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 main water district involved in several legal battles for
Kern River water has launched a new coalition/messaging
campaign it is calling Sustainable Kern River. Its website says
the organization is a coalition and lists several members, but
its creation and funding comes from North Kern Water Storage
District, according to North Kern’s General Manager Dave
Hampton. North Kern hired Los Angeles public relations firm
Fiona Hutton & Associates to run the campaign.
A drought-wary Napa County looking for ways to weather dry
spells has a small-but-not-insubstantial reservoir sitting
unused within its boundaries. Lake Curry, located in remote
southeastern Napa County near Gordon Valley, seems to be the
ugly duckling of the water world. Amid a state where water is
precious, it is the reservoir that no community is using to
slake its thirst. The Solano County city of Vallejo
created Lake Curry a century ago to hold 10,000-acre feet of
water and the lake is permitted by the state to provide
3,750-acre feet annually.
One might think a severe drought would be bad news for a
company whose main business is supplying water to residential
and business customers. But — so far, at least — that hasn’t
been the case for San Dimas-based American States Water Co.,
parent company of Golden State Water, a utility that provides
water to customers in the Los Angeles basin and Central
California. In fact, quite the opposite: Investors have sent
American States Water share prices soaring to $96 as of Nov.
19, the highest level in more than five years.
If you’re truly interested in making a dent in the amount of
water our civilization consumes, sad showers are not really the
way. Flushing the toilet twice doesn’t make much of a
difference in the context of global water consumption, either.
(If there’s an acute drought in your local area, the calculus
is different.) It’s a side dish in a king’s feast when it comes
to confronting our aqua problems. -Written by Jack Holmes, Politics Editor at
Delegates and activists from nearly 200 countries returned from
the COP26 global environmental forum in Glasgow, Scotland, with
a long list of climate-related promises and targets to discuss
and implement. While many countries made a renewed commitment
to climate-resilient and sustainable agricultural systems, some
groups accused leaders at COP26 of not doing enough to improve
water security globally …. California’s persistent
droughts, for instance, give water conservation methods new
urgency — as the state’s massive agricultural industry accounts
for 80 percent of California’s water usage.
A profound reduction in the Colorado River water earmarked for
Arizona’s crops has at last triggered the rationing that
irrigation farmers have dreaded. The Tier 1 shortage will
prompt a 512,000-acre-foot reduction in Arizona’s Colorado
River deliveries. That amounts to about 30% of Central Arizona
Project’s normal supply. … Farmers will need to expand
their horizons and tighten down their faucets, even more than
they have done over the last three decades, as they
successfully cut average per-acre water use by a fifth. -Written by Gary Paul Nabhan, the W.K., Kellogg
endowed chair for food and water security at the University of
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is urging nearly
3 million water customers throughout the Bay Area to cut water
usage by 10%, as it declares a water shortage emergency due to
the ongoing drought. … By declaring the emergency, the agency
would be able to access water reserves and resources only
available during emergencies, officials said. Under the
measure, customers are urged to reduce water usage by 10%
compared to 2019-2020 levels…. Along with providing
water to San Francisco, the agency also has customers in
portions of Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Faced with the need to reduce the demand on water supplies,
Marin County developers would have to pay thousands of dollars
in new fees, according to a proposal by the Marin Municipal
Water District. The Marin Independent Journal reported that the
water district’s board is considering a new measure which would
require future projects in its jurisdiction to have a net-zero
demand on reservoirs.
The recent rainfall has offered Mendocino County some respite
from the drought, bringing many communities out of a crisis
situation. But it’s still not clear for how long. Now
communities throughout the county are using this breathing room
to make their water systems more resilient to drought before
next summer. That includes re-establishing a standalone county
While the U.S. Forest Service pours resources into a runaway
battle on wildfire, it is losing the
war over water. About half of Western
water supply originates on national forest
land. But before that water reaches the West’s
major cities or great rivers, much
of it has already been claimed. Thousands of
farmers, ranchers, cities, housing developments and
industrial users pump water from the ground, channel
it away from streams into ditches or pipelines, and hold it
back in ponds and reservoirs — all to use public
water, often for private purposes.
Seismic work at Castaic Dam’s tower access bridge in Los
Angeles County has reached a milestone, wrapping up a project
on three bridge piers as its owner — the California Department
of Water Resources — works on reducing risk of quake damage at
its water facilities. … The 500-foot-long bridge provides
access for operations and maintenance crews to the structure
that allows releasing water from Castaic Lake. The bridge was
built in 1974 and later retrofitted in 1998 following the
Signature-gathering has begun to place an initiative on the
2022 ballot that would force the legislature to fund more water
storage in California. But even supporters admit, the success
of the measure may depend on the weather. With many reservoirs
in the state drying up and no guarantee of a wet winter, some
Central Valley farmers and Southern California water districts
are pushing an initiative called the ‘Water Infrastructure
Funding Act of 2022.’
A private water company in the Santa Cruz Mountains that
residents are concerned has exposed them to unsafe drinking
water in the last year has been fined $21,000 by the California
State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water.
… For the last year, nearly 500 of Big Basin Water Company’s
customers have dealt with repeated water outages and boil
advisories. During an outage, outside contaminants can make
their way into a water system and boil advisories are typically
issued until the utility company’s tests show the water is safe
to drink again.
Crescent City’s water and sewer customers who didn’t pay for
their water over a 15-month period during the pandemic will
likely have those delinquent notices waived. From March 4, 2020
to June of this year, there were 334 accounts past due, for a
total of $71,984.60. … On November 15, the city council
authorized City Manager Eric Wier to apply for funding to pay
off those bills. The funding will come from $985 million that
the State of California received under the American
Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.
It’s getting hard to find the lake at Lake Mendocino. A bed of
cracked, dry dirt grows steadily as the shoreline recedes,
exposing abandoned homesteads that had been submerged for
decades. State officials warn that the lake could go dry — a
first for a major California reservoir. Lake Mendocino is a
crucial link in the North Coast’s water supply chain, and even
a drought-busting winter won’t ensure its recovery.
The Placer County Water Agency entertained dozens of guests
Nov. 4 for tours of its Ophir Pump Station and, a short drive
away, the Foothill Water Treatment Plant in Newcastle. There
were pastries and beverages at the Ophir Station and gift bags
at Foothill. Presentations were made, pictures taken, questions
asked and speeches given – all with beaming smiles, and reason
The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District has filed a
request for a hearing in its lawsuit against the city of
Tehachapi. But according to its general manager, Tom Neisler,
the filing made in Kern County Superior Court on Nov. 9 is
procedural and does not mean that a hearing is imminent.
Challenging the city of Tehachapi’s Sept. 7 approval of the
Sage Ranch project, the district filed suit on Sept. 16,
claiming that the city violated multiple state laws in its
approval of the planned development.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is optimistic infrastructure
projects in America’s second-biggest city will be big
beneficiaries of the sweeping federal infrastructure bill –
potentially receiving tens of billions of dollars.
… [The bill] will allocate about $110
billion for roads and bridges, plus funds for rail, public
transit, the power grid and drinking-water systems. Funds may
also help the city speed up the completion of an important
The West could be facing a water shortage in the Colorado River
that threatens a century-old agreement between states that
share the dwindling resource. That possibility once felt far
off, but could come earlier than expected. One prominent water
and climate scientist is sounding the alarm that the Colorado
River system could reach that crossroads in the next five
years, possibly triggering an unpredictable chain-reaction of
legal wrangling that could lead to some water users being cut
off from the river.
[Valley Water] remains focused on preparing for future wet and
dry years through a variety of projects and programs, including
the proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir in Southern Santa
Clara County. A partnership with the San Benito County Water
District and Pacheco Pass Water District, the project would
increase the reservoir’s capacity from 5,500 acre-feet to up to
140,000 acre-feet, enough water to supply up to 1.4 million
residents for one year during an emergency.
Say this for Central Valley Republicans and Big Ag backers:
When it comes to proposing water projects that benefit Central
Valley farmers at the expense of urban users and the state’s
fragile environment, they are as persistent as an annoying,
leaky faucet. The most glaring example is the ongoing and
thus-far unsuccessful push for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta tunnels … The latest scheme comes in the form of a
proposed 2022 ballot measure that would require 2% of
California’s general fund — about $4 billion a year — be set
aside to fast-track water projects with limited environmental
Developers in central and southern Marin County could be
required to pay tens of thousands of dollars in new fees or add
water-saving upgrades to their projects under a proposal to
reduce demand on water supplies. After facing the potential of
running out of water during the drought, the Marin Municipal
Water District board is considering requiring future projects
in its jurisdiction to have a net-zero demand on reservoirs.
As part of a continuing effort to increase resiliency and
operational flexibility throughout California, the Bureau of
Reclamation and Sites Project Authority recently released the
Sites Reservoir revised and supplemental draft environmental
documents, beginning a 60-day public comment period for the
proposed project. Also known as the North of Delta Offstream
Storage project, the agencies have been investigating building
a 1.3- to 1.5-million-acre-foot reservoir in rural Colusa and
California is likely to emerge from the winter with little
relief from drought, federal climate experts said Thursday,
setting the stage for a third year of dry weather and
continuing water shortages. The monthly climate report from the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that
drought conditions will persist in almost all of California
through February. With the next three months historically the
state’s wettest, the opportunity for drought recovery is
Despite recent rain, California is still in the depths of a
drought. Conditions have improved, but barely. Most of the
state is still in exceptional or extreme drought. In the
South Bay, a million residents will soon be hit with the
toughest water restrictions of any major urban area in
California. Late Wednesday, the state PUC gave final
approval to San Jose Water Company’s plan. Approval
by state regulators means the call to cut water use is no
longer voluntary for South Bay residents.
The Colorado River is a vital lifeline for the arid U.S.
Southwest. … Southwestern states, tribes and Mexico share the
Colorado’s water under the century-old 1922 Colorado Compact
and updates to it. But today, because of climate change and
rapid development, there is an enormous gap between the amount
of water the compact allocates to parties and the amount that
is actually in the river. With users facing unprecedented water
shortages, the compact is hopelessly inadequate to deal with
current and future realities.
-Written by Daniel Craig McCool, Professor Emeritus of
Political Science at the University of Utah.
The global water desalination equipment market size is
expected to reach USD 22.79 billion by 2028, according to a new
report by Grand View Research, Inc. It is expected to expand at
a CAGR of 7.1% from 2020 to 2028. Increasing water scarcity,
depletion in freshwater reserves, and fast-paced advancements
in desalination technologies are anticipated to have a positive
impact on the market growth.
The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
(Act) may help ease varied water concerns across the country,
especially in the West in regard to its supply issues.
… Most notably for those in the West, the Act allocates
significant funds to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
(Reclamation) to support and improve the critical water-related
infrastructure on which millions of Americans rely.
Apply by Dec. 7 for our 2022 Water
Leaders class and be part of the cohort that will mark the
25th anniversary of California’s pre-eminent water leadership
program. The Water Leaders class, which started in 1997, is
aimed at providing a deeper understanding of California
water issues and building leadership skills by working with a
mentor, studying a water-related topic in-depth
and crafting policy recommendations on that topic
with your cohort.
Almond production in California is expected to drop 10% to 1.3
million tons this year because of high temperatures and
drought. Apart from this, the return of La Niña conditions
could bring another weak crop next year. The crop shortfall
threatens to drive almond prices sharply higher, with some
growers expecting a price jump of 50% or more from last year’s
$1.83 per pound.
Earlier this year, a hacker breached a California water
treatment plant and removed programs used to clean water. In
another incident that made national headlines, a hacker gained
remote access to a Florida treatment plant and increased the
amount of lye in the treatment process – a change that a plant
employee fortunately noticed and quickly corrected.
Guidelines for how cities and local agencies should adapt
roads, railways and water systems to accommodate rising
seas were unanimously approved Wednesday by the state
Coastal Commission. The 230-page document sets a controversial
benchmark by urging communities to prepare for the Pacific
Ocean to rise 10 feet by 2100, a projection so far beyond
current calculations that climate scientists haven’t yet
determined the probability of it occurring. … Ten of the 16
public speakers, including representatives of eight
environmental groups, called on the commission to include
desalination plants as among the “critical infrastructure”
addressed, particularly since the guidance was designed to
address water facilities.
In the fall of 2020, amidst a global pandemic and one of the
most divisive periods in American history, the hydropower and
river conservation communities, traditionally at odds, reached
an agreement to work together to address the nation’s more than
90,000 dams. The momentous agreement was the result of a
two-and-a-half-year Uncommon Dialogue, an ongoing process
organized by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
that brings public and private sector leaders and researchers
together to develop practical solutions to pressing
Construction continues in Mission Trails Regional Park to
upgrade the San Diego County Water Authority’s untreated water
supply system. The estimated completion of the project has been
extended from mid-2022 to late 2022 due mostly to necessary
design changes. The project will improve the delivery of a safe
and reliable water supply to treatment plants serving the
central and southern areas of San Diego County.
There are times when the simplest solution to a tight situation
is to simply buy your way out. It doesn’t often present that
way in a public utility project, but when it does, the benefits
can be overwhelmingly persuasive. Such was the case when
Michael Grisso, City of Tustin’s Water Services Manager, joined
OCWA for its October webinar to discuss the Simon Ranch
Reservoir and Pump Station Replacement Project. Accompanied by
Joseph C. Blum, Sr. Project Manager, Butier Engineering, Inc.,
the two discussed at length the unique circumstances they
overcame while upgrading the aged infrastructure.
Two Fresno area Democrats who attended the signing of President
Joe Biden’s $1 billion infrastructure bill into law on Monday
say the package will improve the lives of Valley residents and
strengthen the local economy. … Over the next five
years, the package will provide: $1.15 billion to improve water
storage in California and the San Joaquin Valley … ; $3.2
billion to repair aging California water infrastructure
projects; $3.5 billion to improve California’s drinking water
infrastructure; $1 billion for rural water projects; $500
million to repair aging dams and ensure safety, for projects
like the San Luis Reservoir …
California has not built enough new reservoirs, desalination
plants and other water projects because there are too many
delays, too many lawsuits and too much red tape. That’s the
message from a growing coalition of Central Valley farmers and
Southern California desalination supporters who have begun
collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would
fast-track big water projects and provide billions of dollars
to fund them — potentially setting up a major political
showdown with environmentalists next year shaped by the state’s
Two and a half years after signing a deal aimed at averting a
damaging crisis along the Colorado River, water officials from
California, Arizona and Nevada are discussing plans to take
even less water from the shrinking river and leave it in Lake
Mead in an effort to prevent the reservoir from falling to
dangerously low levels. … For California, the deal would mean
participating in water reductions prior to Lake Mead reaching
levels that would otherwise trigger mandatory cuts.
A plan to create a new man-made lake for water storage is now
another step closer to development. The United States Bureau of
Reclamation is releasing their latest updated plans on the
proposed Sites Reservoir north of the San Joaquin Delta. The
proposed Sites Reservoir would hold up to 1,500,000 acre-feet
of water. That’s three times the size of Millerton Lake.
Approximately 40 million people rely on the Colorado River for
water, 5% of them, or 2 million are in Nevada. However, the
state gets only 1.8% of the river’s water. How did this happen?
In 1922, Nevada signed onto the Colorado River Compact. It
divided the river between the upper basin (part of Arizona,
Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) and the lower basin
(the rest of Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico).
… Nevada getting the least, while more than half of the
water goes to two states: California and Colorado.
As the state of California seeks to fix its crumbling water
infrastructure, the State Water Board has embarked on an
ambitious program to encourage struggling small water systems
to join forces with larger, neighboring water systems. We spoke
with the State Water Board’s Michelle Frederick and clean-water
advocacy group Community Water Center’s Ryan Jensen about why
consolidation is important, how efforts are going, and what
could be improved.
The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District Board of
Directors, staff, and community supporters gathered today to
celebrate the many contributions of Board President Melody
Henriques-McDonald, now in her 30th year of leadership on the
Board. In 1991, the year she was first appointed to serve,
California was in its fifth year of drought: the worst since
the Dust Bowl.
California and much of the Western United States is in the
midst of an unprecedented drought intensified by climate
change. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is taking
immediate action to support California’s small and rural
communities now, while also preparing for the potential of a
third dry year.
Environmental documents for the Sites Reservoir Project in
western Colusa County have been released, the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation announced Friday. Among the objectives of the $3.5
billion, 1.5 million-acre-foot reservoir and infrastructure is
to provide water for Delta environmental concerns, including
protection of the Delta smelt, project documents state.
The rolling hills and ranchlands of eastern Contra Costa County
are known for wineries, cattle ranches, wind turbines and
growing subdivisions. But soon they may be known for something
else: The biggest new water storage project in the Bay Area in
years. And now, amid the current drought, nearly every major
water agency in the region wants a piece of it.
The Solano Irrigation District is anticipating having less
water – about 1 acre-foot per acre – to deliver to its
agriculture customers in 2022. The SID directors on Tuesday
will receive a presentation on the preliminary agriculture
water allocation for the new season. … Part of the issue, the
report states, is the district’s carryover supply is down, as
well as delivery needs to Maine Prairie during this past
As it works to encourage water conservation during California’s
drought, the Palmdale Water District is extending its
water-saving rebate program from residential to commercial
customers, as well. This is the first time the water provider
has offered the rebate program to its commercial and industrial
customers, according to a statement from the District. Seven
types of rebates are available for businesses within the
As the Sacramento River Basin pursues ridgetop to river mouth
water management, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) Water Policy Center has recently published its
Priorities for California’s Water: Responding to the Changing
Climate. The authors of the new brief have stated that: “the
current drought and a changing climate are affecting
California’s ability to manage water, offering a stark reminder
that we must accelerate our response to the disruptive changes
Don’t be surprised if the citrus you find at the grocery store
this season is smaller than in years past. Growers say early
navel varieties generally are running smaller this year,
putting a premium on larger offerings. Matt Fisher, a
Central California farmer who has citrus groves from Orange
Cove to Bakersfield, said multiple factors come into play,
including the state’s ongoing drought and triple-digit heat
States in the lower Colorado River basin are developing a $100
million plan that will leave more water in Lake Mead over the
next couple of years. The goal is to keep the lake from hitting
a critical level that would leave the reservoir more vulnerable
to rapid decline. … The negotiations between Nevada,
Arizona, California and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for
additional reductions in water use come just months
after the federal government declared Lake Mead’s
first water shortage.
Lake Mendocino, once a plentiful reservoir nourishing the vines
and villas of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, today is little
more than a large pond, cowering beneath the coastal hills.
… State officials warn that Lake Mendocino could be the
first major reservoir in modern times to go dry. While rain
over the past few weeks has lifted the lake above its October
low, the reservoir, a few miles northeast of Ukiah, remains at
less than 20% capacity. Officials worry that the looming wet
winter season won’t bring enough inflow to meet next year’s
On November 5, 2021, the U.S. Congress
passed President Biden’s major infrastructure bill, HR
3684, the $1.2 trillion ‘‘Infrastructure Investment
and Jobs Act.” The President is expected to sign
the bill into law. The bill is the largest
single federal investment in infrastructure in a
generation, with the funds to be expended over five
years. It aims to rebuild and
replace failing, aging, and outdated water,
energy, transportation, and communications
Despite a much improved water supply situation in the North
Bay, the Marin Municipal Water District moved a bit closer to a
new emergency pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
from the East Bay. Key question: will this proposed pipeline
across this bridge be enough? Thanks to recent rains, the
Phoenix Reservoir spillway is spilling, but there are no
guarantees for the future for the Marin Municipal Water
District’s 191,000 customers.
Environmental sustainability leader and Los Angeles Department
of Water and Power executive manager Nancy Sutley returned to
her seat on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California. … Appointed to the
Metropolitan board by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sutley
previously served on the 38-member board from 2006 to 2009
before being named chair of President Barack Obama’s White
House Council on Environmental Quality.
The Del Paso Manor Water District is under fire by the
Sacramento County Grand Jury due to a wave of concerns ranging
from water contamination to aging infrastructure and even not
complying with California’s monitoring requirements. According
to a Sacramento County’s news release, the formal complaint
comes after a seven-month investigation into the water
district. County officials say that the water district failed
to complete $35 million in repairs and upgrades that could lead
to potential failure for the entire water complex.
Southern California’s largest urban water district declared a
drought emergency on Tuesday and called for local water
suppliers to immediately cut the use of water from the State
Water Project. The resolution passed by the board of the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California calls on
people across the region to step up conservation efforts, but
also focuses especially on six water agencies that rely heavily
or entirely on the water-starved State Water Project.
Mountain snowpacks around the world are in decline. And as the
planet continues to warm, climate models forecast that
snowpacks will shrink dramatically and possibly even disappear
altogether on certain mountains, including in the western
United States. A new study by researchers at several
institutions, including UC Santa Barbara and Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), analyzes the likely timing
of a low-to-no-snow future, what it will mean for water
management, and opportunities for investments now that could
stave off catastrophic consequences.
The California Farm Bureau is applauding Congress for passing
the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commending the
benefits it extends to local agriculture and rural communities.
The one trillion dollar plan passed by congress late Friday
night is set to fund improvement projects across the country
and projected to create some 2 million jobs. In the bill are
benefits for local agriculture and rural communities like water
storage and conveyance, road and highway improvements and
broadband internet for areas currently without coverage.
Cyberattacks on organizations worldwide surged 40% in 2021.
September 2021 broke records for the number of weekly
cyberattacks, topping all other months since January 2020.
Currently, one out of every 61 organizations worldwide is
impacted by ransomware attacks every week. Given this
ever-increasing threat level, a national law requiring critical
infrastructure organizations to report cybersecurity incidents
to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
is on the horizon.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has recently
entered into a five-year agreement to use ASTERRA’s Recover and
MasterPlan technologies, which will help the district
anticipate leaks. EBMUD serves 1.4 million customers with over
4,200 miles of pipelines in the eastern portion of the San
Francisco Bay area in northern California. Corrosion, ground
movement, soil conditions, variations in water pressure,
contract work, and other factors can affect their water
pipelines and can lead to leaks.
You turn on the tap and expect clean water. But what exactly is
in that water? Analysts at EWG, a nonprofit environmental
group, found a number of chemicals that are known to cause
cancer. … EWG has a new tap-water database. Analysis of Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power water found the level of
arsenic 430 times its own EWG recommendation. It also found
chromium at 29 times recommended levels, and acids from
disinfectants at 184 times.
Last month’s atmospheric river brought much-needed
precipitation to California, which has been in the grip of the
second-driest and third-warmest two-year period on record. It
was a balm to the drought-stricken state, and more than 600,000
acre-feet have arrived in the state’s major reservoirs, but are
our worries over? In a word, no. California remains in a
It appears a new Kern River Watermaster will be chosen to
replace Dana Munn, whose contract winds up at the end of this
year. If he’s officially approved by all the voting members of
the “river interests,” Mark Mulkay will likely become the
fourth ever Kern River Watermaster. He said he’s discussed it
with all the parties and let them know he wants the job. Other
sources confirmed that the river interests, entities that hold
rights to the Kern River, have unofficially agreed on Mulkay as
One key takeaway: The situation around water is dire – more
dire than it has ever been before. Yet, as the Fourth Annual
CSU Spur Water in the West Symposium convened experts from
across the country on Wednesday, the focus was on learning from
one another’s successes and finding solutions at-scale to water
issues. The Water in the West Symposium was launched in
2018 as an early offering of the CSU Spur campus, set
to open its first public-facing building in Denver this
Arizona, California and Nevada are moving forward with a plan
to save another 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead
annually until 2026. We’re talking 500,000 acre-feet over and
above the mandatory cuts that are spelled out in the 2019
Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Each year. For five years. Just
to keep the lake from tanking. -Written by columnist Joanna Allhands.
Pleasanton will officially learn Friday whether it will succeed
in its efforts to lower the number of housing units it must
plan for in the years to come. The odds do not appear to be in
the city’s favor. Pleasanton was one of 27 local governments to
appeal their Regional Housing Needs Allocation to the
Association of Bay Area Governments, a planning agency that
focuses on finding regional solutions to issues such as
housing, water or environmental matters.
In the mid-2000s, seven states, the federal government and
Mexico negotiated critical rules for the Colorado River that
established how to divvy up its water in a severe drought like
it is now facing. Thirty Native American tribes — with rights
to roughly a quarter of all the water in the river — were shut
out of those talks. Tribes want to make sure that doesn’t
happen again. The effort offers new challenges for the seven
Colorado River basin states and the Biden administration, which
has repeatedly pledged to be more inclusive in regulatory
efforts that affect Native Americans.
The public can weigh in on the Kern River at an upcoming
hearing but the proceeding will be very narrowly focused,
according to a ruling released Wednesday. Too narrowly
focused, according to one attorney representing several
nonprofits hoping to bring water back to the river through town
on a regular basis.
In a demonstration of continued Congressional support for the
Project, Congress recently provided Sites Reservoir with $80
million in federal funds. The funding was included in a
short-term government funding bill that was signed into law
late last week. … Sites Reservoir will increase
California’s existing water supply by providing 1.5 million
acre-feet of additional storage capacity to the state during
times of drought to benefit the environment, agriculture and
The Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District received a
six-figure federal allotment to bolster conservation efforts
involving farmers and ranchers amid the worsening drought in
California, it was announced Wednesday, Oct. 27. … The
WaterSMART Initiative is part of a collaborative strategy by
the NRCS’ parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture…
There’s no question that California needs to better manage our
water supply for people and the environment. However, drastic
technological “solutions” like desalination, which is energy
intensive and harmful to marine wildlife and our climate, are
not the answer. California is fortunate to have natural
water supplies, but it has mismanaged this public
good. -Written by Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat, a
campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Water is central to how California adapts to a changing
climate. To those of us steeped in the complexities of managing
the state’s water resources, the current fast-moving
drought—coming on the heels of the record-breaking 2012–16
drought—is a stark reminder that we must accelerate preparation
for the disruptive changes underway.
The big storm that dumped rain and snow on northern Nevada did
not relieve us from our severe drought. All that rain in Reno
and Sparks quickly filled the Truckee River but most of it is
just surface runoff. Every drop of that water in the Truckee is
already spoken for, no matter how high or low the water levels.
It all starts upstream at Lake Tahoe. … Jim Litchfield
who is a former surface water hydrologist says not everyone
getting a fair cut of the water.
As world leaders meet in Scotland this week to discuss efforts
to address the climate crisis, experts are urging greater focus
on adapting to fundamental shifts in the planet’s water
supplies — and they’re pointing to the Colorado River as a
prime example. The river, a vital water source for about 40
million people from Denver to Los Angeles, has continued to
shrink and send reservoirs declining toward critically low
levels after years of extremely dry conditions compounded by
hotter temperatures. … [T]he river’s plight stands out as one
of the world’s starkest cases of a major water source that is
being ravaged by the altered climate…
As the rain falls down in the watershed, Lake Oroville’s water
level rises. Lake Oroville recovered some of its water over the
last two weeks from a recent storm ending a long streak of low
lake levels that has lasted since its record low on Aug.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the McMullin
Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency, invites the public and
media to attend a virtual public scoping meeting on the
proposed Aquaterra Water Bank Project on Nov. 10. The
project includes construction, operation, and maintenance by
McMullin GSA of a 146,000 acre-foot per year dry-year return
water bank in Fresno County. The project is anticipated to
recharge up to 208,000 acre-feet of water during wet-year
conditions once constructed.
The rain just keeps on coming. The second weak storm of
the week is set to sweep the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday;
on Thursday night into Friday, another system may bring light
showers to the North Bay. A break from the rain is
expected through the weekend, but the dry conditions won’t last
long. Long-term weather models show a weak atmospheric river
diving into the region, bringing soaking rain Monday into
In recent years, rising global temperatures and shifting
weather patterns have created water scarcity in many places. In
2020 and 2021, for example, California has experienced
record-breaking droughts and dry spells that have emptied river
beds and forced people to make some hard choices about water
usage. River’s End is a documentary that explores the root
causes of California’s water problems and the influence of the
agricultural industry in relation to them.
The impacts of California’s ongoing dry and warm years were
seen this year with a historic wildfire season.
Correspondingly, the risk of wildfire damage to water
infrastructure is increasing, including risks of secondary
impacts from burned area sediment entering waterbodies and
affecting water treatment plant operations.
Another series of storms is set to sweep through the Pacific
Northwest and Northern California into next week and not only
bring much-needed rain and mountain snow but also flooding
concerns. A dip in the jet stream across the Bering Sea through
the northern Pacific Ocean will push waves of energy toward the
Canadian Rocky Mountains and Northwest this week, according to
AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok,
who added that temperatures will be near to below normal.
In southern Calif., the Yucaipa Valley Water District (YVWD)
Board of Directors have approved a 28-year energy contract with
ENGIE North America for a customized solar, storage and
microgrid project. YVWD will prioritize the adoption of
clean-powered energy to improve its water energy nexus at two
of its most critical locations, the Yucaipa Valley Regional
Water Filtration Facility and the Wochholz Regional Water
The City of Oceanside continues to be at the forefront of water
management in San Diego county with projects like WaterSmart
meters and Pure Water Oceanside that demonstrate the city’s
commitment to deliver clean, safe and affordable water. A
recent Voice of San Diego report showed Oceanside has among the
lowest water rate increases in the county with an average 13.7%
increase from 2017 to 2022. Compare that to the sizeable 38%
increase in water rates for Del Mar during the same 5 year time
Demand for snow runoff forecasting is surging in the San
Joaquin Valley, particularly after the past bone-dry year. Snow
monitoring flights are already being tentatively scheduled by
valley water districts ahead of winter. … One of the newer
and more effective ways of monitoring is by flying imaging
technology over watersheds to see and analyze snowpack.
Airborne Snow Observatories (ASO) is the company behind this
The Newsom administration has informed regional water districts
that it will move forward with a plan to increase flows from
San Joaquin River tributaries in an action that may create more
water uncertainty for farmers. A notice from the California
Natural Resources Agency and state Environmental Protection
Agency represents a departure from the state’s earlier
willingness to consider voluntary agreements with water
districts, which includes aspects other than just flow
When the City of Sonoma required water customers to reduce
their use, residents got off to a slow start, with just a 3.8%
savings in July. But now, the city is catching up, with a 17.4%
savings recorded from July to September, not to mention the
wettest October in the last three years. … Which means
despite the torrential rainfall over the past weeks, water
users should resist the impulse to celebrate with a long hot
shower or an overdue car wash.
On October 27, Fresno Superior Court Judge D. Tyler Tharpe
tossed out the Westlands Water District’s proposed
permanent federal water contract from the Central Valley
Project that would have allocated roughly double the amount of
water from Northern California that Los Angeles residents use
in a year. Tharpe found Westlands, the largest
federal irrigation district in the nation, to have “misled
the court and the public,” according to a statement from
the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
(PCFFA), one of the organizations that joined in the lawsuit
California’s water history flows across my farm in the North
State community of Oroville. A canal carved in the early 1990s
passes beneath my olive groves. It was an extension of original
conveyance systems inspired by gold seekers, who fashioned one
of California’s earliest water delivery systems in the 1890s on
the Feather River, near my home. … Now, as president of
the California Farm Bureau, I am fighting to uphold and restore
the promise of sustainable water delivery in my
state. -Written by Jaime Johansson, president of the California
A nearly 90-year-old water main burst near Universal Studios
Hollywood Monday afternoon, sending water careening down
Cahuenga Boulevard, impacting businesses and traffic.
Firefighters were first called to the scene around 2:30 p.m.
for what initially was described as a broken fire hydrant,
according to the department.
Dam owners sometimes consider dam removal as a policy option to
address dam safety, ecosystem restoration, or other concerns.
The National Inventory of Dams (NID) lists more than 90,000
dams in the United States, many of which function as part of
the nation’s water infrastructure and provide benefits (e.g.,
flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, navigation, and
water supply). Stakeholders may consider the removal of a dam
for various reasons—for example, if a certain dam requires
major dam safety modifications or no longer provides its
To date, the discussion around companies and governments moving
to net-zero has mostly centered on greenhouse gas emissions
goals. … But there is another environmental pledge that
several companies are now taking, focused on water. Often
called “water positive,” it centers on making water-intensive
processes more efficient and putting more water back into a
geographic area where a company operates than it takes out …
The president of a Marin water agency that serves most of the
North Bay county on Friday responded to harsh criticism from an
East Bay mayor who publicly rebuked the agency for a proposed
pipeline that he asserts would present quality-of-life issues
for his city’s residents. Marin Municipal Water District Board
President Cynthia Koehler in a statement to Patch said she
disputes most of Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s assertions but
acknowledged that not all his concerns are without merit.
In a new report by the University of California Giannini
Foundation of Agricultural Economics, agricultural economists
have found a few surprises with the drought. For one, farm
revenues and prices this year may have only small impacts or
even be higher than in 2020, due to global supply and demand
conditions driving up prices. Feed grain and seed prices are
higher in the Midwest, along with beef and milk prices.
Federal forecasters estimate that the atmospheric river storms
that hit parts of northern and central California from October
23-26 dropped 7.6 trillion gallons of rain — which can also be
expressed as 7,600,000,000,000. … Comparatively little of the
rain fell in greater San Diego, where the soil also is
unusually dry. The atmospheric river fell apart as it moved
Even with the recent storm drenching Northern California, it’s
important that residents conserve water, experts said. The
storm — which included a ‘bomb cyclone’ — dropped more than
five inches of rain on the capital city in 24 hours. But it
won’t end the state’s drought. And next year could be dry, too.
… The California Department of Water Resources
recommends that residents calculate how much water they are
using at home using the U.S. Geological Survey calculator. They
said this serves as a starting point to indicate where you can
June Moua started growing cherries, tomatoes and grapes in east
Fresno County 10 years ago. Now she grows a few different types
of crops. But her most profitable are the water-intensive Asian
greens like mustard greens and bok choy. … She says she
learned how to farm from her father when she was younger. Since
then, she’s learned even more through trial and error. She
enjoys bringing these Southeast Asian crops to farmers markets
in Los Angeles, but the drought has put her in a tough
It seems as though the two things the Bay Area has the least of
are housing and water. The region has a shortfall of 699,000
housing units, which has driven housing costs to astronomical
heights, and pushed 35,000 of our neighbors into temporary
housing or onto the streets. Our colleagues at San Francisco
Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR),a
public policy think tank, have found that the region needs to
build an astonishing 2.2 million homes by 2070 to meet future
demand and make up for the present shortfall. -Written by Laura Feinstein, sustainability and
resilience policy director at SPUR, a Bay Area public policy
think tank; and Anne Thebo, a senior researcher for
Pacific Institute, a global water think tank.
When Peter Gleick graduated from Yale in the late 1970s with an
engineering degree, he knew one thing: he didn’t want to be an
engineer. He was fascinated by big systems and big questions,
and drawn to the nascent field of environmental science.
… In the ‘80s, Gleick, in effect, created an applied
academic discipline—fresh water management—and built a place to
study it and offer solutions, the Pacific Institute [based
As heat and wildfires ravaged the US in the summer of 2020,
Wall Street spotted an opportunity. In December last year,
Nasdaq and the CME Group launched a new futures index that
allowed farmers, hedge funds and municipalities to bet on the
forward cost of water in California — and hedge against any
A California judge has declined to validate a contract granting
permanent access to federally controlled water for the nation’s
largest agricultural water supplier, a move that means the U.S.
government is not bound by terms of the deal. Environmentalists
had blasted the contract between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
and the Westlands Water District as a sweetheart arrangement
designed to benefit corporate agricultural interests over
environmental needs and taxpayers. It was crafted during the
Trump administration under then-Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for Westlands …
Re “California should create more water – much more“;
Commentary, Oct. 28, 2021 There is an answer to Jim Wunderman’s
position that “state and federal governments should commit to
creating 1.75 million acre feet – about 25% of California’s
current urban water use – of new water from desalination and
wastewater recycling by the end of this decade”: the Water
Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, a constitutional initiative
proposed for the November 2022 state ballot. -Written by Shawn Dewane, vice president of the
Mesa Water District; Edward Ring, co-founder of the
California Policy Center; Stephen Sheldon, president
of the Orange County Water District; Geoffrey Vanden
Heuvel, director of regulatory and economic affairs for the
California Milk Producers Council; Wayne Western
Jr., board director of the California Farm Water
An atmospheric river delivered record-breaking amounts of rain
across Northern California last weekend. The precipitation
helped bring some northern regions out of extreme and
exceptional drought conditions. Before the rains, about 46% of
California’s land was under “exceptional” drought — the most
severe drought category … This week’s data released Thursday
shows that figure has shrunk to about 39%.
The Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District received a
six-figure federal allotment to bolster conservation efforts
involving farmers and ranchers amid the worsening drought in
California, it was announced Wednesday. … The WaterSMART
Initiative is part of a collaborative strategy by the NRCS’
parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S.
Department of the Interior to improve water reclamation and
other drought-busting measures by encouraging farmers and
ranchers to work more closely with irrigation and water
districts on coordinated conservation plans.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced the Senate
versions of the fiscal year 2022 government funding bills
include nearly $180 million in direct funding for Southern
California projects that the senator requested from the
Appropriations Committee. … [Feinstein:] “The bills include
funding for projects to improve our water infrastructure,
address homelessness, provide more education opportunities,
reduce the threat of wildfires and expand mass transportation.”
California’s top crops have changed as drought strains the
state’s water resources and farmers’ ability to access them.
But that does not necessarily mean farmers are choosing crops
that consume less water. Drought pushes farmers to shift their
scarce water resources to crops with higher payoffs, such as
nuts and vegetables, said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural
economics professor at the UC Agricultural Issues Center — a
trend particularly noticeable this year with its uniquely
A analysis of an initiative that would set aside 2 percent of
the state budget to meet the state’s water needs could lower
water costs at the local level but also could cause reductions
in other programs. That’s the conclusion of a report from the
California Legislative Analysts on the Water Infrastructure
Fundy Act of 2022. Proponents of the initiative are trying to
gain enough support to place it on the November, 2022 ballot.
The initiative would require the state set aside 2 percent of
its budget to meet the state’s water needs.
As scientists have been predicting, climate change is causing
more dramatic extremes in weather — both wet and dry — and that
pendulum swung very dramatically to the wet side over the
weekend. Consequently, it’s critical we prepare now to capture
and store water during these shorter, intense wet periods so
that more water is available during the inevitable increasingly
severe drought years ahead.
Farmers in Pinal County, Arizona, knew they were taking a risk
nearly two decades ago when they agreed to be among the first
people to lose water from the Colorado River if there were a
shortage. … But in the Southwest’s arid landscape, it is no
longer certain how much people can rely on the Colorado River.
A 22-year megadrought and growing demands across the Colorado
River Basin have depleted the river, pushing Western reservoirs
to historic lows and triggering the first-ever federally
declared water shortages. For Western states, this means cuts.
The recent storms allowed California to suspend the drought
curtailment orders that had been imposed during the summer.
Cities and irrigation districts now are free to capture river
runoff that had been unavailable because of the orders.
Officials warned that they could fall back into place if the
state gets another stretch of dry weather.
Over the past decades there have been many “Water” initiatives
or propositions presented to California’s voters. Some of them
have included such wet provisions as funding for large public
soccer field complexes and most of them had more to do with
conservation and urban needs than increased storage and
infrastructure. They also relied heavily on bonds to fund
themselves. Two recent water propositions have brought and
dashed hope for Valley water needs: 2014’s Prop. 1 and 2018’s
Prop. 3. -Written by Don Wright, a contributor to The San
Joaquin Valley Sun and the publisher of
Despite the rain that drenched central and northern California
recently, drought still casts a long shadow over the state. The
consequences of a multi-year water shortage are dire:
reservoirs that serve millions of people and massive swaths of
farmland are disappearing, hydroelectric dams are in danger of
losing power and wild salmon are facing mass die
outs….Stanford water experts Newsha Ajami, Rosemary
Knight, Felicia Marcus and Barton “Buzz”
Thompson discuss lessons learned from previous droughts,
imperatives for infrastructure investment and reasons for hope
in this arid era.
Between historic drought and a lively fire season, California
has experienced a troublesome year. Now, the state may have
received the first sign of major relief: 8 trillion gallons of
rain. Like an epic fire hose, a long, narrow band of water
vapor located in the lower atmosphere — known as an atmospheric
river — doused California with record-setting rains Sunday and
Monday. The event unloaded upward of 12 inches of rain on the
northern Sierras, almost a quarter of the annual average
precipitation for the region.
The projections for Lake Mead – the reservoir that provides
nearly 40% of Arizona’s water supply – have been revised down
again. According to the federal October 24-month study, the
lake could be in a Tier 3 shortage – the worst for which we
have a plan to handle – a few months earlier and a few
feet deeper than was projected just last month. The minimal
probable forecast (which isn’t the worst-case scenario; a
few modeled outcomes are worse) now predicts that Lake
Mead could hit a low of 1,023 feet in September 2023. -Written by Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic
The Marin Municipal Water District is moving away from plans to
acquire temporary desalination plants and instead is exploring
purchasing more water from Sonoma County during the winter
months. … The district, which serves 191,000 residents in
central and southern Marin, faces the potential of depleting
local reservoir supplies as soon as next summer if this winter
is as dry as the last. The recent storms have put the district
in a better starting position, but district staff said
reservoir levels are still well below average.
For farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley—the Saudi Arabia
of nuts—2021 brought many challenges. Scant snowfall in the
Sierra Nevada mountain range delivered almost no irrigation
water to the region’s vaunted complex of dams and aqueducts.
Record-high temperatures baked farm fields. Before this past
weekend’s furious storms, California endured its driest year in
recorded history. Yet the region’s ever-expanding and
very thirsty almond and pistachio operations are thriving
anyway. -Written by Tom Philpott, food and ag correspondent
for Mother Jones.
Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) has reintroduced the
Securing Access for the Central Valley and Enhancing (SAVE)
Water Resources Act. The bill provides a wraparound approach to
addressing water issues facing the Central Valley by increasing
storage opportunities, spurring innovation, and making
“long-overdue investments in our aging water infrastructure,”
said the congressman.
As California faces what is predicted to be one of its worst
droughts in recorded history, water managers are seeing record
increases in water theft, leaving communities angry and police
chasing water bandits constantly on the move. Byrhonda Lyons of
CalMatters, the nonprofit news site, has the story of how water
meant for residential use is flowing to illegal marijuana
This weekend’s atmospheric river brought record-breaking
amounts of rain to drought-plagued California. But they didn’t
give the state’s water supply much of a boost, data shows. The
state Department of Water Resources compared the amount of
water in select reservoirs across the state as of midnight Oct.
25 to the capacity of each reservoir and to historic levels for
the same date. The data shows that, even after all of Sunday
and Monday’s rainfall, many of California’s largest reservoirs
are still holding less water than the historic level for this
time of year.
Christmas travelers driving Interstate 5 this year may need to
hunt up a different stopping point as Kettleman City could be
shut down for lack of water. The state Department of Water
Resources (DWR) has said it will give the tiny community in
western Kings County a few more acre feet of water — but only
enough for the personal taps of its 1,100 residents. The town’s
gas stations and fast food joints that bring in droves of
motorists on busy holidays could be left high and dry.
Two projects in the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP),
the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project and the Harvest
Water Program, met the statutory deadline to ensure progress
and remain eligible for WSIP funding. Proposition 1, the Water
Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014,
requires all WSIP applicants to complete their feasibility
studies, release a draft version of their environmental
documents for public review, provide the DWR director
documentation of commitments for at least 75 percent of the
non-program funding, and have the California Water Commission
find their project feasible no later than January 1, 2022.
Eight white shipping containers, instruments spouting from the
tops of some and a generator humming away in another, sit in
the East River valley, on the outskirts of this mountain town
[Crested Butte], pulling data out of the air. The containers, a
“mobile atmospheric observatory,” will gather bits of
information over the next two years about the winds and clouds
and rain and snow and heat and cold above the silvery and
serpentine waterway as it slides past the gray granite dome of
Gothic Mountain on its way to the Colorado River.
Growers in the West have persisted through the ups and downs of
dry years for a long time, but a two-decades-long trend of
drought in the region is now entrenching itself with no clear
end in sight. This year is unlikely to bring any major relief.
Forecasters say this winter will be shaped by “La Niña,”…Its
effects are hardly guaranteed, but typically mean a colder,
wetter winter for the northwestern portion of the country, and
a warmer, drier winter in the Southwest. The dividing line
often falls in the middle of Colorado.
Mountain snowpacks around the world are on the decline, and if
the planet continues to warm, climate models forecast that
snowpacks could shrink dramatically and possibly even disappear
altogether on certain mountains, including in the western
United States, at some point in the next century. A new study
led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
(Berkeley Lab) analyzes the likely timing of a low-to-no-snow
future, what it will mean for water management, and
opportunities for investments now that could stave off
Even as California has declared a statewide drought emergency
in response to a federal shortage declaration for the Colorado
River, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, says blaming St. George for
the strain on the water supply in the western U.S. is
misguided. Romney was responding to a 60 Minutes documentary
that aired Sunday night, which featured JB Hamby of the
Imperial Irrigation District in California saying building the
Lake Powell pipeline to support growth in St. George did not
Environmental advocates and a pair of Delta-centric water
agencies launched a suit seeking to halt water transfers to San
Joaquin Valley water users occurring in the late fall. It’s the
latest in a half-decade of litigation aimed at stopping all
water transfers – a key drought-era tool for parched Valley
water users – from water users awash with water north of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The advisory committee, established by the San Diego County
Local Agency Formation Commission to analyze applications from
the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to change water
suppliers, is expected to complete its work by the end of this
year and forward its recommendation to the full commission.
After enduring years of soaring water costs from the San Diego
County Water Authority and having to pay for infrastructure
projects that don’t serve the districts and that they don’t
need, Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal
Water District are seeking to detach from the Water Authority
and begin purchasing their water at a reduced rate from Eastern
Municipal Water District.
It took 30 days for a crew of seven El Dorado Irrigation
District employees and the district’s dam safety engineer to
totally rebuild key elements of the Outingdale Dam. The
community of Outingdale gets its water from the dam, a
diversion dam on the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes
River. Water had to be trucked in when the leaking and
deteriorating dam stopped spilling this summer.
A new online platform launched yesterday that uses satellites
to estimate water consumed by crops and evapotranspiration
across the West. Called OpenET, the platform makes water
management data available in 17 western states. Data on the
amount of water used in agriculture has been fragmented and
often expensive, keeping it out of the hands of many farmers
and decision-makers. OpenET hopes to allow users to easily view
and download important water data.
Now California almond farmers and electric utilities, both of
which use massive amounts of water, can bet against the future
availability of water. And just last year, the Chicago
Mercantile Exchange started the first-ever futures market for
water, meaning farmers, as well as investors, municipalities
and hedge funds, can buy a legal agreement known as a “futures
contract” that locks in a predetermined price for water that
will be used in the future.
This past week, California declared a statewide drought
emergency. It follows the first-ever federal shortage
declaration on the Colorado River, triggering cuts to water
supplies in the Southwest. The Colorado is the lifeblood of the
region. It waters some of the country’s fastest-growing cities,
nourishes some of our most fertile fields and powers $1.4
trillion in annual economic activity.
The rainstorm pelting Sacramento and Northern California will
help remedy the state’s woeful water situation. But it won’t be
nearly enough to end the epic California drought. … The main
problem is that the drought, coupled with climate change, has
dried out the soils of Northern California — meaning that much
of the rain and snow will simply disappear into the ground.
State politicians have done something laudable, and it has gone
unheralded. They haven’t even bragged about it themselves. So,
here’s some heralding. They’ve authorized spending about $5
billion on drought-related water projects without charging it
on the credit card. They’re going to pay cash. That will save
taxpayers roughly twice the projects’ cost for tacked-on
interest. -Written by George Skelton, Los Angeles Times
A rating agency is warning water shortages in western states
reliant on the Colorado River could lead to rate hikes that
would be unaffordable for some. S&P Global Ratings released
a report examining the effect of climate change and population
growth on utilities in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and
Colorado. The report, which was released Monday, stressed
water shortages across the region will persist and continued
conservation will be crucial in staving off reductions and cost
increases for consumers.
If you’re having a salad for lunch today, chances are it comes
from the “Salad Bowl of the World,” the lush farmland that
stretches for some 90 miles across California’s Salinas Valley.
Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, celery,
cauliflower and more grow in abundance there, a source of pride
and profits for farmers who work the land. But none of it
would be possible without water, and that’s the
problem. -Written by Paul Brandus, a columnist for MarketWatch and
the White House bureau chief for West Wing Reports.
After the release of a video in which Santa Clarita Mayor Bill
Miranda invites members of the community to share their input
on a potential artificial rainwater reservoir project in the
Santa Clara Riverbed, other officials have noted that the
project is not backed by the city nor the local water
In response to continuing drought conditions, California’s
Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that it will keep
the West False River salinity barrier in place until November
2022. Construction of the rock barrier was completed in June,
and the emergency permit issued by the State Water Resources
Control Board (SWRCB) originally required its removal by Nov.
We just finished the second-driest water season on record in
California. Worse, it was the driest two-year period. Only 1924
was drier, according to the state Department of Water
Resources. And back then, California had a population of just
4.5 million. Now we have 39.5 million people gulping water —
plus a lot of overplanted thirsty nut orchards in the arid San
Joaquin Valley … So, what’s being done by the state
government about this record drought? -Written by George Skelton, LA Times columnist.
Four states in the drought-wracked West considering whether to
pay farmers to cut their water use see federal infrastructure
legislation as a possible revenue source. The $550 billion
bipartisan legislation approved in the Senate includes $25
million for the four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and
Wyoming…. Paying people to cut water use is an option under a
2019 drought contingency plan the four upper division states
signed with three states in the Lower Colorado River Basin —
Arizona, California and Nevada.
Water has become a major roadblock to desperately needed
housing in rural communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
Water scarcity and lack of infrastructure has scared off
developers just when housing is most needed, according to
officials and nonprofits that work on both water and housing.
… For developers to build housing, they must obtain a
“will serve” letter, official confirmation by the water
provider in the area that the new development can receive
The Bureau of Reclamation has released its October 24-Month
Study and 2-year projections of major reservoir levels within
the Colorado River system….As a result of this update, the
median water year 2022 inflow forecast into Lake Powell
decreased by 800,000 acre-feet and Reclamation’s October
projections show lower Lake Powell elevations compared to the
As aspen leaves blazed across the Colorado Rockies this fall,
NOAA scientists were busy installing a state-of-the-art
observing network in a remote basin near Crested Butte to study
how precipitation forms in the complex, high-altitude terrain
of the West Elk Mountains. Their goal: improving weather and
river flow prediction in a watershed critical to the region’s
Water is life for us here in the Central Valley. It impacts
every facet of our day-to-day lives, from our jobs to
sustaining our daily needs. This summer, a few communities in
my district ran dry. One town —Teviston—was without running
water for a full month. The families there were unable to turn
their taps on to cook, bathe their children or even flush the
toilet. Drought and water conservation is becoming a way of
life for us across the state, but especially in the San Joaquin
Valley. Fortunately, farmers and farmworkers are resilient and
have found ways to cope. -Written by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger,
representing California’s 14th Senate District.
The Marin Municipal Water District has allocated up to $23.2
million to buy equipment for a proposed emergency supply
pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The investment,
approved by the district board on Tuesday, is the largest the
agency has made since proposing the idea earlier this year. The
8-mile pipeline, estimated to cost up to $90 million, is the
district’s main backup plan should it deplete its main
reservoir supplies next summer in the event of another dry
A new federal system for projecting Colorado River water flows
in the next two years confirms dire news about drought draining
the West’s key reservoirs, and increases pressure on Colorado
to conserve water immediately to avoid future demands from
down-river states, conservation groups say. …The new
projections for the next two years show that even with federal
officials draining portions of Blue Mesa, Flaming Gorge and
Navajo reservoirs to get more water to Lake Powell’s
hydroelectric generating station, a moderate winter would leave
the Colorado River in the same crisis a year from now.
After years of trucking in water, LARC Ranch residents are
finally set to get a permanent water supply via a pipeline
being built with the help of the Santa Clarita Valley Water
Agency. LARC and other Bouquet Canyon residents were left high
and dry when water stopped being regularly released from the
Bouquet Reservoir nearly a decade ago, reducing their supply to
a trickle over concerns of road flooding.
A settlement meeting required by the California Environmental
Quality Act may give the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water
District and the city of Tehachapi a chance to resolve their
water supply disagreement. In a nutshell, the city has approved
residential projects that could add 1,400 or more housing units
over the next seven years — and the water district contends
that the city violated CEQA and doesn’t have sufficient water
to serve such development.
This measure seeks to increase water supply in the state
through the implementation of new water projects. Specifically,
the measure (1) amends state law to dedicate existing
state General Fund revenues for developing additional water
supply, (2) authorizes the sale of bonds to fund water
supply projects, and (3) makes some changes to existing
environmental review requirements for water supply projects.
When the State of California issued its water curtailments late
last summer, TID and neighboring districts pushed back. A
coalition of water districts from Modesto, Oakdale, Manteca,
and San Francisco sued the state over its curtailment order.
Michelle Reimers, TID’s general manager and chief executive,
says she understands the idea behind the curtailments. Aside
from the pre-1914 water rights the districts own and what that
means under California law, Reimers says TID is bothered by the
blanket order because it fails to consider how well-managed
irrigation districts like hers operate and manage their
California law enforcement agents have seized more than 1
million illegally grown marijuana plants this year in an
attempt to curb illicit cultivation of the cash crop that
continues to undercut the state’s struggling legal market for
pot, authorities said Monday. … The siphoning of water by
illegal pot farmers increasingly has become an concern amid
California’s worsening drought. The attorney general also
said that insecticides banned in the state were found at grow
sites, some of them so toxic that they kill wildlife and poison
groundwater and public waterways.
A coalition of federal agencies warned that hackers are
targeting the water and wastewater treatment sectors. In a
joint advisory by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), the U.S.
EPA, and the National Security Agency (NSA), these
organizations highlighted ongoing malicious cyber
activity. … In August 2021, malicious cyber actors
used Ghost variant ransomware against a California-based WWS
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt says plans by the Marin Municipal Water
District (MMWD) to construct a water pipeline across the
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and related facilities in Richmond
will have adverse impacts in his city. He feels Richmond’s
concerns and proposals for alternatives and mitigation measures
are being ignored in order to rush through the project, which
aims to support MMWD’s roughly 190,000 customers amid drought
Amid the fallout of California’s worst water year in its
history, the state will find its two primary water arteries
under the management of a temporary, plan tendered to a Federal
judge on Thursday, throwing out 2019 environmental rules that
boosted water supplies to the Central Valley and Southern
California. The plan … comes amid a cacophony of lawsuits
waged both by the Newsom administration and environmental
Climate change is putting California’s water system to the
test. Facing increasingly frequent and intense droughts,
shorter wet seasons, and rising temperatures, Californians are
struggling to maintain a stable water supply that can meet the
needs of our population while keeping our ecosystems intact.
The state’s aging, 20th-century water infrastructure—including
dams and levees—urgently needs an upgrade to cope with a
21st-century climate. We need to increase groundwater storage
and restore flows to suffering ecosystems and the wildlife that
depends on them.
Amid worsening drought in the West that threatens the region’s
water and food supplies, Vice President Kamala Harris went to
Lake Mead on Monday to pitch the Biden administration’s
infrastructure and climate change plans, saying they would
create jobs and respond to climate change. … The vice
president’s visit comes as the West’s parched conditions have
hit bleak milestones. The Nevada reservoir, which provides
water to 25 million people in California, Arizona, Nevada and
Mexico, has seen its levels decline every year since 2000 and
now is at it lowest level since its creation more than 86 years
This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
Las Vegas, known for its searing summertime heat and glitzy casino fountains, is projected to get even hotter in the coming years as climate change intensifies. As temperatures rise, possibly as much as 10 degrees by end of the century, according to some models, water demand for the desert community is expected to spike. That is not good news in a fast-growing region that depends largely on a limited supply of water from an already drought-stressed Colorado River.
When you oversee the largest
supplier of treated water in the United States, you tend to think
Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California for the last 15 years, has
focused on diversifying his agency’s water supply and building
security through investment. That means looking beyond MWD’s
borders to ensure the reliable delivery of water to two-thirds of
As California slowly emerges from
the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by
the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic
challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and
the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt.
Water affordability concerns, long an issue in a state where
millions of people struggle to make ends meet, jumped into
overdrive last year as the pandemic wrenched the economy. Jobs
were lost and household finances were upended. Even with federal
stimulus aid and unemployment checks, bills fell by the wayside.
As California’s seasons become
warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water
rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the
reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of
the state’s water supply.
A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends
that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s
increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure
water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns
that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing
climate could require existing rights holders to curtail
diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open
opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.
This beautifully illustrated 24×36-inch poster, suitable for
framing and display in any office or classroom, highlights the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, its place as a center of
farming, its importance as an ecological resource and its
vital role in California’s water supply system.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization, farming, fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways.
A government agency that controls much of California’s water
supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the
numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another
drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most
of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project
will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low
number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more
rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather
forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. The National
Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and
windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.
Members of the 2020 Water Leaders class examined how
to adapt water management to climate change. Read their
policy recommendations in the class report, Adapting
California Water Management to Climate Change: Charting a Path
Forward, to learn more.
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River
Basin’s hydrology began tumbling into a historically bad stretch.
The weather turned persistently dry. Water levels in the system’s
anchor reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead plummeted. A river
system relied upon by nearly 40 million people, farms and
ecosystems across the West was in trouble. And there was no guide
on how to respond.
Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.
Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.
Colorado is home to the headwaters
of the Colorado River and the water policy decisions made in the
Centennial State reverberate throughout the river’s sprawling
basin that stretches south to Mexico. The stakes are huge in a
basin that serves 40 million people, and responding to the water
needs of the economy, productive agriculture, a robust
recreational industry and environmental protection takes
expertise, leadership and a steady hand.
Sprawled across a desert expanse
along the Utah-Arizona border, Lake Powell’s nearly 100-foot high
bathtub ring etched on its sandstone walls belie the challenges
of a major Colorado River reservoir at less than half-full. How
those challenges play out as demand grows for the river’s water
amid a changing climate is fueling simmering questions about
Voluntary agreements in California
have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve
environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows
and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be
diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state
This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
The Colorado River is arguably one
of the hardest working rivers on the planet, supplying water to
40 million people and a large agricultural economy in the West.
But it’s under duress from two decades of drought and decisions
made about its management will have exceptional ramifications for
the future, especially as impacts from climate change are felt.
Every other year we hold an
invitation-only Colorado River Symposium attended by various
stakeholders from across the seven Western states and Mexico that
rely on the iconic river. We host this three-day event in Santa
Fe, N.M., where the 1922 Colorado River Compact was signed, as
part of our mission to catalyze critical conversations to build
bridges and inform collaborative decision-making.
Members of the 2019 Water Leaders class examined the
emerging issue of wildfire impacts on California’s water
supply and quality. Read their policy recommendations in the
class report, Fire and Water: An Emerging Nexus in
California, to learn more.
Many of California’s watersheds are
notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring
flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it
can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are
strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each
winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.
However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could
lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water
supply and flood protection capabilities.
It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends
of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water
districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the
state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it
can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems
and upend an agency’s finances.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered 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 held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
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
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
High in the headwaters of the Colorado River, around the hamlet of Kremmling, Colorado, generations of families have made ranching and farming a way of life, their hay fields and cattle sustained by the river’s flow. But as more water was pulled from the river and sent over the Continental Divide to meet the needs of Denver and other cities on the Front Range, less was left behind to meet the needs of ranchers and fish.
“What used to be a very large river that inundated the land has really become a trickle,” said Mely Whiting, Colorado counsel for Trout Unlimited. “We estimate that 70 percent of the flow on an annual average goes across the Continental Divide and never comes back.”
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
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.
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.
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.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.
~John Wesley Powell
Powell scrawled those words in his journal as he and his expedition paddled their way into the deep walls of the Grand Canyon on a stretch of the Colorado River in August 1869. Three months earlier, the 10-man group had set out on their exploration of the iconic Southwest river by hauling their wooden boats into a major tributary of the Colorado, the Green River in Wyoming, for their trip into the “great unknown,” as Powell described it.
Sixty percent of California’s
developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada,
making the state’s water supply largely dependent on the health
of Sierra forests. But those forests are suffering from ecosystem
degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
On our Headwaters Tour
June 27-28, we will visit Eldorado and Tahoe national forests to
learn about new forest management practices, including efforts to
both prevent wildfires and recover from them.
Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.