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.
The final environmental study for a proposed desalination plant
in El Segundo will soon be released, the City Council for
adjacent Manhattan Beach learned this week, when it received
its first formal presentation on the potential project — even
though the West Basin Municipal Water District first pitched
the plant in 2015.
A capital improvement project that’s been on the table for 17
years was finally approved at the Georgetown Divide Public
Utility District’s Oct. 8 meeting. The project consists of
removing vegetation and debris from the canal and lining three
sections of the Main Canal with gunite. The canal takes water
from Stumpy Meadows Reservoir to the Auburn Lake Trails Water
The Action Plan identifies four areas for improvement: enhance
weather forecasts to improve water prediction; improve and
expand the use of water forecast information to benefit water
management outcomes; improve science and technology for water
prediction; and implement integrated water availability
assessments at national and local basin scales.
Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for much of the
U.S. this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
… Drier-than-average conditions are most likely for
Louisiana, parts of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and
Oklahoma as well areas of northern and central California.
The initiative to establish an ecosystem marketplace began in
2017 with the Noble Research Institute, which started working
on developing protocols to verify carbon sequestration and
improved water quality…
Elizabeth Castillo looks on as her daughter Reynata plays with
children at a playground near the Los Angeles River in Long
Beach, California, in mid-October, hoping one day the river
will be clean enough to kayak on. … In the last half-century,
the LA River served primarily as flood control infrastructure,
but open space and wildlife advocates fomented a movement to
make it wild and accessible to all.
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
Imperial County is seeking to declare a public health
emergency at the Salton Sea … aiming to force Gov. Gavin
Newsom and federal officials to free up emergency funds
and take immediate action to tamp down dangerous dust.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
In an update to the water district board of directors this
week, officials from both agencies described how Soquel Creek
will expand its distribution of city water to a greater part of
its service area this winter.
A smaller run is expected to return this year because of the
lower number of spawning adults recorded a few years ago…
Coho salmon spend about a year and a half in freshwater and a
year and a half in the ocean before returning to freshwater to
spawn and die. What’s encouraging researchers more is how well
the newly hatched coho from last season are surviving.
Community members, supported by staff from the League to Save
Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and California
State Parks, have wrapped up a three-year effort to survey the
Upper Truckee River for aquatic invasive plants.
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offers attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop is scheduled for Thursday, February 20 and will also cover the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
Valley of the Moon is a small community of 27,000 people tucked
away not far from Sonoma. It’s quiet normally, but the general
manager of their water district has become quite the opposite.
“I will not be the guy who didn’t say he did everything he
could to get water to his people,” said Alan Gardner, general
manager of Valley of the Moon Water District.
Jim Brobeck, water policy analyst for AquAlliance, said the
Agricultural Groundwater Users of Butte County may not have the
public’s best interests in mind. The priority of farmers,
Brobeck said, is to make sure they have water in their wells,
not to protect the shallowest portion of an aquifer. Water
purveyors, he said, like to “exercise” aquifers and may well do
so to the point where the public suffers.
Audubon California’s Salton Sea Program Director Frank Ruiz
served as the guide for this trip. Ruiz says the Salton
Sea is receding at an alarming rate, about 6-inches a year,
exposing toxic lake bed which is evident from the air.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a right-of-way grant
(ROW) Wednesday that allows for the construction of various
facilities on 711 acres east of Klamath Falls, according to a
news release. … The ROW grant is part of the Swan Lake North
Hydro LLC proposal to develop a 393.3-megawatt hydropower
Growing berries can be a water intensive proposition, with the
added challenge that prime growing regions are often located in
areas of high water stress: Eighty percent of Driscoll’s
acreage globally can be found in California and Mexico, regions
which coincide with significant water risks to businesses and
the communities in which they operate.
Morro Bay pushed through discussions about 17 possible
locations before it finally pinned down the South Bay Boulevard
and Highway 1 site for its water reclamation facility. But the
location is unacceptable to a group of residents who are
petitioning the city’s decision to purchase the site of the
The coming winter is likely to be dry in California, and
drought conditions may begin to emerge in the central part of
the state, federal climate experts warned Thursday. But
forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration also said weather patterns are fickle this year,
and there’s no clear sign that another prolonged drought like
the one that squeezed California earlier this decade will
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
Under an agreement to “bank” water outside of the Santa Clarita
Valley, local water officials … and their water banking
partners, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District and Irvine
Ranch Water District, opened six new groundwater wells and a
conveyance system to the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County.
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
When California’s historic five-year drought finally relented a
few years ago the tally of dead trees in the Sierra Nevada was
higher than almost anyone expected: 129 million. … But some
trees did survive the test of heat and drought. Now, scientists
are racing to collect them, and other species around the globe,
in the hope that these “climate survivors” have a natural
advantage that will allow them to better cope with a warming
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
The project includes improvements along more than 3 miles of
dirt roads, repairing culverts and building erosion control
features designed to reduce sediment flow into the creek. The
aim is to protect gravel nests, called redds, where female
salmon and steelhead lay their eggs, suffocating the eggs as
well as clogging the gills of adult fish…
The 2018-2019 Sonoma County Grand Jury report, issued in July,
addresses several areas of concern that county residents and
governments should be aware of, and prepare for. One of them is
found in the “water report,” a 17-page document that poses the
question, “Will there be water after an earthquake?”
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
The ample rainfall in Marin County this past water year has
acted as a double-edged sword. While the storms that touched
down in the winter and spring filled reservoirs and moistened
vegetation, they also created more fire fuel that is now
beginning to fully dry out during what firefighters are calling
a critical period in the fire season.
When the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew
Wheeler, accused California of allowing “piles of human feces”
on city streets to contaminate sewer systems … the
accusations, contained in a Sept. 26 oversight letter, had been
developed without the knowledge of the California-based staff,
which would normally issue such notices. Instead, it was put
together by a small group of political appointees in Washington
assigned specifically to target California, according to three
current E.P.A. officials.
The state Department of Water Resources and Butte County
announced the settlement Tuesday, more than two years after
spillways at the Oroville Dam crumbled and fell away during
heavy rains. The repairs resulted in heavy truck traffic that
damaged Butte County roads. Butte County sued in August 2018.
When nitrogen-based fertiliser runs into water systems it can
result in toxic algae blooms, leading to oxygen depletion and
vast oceanic ‘dead zones’. Evidence suggests their use also
contributes to air pollution, increased rates of cancer and
reduced biodiversity, as well as emitting nitrous oxide – an
extremely potent greenhouse gas. … A team of scientists, led
by the University of California, Davis, has come up with a
five-step plan to tackle this two-sided problem.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Critical U.S.
infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is week,
and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for
action, and climate change will only make the problem worse.
but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has
become a familiar story. Take dams for instance.
Deadly fires across California over the past several years have
shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and
safety issue. Health effects from fires close to or in
populated areas range from smoke exposure to drinking water
contaminated by chemicals like benzene to limited options for
the medically vulnerable. These kinds of threats are becoming
major, statewide concerns.
The Ventura City Council approved a $200 million-plus plan
Monday that will give the city more drinking water and greatly
reduce the treated wastewater its sewer plant releases into the
Santa Clara River estuary. The big-ticket item in the city’s
plan is a new plant that will take wastewater that once went
into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards…
The Alameda County Water District is considering shelling out
$72 million for a fourth-generation, 50,500-acre cattle ranch —
touted as the largest potential land sale in the state — to
preserve water quality, officials say. … The N3 Cattle Co.
ranch is roughly the size of Fremont. It’s located east of
Fremont, Milpitas and San Jose, south of Livermore, and
stretches into parts of Alameda, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and
State and local audits of the embattled West Valley Water
District in Rialto have uncovered a slew of deficiencies,
including questionable hiring and promotion practices, no-bid
contracts, abuse of credit cards and work performed without
Access to safe and affordable water is a basic human right.
Many of our communities have been without safe water for years
or even decades because of contamination of our drinking water
sources. Living in communities without safe water is a public
health crisis. It is also a crisis of basic justice and equity.
Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in
California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new
state testing has found. … State officials released the water
quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to
be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination
and pinpoint its sources.
The Mesa Water District board took a step Thursday to reduce
the estimated cost of replacing its pipeline system. With newly
adopted methodology, district staff estimates the 100-year
replacement cost at $131 million — down from $200 million under
the former standards.
Lake Mendocino made it through a typically long, hot summer
with an abundance of water and now, thanks to an ongoing
experiment with high-tech weather forecasting, the reservoir
can retain more water through the winter, benefiting people,
fish and farmers along the Russian River.
Groundwater management plans have been released for public
review by both the Salinas Valley and City of Marina
groundwater sustainability agencies … with no agreement
between the two agencies in place and California American
Water’s desalination project at the center of a dispute.
The reasons are twofold. First, a big Sierra snowpack (the
fifth largest since 1950) meant a larger allocation via the
California State Water Project – a 75 percent allocation (which
is really bigger than it sounds – it’s a big allocation).
Second, Met’s become much more nimble in conserving water and
juggling the various supplies within its service territory.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
In Arizona, the mountainous city of Flagstaff normally gets 8.3
inches of rain in monsoon season but had 2.08 inches — the
driest in more than 120 years of record keeping. The Grand
Canyon airport, Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Nation and Show Low
also had record low rainfall.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
While Southern Californians appreciate the work that’s needed
to provide a consistent water supply, most people carry on with
their busy lives as long as water comes out of the taps.
Because water pipelines are out of sight, they are also mostly
out of mind. But try to imagine for a moment a day when water
didn’t just flow from the faucets.
Almost a year after wildfire ravaged the small wooded town,
residents are still advised not to drink or bathe with tap
water. Crews have hauled away more debris than workers took
from the World Trade Center after 9/11. They’re nearly done.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has called a halt to
work on the California American Water desalination plant
project, at least temporarily, while a California Coastal
Commission appeal challenging the project’s source wells is
Kings County’s groundwater management will begin a 20-year
transformation in 2020. Five local groundwater agencies
presented more information behind the groundwater
sustainability plan in a public outreach meeting Thursday
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law intended to counter
Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production
on protected public land. The measure bars any California
leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas
infrastructure to be built on state property. It makes it
difficult for drilling to occur because federally protected
areas are adjacent to state-owned land.
In case you’ve noticed some of the storm drains in the City of
Pasadena covered, the Department of Public Works wants you to
know it’s just following the rules. The covers are “catch
basins” and they are used for gathering trash samples
throughout the City to help in complying with mandated Total
Maximum Daily Load limits.
Sacramento Metro Fire has a new tool to assist in their
firefighter trainings, which also helps recycle millions of
gallons of water at the same time. The Pump Pod is a mobile
tank that assists in catching and recycling thousands of
gallons of water during firefighter training exercises.
The forced blackout imposed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to
reduce fire danger amid high winds has slowed agricultural
activities in some parts of California to a crawl as shuttered
processing facilities have caused a backup in harvests.
The number of wildfires burning across the western United
States over the past 6 decades has been steadily increasing,
and those fires are growing larger and more severe, especially
in mountain areas where more than 65% of clean water resources
for the West’s 75 million people originate. What happens when
fires intersect water resources is the subject of two new
papers in Hydrological Processes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1 means the honeymoon
may be over with environmental groups who saw the bill as a
bulwark to protect California’s water quality and endangered
species from the Trump administration’s regulatory slashing.
Arizona’s top water official presented new long-term
projections Friday showing that Pinal County doesn’t have
enough groundwater to provide for the fast-growing area’s
cities, farms and many planned subdivisions over the coming
The court denied the petitioner’s challenge, which questioned
the validity of the county’s Environmental Impact Report,
according to the Statement of Decision. Crystal Geyser
purchased the former Coca Cola water bottling facility on Ski
Village Drive in 2013 with hopes of bottle sparkling spring
water and eventually producing Juice Squeeze drinks there.
While many hail the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act as a
success in state legislation and others say the law represents
government overreach, most seem to agree: It could change
agriculture and the economy in the San Joaquin Valley in a very
big way. In this interview, we talk about the nuts and bolts of
SGMA with Stephanie Anagnoson, Director of Water and Natural
Resources with Madera County.
On Friday night the governor signed Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s
Assembly Bill 1413, which will support local referendums on
transit funding, and Assembly Bill 1290 by Gloria and Sen. Toni
Atkins that clears the way for the pioneering Pure Water
Working to “Make Every Source a Resource” and striving toward a
more sustainable future, East Valley Water District Board of
Directors approved the addition of state-of-the-art co-digester
technology at the Sterling Natural Resource Center during the
Sept. 11 board meeting.
A provider of drinking water in Sacramento County is seeking
reimbursement from the U.S. Air Force for a filtration system
it installed to take contaminants out of groundwater near the
former Mather Air Force Base.
Efforts to extract lithium at the Salton Sea could unite
environmentalists — who decry the destructive evaporation ponds
used to produce the metal in South America — and national
security hawks, who are loathe to rely on other countries for a
mineral poised to play a key role in powering the U.S. economy.
A major fish restoration project is underway on private
property near Cottonwood. River Partners shared a video of new
side channels that are being built to help the recovery of
struggling wild salmon populations in the Sacramento River.
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Alicyn Gitlin, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter, said the project would threaten an
endangered species, interfere with the Grand Canyon’s already
degraded hydrology and damage sites held sacred by two Arizona
Conditions tipped from bleak into officially alarming in
late August when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced that the water residents drink, cook with and bathe
in had been contaminated with arsenic at 10 times the allowable
The draft plan … includes some provisions designed to
strengthen oversight of lead in drinking water. But it skips a
pricey safety proposal advocated by public health groups and
water utilities: the immediate replacement of six million lead
pipes that connect homes to main water pipes. The proposed new
rule would also more than double the amount of time allotted to
replace lead pipes …
Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency officials are
calling on Congress to investigate the Trump administration’s
“inappropriate threat of use of EPA authority” against the
state of California over recent environmental policies.
In its effort to establish a new, drought-proof source of water
that could serve a half-million Southern California homes, the
Metropolitan Water District on Thursday, Oct. 10 unveiled a $17
million pilot plant that will bring wastewater to drinkable
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
Partially inspired by the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, the
Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule to reduce
exposure to lead from drinking water around the country on
Thursday. … Wheeler said the new rule will help remove the
most corrosive pipes with the highest risk of releasing lead
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
The removal of the Upper York Creek Dam will not begin in 2019
as previously planned, but the project is still on schedule to
be complete by the end of 2020. … The city now plans to do
both phases in 2020, after last-minute design changes failed to
win regulatory approval in time for the 2019 construction
season ending Oct. 31.
Typical discussions about homelessness tend to focus on its
most obvious problem, a lack of shelter. What often gets left
out, though, are the tangential issues that arise from the
crisis. On Oct. 3, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality
Control Board set out to examine one such issue: the ways in
which homelessness and water quality intersect.
California’s largest inland lake, the Salton Sea, lies in the
Imperial and Coachella valleys. The lake, which is more than 50
percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean, is becoming more salt
than water because it’s essentially evaporating. The lake and
the area that surrounds it — once hotspots for tourism and
wildlife — have essentially become ghost towns.
Cities, counties and regional water districts throughout the
Sacramento Valley and Bay Area are urging users to cut down on
water use during Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s public safety
power shutoff, which has blacked out hundreds of thousands of
customers since the early morning hours of Wednesday.
Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is
critical for a sustainable water future. However, recent
analysis conducted by Water in the West … suggests that
alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even
when included in water management agreements.
Fish in San Geronimo Creek are again the source of litigation.
… For the average Marinite to know what’s at stake, fish
proponents and the county need to answer three obvious but, so
far, unanswered questions.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the
No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year
drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s
recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western
end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their
farming or let fields go fallow.
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet
broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique
opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively
integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit
water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.
The city of Oceanside is offering tours to experience Pure
Water Oceanside, an innovative program that will purify
recycled water to create a new local source of high-quality
drinking water that is clean, safe, drought-proof and
environmentally sound. Pure Water Oceanside will produce enough
water to provide more than 32% of the city’s water supply, or
3-5 million gallons per day.
As CO2 levels rise more rapidly than predicted, we need to
re-assess infrastructure needs, from sewage plants and roads
located along the coasts as the sea level rises, to our water
supply and delivery system. “Infrastructure” might sound like a
boring word, but it won’t be so boring to any of us if water
doesn’t come out of the tap or untreated sewage is spilled into
California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive
agricultural regions in the United States… But a seven-year
drought has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland,
and many rural communities have suffered greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a
window into the front lines of the water crisis.
The Senate approved almost $20 million in funding to address
sewage flows along the border. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who
secured language in three different appropriations bills for
the 2020 fiscal year, called the spills that send millions of
gallons of raw sewage from Tijuana to San Diego,
An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses
on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and
social dimensions of water within governance processes. …
Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater
governance, implications toward achieving water security and
her research activities at Stanford.
For the first time in five years, Tustin is looking at passing
along those increases to consumers through a rise in rates.
Early next year, the City Council will vote on a multi-year,
incremental rate hike. If council members approve the staff
proposal, rates almost immediately will increase 6% per year
for five years.
I have been writing about drinking water issues for the past
fifteen years and often been struck at how little attention the
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) receives in our field. Passed
just two years after the Clean Water Act, it gets scant or no
coverage in environmental law casebooks and is rarely taught in
environmental law courses.
The National Marine Fisheries Service owes an explanation for
why it decided that two dams on the Yuba River do not adversely
affect threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon,
three Ninth Circuit judges ruled Thursday.
Areas under Clean Water Act, or CWA, jurisdiction are not
prohibited from being filled for development, but if developed,
the act does require federal oversight, permitting and full
mitigation for any loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Removing CWA protections would likely make the 1,400-acre salt
pond site more profitable to develop, and thus more difficult
to purchase for tidal marsh restoration.
The morning dawned hot and sticky Tuesday, Sept. 24, when a
slew of volunteers and scientists clad in T-shirts and hip
waders along the Lake Elsinore shoreline. Their goal? To catch,
measure, tag and release fish in the city’s namesake lake all
in the name of conservation.
Hotter-burning wildfires are transforming California’s forests,
and not for the better. A new study from UC Davis finds
high-intensity fires leave fewer trees and a less diverse
population of plants behind. … Those intense fires transform
forest into shrubland. And according to Richter, the more
frequent and the larger the area burned at these high-severity
sites, the larger the shrub fields left behind.
Whenever I visit my hometown of Orange County, California, I
get to sip some of the purest drinking water in the US. The
quality is sometimes hard to spot, since many drinking-water
contaminants are odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the
human eye. Even in cities where the water is contaminated with
lead, residents have reported that their taps are crystal
clear. But in Orange County, the water is actually as clean as
The loss of oyster reefs in the bay has affected its entire
ecosystem. Oysters are natural filter feeders, filtering out
small sediments and contaminants in the water. The unclean
water has made it difficult for underwater grass to grow,
reducing habitats for fish. The California Shellfish Initiative
… works to advance local restoration plans for the bay,
partnering with the California Coastal Conservancy to rebuild
its native oyster reefs and wetlands.
The ambitious tree-planting project falls under the purview of
Rachel Malarich, the city’s forest officer—a job that was just
created in August to “oversee the growth of Los Angeles’ urban
forest” as part of Garcetti’s Green New Deal. … The project
will grow what’s already the largest urban forest in the
country, making what happens in Los Angeles an important model
for other cities looking to go green.
After morning services, Florin Ciuriuc joined the line of
worshipers waiting to fill their jugs with gallons of free
drinking water from a well on the property, a practice church
leaders had encouraged. Church leaders boasted it was the
cleanest water in Sacramento, according to Ciuriuc. In fact,
test results showed the water contained toxic chemicals from
firefighting foam used for decades on a now-shuttered Air Force
base a mile away.
In July of 2015, California’s forests began to crumple. Parched
from more than three years of severe drought, trees died in
droves, transforming entire swaths of the Sierra Nevada from
vibrant green to dull, lifeless red. … But as Mukesh Kumar
and his colleagues would discover, California’s trees had
sounded a subtle death knell long before they breathed their
Over the past decade, state and federal agencies have continued
to publish peer reviewed scientific research that largely
strengthens our understanding of how the volume, timing,
temperature, and quality of water – and the operations of
existing dams and water diversion facilities, including the
state and federal water projects – adversely affect salmon and
other fish and wildlife.
Here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by
several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability
agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture. So
rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed…
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
The spread of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) through the
water system could put public safety at-risk. Researchers
studied and compared samples from an advanced groundwater
treatment facility in California and groundwater aquifers…
They found that the advanced groundwater treatment facility
reduced nearly all targeted ARGs to below detection limits, but
groundwater samples had a ubiquitous presence of ARGs …
As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have
been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. … We are
now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource,
unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater
resources for both the next decade and future generations.
There should be no “acceptable” amount of risk we’re willing to
take when it comes to water quality or the health of our
children and families. From Los Angeles to Sacramento to
Washington, D.C. — in all the places I’ve worked — this belief
has fueled my desire to fight for clean and safe water in our
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and
unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers,
policymakers and the public better understand growing practices
since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became
legal for recreational use.
A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside
the city of Red Bluff. One of several such projects in the
North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will
offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered
Katie Fyhrie, a grower at Cloverleaf Farm in Davis, Calif.,
worries that the farm won’t be able to keep producing stone
fruits—which depend on the timing and duration of winter
chill—in the long-term. … With that in mind, Fyhrie and her
team have started growing elderberries.
Scientists have increasingly found that loss of property and
life from fire is overwhelmingly the result of precariously
placed housing in and bordering wildland areas — residential
developments that are, themselves, a major driver sparking
The project is the first of its kind to tap agricultural
run-off among a variety of wastewater sources for conversion
into potable, drinking water that would represent about a third
of the Monterey Peninsula’s new drinking water supply.
California has embarked on a statewide assessment to identify
the scope of PFAS contamination in the state, focusing
primarily on PFOA and PFAS. … Most recently, on August 23,
2019 the State Water Board lowered notification levels for PFOA
and PFOS to 5.1 ppt and 6.5 ppt, respectively. The announcement
also stated that response levels for these contaminants will be
updated this fall.
On Tuesday night, members of the agency’s board received
official word from staffers that trace amounts of a chemical
called PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in 17 of
its wells, requiring them to now notify key agencies about the
Western Municipal Water District, which provides water to
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Rancho California
Water District in southwest Riverside County, won a court
challenge from two excessive water users to share their higher
costs with those who efficiently conserve their water usage and
save on their water bills.
Bird populations in the Mojave Desert have collapsed over the
last century, and now scientists say they know why: The
animals’ bodies can’t cope with the hotter and drier weather
brought on by global warming.
The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid
inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change
management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on natural contaminants
such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants
that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health…
Based on the most detailed data they have available, the East
Kaweah has a supply of 125,000 acre feet per year of ground
water available for use without threatening overdraft. However,
Hagman notes that the East Kaweah has overdrafted their portion
of the basin by 28,000 acre feet on average, per year.
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
California’s senators have asked the Environmental Protection
Agency’s watchdog to investigate whether the agency abused its
enforcement powers when it accused San Francisco of improperly
dumping waste into the ocean.
Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety
Modification Project, presented a program outlining
catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to
mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s
dams, including Isabella Dam.
California’s most recent drought lasted many long, parched
years… There was plenty of suffering to go around, but some
vineyards fared less terribly than others—historic parcels east
of San Francisco, in Contra Costa County, for example. Planted
at the turn of the last century by Italian, Portuguese, and
Spanish immigrants, they rely on a technique called dry farming
rather than irrigation.
The Antelope Valley Watermaster gave preliminary approval to
the first two water storage agreements to come before the Board
tasked with overseeing the 2015 court settlement that set
limits on groundwater pumping for users across the Valley.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of
violation to San Francisco on Wednesday, accusing the city of
improperly discharging waste into the ocean and bay and
following through on President Trump’s recent pledge to cite
San Francisco for water pollution.
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
We now have an opportunity to build on the successful Arizona
process that led to the DCP signing. Arizona is stronger
together. And that will serve us well as we work toward the
next step – maintaining a stable, healthy Colorado River system
as we face a hotter and drier future.
On the heels of a severe drought and years of water rationing,
a longstanding plan to provide recycled water for the vast lawn
at the Santa Barbara Cemetery is finally gaining some momentum.
At a joint committee meeting this week, members of the
Montecito Water and Sanitary District boards and staffs
tentatively agreed to collaborate on recycled water for the
Over 30 years, Cal Am’s Desal would cost $1.2 billion while the
Pure Water Monterey expansion would be only $190 million. But
the cost in dollars is not the only comparison that should be
made. The environmental cost comparison is also dramatic.
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
PG&E has installed more than 600 weather stations at
locations all across the Sierra foothills in Northern
California and plans to more than double that in the next three
years. … The weather stations provide multiple sets of eyes
on an area that has very dry vegetation with a real danger of
wildfires. They also give PG&E a better handle on when it
may be necessary to de-energize the power lines.
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
Lake Powell’s long decline may be on hiatus after this year’s
snowy winter, but activists still are raising concerns that
climate change could render Glen Canyon Dam inoperable. This
time, they are taking their concerns to court, asking a federal
judge to invalidate the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 20-year
operating plan for the towering dam..
California isn’t in an official drought and under mandatory
water conservation, but climate change means that saving water
is always crucial. That’s why a recent announcement should not
go unnoticed: The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation
District won state approval to deliver recycled water to
agricultural and habitat conservation land in the southern part
of the county.
A new study released Wednesday says that diminishing
groundwater is causing the level of streams and rivers to fall
as well. Like the shrinking aquifers, surface water is critical
to farms, towns and cities for everything from food to trade to
energy production. … In watersheds such as California’s
Central Valley, the Midwestern U.S.’s high plains, the Upper
Ganges and the Indus in South Asia, groundwater is already
The Palmdale Water District extended its contract with the Los
Angeles County Sanitation District 20 for recycled water, as
projects for this water have been delayed for circumstances
beyond their control.
Water board members voiced concern at the last meeting over
what to do if state officials lower the threshold for PFAS
contamination to such a level that the wells would have to be
shut down. The board decided not to wait for such an
announcement and agreed to get the necessary water treatment
equipment up and running as soon as possible.
Back in May, the board of the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management
Agency unanimously agreed to pay the United Water Conservation
District for about 15,000 acre-feet of water. Officials said
the relatively low-cost release would help recharge aquifers
still struggling after years of drought. That much was clear.
Other details were more murky.
To optimize mitigation for impacts to wetlands, other
wildlands, and at-risk species, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife is developing a program called the Regional
Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS). … Each RCIS
identifies top conservation needs, such as habitat for
The United States-Mexico border region is enduring the latest
in a series of massive cross-border sewage tainted spills.
Federal officials in charge of monitoring the trans-border
sewage situation on the U.S. side of the border said nearly 8
million gallons of tainted water flowed across the border in
the Tijuana River channel.
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
From mandatory drought restrictions to billions of dollars’
worth of drought-proofing projects, San Diego and the entire
West has for years had a complicated relationship with its
water – and it’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper any
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
To help protect endangered fish and other critters that rely on
the Ventura River for habitat, migration and procreation, the
city of Ventura has agreed to better monitor and reduce its
water draw in dry times. The city will also take steps to
remove barriers for steelhead trout to make the journey to and
from the sea…
When you look at a farm, do you think about nutrient rich soils
or cover crops growing between rows? When you look at a marsh,
do you see the submerged layers of sediment created by years of
plant litter piling up? Probably not. But those parts of
well-managed agricultural lands and wetlands store a lot of
carbon, and that’s increasingly important as climate change is
forcing society to consider ways to lower carbon emissions…
A Native American tribe has granted personhood to a river in
northern California making it the first known River in North
America to have the same legal rights as a human, at least
under tribal law. The Yurok Tribe based near the southern
border of Oregon confirmed the new status on the Klamath River.
Water vending machine companies compete aggressively to sell
water outside of supermarkets and pharmacies at an incredible
markup. The industry is only lightly regulated – last year the
California Department of Public Health inspected just two
machines in San Diego County.
Recently, authority over many streams, pools, and lakes in the
United States reverted from the federal government to the
states. The Trump administration repealed the 2015 “Waters of
the United States” rule, under which the federal government
claimed authority to regulate virtually any body of water it
Senate Bill No. 690 seeks to reduce exposure to dangerous
pathogens, limit beach closures and address water quality
issues in the Tijuana River Valley. The bill will also allow a
$15 million budget allocation for cleanup efforts as well as
prioritizing projects that will address water quality, flood
control, trash and sediment.
A new white paper released today by the Southern California
Water Coalition aims to further the discussion through its
provision of nine case studies of successful stormwater capture
projects from California to New York.
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
A new “green infrastructure” project under construction along
the western side of the block is designed to slow down that
process by detoxing the water through soil and plants and
pumping a purified product back out to the creek. The project,
a whopping seven years in the making, is part of a $4 million,
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
Santa Maria and several other Central Coast Water Authority
members are planning to claim an additional 12,214 acre-feet of
state water that was set aside decades ago. The move — which
would be funded by issuing a $42 million bond — would increase
Santa Maria’s annual right to state water from 17,820 to over
27,000 acre-feet each year.
The proposed water rates include a fixed meter charge per month
and a variable consumption charge per unit of water. The city
says most single family residences will see about a $15
increase in January of 2020. … The last rate increase was
approved by the city council five years ago, but he says a lot
has changed since then.
By century’s end, Sacramento is expected to feel much like
Tucson or even Phoenix, Arizona, according to the state’s 2018
Climate Assessment for the Sacramento Valley. Daily
temperatures are projected to rise 10 F in the valley by 2100,
and the number of days topping 104 F are on track to increase
from four days a year to 40.
A coalition of river and coastal defenders have won a major
victory against the State Water Resources Control Board,
securing an order that requires the board to meet the statutory
deadlines for its list of impaired waterways in California. The
lawsuit focused on the board’s violations of the Clean Water
Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act…
The project, called the Upper Salinas River Basin Conjunctive
Use Project, captures existing wastewater flows generated
within the eastside of the District and will return these flows
back to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. The
wastewater undergoes treatment and is then discharged into the
river alluvium that contains the Salinas River underflow
providing subsequent conveyance to district wells…
A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less
than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon
National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado
River and the endangered fish habitat it protects.
In an effort to widen the use of a nearly limitless — but
expensive — source of water for California and other places
worldwide that are prone to shortages, Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory has been selected to lead a $100 million
project aimed at bringing down the cost of desalination.
The river is carrying year-round flows down a stretch on the
Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier District that until recently
was dry for more than 70 years except after big rains. And
here, unlike through downtown Tucson, the water is once again
coming up from the aquifer naturally — not being added
artificially through effluent.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
Jaime Jahncke, a marine biologist with Point Blue Conservation
Science, which is headquartered in Petaluma, said the concern
is that another long-lasting warm water episode could do
serious harm to an already fragile ecosystem. “We’re going into
a blob and we don’t know what’s happening next,” said