Today, as a water economist, my job is to help customers
stretch their limited water resources. This means managing
supplies wisely and getting a handle on collective demands.
Fortunately, one of our available tools is an old one: water
markets that can help reallocate the resource to the places
it’s needed most. I’ve learned a lot more about water and water
markets since I was a second-grader determined to help fish in
the San Francisco Bay. One lesson is that even well-intentioned
water markets can have bad outcomes if poorly designed or
executed, as was my first water transfer.
Local water districts are suing Santa Barbara County, claiming
that they should not be subject to restrictions over certain
water sales and purchases. The districts claim that the
county doesn’t deliver or pay for any water and therefore
shouldn’t be able to dictate terms to them. The districts argue
that the county’s imposition of restrictions ultimately hurts
consumers. In response, the county claims that the
oversight is needed to maximize the entire water supply for all
Marin Municipal Water District announced Friday that it has
found a potential vendor for temporary desalination plants and
four Central Valley water suppliers that could transfer water
to the county through a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael
Bridge. The emergency water projects are being explored based
on forecasts that the majority of Marin residents could run out
of water by July 2022 if the upcoming winter is as dry as last
year’s. The district serves about two-thirds of the county
including 191,000 residents in central and southern
A California water myth which becomes especially pernicious in
droughts is that California is “running out of water”. Viewing
California’s supply and demand pressures in terms of fixed
water requirements perpetuates this myth and invariably places
undue attention on building additional supply infrastructure.
Instead, managing water as a scarce resource suggests a
balanced portfolio of water trading, investments in conveyance,
smart groundwater replenishment, and demand management.
As Santa Barbara County and the rest of the state enter another
major drought crisis, a consortium of eight county water
districts just sued the County of Santa Barbara Board of
Supervisors, alleging the board is illegally interfering with
the water agencies’ ability to use the State Water pipeline
system to buy and sell water on the open market.
As farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley struggle
to irrigate crops and weather an ever-worsening historic
drought, a bit of relief could be on the horizon courtesy of
farmers in the north Valley. But it could be all for naught if
Federal water managers don’t sign-off. What’s at stake? A
proposed transfer of 100,000 acre-feet of water from the
Southern San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) and Oakdale
Irrigation District to farmers utilizing water from the San
Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.
State water officials should approve a plan to sell up to
100,000 acre-feet of Stanislaus River water to thirsty buyers
on the Valley’s west side and south of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta. The $40 million deal could fall apart if the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation succeeds in blocking it. The
California State Water Resources Control Board should reject
the Bureau’s interference for several solid reasons.
Growers are dealing with severe cutbacks in the surface water
deliveries they normally receive from reservoirs. The lack of
steady irrigation has already impacted spring cropping
decisions made by farmers. … A bill introduced by
Republican Congressman David Valadao would allow more water to
be moved south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while
keeping protections in place for fish such as the delta smelt
The Central Coast Water Authority, along with a number of its
customers — namely eight nearby California cities and water
districts — filed a lawsuit Friday claiming the Santa Barbara
County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
overstepped its authority by passing a new resolution that
imposes an undue burden on their water rights. The lawsuit,
filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, accuses the
district of meddling in its affairs by improperly imposing
restrictions on its right to transfer and exchange water with
As much as 100,000 acre-feet of water — enough to meet the
annual demand of more than 40,000 Tuolumne County residents for
at least five years — that’s currently stored in New Melones
Reservoir could soon be sent south to aid drought-stricken
farmers under an agreement between the Oakdale and South San
Joaquin irrigation districts.
California’s water woes are severe and worsening. A second dry
year in a row has diminished the state’s water supply, and
almost three-quarters of the state is in “extreme” or
“exceptional” drought, the two highest categories. With the
rainy season over and a hot, dry summer ahead, water shortages
and brushfires are imminent. …
Every time I write about water, I get a similar email from
different folks. It argues that if we can build pipelines to
move oil, we should be able to capture and pipe enough
floodwater from the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Snake or
(insert your river here) to resolve shortages on the Colorado
River. I appreciate the big thinking. But I wish we could move
past this idea. Because we’ve studied this before, in multiple
iterations. Each solution has been projected to cost multiple
billions of dollars. Most would not produce enough water to fix
our problems. And trust me, someone’s going to fight several
hundred miles of pipe being laid across their land to make this
happen. -Written by Joanna Allhands, an Arizona Republic
With very little water to spare this drought year, water
districts struggling with limited or no supplies look to their
counterparts in other districts to negotiate water transfers to
add whatever flexibility they can. Districts on the west side
of the Central Valley, both north and south of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, face the prospect of receiving no
water from the Central Valley Project.
The drought has some members of the Arizona Legislature
wondering if the state should look for a new source of water:
the Mississippi River. Conservationists wonder if lawmakers
should try a different approach. As Arizona braces for a
drought contingency plan to kick in, the Legislature has
floated the idea of damming the Mississippi and piping the
water here. The idea received overwhelming support among
lawmakers, though it is unclear if the project is viable. Sandy
Bahr, with the Sierra Club, told KJZZ’s The Show last month the
state needs to adjust its thinking about water, especially in
times of drought.
Arizona legislators are looking eastward to ease the impact of
a two-decade drought in the Colorado River Basin. According to
Arizona Rep. Tim Dunn, who represents the area of Yuma, the
Legislature is asking Congress to fund a technological and
feasibility study for diverting floodwater from the Mississippi
River to replenish the Colorado River. Whether that comes in
the form of a diversion dam or pipeline, Dunn says the plan
would benefit both the Midwestern and Southwestern United
California’s water resources managers are proactively working
with our various partners through the harshest dry year we have
seen in recent memory…. We are encouraged that the
Governor’s drought proclamation will bring important focus on
our precious water resources and inspire balanced approaches
that will allow water resources managers (state, federal and
local) to creatively manage our limited water supplies this
year for multiple benefits.
The worsening drought has canceled a large water sale to West
Side farmers by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation
districts. They announced Wednesday that their own
customers will need the water, which had been declared surplus
in early March. A revised forecast of Stanislaus River runoff
scuttled the sale, which could have brought up to $25 million
to the sellers.
A Fort Collins man is pressing forward with a proposed
325-mile-long pipeline which would transfer water from
northeastern Utah into the northern part of Colorado’s Front
Range. It could cost Aaron Million a billion and a half
dollars to build. He claims to have sufficient support from
private investors to make his pipeline dream a reality.
Deltas globally adjust with changes and fluctuations in
external conditions, internal dynamics, and human
management. This is a short history of big changes to
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) in the past
and present, and its anticipated future. This history is
important for understanding how many of the Delta’s problems
have developed, changed, and continue to change.
There is a myth about water in the Western United States, which
is that there is not enough of it. But those who deal closely
with water will tell you this is false. There is plenty. It is
just in the wrong places…Transferring water from agricultural
communities to cities, though often contentious, is not a new
practice. Much of the West, including Los Angeles and Las
Vegas, was made by moving water. What is new is for private
investors — in this case an investment fund in Phoenix, with
owners on the East Coast — to exert that power.
The Delta Conveyance Project is a necessary upgrade to ensure
that our aging 1960-era State Water Project (SWP)
infrastructure will continue to function into the future
… An emerging narrative that we have seen from project
opponents is the false choice between either supporting the
Delta Conveyance Project or supporting more local and regional
projects to develop alternative or expanded water supply
sources. These are not alternatives to each other. We can and
must do both. -Written by Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State
The Colorado River Indian Tribes near Parker is proposing a
federal law to allow it to lease water rights in Arizona, a
move that could aid the state’s response to the drought. The
tribe said in public hearings on Dec. 7 and Dec. 10 that it
would use the money raised from leasing Colorado River water to
bolster services to its members, including for health care,
education, elder programs and law enforcement.
The Templeton Community Services District recently looked at a
set of potential water policy priorities … It includes
an incentive program for property owners who want to sell back
or “relinquish” their water units, the ability to transfer
water units between properties owned by the same individual, a
landscape retrofit program, and updating the way the district
calculates single-family dwelling unit equivalent water demand.
Mexico is obligated under a 1944 treaty to deliver to the
United States a set amount of water from the Rio Grande and its
tributaries over a five-year period. … The last-minute
agreement signed Oct. 21 settles the conflict. Mexico will
transfer ownership of water stored in two border reservoirs to
the United States to make up the deficit.
The San Joaquin Valley and urban Southern California are worlds
apart in many ways. Yet each face growing water challenges and
a shared interest in ensuring reliable, affordable water
supplies to safeguard their people and economies. Both regions’
water futures could be more secure if they take advantage of
shared water infrastructure to jointly develop and manage some
At the Western Groundwater Congress hosted online by the
Groundwater Resources Association, Audrey Arnao, an associate
with WestWater Research, gave the following presentation on
California’s surface water market, covering prices and trading
activity in recent years and providing a forecast of spot
market transfer prices in 2021.
Crops require water to grow. By importing water-intensive
crops, countries essentially bring in a natural resource in the
form of virtual water. Agricultural virtual water is the amount
of water needed to grow a particular crop in a given region.
Now research led by scientists at PNNL has projected that the
volume of virtual water traded globally could triple by the end
of the century.
Out of sight and out of mind to most
people, the Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has
challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the
desert lake from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body
inhospitable to wildlife and surrounded by clouds of choking
The sea’s problems stretch beyond its boundaries in Imperial and
Riverside counties and threaten to undermine multistate
management of the Colorado River. A 2019 Drought Contingency Plan for the
Lower Colorado River Basin was briefly stalled when the Imperial
Irrigation District, holding the river’s largest water
allocation, balked at participating in the plan because, the
district said, it ignored the problems of the Salton Sea.
As California navigates a critically dry water year, many
business-as-usual elements are getting a second look. One such
transaction is a proposed water sale by the Merced Irrigation
District. The district … filed an application with the State
Water Resources Control Board in March to transfer as much as
45,000 acre-feet of water to a bevy of water districts across
A local non-profit is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
a Southern California water district, over a long term water
transfer program. AquAlliance works to protect the Sacramento
River watershed. It is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit that
charges the proposed transfer would send too much water out of
Northern California and would cause severe impacts on area
communities, farms, and the environment.
This report, “Scaling Corporate Water Stewardship to Address
Water Challenges in the Colorado River Basin,” examines a set
of key corporate water stewardship actions and activities, with
associated drivers and barriers, to identify how the private
sector could help tackle Colorado River water challenges.
The water transfers could occur on an annual basis sending
water from willing sellers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to water users south of the Delta and in the San
Francisco Bay Area. Based on annual approvals, the transfers
could occur through 2024. In addition, the transfers could
occur by various methods, including groundwater substitution,
cropland idling, reservoir releases and conservation.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
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.”
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
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.
South Coast agencies purchased more than 27,000 acre-feet of
supplemental water during four drought years to make up for
lowered allocations from Lake Cachuma and the State Water
Project, and for most of those deals, payback includes water in
addition to money. Agencies’ so-called “water debt” means that
when the city of Santa Barbara purchased from the Mojave Water
Agency last year, for example, it was committing to paying back
1 acre-foot of water for every 4 acre-feet it purchased.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Assemblywoman Laura
Friedman, D-Glendale last week introduced SB 307, which seeks
to ensure “that any future water transfers from groundwater
basins underlying desert lands do not adversely affect the
California desert’s natural or cultural resources,” according
to a bill fact sheet.
Ominous predictions about the desert lake’s ecological
collapse are beginning to occur. You can see this sea
up close during our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1,
when we will visit the fragile ecosystem and hear from several
stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea.
In a recent paper, Stephanie Pincetl, director of the
California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and
co-authors argue that investments made over the years to
fortify the city’s supply with additional imported water have
not solved LA’s water shortages. … The paper asserts that LA
could become water self-reliant by strategically investing in
local supplies, and offers several concrete strategies for
improving LA’s water security.
As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on
behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered
Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta
smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official
since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been
finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the
farmers had hired him to oppose.
Agricultural and environmental leaders spoke at the Water
Market Exchange Symposium in the Satellite Student Union on
Jan. 24 to share their perspectives on a water market exchange
program. The symposium featured speakers from water agencies,
environmental interests, disadvantaged community interests and
water market administrators.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the
last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency
Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the
badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the
clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal
official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there
approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours
to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California
agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a
last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that
stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. The tribe’s
right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more
than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada.
By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if
CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the
change would free up a large volume of water that would be
highly desirable for cities and industries.
Terms were revealed this week for a developing water sales
agreement between the Montecito Water District and City of
Santa Barbara. The 50-year water sales agreement
provides 1,430 acre-feet of water a year to Montecito, at
a cost of about $2,700 per acre-foot. The terms of agreement
allow for the possibility to purchase and receive 445
acre-feet of additional water each year.
Angelenos bearing gifts have elicited skepticism in Owens
Valley since the early 1900s, when city agents posed as
ranchers and farmers to buy land and water rights and then
built dams and diversions that turned much of the region into
an acrid dust bowl. Now, the Los Angeles Department of
Water and Power is extending an olive branch. The department
has proposed selling some of the commercial property it leases
… to dozens of lessees in the financially struggling towns
along a rustic, 112-mile stretch of Highway 395 between the
eastern Sierra Nevada range and the White-Inyo Mountains.
Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes will vote Saturday,
Jan. 19 on a proposed ordinance to allow for the lease of a
portion of the Tribes’ Colorado River water allocation to
outside interests. The issue of leasing Tribal water
rights has become a contentious issue among Tribal members.
Opponents claim this compromises the Tribes’ resources, while
supporters point to the economic benefits.
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
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,
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).
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.
A new report shows environmental water transactions are
happening more and more in the U.S., particularly short-term
deals that allow irrigators to conserve or forgo water use for
short periods of time. Use it or lose it. Historically, that
was the prevailing understanding amongst water rights holders
throughout the Western United States.
Congressional leaders reached a short-term spending deal
Wednesday that effectively punts most of the contentious
funding decisions into the new year. That includes the question
of whether to extend a federal law designed to deliver more
Northern California water south, which has become a factor in
the Delta water-sharing agreement reached earlier this month.
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.
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.
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.
The next two days could help determine the fate of a proposal
by Cadiz Inc. to pump groundwater in the Mojave Desert and sell
it to Southern California cities. … The state Assembly
approved the measure in a 45-20 vote Wednesday
evening. But the bill could face an uphill battle in the
Senate, and the legislative session ends Friday night.
A judge denied a request Thursday by a federal water management
agency for more time to evaluate the environmental impacts of
California’s water transfer program that allows some water
rights holders to sell water to parched farms in the southern
part of the state.
Clear water gushes from a hole in the ground, forming Bonanza
Spring, the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert.
This rare oasis is at the center of the fight over a company’s
plan to pump groundwater and sell it to California
cities. Cadiz Inc. is proposing to pump an average of
16.3 billion gallons of water each year for 50 years.
A company’s controversial plan to sell groundwater from the
Mojave Desert ran into new opposition as a Southern California
water district voted against the proposal. The board of the
Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District decided not
to approve a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase water from
the Cadiz Inc.’s proposed project.
Followers of the ecologically dubious and largely pointless
Cadiz water project in the Mojave Desert might have pricked up
their ears last week at reports of a possible conflict of
interest involving Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law,
and the investment firm Apollo Global Management.
After extensive fieldwork, site observation and geologic
mapping, a team of scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. concluded
that a proposed water transfer project in a remote part of San
Bernadino County desert won’t harm one of the largest wildlife
water sources in the Mojave Desert.
Farmers, ecologists, water managers, even those tasked with
fighting backcountry wildfires could greatly benefit from
knowing months in advance how much water will be available from
melting mountain snow every spring. For decades predicting
snowpack accumulation has been largely unreliable, based solely
on historical data and capricious El Nino weather patterns.
The Salton Sea is about to start shrinking more rapidly.
A 2003 water transfer deal called for the Imperial Irrigation
District to deliver “mitigation water” to the lake for 15
years. With those water deliveries ending in the final days of
2017, the lake’s decline will begin to accelerate.
In a mere seven weeks, hundreds of thousands of California
residents will face a major deadline affecting the health of
their families and their communities. On Dec. 31, water
deliveries that have been staving off ecological disaster at
the Salton Sea for 15 years will come to a halt, leaving an
uncertain future for the entire region.
Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over
its decision supporting a company’s plan to pump up
to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from a
Mojave Desert aquifer and build a pipeline to sell
that water to Southern California cities.
Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump
water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern
California cities and counties. The lawsuit takes aim at the
U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to build
a 43-mile pipeline to transfer the water from its desert wells
into the Colorado River Aqueduct so it can be sold to water
Fresh from gaining the long-sought federal approval for its
massive desert water project, Scott Slater, Cadiz president and
CEO, said it’s time for the project to “slow down” a bit.
… The Cadiz project involves pumping billions of gallons
of water annually from an underground aquifer in a remote part
of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.
The state of California is asserting landownership rights along
a proposed pipeline’s path that would help carry groundwater
from a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino
County to Orange County and other communities.
A state commission is throwing a new hurdle in front of Cadiz
Inc.’s plans to turn a remote desert valley into a lucrative
water source for Southern California. In a Sept. 20 letter to
Cadiz, the State Lands Commission informed the company that its
proposed water pipeline crosses a strip of state-owned land and
therefore requires a state lease.
In California’s long-raging water wars, pitting north against
south and farmer against city dweller, the one thing everybody
agreed on Wednesday was that the outdated method of shipping
water throughout the most populous state needs a serious
Late last week, we suggested watching this space for possible
revival of Assembly Bill 1000, legislation to halt a
controversial water-pumping project in the Mojave Desert that’s
being pushed by the politically connected firm Cadiz, Inc.
There was no electricity when Vickie Buchanan’s family came to
Diamond Valley in 1958. Nor were there many crops. But there
was water, and as early settlers, Vickie’s parents were given
priority access under a rule fundamental to Western water law:
“first in time, first in right.” A steady flow of farmers
followed, planting alfalfa and timothy hay grass in the
high-desert soil of the central Nevada valley.
A company’s vision to pump water from the Mojave Desert and
sell it to thirsty Southern California cities had looked to
some to be a long shot. … But a series of developments has
invigorated backers of the project, which involves both federal
and state jurisdictions.
The Trump administration has shown support for the
project, which has been opposed by [U.S. Senator Dianne]
Feinstein and several environmental groups that argue the water
extraction would harm the fragile desert ecosystem.
In the end, it wasn’t very controversial. Nineteen years after
San Joaquin County water interests overwhelmingly rejected a
water-sharing plan with rival East Bay Municipal Utility
District, a similar plan earned the unanimous approval of the
Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
A long-running political struggle over a company’s plan to sell
water from a Mojave Desert aquifer has taken a new turn with
the Trump administration announcing a policy change that could
facilitate the controversial water project.
The Trump administration has handed a big boost to a private
water venture in Southern California, angering California’s
senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who said the
decision could “destroy pristine public land” in the Mojave
Until Donald Trump won the presidency, prospects looked bleak
for Cadiz, a California company that has struggled for years to
secure federal permits to transform Mojave Desert groundwater
into liquid gold. With the change of administration, a new day
The project, which involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and the Imperial Irrigation District, is one of several initial
efforts underway to restore habitat and reduce windblown dust
as the Salton Sea shrinks. The lake is about to begin
The Yuba County Water Agency board of directors on Tuesday
unanimously voted to reject an initiative to redistribute
revenue generated from groundwater substitution transfers —
that is the sale of surface water which is then replaced
locally by pumped water. … The initiative, known as the
Groundwater Fairness Act, was submitted to the agency on Sept.
If whiskey is for drinking and water is for
fighting over, five years of drought have transformed
California’s civil courts into well-worn legal boxing rings. As
climate change threatens the state’s long-term water future,
local water officials and legal experts say water rights have
morphed into priceless bounty worth protecting by any means
At a special meeting Monday, irrigation leaders will consider
selling more river water to buyers south of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, a tradition that has brought in millions of
dollars but also controversy to the Oakdale Irrigation
California officials don’t have to pay property owners to
access their land to conduct preliminary testing before
deciding whether to move forward with a $15.7 billion plan to
build two giant water tunnels to supply drinking water for
cities and irrigation for farmers, the California Supreme Court
ruled Thursday. … Officials promoting the tunnels will
present plans to state water regulators in hearings starting
In a win for the state, the California Supreme Court declared
Thursday that the state has the right to go on private property
for soil and environmental testing as part of a plan to divert
fresh water under or around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on
its way to Central and Southern California.
The California Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for state
water authorities to do environmental and geological
testing on private land for a proposed project
to divert Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water to the south.
Water leaders voted 3-2 Tuesday to sue to bar elected board
members Linda Santos and Gail Altieri from closed-door board
discussions regarding an ongoing lawsuit facing the Oakdale
Irrigation District. Santos and Altieri cast “no” votes but
were outvoted by board members Steve Webb, Gary Osmundson and
Cadiz Inc. won a decisive courtroom victory Tuesday for its
plans to transfer ancient groundwater in a remote part of San
Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts of Orange County and
The ruling by a three-judge panel in Santa Ana moves urban
districts a step closer to getting up to 75,000 acre feet of
desert groundwater a year from the Cadiz and Fenner valleys in
San Bernardino County — enough to supply about 150,000 homes.
A judge declined Wednesday to halt the Oakdale Irrigation
District’s evolving plan to idle some farmland and sell water
not needed for that land. The district has not revealed – to
the public or its own board of directors – how its fallowing
program has changed, other than to say that previous
prospective buyers no longer are involved.
The rains this winter were more or less than expected,
depending on where you live and what you expected. … The
unequal distribution of water continues as state and federal
water leaders allocate surface water supply.
The Oakdale Irrigation District expects to reap $13.75 million
selling Stanislaus River water to buyers from the Fresno area
and on the Valley’s drought-scarred West Side, according to a
sales agreement unanimously approved Tuesday by the OID
Only one farmer showed up Tuesday to share thoughts on the
irrigation district’s controversial habit of selling river
water to outside buyers, although benefits from doing so became
the focus of a subsequent budget discussion.
At least at the Salton Sea, the district’s [Imperial
Irrigation District] hardball tactics seem to be working:
There’s been more political progress this year than ever
before. Gov. Jerry Brown has asked for a plan of action, and
several long-stalled pilot projects are finally
Irrigation leaders complied with California open-meetings law
when they agreed to sell Stanislaus River water to Fresno-area
buyers at a Tri-Dam meeting in Manteca, an attorney
representing the Oakdale Irrigation District said in a written
response to a customer’s formal complaint.
Imperial Valley farmers know their water is precious and
understand that to preserve a way of life that runs back a
century they have to grapple with the needs of a
drought-stricken state. … In 2003, the Imperial
Irrigation District, under pressure from Senator Dianne
Feinstein and other federal and state officials,
controversially agreed to sell as much as 280,000 acre-feet a
year to San Diego.
Irrigation leaders illegally agreed to sell Stanislaus River
water to outsiders, an Oakdale Irrigation District customer
alleges in a formal complaint. … The district has explained
the deal in meetings, a news release and an Oct. 18
advertisement in The Modesto Bee.
Irrigation agencies in Oakdale and Manteca will reap $11.5
million selling Stanislaus River water to outsiders in coming
weeks. Sensitive to pressure from local farmers, government
officials and media, the Oakdale Irrigation District kept the
deal under wraps until Tuesday’s announcement.
The CEO for embattled Cadiz Inc. has a plan to keep alive a
controversial project to transfer ancient groundwater in a
remote part of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts
of Orange County and other locations, where it could serve as
many as 400,000 people.
In a long-awaited decision, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
says Cadiz cannot use an existing railroad right-of-way for a
new water pipeline that would carry supplies from the project’s
proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct.
Drought-stricken cities in Southern California will soon get
some help courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. …
Pending approval from its board, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California will pay the authority almost
$44.4 million for the water, which equates to about a six-month
supply for the Las Vegas Valley.
Residents in the Coachella Valley are used to the seasonal
rotten-egg stench from the Salton Sea, but not for nine days in
a row. … In 2017, water to the sea will decrease greatly
when an agreement to transfer water from farms to San Diego
kicks into high gear.
Last fall, farmers working the flat land along the Colorado
River outside Blythe, California, harvested a lucrative crop of
oranges, lettuce and alfalfa from fields irrigated with river
water. But that wasn’t their only source of income.
In 2000, most of the Sacramento region’s water agencies and
environmental groups came together in the historic Water Forum
Agreement that established a framework to provide a reliable
water supply through 2030 and to preserve environmental
resources of the lower American River.
Even as they cope with their own cutbacks, several Sacramento
Valley water agencies are contemplating major water sales to
huge farming interests south of the Delta. … While the
dollars are tempting, area officials say water sales are also a
means of helping their fellow Californians.
An entrepreneur attempting to pioneer the shipment of large
volumes of water from an Alaskan town to thirsty global markets
claims his company is a step closer after signing a contract to
deliver 10 million gallons per month to a buyer in dry
On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility
District, or EBMUD, unanimously authorized district staff to
negotiate the purchase of up to 21,000 acre-feet of Sacramento
River water from the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Sycamore
Mutual Water Co. and Reclamation District 1004 outside of
With one emergency water supply already flowing in, the East
Bay’s largest water district plans to buy three others to
bolster its drought defenses. The East Bay Municipal Utility
District board on Tuesday will consider authorizing the
purchase of up to 21,000 acre feet of water from three Northern
California suppliers with water to spare.
SWIIM, which stands for Sustainable Water and Innovative
Irrigation Management, seeks to streamline the water transfer
process, selling its service to farmers and water districts.
Already operating in Colorado, the startup is working with
Western Growers, a trade group, to start pilot programs in Kern
County, the Sacramento Valley, the Imperial Valley and
Coachella Valley this year.
The Dublin San Ramon Services District says its path toward
buying surplus Yuba County water is clearer after the
Tri-Valley’s wholesale water supplier — Alameda County Zone 7
Water agency — withdrew its earlier protest against the
California officials said Wednesday that the drought-stricken
state set an unachievable bar to save the Salton Sea and
outlined small projects aimed at staving off the demise of the
state’s largest lake, disappointing farmers, environmentalists
After listening to seven hours of doomsday predictions, state
water officials agreed Wednesday to look at one of California’s
largest but often ignored environmental problems: the
deterioration of the Salton Sea.
Los Angeles is offering rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley
more money than the city has ever paid for water — $700 per
acre-foot. At this price, rice farmers could make more money
selling water than they can make on their crops.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Butte County Board of
Supervisors will consider sending a letter of concerns to the
Biggs-West Gridley Water District over plans to transfer
Feather River water to the San Joaquin Valley.
Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation District announced
a settlement in a long-running legal battle Tuesday, ending 12
years of litigation over a water transfer deal and its effects
on the shrinking Salton Sea. The case stems from the 2003
Quantification Settlement Agreement, or QSA, the largest
agricultural-to-urban water transfer in U.S. history.
The Imperial Irrigation District is calling on all stakeholders
in the 2003 water transfer deal to come together to finally
find a solution to the piece of that puzzle that has remained
elusive ever since: the promised restoration of the Salton Sea.
The Imperial Irrigation District is pressing for the state to
take the lead in settling on a plan for the Salton Sea and
paying for it as a deadline nears in less than three years for
the lake’s decline to accelerate.
If I have sugar in my pantry and flour in my cupboard, does
that make me a baker? No. But The Bee continues to assert that
since the Oakdale Irrigation District pumps groundwater and
sells surface water that makes it guilty of pumping and selling
groundwater out of the county.
Imperial Valley water officials on Tuesday urged the state to
help “avert an emerging environmental and public health crisis
at the Salton Sea,” or otherwise consider restricting a massive
water transfer deal that benefits San Diego.
Butte County supervisors are being asked to voice sincere
dissatisfaction with an environmental document reviews the
potential impacts of a 10-year water transfer program from the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
There’s a plan for water transfers could move up to 511,000
acre-feet of water each year for the next 10 years from the
Sacramento Valley to the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area.
… The Bureau [of Reclamation] is in the middle of writing the
“Long-Term Water Transfers Environmental Impact
Statement/Environmental Impact Report.”
The signs appear about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, tacked
onto old farm wagons parked along quiet two-lane roads and
bustling Interstate 5. “Congress Created Dust Bowl.” “Stop the
Politicians’ Water Crisis.” “No Water No Jobs.”
Drought is rampant these days in many parts of
the American West, so consider this a pretty sweet gift:
You’ve just been given the rights to some water. … Your
job is to turn around and use that resource in the most
valuable way possible.
This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting
water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next
door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the
last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.
One of the most extreme droughts in California’s history has
been hitting agriculture hard, forcing cutbacks in water
deliveries in parts of the Central Valley and leaving more than
400,000 acres of farmland fallow and dry.
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current
state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an
overview of the geography and history of the river, historical
and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of
the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was
This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12
about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to
clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and
prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The
video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference
between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is
not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The
teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that
homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The
map text explains the many issues facing this vast,
15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration;
agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are
descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement,
and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to
Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of
California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the
authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a
faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of
California water rights.
The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides
background information on water rights, types of transfers and
critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in
1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on
groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River
transfers and the role of private companies in California’s
developing water market.
Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced
fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4
million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000
square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page
Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the
river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the
items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of
significant Colorado River events.
The Yuba Accord is a landmark agreement that balances the
interests of environmental groups, agriculture, water agencies
and hydroelectric operators relying on water from the Yuba
River. A tributary of the Feather River, the Yuba is
located north of Sacramento.
Pieced together after two decades of lawsuits, the Yuba Accord
allows for fresh water flows to support native fish while also
providing water for hydropower, transfers and irrigation. The
Accord took effect in 2008 after two years as a pilot project.
As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea
regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its
elevation of 237 feet below sea level.
The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when
the Colorado River broke
through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years,
creating California’s largest inland body of water. The
Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130
miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe.
This printed issue of Western Water explores the
historic nature of some of the key agreements in recent years,
future challenges, and what leading state representatives
identify as potential “worst-case scenarios.” Much of the content
for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth
panel discussions at the Colorado River Symposium. The Foundation
will publish the full proceedings of the Symposium in 2012.
This issue of Western Water examines the continuing practice of
smart water use in the urban sector and its many facets, from
improved consumer appliances to improved agency planning to the
improvements in water recycling and desalination. Many in the
water community say conserving water is not merely a response to
drought conditions, but a permanent ethic in an era in which
every drop of water is a valuable commodity not to be wasted.
This issue updates progress on crafting and implementing
California’s 4.4 plan to reduce its use of Colorado River water
by 800,000 acre-feet. The state has used as much as 5.2 million
acre-feet of Colorado River water annually, but under pressure
from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and the other six states
that share this resource, California’s Colorado River parties
have been trying to close the gap between demand and supply.