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.
California’s 2018 Camp Fire was the deadliest blaze in state
history. … From all that destruction, a mysterious threat has
emerged for those who appeared to have gotten by unscathed:
household water supplies with concentrations of toxic
benzene—including one sample that had 923 times what the state
considers safe. More than nine months after the fire, the
Paradise Irrigation District still has a “do not drink” order
unless individual parcels have been cleared.
The small channel island near Brannan Island can be found about
one hour south of Sacramento in the Delta’s fresh-water Seven
Mile Slough, in Sacramento County. The marina and resort have
been in operation for more than 60 years.
Senate Bill 1 is seen as a pre-emptive strike by California
lawmakers before the Trump administration ushers in new
biological opinions to alter water deliveries through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Woodland is sitting atop what is essentially an underground
reservoir containing millions of gallons of freshwater. And for
much of the past three years, the city has been banking excess
water during the winter months to use during the summer when it
isn’t allowed to make withdrawals from the Sacramento River.
While there’s no court action yet, the Water Authority is
gearing up for what in the water world amounts to a rare change
in relationship status. After decades buying water from the
Water Authority, Rainbow and Fallbrook want a divorce.
Water users in the Colorado River Basin have survived the
drought through a combination of water storage infrastructure
and voluntary actions to protect reservoir storage and water
supply. Adoption of drought contingency plans this summer,
developed over years of collaborative negotiation, takes the
next step by implementing mandatory action to reduce risk and
protect limited water supplies.
While researching the impacts of industrial site restoration on
aquatic ecosystems in the Coyote Creek watershed, a major
tributary in the southern San Francisco Estuary, scientists
with the University of California, Davis, observed surprisingly
high densities of reproductive adult smelt in the marshlands,
which were not previously known to be heavily exploited by the
A new method to measure pore structure and water flow is
described in a study published in the journal Water Resources
Research. With it, scientists should be able to more accurately
determine how fast water, contaminants, nutrients and other
liquids move through the soil — and where they go.
A jury has ordered Shell Oil Company to pay the City of Atwater
a total of $63 million in damages in a groundwater pollution
suit. The decision, reached Friday after a four-month trial in
Merced County Superior Court, awarded Atwater $53 million in
compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages,
according to a news release from the city.
Last fall, the district began construction on a project to
remove sediment from the Littlerock Dam reservoir to increase
its storage capacity, but the winter rain flooded the
construction site and halted work for more than six months.
Wednesday, the EPA issued an emergency order saying the water
for nearly 2,000 residents was contaminated with dangerously
high levels of arsenic, a cancer-causing compound occurring
naturally in groundwater. The contamination is causing concern
of children in the community getting sick with symptoms that
match those of arsenic poisoning.
Increasingly, California’s water will come from transforming
the water we flush down our toilets, sinks, and washing
machines into sparkling, pure water. Indeed, potable water
reuse seems like a no-brainer. So why don’t we do it? In some
places, we already do, and those places have lessons for the
rest of the state and beyond.
A state court of appeal has upheld a Shasta County Superior
Court decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from doing
an analysis of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam.
The Westlands Water District had asked the California Third
District Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s
preliminary injunction that ordered the district to stop work
on an environmental impact report.
The City Council agreed to allow rate increases for California
Water Service customers of roughly 13 percent each of the next
three years. … For the average family paying $71.43 per month
on a water bill, the cost would increase by $9.31 the first
year, $9.25 the second year and $10.35 the third year, based on
a projection by Cal Water officials.
Escondido is moving forward on a reverse osmosis treatment
facility that will reduce the city’s wastewater and also
provide more recycled water for agricultural use. The project
will divert millions of gallons of water from the discharge
pipeline, and turn it into highly treated irrigation water.
It’s expected to begin construction in early 2020…
Finding a river in the West that still behaves like a Western
river — one that rises and falls with the annual rush of
melting snow — is tough. … But one major Western waterway
has achieved almost mythical status for its wildness: the Yampa
in northwestern Colorado.
There are a lot of reasons our watershed is unique. It’s a high
elevation terminal watershed, what could be more special? Well,
another contributing factor is that the terminus of the Truckee
River watershed exists on the largest Native American
Reservation in Nevada.
The Paso Robles groundwater basin is one of three basins in the
state chosen to participate in a Stanford University study that
will deploy state-of-the-art aerial electromagnetic technology
to better understand its characteristics.
Water deliveries in the Fresno Irrigation District typically
end in September, but they could last until November this year.
The extra deliveries will allow growers to not only irrigate
but also to bank some water for future use.
What Public Works Director Mark Houghton touts as “Manteca’s
own refinery” is now converting methane gas generated at the
wastewater treatment plant along with food waste to produce
compressed liquefied gas. And in doing so, Manteca is well on
its way to effectively wiping out all CO2 impacts the
wastewater treatment process creates and then some.
Critics say the plan, out for public comment through Sept. 25
before final adoption by the Utah Division of Water Resources,
goes too easy on the surging St. George metro area, where daily
per-capita water use exceeds 300 gallons — a high number some
officials say is deceiving. The plan looks for a 16% reduction
averaged across the state by 2030 and up to 20% in much of
When California voters legalized cannabis in 2016, supporters
of Proposition 64 hoped it would significantly reduce the
scourge of black market weed cultivation, particularly on
public lands. Yet nearly two years later, illegal marijuana
grows are still rampant across wide swaths of the national
forests in California, leaving behind a trail of garbage, human
waste, dead animals and caustic chemicals.
At the 2019 California Water Law Symposium, Professor Dave Owen
from UC Hastings gave the following overview presentation of
California water rights, including types of water rights,
governing agencies, and sources of regulatory authority, as
well as a brief overview of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater
Under the plan, Seaside’s Bayonet & Black Horse golf course
would stop pumping the 450 acre-feet of drinking water it draws
every year from the area’s underground basin. Instead, the
greens would get irrigated using recycled water produced by
Pure Water Monterey, the advanced sewage treatment facility in
Marina that is slated to open this fall. The water that stays
in the basin would be made available to developers who want to
build in Seaside.
Residents of the Larkfield Estates neighborhood north of Santa
Rosa who lost their homes in the October 2017 Tubbs Fire are
asking a builder to help them build a new sewer system this
year that is as affordable as possible.
Here we provide an updated account of Suisun Marsh fishes to
show why the marsh is so important for conserving fishes in the
upper San Francisco Estuary in general…and why we continue to
be enthusiastic about working there.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District has been part of the San
Diego County Water Authority since it was formed in 1944, but
FPUD is now investigating the possibility of detaching from the
water authority and becoming part of the Eastern Municipal
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will host a
public comment session on California’s Water Future on
Thursday, September 5, 2019 in Fresno. … State agencies are
asking Californians to help shape a roadmap for meeting future
water needs and ensuring environmental and economic resilience
The state passed a law a few years ago that required public
schools built before 2010 to test for lead in their drinking
fountains before July 2019. Nearly 80% of schools have reported
some testing. Of those, one in five school sites found lead
levels of more than five parts per billion.
Known to locals as “Long Beach,” it’s part of the San Leandro
Shoreline Marshlands and once stretched at least 23 miles. The
most recent official estimate done back in 2008 put the beach
at seven miles amid development and rising sea levels.
Los Angeles County residents will see a new charge on their
property tax bills this fall. Measure W, which was approved by
county residents last November, will implement a parcel tax
that is intended to increase stormwater capture. The intent is
to increase local water supply, improve water quality and
invest in community projects.
Friant Water Authority is conducting geotechnical
investigations this summer along the outer banks of the
Friant-Kern Canal in southern Tulare County to determine if the
soil may support construction of a second canal running
parallel to the first. The reason for the research is the
capacity of this key, eastside Valley canal has been reduced
60% due to land subsidence caused by years of vigorous
groundwater pumping …
A new class action lawsuit accuses the Coachella Valley Water
District of illegally taxing customers to benefit large
agricultural companies. … Under the Burns-Porter Act, a local
water district’s revenue can only be used for a few specific,
voter-approved purposes. According to the suit, using tax
dollars to fund aquifer replenishment and subsidizing
agricultural water use are not appropriate uses.
ASU Now spoke to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for
Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy,
about the cutbacks and what they will mean for Arizona’s
agriculture and the state’s roughly 7 million residents.
Michelle Newcomer is a research scientist in Berkeley Lab’s
Earth & Environmental Sciences Area with expertise in
hydrological and biogeochemical aspects of environmental
issues, especially in watersheds and river environments. Now
she is turning her expertise to algal blooms…
The intent of the Salton Sea restoration is to mitigate losses
of habitat for wildlife as the Salton Sea shrinks. However,
mitigating lost habitat by replacing it with something harmful
does not result in any benefits to wildlife; in fact, it makes
things worse by creating a new exposure pathway that subjects
wildlife to contaminants.
Environmental groups are calling for increased scrutiny of
California’s oil and gas industry after learning that more than
50 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the ground in an
uncontrolled release near a Chevron facility in Kern County
over the last 16 years.
With water scarcity a growing problem worldwide, University of
California, Berkeley, researchers are close to producing a
microwave-sized water harvester that will allow you to pull all
the water you need directly from the air — even in the hot,
The Department of Water Resources is continuing to work on the
environmental planning and permitting to modernize State Water
Project infrastructure in the Delta. This effort is consistent
with Governor Newsom’s direction and support for a
single-tunnel project to ensure a climate resilient water
While the guidelines are the strictest, most-health protective
levels proposed in the nation for these two PFAS chemicals, we
are deeply disappointed by the Water Board’s decision to focus
on just two of the many PFAS that have been detected in
California drinking water.
The California State Water Resources Control Board has
strengthened notification requirements for a potential
carcinogen found in wells across the state, including Santa
Clarita, officials said Monday. The state water board updated
guidelines for local water agencies … to follow in detecting
and reporting perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and
perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water.
Shares of water resource specialist Cadiz (NASDAQ:CDZI) have
jumped 19.5% this month through Aug. 23, while the S&P 500,
including dividends, is down 4.3%. … The catalyst for Cadiz
stock’s August pop was the company’s announcement that it has
entered the U.S. hemp market.
State oil and gas regulators say they’re launching an
investigation of operations in a Kern County oil field after a
series of large, uncontrolled crude petroleum releases near
Chevron wells — including one that has continued on and off for
more than 16 years and may have spewed out more than 50 million
gallons of crude oil.
The Colorado is the most significant water supply source in the
West, but it carries an annual salt load of nine to 10 million
tons, said Don Barnett, executive director of the Colorado
River Basin Salinity Control Forum. … For the past 40 years,
the the forum has been “silently working away” at improving
water quality and lowering salt content on the Colorado, which
supplies water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico.
The researchers — many of whom have been active in the
program’s rule making and have challenged the agency before —
argue in the working paper that the emissions reductions in
California’s offset program are inherently uncertain. In some
cases, they wrote, the rules create “perverse incentives”
toward increasing planet-warming gases.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
Preliminary analyses of water samples collected by researchers
at the Desert Research Institute in Reno revealed the presence
of particles of synthetic fiber and bits of red and blue
plastic no bigger than the head of a pin. “On one level, we’re
heartbroken and disappointed by this discovery,” said Monica
Arienzo, an assistant research professor at the institute and
leader of the investigation.
Environmental groups are raising concerns over a provision in
draft legislation they believe could exempt the Las Vegas
pipeline — a proposal to pump eastern Nevada groundwater about
300 miles to Southern Nevada — from further litigation and
federal environmental review.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is
considering listing the Northern California Summer Steelhead,
which lives in portions of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as
an endangered species.
Local and professional foresters say they support a new
proposal by the U.S. Forest Service that would speed up logging
and cut some environmental review processes. The Forest Service
is proposing a sweeping amendment of The National Environmental
The iconic image of Lake Tahoe is of a clear, blue lake
surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains. But that
picturesque sight could look very different by the end of the
century due to climate change. Those snowy mountains we’re used
to seeing could lose their white tips. And this would mean a
major transformation for life in Tahoe and beyond.
Minimal restrictions, ample land and a strong farming tradition
have made Kern the state’s No. 1 hemp-growing county in the
four months since California began registering growers of the
non-psychoactive form of cannabis.
South County gets most of its water from groundwater, so this
project, part of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood
Protection Program that was overwhelmingly approved by voters
in 2012, is vital to ensuring a reliable water supply for the
Rocky Mountain water managers worried about climate-driven
depletion across the Colorado River Basin are mulling a “grand
bargain” that would overhaul obligations among seven
southwestern states for sharing the river’s water. This
reflects rising concerns that dry times could turn disastrous.
Fifth graders now have a space to learn everything about water,
from conservation to careers in the water industry. The Hydro
Station is an initiative of the Chula Vista Elementary School
District (CVESD), the Otay Water District and Sweetwater
Authority. This facility consists of a classroom right next to
the Richard A. Reynolds desalination plant, which is estimated
to receive about 4,500 students every school year.
Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America,
might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t
keep them in your home. The California Fish and Game Commission
is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets
may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.
We don’t get to see Castor canadensis, the 60-pound North
American beaver, in Sonoma County very often, so I jumped at
the invitation to see one up close at the Sonoma County
Wildlife Rescue. An orphaned young kit, little more than a year
old, is there for care and rehab before release to back to the
Moderator Kathleen Schock spoke with advocates on both sides of
the issue, John Harris of Harris Farms and Kim Delfino with
Defenders of Wildlife. Dr. Lisa Bryant, Assistant Professor of
Political Science at Fresno State also joined the conversation.
Many wild southern sea otters in California are infected with
the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, yet the infection is
fatal for only a fraction of sea otters, which has long puzzled
the scientific community. A study from the University of
California, Davis, identifies the parasite’s specific strains
that are killing southern sea otters, tracing them back to a
bobcat and feral domestic cats from nearby watersheds.
Most people pass by storm drains day in and day out, giving
little thought to them as conduits to local waterways — and
ultimately, the Russian River in much of Sonoma County. An
alliance of local cities, special districts and the county
wants to change that. The coalition has launched a regional
campaign to raise public awareness about the link between
surface streets and local creeks…
Restoration of nearly 1,600 acres of wetlands near Bel Marin
Keys is set to begin this year after the approval of $20
million in funding on Thursday. The state Coastal Conservancy
voted unanimously during its meeting in Sausalito on Thursday
to allocate the money to begin the first phase of
If you’re planning on visiting Big Bear Lake, avoid the water,
the state warned Friday. State and regional water quality
boards both urged dog owners, fishers and everyone else to
avoid direct water contact while visiting areas of Big Bear
Lake due to a harmful algae bloom.
Oxnard Assistant Public Works Director Tien Ng presented the
item and said the city wants to integrate the water, wastewater
recycled water and stormwater while looking for opportunities
to align projects on the same street. They want to do them at
the same time. Doing this enhances the schedule and cost for
Farmers, experts and lawmakers are working to find more
sustainable ways to droughtproof farms and address the vexed
issue of water allocation. And it turns out many farmers and
water experts in California are looking to Australia for
answers as they face up to the biggest water reforms in the
history of the US.
While some residents are unconcerned each summer as the algae’s
trademark scum appears atop stagnant water in the bays around
town, many are worried about the algal blooms’ toxic effects.
The Discovery Bay Community Foundation (DBCF) has formed a
harmful algae bloom (HAB) subcommittee, partnering with
agencies across the state to help mitigate the epidemic.
While the massive release of crude petroleum from a Chevron oil
well near the town of McKittrick seems to have ended, the
timeline for hauling away soil contaminated by the spill is
unclear. “The full extent of the required site remediation is
not known at this time and will be fully scoped with
appropriate regulatory agencies,” said Eric Laughlin, a
spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife…
Aquatic animals in regions like California that have
historically experienced frequent droughts have evolved
remarkable adaptations to dealing with dry conditions. However,
the duration, severity, and frequency of droughts are all
increasing as a result of ongoing climate change and an
increased human demand for water, leaving even drought-hardened
In 2014 California introduced the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into state law to help manage the
conflict between ground and surface water. But updating legal
structures to accommodate evolving scientific knowledge
involves far more than simply rewriting statutes, according to
researchers in the US.
California has long been a top producer of oil. But that may
change. Some hope that change will accelerate under Gov. Gavin
Newsom, who has called for a decrease in the demand and supply
of fossil fuels. A recent massive spill in Chevron’s Cymric
oilfield in Kern County, about 35 miles west of Bakersfield,
prompted a major regulatory shakeup and could bolster that
The Forest Resilience Bond uses private capital to finance
forest restoration activities. Beneficiaries, including the
U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection, reimburse investors over time. Yuba Water
has pledged $1.5 million toward the project and the state of
California has committed $2.6 million in grant funding, with
additional funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
All residents and organizations within the Indian Wells Valley
will have to implement register their wells come Oct. 1
following the approval of an ordinance by the Indian Wells
Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
After four years, San Francisco Zoo officials wrapped up a
successful reintroduction program Monday by releasing the last
of more than 1000 red-legged frogs into Yosemite National Park.
The zoo began partnering with the National Park Service and
Yosemite Conservancy in 2015 to reintroduce the threatened
frogs back into Yosemite National Park…
The idea of conserving the marsh was not popular with most of
the residents and elected officials, and the McCoys were
frequent targets of threats and harassment. It was a rough and
tumble fight and there was a lot of money at stake. Ignoring
personal risk, the McCoys launched their campaign to secure the
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article in which I — perhaps
cavalierly — described Los Angeles as a desert. … There was a
small part of me that raised a red flag as I pounded the words
into my keyboard. Is L.A. a desert, though? I thought. Haven’t
I also heard that it isn’t?
The ban passed last week means that about 8,000 Russian River
property owners are now looking at how to repair or replace
substandard or failing residential sewage disposal systems when
the new law goes into effect next year.
A piece of Riverside history could be revived if Councilman
Steve Adams can get the city to refill Hole Lake, an irrigation
and recreation reservoir for 60 years that’s now full of trees
and plants and, in some spots, trash and homeless camps.
Before electric refrigeration brought cheap and available ice
in the early 20th century, ice was harvested along Truckee’s
lakes and rivers. Truckee’s cold mountain air and readily
available clear streams created an ideal environment for ice
companies to create and harvest ice.
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,
Recent validation by state regulators of the effective and
sustainable management of Coachella Valley’s groundwater basins
speaks volumes about the importance of collaboration by local
water managers to protect our most important resource.
Finding a way to deal with the wastewater produced by a town
full of people is a challenge, one that’s forced the
McKinleyville Community Services District to find some creative
solutions. Officials are touting the emerging solution as a
win-win, a cutting-edge project that will serve the district’s
needs at minimal cost to ratepayers while also helping the
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
Farmers implementing conservation practices that improve soil
health aren’t just hoping for better crop yields, they’re
banking on them. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and
American Farmland Trust recently released case studies
highlighting the economic benefits of implementing soil health
“These are federal lands, and they are being systematically
destroyed through clear-cutting, stream diversion, chemicals
and pesticides,” said U.S. Atty. McGregor Scott at a news
conference, where he was joined by federal, state and local
officials who were part of the investigation. “It’s a vitally
A lot of money will soon be flowing into California communities
with contaminated drinking water thanks to the new Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Today at its meeting, the State
Water Board will talk about how to implement that $1.4-billion
program. One community that could use the help is north of Moss
A new legislative audit has concluded Washington County water
bosses will likely be able to generate sufficient revenue to
pay the massive costs of building and operating the proposed
Lake Powell pipeline, but only through large fee, rate and tax
increases and if the county triples its population during the
next 50 years.
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
On the modern farm, soil sensors, well monitors and paperwork
abound. The trick is trying to keep all that data organized. To
that end, a Monterey County winegrape grower, Scheid Family
Wines of Greenfield, came up with its own system, first called
VitWatch, to digitize information previously recorded on paper.
Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason
forecasts by about 50%, said Kandice Morgenstern, a marine
scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey
and San Francisco, but weaker along California’s northern
California’s forests aren’t healthy. After a century of
preventing and putting out fires, millions of acres of trees
are overcrowded, drought-stressed, and more than ready to burn.
A couple of hours from the Oregon border, one community is
asking how to do better.
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has increasingly
cracked down on commercial boat operators who escort passengers
into MPAs to illegally catch everything from rockfish to bass
to yellowtail. Wardens issued 1,053 warnings and 686 citations
for illegal fishing in the protected areas in 2017, according
to the agency’s most recently available data. That’s up
dramatically from 2013, when wardens gave out just 396 warnings
and issued 327 citations.
The plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not been
released, but water-resource managers in the region said they
have been collaborating with government agencies and
environmental groups to develop voluntary agreements that would
accomplish the goals of the state board’s flows-only
Lake Temescal in Upper Rockridge sits atop the Hayward Fault,
which passes underneath the right abutment of the manmade
lake’s aged dam. Experts agree that creep has been observed
near Lake Temescal Dam, but disagree on whether this indicates
the area is at risk of suffering major damage during a strong
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
Just a few months after completing the Drought Contingency Plan
for the Colorado River states, water managers in the southwest
will likely have to implement it starting in 2020. That’s
according to new projections for the levels of key reservoirs
in the southwestern river basin, and Arizona is first in line
to take water cutbacks.
One of the key factors when assessing fire danger is the
moistness of the vegetation. When it was raining all the time,
plants were soaking up a lot of that water, which helped them
produce new growth and keep their limbs well hydrated. Usually
by August, they’ve dried out to dangerously low levels, but
this year they’re holding on a bit longer, in part due to
cooler summer temperatures.
Newly released documents shed light on why a sewage processing
agency, Silicon Valley Clean Water, paid its general manager
$875,000 as part of a severance agreement, and it appears a big
part of that was equity the agency gave him in a $4.5 million,
six-bedroom home in the hills overlooking Redwood City.
Law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced a major
operation underway targeting illegal marijuana-growing sites in
the Sierra Nevada allegedly being operated by Mexican citizens
who are using a pesticide banned in the United States.
For a moment as columns of sunlight drifted through the pines
with the cobalt surface of Lake Tahoe in the background, it
seemed as though the partisan rancor so characteristic of this
political moment might temporarily evaporate. But such
congeniality was short lived, if it ever lived at all.
Outside the walls of the lab lies an environment increasingly
unfit for fish like delta smelt. The Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, some 40 miles inland from the San Francisco Bay, is a
1,100-square-mile tidal marsh that for millennia teemed with
salmon, shellfish, tule elk, deer, and waterfowl — all of which
supported a Native American population of about 300,000 people.
The headwaters of Blue Creek is also among the tribe’s most
sacred sites, said Gene Brundin, a member of the tribe’s
cultural committee. The stream begins at a place called Elk
Valley near Chimney Rock and its cold water ensures the
viability of the salmon runs, he said.
It could take two more years before the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District is ready to consider a resolution of
necessity to go ahead with eminent domain proceedings aimed at
a forced acquisition of California American Water’s local water
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
California’s water regulator voted Tuesday to spend $1.3
billion over the next 10 years to provide safe drinking water
to communities throughout California. The money allocated by
the State Water Resources Control Board comes from the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund, created last month when Gov.
Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 200.
Arguing that Monterey County officials improperly ignored new
groundwater impact information and a viable, even preferable
recycled water alternative, Marina Coast Water District has
sued the county and California American Water over the county’s
narrow approval of Cal Am’s desalination plant permit.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
Abalone is a much-sought-after delicacy with a sweet, delicate
flavor similar to a sea scallop, say those who’ve tried it. …
But as marine heat waves, ocean acidification, habitat loss,
and overfishing shrink the red abalone fishery, the sweet
delicacy is at risk of permanently losing its food source: the
The Clovis City Council in July approved an amended deal with
the Fresno Irrigation District concerning the conveyance of
Kings River water to the city’s water system. … The agreement
includes “the addition of a new water supply to meet future
City growth and support implementation of the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
While wildfires have gotten much of the attention in California
as consequences of climate change, it’s really rising sea
levels that will likely wreak the most damage. With more than
25 million people living near the coast, some $150 billion
worth of property is at risk.
Ask around and many agree: just the sight of water in the Kern
River on a hot day has its own cooling effect. … Lucky for
us, water is expected to remain in the river for weeks to come,
though it won’t be quite as deep and full as it has been in the
The more than 1 million Californians without access to safe,
affordable drinking water may soon see money flowing for water
districts to regionalize, consolidate, install treatment, or
take other actions to improve water quality.
The proposed rule would re-write EPA’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations and significantly narrow the authority
of states and Indian tribes when acting on Section 401
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
Although more fundamental ESA reform is needed, last week’s
action yielded modest and common-sense improvements to
implementation of an imperfect law. New efficiencies, clarity,
and transparency will serve the purposes of the ESA and the
In a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology,
scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the
National Marine Fisheries Service used statistical modeling to
determine an optimal water management plan that would protect
both species and ensure other water users would benefit as
There is something about a swimming hole that implies
elusiveness. Compare it to the beach, which, at least in
California, one could reach from just about anywhere by heading
west: The coast is a line, but a swimming hole is a dot on the
map, a point in space and time.
Despite being one of the wettest seasons, Cal Water officials
are saying conservation should be on Californians’ minds. Cal
Water special projects manager, Susan Cordone, said, “It is
important to continue to practice conservation. One wet winter
does not make it, allow us to go back to our old ways of using
water just as we wish.”
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
The desire to expand housing, commerce and other development
around metro Denver and on arid high plains once deemed
inhospitable has driven an innovative urban water broker to
build a $22 million reservoir on a ranch 70 miles east of the
city along the South Platte River.
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
The story behind a proposal to pump water from under the Mojave
Desert in San Bernardino County is a long and complicated one.
Since its approval in 2012, the Cadiz Valley Water
Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project has been tied up in
litigation from environmental groups, fought over in the state
legislature and faced hurdles by state and federal government
For most of the last 150 years, traditional Karuk burning
practices were criminalized. The Plan attempts to reverse all
this by re-establishing a more natural fire regime on the
landscape through prescribed burns at appropriate times of
Released on Friday, the 15-page plan authored by water district
general manager Dave Stoldt outlines a recommended approach to
meet the district’s formal policy of pursuing public control of
all “water production, storage and delivery assets and
infrastructure,” as established by voter-approved Measure J.
Although prescribed burns have been part of federal fire policy
since 1995, last year the Forest Service performed them on just
one per cent—some sixty thousand acres—of its land in the
Sierra Nevada. “We need to be burning close to a million acres
each year, just in the Sierras, or it’s over,” said Jeff Brown,
manager of a field station in the Tahoe National Forest.
Desalination began to lose its urgency among Californians and
their public officials two years ago, after the drought-busting
winter of 2016-17, when heavy rain and snow ended dry
conditions in most of the state. The idea of drawing potable
water from the sea became even less of a priority this year,
when an autumn of record-level fires gave way to one of the
state’s wettest winters on record.
Earlier this week, the Trump Administration announced final
regulations that would gut the Endangered Species Act
nationwide, weakening protections for our most imperiled
wildlife. … SB 1 is intended to help fill these gap to ensure
no backsliding in protecting clean air, clean water, and
A dozen conservationists gathered eagerly around the edges of
some shallow pools above a waterfall in the Angeles National
Forrest. They watched with anticipation as about a thousand
Southern mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles and three adult
frogs enjoyed their first few minutes of life in the wild.
Hydrogen sulfide is associated with the natural processes
occurring in the Salton Sea, a non-draining body of water with
no ability to cleanse itself. Trapped in its waters are salt
and selenium-laden agricultural runoff from surrounding farms,
as well as heavy metals and bacterial pollution that flow in
from Mexico’s New River, authorities said.
The California Tahoe Conservancy had planned to get started on
their $9 million, multi-stage Upper Truckee River project to
restore and enhance over 500 acres of floodplain this fall, but
that has been postponed until 2020. They will be redirecting
the Upper Truckee River flows to a historical network of
channels through the current Marsh while creating new channels
for the river in the vicinity of the Silverwood neighborhood.
The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) proposal arose from a belief
that Utah has an unused share of the Colorado River and a fear
of water shortages stifling Washington County’s rapid
population growth. Although many leaders across the state say
southern Utah needs the LPP, this statement is not based on
In a joint statement, the local utility providers announced
that the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project — a dam, reservoir,
spillway and powerhouse that generates electricity north of
Placerville on the South Fork of the American River — would be
changing hands after SMUD’s board of directors voted Thursday
evening to greenlight the purchase.
Los Angeles city and county representatives hosted a discussion
with state officials to address ways to increase local water
supplies and to support a proposed statewide water system. Los
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was joined Friday by the California
Secretary of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, and Secretary of
Environmental Protection, Jared Blumenfeld, to discuss the
city’s maintenance of its water sources.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
In a region that has already seen two 20-year droughts, the San
Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District continues to invest
in water supplies to help the region sustain prolonged
droughts. A new program offered by Valley District provides
financial incentive to local water agencies for projects that
produce recycled water or capture storm water.
Not every bloom is toxic, but the toxins produced by the
blue-green algae can be harmful and even deadly for pets when
they eat the algae or drink the water, even in small amounts,
water experts warn. Summer heat, stagnant or slow-moving water
and nutrients from agricultural or septic runoff are an ideal
recipe for the toxic stew.
Irvine Lake looks a lot different today than it did a year ago.
Last September the reservoir looked like a giant puddle at 13
percent of capacity, today, after a rainy winter, the water
covers the area and is ready to greet the public on Saturday,
Aug. 17. After a 3-year hiatus, Irvine Lake is reopening for
shoreline fishing on Aug. 17.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
On Tuesday, groups submitted a letter to California’s key
resource agencies responsible for preserving and managing the
state’s natural resources, urging the agencies to protect
drinking water and safeguard public health from the pending
request for exemption from federal safe drinking water rules in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County.
The City Council is split on how much to raise water rates over
the next five years to fund projects that will wean Santa
Monica off of imported water. … Bi-monthly water and
wastewater bills for single-family homes would increase by $23
on average under the lower rate structure and $36 under the
higher rate structure.
Conventional oil and gas production methods can affect
groundwater much more than fracking, according to
hydrogeologists Jennifer McIntosh from the University of
Arizona and Grant Ferguson from the University of Saskatchewan.
It was happy hour at the “Frog Shack,” a tiny building at the
Los Angeles Zoo offering all the amenities that Southern
California’s rarest — and perhaps fussiest — amphibians might
need to survive. … This is where Ian Recchio, the zoo’s
curator of reptiles and amphibians, is performing what some
call miracle work in keeping alive a federally endangered
species, one of the rarest vertebrates on Earth.
The twin earthquakes that rattled Southern California last
month caused up to $5.2 billion in damages to the China Lake
Navy base, according to estimates in a report released
Wednesday by the base. The report cites extensive damage among
the nearly 3,600 facilities at the base, including 1,341
buildings, as well was infrastructure like water supplies and
A team of researchers from Washington state recently studied
the effects of acidification on salmon’s sense of smell, also
known as “olfaction,” which is particularly important for
salmon to navigate back to their home streams to spawn. The
scientists made the alarming discovery that at the pH levels of
seawater predicted to occur in the next 50 to 100 years,
salmon’s sense of smell may be significantly impaired.
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water
from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a
set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to
reduce the risk of a crash.
In light of the recent groundwater modeling scenarios generated
by Indian Wells Valley Water Groundwater, some stakeholders in
the basin have pushed back, including Searles Valley Minerals
and Meadowbrook Dairy.
GAR Tootelian, a major agricultural chemical company, and
Families Protecting the Valley are rolling up their sleeves to
put up several hundred road signs calling for action to build
more dam storage and the message is simple: Dam Water Grows
Waverly Elementary School has levels of a chemical called TCP
in its drinking water that are above state standards. The
Linden Unified School District, which the school is part of,
tests for water contaminants throughout the year and found that
between April of 2018 and March of 2019 the water violated the
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
As the sun sets across Lake Tahoe, UC Davis researcher Brant
Allen and his team lower their sonar machine into the lake.
Thousands of little purple dots rise across the screen as they
cross the lake. … It’s not fish or Tahoe Tessie; it’s a horde
of tiny mysis shrimp, which researchers think have been making
the lake murkier since they were introduced in the 1960s.
In June, Kathy Joseph learned that the fungicide she has been
spraying on her grapes for decades could be drifting onto the
cannabis. Unlike food crops, cannabis can’t be sold if there’s
any trace of fungicide or pesticide in it, according to state
law. So while the county investigates, she’s using a more
expensive and far less effective spray on the grapevines that
are nearest to the cannabis farm.
An unprecedented survey has revealed the loss of about 85
percent of historical tidal wetlands in California, Oregon, and
Washington. The report, published today in PLOS ONE, also
highlights forgotten estuary acreage that might now be targeted
Two species of Klamath Basin sucker have been dying before they
can reach adulthood, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is showing
continued interest in expediting efforts already underway to
save the fish species.
Nowadays there’s about a 7 percent chance that snowy areas in
the western U.S. will get two really bad snow years in a
row—years with snowpack lower than a quarter of the long-term
average. But within a few decades, if climate change continues
apace, those bookending “snow droughts” could occur about 40
percent of the time, according to work published in August in
Geophysical Research Letters.
Californians, your yard sprinklers are about to get a little
bit more expensive. The good news is, your water bill is about
to get cheaper. California on Wednesday officially adopted new
regulations which are estimated to save more than 400 million
gallons of water per day within 10 years, enough to supply San
Diego, the second largest city in the state.
The Carpinteria Valley Water District is in the process of
forming a groundwater sustainability agency for Carpinteria
Groundwater Basin in partnership with the city of Carpinteria,
Santa Barbara County and Ventura County.
On Monday, Aug. 19, the Yurok Tribe, Green Diamond Resource
Company and Western Rivers Conservancy will celebrate a
decade-long, hard-won effort to preserve and place into tribal
ownership approximately 50,000 acres of forest surrounding four
salmon sustaining streams, including Blue Creek, according to
For five decades, PG&E paid for and operated the Colgate
Powerhouse in exchange for the revenue generated by the
hydroelectric generation. But now, instead of tens of millions
of dollars flowing out to the utility, that agreement has
expired and the revenue, potentially as much as $30 million per
year, is flowing back into the Yuba Water Agency.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its
projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key
reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona,
California and Mexico. After a wet winter, the agency is not
expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of
water. But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long
Earlier this year, Sacramento politicians introduced Senate
Bill 1 (SB1) which seeks to inject politics into California’s
environmental regulations. SB1 will restrict water deliveries
to the Central Valley and make California even more
unaffordable. SB1 puts our communities in danger.
A plume of toxic chemicals has tainted the groundwater for
decades, and it’s now at the center of a bitter fight over how
the aquifer should be cleaned up and what should happen to the
water in the future.
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
With big western cities clamoring for a share of the
river’s diminishing supply, desert farmers with valuable claims
are making multimillion dollar deals in a bid to delay the
inevitable. … But if the river’s water keeps
falling, more radical measures will be needed to protect
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
Butte County, California Water Service and Paradise Irrigation
District are kicking off the lengthy process on a project to
pipe water from Paradise to Chico. The project would seek to
restore some viability to PID, which lost most of its customers
after the Camp Fire. It would also reduce demands on the
groundwater basin currently used for water in Chico to boost
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
A new tool from the World Resources Institute for assessing
water stress around the globe is shedding much-needed light on
a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for fresh
water. But an article surveying the data assembled by WRI for
the digital New York Times this week missed the mark in
describing California’s situation, where water use tops all
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
A plan to increase mining depths at a 920-acre sand and gravel
mining facility between Livermore and Pleasanton will be
reviewed next week during a public meeting where citizens can
learn more about the possible impacts to water quality, water
management and flood channels.