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 environmentalists plan to file a new water bond
proposal with the secretary of state next week, a measure
backers say will provide critical money for programs that were
under funded by the $7.8 billion bond passed by voters last
A committee of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California is scheduled to meet today in closed session for
negotiations with Delta Wetlands Properties, the private
company that owns those four islands.
Two of California’s largest and most aggressive water agencies
have discussed buying four islands in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, prompting accusations by environmentalists and
Delta farmers that the land purchases could be used to engineer
a south state water grab.
Clout can be defined in many ways. In California’s parched
Central Valley farmlands, it’s the ability to secure water. By
that measure, the giant Westlands Water District has just set a
whole new standard.
Eleven local governmental bodies, trade groups, labor groups
and others have filed amici “friend of the court” support for
the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage
Project in a remote Mojave Desert section of San Bernardino
Gerald Meral, a former deputy secretary of the state’s Natural
Resources Agency, sent draft language for “The Water Supply
Reliability and Drought Protection Act of 2016” to water agency
officials, environmentalists and others in recent days.
A fight over Crystal Geyser Water Company’s plans to tap water
at the base of Mount Shasta is headed to court after a group
sued to block the company from starting up a bottling plant
that would produce sparkling mineral water, tea and juice
A coalition of non-profit organizations and businesses has
started a crowd-funding campaign called the California Drought
Relief Fund to provide assistance to families affected by the
state’s unprecedented drought and wildfires, said Dianne Saenz
of Climate Nexus.
Should the current drought extend for another two or three
years, most California cities and much of the state’s
agriculture would be able to manage, but the toll on small
rural communities dependent on well-water and on wetlands and
wildlife could be extensive.
Written by water and watershed experts working at the policy
[Public Policy Institute of California] center, at the
University of California, Davis, and elsewhere, the report
urges California to do more now to deal with what researchers
project to be the biggest drought crises of 2016 and 2017 -
crashing wildlife populations, raging wildfires and more and
more poor rural communities running out of water entirely.
While Southern California remains on track for a wet winter,
the forecast for Northern California is still cloudy. …
Precipitation in the top half of the state, where many of
California’s big reservoirs are located, is most important
water-wise, especially with supplies diminished after four dry
Working with the nonprofit Self-Help Enterprises, the drought
relief program will furnish a tank and small pump to restore
water for homeowners with dry wells. … The costs are covered
by the $1 billion drought relief package approved by Gov. Jerry
Brown in March, officials said.
As the state suffers through its fourth year of drought, most
Californians say the lack of water is the single most important
environmental issue facing the state, a dramatic increase over
the number who expressed similar concerns a year ago. A survey
by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California reported
that 58 percent of Californians ranked the drought as the top
issue — up 23 points from July 2014 and up 50 points from July
High in the San Bernardino Mountains, on a steep slope covered
with brush and ferns, a bunker-like stone structure protrudes
from the mountainside. Behind its locked metal doors, water is
collected from wells and flows into a pipe to fill bottles of
Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water.
By some estimates, hanging onto more stormwater—as opposed to
just cleaning it so it doesn’t wash pollutants into rivers,
aquifers and the ocean—could supply a city such as Los Angeles
with a third to half of the water it needs annually – and
reduce demand for water from up here.
The El Niño hitting the mountains of the north is critical
because California’s vast waterworks rely on rain and snow from
the Sierra to supply farms and cities. By contrast, much of the
rain that falls in Southern California ends up in the ocean.
It’s hard to know how many people are scrambling to get water
this summer. … If the long-term solution is waiting for well
driller to deepen a well, the quick-fix is calling a man with a
truck who will deliver water.
Fresno County supervisors want to lead an effort to get bond
money to build Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River
when funding becomes available in early 2017. … The county is
being pressed into action after the splintering of the Friant
Water Authority, said Supervisor Brian Pacheco.
For many Californians, the state’s long drought has meant small
inconveniences such as shorter showers and restrictions on
watering lawns. But in two rural valleys, the Coachella
southeast of Los Angeles and the San Joaquin to the north,
farmworkers and other poor residents are feeling its impact in
a far more serious and personal way.
With Gov. Jerry Brown imposing new mandatory water
reductions to respond to the statewide emergency, school
districts are grappling with how to adhere to those
requirements while continuing to meet the needs of students and
communities. … Some wells serving schools are drying up.
A plan to save endangered fish has pushed California’s fragile
water system almost to the breaking point, putting additional
strain on farmers while drawing down reservoirs at Folsom and
Oroville to historically low levels.
Water will continue to flow to Mountain House under a deal
reached Monday, and a separate water sale pending approval
Tuesday would slake the community’s thirst for the rest of the
year, officials said.
Mountain House, an upscale community near Tracy, learned of its
precarious situation this month when the State Water Resources
Control Board issued a notice ordering the [Byron Bethany
Irrigation] district to “immediately stop diverting
Cattle rancher Mary Wells lives in a remote valley of
summer-gold grass where eagles wheel in the sky, wild pigs roam
the surrounding hills and rattlesnakes slither over a parched
14,000-acre domain that looks almost untouched by humans.
On the perennially vexing subjects of water and the drought,
Gov. Jerry Brown has been on something of a roll. … The
drought has risen to the top of the list of Californians’
concerns, a new poll shows, and not just in regions of the
state where water is a constant problem.
In a fresh challenge to California’s management of the drought,
a group of environmentalists has sued state and federal
officials, charging that they’re harming fish and wildlife in
their efforts to deliver more water to farms and cities.
The Water Education Foundation’s flagship event, the 33rd
annual Executive Briefing, will be held March 17, 2016 in
Sacramento. The theme for this year’s Briefing is “Defining the
This is the go-to conference for water district managers and
board members, state and federal agency officials, city and
county government officials, farmers, environmentalists,
attorneys, consultants, engineers, business executives and public
Confirmed speakers include State Water Board Chair
Felicia Marcus and California Natural Resources
Secretary John Laird. See announcements on the
right-hand of this screen for more program information.
Doubletree by Hilton
2001 Point West Way, Sacramento, CA 95815
The Fresno City Council on Thursday bought some much-needed
water and brought some unexpected peace to a dust-control
program. … Weeks of negotiations with the Friant Water
Authority and the federal Bureau of Reclamation led to a
Protesters rallied outside a Nestle water-bottling plant in Los
Angeles today [May 20], demanding that the company halt its
operations in response to the state’s drought. A simultaneous
rally was held at a plant in Sacramento.
After spending decades trapped in the lower Yuba River,
endangered Chinook salmon could once again swim the cold pools
in the upper reaches of the waterway — staving off extinction
and settling a dispute that has lingered for years.
The permit that the bottled water company Nestle is using to
pipe water out of a national forest lists an expiration date of
1988, and it’s just one of hundreds of permits that the U.S.
Forest Service has allowed to fall out-of-date in
San Francisco is unreasonably monopolizing spectacular Hetch
Hetchy Valley by using it as a 117-billion-gallon reservoir,
says a new lawsuit in a decades-old fight to restore the
Yosemite National Park landmark.
Desalination promises a world with no limits. … That promise
is driving the $1 billion desalination plant that Poseidon
Water is set to open in Carlsbad this November. And it has
brought Poseidon within one permit of building a plant in
Representatives of the state’s almond farmers defended the
decision to expand California’s orchards, saying growers with
adequate water supplies are making rational economic decisions
based on the price they can get for their crop.
Communities in California’s seared Central Valley and arid
mountain foothills are expected to end this year’s rainless
summer with drinking water supplies so tight that they may give
out by September, according to state and local water
administrators. … The work to develop new water supplies and
to use existing water resources in new ways is testing
California’s resolve and is steadily evolving into dramatic
political battles that, for the time being, focus on water in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state’s hydrologic choke
The Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based think tank that focuses
on water issues, released a report Wednesday that shows total
water use in the United States declined over a period that
ended before the current California drought began.
Because of the complex network of irrigation districts,
reservoirs and contracts on the 300 square mile Klamath
Reclamation District, some farmers will get 100 percent of what
they do in a wet year, while others will get zero, said Greg
Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association.
Nature provided many bounties for the San Diego area — among
them beaches, mountains, a mild climate, grassy valleys and a
natural harbor. But it failed to provide that thing most
essential to life: water.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is overhauling its proposal
for a controversial tunnel project in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin delta in the wake of doubts about whether water
exporters can meet stringent federal conditions for operating
the system over a 50-year period.
Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and
Power Agency, said he has no doubts the water allocation to the
Klamath Project will be worse than last year, but irrigators
won’t know for sure until next week when the Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR) releases its 2015 Klamath Project Operations
Surface storage is the first and most important part of a
comprehensive water solution. Even the areas of the state with
the greatest potential to recharge groundwater require a steady
supply of water to fill the underground aquifers.
Most years, 85% of the wet season’s rain and snow has already
fallen by late March. While rain often falls in April and May,
it is rarely enough to make a big difference in the overall
water picture, and the forecast is now quite dry. That means
California’s water managers now have a good idea how much water
will be available in the state’s reservoirs, snowpack, and
While Yuba City residents are looking at the likelihood of
mandatory water restrictions for the rest of this year,
Marysville citizens aren’t facing the same water challenges.
… Q&A: Marysville’s Water Supply
A long-delayed draft environmental impact report for the
710-acre Monterey Downs race track and equestrian-themed
development on Fort Ord confirms what has been known for some
time; there’s only enough water for part of the massive
proposal until new water supply projects are completed.
Pressured by a relentless drought that produced the lowest
winter snowfall in history and shows no signs of lifting,
California’s local and state government administrators are
responding with emergency measures that reflect their concern
that the state is actually running out of water.
The drought’s impacts are worsened by record heat, which has
dried out soils and raised the demands for irrigation, and the
historical high levels of California’s population, economy, and
agricultural production, and historical low levels of native
fish species. … No “Miracle March” this year. … Snowpack is
a little worse than last year, perhaps the driest on record
The Bureau of Reclamation reports that, due to continued dry
conditions, the initial 2015 water supply allocation released
on February 27 for Central Valley Project agricultural
contractors and municipal and industrial contractors remains
The water frozen in snow throughout the Sierra Nevada is 8% of
average — less than a third the size of the smallest on record.
On Wednesday when this disappointing wet season ends, the
headlines will be the next alarm bell in the state’s damaging,
Already cities and water districts in the North State and
beyond have been working to broker water transfers, remind
folks about restrictions and take other steps in the hopes of
meeting demand during the peak summer months.
When drought makes water scarcer in California, those with
senior water rights are offered more money to move their water
to other users. But fish are asked to give up their water for
free. … For California, even partial markets for
environmental water would satisfy the state’s stated “co-equal”
environmental and economic goals for water management.
From east to west, ever since the world began, there was water.
Plentiful. Clean. Always available. None of those descriptions
apply to water today. … The world right now is drowning
in water risks: floods, droughts, contamination, disease, dead
seas, and shortages.
With the state entering its fourth year of drought, some
conservationists are looking at thinning Sierra forests to
increase the amount of water that flows into area rivers. …
On Friday, the Association of California Water Agencies also
released its own report that calls for better headwater and
forest management – and for better collaboration among federal,
state and other agencies, and other stakeholders.
Lawmakers are proposing emergency legislation, state officials
are clamping down on watering lawns and, as California enters a
fourth year of drought, some are worried that the state could
run out of water.
The [U.N.] report, released in New Delhi two days before World
Water Day, calls on policymakers and communities to rethink
water policies, urging more conservation as well as recycling
of wastewater as is done in Singapore.
State water leaders Thursday told water district leaders,
farmers, bankers and many others at California State
University, Fresno, to expect possibly a record-breaking small
snowpack. … The briefing, sponsored by the state Department
of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation, is an
attempt to explain the dire situation after four years of
California, as you might have heard, is running out of water.
Very, very quickly. … Perhaps you read NASA senior water
scientist Jay Famiglietti’s rather terrifying op-ed in the LA
Times, declaring that, by all available measures, our state has
only one year of water storage left?
So far, landowners in the Sacramento Valley have made
commitments for 85,000 acre-feet of water if Sites Reservoir is
built. … A few weeks ago Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut
Grove, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, introduced a bill to speed
up the Sites Reservoir feasibility study. In the meantime, the
Sites JPA is looking to hire a general manager …
The Lake Don Pedro community is operating in emergency
mode. For the last several weeks, work crews have drilled
well after well, hoping to find groundwater. … Lake
McClure depends entirely on rain and snow runoff from the
Merced River watershed.
Warm temperatures and a lack of snowfall in February have taken
a toll on winter snowpack in the Cascade Mountains and other
areas in the West, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation
Service said Wednesday.
Levels at Sierra reservoirs that supply water for 1.3 million
East Bay customers are as low as they’ve been in nearly 40
years, and it could take a miracle to make them better before
the onset of the long dry season, officials were told Tuesday.
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider
purchasing 250 acre-feet of water, about 81 million gallons,
from the McConnell Foundation to feed the needs of four
county-run water districts after projections in February showed
unprecedented water allocation cutbacks from the Central Valley
[Abelardo De Leon] Garcia, 81, had lost his water well on
Easter Sunday last year. Nearly a year later, his water supply
has been resurrected, thanks to federal funding and a
Visalia-based nonprofit called Self-Help Enterprises.
After 40 years of working on California water issues, it
sometimes feels to me [George Miller] as if we haven’t learned
anything. … The policies of the past century won’t work
in a future where we will face continued population growth and
the effects of climate change.
How does the south San Joaquin Valley get some water in
back-to-back drought years while the east side goes without?
And, by the way, vast tracts of farmland on the Valley’s west
side also will be shut out.
Had it not been for a couple of days of snowfall during the
weekend, the ground would have been bare, Frank Gehrke of the
Department of Water Resources said Tuesday during a snow survey
at Philips Station near Sierra-At-Tahoe Road.
Snowpack—which essentially serves as a water tower for the
western United States—produces vital meltwater that flows off
the mountains each spring. … But the snowpack is becoming
more like a snow gap, as temperatures in the Cascades and
Sierra Nevada become too warm for the snow that replenishes the
ecosystem each winter.
State and federal officials favoring fish habitat are to blame
for the Oakdale Irrigation District’s tentative plan to drain
Tulloch Lake this summer, OID leaders told dozens of anxious
Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are at or below what they were
during the driest years in California’s recorded history,
surveyors said Tuesday, dashing hopes that last weekend’s storm
would begin to pull the state out of its increasingly frightful
In a clear indicator that California is descending into a
fourth year of drought, the federal government on Friday
announced that the Central Valley Project — California’s
largest water delivery system — will provide no water again
this year to most Central Valley farmers and only 25 percent of
the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara,
Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
The federal government said Friday it won’t send any of its
reservoir water to the Central Valley for the second straight
year, forcing farmers in California’s agricultural heartland to
again scramble for other sources or leave fields unplanted.
In another blow to California’s parched heartland, federal
officials said Friday that for the second year in a row most
Central Valley farmers are unlikely to receive water from the
region’s major irrigation project this summer.
Hundreds of farmers in the Central Valley were told Friday they
can expect zero water deliveries this year from the federal
government, the latest fallout from what is likely to be a
fourth straight drought year in California. … The
announcement does not affect all farms.
Rainfall, snowpack and runoff estimates are way below average,
indicating the state will continue in drought-emergency mode
throughout the year, state and regional water experts told a
gathering of 120 water managers Wednesday at a forum sponsored
by the Southern California Water Committee and the National
Water Research Institute.
In the January/February issue of Western Water Magazine, Writer
Gary Pitzer delves into the notion of a “sustainable” and
“resilient” water supply. His article highlights what
sustainability and resiliency mean to a state in the middle of
a drought and with a growing population and water needs that
stretch from bustling cities in the north and south to the rich
agricultural fields of the Central, Imperial and Coachella
valleys and Central Coast. … Read the excerpts from this
issue. Purchase a printed magazine or subscribe to the
digital, interactive version.
After resisting disclosure, Monterey Peninsula Regional Water
Authority president Jason Burnett released a draft proposal
late Tuesday aimed at delaying a state-ordered cutback in
pumping from the Carmel River by four years.
Exactly six months ago, the Capitol’s politicians were hailing
a new era of bipartisan comity and cooperation with the
overwhelming passage of $7.5 billion in bonds to improve the
state’s water supply.
California will need to address several key water policy areas
to secure a safe and reliable water supply, improve the
ecosystem and reduce flood risks, according to a new
comprehensive multi-topic policy paper released Tuesday by the
Public Policy Institute of California.
The Metropolitan Water District, the agency that supplies the
bulk of the water for Southern California, is considering water
rationing by summer unless statewide drought conditions
radically improve, the agency announced Monday.
As the state faces a possible fourth year of drought, Northern
California is enjoying a healthy wet winter so far, with
rainfall levels at 100 percent of their historic average or
above in nearly every city, and reservoirs, while still not
back to normal, steadily filling.
Here’s the bad news: Despite days of precipitation,
California’s snowpack was barely boosted after a weekend of
storms that brought power outages, downed trees, thunderstorms
and a threat of tornadoes.
The weekend storm brought more than an inch of rain around the
Bay Area by Saturday evening and up to 2 feet of wet snow at
higher Sierra Nevada elevations near Lake Tahoe, but Northern
California’s largest drinking water reservoirs were still well
below average levels.
Today, snow sensors scattered through the Sierra, satellite
imagery and aerial flybys augment the 106-year-old “manual
survey.” The technology helps to provide a clearer update of
California’s water conditions that water agencies depend on to
perform the increasingly crucial job of managing our
diminishing water supply for the rest of the year.
The dry January was the topic of discussion Monday at a meeting
held by the Sonoma County Water Agency, which provides drinking
water to more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin
counties — relying exclusively on rainfall captured in two
The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking applications for the Basin
Studies Program in 2015. Interested non-federal entities
wishing to participate in the selection process should submit a
short letter of interest to their respective Reclamation
regional office by Feb. 24, 2015. Through basin studies,
Reclamation works with state and local partners to conduct
comprehensive water supply and demand studies of river basins
in the western United States.
Felicia Marcus gets in the shower when it’s still cold. As
full-time chair of California’s State Water Resources Control
Board, Marcus has a key role in how California stewards its
finite resources during a devastating drought.
Traditionally California’s wettest month, January’s meager
rainfall has produced a miniscule improvement in the crucial
winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada that historically provides
about 30 percent of the state’s water needs.
The state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, the two agencies that operate most of California’s
large dams, are in the early stages of studying possible rules
changes to accommodate shifts in hydrology expected with a
For the first time ever, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento
have recorded no rainfall for the month of January — nada drop.
… Southern California has had better luck, enjoying a
couple of significant weather systems this month that came up
from the south.
The latest survey of California’s mountain snowpack on Thursday
brought the bad news slamming home: This month will rank as the
driest January in state history at many locations, virtually
assuring a fourth straight year of drought. On Thursday, the
statewide snowpack was 25 percent of normal for the date.
After receiving nearly 160 percent of normal rainfall in
November and December — thus causing Santa Cruz to suspend
mandatory water rationing for residential customers — the
driest January on record stands as a stark reminder of how
vulnerable the water supply is to nature’s mood swings.
On the eve of the January snowpack survey of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains, water management officials said Southern
California’s largest water wholesaler may need to institute
stricter water limits if winter precipitation does not improve.
As part of the newly formed Californians for Water Security,
the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has joined a coalition of
farmers, businesses and labor, environmental and water leaders
to support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Gov. Jerry Brown’s
bold strategy to fix the state’s deteriorating water
As California caps what may be its driest January on record,
Frank Gehrke will lead a bevy of surveyors on Thursday to a
predetermined spot on Echo Summit in an exercise that has
become a monthly downer in the documentation of the state’s
A year after forming a special panel to evaluate future water
supply options, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday agreed
to extend the group’s timeline for making recommendations and
increase spending for a facilitator to guide the work.
Less than three months after California voters approved a water
bond that contains $2.7 billion for new water storage, one of
the leading projects under consideration has suffered a
potentially fatal setback.
In some of the world’s driest places, atmospheric moisture is a
major source of water for native ecosystems. … Some
drought-minded California residents along the coast, perhaps
yearning for a clear ocean view, have suggested harvesting
fog as a water supply.
In preparation for the initial 2015 water supply allocation
announcement in late February, the Bureau of Reclamation
provided an update today [Jan. 23] on water supply conditions
for the federal Central Valley Project (CVP).
Santa Barbara County water agencies announced Friday that they
will receive $2 million in state funding for a pumping project
at Cachuma Lake — a source of drinking water for 220,000 people
on the southern central coast — where water levels have dropped
A split Marina Coast Water District board decided to resume its
previous quest for a desalination plant, with a goal of
providing a new potable water supply within two years to new
development in Fort Ord, including Monterey Downs.
The Turlock Irrigation District could cap water deliveries at
about 40 percent of the customary amount even if the rest of
winter brings average rain and snow. The district staff on
Tuesday night provided an initial look at the supply for 2015,
which is looking to be a fourth straight year of drought.
At the Bay Delta Science Conference held last fall, Heather
Cooley from the Pacific Institute gave a presentation entitled,
“The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply,” which
draws on a series of reports jointly released by both the
Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council
that looks at the opportunities for expanding California’s
water supply through urban and agricultural efficiency, water
reuse, and stormwater capture.
For all the discussion of how the city, parks and golf courses
guzzle water, the lion’s share of L.A.’s supply is sucked up by
residential customers, according to data from the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power.
Following winter storms, state officials have slightly
increased their estimate of how much water will flow to
Southern California this year through the canals and pipelines
of the State Water Project.
For the first time, water crises took the top spot in the World
Economic Forum’s tenth global risk report, an annual survey of
nearly 900 leaders in politics, business, and civic life about
the world’s most critical issues. Water ranked third a year
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, noted at a Sacramento gathering
of water policy experts and elected officials on Monday that
water oversight begins with figuring out how much water is
needed for cities, agriculture, industry and the environment.
Despite December storms that prompted flood warnings and
brought more than eight inches of rain to areas of the
Tri-Valley, the much-needed precipitation did little to relieve
the drought’s impact on the former gravel quarry between
Livermore and Pleasanton.
Two Inland Empire water wholesale agencies, just like most
consumers, are tired of dealing with the impact of drought. …
The IEUA [Inland Empire Utilities Agency] and the San
Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, are working to
increase local supply reliability through future projects in
the next decade.
Soquel Creek Water District leaders said Tuesday they want to
conduct a districtwide survey of all customers before pursuing
a binding vote on how to increase the water supply. Board
members said they don’t want to ask voters to support a project
or series of solutions without a sense of what customers want.
The only answer to the question of when the drought will end is
that there’s no sure answer. … The major reservoirs in
Northern California are below historical averages, but they are
above the levels from 2014, which is cause for cautious
optimism for some northern state water contractors.
Snow levels that didn’t quite measure up turned a snowshoe
party in the Sierra into an exercise in hand-wringing on
Tuesday as it became clear that recent storms have done little
to end California’s historic drought.