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.
Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for
people and crops in the future. … Glaciers represent the
snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing
rivers of ice. … But in a warming climate melting outstrips
accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice.
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles,
videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon
like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry
Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years,
you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow
with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each
winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the
state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting
go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
Land subsidence from overpumping of San Joaquin Valley
groundwater sank portions of the Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River
to farms that help fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural
economy. A plan to fix it helped sink the $8.8 billion
Proposition 3 bond measure last November. Now San Joaquin
Valley water managers are trying to figure out another way to
restore the canal, not only to keep farmers farming, but to aid
the valley’s overtaxed groundwater aquifers. By Gary
Pitzer in Western Water.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
As rain continues to pelt Southern California, signs of an
abundance of or even too much water are everywhere: Roads are
flooded, reservoirs are filling and the wait time for Radiator
Springs Racers at the damp Disneyland Resort has been less than
a half hour. But as residents of burn areas evacuate and
even heavier rain is forecast for Thursday, those who watch the
state and local water supplies note that while the drought is
technically over, the need to conserve water is not.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West
Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it,
simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is
essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
The new majority on the Escondido City Council
appears poised to rescind the former council’s 2017 decision to
locate a $44 million recycled water plant in the middle of a
residential area. “It’s the wrong location,” newly elected
Mayor Paul “Mac” McNamara said of the site in the center of the
city at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Ash Street.
”It might cost us a few more bucks, but in the long term, it’s
better to have it where it needs to be.”
Wells are going dry and there are few long-term solutions
available — a common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells.
This is exactly what happened in California’s Central Valley.
The recent drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper
water wells to support irrigated agriculture. Groundwater
supplies around the world are being threatened by excessive
pumping, but drilling deeper wells is not a long-term solution.
A better solution is to manage water use and avoid excessive
declines in groundwater levels.
Nasdaq, along with Veles Water and WestWater Research, has
announced the launch of the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index
(NQH2O), the first of its kind water index that benchmarks the
price of water in a way that supports price discovery and
enables the creation of a tradable financial instrument.
Climate change helped fuel the deadly fires that prompted
California’s largest power company to announce Monday that it
would file for bankruptcy. … In a grim twist, the bankruptcy
of PG&E Corp. could now slow California’s efforts to fight
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Another Pacific storm was set to hit California on Wednesday,
bringing a threat of mudslides to the site of the deadliest
wildfire in state history and a rare blizzard warning in the
Sierra Nevada. An evacuation warning was in place into Thursday
morning for Pulga, a canyon community in Northern California.
Its neighbor, the town of Paradise, was virtually incinerated
two months ago by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and
destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over
$100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect
the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former
governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water
legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey
urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the
proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt
said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a
much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500
acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to
allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side,
DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to
neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the
completion of construction of a levee to protect existing
infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat
restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the
interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to
The budget specifically calls out funding for Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water. It discusses the need to find a
stable funding source for long-term operation and maintenance
of drinking water systems in disadvantaged communities, stating
that existing loan and grant programs are limited to capital
Following one of the hottest and driest years on record, the
Colorado River and its tributaries throughout the western U.S.
are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s
according to a new analysis by the Western Water Assessment at
the University of Colorado Boulder. Researcher Jeff Lukas, who
authored the briefing, says water managers throughout the
Colorado River watershed should brace themselves for diminished
streams and the decreasing likelihood of filling the reservoirs
left depleted at the end of 2018.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit
Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive
design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently,
the city partially relies on imported water to meet its
water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major
step toward water independence, supporting existing programs
designed to create a sustainable water supply
A Bureau of Reclamation program awards grants to water
districts and other project sponsors seeking to reuse water and
add to supplies. From 1992 through 2017, it awarded about $715
million for 46 construction projects and 71 studies. Nearly all
of the funding—about $703 million—went for construction
projects that recycled water.
After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over
twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing
before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on
the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the
Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.
Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes
again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or
Gov. Gavin Newsom, if he is to successfully steer the state
into the future, has to bring to his water agenda the same
steely-eyed, reality-based drive that the two previous
governors brought to limiting carbon emissions. It is
time for the state to respond to its water challenge with the
same sense of urgency with which it adopted Assembly Bill 32,
the landmark law capping greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006.
Urban water conservation took a sharp drop in November in
California, with savings of just 7.8 percent compared to
November 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year. That’s down from
13.4 percent savings in October. Statewide, the average
was 86 gallons per capita. In the Sacramento River watershed,
everyone used on average 101 gallons per day; in the Bay Area,
67 gallons; on the South Coast, 86 gallons.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is
slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy
future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to
spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an
investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate
structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged
commissioners not to give them a bailout.
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought,
the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its
diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must
confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water
may be cut off.
You can now register for our full slate of water tours for
2019, including a new tour along California’s Central Coast to
view a river’s restoration following a major dam removal, check
out efforts to desalt ocean water, recycle wastewater and
manage groundwater and seawater intrusion.
Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers
on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal
deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan.
The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and
lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central
Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona
Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
Everywhere you look new homes, hotels and master-planned
developments are appearing. It is wise to ask whether we
have enough water for these future desert residents and
visitors. Permits for new projects are under the
jurisdiction of cities or the county — not under the purview of
water agencies. Water agencies are tasked with supplying
the water. Balancing growth and water supplies is nothing new
to desert communities. It has always been a fact of life
in our desert and is one of Desert Water Agency’s most
A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate PFAS
chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program,
allowing federal agencies to clean up sites contaminated
by harmful fluorinated compounds. Health officials
have said continued exposure to
certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm
human health. Studies link exposure to developmental effects on
fetuses, cancer and liver and immunity function, among other
A section of the museum will also be dedicated to water,
teaching visitors how much water it takes to grow
crops, how California farmers lead the world in
conservation, and how the state’s complicated water storage and
delivery system works, said Mike Wade, the executive director
of the California Farm Water Coalition. The Coalition is
the title sponsor for the exhibits and has drawn on several
farming organizations, including Farm Credit, to help build and
maintain the exhibits.
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water
toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the
Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a
lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the
local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district
might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate
water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
California began 2019 with lower-than-average snowpack
measurements — just 67 percent of the year-to-date
average. Recent storms pushed that total to 90
percent as of Friday. With more precipitation on the horizon,
forecasters predict snowpack measurements will “meet or exceed”
the year-to-date average by the end of the week.
Standing on a stone bridge overlooking Lagunitas Creek in west
Marin County, giddy onlookers observed a male coho salmon
swimming upstream toward a nesting area guarded by a female.
… This year’s salmon spawning season so far appears to
be a mixed bag, with some locations, such as Lagunitas Creek,
showing robust activity, and others, including the Russian
River in Sonoma County, falling short of expectations.
There is plenty of water on Mars, but it’s frozen, locked in
water-rich minerals, tucked away below the surface — or a
combination of those challenges, which is why we still don’t
know where it all is. That’s a problem for Rick Davis,
assistant director for science and exploration in the planetary
science division at NASA, because he is heading the agency’s
project to evaluate potential human base sites on the Red
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the
world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of
much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego,
Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its
water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting
system used by major farmers and entire states. … This
month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan
Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
Southern California’s native scrublands are famously tough. …
They evolved along with long, hot summers, at least six
rainless months a year and intense wildfires. But not this much
fire, this often. The combination of too-frequent wildfires and
drought amplified by climate change poses a growing threat to
wildlands that deliver drinking water to millions.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River
drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water
management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic
they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa
Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to
officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water
interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about
A day after proposing a tax on drinking water, Gov. Gavin
Newsom took a “surprise” road trip to meet with Stanislaus
County residents in a community known for having unsafe wells.
Newsom and his cabinet made their first stop at the Monterey
Park Tract in Ceres, where he held a roundtable discussion with
people who for years had to use bottled water for drinking and
cooking because their community’s two wells were
long-contaminated with nitrates and arsenic.
California’s failure to provide safe, affordable drinking water
to the remaining roughly 1% of residents is probably the most
solvable and affordable of California’s many difficult water
problems. There will always be isolated small systems
with vexing problems, but the number of Californians currently
without access to safe affordable drinking water is
embarrassing and irresponsibly high.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western
snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers
presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these
predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has
declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told
the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western
U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can
see it right now.”
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech
Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a
drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal
intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of
urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor
told the business community Friday in previewing the speech
that kicks off the legislative session.
When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm,
the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. He and
his son, Mike, manage the business, and they hope to pass it on
to the next generation of Seleys. But the farms of
Borrego Springs, like the town and its golf courses, rely
completely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer. And
it’s unclear whether farming will be able to survive in this
part of the Southern California desert west of the Salton Sea
in San Diego County.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
In a 5-3 vote Wednesday that — intriguingly — fell along gender
lines, the Phoenix City Council approved an increase in water
rates, starting next month. “I thank the women to have the
leadership and courage to do the right thing. 5-3,”
Interim Mayor Thelda Williams said. … Wednesday’s
vote overturned the council’s previous rejection of
the proposed increase, on December 12, that was also 5-3.
Tackling what promises to be a controversial issue, Gov. Gavin
Newsom proposed a tax on drinking water Thursday to help
disadvantaged communities clean up contaminated water systems.
Newsom’s plan for a “safe and affordable drinking water fund,”
included in the new governor’s first budget proposal, attempts
to revive an idea that died in the Legislature last year.
California will be under a siege of storm systems through next
week that will send rounds of soaking rain across the state and
snow into the Sierra Nevada. The storms will be guided toward
California through a strong jet stream over the Pacific Ocean.
It’s possible the Golden State could be affected by three or
four separate weather systems through the end of next week.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC
issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The
environmental document essentially looks at what changes a
licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of
those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded
a new license.
A coalition of groups interested in salmon recovery —
California Sea Grant’s Russian River Salmon and Steelhead
Monitoring Program (CSG), Russian River Coho Salmon Captive
Broodstock Program and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation
District (RCD) — are working together and with local landowners
to see if unexplored areas of these local watersheds might hold
the key to the recovery of native coho salmon populations.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal
three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still
grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the
way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues,
some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’
concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up
funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to
pump more groundwater.
Registration is now open for the Santa Ana River Watershed
Conference set for March 29 in Fullerton. The daylong
event will be held at Cal State Fullerton. Join us to discuss
the importance of the Santa Ana River Watershed and how,
through powerful partnerships, resilient solutions can be found
to improve the quality and reliability of
the region’s water supply.
Every winter, forest managers in places like California take a
step back, analyze their budgets and plan on how to deal with
the next fire season. But the government shutdown has shuttered
a lot of those efforts, because federal lands like the U.S.
Forest Service— which has been furloughed since December 22 —
plays a huge role. For example, crews in Redwood National Park
are “just sitting on their hands,” according to University of
California fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson in Humboldt
County, because they can’t work on federal land during the
Plans for the removal of three dams on the Klamath River in
California cleared another regulatory hurdle when state
officials released a draft environmental impact report that
found no significant long-term water quality concerns.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s
latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on
Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s
cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought
Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete
proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal
with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado
River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal
government is squeezing these negotiators.
Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the Public
Policy Institute of California, spoke recently about
managing freshwater systems with ecosystem water budgets. “I
will argue that drought, because of the way we have modified
this system, is the major bottleneck ecologically,” he said.
“Step 1 has to be thinking about drought: how to mitigate
drought and how to deal with drought – that is plan for,
respond to, and recover from drought. We don’t do that at
all, even though we just had this big drought.”
A lawsuit seeking a new environmental report for the
controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for
Huntington Beach was rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court
judge on Tuesday. Judge Richard Sueyoshi found the
supplemental report met legal requirements while noting the
2010 study had never been legally challenged.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
This month’s second annual Cuyamaca College Center for Water
Studies “Women in Water – Exploring Career Pathways” symposium
will provide a good opportunity for women and girls to learn
about a career in the field. Cuyamaca’s Center for Water
Studies opened in the fall of 2018. A renovated complex with
new classrooms, it also has a water quality analysis laboratory
and a workshop, and offers related skills-based courses. Last
year’s event drew nearly 200 participants. This year’s all-day
conference starts at 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to
exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River
water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution
is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona
and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado
River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his
audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick
the can any further.”
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is seeking to auction off its
Potter Valley Project hydropower plant, which contains two
reservoirs and dams, to a new operator. PG&E cited
increasing operation costs, a competitive energy market and
lower energy generation needs as reasons for its
decision. Questions remain as to what extent Marin County
water supplies will be affected by a potential change in
ownership and operation of the 110-year-old hydropower
plant more than 100 miles to the north.
Cloud seeding has existed for decades, and has significant
traction in other western states such as California, Idaho
and Wyoming. Colorado has only recently joined the cloud
seeding game as the state’s snowpack has declined and the
Colorado River runs dry.
In December, Frank Gehrke retired as chief snow surveyor for
the California Department of Water Resources. He spent much of
his 31 years with the department on skis and snowshoes, in
remote corners of the Sierra Nevada, measuring the “frozen
reservoir” that ultimately provides about a third of
California’s water supply.
Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control
Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin
River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update
water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay
estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental
protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San
Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural
practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or
eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.
Los Angeles resident Cindy Baker claimed in her April
2018 federal class action lawsuit that the
Switzerland-based company intentionally and recklessly
concealed facts about the quality and purity of its Pure Life
purified water. U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said
in a seven-page order that Baker’s concerns about water
quality and microplastics in Nestle water should be addressed
by the Food and Drug Administration, not by the courts.
At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s
Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no
Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out),
they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake
Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t
want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more
locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,”
said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.
The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental
Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and
lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent.
It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not
in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The
paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater
could be used to recycle water. However, making these
improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100
Forecasters are not being paid. Weather models are not being
maintained, launched or improved. The main impact has been on
the current Global Forecast System, the premier weather model
in the U.S., which is running poorly, and there’s no one on
duty to fix it.
California’s lawns receded during past droughts: Homeowners
reduced their water use by adding flower beds and walkways
where turf had previously been. But this last drought, which
ended in early 2017, was different. Thousands of homeowners
took advantage of “cash for grass” programs to remove their
A coalition of environmental groups has called on California
members of Congress to prioritize the San Luis (B.F. Sisk)
Dam seismic remediation over federal funding for new California
dams. San Luis Dam is in a very seismically active area.
Independently reviewed risk assessments for Reclamation have
shown that a large earthquake could lead to crest settlement
and overtopping of the dam, which would result in large
uncontrolled releases and likely dam failure.
At issue is the proper interpretation of the law’s central
provision barring the discharge of “any pollutant to navigable
waters from any point source” without a permit. The term
navigable waters, broadly defined as “waters of the United
States,” does not generally include groundwater.
If you live on the West Coast, you may hear the term
“atmospheric river” thrown around. These massive, fast-moving
storm systems can transport more than 25 times the moisture as
flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath
its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off
for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over
an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte
Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with
devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that
measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across
the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far
back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a
megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought
conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks
fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts
of the past 1,200 years.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a
soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states
that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River,
according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are
protected under the Clean Water Act. It’s also poised to
be a year of reckoning on the Colorado River, which supplies
water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland.
And it could also be a landmark year for water management in
California, with several key issues coming to a head.
As more people build homes in fire-prone areas, and as climate
change and other factors increase the frequency of fires, there
is a growing risk to life and property throughout the West —
and a lesser known risk to the region’s already endangered
water supply. At least 65 percent of the public water supply in
the Western U.S. comes from fire-prone areas.
Featuring artists, photographers, first-person narratives,
historical and scientific essays, long-form journalism and
fiction, the magazine revolves around the fascinating people
and wonders that make up the greater Bay – Delta region of
Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and
commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the
marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial
fleet. A new environmental document predicts the level of
sediment released as a result of dam removal will be similar to
what the river carries downstream during an average year.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
For two decades, the Hutchinsons and their neighbors in this
rural enclave of Banning Heights tucked above the I-10 freeway
have fought to have Southern California Edison repair a
century-old system that carries water down the San Gorgonio
mountains to their homes.
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers
and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the
American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange
ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of
climate change. This year, due to the partial federal
government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the
conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
An arbiter has sided with five local tribes in a dispute over
what San Diego County water officials argued was a request that
left them with an unexpected $2.1 million budget deficit after
the tribes won back lost water rights. The dispute arose after
the federal government restored water rights to the San Luis
Rey Indian Water Authority, which represents the tribes.
New California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he
favors a scaled-down Delta tunnel project. Whether he
reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal
whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the
flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural
Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes
along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the
Trump administration — or fights it.
Gloria Gray became chairwoman of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California on Jan. 1 and made history,
though not for the first time. She has two big goals:
seeing through a controversial public works project to build
two new California water tunnels and ensuring her agency is
represented by a more diverse group of people.
Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the State
Water Board the amount they used. But Louis and Darcy Chacon
reported an amount that just didn’t make sense. The Chacons
reported they used more than 1 trillion acre-feet of water
annually from 2009 to 2013, more than is available on the
It has been called speculative, foolhardy and overly expensive,
but Aaron Million’s plan to pump water from the Utah-Wyoming
border to Colorado’s Front Range just won’t dry
up. Now seeking water rights from the Green
River in Utah for a new version of his plan, Million thinks he
has fashioned a winning proposal to feed Colorado’s thirsty,
Bharat Bhushan’s work focuses on finding nature-inspired
solutions to societal problems. In this case, his research team
looked to the desert to find life that survives despite limited
access to water. The cactus, beetle and desert grasses all
collect water condensed from nighttime fog. Bhushan’s team
studied each of these living things and realized they could
build a similar — albeit larger — system to allow humans to
pull water from nighttime fog or condensation.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought
contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now,
they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job,
the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a
reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin
recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
Due to rising average temperatures, snowpacks in the Great
Basin appear to be transitioning from seasonal, with a
predictable amount and melt rate, to “ephemeral,” or
short-lived, which are less predictable and only last up to 60
days. “We might not get as much water into the ground, throwing
off the timing of water for plant root systems, reducing our
supply and use, and even affecting businesses such as tourism,”
says lead researcher Rose Petersky.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state
governments released new climate change assessments that
outline the projected course of climate change and its
potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting
of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department
of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on
hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
A broken water main in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles
flooded streets and the parking lots of a fast foot restaurant
and pharmacy. The rupture sent a torrent of water in the
streets and flooded the parking lot of a Jack in the Box
and a CVS Pharmacy.
Hemp production legalized under the 2018 farm bill could go
beyond offering a new crop option for farmers facing drought in
Western states—it also could save them water. Arizona,
California, and New Mexico are among the states allowing hemp
production in 2019 after the federal government removed the
marijuana relative from its list of controlled substances.
Supporters say the change comes at the right time as the region
grapples with how agriculture fits into a drier future.
Montgomery is known for fostering collaborative relationships
among stakeholders and as a leader in protecting and restoring
water quality within California and throughout the Southwest
and the Pacific Islands. He is currently serving as the
Assistant Director of the Water Division in the US
Environmental Protection Agency (Region 9).
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better,
largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in
November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel
tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce
pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the
At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an
average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the
nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new
study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet;
and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet.
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control
Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four
hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River.
The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by
California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes,
water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the
basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust
responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s
farming and ranching heritage.
The USDA estimates gross cash receipts for the dairy industry
to be down 9 percent from the previous year but estimates
poultry receipts to be 7 percent higher. After several years of
strong production, gross receipts for tree fruit and nuts are
expected to be slightly lower. Likewise, vegetable gross
receipts are expected to be down slightly, though consumption
A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of
the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon,
Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the
result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too
sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
When it comes to California’s water supply, 2018 will end with
a whimper. California’s two largest reservoirs are not even
half full. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which functions as an
additional set of reservoirs, is below normal for this time of
year. And there’s not a major storm in sight.
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to
provide interested parties the opportunity to present data,
views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes
affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
Over the past three years, the State Water Resources Control
Board has conducted a public process to increase the water
flowing to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta with the
intent of improving declining fish populations. However, an
increase in river flow means a reduction in supplies for
Californians, who are dependent on them for their lives and
As stakeholders labor to nail down
effective and durable drought contingency plans for the Colorado
River Basin, they face a stark reality: Scientific research is
increasingly pointing to even drier, more challenging times
The latest sobering assessment landed the day after Thanksgiving,
when U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate
Assessment concluded that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly
compared to the pace of natural variations that have occurred
throughout its history, with greenhouse gas emissions largely the
Several dozen Northern California and Lane County residents
picketed outside Roseburg Forest Products’ Springfield
headquarters Tuesday, protesting what they call a water grab
and frivolous lawsuit by the wood products company. About
50 people, some from the town of Weed, Calif., held signs …
late Tuesday morning, objecting to what Roseburg Forest
Products considers its water rights to the Beaughan Springs,
which provides the main source of drinking water for Weed.
The snow season, which started this month, is off to a good
start. A series of December storms covered the Sierra Nevada
with heavy snow, leaving the snowpack at 106% of average,
according to the state’s snow survey. But a new study
suggests that Californians won’t always be able to rely on
melting snow to trickle down the mountains each spring, filling
state reservoirs for use over the long, dry summers.
Some water districts would like to keep negotiating with state
officials over river flows. But lawsuits replaced settlements
as the most likely path forward, the day after a crucial vote
in Sacramento approving the “water grab.”
California wildlife officials have concluded an environmental
review of the controversial Cadiz water pumping project is
severely flawed, and cannot be used to approve a key stream and
lakebed alteration permit. The California Dept. of Fish and
Wildlife says scientists for Cadiz and the Orange County-based
Rancho Santa Margarita Water District wrongly claimed that a
spring vital to bighorn sheep is not connected to the aquifer
from which the project would draw water.
As all eyes turn to the State Water Resources Control Board on
Wednesday, the board won’t have complete settlement agreements
with Modesto-area irrigation districts to consider at a crucial
meeting. At most, the districts and negotiators with the state
Natural Resources Agency will have the basic framework of an
agreement that’s an alternative to a state plan for river flows
that is fiercely opposed by water users and local agencies in
This 2-day, 1-night tour offers participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies.
More than three months after the Carr Fire was contained, the
burned out hillsides the deadly blaze left behind continue to
pose a threat to water quality in western Shasta County. The
barren fire-scarred hillsides could cause drinking water
quality problems for communities that rely on water from
Whiskeytown Lake, according to a report written for the Shasta
County Public Works Department.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is joining forces with House Republicans
to try to extend a controversial law that provides more water
for Central Valley farms, but with a sweetener for the
environment: help with protecting California’s rivers and fish.
The proposed extension of the WIIN Act, or Water Infrastructure
Improvements for the Nation Act, would keep millions of federal
dollars flowing for new dams and reservoirs across the West.
The 1992 election to the United
States Senate was famously coined the “Year of the Woman” for the
record number of women elected to the upper chamber.
In the water world, 2018 has been a similar banner year, with
noteworthy appointments of women to top leadership posts in
California — Karla Nemeth at the California Department of Water
Resources and Gloria Gray at the Metropolitan Water District of
Not a rapid growth in energy prices. Not unemployment. Not
rising public debt. Business leaders in some of the world’s
most water-stressed countries say that water availability and
pollution are the biggest risks to their operations.
… Business executives and investors are gaining the same
awareness as national security experts, generals, and
diplomats: that the lack of reliable, clean water, made worse
by climate change, unsettles societies, politics, and
Trump administration officials were in California on Tuesday to
announce a $450 million loan for the Sites Reservoir project in
Colusa County. The money will be used to build a tunnel to
carry water from the Glenn-Colusa Canal to an existing
reservoir, giving farmers on the west side of the Sacramento
Valley more access to irrigation water.
Earlier this year, state regulators sent California’s roughly
3,000 community water systems an annual report that included
what the authors thought was a reasonable question. How many
times in 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board asked,
had local providers turned off water to their residential
customers? What the question stirred instead was an information
revolt, according to Max Gomberg of the Water Board.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
The federal government and the state of California seem to love
suing each other, and have done so dozens of times in the past
two years without causing anyone much damage. But President
Donald Trump is now threatening to sue the state over control
of water. This could harm a lot of people, because water is the
source of the most contentious and enduring battles in
America’s largest state.
This tour ventured through California’s Central
Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an
imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering
about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state,
the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40
percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout
As the Colorado River Basin becomes
drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains:
How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes?
Native Americans already use water from the Colorado River and
its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including leasing it
to non-Indian users. But some tribes aren’t using their full
federal Indian reserved water right and others have water rights
claims that have yet to be resolved. Combined, tribes have rights
to more water than some states in the Colorado River Basin.
Just because El Niño may be lurking
off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a
clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in
Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and
packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like
the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30,
2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter,
leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of
another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine,
water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will
learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
It didn’t take long for the press releases to fly after
President Donald Trump signed his recent memo — surrounded by
GOP members of Congress — “promoting the reliable supply and
delivery of water in the West.” Except for a few minor changes,
most of the press releases issued by those congressmen said the
same thing – that “environmental extremists and overzealous
bureaucrats” have created a water crisis in California that has
wreaked havoc in Central Valley farming communities.
In California, it’s an $8.3 billion bond measure. In Colorado,
it’s oil and gas regulation. And in Alaska, it’s how much
deference to give salmon habitat when permitting mines, roads,
and other infrastructure. This election season, voters in at
least a half dozen states and counties will determine the fate
of ballot measures that propose policy changes or billions of
dollars in new spending that will affect the quality and
availability of water supplies.
President Trump claimed Tuesday that California mismanages its
water resources, dismissing the possibility of drought and
accusing the state of sending water out to sea that could be
used to help farmers in the Central Valley. Trump also
threatened to withhold federal disaster dollars from
California, which he incorrectly claimed is impeding
firefighters’ access to water during wildfires.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
In a stark report that indicates previous assessments of
potential climate change damages were too conservative, climate
scientists outlined repercussions from two possible planetary
futures, one considerably worse than the other. Severe economic
and ecological shocks, including risks to health, food
security, and water supplies, will happen sooner than expected
if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a report
from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
that was released October 8.
The California Supreme Court rejected a conservation group’s
lawsuit Wednesday seeking to drain Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy
Reservoir, a source of water for San Francisco and surrounding
Bay Area communities. Restore Hetch Hetchy, a Berkeley group,
argued in its suit that the location of the dam and reservoir,
which flooded a valley in the park after construction in 1923,
violates a provision of the California Constitution requiring
reasonable water use.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic
landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key
source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
In the 728-page document, the U.N. organization detailed how
Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape
if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused
warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius)
from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8
degrees F (1 degree C). Among other things: — Half as many
people would suffer from lack of water.
“Dry, hot and on fire” is how the
California Department of Water Resources described Water Year
2018 in a recent report.
Water Year 2018 – from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 -
marked a return to dry conditions statewide following an
exceptionally wet 2017, according to DWR’s Water
Year 2018 report. But 2017 was exceptional as all but two of
the water years in the past decade experienced drought.
Was Water Year 2018 simply a single dry year or does it
signal the beginning of another drought? And what can
reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019? Does El
Niño really mean anything for California or is it all washed up
as a predictor?
Attendees found out at this one-day event Dec. 5 in
Irvine, Water Year 2019: Feast or
Auditorium - Huntington Room
100 Academy Way
Irvine, California 92617
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
People in California and the
Southwest are getting stingier with water, a story that’s told by
For years, water use has generally been described in terms of
acre-foot per a certain number of households, keying off the
image of an acre-foot as a football field a foot deep in water.
The long-time rule of thumb: One acre-foot of water would supply
the indoor and outdoor needs of two typical urban households for
California began a new water year Monday with some rain falling
or in the immediate forecast after 12 months of below-average
precipitation. The Department of Water Resources said the
Oct.1-Sept. 30 water year that ended Sunday was marked by hot
and dry conditions, except for sporadic significant
The San Diego County Water Authority Friday announced it will
cease work on a seawater desalination plant at Camp Pendleton
because of excessive permitting and cost hurdles by the State
The lush plains east of Yosemite National Park offer a window
into a bygone California — a place where sage grouse welcome
the arrival of spring with theatrical mating rituals and cattle
graze on verdant pastures. For nearly a century, these lands
have been made green thanks to annual flooding by the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power, helping maintain cattle
forage and keeping alive a culture of ranching in southern Mono
The Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
California officials have been pushing for more natural water
storage since the last large-scale facility was built in 1979.
Now they’re finally going to get it, thanks to political
pressure, President Donald Trump and some congressional
creativity. The House approved several provisions Thursday that
help fund water storage projects. The Senate is expected to
concur shortly, and Trump is expected to sign the legislation
into law next week.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control
Board, has considerable influence over decision-making that
could leave more water in rivers for salmon at the expense of
irrigation districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.
Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.
With talk of boosting water deliveries to Central Valley
agriculture, the Trump administration is telling growers
exactly what they want to hear. But given California’s complex
water system and a web of federal and state environmental
regulations, such promises could prove more political than
practical. … The office of Deputy Interior Secretary
David Bernhardt will make final recommendations on the agency’s
steps in early September.
It’s wildfire season in the American West, and this one has
already been setting records: the second-most destructive
conflagration in Colorado, the largest-ever wildfire recorded
in California and the worst air quality on record in smoky
Seattle. Multiple fires continue to ravage the region,
threatening homes, lives and, in many cases, water supplies.
For eons, the earth has had the same amount of water—no more,
no less. What the ancient Romans used for crops and Nefertiti
drank? It’s the same stuff we bathe with. Yet with more than
seven billion people on the planet, experts now worry we’re
running out of usable water.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Central Valley farmers and their elected leaders converged on
Sacramento on Tuesday to accuse the state of engineering a
water grab that puts the fate of fish above their fields and
jeopardizes a thriving agricultural economy. The allegations
came at a meeting of the powerful State Water Resources Control
Board, which recently unveiled a far-reaching plan to shore up
the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the West
Coast’s largest estuary and a source of water for much of
The Trump administration is accelerating efforts to pump more
of Northern California’s water to farmers in the San Joaquin
Valley, setting up a bruising conflict with state officials and
In a major development for California American Water’s
long-sought desalination project, the California Public
Utilities Commission has issued a proposed decision
recommending approval of the proposal known as the Monterey
Peninsula Water Supply Project.
President Trump’s tweets have become federal wildfire policy.
… Some experts and advocates said the directive to
temporarily bypass the Endangered Species Act is political
theater. It’s unlikely to help douse the historic fires in
California, and it probably won’t threaten vulnerable species,
either. But it could lend weight to Trump’s version of events.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first
woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado
River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in
the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper
Colorado River Basin, including a drying climate and less water
for the river. Haas talked with Western Water’s Gary Pitzer
about the Upper Basin’s challenges and what’s ahead for the
four Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
The backdrop of [President Donald] Trump’s tweets is a charged
debate before the State Water Resources Control Board, the
agency tasked with allocating California’s water supplies. It
is set to vote this month on a plan to increase flows in the
San Joaquin River and its tributaries, which would help fish
but hurt farmers.
Following nine years of research, a California agency has
proposed to increase water flows in the San Francisco Bay-Delta
Estuary. But the decision is causing contention between farmers
and fisheries. … The California Water Board is scheduled
to vote on the proposal in August.
San Francisco County alone added more than 120,000 jobs in five
years – a huge leap in economic productivity that owes itself
largely to the lucrative worlds of finance, technology and
biotechnology. As people from around the country and the world
continue clamoring to find their place in one of the most
expensive and most congested cities, an important question is
emerging in public discussions: Does California have enough
water to go around, or will natural resources be sacrificed for
The Department of the Interior issued a blistering attack
against the state’s proposed water grab, saying it would
“cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.”
The comments late Friday afternoon came a week after Secretary
of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited Don Pedro and New Melones
reservoirs at the request of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be interested in
the idea of draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park after meeting with a group that wants to tear
down the century-old O’Shaughnessy Dam.
For its litany of problems, it’s been hard to kill the tiny
Sativa Los Angeles County Water District. … Across
California, there are about 3,000 water agencies, remnants of
an archaic system that until about two decades ago allowed
anyone with a water source that could serve 15 or more people
to seek a permit to create a community water system.
California water officials announced an ambitious plan Friday
to revive some of the state’s biggest rivers, a move that seeks
to stave off major devastation to wetlands and fish, but on the
back of cities and farms.
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine
water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts
downstream and throughout the state.
GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
New water storage is the holy grail
primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014
the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage
1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits
portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The
statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the
benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem,
water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed Florida a partial victory
Wednesday in its decades-old water conflict with Georgia,
ordering a court-appointed special master to take a fresh look
at Florida’s claim it has been harmed by water consumption
upstream. … From the Rio Grande in Texas to California
and Oregon, states are sparring over water decisions of an
Even though the country is growing, U.S. water withdrawals
dropped to the lowest level since before 1970 with steep
declines for municipal and electric power sectors, according to
a U.S. Geological Survey report. Total withdrawals fell 9
percent compared to 2010 as the country’s population increased
A major environmental health study that had been suppressed by
the Trump administration because of the “public relations
nightmare” it might cause the Pentagon and other polluters has
been quietly released online. … PFAS [perfluoroalkyl
substances] compounds are proving to be pervasive in public
water systems and around military bases across the country.
Nowhere is the domino effect in
Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River,
and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of
California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now
as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan.
Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying
voice between its major water players, an effort you can read
more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.
Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within
It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the
Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is
first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan
for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors,
California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water
levels in Lake Mead before
they run too low.
If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level,
the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and
Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by
320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1
million households in one year.
I’ll trade you a piece of Yosemite Valley and all of the Napa
wine country for Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier. … And
don’t even get us started with probable battles over how the
state’s precious water reserves would be distributed since
California is currently criss-crossed with an insanely complex
grid of aqueducts, dams, levees and channels.
California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the
continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east
across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year —
as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three
new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.
… Critics have long wondered how citizens of a state
where the majority of water supplies exist in one region would
react if negotiations over new interstate compacts to share the
resource turned contentious.
The frantic phone calls to the Community Water Center began in
the summer of 2014. In the 7,000-strong unincorporated
community of East Porterville, nestled against California’s
Sierra Nevada mountains, homeowners’ wells were failing amid a
The Tijuana River is a temporary river, which is to say that at
times it runs dry. But when the rains come, it runs near
bursting. After a healthy spring storm, tires and bottles
litter the muddy banks. … “I wouldn’t necessarily
touch anything here,” cautions Matt O’Malley, executive
director of San Diego Coastkeeper.
When a catastrophic earthquake hits California, buildings will
topple and potentially hundreds could be killed. But what gets
less attention is the wrenching aftermath of such a huge
temblor, which could leave whole neighborhoods torched by fires
uninhabitable and hundreds of thousands of people without a
The battle to drain the reservoir in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy
Valley reignited Wednesday as critics of the historic dam told
a panel of judges in Fresno that their legal case to raze it
should proceed, despite an earlier decision to dismiss the
When my [Leo Heller] predecessor, Catarina de Albuquerque,
visited California, what she found shocked her. Drinking water
conditions were akin to those typically seen in a developing
country: families without an acceptable level of safe drinking
water or sanitation; exposed pipes running through irrigation
ditches; crumbling or nonexistent infrastructure.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office announced
late Wednesday afternoon that up to 3,500 acre feet is
available for delivery to Klamath Project irrigators starting
today and running through May 31 before deliveries start on
The California Department of Water Resources announced Monday
this year’s allocation has been raised to 35 percent of full
distribution, or 1.48 million acre-feet of water statewide.
(One acre foot is enough to cover one acre of land with a foot
of water.) As of last month, the agency planned to distribute
only 30 percent of normal.
The controversy over Nestlé’s bottled water operation in the
San Bernardino National Forest has prompted a review of the
company’s federal permit, a lawsuit and an investigation by
California regulators. Now, Nestlé’s continued piping of
water out of the San Bernardino Mountains has become an issue
in a congressional campaign.
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the
state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and
ecological resource. The tour made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA
scientists have tracked changes in water supplies worldwide and
they’ve found that in many places humans are dramatically
altering the global water map. … Their findings in a new
study reveal that of the 34 “hotspots” of water change in
places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds
of those areas may be linked to climate change or human
activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming
In a pointed message Wednesday, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Commissioner Brenda Burman said drought and low flows continue
on the Colorado with no end in sight, so it’s up to those who
rely on the river to stave off a coming crisis.
For Fresno County resident Anne Schmidtgall the California
drought never ended. Two years ago, the well on her property
east of Del Rey went dry when the casing caved in. … Two
weeks ago, Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, testified
before an Assembly budget subcommittee requesting $23.5 million
be added to the state budget for water needs.
Spurred by drought and a major
policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented
mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the
hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to
halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of
The owner of California Water Service has made an unsolicited
bid to buy the owner of San Jose Water, a takeover attempt
revealed Thursday that pits the South Bay’s two principal water
companies against each other. San Jose-based California Water
Service Group has made an unsolicited $1.9 billion offer to buy
San Jose-based SJW Group.