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 California condor’s dramatic recovery from near-extinction
was aided by removal of toxic substances from the land, which
accumulated in animals whose carrion they ate. But that
recovery may be threatened in coastal condors by DDT-related
contaminants in marine mammals, according to a preliminary
study led by an San Diego State researcher.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
The EPA ordered the Grindstone Indian Rancheria in Elk Creek to
provide alternative drinking water, disinfect the system’s
water and monitor the water for contamination. … The EPA said
Stony Creek has numerous potential contaminants from
agricultural, municipal and industrial operations.
A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, reveals an
elegant formula to explain why some trees died and others
didn’t — and it suggests more suffering is in store for forests
as the climate heats up.
An irrigation district may adopt and enforce reasonable rules
related to water service, and may terminate water delivery for
failure to comply with such rules, a California appellate court
ruled. Although this case involved an irrigation district, the
decision may also strengthen other water providers’ authority
to adopt and enforce rules relating to water service.
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
Rain – and plenty of it – was the big weather story in June,
adding to a record-breaking 12 months of precipitation for the
contiguous U.S. It’s the third consecutive time in 2019 (April,
May and June) the past 12-month precipitation record has hit an
To better understand groundwater markets, attendees at the
meeting played a groundwater market game, which was developed
by the Environmental Defense Fund and the University of
Michigan to teach players about the challenges of managing
scarce groundwater resources.
Bob Wieckowski was the only state senator to vote against Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s plan to clean up dirty drinking water in the
California’s poorest communities… To be clear, Wieckowski
thinks clean water is an important priority. His quibble is
that California will pay for it with revenue generated from the
state’s cap-and-trade auction.
High up on a hill, behind a barbed wire fence, are large steel
tanks– the likes of which hold Marin County’s water supply.
Gravity pulls water down pipes to supply homes in the area, but
in order to refill the tanks, electricity is needed. A
potential problem if PG&E decides to cut power during high
fire danger conditions.
The golf course property, now earmarked by its nonprofit owner
the Trust For Public Land for “rewilding” after a fierce
community battle over its future, sits in the headwaters of the
Lagunitas Creek watershed. The watershed … is a spawning and
rearing ground for coho salmon and steelhead trout, both of
which are on the endangered species list.
The $650 million project involves a joint financial partnership
between Padre Dam, Helix, San Diego County and the city of El
Cajon. The Helix board voted 4-1 last week to continue funding
the Advanced Water Purification project, which is expected to
have reclaimed water flowing into faucets by 2025.
One day after President Trump delivered a speech preaching of
his administration’s environmental achievements, he threatened
to veto a military spending bill in part due to provisions that
aim to clean up a toxic, cancer-linked chemical found near
What is at stake is the water supply for the Monterey
Peninsula. Consuming water drawn from the Carmel River is no
longer feasible, neither ecologically nor legally. But the
power to decide on an alternative supply is largely vested in
the hands of public officials from outside the region.
Global warming is putting lake fish in hot water, with
worrisome possibilities for many species, as well as the
nation’s fishermen and the $115 billion sport fishing industry
that employs as many as 820,000 people.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the chance of a quake larger
than Friday’s 7.1 temblor is less than 1% and the chance of a
magnitude 6 or higher is down to 6%. … Trona, which has about
1,800 residents, lost power until Monday and remained without
water on Wednesday.
The nation’s coasts were hit with increased tidal flooding over
the past year, part of a costly and perilous trend that will
only worsen as sea levels continue to rise, federal scientists
On Monday the Glenn Groundwater Authority passed an operation
fee increase for water service, despite meeting some
opposition. Anyone within the Glenn County portion of the
Colusa subbasin except for Willows and Orland will have to pay
the fee. The board set the operation fee at $1.61 per acre, per
year for the fiscal 2019-2020 year.
A vintner in Northern California is upgrading a concrete fish
barrier to return native salmon and steelhead to valuable
spawning habitat that has been blocked for nearly a century. A
cooperative “Safe Harbor” agreement between the landowner
Barbara Banke, proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and NOAA
Fisheries … fostered the improvements.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
If Robert P. McCulloch had not flown over the beautiful waters
of Lake Havasu, there would never have been a Lake Havasu City.
But if Parker Dam didn’t exist, there would never have been a
Lake Havasu in the first place. It’s a bit like the riddle of
the chicken and the egg.
Regulators have issued dozens of water-quality citations to
over 100 different San Diego water providers in the past five
years, according to state and county records. Most violations
were issued to small districts, which can have a harder time
maintaining and upgrading equipment.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
The state legislative process is designed to create laws that
protect and improve the life of all Californians. It is not
intended to punish a single business or project. Yet, our
Legislature is moving a bill, SB 307, that does just that under
the guise of desert protection.
A massive flow of fresh water is being released from Friant Dam
on Tuesday as Millerton Lake reached capacity. … Officials
are releasing 1,700-1,000 cubic feet per second into the San
Joaquin River. Stroup said Millerton Lake has received above
average snow melt forcing them to release the water to make
room for more run off.
Residents in the Cañada Cove neighborhood started their
Independence Day holiday with some unexpected news: Water would
be turned off for about 12 hours. Five days later, the water is
flowing again, but they still cannot drink it.
Remember the parade of atmospheric-river storms that deluged
the Bay Area last winter, giving us the wettest rainy season in
20 years? There are a lot more of those on the way, scientists
say. But California will also experience more periods of
extreme dryness, according to a new study led by Scripps
Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
New legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier,
D-Discovery Bay, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom,
calls for the development of a plan to deal with abandoned and
derelict commercial vessels in the Delta. A draft of that plan
is now available for review and public comment.
Agricultural water suppliers must develop annual water budgets
and drought plans that meet requirements of recently enacted
legislation, and are meeting with state officials to comply
with the updated law—a process that could ultimately affect
water costs for California farmers and ranchers.
The plan is historic: It acknowledges that southwestern states
need to make deep water use reductions – including a large
share from agriculture, which uses over 70% of the supply – to
prevent Colorado River reservoirs from declining to critically
low levels. But it also has serious shortcomings. It runs for
less than a decade. And its name suggests a response to a
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is an
historic opportunity to achieve long-term sustainable
groundwater management and protect drinking water supplies for
hundreds of small and rural low-income communities, especially
in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Department of Water Resources released the final guidelines
for the Riverine Stewardship Program on July 1, 2019. The grant
program supports planning and implementation of projects that
restore streams, creeks, and rivers to enhance the environment
for fish, wildlife, and people.
Water systems, especially in rural areas, can report much
higher levels of lead than the EPA cutoff. In 2017, for
example, an elementary school in Tulare County, California,
home to agricultural laborers, reported lead levels of 4,600
ppb. The school distributed bottled water to its students and
replaced its well.
Despite being on opposite sides of the immigration debate,
environmental groups who oppose border barriers generally
mirror cattle rancher John Ladd’s concerns about the river.
They say a wall or fence across the San Pedro could have
devastating consequences to its hydrology, as well as the
endangered species that call the river home.
A decade-long debate over how and where to build the new Morro
Bay sewage treatment plant will come to head at a California
Coastal Commission meeting in San Luis Obispo on Thursday. …
The preferred site is located on about 15 acres of a 396-acre
property at the corner of Highway 1 and South Bay Boulevard.
A bold move by farmers to form the South San Joaquin Irrigation
District 110 years ago literally changed the economic fortunes
of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon. And no way else did SSJID have
as big as an impact as it did on Manteca.
A governing document called the Winterhaven Neighborhood
Standards and Landscaping Guidelines make the desired effect
clear: “Winterhaven’s dominant use of green lawns and
non-native trees creates a Midwestern environment that is
unique in Tucson …”
The bill that will provide support for necessary repairs to the
Friant-Kern Canal is continuing to make forward progress in the
California legislature. Senate Bill 559 (SB-559) … was voted
through the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in the
Assembly on July 2. The bill itself is seeking $400 million to
make important upgrades and repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
We estimate that nearly 20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated
cropland in the valley has no access to surface water. … With
groundwater cuts looming and no other water supply to fall back
on, groundwater-only areas are on the front line of the effort
to bring basins into balance.
Utilities, including several in the Bay Area, simply don’t have
the backup power to replace the electricity that Pacific Gas
and Electric Co. normally provides for water delivery and
sewage treatment. The agencies are trying to make their
operations more energy efficient and adding alternative power
sources in case the cord is cut, but it may not be enough.
For the better part of a day this April, San Diego’s main
drinking water treatment plant wasn’t doing everything it was
supposed to do to kill viruses and a nasty parasite known as
Giardia… The April risk, however small, is an extraordinary
one for a water supplier as large as the Water Authority.
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District’s pilot program,
set for testing later this summer or early fall, would allow
certain landowners to buy or sell groundwater to or from
another property owner within the district.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
Marijuana growers are literally sucking salmon streams dry.
According to research that TU and partners cited for the
journal Bioscience, some forms of outdoor cultivation use an
average of 6 gallons per day per marijuana plant. … Their
combined water demand can easily exceed available streamflow in
the tiny tributaries salmon and steelhead rely on to survive
the long, hot summers typical of this region.
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
The California Senate on Monday sent legislation to Gov. Gavin
Newsom that will spend $130 million a year over the next decade
to improve drinking water for about a million people. …
Newsom had proposed a tax on most residential water bills to
address the problem. Instead, the Senate approved a bill that
would authorize spending up to $130 million each year on the
state’s distressed water districts, with most of it coming from
a fund aimed at fighting climate change.
The news release hardly stood out. It focused on the
methodology of the study rather than its major findings, which
showed that climate change could have a withering effect on
California’s economy by inundating real estate over the next
few decades. An earlier draft of the news release, written by
researchers, was sanitized by Trump administration officials,
who removed references to the dire effects of climate change
after delaying its release for several months.
A new study will explore the viability of a regional pipeline
to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple
users in San Diego County and across the Southwest. The San
Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved
funds for the two-year study at its June 27 Board meeting.
San Diego faces a hidden earthquake threat — to its water
supply. A quake, even one so far away that nobody in San Diego
feels it, could force mandatory water-use restrictions. That’s
because most of San Diego’s water comes from hundreds of miles
away through threads of metal and concrete that connect us to
distant rivers and reservoirs.
Industry veteran Gloria Gray took the helm at the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California. In this interview, Gray
shares how she plans to steer the largest water supplier in the
nation through changing political priorities and climate
conditions to continue safeguarding the future of California’s
Pure Water Monterey, the highly touted recycled water project,
is in default on a water purchase agreement with California
American Water after failing to meet a Monday deadline for
delivering potable water even as the project’s costs rise amid
Each of the selected projects strike at the heart of the Sierra
Nevada watershed improvement program, SNC’s large-scale
restoration initiative designed to improve ecosystem and
community resilience in the region.
Only one undammed river in the American Southwest still flows
freely, and it begins just south of the border, in Sonora,
Mexico. From there, the San Pedro River courses north into
Arizona, a rare and unbarricaded corridor that is a haven and
vital water source for a vast array of plants and wildlife…
One of the vineyard owners hooked up to the city’s Purple Pipe
is anxiously waiting for the recycled water to begin flowing,
asking this week if he would need to begin tapping the Russian
River near his property to irrigate instead.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
On June 28, farmers gathered in Los Banos to ask questions of
President Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue. GV Wire
took the opportunity to ask growers if they believed Trump was
doing enough to bring water to farmers. Generally, they said
they like how things are progressing.
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.
Legislative leaders reached a compromise with Newsom to take
some money out of a fund used to improve air quality and use it
for drinking water. … The state Assembly approved the
proposal on Friday by a vote of 67-0. It now heads to the state
Weather conditions that make this a landmark year, like more
rain, could be part of the reason for the algae blooms in
Horseshoe Lake, putting the upper Bidwell Park lake off limits
for use for the foreseeable future.
Almost two years of tests have revealed excessive levels of
lead in drinking fountains and faucets in California’s schools.
But state officials and an environmental organization can’t
agree on how pervasive the problem is.
Santa Barbara County Water Agency should seek a completely new
contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rather than simply
renewing the 1995 Cachuma Project contract in 2020, a grand
jury found during an investigation into the contract process.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
The original treaty was implemented before the 1970 National
Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act and a
host of legal shifts that bolstered Indigenous rights… These
hallmarks of change emphasize the need to include environmental
protection and equity in an updated treaty.
The survival of a tiny, unique desert neighborhood is
threatened because more than 60 years ago the community decided
to form a small water district instead of digging individual
wells. Borrego Air Ranch is built around a private air strip
where residents’ garages double as airplane hangers.
As fires across the state grow larger and more damaging, water
agencies … are asking lawmakers to shield them from paying
for damages related to fires they didn’t start but weren’t able
to help put out.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
The standoff between Sacramento County and the California
Department of Water Resources over the Delta’s future took a
twist in June, moving from quiet canals and pear orchards along
the river to a courtroom in the central city. That’s where
county officials were granted a temporary restraining order
against DWR to halt what they call risky and illegal drilling.
The Lake Hodges facility near San Diego, a relatively small 40
megawatt generating station, is one of 40 pumped storage
facilities around the United States, and its operator says it
is helping the state meet its ambitious goals. San Diego is
planning a larger system at another site, the San Vicente
reservoir, again using two water sources at different
Officials in two damaged desert communities worked Sunday to
repair roads and restore utilities following the largest
earthquake in Southern California in nearly two decades. …
Friday’s quake sparked several house fires, shut off power,
snapped gas lines, cracked buildings and flooded some homes
when water lines broke.
The unincorporated Fresno County community of Lanare has long
been a poster child for California’s widespread contaminated
drinking water. For the past 13 years, Lanare’s water had
tested higher than the state limit for arsenic, but that
changed in February, when the water received a passing grade
after a $3.8 million state grant paid for two new drinking
Here in Oxnard, we are also at a crossroads regarding the
safety of our water. In February, scientists from the United
States Geological Survey found that groundwater near the Fox
Canyon aquifer system in eastern Oxnard was contaminated in an
area of steam injection oil production … The USGS found
thermogenic gases — byproducts of oil drilling — in groundwater
wells near oil operations.
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
New research offers a hard link between reforestation of
marginal, degraded, or abandoned agricultural land and
significant benefits in water quality. This relationship,
argues Arturo Keller, a professor of environmental
biogeochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
lends itself toward a program that incentivizes facilities that
discharge pollutants, and local farmers to plant trees for
water quality credits.
Signs of the strong winter that the Central Sierra experienced
in 2018-19 are all around Tuolumne County two weeks into
summer, from a record tying late opening for Tioga Pass in the
High Sierra on Monday to the nearly brimful New Melones
Reservoir in the foothills.
Between 2012 and 2015, very little rain and snow fell on
California. Aquifers shrank and the land dried out. … New
research suggests the loss of deep-soil water best explains why
the mountain range’s trees were unable to withstand the drought
An important blueprint for the success of farming in the
Central Valley is being developed to present to California
government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done
to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The
blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business
due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
The experiment to super-energize water recharging efforts at
Fresno’s Leaky Acres appears to be working. … Tommy Esqueda,
then the director of Public Utilities, described the system to
me as “putting ‘unique’ straws in the ground. The depth and
spacing of these ‘straws’ are designed to maximize groundwater
Santa Barbara County’s water supply outlook has improved
significantly with a winter of strong rains, and this is
reflected in a noticeably fuller Lake Cachuma. However, the
effects of the years-long drought will take several years for
some water sources to recover…
Oscar Meinzer (1942) credits Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with
having advocated the infiltration theory slightly before
Palissy’s time, basing his theories on observations made when
he was in charge of canals in the Milan area. … Such a
scenario might explain why California DWR staff and like-minded
academics and nonprofits have all jumped on the bandwagon of
managed aquifer recharge.
A catastrophic forest die-off in California’s Sierra Nevada
mountain range in 2015-2016 was caused by the inability of
trees to reach diminishing supplies of subsurface water
following years of severe drought and abnormally warm
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta historically has been an
agricultural paradise. But sometimes there is a disconnect
between the agricultural community and the urban culture. A
fourth generation farmer has made it her mission to reconnect
the two in hopes of inspiring the next generation to consider
farming as a career.
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
An Oakland-based environmental health group is threatening to
sue the manufacturers and retailers behind two bottled water
brands for failing to warn consumers about allegedly high
levels of arsenic in their products.
Nearly one in five California schools found detectable
levels of lead in the drinking water, according to recent data
from the State Water Board. … Monday was the deadline, under
a 2017 law, for local water districts to test school drinking
water for lead. CBS13 found there is still no testing data for
at least 100 schools in our area, but many local schools tested
well above the limit.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
The unusually wet winter (with an assist from new Colorado
River Drought Contingency Plan water reduction rules) has
substantially reduced the near-term scare-the-crap-out-of-me
risks on the Colorado River for the next few years, according
to new Bureau of Reclamation modeling.
Colorado officials are planning to build multiple large
reservoirs on the prairie northeast of Denver to capture more
of the South Platte River’s Nebraska-bound water, then pump it
back westward to booming metro suburbs struggling to wean
themselves off dwindling underground aquifers.
The increase … amounts to an approximately 10.6 percent
increase in revenue for the company. … The request for the
increase will assist in funding system and infrastructure
improvements to help maintain high-quality water service. The
increase will renew and replace water treatment facilities,
pumps and pipelines.
The Newsom Administration and the State Legislature approved a
commitment of $70 million in the 2019-2020 State Budget for a
comprehensive series of innovative fish and wildlife habitat
enhancement actions identified in the collaborative Bay-Delta
Voluntary Agreement proposals. This is a significant, early
investment in the success of the Voluntary Agreements.
In their analyses, they write that the plan poses risks to
threatened fish; that the process is rushed; that they didn’t
receive enough information to provide a complete scientific
review; and that the Trump administration may be skewing the
science to make the environmental impact look less serious.
The rapid proliferation of the quagga mussel has major
implications for power plant reliability. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation installed a groundbreaking solution at Parker Dam
in Arizona that virtually eliminated the invasive species from
hydropower cooling systems.
Since the turn of the 20th century, the Colorado River and its
tributaries have been dammed and diverted to sustain the growth
of massive cities and large-scale farming in the American
Southwest. Attempts to bend the river system to humanity’s will
have also led to all kinds of unintended consequences. In
Colorado’s Paradox Valley, those unintended consequences take
the form of earthquakes.
Researchers have mapped the impact of groundwater pumping on
surface water in individual watersheds before. But it’s only
recently that computing power has improved enough to look at
groundwater’s interaction with surface water, known as
integrated modeling, on a scale as large as the United States.
A civilian watchdog panel called has upon several agencies to
clear up muddy communications to help end spats among members
receiving and distributing water as they move toward another
25-year deal for Lake Cachuma water.
Greg Dion, Cal Fire’s regional urban forester for the San
Joaquin Valley, said Modesto used outdated research in
calculating the cost of buying, planting and maintaining the
5,000 trees. … Modesto also started planting trees while the
region still was in the grip of a devastating drought.
A legal case brought by the Associated General Contractors has
delayed the Pure Water project, one of the city’s most
ambitious undertakings ever. Hundreds of jobs are on the line,
but the stakes may be even higher regionally.
Heavy snowfall in winter and spring in the Sierra Nevada,
followed by relatively cool then rising temperatures in June,
has led to an ongoing risk of avalanches into the summer —
posing a threat to long-distance hikers on the famed Pacific
Crest Trail, experts say.
In the long-term puzzle of ensuring that the Colorado River —
the main artery of the American West — provides water to the
millions of people in the basin who depend on it, the
challenges are mounting. Does 2019’s water stand a chance of
making a meaningful impact? Water experts say the answer is:
Sadly, not likely.
Tribal leaders urged House lawmakers Wednesday to support a
handful of bills that would guarantee water to their tribes in
Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and fund the water treatment
plants and pipelines to deliver it.
As another fire season looms, here in the small city of Grass
Valley, as in much of Gold Country where historic mining towns
nestle up to sprawling, wooded mountains, things are different
this year. What used to be a leisurely wind down to summer,
marked by high school graduations and the excitement of
vacation, has become a rush to action.
SGMA inevitably means less water for irrigating farms. … On
one path, the valley could become a patchwork of dusty barren
fields, serving a huge blow to the agriculture sector and rural
communities and further impairing already poor air quality. …
On another path, the valley could transform into a pioneering
agricultural region that not only puts food on our nation’s
plates but also supports thriving wildlife habitat, outdoor
recreation, soil health, groundwater recharge and flood
After a disaster, Sonoma Water will try to restore service as
quickly as possible. The agency already has installed isolation
valves so that it can cut off water around breaks and has some
emergency water reserves in place. It estimates that water
service could be restored in as few as three days after a
moderate earthquake. The grand jury concluded that was an
overly rosy prediction.
Rising sea levels caused by climate change are prompting the
city of Monterey to prepare for a worst-case scenario, which
could include waves flooding Cannery Row, wreckage of
underground infrastructure and threats to our protected
We salute Rep. Jared Huffman and Sen. Kamala Harris for their
recent introduction of the Northwest California Wilderness,
Recreation and Working Forests Act, which would better protect
and restore lands and streams vital for water supply, salmon
and steelhead and the growing outdoor recreation economy in
Plans to capture stormwater runoff by installing rubber dams at
San Juan Creek will move forward… SMWD is working with the
city of San Juan Capistrano and South Coast Water District for
the first phase of the project, which, when completed, is
expected to provide 5.6 billion gallons of reliable drinking
water each year.
Keith Parker’s groundbreaking biology research regarding a new
subspecies of Pacific lamprey, recently published in the
science journal Molecular Ecology, may be the key to saving his
tribe’s way of life. … Parker hopes that his research will
open the door to further investigation of the lamprey, because
the future of his tribe lies with this bizarre-looking,
Cal Am, two members of the Coastal Commission and two local
appellants are challenging the Marina city Planning
Commission’s March 7 denial of a coastal development permit for
the $329 million desal project, including seven slant source
water wells and associated infrastructure
As the United States moves into the summer months, a recent
study examines whether a drought in California can be linked to
one in the Midwest. The Stanford-led study published in
Geophysical Research Letters finds that regions may fall victim
to water scarcity like dominos across the nation, the
university news service reported.
As the 2018-19 water year came to a close Sunday,
record-setting snowpack in the Sierras and above-average rain
means several reservoirs are near full capacity heading into
the dry summer months. Here’s a look at the past 12 months of
The update reported an excellent May in terms of Colorado River
Basin run-off, yet Central Arizona Water Conservation District
board members underscored that still-half-full reservoirs point
to the need for continued conservation.
The 2018-19 Solano County grand jury concluded that if treated
wastewater could be used to irrigate crops that saved water
would help meet the water needs of a growing population. …
The grand jury also had recommendations on plant efficiency and
taking advantage of other renewable energies and plant output,
such as using wind and solar power for plant operations…
When it comes to Nestle Corp.’s harvesting of spring water for
bottling from the nearby San Bernardino National Forest, it
always seems that any final resolution of this long-running
controversy is always somewhere in the future.
The facility would serve two main purposes. In addition to
weaning Camarillo customers off imported water from Calleguas
Municipal Water District, it would also help filter out the
everincreasing amount of salt found in the plumes of water
beneath much of the eastern half of the city.
Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz, Keller
Beach in Richmond and Aquatic Park in San Mateo were announced
as four of the top 10 most polluted in the state, referred to
as “beach bummers.”
When the Camp Fire struck last November, the upper Miocene
Canal, constructed mostly of wooden flumes, was destroyed. Now,
the most important part of the canal, receiving water from the
Feather River to the north, cannot convey water down through
the rest of the canal system.
The polling firm FM3 Research found that a plurality of
California voters surveyed (27 percent) said climate change is
behind state wildfires. Another 17 percent of voters believe
that human error is the leading cause of wildfires, 12 percent
believe it’s forest mismanagement and 11 percent believe it’s
Enjoy the days of long, endless hot showers while you may. …
Eventually all households will be required to stay within a 55
gallon per day per resident indoor water usage for showers,
baths, laundry and dishwashing.
The State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking
Water published guidance for testing the plumbing in buildings
that survived the fire. But that document is drawing criticism
from academic researchers who say that the recommendations,
published on June 14, are not thorough enough to detect all
potential instances of water contamination from plumbing within
After the Freeway Complex Fire, the Yorba Linda Water District
was slapped with a lawsuit and ultimately had to pay a $69
million judgment. Even though the court determined the district
didn’t ignite the fire or act inappropriately, the district was
still held liable for fire damages because the fire
incapacitated the pumps needed to push water to the fire
hydrants in one neighborhood.
Over 10 years, it would funnel $1.4 billion to the fund for
clean water solutions. The budget has been approved by the
California Legislature, but still needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
signature to pass. It also still needs trailer bills that
authorize some of the spending – including the drinking water
Orange County sheriff’s investigators Wednesday asked for the
public’s help identifying a person seen opening water bottles
in a store that authorities are concerned may have been
tampered with. … It is not clear if the person poisoned the
water or put something else in the liquid, Braun said.
Most of the seven states that get water from the Colorado River
have signed off on plans to keep the waterway from crashing
amid a prolonged drought, climate change and increased demands.
But California and Arizona have not, missing deadlines from the
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) announced Monday she
has secured a $15 million one-time investment of General Funds
for the southern Central Valley. The funds will address failing
water systems that deliver safe clean drinking water to
California’s most vulnerable communities.
The proposed rule changes include an expansion of “categorical
exclusions.” These are often billed as tools that give land
managers the discretion to bypass full-blown environmental
studies in places where they can demonstrate there would be no
severe impacts or degradation to the land.
Two portions of channelized waterways within urbanized Southern
California will receive more than $4 million from the 2019-20
state budget adopted Thursday to restore natural features by
removing decades-old concrete barriers.
Californians have been doing an
reducing their indoor water use, helping the state survive
the most recent drought when water districts were required to
meet conservation targets. With more droughts inevitable,
Californians are likely to face even greater calls to save water
in the future.
The Paradise Irrigation District is still working to restore
clean water to the ridge. So far, the district is making big
strides toward turning non-potable water into drinking water in
the town. The district put a call out for volunteers in the
Camp Fire burn scar that would be willing to let them test
their water for the first two weeks of June.
Parts of the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers are closed to
recreation. But the high water levels don’t just mean people’s
vacations are getting cut short. … Hilda Warren lives near
the river and says she’s starting to get worried, watching the
water levels rise day by day.
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
California regulators have approved allowing utilities to cut
off electricity to possibly hundreds of thousands of customers
to avoid catastrophic wildfires like the one sparked by power
lines last year that killed 85 people and largely destroyed the
city of Paradise.
A plan to underground about 2.5 miles of the Escondido Canal
through and near the San Pasqual Indian reservation has moved
forward with an agreement reached recently for Escondido to pay
the tribe for an easement through its land. The 14-mile-long
Escondido Canal transports water from Lake Henshaw to Lake
Wohlford where it is stored for use by Escondido and Vista
Irrigation District consumers.
Overpumping groundwater poses a major threat to the
availability of a critical resource… A new dashboard tool,
created by affiliates from Stanford’s Water in the West
program, compares groundwater withdrawal permitting – a common
tool used by resource managers to limit groundwater pumping –
to help plan for a more sustainable future.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
An affiliate of Aberdeen Standard Investments has agreed to buy
the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California for more
than $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the
matter. A transaction could be announced as soon as this week,
said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because
the matter is private.
Last week three local entities — California Trout, Mendocino
County Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPC) and Sonoma
Water — announced they will be signing a project planning
agreement with the hopes of looking at pathways to relicense
the Potter Valley Project. The Potter Valley Project is a
hydropower project that sits in the middle of the Eel River and
Russian River watershed basins and is integral in providing
water to both Mendocino County and northern Sonoma County.
The marathon stretch of unsettled weather means the reservoirs
are brimming, the rivers are rushing, the waterfalls are
spectacular, and people are still skiing in fresh powder in
Tahoe. But perhaps the most noteworthy outcome is a remarkably
gargantuan snowpack blanketing the mountain range straddling
California and Nevada. Right now, it’s even bigger than the
2017 snowpack that pulled the state out of a five-year drought.
A Pleasanton company has an unusual idea to cool data storage
machines that they say uses a fraction of the energy and cuts
greenhouse gasses. But local environmentalists are against the
plan because of the possible impact it could have on San
First adopted in 2013 amid drying wells over the basin, the
county offset ordinance put a theoretical moratorium on
agricultural pumping. But the policy is set to expire later
this year when North County leaders adopt a basin-wide
sustainability plan—even though that plan could take another
several years to fully take effect.
May 24, 2019, marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of
John Wesley Powell’s ambitious expedition through the
canyonlands of Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, including the Grand
Canyon. … In a new USGS story map, readers can follow
Powell’s epic journey from a remote sensing perspective.
In order to address the impacts of climate change on the
state’s water resources, the Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has been developing its own comprehensive Climate Action
Plan to guide how DWR is and will continue to address climate
change for programs, projects, and activities over which it has
Hermosa Beach, partnering with neighboring cities, was supposed
to receive the money from the State Water Resources Control
Board to help design and build the Greenbelt Infiltration
Project … meant to help clean the Herondo Drain Watershed,
which has consistently had elevated levels of bacteria. But the
city put the funding in jeopardy in March when the council
voted to dissolve a deal with neighboring cities and instead
find a new home for the project.
This segment contains two interviews: In the first, KVPR
reporter Kerry Klein sheds light on what this document says and
does, and shares how San Joaquin Valley residents have
responded. In the second, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback
explains some fracking basics, including what is and isn’t
known about the technique’s impact on the environment.
By the State Water Resources Control Board’s estimates, more
than a million Californians don’t have safe drinking water
flowing through the pipes into their homes. … As Gov. Gavin
Newsom prepares to send his revised $213 billion budget to the
legislature for approval, a trailer bill proposes that the
legislature appropriate $150 million a year to a Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
The city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority
are assessing pumped-water energy storage as a way to integrate
more renewable power, stabilize the power grid, reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and foster economic growth. Their
proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility would take water
from the existing San Vicente Reservoir and use electricity to
pump it to a smaller, higher elevation reservoir.
The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network’s largest
conservation project to date is moving upstream. This month the
group secured over half a million dollars to complete the
second phase of its effort to improve habitat for endangered
salmon in Lagunitas Creek between the ghost towns of Jewell and
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
Although flooding hasn’t occurred in Clarksburg since the
construction of the levee system in the early 1900s, the
community is considered a moderate to high hazard flood area,
according to a county report. For that reason, a flood risk
reduction feasibility study has been prepared for the town
similar to those conducted for Yolo and Knights Landing with
funds from the California Department of Water Resources.
Slurries of mud increasingly threaten the water we drink. This
rush of sediment, known as “debris flow,” is a type of erosion
where mud and boulders in steep catchments suddenly tumble down
the stream channel, often traveling at speeds of several meters
per second. … Last year, California saw mudslides that
destroyed more than 100 homes and killed 21 people.
In my 40 years at the California Department of Water Resources,
I have seen changes in climate that have convinced me that the
full picture is changing and our extrapolation methods are
losing value rapidly. This is especially true in extreme years,
wet or dry – such as 2015, when the statistics are just not
going to be accurate enough to meet our growing water
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
Once again, a big thirsty metropolis is looking at buying
Central Valley farmland with an eye toward boosting its water
supplies. And once again, neighboring farmers are nervous about
it. … And any proposal involving the movement of groundwater
from a rural area creates controversy, especially as farmers
begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Sentinel Peak Resources has cleared an environmental hurdle
that could allow it to move forward with years-old plans to
increase drilling in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field — but whether
it will or not is still up in the air. The Environmental
Protection Agency granted Sentinel Peak Resources an aquifer
exemption on April 30, exempting portions of the aquifer under
the oil field from protections guaranteed by the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act.
Earlier this month the governor’s Drought Interagency
Coordinating Group unanimously voted to inform the governor
that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should
continue. This means Arizona has been in a state of drought for
more than 20 years, surpassing the worst drought in more than
110 years of record keeping. Now that our drought has been
extended yet again, it leaves many to wonder what it will take
to get us out of this drought.
The Del Mar Mesa community in San Diego, Calif., has clean
running water. Given this fact, the sight of nearly 20 girls in
an affluent neighborhood carrying buckets of water up a ravine
was out of the ordinary, to say the least. “What we’re trying
to do is represent what African women do on a day-to-day basis:
the fact that they have to travel several miles — several hours
— to just get water,” said Emma Reeves, an 18-year-old
Dan Efseaff, the parks and recreation director for the
devastated town of Paradise, Calif., looks out over Little
Feather River Canyon in Butte County. The Camp Fire raced up
this canyon like a blowtorch in a paper funnel on its way to
Paradise, incinerating most everything in its path, including
scores of homes. Efseaff is floating an idea that some may
think radical: paying people not to rebuild in this slice of
Del Puerto Water District and Central California Irrigation
District have developed the reservoir project without many
public concerns rising to the surface. That was until Patterson
city staff members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. Maria
Encinas, a city management analyst, asked about a risk
assessment for adjacent communities like Patterson. A failure
in the dam on Del Puerto Creek, on the west side of Interstate
5, would appear to flood part of the city of 23,700, including
perhaps the downtown area in Patterson.
Mono and Inyo counties were handed a reprieve by the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission last Friday. The Commission’s
Division of Hydropower Licensing found Premium Energy’s
application for a closed loop system from reservoirs in the
Owens Gorge to the White Mountains “patently deficient.” That’s
the good news. The FERC did not find the project patently
deficient because of environmental or common sense reasons…
The study, published in the journal Ecological
Applications, found that thinning and prescribed fire
treatments reduced the number of trees that died during the
bark beetle epidemic and drought that killed more than 129
million trees across the Sierra Nevada between 2012-2016.
Because the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate
PFAS chemicals, states are left not only to research and track
them, but also to develop regulations to clean up already
dangerous levels of pollution. And, according to recent data
from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
at Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group,
the West isn’t doing a great job.
While wildfire lawsuits have typically targeted electric
utilities and their downed powerlines that ignite the blaze,
some recent lawsuits have also focused on the water systems
that are supposed to provide the water for firefighters to put
out the flames. The group, known as the Coalition for Fire
Protection and Accountability, wants to be included in
legislative efforts to reduce utilities’ liability, a prime
topic of discussion this year following Pacific Gas & Electric
The plan calls for pumping 8 billion gallons of water in the
first few years, and more than 30 billion gallons over 50
years, from the aquifer adjacent to, and connected with, the
one beneath neighboring Joshua Tree National Park. … A better
use for the land, which ceased to be mined more than 30 years
ago, would be to return it to the fold and make it part of
Joshua Tree National Park.
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
Even though the Russian River watershed has received roughly
130 percent of the average rainfall this season, it is time to
discuss the impacts of overwatered landscapes as the dry
weather returns and irrigation controllers turn on.
Steve Frattini, mayor of Herrin, Ill., went to a water
conference a few years ago in California amid a severe drought.
So he started working on a plan to send water to the area. The
water is from the city’s wastewater treatment plant … The
Wastewater Treatment Plant has a rail line nearby that would be
used to transport the water… Initially, Frattini said the
water would go to the area near the Salton Sea in southern
California, a sea that’s been drying up for years.
Despite years of scientific research pointing to prescribed or
“controlled” burns as a successful method of clearing brush and
restoring ecosystems, intentional fire-setting by federal
agencies has declined in much of the West over the last 20
years, the study found. “This suggests that the best available
science is not being adopted into management practices…” the
A presentation by the U.S. Geological Survey to California
water boards has surfaced that reveals contamination in the
groundwater around the Orcutt oilfield, the Environmental
Defense Center in Santa Barbara claims. The advocacy group
released the information on Tuesday, stating that “federal
scientists found evidence of oil-field fluids in groundwater
underlying the nearby Orcutt oil field.”
Wastewater agencies produce highly treated water that is
increasingly being reused as a water supply. While it’s still
only a small portion of overall water use, the use of recycled
water has nearly tripled since the 1980s―and is continuing to
rise as water agencies seek to meet the demands of a growing
population and improve the resilience of their water supplies.
A congressional bill includes almost $14 million in funding for
water projects in the Central Valley and Northern California.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, said he was successful in working
the funding into an Energy and Water Development appropriations
bill that includes spending for infrastructure across the
Crescenta Valley Water District’s board of directors have
proposed rate increases for both its water and sewer rates. If
approved, customers could see their combined monthly bills
increase by about $7.
The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly
negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced
County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a
move that could create a promising new water source — or spark
a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley
The City of Oxnard struck back about reports of contaminated
drinking water within the city limits at it’s May 21, City
Council meeting City Manager Alex Nguyen said he wanted to set
the record straight about the issue.
Registration is now open for the 2019 Water
Summit, our annual premier event.
This daylong conference will be held
October 30, 2019 at a new location along the Sacramento River in
Sacramento. The annual Water Summit, now in its 36th year,
features top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the
latest information and viewpoints on issues impacting water
across California and the West.
After much speculation about whether Janet Nguyen might run for
one of Orange County’s hotly contested congressional seats in
2020, the Republican former state senator has thrown her hat in
a surprising ring. And she’s not alone. Nguyen is one of seven
people vying to fill a board of directors seat with the
Municipal Water District of Orange County.
As the Colorado River’s flow declines, water supplies in seven
states are imperiled by potential shortages. That includes
Arizona, which passed legislation outlining steps it would take
if water from the river continues to decrease. But what does a
water shortage mean for Phoenix?
Rather than unquestioningly celebrating Powell and his legacy,
this year gives us the chance to think about a couple of
points: First, how are we telling Powell’s story now, and how
have we told it in the past? Is it, and has it been, accurate
and useful? Second, whose stories have we excluded, ignored,
and forgotten about in the focus on Powell?
The Santa Clara stretches 84 miles and through two counties
from the San Gabriel Mountains to the ocean just south of
Ventura Harbor. Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars
have been invested to protect and restore the river, work that
some say has reached a tipping point.
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.