts can detach from an agency passed the Assembly on Tuesday, but it won’t prevent residents of Fallbrook and Rainbow from voting on Nov. 7. Assembly Bill 399 passed on a vote of 47 to 8, with 25 members, including Assemblymember Marie Waldron from North County, not voting. It now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom, but if he signs it into law, it won’t take effect until Jan. 1. The two rural districts are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, which draws primarily from the Colorado River and the State Water Project, to secure lower-cost water for farmers.

Aquafornia news 8 News - Las Vegas

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Lake Mead’s rise levels off after 5-month climb — 34% full as an incredible water year nears its end

Leveling off after steady increases since early April, Lake Mead appears to have reached its peak for the year — more than 22 feet above last year. … Average daily levels computed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show the surface of Lake Mead at 1,066.32 feet above sea level on Thursday, Sept. 7. Since then, it has hovered around the same level and come down slightly, now at 1,066.25 feet as of midday Wednesday.

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Aquafornia news Morgan Hill Times

Crews to begin controlled explosions at Anderson Dam site

Residents in the area of Anderson Dam over the next few weeks may hear loud warning horns and explosive sounds as crews continue to excavate a tunnel under construction for the dam’s seismic retrofit project, according to Valley Water.  Water district staff say the impact to residents and passing traffic should be minimal.  Starting on Sept. 12, construction crews will begin the controlled blasting of hard rock for the Anderson Dam Tunnel Project. Scheduled detonations over the next few weeks will take place Monday through Friday, and possibly on Saturdays, from 8am-7pm, Valley Water spokesperson Matt Keller said. 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Reservoir levels remain elevated across California

Reservoirs across the state of California remain elevated as another wet season approaches.  Following the record wet winter, lakes and reservoirs were nearly full to the brim as the melting snowpack made its way into them. Following the melt-off period, Lake Shasta — the keystone of the Central Valley Project — was at 98% capacity, Oroville was at 100% capacity, and Folsom Lake was nearly full as well at 95% capacity. These bodies of water were quite parched heading into the winter due to the three years of drought preceding the past winter’s deluge and ranged from 25-32% capacity before the atmospheric river events rolled in.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California ponies up $300 million to prepare groundwater infrastructure for climate change

California will spend about $300 million to prepare a vast groundwater and farming infrastructure system for the growing impacts of climate change. California Department of Water Resources announced Tuesday that it has awarded $187 million to 32 groundwater sub-basins, which store water for future use that mainly flows from valuable snowmelt, through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced Tuesday that California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will award more than $106 million in grants to 23 organizations, which will design and implement new carbon sequestration and irrigation efficiency projects. 

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Aquafornia news AP News

Dry states taking Mississippi River water isn’t a new idea. But some mayors want to kill it

Community leaders along the Mississippi River worried that dry southwestern states will someday try to take the river’s water may soon take their first step toward blocking such a diversion. Mayors from cities along the river are expected to vote on whether to support a new compact among the river’s 10 states at this week’s annual meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, according to its executive director Colin Wellenkamp. Supporters of a compact hope it will strengthen the region’s collective power around shared goals like stopping water from leaving the corridor. 

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Napa County leaders look at countywide water agency

Napa County civic leaders want to keep exploring whether the dozens of local agencies that deliver water to tens of thousands of residents and businesses should be working together more closely. County agencies involved with water range from the city of Napa serving 80,000 residents to rural districts serving a few hundred customers. They have various water sources and make their own water decisions. A study three years ago by the Local Agency Formation Commission of Napa County suggested they form some type of county water agency or district to better work together. The idea hasn’t been forgotten.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

What Arizona and other drought-ridden states can learn from Israel’s pioneering water strategy

Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., with an economy that offers many opportunities for workers and businesses. But it faces a daunting challenge: a water crisis that could seriously constrain its economic growth and vitality. … Israel’s approach to desalination offers insights that Arizona would do well to consider.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Artificial intelligence climate forecast could help supply chain management

Himanshu Gupta knows full well the heavy toll climate change is taking on agriculture. Growing up in India and eventually working in public policy, he saw how the unpredictably late monsoon season was damaging crops and worsening farmers’ lives. … That eventually led him to co-found ClimateAi, a Bay Area-based startup that aims to help farms and other businesses prepare for a hotter, more disruptive climate using the power of artificial intelligence. By harnessing machine learning models, the company says its customers can anticipate and prepare for climate risks to their supply chains and operations over periods ranging from weeks to seasons.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Summer of record heat deals costly damage to Texas water systems

The hottest summer on record for many Texas cities has brought millions of dollars in damage to municipal plumbing and the loss of huge volumes of water during a severe drought.  Authorities across the state are struggling to keep up with widespread leakage even as they plead for water conservation and have restricted outdoor water use. The impact on Texas’s water systems highlights both the vulnerability of basic infrastructure to a warming climate and the high costs of adaptation.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Tech moguls’ $17 million land offer spurned by California water officials

A historic cattle ranch in California’s Solano County has been a target of a secretive billionaire-backed group that’s been buying up large swaths of land to create a new city northeast of San Francisco. The latest offer of $17 million, made in mid-July, by Flannery Associates LLC was for about 950 acres at a property known as Petersen Ranch, according to term sheets, proposals and emails obtained by Bloomberg News through the California Public Records Act. It was turned down by the local water agency, which owns the land.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Can alfalfa survive a fight over Colorado River water?

Dirt roads neatly bisect acres and acres of vibrant green plants here: short, dense alfalfa plants fed by the waters of the Colorado River, flowing by as a light brown stream through miles of narrow concrete ditches. But on a nearby field, farmer Ronnie Leimgruber is abandoning those ditches, part of a system that has served farmers well for decades. Instead, he’s overseeing the installation of new irrigation technology, at a cost of more than $400,000, and with no guarantee it will be as dependable as the open concrete channels and gravity-fed systems that have long watered these lands. … What Leimgruber is pursuing on his acreage is part business savvy and part guarding against a drier future. Like many farmers in this region, he’s figuring out how to keep growing his crops with less water. Two decades of drought have shrunk the Colorado River, which feeds farms in the Imperial Valley, an agricultural oasis fed solely by the 82-mile All-American Canal, which delivers river water to this arid Southern California region.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

As the Colorado River declines, some upstream look to use it before they lose it

With the nation beginning to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy like solar and wind power, oil and gas companies are beginning to plug their wells here. So local leaders are looking for the next economic development opportunity. And they may have found their solution—divert more Colorado River water with a new dam and reservoir that will generate more hydropower, irrigate more agriculture and store more water for emergencies. They’re not alone in that quest. Wyoming ranchers are pushing for a new dam to be used for irrigation. Colorado has some diversions already under construction, with more proposed across the state, to help fuel growth. Across the states of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River—Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico—new dams are rising and new reservoirs are filling …

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Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

California’s reservoirs above historic averages as fall approaches

As the final days of summer near, California’s reservoirs are in a position they have not been in for some time, they still have a significant amount of water in them. As of Thursday, all but Trinity Reservoir near Redding and Casitas near Ventura are at or above their historic average levels, according to the California Department of Water data exchange. … Most reservoirs are also still well above 70 percent of their total capacity, with Lake Cachuma having the highest total capacity percentage of 95 percent. The Department of Water Resource told that not since 2019 has California seen most of the major state reservoirs above their average level for the given time of year. Just a year ago, California’s two largest reservoirs Shasta and Oroville were at 34 percent and 36 percent of their total capacity respectively.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

When drought gripped Minnesota in 2021, farmers increased water usage

The drought that gripped Minnesota in the summer of 2021 was one of the worst on record. Day after day a blazing sun shriveled leaves, dried up waterfalls and turned ponds to puddles. In a state known for its 10,000 lakes, many people could do little except hope for rain. But big farmers had another option. They cranked up their powerful irrigation wells, drenching their fields with so much water that they collectively pumped at least 6.1 billion gallons more groundwater than allowed under state permits. Nearly a third of the overuse happened on land affiliated with one company, R.D. Offutt Farms.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: Why you should give a damn about America’s dams

This summer’s unprecedented floods across the U.S. highlight how a massive piece of infrastructure — the nation’s 90,000-plus dams — can play the role of hero or villain in these climate-enhanced calamities. … [I]n 2017, 200,000 people were evacuated downstream of California’s massive Oroville Dam when flood waters, combined with design and construction weaknesses, resulted in a $1 billion repair bill. In the arid western states, drought rather than floods often causes dams to make the news. Colorado River reservoirs supply drinking water to 40 million people in seven states but face increasing challenges — and decreasing water levels — with a multi-year drought across the region. And dams serve other roles — navigation, irrigation, recreation and, of course, electricity generation.
-Written by Dan Reicher, a Senior Scholar at Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability; and Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Rivers; and Malcolm Woolf, CEO of the National Hydropower Association.  

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Why Folsom Lake losing water to evaporation is not a problem

Folsom Lake has plenty of water heading into the fall. As of Wednesday morning, the reservoir is at 73% of capacity. That is the highest the water level has been in early September since 2019. … At this point in the year, the reservoir is drawn down as managers send water to local customers and provide for environmental needs. At the same time, a notable amount of water is lost to the dry air sitting just above it through evaporation. … Last month, evaporation accounted for 6,500 acre-feet of water loss at the lake, a rate of about 100 cubic feet per second. Lessard said that compared to the size of Folsom, which can hold more than 900,000 acre-feet, that loss is relatively small.

Aquafornia news Time

Opinion: America should harvest a trillion gallons of rainwater

Over the weekend, Burning Man attendees were forced to shelter in place when the usually-parched Black Rock Desert got roughly 3 months’ worth of rain in 24 hours. … In the U.S., there’s strikingly little mainstream discussion of scaling what’s arguably the simplest, cheapest and most sustainable solution for harvesting water: catching it from the sky. The time is ripe for a national policy agenda to dramatically scale up rainwater harvesting. Around the world, humans have been systematically gathering rainwater since ancient times. The technologies are simple: Collect rainwater from rooftops—on homes, warehouses, factories—and send it down gutters into tanks, where it can be filtered and used for domestic purposes, landscaping, or industrial processes. For farms, harvesting rainwater typically means configuring land with slopes and basins that maximize natural irrigation.
-Written by Justin Talbot Zorn, senior adviser to the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Israel Mirsky is a New York-based writer and technologist. 

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

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

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

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

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Combined Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino storage at highest level ever for this time of year

Remember this time last year, when water stores depleted by several years of drought left water managers and consumers alike hoping desperately for a wet winter ahead? Well, Sonoma Water says the region’s main reservoirs — Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino — ended this August with the highest combined storage level since 1985, the first full year the newly constructed Lake Sonoma was filled. This, less than nine months after the reservoir on Dry Creek reached its lowest level in history on Dec. 9 — 96,310 acre feet, just more than a third full. Lake Sonoma now has nearly 240,000 acre feet in it, while Lake Mendocino, which is smaller, has nearly 84,000 acre feet, for a combined total of more than 322,000 acre feet. (An acre foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, or about the amount of water needed to flood most of a football field one foot deep.)

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California Senate candidates share a position on the Delta tunnel: no position

Most statewide California candidates blow off the Central Valley. There are more votes and media — and donors, of course — on the coast. But not this year. The Central Valley is up for grabs for Senate candidates vying to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The top three Democrats — who represent coastal districts in Los Angeles, Orange County and the Bay Area and aren’t well known in almond country — made a beeline last Saturday from a major union endorsement interview in Los Angeles to a $25-a-head fundraiser hosted by Rep. Josh Harder along the Stockton waterfront. … But while they’re all showing up to campaign in the Valley, none has crafted a position on a crucial aspect of the issue in America’s breadbasket that could give them an advantage over their rivals: water.  Specifically, the Delta tunnel, the proposed 45-mile conveyance tunnel through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: As Colorado River shrinks, California farmers urge ‘one-dam solution’

For years, environmentalists have argued that the Colorado River should be allowed to flow freely across the Utah-Arizona border, saying that letting water pass around Glen Canyon Dam — and draining the giant Lake Powell reservoir — would improve the shrinking river’s health. Now, as climate change increases the strains on the river, this controversial proposal is receiving support from some surprising new allies: influential farmers in California’s Imperial Valley. In a letter to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, growers Mike and James Abatti, who run some of the biggest farming operations in the Imperial Valley, urged the government to consider sacrificing the Colorado’s second-largest reservoir and storing the water farther downstream in Lake Mead — the river’s largest reservoir.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Commentary: Billionaire land buys threaten state ag, water resources

State Senator Melissa Hurtado and Congressman John Garamendi are sounding the alarm on the dangers of when billionaire investors gobble up ag land. On Aug. 29, Senator Hurtado, 16th District and chair of the State Agriculture Committee, hosted an informational hearing at the State Capitol to discuss the unprecedented land purchases in Solano County by Flannery Associates LLC; and to explore possible remedies to prevent private entities and foreign governments from acquiring California agricultural land. … “I don’t think it’s about building a city,” Hurtado said. “I think it’s about water and energy.” She mentioned the state’s futures water market. In 2020, California became the first state to create a futures market for water. With water in the futures market, this means investors are able to trade water the same way they have things like gold, or oil.

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Aquafornia news Lodi News

Local water district continues to modernize delivery system

The North San Joaquin Water Conservation District recently received some help from the federal government to ensure its ratepayers continue to receive water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that the district has been awarded a $1 million grant to make repairs and upgrades to its irrigation system. The investment will help make critical improvements to upstream level control, gates, and flow meters to meet delivery needs and support effective, safe groundwater management, the agency said. Jennifer Spaletta, the district’s attorney, said the grant money will be used to build a lateral off the south distribution system located near Handel Road.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada, other states lay out future goals for Colorado River

Nevada and the other Colorado River basin states are laying out their goals for the future of the river that supplies water to some 40 million Americans in the Southwest. States, cities, farmers, tribes, environmental groups and more submitted comments this month to the Bureau of Reclamation as part of the lengthy process for rewriting the rules that govern how the river and its major dams and reservoirs will be managed in the coming decades. The ideas run the gamut: from California farmers with the oldest and most senior rights calling for the new rules to follow the longstanding priority system, to calls for the federal government to evaluate retrofitting — or even decommissioning — Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell in order to protect water levels at Lake Mead.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun

Interior Department official, at water summit, lauds Nevada as a leader in conservation

There’s a saying used in Washington to describe the woes of conserving large sums of Colorado River water amid one of the worst droughts in the history of the Western United States. It was supposedly coined by the man who oversees Nevada’s largest water agency. “Here’s the fundamental problem: We have a 19th-century law and 20th-century infrastructure in a 21st-century climate,” says John Entsminger, the general manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. It’s a phrase he and others began to use throughout negotiations between the seven states dependent on the Colorado River for its water before they reached a tentative deal in May to conserve roughly 3 million acre-feet of water through 2026.

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Aquafornia news The Drinks Business

A simple vineyard strategy cuts water usage by one-third

The increasingly unpredictable climate is making growing grapes an increasingly risky and costly business. France recently lost an estimated $2 billion in wine sales after extreme weather decimated the harvest. In 2022, California farmers lost an estimated $1.7 billion to the drought alone, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California. And despite California’s abnormally wet winter in 2023, which helped replenish reservoirs and groundwater aquifers, experts warn that the wet weather won’t make up for decades of diminished rain and extended periods of drought. How much water a vineyard needs to produce great wine varies considerably, and while there is an increasing effort to dry farm, the vast majority of California vineyards are irrigated. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Lake Oroville’s water levels continue slow downward trend

Lake Oroville is down 40 feet from the start of the summer when the water level was at capacity thanks to a string of heavy winter storms. The storms also boosted the snowpack, allowing for consistent and often substantial runoff into the lake. Earlier this year, the California Department of Water Resources, which oversees the lake as well as the Oroville Dam, began releasing water from the reservoir’s main spillway in an effort to keep up with the inflows.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

A California land mystery is solved. Now the political fight begins.

[Jan] Sramek is leading a group of Silicon Valley moguls in an audacious plan to build a new city on a rolling patch of farms and windmills in Northern California was the unofficial beginning of what promises to become a protracted and expensive political campaign. … After that comes a gantlet of environmental rules, inevitable lawsuits and potential tussles with the state’s Air Resources Board, the Water Resources Control Board, Public Utilities Commission and Department of Transportation — not to mention the local planning commission and board of supervisors who oversee land use in Solano County.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Why Sites Reservoir is not the water solution California needs

California is at yet another critical point in its struggle toward a sustainable water future, and yet we’re still talking about the wrong solutions. On Wednesday, the water rights protest period for Sites Reservoir will come to a close. Sites Reservoir is the latest in a long line of proposed dams promising to end our cycle of water insecurity. However, Sites won’t add much to California’s water portfolio, and its harm to the Sacramento River, Delta ecosystem and communities that rely on them could be irreversible and ongoing.
-Written by Keiko Mertz, the Policy Director for Friends of the River.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

What we know about the new city proposed in the Bay Area

The saga surrounding a group of mysterious investors who have spent more than $800 million to buy up thousands of acres of farmland in rural Solano County has gripped Bay Area residents, local politicians and federal government agencies. Last week, the Chronicle reported that the investors were revealed to be a group of Silicon Valley notables who seem to be gearing up to build a new city. Here is what is known about the effort, according to Chronicle reporting … And a myriad of questions surround the project, including where its water will come from, how developers would address the area’s risk for flooding and extreme heat due to climate change, the impacts to the state’s agriculture distribution chain, and transportation concerns in an area currently serviced by a two-lane highway.

Aquafornia news GV Wire

Opinion: Farmers flush with water now, but state still hasn’t prepared for the next drought

For most of the state, the drought is over. The Central Valley is receiving their full state water supply allocation and farmers don’t need to pull water from the ground to keep their crops from dying of thirst. But that doesn’t mean the signs along Interstate 5 and Highway 99 grumbling about the “Politicians Created Water Crisis” and the Valley’s man-made dust bowl, and asking if “Growing Food Is Wasting Water?” should be taken down. The abundance won’t last forever, and the farmers eventually will be back where they were before record rain and snow provided them with a bounty of life-giving water. That could be avoided, though, if policymakers got busy building needed water infrastructure.
-Written by Kerry Jackson, a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.​

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California is now practically drought-free, but we keep wasting so much rainwater

Almost all of California is finally drought-free, after Tropical Storm Hilary’s rare summer drenching added to this winter’s record-setting rainfall totals. But despite all that drought-busting precipitation, California continues to capture only a percentage of that water. Much of the abundance in rain from Hilary ended up running off into the ocean — not captured or stored for future use, when California will inevitably face its next drought. … Following the torrent of winter storms from a parade of atmospheric rivers, much of California pulled out of drought conditions after three of the state’s driest years on record. And Hilary continued to build on that trend — pulling one of the state’s driest regions out of such dire conditions.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Klamath Project irrigators might lose remaining water allocation

Water users in the Klamath Project may lose their remaining water allocations following a warning from the Bureau of Reclamation sent out last Friday. The letter tells irrigators “… there is projected to be a shortfall in the Sept. 30 Upper Klamath Lake elevation of 4139.2 feet that was identified in the May 18, 2023, update to the 2023 Annual Operation Plan. This situation is likely to require a reduction in project water supply in order to minimize or eliminate the shortfall.” The letter from Reclamation said the department will continue to explore actions to mitigate any reductions, but encourages contract holders to conserve their supplies.

Aquafornia news Water News Network

News release: Dan Denham appointed San Diego County Water Authority general manager

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors August 24 voted unanimously to appoint Dan Denham as general manager. The appointment follows the June retirement of former General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. Denham has served in several leadership capacities with the Water Authority for the past 17 years, including his most recent post as deputy general manager. In that role, he oversaw the MWD and Colorado River programs, along with the Engineering, Water Resources, and Operations & Maintenance departments. Denham also continues to oversee the implementation of long-term agricultural-to-urban conserved water transfers that are among the largest in the United States. As a commissioner on the Quantification Settlement Agreement Joint Powers Authority, he leads the Water Authority’s fulfillment of environmental mitigation obligations and legislative advocacy efforts at the Salton Sea.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Monday Top of the Scroll: Could the Chinese government fund construction of huge new dam at Pacheco Pass?

Six years after unveiling plans to build a 320-foot high dam and reservoir at Pacheco Pass in southern Santa Clara County, the largest water district in Silicon Valley still hasn’t found any other water agencies willing to help fund the project. But this week, an unusual potential partner came to light: China. The revelation of interest from one of the United States’ most contentious rivals is the latest twist in the project’s shaky history: The price tag has tripled to $2.8 billion since 2018 due to unstable geology found in the area. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is pursuing the plan, has delayed groundbreaking by at least three years, to 2027, instead of 2024 as announced five years ago. And environmentalists won a lawsuit this summer that will require more study of how ongoing geological work will affect endangered plants and animals. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

New administrator assigned to help with Teviston’s water woes

The state has assigned an engineering company to take control of, and improve, the water system in the small Tulare County town of Teviston. Teviston, a rural community of about 460 people, has been hard hit by water problems for years. The town well broke down in the drought of 2021, leaving families without water and many without any way to cool themselves in soaring summer temperatures. Its water is also contaminated by 1,2,3, TCP, a dangerous carcinogen.  The state Water Resources Control Board gained the authority to appoint administrators to water systems in 2018. Appointed administrators take over struggling systems that can’t deal with issues ranging from water quality to technical and managerial challenges.

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

New TID reservoir brings water saving benefits

Turlock Irrigation District’s newly completed $10 million Ceres Main Regulating Reservoir west of Keyes was unveiled Tuesday, with the district’s board of directors touring the new facility. Operational for nearly two weeks, the reservoir is capable of holding 220 acre feet of water (about 220 football fields each submerged in 1 foot of water) and is expected to save some 10,000 acre feet of water each year. … The reservoir will capture fluctuations in water flow from the Ceres Main Canal and pump the stored excess water back into the Ceres Main Canal to improve customer service downstream, lessen the need for groundwater pumping, and reduce water loss from the canal system.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado lawmakers: AZ, CA must do their part before state agrees to water cuts

A panel of state lawmakers who lead in the water and agriculture space said any water conservation program Colorado conceives of shouldn’t go into place until after California and Arizona first take action. The bipartisan panel spoke Wednesday at Colorado Water Congress about the water policies passed in the last legislative session, and where they see Colorado water policy headed in the next year.

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Aquafornia news New York Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: What the rain from Hilary means for California’s fire risk

As most Californians know all too well, the rain that drenched the state this week was extreme and often record-breaking. As Tropical Storm Hilary passed through California, more rain fell in San Diego and Los Angeles on Sunday than on any other August day on record. The same was true in the desert city of Palm Springs, which received about 70 percent of its annual average precipitation in a 24-hour period, according to Mark Moede, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Diego office. “You look at those numbers, and you have to look at it twice to say, ‘Is this really real?’” Moede told me. Hilary arrived during what is usually California’s driest time of year, and the peak of the state’s fire season. Seven of the 20 largest wildfires in California history started in August.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Western states stake out positions on future of lakes Mead, Powell

Colorado River Basin states don’t agree on very much when it comes to the future operations of the basin’s largest water savings banks. One thing they do agree on: The current rules aren’t working. The seven states with land in the Colorado River Basin and other stakeholders submitted comment letters Aug. 15 to the federal government for consideration as part of ongoing discussions over future operations at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which together comprise 92% of the basin’s entire storage capacity. The federal long-term planning process launched in June, a year after a storage crisis left water users reeling. From 2000 to 2022, Mead and Powell dropped from nearly full to less than 32% capacity, as of March 20. Water experts attribute the crisis to prolonged drought, an increasingly warm climate and overuse.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Southern California’s ‘water doctor’ pushes for transformation to adapt to climate change

When Adel Hagekhalil speaks about the future of water in Southern California, he often starts by mentioning the three conduits the region depends on to bring water from hundreds of miles away: the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. As general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Hagekhalil is responsible for ensuring water for 19 million people, leading the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of drinking water. He says that with climate change upending the water cycle, the three existing aqueducts will no longer be sufficient. … For Southern California to adapt, Hagekhalil said, it will need to recycle more wastewater, capture stormwater, clean up contaminated groundwater, and design new infrastructure …

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

The Big Melt transformed California. A journey down a great river shows how

The historic snowstorms that buffeted California this year fundamentally changed a state gripped by years of drought. From reducing fire risk to shoring up salmon runs to satisfying the thirst of faraway cities and farms, the state’s white-topped mountains have unleashed a torrent of melting snow that has touched nearly every aspect of life in California. From the peaks to the Pacific, it has been branded “The Big Melt,” and it continues to deliver well into summer. Water is the fuel of California, and decisions about who gets to use it and how it is used are a source of eternal conflict. What we can learn in a year of abundance will extend to the feared dry years ahead. One way to take stock of the melt is to travel 250 miles northeast of San Francisco to the headwaters of the Feather River, then follow the river back. 

Aquafornia news Pagosa Daily Posy

Opinion: Governors, farmers, cities put Glen Canyon Dam in crosshairs of Colorado River EIS

Strange times create strange bedfellows, as long-term water supply for farms and cities in the Lower Basin aligns with the best environmental alternative. The best solution for California, Arizona, and Nevada to achieve water supply security is to have the Colorado River bypass Glen Canyon Dam, drain Lake Powell’s water into Lake Mead, and let the Colorado River flow freely through Grand Canyon. As the comments are made public in the Post-2026 Colorado River Scoping EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) process, one thing is for certain: an alternative examining bypassing water around or through Glen Canyon Dam must be developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The usual suspects — mostly environmental groups — are calling for either completely decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam or bypassing the Dam to support the “Fill Mead First” alternative.
-Written by Gary Wockner, a scientist and conservationist based in Colorado. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water utility set to begin studies of new supply options

The Marin Municipal Water District is preparing to launch more in-depth studies of new water supply projects, beginning with assembling consulting teams. The district board is set to vote on contracts with new consulting teams next month to begin preliminary technical, environmental and engineering studies of larger, more complex projects. The projects include expanding local reservoir storage, constructing a brackish Petaluma River desalination plant and installing new pipelines to transfer Russian River water directly into local reservoirs. Unlike the broader study completed earlier this year that identified which of the supply options the district could pursue, the more in-depth analyses are needed to provide details on how and whether they can be built, as well as the costs and environmental impacts.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

Phoenix maintains drought status despite federal change

Phoenix officials said this week the city will remain in a stage 1 water alert even though the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced a return to a tier 1 shortage on the Colorado River in 2024 as a result of a wet winter that elevated levels at lakes Powell and Mead. “While this favorable winter provides temporary relief to the Colorado River system, Phoenix, which receives 40% of its water from the river, is asking residents to continue conserving water due to the unpredictability of the river, prolonged drought and climate change,” city officials said in a release. Under the city’s drought management plan, a stage 1 water alert is declared when an insufficient supply of water appears likely due to water system or supply limitations, triggering an intensive public education and information program.

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

Commentary: Lawyers, votes and money – San Diego’s water wars

The Colorado River is healthier and Lake Mead is rising. That news is welcome but brings little joy in San Diego’s water world at the moment. A lawsuit between agencies has been authorized. Legislation that could block two small districts from getting cheaper water elsewhere hit a bump in the road in Sacramento. And a controversial hire by a water district that supplies San Diego County with water is being eyed warily by some officials. First, the good news. The massive snowpack from the winter storms has nourished the ailing Colorado River, a major source of water for San Diego and much of the Southwest.
-Written by columnist Michael Smolens. 

Aquafornia news Las Virgenes Municipal Water District

News release: OceanWell and Las Virgenes water district announce partnership to pilot California’s first ‘Blue Water’ farm

OceanWell and Las Virgenes Municipal Water District (LVMWD) announced today their partnership to pilot California’s first-ever Blue Water farm. LVMWD Board of Directors unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that paves the way for the public/private partnership to research an environment-first approach that addresses the increasing concern of water scarcity and reliability. Blue Water is fresh water harvested from the deep ocean or other raw water sources. This, first-of-its-kind project, will test OceanWell’s proprietary water purification technology to produce safe, clean drinking water without the environmental impacts of traditional coastal desalination methods. 

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Friant-Kern Canal project makes progress

Decades of land subsidence caused by unregulated and continued groundwater overdraft have caused the Friant-Kern Canal, which is a 152-mile gravity fed canal, to sink as much as 14 feet in the area between Porterville and Delano. This damage has resulted in a 60% loss of carrying capacity along the canal. This water supply impact has caused harm, not only to the farms that make the economic engine in the San Joaquin Valley run, but also to cities and communities, whose primary source of drinking water is from the underground aquifer. Now a fix is underway and progress is being made, says Friant Water CEO Jason Phillips.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Multiple dumped cars extracted near East Bay drinking water source

Cleanup crews for East Bay Municipal Utility District were busy Wednesday extracting four vehicles from near the San Leandro Reservoir, a key water source for Bay Area residents. The extraction comes just a day after the agency cleaned up 10 tons of material from a similar location on Tuesday and a month after extracting eight other abandoned cars in July. There’s been an epidemic of abandoned cars in the Bay Area for years, especially in the East Bay, but EBMUD spokesperson Andrea Pook says the problem was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Aquafornia news Center for Biological Diversity

News release: Bass population doubles below Glen Canyon Dam, worsening extinction risk for rare Grand Canyon fish

Federal researchers reported Wednesday that despite last fall’s eradication efforts the number of invasive smallmouth bass more than doubled in the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam since last year, imperiling the already threatened native humpback chub.

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Aquafornia news The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Fort Collins uncertain of future Colorado River rights

The Colorado River Basin supplies water to 40 million people. For seven U.S. states, including the headwater state of Colorado, it is an essential resource that sustains agriculture as well as local municipalities.  Since 2000, the amount of water consumed from the basin has exceeded its natural flow. This has led to historic lows in the nation’s two largest surface water reservoirs: Lake Mead and Lake Powell. This overuse puts 40 million of those water users at risk of water scarcity, which has led to renegotiations of water rights detailed in the Colorado River Compact within the past several years as well as local negotiations and agreements. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Colorado River Basin ranks among the world’s most water-stressed regions, analysis finds

A research effort tracking water scarcity around the world shows California, Arizona and other Western states are experiencing water stress at high levels similar to arid countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The analysis by researchers with the World Resources Institute found that all seven states that rely on the Colorado River face high or extremely high water stress. Arizona ranked first for the most severe water stress in the country, followed by New Mexico and Colorado, while California ranked fifth.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2023
Field Trip - October 18-20

SOLD OUT - Join the waitlist here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beckman Center
Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map By Douglas E. Beeman

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Photos: How Hetch Hetchy Valley went from natural paradise to concrete basin

Rare photos show the transformation of Hetch Hetchy Valley from untouched paradise to home of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, which supplies some of the country’s cleanest water to 2 million people in San Francisco and beyond.

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

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

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

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

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map
Published March 2021

Delta Map for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

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

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

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

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

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

Related articles: 


2020 Class Report

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

Western Water Colorado River Bundle By Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Gary Pitzer

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

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

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

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

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

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 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.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

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

Dear Western Water readers:

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

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

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

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

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

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


2018 Class Report

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

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventbrite - Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?

Beckman Center
Auditorium - Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Headwaters Tour 2018

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

Headwaters tour participants on a hike in the Sierra Nevada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

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

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

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

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

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

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


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Event included optional Delta Tour

One of our most popular events, Water 101 details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop gives attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource.

McGeorge School of Law
3285 5th Ave, Classroom C
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Flood Management

Atmospheric Rivers

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

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

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

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

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

Headwaters Tour 2019
Field Trip - June 27-28

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

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

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

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

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

Northern California Tour 2018

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

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


San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

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

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Land Subsidence Gary Pitzer

State Taking Steps to Manage Subsidence-Related Impacts to California Aqueduct
Department of Water Resources to spend $5 million for quick fixes, as it assesses longer-term repairs

For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley, farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This has caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that can never be restored.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Enhancing California’s Water Supply: The Drive for New Storage
Spring 2017

One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.

In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Rules Set for Prop. 1 Funding for New Water Storage Projects

A critical aspect of California’s drive to create new water storage is in place after the California Water Commission approved regulations governing how those potential storage projects could receive public funding under Prop. 1.

The Dec. 14 decision potentially paves the way for new surface water projects, such as Sites Reservoir, and expansion of Los Vaqueros reservoir in Contra Costa County.

Western Water Magazine

Is California’s Water Supply Resilient and Sustainable?
January/February 2015

This issue looks at sustainability and resiliency and what the terms mean for California’s water.


The Lower Yuba Accord: From Controversy to Consensus
Published 2009

This 24-page booklet details the conflict between environmentalists, fish organizations and the Yuba County Water Agency and how it was resolved through the Lower Yuba River Accord – a unique agreement supported by 18 agencies and non-governmental organizations. The publication details the history and hydrology of the Yuba River, past and present environmental concerns, and conflicts over dam operations and protecting endangered fish is included.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (20 min. DVD)

20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (60 min. DVD)

For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and California border has faced complex water management disputes. As relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp, farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists – all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water. After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the documentary here.