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.
In principle, evaluating the adequacy of these plans to achieve
sustainability should also be simple: Does the anticipated
reduction in pumping plus increase in recharge equal or exceed
the basin’s long-term rate of overdraft? In practice, however,
it’s not so simple.
A new article by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) calls
efforts to mitigate land subsidence in the Coachella Valley “an
emerging success story,” a finding that is echoed by analysis
completed by local water agencies.
An ambitious plan to build the largest new reservoir in
California in 40 years to supply water to homes and businesses
from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, along with Central Valley
farmers, is being scaled back considerably amid questions about
its $5 billion price tag and how much water it can deliver.
Being born from an engineering miscalculation on the part of
the California Development Company means the Salton Sea has
been written off as an “accident” in histories inked on many
pages, ranging from The Washington Post to the Daily Mail. But
that framing is too simplistic, new research suggests, arguing
that the sea’s formation was inevitable, regardless of the
famous canal breach in 1905.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Friant Water Authority seek
public input on alternatives to repair a 33-mile stretch of the
Friant-Kern Canal in California’s eastern San Joaquin Valley.
This stretch of canal has lost over half of its original
capacity to convey water due to subsidence—a sinking of the
earth from groundwater extraction.
After an extremely dry winter in Northern California, the
window is closing for additional rain that could delay large
summer fires. In fact, this week, the state is baking under a
spring heat wave, while snow is vanishing from mountain slopes.
It is shaping up to be a busy summer fire season not only in
California, but in many parts of the West.
During the marathon hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dale
Drozd hinted the environmental groups’ requests for a ruling by
May 11 will be a tall task. Not only is the case complex and
involves dozens of parties, he said the chaos caused by the
pandemic is impeding the court’s ability to move swiftly.
In a pandemic when hand-washing could be a matter of life or
death, everyone must have access to clean water as a public
health issue and a basic human right. But what if you can’t
afford your water bill?
According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Water Utility Residential
Customer Satisfaction Study released today, 25 percent of
Americans say they never drink their tap water, setting the
stage for a serious set of customer satisfaction challenges on
the part of regional water utilities.
Following passage of SGMA, The Nature Conservancy received a
$1.8 million Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural
Resources Conservation Service to develop the Fox Canyon Water
Market. TNC, supported by project partners Fox Canyon
Groundwater Management Agency and California Lutheran
University, sought to establish a market-driven approach to
reduce groundwater pumping.
For California, the findings could have positive ramifications
for the state’s struggling commercial and recreational salmon
fishing industry. In recent years, state and federal officials
have relied more and more on fish raised in hatcheries that are
hauled downriver via boat or in a truck. The hauling somehow
throws salmon GPS systems out of whack.
Cal Water Quality Manager, Loni Lind says water that has been
sitting in building pipes can damage the water and bring
bacteria. To properly flush start from running the faucet
closest to the water meter and move outward to the farthest
New research shows that carbon capture and storage (CCS) could
stress water resources in about 43% of the world’s power plants
where water scarcity is already a problem. Further, the
technology deployed in these water-scarce regions matters, and
emerging CCS technologies could greatly mitigate the demand CCS
places on water consumption.
At a virtual event last week, PPIC researcher Henry McCann
described how improved management can make Sierra forests more
resilient and avoid major wildfire-related disasters, and
summarized the findings of a new report that identifies the
benefits and beneficiaries of such management practices.
As a Science Fellow placed in the California Natural Resources
Agency, I hear a lot about these snow surveys; however, it’s
one thing to read about the data and the program, and another
thing entirely to go outside and participate in sampling. It
was fascinating to survey the snow course and follow the same
techniques that surveyors have been using for decades to track
and manage the snow.
As part of an ongoing effort to protect San Francisco’s
homeless population from Covid-19 infection, the city’s Board
of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday requiring
more restrooms and hand-washing stations for those living on
Despite the incomplete data, based on the examples gathered
below from several states and cities, all signs point to
millions of people nationwide at immediate risk of shutoff or
already shutoff. The numbers are certain to grow as the
economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 continues.
The recycled oilfield water, blended with regular irrigation
water, was tested for more than 140 chemical compounds. And 13
different crops — some grown with the oilfield water, some not
—showed no uptake of potentially hazardous chemicals from oil
A California appellate court has revived a lawsuit Wednesday
from the city of Riverside who claim Black & Decker and several
other companies contaminated the local drinking water with
chemicals used to make explosive cartridges, flares and rocket
Last week, environmental groups, states, and cities filed three
complaints in differing federal district court challenging The
Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of Waters of the
United States, which was published in the Federal Register on
April 21, 2020, and is currently scheduled to become effective
on June 22, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the city of San Diego to make
millions of dollars worth of budget cuts. One project that is
not facing cuts is the city’s smart water meter program, or
advanced metering infrastructure. The Public Utilities
Department, which oversees the program, has instead asked to
nearly double the program’s budget.
The Bureau of Reclamation has released a funding opportunity
for communities to take a proactive approach to drought through
building projects that increase water supply reliability,
improve water management, or provide benefits for fish,
wildlife and the environment.
The City of Lathrop assured residents impacted by the economic
downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that it would not turn
off municipal water to individual homes through the months of
March and April for non-payment. And it appears those
assurances will now run through at least the end of May as
public health officials and municipalities grapple with the
realities of the pandemic and the impacts to local communities.
Work to restore a damaged 9-foot diameter water pipeline in
Moreno Valley continued Monday, May 4, and outdoor watering
restrictions will be lifted for Western Municipal Water
District customers starting Tuesday. … The reduced-use
directive had been in place since Thursday after a contractor
punctured the Santa Ana Valley Pipeline.
The Fresno Department of Public Utilities says stagnant water
can increase copper and lead levels while also growing harmful
bacteria inside of pipes. By running the faucets and checking
pipes underneath, plumbers say it could save owners hundreds of
dollars in repairs.
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District officials have
requested the Monterey One Water board certify the Pure Water
Monterey expansion project supplemental environmental impact
report within 30 days and is withholding more than $600,000
representing part of its share of the environmental review.
The State Water Resources Control Board has executed an
agreement to provide approximately $5 million in grant funds
for testing and remediation of lead in drinking water at
licensed Child Care Centers in California.
The industry and its advocates … are backing a two-phase plan
to extend a lifeline to water utilities and customers who
cannot pay their bills during an economic crisis, and to invest
for the future. Step one in the plan is the provision of
emergency assistance to both groups. There is still a debate
about the size of an aid package for utilities and the most
efficient and effective way of helping customers. But $1.5
billion in customer assistance is a common starting point in
These activists say farmers unfairly dominated groundwater
sustainability meetings and ultimately steered the planning
process in their favor. If the plans are accepted and
implemented, they warn, farmers will keep pumping water at
unsustainable rates. “All the plans we’ve looked at are going
to cause wells to go dry,” said Amanda Monaco, the water policy
coordinator for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and
The U.S. Department of Interior started a water experiment
along the Colorado Friday, May 1, at the Glen Canyon Dam,
located near Page Arizona. The experiment is meant to improve
the egg-laying conditions for insects that live at least some
part of their lives in the water, which are the primary food
source for endangered Colorado River fish as well as native
The reduced-use directive was put in place after a contractor
punctured the 9-foot-diameter Santa Ana Valley Pipeline on
Thursday. The water flow in the line has been stopped while
repairs take place, and the moves by the districts were to help
ensure reserves are not depleted.
There are 29 federally recognized tribes across the Colorado
River Basin. Together, these tribes have water rights to
roughly 20% of the water that flows through the river annually.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) and the
Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) were critical partners in
making the Drought Contingency Plan possible.
For us, better science is the only path that can achieve those
two important goals. Unfortunately, as the state completed its
new permitting effort at the end of March, a decade of research
was largely ignored in favor of political objectives that
impose unjustified restrictions on the State Water Project …
“Regulatory guidelines for virus removal in potable reuse
systems need additional review for possible more stringent
requirements in the event of a coronavirus outbreak,” says an
April 2 editorial in the journal Environmental Science and
Water Technology, co-authored by Haizhou Liu of UC
Riverside’s department of chemical and environmental
The California Environmental Quality Act scoping period
concluded on April 17, 2020 after an extended 93-day public
comment period. DWR is reviewing all submitted comments and
will publish a scoping report summarizing the information this
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco,
accuses President Trump and the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency of illegally exposing waterways to pollution and
development by rolling back a key provision of the Clean Water
Environmental groups in California on April 29 challenged in
court the state Dept. of Water Resources decision not to
include a proposed 40-mile tunnel in its most recent
environmental assessment needed to reauthorize long-term
operation of the State Water Project—a 700-mile system of dams
and aqueducts that moves water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to areas in the south.
The Truckee Town Council has approved a resolution to accept
$2.31 million in funds from the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife for the restoration of Trout Creek The money will
be used as part of the project extending Church Street, which
is part of the larger Truckee Railyard Master Plan.
Expanding and intensifying drought in Northern California
portends an early start to the wildfire season, and the
National Interagency Fire Center is predicting above-normal
potential for large wildfires by midsummer. Mountain snowpack
has been below average across the High Sierra, southern
Cascades and the Great Basin, and the agency warns that these
areas need to be monitored closely as fuels continue to dry
The American Water Works Association has recognized the Tahoe
Water Suppliers Association with the 2020 Exemplary Source
Water Protection Award for its high level of protection and
preservation of the Lake Tahoe watershed, the region’s primary
water source for residents.
While salmon counts are low this year, having accurate
information will better inform our conservation efforts.
CalTrout has been using a Sonar system to estimate abundance of
spawning Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, and steelhead on the
South Fork Eel River with support from the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife Steelhead Report and
Restoration Card Program.
The last Sierra Nevada snowpack measurement of the season on
Thursday confirmed what California officials have feared for
months: The state has suffered through a dry winter. … A
broader measurement taken by 130 electronic sensors throughout
the Sierra revealed an average snow water equivalent of 8.4
inches, or 37 percent of average for this time of year.
The water utility that serves Chico and Oroville said in a
press release that it was asking for the delay because of the
coronavirus pandemic. The company wants to postpone all rate
increases and says it is “committed to deferring other bill
increases during 2020.”
California water agencies yesterday sued the state over
endangered species protections they claim threaten their
ability to provide water to more than 25 million residents and
thousands of acres of farmland. … At issue is water shipped
from California’s water hub, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta east of San Francisco, south via the State Water Project,
a massive system of dams, canals and aqueducts.
In mid-April of 2020, Restore the Delta hosted a webinar where
they discussed the history of water planning and the voluntary
agreements, including their numerous concerns. … Before
addressing the main topic of the webinar, Executive Director
Barbara Barrigan-Parilla noted that there are many in the Delta
who aren’t on the webinar due to lack of reliable internet
service in rural communities, affordability issues, and/or lack
of access to devices.
The Bureau of Reclamation invites public input on the Del
Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project, a proposed 82,000 acre-foot
reservoir in the Coast Range in Stanislaus County, California.
Del Puerto Water District and the San Joaquin River Exchange
Contractors Water Authority are sponsoring the project and
propose to construct a reservoir located on Del Puerto Creek to
develop additional water storage south of the Sacramento-San
West County Wastewater and East Bay Municipal Utility District
announced a recycled water partnership that will preserve
valuable drinking water for the region and support West County
Wastewater’s ongoing mission of environmental stewardship and
protecting public health.
Point Blue Conservation Science is excited to share a new
climate-smart resource for Sierra meadow restoration: the
Sierra Meadow Planting Palette Tool and Tool User Guide . The
purpose of this tool is to help restoration practitioners plan
for climate change by identifying plant species that have
traits that will increase the likelihood that they will
survive, recruit, and continue to provide additional
co-benefits under projected future conditions.
Rural and urban Nevada can both rest a little easier now that
the massive pipeline project is not at the forefront of the
Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans. But there is still
plenty of work to do to protect and expand the water supply in
Las Vegas while doing the same in rural parts of the state.
Two separate coalitions of environmental advocacy groups filed
litigation on Wednesday against the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers challenging
the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Clean Water Act.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the launch of
the $9 million American-Made Challenges: Solar Desalination
Prize, a competition to accelerate the development of systems
that use solar-thermal energy to produce clean water from
The situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve and is having a
significant impact on our customers and community. IID is
monitoring developments closely, and as an essential services
provider, is open and well prepared to continue serving all its
From the moment he took office, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he
wanted to bring peace to California’s water wars. But now, more
than a year later, most of the warring factions are united
against his plan for governing the Delta. Three of the most
powerful groups in California water sued the state this week
over Newsom’s two-month-old plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Solano County will receive $750,000 from the state Department
of Water Resources for the development of a Cache Slough
Habitat Conservation Plan. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday
approved the agreement with the state…
Some Klamath Project water users on Sunday and Monday protested
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s use of water at the Link River
Dam, at one point voicing plans to stay near the dam until
Reclamation followed Oregon water law.
The mandated policy prohibits shutoffs for at least 60 days
following a delinquency and requires water providers to give
advanced written notice and make direct contact with the
residents before service can be discontinued. It also requires
water providers, such as cities, public utility districts and
community water systems provide for deferred payments,
alternate payment schedules, and an appeals process.
Fairness – or at least the perception of fairness – could play
a determining role in the future of California’s groundwater,
according to new research. The study, published in Society and
Natural Resources, evaluated 137 surveys of Yolo County farmers
to gauge their perceptions of fairness for groundwater
allocation strategies and dispute resolution options.
The Sites Project Authority plans to recirculate an
environmental document for the proposed Sites Reservoir after
project leaders modified plans recently to right size the
project proposed for Colusa and Glenn counties. The reservoir
capacity will be reduced from 1.8 million acre feet capacity to
from 1.3 to 1.5 million acre feet.
A dam and reservoir under construction on land acquired from
Rancho Mission Viejo has not been affected by the coronavirus
pandemic, according to Santa Margarita Water District Deputy
General Manager Don Bunts. Recent rainfall, however, has
affected the Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir project, which
intends to store recycled water.
It’s the early 1990s, and Park Williams stands in the middle of
Folsom Lake, at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills in
Northern California. He’s not walking on water; severe drought
has exposed the lakebed. “I remember being very impressed by
the incredible variability of water in the West and how it’s
very rare that we actually have just enough water,” said
Williams, who went on to become a climate scientist at Columbia
A proposed Pure Water Monterey expansion at the center of a
contentious debate over the future of the Monterey Peninsula’s
water supply hit a huge roadblock on Monday night, leaving its
future in serious doubt.
A new poll by the Value of Water Campaign released today shows
that 84 percent of American voters want state and federal
leaders to invest in water infrastructure. The near-unanimous
support amid the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that voters value
water and want elected officials to prioritize investing in
infrastructure — specifically, drinking water and wastewater
The Lake Nacimiento water pipeline, which delivers supplemental
drinking water to several local communities including the city
of San Luis Obispo, has been out of commission since September
after leaks were discovered in a segment of the 45-mile pipe
that traverses the Salinas River.
Following poor rainfall this winter and rising water demand in
recent years, the Marin Municipal Water District is considering
a major purchase of Sonoma County water as insurance for a
potential dry period.
A growing number of Napa residents are leaving their water
bills unpaid, a trend city officials say is a likely indicator
of the economic uncertainty sparked by the ongoing coronavirus
pandemic. … The number of unpaid bills has shot up, rising
more than three-fold and six-fold in the last two billing
cycles, respectively, city data shows.
To prevent flooding and manage water levels in a Sonoma creek,
a pond leveler will be installed where a family of beavers is
living, Sonoma County Water Agency officials said. The pond
leveler will help water transfer through the beaver dam so that
the pond doesn’t cause flooding. It will also assist with
maintaining the habitat for the beavers…
On the campaign trail in 2016, President Trump swung into
California’s agricultural hub and vowed to deliver more water
to the drought-ridden state’s farmers. … Three years into his
administration, Trump is now opening the floodgate to deliver
on that promise, setting up the most intense water war between
the federal government and California in the state’s history.
The Court decision introduces the concept of a “functional
equivalent of a direct discharge” as a guideline for when a
point source discharge must obtain a permit. It cites the case
of an injection well receiving pollutant discharge that then
travels a few feet through groundwater into navigable waters as
a clear case of “functional equivalent” to direct discharge.
As Siskiyou County slips back into severe drought, members of
Siskiyou County’s Groundwater Advisory Committees met last week
to continue drafting groundwater management plans as
conservation groups, farmers and other special interest groups
brace for another dry summer.
In February 2020, the Water Board adopted new, lower Response
Levels for PFOA and PFOS of 10 ppt and 40 ppt, respectively.
Four of wells previously sampled under the Water Board’s order
now had had PFOA levels above this newly adopted Response Level
of 10 ppt. Atascadero Mutual Water Company immediately took
these wells out of service.
As expected, irrigators in the Klamath Project are getting less
water than they will likely need this summer thanks to a
combination of dry weather and more water being kept in-stream
to protect threatened coho salmon.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of six justices who said
permits are required if the pollution at issue amounted to the
“functional equivalent” of a direct discharge (Greenwire, April
23). But instead of just signing onto the majority opinion
written by Justice Stephen Breyer, Kavanaugh penned his own
concurrence saying he agreed with the majority opinion “in
As of March, the East Valley Water District’s Sterling Natural
Resource Center construction project reached the halfway point
to scheduled completion⎯about 18 months in and 18 months left
to work. The water recycling plant will be capable of treating
up to 10 million gallons per day, depositing the clean water
into percolation ponds in order to recharge the Bunker Hill
Although it isn’t perceptible to the human eye, changes in
water mass around the world cause small fluctuations in Earth’s
gravity field. This includes water in underground aquifers,
which couldn’t be remotely monitored before NASA’s Gravity
Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites.
Amid continuing debate over the role the proposed Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project expansion will play in the
Monterey Peninsula’s water supply, the proposal has reached a
key stage. On Monday, the Monterey One Water board is scheduled
to consider certifying a final supplemental environmental
impact report for the expansion project…
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved $10 million to
help pay for water projects in the farmlands of central
Arizona, where growers are bracing for their supply of Colorado
River water to be shut off. But those funds, conditionally
awarded this month by the Natural Resources Conservation
Service, are still subject to negotiations between federal and
Oregon Water Resources Director Thomas Byler sent a letter to
Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office manager Jeff Nettleton
on Thursday, confirming it has taken exclusive charge of Upper
Klamath Lake… The order said it prohibits U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation from diverting stored water in Upper Klamath Lake
through Link River for purposes of a 50,000 acre-feet flushing
flow without a water right.
For the past decade, Kane County leaders have argued their
southern Utah community will need water piped from the Colorado
River to meet future needs, but the local water district
abruptly announced Thursday it was pulling out of the costly
Lake Powell pipeline project, leaving Washington County as the
only remaining recipient of the water.
It wasn’t exactly a “March Miracle,” but the precipitation
Santa Barbara County received this spring rescued what
otherwise had been a fairly sorry rain season, and gave a
healthy boost to local water supplies. As of Monday, the county
as a whole had received 95 percent of its average rainfall to
date, according to the county Flood Control District.
The US Drought Monitor update released Thursday morning lists
far Northern California as the most impacted by a lackluster
rain and snow season. Some areas such as Eureka and Mount
Shasta are down more than 15″ of rain from their averages for
the season so far.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Clean Water Act
applies to some pollutants that reach the sea and other protected
waters indirectly through groundwater. The case, County of Maui
v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, No. 18-260, concerned a wastewater
treatment plant on Maui, Hawaii, that used injection wells to
dispose of some four million gallons of treated sewage each
The funding will support projects such as groundwater recharge
and stormwater management located near Fresno and Bakersfield,
as well as California’s North Coast. More than half of the
funding will be awarded for projects that help disadvantaged
and underrepresented communities, including Tribal Governments.
Over the past several months, the Authority has undertaken a
rigorous Value Planning effort to review the project’s proposed
operations and facilities in an effort to develop a project
that is “right sized” for current participants while still
providing water supply reliability and enhancing the
environment.The process has resulted in a project that includes
facilities and operations that are different than originally
When the Water Forum Agreement was officially signed 20 years
ago, the occasion marked an unprecedented show of regional
cooperation. For years, interests representing business, the
environment, water suppliers and others had sparred over the
water needs of people vs. the environment of the lower American
The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency has been working
toward sustainable management of the Pajaro Valley’s water
resources. At the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, General
Manager Brian Lockwood discussed the projects and programs the
Agency is implementing as they work towards achieving
In many areas of the Central Valley and Central Coast, decades
of intensive agriculture has resulted in groundwater too
polluted to drink, and wells that have gone dry from
over-pumping. More than one million people in these regions
lack a source of clean water in their homes. This is a hardship
even in the best of times, but it puts communities at extremely
high risk during this time of crisis.
Samantha Ying and Michael Schaefer, both from the Department of
Environmental Sciences at University of California (UC)
Riverside, are part of a team set on untangling the mystery of
a practice upon which farmers have relied for centuries to
reduce water use—cover crops.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with PacifiCorp,
plans to increase flows below Iron Gate Dam to reduce the risk
of disease for coho salmon in the Klamath River. Starting
Wednesday, April 22, flows below Iron Gate Dam will increase
from approximately 1,325 cubic feet per second up to 6,000 cfs.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that it
will be upgrading the Lower Bucks Lake Dam this year by
attaching a waterproof membrane to the upstream surface of the
dam to prevent seepage and extend the dam’s service life.
Although it is clear that river discharge is the major source
of plastic pollution entering the oceans, there remains
uncertainty around how plastic pollution is transported through
rivers and coastal marine waters. How important is stormflow
for delivering plastic pollution from rivers to the coastal
ocean? How are microplastics transported through coastal
environments? How much is eventually sinking and settling on
In January, water users in 21 critically overdrafted basins
delivered their groundwater sustainability plans to the state
Department of Water Resources. In this series, we examine the
36 plans submitted for 11 critically overdrafted basins in the
San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest farming region, where
excess pumping is a major challenge.
With the realization that California has decades worth of
opposition to building reservoirs on its record, it now makes
sense to take the dam application, submitted and approved by
them, to the federal government for help instead.
Two bipartisan draft water infrastructure bills unveiled this
week by the Senate environment committee are a good start but
will need even more funding in the wake of the coronavirus
pandemic, water agencies and other groups said Wednesday.
Lewis MacAdams, a poet and crusader for restoring the concrete
Los Angeles River to a more natural state and co-founder of one
of the most influential conservation organizations in
California, has died. He was 75.
Utilities are reporting in industry surveys that they are low
primarily on the specialized N95 masks that block viruses and
other tiny particles. If the virus rampages throughout a
utility’s work force the way it has in meat-processing
facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and South Dakota, it could
jeopardize the treatment and delivery of drinking water and the
proper handling of sewage and stormwater.
Several streets in neighborhoods near San Diego State will be
torn up for short periods over the next four years so the city
can widen and upgrade sewer and water lines that lead to the
Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Publication starts a 60-day clock before the rule goes into
effect and waves a green flag for an onslaught of lawsuits
likely to be filed around the country. The litigation will
undoubtedly run beyond Election Day, so the future of the rule
likely depends on whether Trump wins a second term.
Some 1 million residents of California farmworker communities
have relied for years on bottled water because their tap water
is tainted with nitrate and other agricultural pollutants. Now,
as stores ration water to prevent hoarding during the
coronavirus crisis, these residents are relying on friends and
family, or driving many miles to bigger towns in search of
Today, the Bureau of Reclamation updated the water supply
allocation for Friant Division Central Valley Project contracts
for the 2020 contract year. The Friant Division provides water
for 15,000 family farms and several cities in the Central
Valley. … Given the current hydrologic conditions,
Reclamation is increasing the Class 1 allocation from 40% to
55%; Class 2 remains at 0%.
This question has taken on greater urgency in the era of the
coronavirus, when every neighbor touching the crosswalk signal,
or coughing on their way to the grocery store, is a potential
source of a fatal disease. To effectively flatten the curve,
it’s not enough to wash your own hands. We need everyone in the
community to do the same.
Pulling the plug on the eve of Earth Day, the Environmental
Protection Agency eliminated critical pollution rules from the
Obama era that had safeguarded at-risk ecosystems and drinking
water across the country. The new Navigable Waters Protection
Rule, in the works since President Donald Trump’s inauguration,
was finalized Tuesday.
Counts of Chinook salmon in the Eel River were lower during the
2019 – 2020 ocean runs than any previous count conducted by the
Eel River Recovery Project since the organization began
tracking in 2012, according a new report, with estimates the
entire Chinook salmon run below 10,000 fish.
Under the drought contingency plan hammered out by Colorado
River Basin states last year, Arizona agreed to voluntarily
reduce its water use by 192,000 acre-feet, or about 7%, leaving
that water in Lake Mead to help reduce the likelihood of
greater cutbacks down the road. Tom Buschatzke, director of the
Arizona Department of Water Resources, says data from a new
Bureau of Reclamation report show that plan is working.
Now, just as the first Earth Day in 1970 gave U.S. policymakers
a chance to chart a fresh course for conservation, this year’s
50th anniversary offers lawmakers an opportunity to act on a
growing body of evidence that free-flowing, well-protected
rivers serve the greater public good.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion
Tuesday evening seeking to stop implementation of new Federal
environmental guidelines aimed at boosting water supplies for
the Central Valley and Southern California from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
California’s 410 urban water suppliers will be required to
report monthly use and conservation data to state regulators,
under a resolution the State Water Resources Control Board
passed Tuesday. The vote makes permanent a voluntary program
that dates back to California’s devastating 2012-2016 drought.
Two separate letters sent to President Donald Trump and members
of Congress highlight the importance of providing support for
enhancing water management, particularly in light of the
tumultuous conditions created by COVID-19.
The whole San Francisco Bay ecosystem—that enormous estuary
with its maze of bays, rich delta, and associated rivers and
streams—is in the midst of an ecological calamity. Decades of
dam building and water extraction to quench the thirst of
California’s growing population and the needs of its mighty
agriculture industry have starved the state’s waterways, as
well as the bay itself, of crucial freshwater supplies. As a
result, the entire estuary is under enormous stress.
From the safety of their coronavirus shelters, the water
warriors of the Monterey Peninsula carry on the fight, and so
can you. … The environmental merits of removing the local
water system from private ownership and placing it under the
control of a government agency will be discussed in a virtual
public scoping meeting on April 21 at 5pm, via Zoom video
The case was filed in late 2001, the year there was an
announcement that no water would be available for Klamath
Project irrigation from Upper Klamath Lake. The plaintiffs
claim that if the water is taken under the Endangered Species
Act, the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires
payment of compensation for the water right, a form of
property, that has been taken.
With the current shutdown many offices, schools, gyms, and
facilities are unoccupied. When those buildings reopen and
people return, it’s possible that water left sitting in pipes
for long periods could contain excessive amounts of heavy
metals and could be contaminated with bacteria—like the kind
that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
It has been 30 years since the last time a dam was seriously
considered on the East Fork [of the Carson River] as a means to
reduce flooding and increase water for agriculture and other
uses. … The East Fork begins near the base of Sonora Peak in
California. The river’s upper gorge was carved out by a 16-mile
glacier coming off the 11,500-foot high mountain. It is one of
only two major free-flowing rivers in the Eastern Sierra.
Voluntary 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. … Yet, no one said it would be easy getting interest
groups with sometimes sharply different views – and some, such
as farmers, with livelihoods heavily dependent on water — to
reach consensus on how to address the water quality and habitat
needs of the Delta watershed.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections for the
Colorado River’s water supply for the next two years. … Lake
Mead is projected to fall into “Tier Zero” conditions for 2021
and 2022. That’s a new designation under the Drought
Contingency Plan which requires Arizona, Nevada and Mexico take
cuts in their water supply.
While the virus has attuned the whole country to the idea of
“wash your hands for 20 seconds,” at least 15% of Navajo Nation
homes have no running water at all, according to the official
tribal tally. … The lack of water access has roots in the
history of tribal reservations and federal land use, the
byzantine nature of western water law, and the broader lack of
infrastructure funding for the Navajo Nation, tribal members
and experts said.
The US Bureau of Reclamation is to resume a seismic safety
modification project at Boca Dam near Truckee in California
today, following its seasonal closure in November 2019, with
social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and other COVID-19 precautions
to be followed during construction.
U.S. Representative T.J. Cox, Senator Dianne Fenstein and
Represenatives Jim Costa, Josh Harder and John Garamendi on
Thursday called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Gov.
Newsom to come up with a coordinated effort to manage the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
On March 13, 2020, water users in the Klamath Reclamation
Project (Project) petitioned the United States Supreme Court to
review the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Baley,
et al. v. United States, et al. (Baley). The decision denied
the water users’ takings claims for the 2001 Project water
shutoff on water law grounds.
Following efforts to increase safety measures throughout all
City departments to stop the spread of COVID-19, San Diego
Mayor Kevin Faulconer toured the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant
on Friday to observe increased safety protocols. He also
thanked City employees as they continue to deliver safe,
reliable water to over 1.4 million San Diegans.
President Donald Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom may
have set aside their incessant squabbling over most issues to
cooperate on the pandemic, but they are poised for showdown
over who controls the state’s vital water supply.
For the last four years, our team at UC Davis has been
conducting scientific studies on reintroduced spring-run
Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River and we wanted to take a
minute to share some of what we’ve learned. Plus, everyone
loves a good comeback story right?
In the past decade, environmental groups have had success
bringing back patches of life in parts of the river delta. In
these green islands surrounded by the desert, water delivered
by canals and pumps is helping to nourish wetlands and forests.
Cottonwoods and willows have been growing rapidly. Birds have
been coming back and are singing in the trees.
Yolo Basin Foundation’s Board of Directors announced this week
that Chelsea Martinez has been named the Foundation’s new
executive director. … Martinez joined the Foundation in 2017
as the Community Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator and has grown
and sustained the Foundation’s volunteer base to over 200
volunteers as well as helped to increase community involvement
in its programs.
From the safety of their coronavirus shelters, the water
warriors of the Monterey Peninsula carry on the fight, and so
can you. … The environmental merits of removing the local
water system from private ownership and placing it under the
control of a government agency will be discussed in a virtual
public scoping meeting on April 21 at 5pm, via Zoom video
Voluntary 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
The extensive COVID-19 “stay-at-home” orders across the country
have resulted in many commercial buildings (offices, hotels,
stadiums, medical facilities, etc.) with reduced or no water
use. … Because of these conditions there are special
considerations for building water systems that continue to
operate in low water flow environments as well as actions that
will need to be considered when buildings reopen to ensure safe
Kristin Sicke is Assistant General Manager for Yolo County
Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which manages
water supplies for 200,000 acres in western Yolo County, which
encompasses Woodland, Davis, and the surrounding area. In this
presentation from the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms.
Sicke describes the district’s efforts to use winter stormwater
flows for groundwater recharge in the Yolo subbasin.
Officially, California’s most recent drought lasted five
painful years and ended in 2017. But a new study released
Thursday says California and the rest of the West are enduring
a continuing megadrought that ranks among the worst on record.
Groundwater science is taking on a new urgency as California
and other regions around the world face growing threats from
drought—and are increasingly drilling wells to make up for
missing rain and snow. Globally, aquifers are “highly stressed”
in 17 countries that hold one-quarter of the world’s
population… Water and food supplies for billions of people
are under threat. California is a case study in the challenges
of protecting those resources.
Record-breaking April rains eliminated all drought and abnormal
dryness from Southern California and up the Central Coast
through Monterey County, but drought has worsened in
northwestern California, the U.S. Drought Monitor said
Since this year marked the first since 1862 that not a single
drop of rain fell in Santa Cruz County during the month of
February, efforts to sustainably manage water were at the
forefront of the conversation. The symposium kicked off with an
introduction from County Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who
discussed the ongoing work to develop sustainable groundwater
The number of supporters in Congress for utility assistance in
the next Covid-19 package continues to grow. One hundred ten
Democratic members of the House and Senate sent a letter today
to congressional leaders, requesting financial aid to utilities
and the people they serve during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority is ending a decades-long
effort to build a controversial 300-mile pipeline to pump rural
groundwater from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas. On Thursday
afternoon, the water authority confirmed in a statement that it
would not appeal a recent court ruling that denied the agency a
portion of its water rights.
Ted Grantham is a Cooperative Extension Specialist at UC
Berkeley and the CalTrout Ecosystem Fellow with the Public
Policy Institute of California. … In this presentation, Dr.
Grantham discussed environmental flows and the policy context
in California in which environmental flows are managed and how
that has evolved over time.
The Kern River can’t seem to stay out of California’s
courtrooms — even in a pandemic. … On Friday, April 9, North
Kern Water Storage District unsuccessfully sought to have a
Ventura County court slap a temporary restraining order on the
City of Bakersfield to force it to hold 20,000 acre feet of
water in Lake Isabella to sell to the ag water district later
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s plans to remove four
dams on the Klamath River in the US has taken a major step
forward with the issuance of key documents from the California
State Water Board. The plan – the largest dam removal project
in the US – would re-open 360 miles of the Klamath River and
its tributaries to salmon.
Most municipalities that have been maintaining aging
infrastructure for decades simply absorb the effort and costs
required to repair water main pipeline breaks when they occur.
Seldom do many municipalities make the efforts required to
track the costs and evaluate the cost benefit of proactively
rehabilitating the existing pipe line versus continuing to
repair emergency breaks.
The Department of Water Resources has released a draft report
with recommendations and guidance to help small water suppliers
and rural communities plan for the next drought, wildfire, or
other natural disaster that may cause water shortages.
Chris Funk, climate scientist, and geographer Greg Husak at the
UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center, practice what they
call “humanitarian earth system science.” Working with partners
funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, they
have refined their forecasts over 20 years from basic weather
monitoring to a sophisticated fusion of climate science,
agronomy, and economics that can warn of drought and subsequent
famines months before they arise.
Opponents of the mine expansion in Elko County are worried
about phase two of the Long Canyon Mine near Wells that
includes a dewatering plan that would pump billions of gallons
of water annually from an aquifer deep below the Pequop Range
and Goshute Valley.
Over the last 20 years, UC research has shown that dairies in
the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys are potentially major
contributors of nitrate and salts in groundwater. To maintain
the quality of this irreplaceable natural resource, the
California Water Resources Control Board has ramped up
regulations to ensure that diary manure and wastewater
application isn’t contaminating the aquifer.
The models show drought is expected to keep its hold over the
mountains along the New Mexico-Colorado border that feed the
Rio Grande, while California, Nevada and other southwestern
states aren’t likely to see a reprieve from dry conditions
Lucy Hernandez knew something was wrong when she arrived at a
Walmart store in Visalia, California, last month, shortly
before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order
to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On the normally
well-stocked shelves, Hernandez couldn’t find bottled water.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday voted to sue the state of California over a permit one
state agency granted to another at the end of March. The permit
is related to operations of the State Water Project, which
serves 27 million people and irrigates 750,000 acres of
City leaders, concerned that the new coronavirus could spread
rapidly in the absence of adequate hygiene, ordered 250 public
handwashing stations in mid-March. Even those that did arrive
in Skid Row were prone to failure. According to a street survey
conducted a few days following the city’s action, several of
the stations there lacked water and soap.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a water allocation
update Monday and it had disappointing news for some San
Joaquin Valley farmers, as well as wildlife refuges. The San
Joaquin River Exchange Contractors saw their allocation cut
from February’s announced 100% to 75%, which is their contract
minimum. Wildlife refuges likewise were reduced from 100% to
A 10-person crew is in the midst of a three-week
shelter-in-place shift at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad
Desalination Plant, relieving an initial crew that
self-quarantined on site for three weeks to continue producing
clean drinking water for county residents amid the COVID-19
Californians reuse treated wastewater as a water supply, to
irrigate crops, and to support freshwater ecosystems. To get
answers to questions about managing the new coronavirus in the
“sewershed,” we talked to two experts: Kara Nelson, an expert
in waterborne pathogens at UC Berkeley; and Adam Link,
executive director of the California Association of Sanitation
Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in
California spent months putting together plans to show how they
will achieve balance in about 20 years. Now, after submitting
those plans to the state in January, groundwater sustainability
agencies (GSAs) must figure how to pay for them.
How critical are Sacramento Valley floodplains for a vibrant
fishery? A California Fish and Game Bulletin from 1930 gives us
a clue. The report documents the Sacramento River commercial
salmon catch declining from 6 million pounds in 1918 to less
than 1 million pounds by 1927.
It’s possible that water left sitting for long periods of time
could contain excessive amounts of heavy metals and pathogens
concentrated in pipes nationwide, say [Purdue University]
researchers who have begun a field study on the impact of a
pandemic shutdown on buildings.
Legislation introduced in the House on Friday would offer
states and tribes $1.5 billion to aid low-income households
with their water bills. There is a catch. To receive aid,
states and tribes must agree not to turn off water to homes
during the coronavirus public health emergency. They must also
agree to reconnect water service to homes in which water was
previously turned off.
The state recently got a new permit for water delivery
operations from its wildlife agency. In the past, that kind of
authority came from adhering to federal rules. Now, with a
dispute between the state and federal government over water
management and endangered species act protections, the state
issued its own permit. Critics of the state’s move say they
plan to file lawsuits.
In 2018, a nonprofit freshwater conservation and restoration
organization known as The Freshwater Trust contracted with the
Solano Resource Conservation District to create hands-on,
regionally specific groundwater education lessons to schools
located within the Solano County sub-basin. The success of
these educational programs has resulted in a renewed
partnership between the two organizations…
Since March 10, the weather station on the University of
Southern California’s campus has seen just under seven inches
of rain, or nearly half of all taken in for the entire water
year. If that sounds like a lot for March and April, it is.
According to historic norms, the average rainfall during those
two months is 3.34 inches.
If you’re a Central Valley farmer and haven’t yet been hit up
by someone about reusing crummy water for irrigation — just
wait. Companies are springing up all over with the latest gizmo
they believe will take nasty, salty water, mostly from shallow
aquifers on the valley’s west side or oilfield produced water,
and make clean “new” irrigation water.
Without the river, there would not have been an Emigrant Trail
through this site, gold would not have been discovered in
Dayton and who knows when the Comstock Lode would have been
discovered and Nevada might not even be Nevada today!
Given the historical resources dedicated to monitoring and
studying striped bass in the San Francisco Estuary, the
question must be asked: Why don’t we know more about what
they’re doing in the Pacific Ocean?
The City of Lathrop built a well in 2003 near what is now River
Islands to serve future development in the Mossdale and River
Islands areas. But it has yet to function as a regular and
contributing part of the city’s water system – mired by water
quality issues and problems with the construction of the
original well itself.
More than three dozen atmospheric rivers made landfall on the
West Coast from fall through early spring, but a lack of strong
events in California led to the development of drought
conditions in parts of the state.
The agreement pays Antioch $27 million, which guarantees that
they will be able to utilize its 150-year old water rights and
remain in the Delta for the long-term. The $27 million, in
addition to $43 million in State grants and loans, completes
the financing for the $70m Brackish Water Desalination Plant.
A lawsuit over the El Dorado Irrigation District’s plan to pipe
the Upper Main Ditch was denied by Superior Court Judge Dylan
Sullivan in a final ruling issued March 27. The lawsuit filed
by a Pollock Pines-based group called Save the Canal challenged
approval of the project and certification of the project’s
Environment Impact Report…
Several Congressional leaders sent a letter to Governor Gavin
Newsom expressing disappointment in the decision to issue an
incidental take permit for long-term operations of the State
Water Project. … The letter was signed by Representatives
Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, Ken Calvert, Tom McClintock, Doug
LaMalfa, and Paul Cook.
Southern Resident killer whales have long pursued the biggest
and most nourishing Chinook salmon from coastal Pacific waters.
Chinook salmon fishing is also a mainstay of the West Coast
economy, generating nearly $72 million in income last year. Is
there room for both? The answer is yes, with safeguards.
While the coronavirus is giving the planet’s environment a
respite from pollution, not all resources are getting a break.
Groundwater supplies, particularly in drier parts of the U.S.,
are being tapped more than ever by the enormous data centers
run by Microsoft, Google and other tech giants, which require
vast quantities of water for cooling and power generation.
Lower Battle Creek in Tehama County is one of the 19 waterways
to be part of the Wildlife Conservation Board $24.3 million
grant program set to help enhance flows in streams throughout
California. … The project will dedicate water rights to
instream flow in the lower 7.3 miles of Battle Creek to restore
dwindling Chinook salmon and steelhead
A full environmental review of a proposed public buyout of
California American Water’s local water system is underway
despite the coronavirus pandemic that a top Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District official says has slowed work on the
Eric Averett is General Manager with the Rosedale-Rio Bravo
Water Storage District, which is one of several water districts
within Kern County. … In this presentation from the Western
Groundwater Congress, Mr. Averett discusses how his district
and Kern County have been grappling with how to establish
groundwater pumping allocations.
At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed
the history of the project. Speaking on the panel was Chief
Caleen Sisk with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Doug Obegi with the
Natural Resources Defense Council, and Darcie Houck who is
currently General Counsel with California Energy Commission,
but formerly represented the Winnemem Wintu Tribe when she was
in private practice.
The $650 million project at Lake Mead was finished on time and
came in under budget, marking a big step in new infrastructure
that is critical in preserving reliable water delivery for the
valley. The pumping station holds a capacity to deliver 900
million gallons of water per day to two of Southern Nevada
Water Authority’s treatment facilities.
Even though many utilities will not be shutting off water in
the coming weeks and months, household water bills will
continue to arrive. Residents are expected to pay those bills
after the emergency orders are lifted. That could pose problems
down the road for both individuals and utilities, argues Greg
Pierce, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for
Farms and ranches in the Klamath Project will likely have far
less water during the 2020 irrigation season than they did a
year ago, with at least one forecast predicting water supplies
will be less than half of typical demand.
This report, “Scaling Corporate Water Stewardship to Address
Water Challenges in the Colorado River Basin,” examines a set
of key corporate water stewardship actions and activities, with
associated drivers and barriers, to identify how the private
sector could help tackle Colorado River water challenges.
According to the Washington Post’s fact checker, as of January,
2020, President Trump had made 16,241 false or misleading
claims during his first three years in office. Sadly, this lack
of regard for truth seems to be trickling down and infecting
the Trump Administration’s management of the federal Central
Valley Project in California, one of the largest water storage
and diversion projects in the country.
Against the terrible news of a national emergency, it’s perhaps
difficult to focus on our water situation. Recall that January
and February were bone-dry; March and April bore us a couple of
storms, but it was too little, too late. It was a very dry
winter, overall. … That puts us in the position of another
“do or die” year for precipitation next winter, an altogether
familiar proposition in California. We all know: It rains a
bunch all at once in some years, and then we go dry for a
number of years after that.
Cancer-linked per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively
known as PFAS, have been confirmed at 328 sites, according to
Pentagon data analyzed by Environmental Working Group, and
are suspected on about 350 more Defense Department
installations and sites.
Republican and Democratic congressional leaders were urged
Tuesday to include at least $12.5 billion in stimulus funds to
help people struggling to pay their water and sewer bills.
Congress is preparing another stimulus package that will
include billions of dollars to improve the nation’s aging water
and sewer infrastructure.
State oil and gas regulators have granted permits for hydraulic
fracturing, the controversial drilling technique known as
fracking, for the first time since last summer. The California
Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, last week
issued permits to Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and
ExxonMobil, for “well stimulation” work in two Kern County oil
The State Water Board today issued key documents that move the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation significantly closer to
removing four dams and re-opening 360 miles of the Klamath
River and its tributaries to imperiled salmon.
Stormwater is the rain and other water that runs off of streets
and sidewalks into nearby gutters or waterways. Communities
throughout the western U.S. are expanding efforts to collect
this valuable water resource. These projects range from
capturing water from a single rooftop or driveway to developing
large infiltration basins that recharge billions of gallons of
water each year in groundwater basins.
In a time when many people in the world are inside their houses
to stop the spread of covid-19, it is easy to forget that good
news still exists. The Environmental Protection Agency’s
National Water Reuse Action Plan is a bit of good news. The
Plan, announced on February 27, 2020, by EPA Administration
Andrew Wheeler, prioritizes the use of recycled water.
In a recent announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
(USBR), Friant Division contractors will be receiving an
increased water allocation. USBR has doubled the Class 1
allocation to 40 percent for Friant Division Central Valley
Project contracts for the 2020 contract year.
In the century-long “us-versus-them” mentality of California
water, a plan released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of
Water Resources last week achieved something perhaps never
accomplished before in the Golden State’s water industry. It
incited universal scorn.