A watershed is a land area that helps drain runoff (snowmelt and
rain) into a diverse system of lakes, streams, rivers, and other
Watersheds may be as small as a patch of land draining into a
tiny pond or as large as the Sacramento River Basin, which drains
an area about 27,000 square miles.
Watersheds follow natural boundaries and are usually separated
from one another by ridges or mountains. A watershed has many
important natural functions. It collects water from
precipitation, stores groundwater in aquifers, releases
water as runoff and provides habitat for plants and animals.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
There is something about a swimming hole that implies
elusiveness. Compare it to the beach, which, at least in
California, one could reach from just about anywhere by heading
west: The coast is a line, but a swimming hole is a dot on the
map, a point in space and time.
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
The Clovis City Council in July approved an amended deal with
the Fresno Irrigation District concerning the conveyance of
Kings River water to the city’s water system. … The agreement
includes “the addition of a new water supply to meet future
City growth and support implementation of the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”
Ask around and many agree: just the sight of water in the Kern
River on a hot day has its own cooling effect. … Lucky for
us, water is expected to remain in the river for weeks to come,
though it won’t be quite as deep and full as it has been in the
The proposed rule would re-write EPA’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations and significantly narrow the authority
of states and Indian tribes when acting on Section 401
Abalone is a much-sought-after delicacy with a sweet, delicate
flavor similar to a sea scallop, say those who’ve tried it. …
But as marine heat waves, ocean acidification, habitat loss,
and overfishing shrink the red abalone fishery, the sweet
delicacy is at risk of permanently losing its food source: the
The story behind a proposal to pump water from under the Mojave
Desert in San Bernardino County is a long and complicated one.
Since its approval in 2012, the Cadiz Valley Water
Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project has been tied up in
litigation from environmental groups, fought over in the state
legislature and faced hurdles by state and federal government
Irvine Lake looks a lot different today than it did a year ago.
Last September the reservoir looked like a giant puddle at 13
percent of capacity, today, after a rainy winter, the water
covers the area and is ready to greet the public on Saturday,
Aug. 17. After a 3-year hiatus, Irvine Lake is reopening for
shoreline fishing on Aug. 17.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
For most of the last 150 years, traditional Karuk burning
practices were criminalized. The Plan attempts to reverse all
this by re-establishing a more natural fire regime on the
landscape through prescribed burns at appropriate times of
Not every bloom is toxic, but the toxins produced by the
blue-green algae can be harmful and even deadly for pets when
they eat the algae or drink the water, even in small amounts,
water experts warn. Summer heat, stagnant or slow-moving water
and nutrients from agricultural or septic runoff are an ideal
recipe for the toxic stew.
In a region that has already seen two 20-year droughts, the San
Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District continues to invest
in water supplies to help the region sustain prolonged
droughts. A new program offered by Valley District provides
financial incentive to local water agencies for projects that
produce recycled water or capture storm water.
Hydrogen sulfide is associated with the natural processes
occurring in the Salton Sea, a non-draining body of water with
no ability to cleanse itself. Trapped in its waters are salt
and selenium-laden agricultural runoff from surrounding farms,
as well as heavy metals and bacterial pollution that flow in
from Mexico’s New River, authorities said.
The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) proposal arose from a belief
that Utah has an unused share of the Colorado River and a fear
of water shortages stifling Washington County’s rapid
population growth. Although many leaders across the state say
southern Utah needs the LPP, this statement is not based on
The California Tahoe Conservancy had planned to get started on
their $9 million, multi-stage Upper Truckee River project to
restore and enhance over 500 acres of floodplain this fall, but
that has been postponed until 2020. They will be redirecting
the Upper Truckee River flows to a historical network of
channels through the current Marsh while creating new channels
for the river in the vicinity of the Silverwood neighborhood.
Although prescribed burns have been part of federal fire policy
since 1995, last year the Forest Service performed them on just
one per cent—some sixty thousand acres—of its land in the
Sierra Nevada. “We need to be burning close to a million acres
each year, just in the Sierras, or it’s over,” said Jeff Brown,
manager of a field station in the Tahoe National Forest.
In a joint statement, the local utility providers announced
that the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project — a dam, reservoir,
spillway and powerhouse that generates electricity north of
Placerville on the South Fork of the American River — would be
changing hands after SMUD’s board of directors voted Thursday
evening to greenlight the purchase.
A dozen conservationists gathered eagerly around the edges of
some shallow pools above a waterfall in the Angeles National
Forrest. They watched with anticipation as about a thousand
Southern mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles and three adult
frogs enjoyed their first few minutes of life in the wild.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
On Tuesday, groups submitted a letter to California’s key
resource agencies responsible for preserving and managing the
state’s natural resources, urging the agencies to protect
drinking water and safeguard public health from the pending
request for exemption from federal safe drinking water rules in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County.
Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water
from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a
set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to
reduce the risk of a crash.
The City Council is split on how much to raise water rates over
the next five years to fund projects that will wean Santa
Monica off of imported water. … Bi-monthly water and
wastewater bills for single-family homes would increase by $23
on average under the lower rate structure and $36 under the
higher rate structure.
In light of the recent groundwater modeling scenarios generated
by Indian Wells Valley Water Groundwater, some stakeholders in
the basin have pushed back, including Searles Valley Minerals
and Meadowbrook Dairy.
San Diego County’s eroding coastline is causing significant
public safety, financial and political challenges. … But
those shoreline changes seem certain to become more serious and
frequent because of sea-level rise, yet the public at large
does not seem ready to make some hard decisions regarding
existing and future development along the coast.
Conventional oil and gas production methods can affect
groundwater much more than fracking, according to
hydrogeologists Jennifer McIntosh from the University of
Arizona and Grant Ferguson from the University of Saskatchewan.
Two species of Klamath Basin sucker have been dying before they
can reach adulthood, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is showing
continued interest in expediting efforts already underway to
save the fish species.
Guests of Siren Island, a two-tiered wooden isle affixed with
four spindly maple tree branches, were relaxing in the
late-afternoon sun on the calm waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta. They took turns plunging their hands into
a steel basin of black lagoon mud then spreading it on one
another’s skin — limbs, torsos and faces.
With big western cities clamoring for a share of the
river’s diminishing supply, desert farmers with valuable claims
are making multimillion dollar deals in a bid to delay the
inevitable. … But if the river’s water keeps
falling, more radical measures will be needed to protect
Nowadays there’s about a 7 percent chance that snowy areas in
the western U.S. will get two really bad snow years in a
row—years with snowpack lower than a quarter of the long-term
average. But within a few decades, if climate change continues
apace, those bookending “snow droughts” could occur about 40
percent of the time, according to work published in August in
Geophysical Research Letters.
An unprecedented survey has revealed the loss of about 85
percent of historical tidal wetlands in California, Oregon, and
Washington. The report, published today in PLOS ONE, also
highlights forgotten estuary acreage that might now be targeted
California was the last Western state to pass legislation
regulating groundwater: the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act of 2014 arrived after more than a century of development,
intensive agriculture, bouts of drought and the looming threat
that our aquifers will dry up. But the details of who would get
to pump what – and the financial cost of achieving groundwater
sustainability – are only now becoming clear.
A plume of toxic chemicals has tainted the groundwater for
decades, and it’s now at the center of a bitter fight over how
the aquifer should be cleaned up and what should happen to the
water in the future.
Californians, your yard sprinklers are about to get a little
bit more expensive. The good news is, your water bill is about
to get cheaper. California on Wednesday officially adopted new
regulations which are estimated to save more than 400 million
gallons of water per day within 10 years, enough to supply San
Diego, the second largest city in the state.
On Monday, Aug. 19, the Yurok Tribe, Green Diamond Resource
Company and Western Rivers Conservancy will celebrate a
decade-long, hard-won effort to preserve and place into tribal
ownership approximately 50,000 acres of forest surrounding four
salmon sustaining streams, including Blue Creek, according to
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday will release its
projections for next year’s supply from Lake Mead, a key
reservoir that feeds Colorado River water to Nevada, Arizona,
California and Mexico. After a wet winter, the agency is not
expected to require any states to take cuts to their share of
water. But that doesn’t mean conditions are improving long
A new tool from the World Resources Institute for assessing
water stress around the globe is shedding much-needed light on
a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for fresh
water. But an article surveying the data assembled by WRI for
the digital New York Times this week missed the mark in
describing California’s situation, where water use tops all
Mediterranean climates, like California’s, typically follow
boom and bust cycles, marked by a predictable shift between
cold and wet and hot and dry. But the changing climate will
amplify that pattern with weather that is, at times, wetter and
at other times hotter.
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of
Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory
groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question
remains: how to notify residents in the valley.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
Butte County, California Water Service and Paradise Irrigation
District are kicking off the lengthy process on a project to
pipe water from Paradise to Chico. The project would seek to
restore some viability to PID, which lost most of its customers
after the Camp Fire. It would also reduce demands on the
groundwater basin currently used for water in Chico to boost
A plan to increase mining depths at a 920-acre sand and gravel
mining facility between Livermore and Pleasanton will be
reviewed next week during a public meeting where citizens can
learn more about the possible impacts to water quality, water
management and flood channels.
In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey,
80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious
threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a
concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as
our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these
statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California
We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say
reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams
are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been
a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of
The Superior Court of California in the County of Siskiyou said
the company owns the exclusive right to divert and use 4.07
cubic feet per second of Beaughan Springs water and the City of
Weed acknowledged that it has no ownership interest in the
water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights.
Waters covered by the Act, called “jurisdictional waters,” are
determined by the language of the Act and by court decisions
and administrative rulemakings interpreting that language.
Ongoing rulemaking efforts by the Trump administration, coupled
with several recent court decisions, make defining
jurisdictional waters very difficult.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
At his inaugural Speaker Series on July 15, California
Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot led a discussion
on restoring local wildlife species and habitats by
reactivating floodplains. The Secretary’s Speaker Series
provides a public discussion on emerging ideas and priorities
in the natural resources arena.
The tactic is considered one of the best ways to prevent the
kind of catastrophic destruction that has become common from
wildfires, but its use falls woefully short of goals in the
U.S. West. A study published in the journal Fire in April found
prescribed burns on federal land in the last 20 years across
the West has stayed level or fallen despite calls for more.
The recently adopted Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) was an
important step toward addressing the Colorado Basin’s chronic
water shortages, but more work is needed to prepare for a
hotter, drier future. We talked to Doug Kenney, director of the
Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and
a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network,
about managing the basin for long-term water sustainability.
A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern
Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared
camera to help researchers decide how much water they would
give the crops the next day.
Prominent Sonoma County wine executive Hugh Reimers, who last
month abruptly left as president of Foley Family Wines, faces
allegations that his grape growing company has violated
regional, state and federal water quality laws for improperly
clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
The proposed changes to Clean Water Act permitting rules,
announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
would limit the amount of time states and tribes can take to
review new project proposals… It also would limit states to
considering only water quality and allow the federal government
to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in
Marin health officials have reopened beaches along Tiburon’s
shoreline after recent water quality tests showed low levels of
bacteria, but the source of contamination that shut those
beaches down for more than two months remains elusive. “I’m
just as confused as I was before,” said Bill Johnson of the San
Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board…
There is hard reality that can’t be dodged in pursuing a dreamy
idea that’s existed as long as the 100-year old water and power
system. Pulling the plug on the watery expanse to expose the
original valley is much more complicated than a sunny study
commissioned by an anti-dam environmental group hoping to pump
up its cause.
The Delta smelt is practically extinct in the wild already. So
could the Delta be repopulated by taking up the farmers’ offer
to “hatch and repopulate the fish,” as Jack Fowler says in
National Review? That certainly sounds like common sense!
Except that the Delta smelt war has never really been about the
Delta smelt at all.
Funding is available for projects that: Increase the
reliability of water supplies through infrastructure
improvements; improve water management through decision support
tools, modeling and measurement; provide protection for fish,
wildlife and the environment. Up to $300,000 per agreement is
available for a project that can be completed within two years.
Up to $750,000 per agreement is available for a project that
can be completed within three years.
Under U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and California
regulations, when oil companies want to use “cyclic steam”
blasting or steam flooding, they’re required to submit an
“underground injection control,” or UIC, application to state
regulators. But state employees said at least 12 ”dummy”
project folders appear to have been used over the past
several years to wrongly issue permits, including by
An estimated 147,000 cubic yards of polluted soils were shipped
to regional landfills and replaced with clean dirt. In 2004,
the Regional Water Quality Control Board declared the cleanup
finished and began overseeing the monitoring. Now Napa’s oil
industry row pollution legacy is officially gone…
The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is working with
the Environmental Defense Fund to develop a web-based platform
growers can use to sell or buy units of groundwater. … As
groundwater use is restricted, growers may decided to fallow
cropland and instead sell their groundwater allocations to
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s
costs, and the fact that it would submerge 1,245 acres of oak
woodlands… But the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a San
Jose government agency that provides water to 1.9 million
Silicon Valley residents, says the reservoir is needed to store
more water as insurance against California’s next drought.
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
A new report from a Portland-based economics firm, which says
the removal of dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington
would have broad financial benefits, is getting pushback from
local politicians in the Tri-Cities area.
The proposal would upend long-held environmental practices that
have been in place since 1970, and make it easier for timber
harvesting and bulldozing forest roads in all 20 of
California’s federal forests…
Ivan Soto has aspired to produce research with a positive
impact on the public — not just to benefit the academic
community. … His research examines the power dynamics of
infrastructure and water politics through an environmental
history of southernmost California’s Imperial Valley along the
A partnership of state, local and conservation groups,
including Trout Unlimited, is engaged in a restoration effort
that could serve as a template for similar regions across the
West. Centered around the high plateau near Kremmling, a town
of about 1,400 people in northern Colorado about 100 miles west
of Denver, the partnership aims to make the river function
better for people and the environment.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimated the chances of
neutral conditions sticking through the winter at about 55%. An
El Nino has a 30% percent chance of returning, while La Nina
has a 15% chance of forming, according to the center.
Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) and
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a joint pilot
project today to build the first online, open-source
groundwater trading platform in the Central Valley in response
to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
In recent years, algae blooms – actually microscopic bacteria
called cyanobacteria – have erupted in hundreds of lakes
nationwide, putting at risk Americans whose drinking water
comes from those lakes, or who swim, ski or fish in them. If
ingested, microcystins can cause adverse health effects in
people and animals, ranging from skin rashes to serious illness
and even death.
During the past 107 years, daily air temperatures measured in
Tahoe City have increased. The average daily maximum
temperature has risen by 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit, and the
average daily minimum temperature has risen by 4.43 degrees.
According to the report, the number of days when air
temperatures averaged below freezing has declined by about 30
days since 1911, though year-to-year variability is high.
What would happen if we ran out of water? For an increasing
number of people, that question is moving from a hypothetical
to a reality. New data from the World Resource Institute show
that a quarter of the world’s population is at high risk of
running out of water.
In a newly published study, my colleagues and I analyze
year-to-year variations of future snowpack to see how
frequently western states can expect multiple years in a row of
snow drought, or very low snow. We find that if climate change
continues relatively unabated, consecutive years with snow
drought conditions will become much more common…
Between 1901 and 2016, temperatures increased across the
Southwest, with the greatest upturns in California and
Colorado. … Meanwhile, growing population, aging
infrastructure, and groundwater depletion are also compounding
long-standing water scarcity issues in the region. These
mounting pressures have a bevvy of potential implications, from
human health and ecological function, to food and energy
Marin residents living in the Ross Valley will see a 3%
increase in the annual stormwater drainage fee to finance flood
control projects. … Following the 3% increase, homeowners
will be paying $149.28 annually. The Ross Valley has been
dogged by flooding over the past century.
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
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.”
Litigation over water rights in western Nevada began as early
as 1864 on the Carson River and just a bit later the Truckee
River when the first retaining dam was built at Lake Tahoe’s
outlet. It was just the beginning of bi-state water wars
between the Silver State and California, a volatile conflict
that continued for well more than a century.
Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved an aggregate
$1.79 million in expenditures for a project to clear the Salton
Sea north marina of dirt and debris to make the channel usable
again by boaters who dock at the North Shore Beach & Yacht
From the infamous “Garbage Patch” islands of floating plastic
to the guts of fish and bellies of birds, plastics of all sizes
are ubiquitous and well-documented in the ocean. But little
data exists on microplastics in lakes. If Katie Senft’s
preliminary research at one of the clearest, cleanest lakes in
the world is any indication, the problem is widespread in
freshwater systems, as well.
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District reported more
than 20 billion gallons of water captured, a new record for
captured groundwater recharge. … This is a 30-year record
with 1987 being the last year this much groundwater was stored
into the region’s aquifers. Prior to that, 20 billion gallons
of storage had not been achieved since the late 1940s.
Holly Foster, whose family runs cattle in Butte and Plumas
counties, said her ranch lost power during a shutoff in June
that affected Butte, Napa, Solano, Yolo and Yuba counties. Her
cattle in Butte County are particularly vulnerable because she
relies on electricity to pump water from wells.
The general rule of thumb had been that El Niño years — when
the sea surface in a region off the coast of Peru is at least 1
degree Celsius warmer than average — tend to have more
rainfall, and La Niña years, when that region is 1 degree
Celsius cooler than average, tend to have less rain. But that
simple rule of thumb doesn’t always hold true.
Next spring, the Yurok Tribe will begin its Redwood Canoe
Adventure Tour and it will utilize six hand-crafted redwood
canoes made using traditional tribal tools and techniques. …
According to the tribe, it’s an opportunity you won’t find
anywhere else in the world due to the unique relationship
between the Yurok people and the Klamath River.
Whether you are a water utility manager, elected official, or
homeowner, future water availability is a concern. There are
several factors fostering that concern and one of them is
climate change. … But as the empirical evidence mounts and a
once doubtful citizenry become more informed, it is instructive
to review what a changing climate fundamentally means to
California’s water resources; arguably our most important.
An important but not widely-publicized local planning process
reached a milestone with the July release of the draft
Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Eastern San Joaquin
Subbasin. This is the public’s first chance to see how
groundwater in this region may be managed for the next 20
Ample water resources in northern areas of California are
balanced by huge demands from Central Valley agriculture and
the large populations in hotter, drier southern areas such as
Los Angeles and San Diego. California uses the most water of
any state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, up to 9
percent of all withdrawals from the national supply.
California’s Secretary of Environmental Protection Jared
Blumenfeld joins Forum to discuss how the state is responding
to the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks and what
he sees as the state’s top priorities and challenges.
As the Tejon Tribe casino makes its way through the regulatory
process, concerns have been raised over the impact the complex
will have on the county’s groundwater. However, county
officials believe the casino may actually use less water than
the farms that currently occupy the planned site just south of
Bakersfield. But questions do remain …
In a weather anomaly verified for the first time, a weather
station in Siskiyou County recorded the highest annual
precipitation for California’s weather season. The weather
station at Stouts Meadow, located at an elevation of 5,400 near
the headwaters of the McCloud River, recorded 126.76 inches of
precipitation for the season.
There are major changes to the Clean Water Act (CWA) that some
believe will imperil numerous river systems, lakes and the
coasts. Ahead of these changes, several key U.S. waterkeepers
provided testimony to the Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and
Environment on Protecting and Restoring America’s Iconic
Instead of piles of trash, Larry Metcalf sees things like an
older man who’s out every day picking it up. He’s also seen a
big rise in people out on the trails, “and everybody seems to
like it. … The trails are nice, the jumps are nice. They’re
made for all-around riders.”
For five years or so, German-born, San Francisco-based
photographer Thomas Heinser has made a study of the state’s
scarred landscapes. His images, shot from the open side of a
helicopter, focus on the after-effects of drought, wildfire,
and human profit.
Ventura started paying for its right to state water in 1971. On
Monday night, policymakers took the biggest step yet to being
able to access it. The Ventura City Council voted 6-0 to
approve a study certifying no major environmental impacts would
result from building the 7-mile pipeline near Camarillo. The
action means the city’s next move is hiring a consultant to
draft the interconnection’s final design.
Hiding and waiting is a great strategy as long as droughts are
temporary. But as our climate becomes warmer, increased
evaporation will make it effectively ever drier, and rainfall
will arrive ever less predictably at the right time of year.
Native plants will thus face long-term increases in water
stress, often exacerbated by intensified fire and shifts in
their delicate coexistence with exotic species.
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. … It’s a groundbreaking project for water management
in the county, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the
county’s water and resource management department.
New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely
high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is
on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and
Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found.
California ranks second, followed by Arizona, Colorado and
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed long-overdue legislation to
dedicate up to $130 million a year to provide clean, affordable
drinking water to more than 1 million Californians who still
lack access to this vital resource. … The Seeley County Water
District, located in Imperial County approximately 20 miles
from Mexican border, is one of these communities.
A Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and winemaker has agreed to
pay $3.76 million in penalties after his company bulldozed a
protected wetland and filled in a stream bed to build a
vineyard in Mendocino County, North Coast water regulators
Water resource management is key in Ventura County to help
address the perils local residents face from global warming,
such as flooding, drought and sea level rise. The preliminary
draft of the 2040 General Plan update on Water Resources
Element is so much more than an “update.”
After a years-long drought and a major wildfire, rainstorms
brought a lot of ash and debris downstream over the past year
or so. … Now, Casitas officials hope to clear a
9-foot-high pile of silt, sand and gravel before the next
rainy season. Plans call for starting work in September, but as
of this week, the district had yet to receive permits required
by regional, state and federal agencies.
Steven Appleton hopes his status as owner will amplify his
voice — and possibly his ability to obstruct — when officials
launch infrastructure projects that disregard his vision for
the river. … “The whole point of this restoration is the
river,” Appleton said. “The river itself right now is the least
attended aspect of it.”
The 110-mile Russian River and all its tributaries move through
many active communities and working lands which can affect
water quality. Some of the main categories of water quality
impacts can include chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and
A major barrier to using urban stormwater is that it’s dirty.
Rain starts picking up contaminants the moment it hits
rooftops, streets, and other hard surfaces, as well as
landscapes laden with fertilizer and herbicides. … New
research shows that a cost-effective, low-tech approach can go
a long way toward cleaning up urban stormwater.
Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced last week the
selection of Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC to perform
restoration work after the proposed removal of four Klamath
dams, and on Monday, KRRC announced it had filed with Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission the answers to a plethora of
questions brought forward by a Board of Consultants in December
San Joaquin County has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking
the state Department of Water Resources to abide by local
drilling permit requirements to protect wildlife and water
quality in accordance with California law.
A feasibility analysis of a potential public buyout of
California American Water’s local water system will be delayed
a few months. But the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District will go ahead with a required written public ownership
A Butte County project will expand its partnership with Chico
State and Stanford University to analyze available groundwater
systems. The project involves analysis of well logs, and hopes
to expand the analysis using magnetics and a grid to fill in
holes in the data.
There was a glint in Michael Boland’s eyes as he watched cars
zooming along the Presidio Parkway over an ugly panorama of
broken asphalt, weeds and construction debris behind a
chain-link fence next to Crissy Field. The chief of park
development and visitor engagement for the Presidio Trust was
excited as he envisioned what the vacant lot was about to
become — a picturesque lagoon surrounded by walking trails,
vivid greenery and a spectacular view.
One year from its initiation of the design-build process for
the Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant,
East Valley Water District (EVWD) Board of Directors reviewed
the project’s considerable progress and adopted a few
modifications during a July 24 meeting. … The project will
construct a wastewater recycling plant capable of treating up
to 10 million gallons per day.
Tammy Waller thought she was one of the lucky ones after her
home in Magalia survived California’s most destructive wildfire
ever, but her community remains a ghostly skeleton of its
former self. Hazmat crews are still clearing properties, and
giant dump trucks haul away toxic debris. Signs on the water
fountains in the town hall say, “Don’t drink.”
New regulations from the California Public Utilities Commission
have authorized energy companies like PG&E to turn off
power to avoid or reduce the risk of wildfires… For
commercial customers — like other utility companies — it could
mean huge losses in business and potential financial
repercussions for their customers. The California Water Service
is already preparing to take that hit this summer.
If we stand by and do nothing, California’s transportation
network will be disrupted, its economy will be jeopardized as
tech, manufacturing, tourism and ag industries falter, sandy
beaches lost, and coastal residents will be forced to relocate,
putting a strain on resources in inland communities. Yet many
Californians have been treating sea level rise as a distant
Two of the most basic questions about biodiversity are “what is
it?”, which is the focus of taxonomists, and “where is it?”,
which is the realm of biogeographers. Understanding basic
patterns in the biogeography of an urban area is the focus of a
partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County. We call our project
Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA).
People may want to think twice before taking a dip in the
green-tinted water near the Parrotts Ferry Bridge at New
Melones Reservoir, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
officials. The water’s greenish hue is due to a cyanobacteria
bloom that was first detected in the Middle Fork of the
Stanislaus River upstream of the reservoir on July 17.
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
Jeff Urban, a staff scientist who specializes in new materials
for energy storage and conversion at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular
Foundry, a Department of Energy nanoscience research facility,
explains what forward osmosis is and how Berkeley Lab is
addressing the challenges.
Rhys Vineyards LLC, based on the California Central Coast but
with vines in Mendocino County’s prime pinot noir region of
Anderson Valley, has agreed to pay $3.76 million to settle
enforcement actions brought by state wildlife and water
regulators for unpermitted diversion of rainwater runoff on
property of a planned small vineyard in a northern part of the
A new federal management plan for the Klamath River is proving
to be a disaster for salmon, a lawsuit alleges. The Yurok Tribe
and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the
National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday because the new
plan has led to drought-level flows in the lower Klamath River
and an increase in salmon with a potentially lethal parasite…
Lake Tahoe, with its iconic blue waters straddling the borders
of Nevada and California, continues to face a litany of threats
related to climate change. But a promising new project to
remove tiny, invasive shrimp could be a big step toward
climate-proofing its famed lake clarity.
It’s been over 150 years since the rivers in Yosemite National
Park flowed freely to the ocean without interruption by dams
and reservoirs. … But, as a study by researchers from the
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Santa Cruz revealed,
even after a century and a half, the ocean-run legacy of
Yosemite’s rainbow trout lives on in their DNA…
In Jamestown work has begun on a new $13.73-million wastewater
treatment facility that should be operational by September of
2021. The facility is being built on property along Karlee Lane
that was purchased by the Jamestown Sanitary District in 1993
for the sole purpose of constructing a future plant.
Where Napa’s water quality is concerned, no news may be good
news. A three-year analysis of the city’s water sources showed
reservoirs meeting all federal and state limits on a variety of
contaminants, a recently released report states.
The California Coastal Commission has encouraged cities to
include a strategy called “managed retreat” in plans to prepare
for sea level rise. But the commission may be retreating from
that position. Del Mar is a prime example of a city where an
entire neighborhood is threatened by rising seas.
The Trump administration has feuded with California over the
state’s sanctuary laws, its stricter standards on tailpipe
emissions, and the president’s declaration of a national
emergency at the border. But apparently there’s one dispute,
involving a certain fur-bearing mammal, that the federal
government apparently wants no part of.
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
Los Angeles water developer Cadiz Inc. has entered into a joint
venture with a division of Long Beach-based California Cannabis
Enterprises Inc. to grow hemp on Cadiz land that sits atop a
Mojave Desert aquifer.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with a Montana
Republican to craft a bill that would expedite logging and
other forest management projects near electrical transmission
lines and roads in an effort to head off catastrophic
wildfires. The bill is also aimed at slowing or stopping
lawsuits that block logging projects on federal land.
One hundred and fifty years ago, a group of explorers led by
Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell set out to document the
canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It was the first trip
of its kind. To commemorate the journey, a group of scientists,
artists and graduate students from the University of Wyoming
called the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition
has been retracing his steps this summer.
How do you assess and mitigate the cumulative environmental
impacts of future development? That’s the question that Marin’s
environmental planners and contracted scientists have been
analyzing in the San Geronimo Valley over the past decade,
particularly related to the area’s threatened fish populations.
A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Robert
Galbraith can farm his land. For decades, the family grew corn
silage, Sudan grass, alfalfa, and grains on their few hundred
acres. Now, Galbraith has essentially lost the right to farm,
though he can see many a green vineyard down the road.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors last
week approved a contract to study the viability of a new
regional water conveyance system that would deliver water from
the Colorado River to San Diego County and provide multiple
benefits across the Southwest. The $1.9 million contract was
awarded to Black & Veatch Corporation for a two-phase study.
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
Native seaweed has the potential to be cultivated in California
coastal waters and used to alleviate the effects of local ocean
acidification, according to a new study funded by NOAA’s
California Sea Grant.
A bill signed Wednesday evening by Gov. Gavin Newsom will
require Cadiz Inc.’s Mojave Desert groundwater pumping
project to undergo further review to show it will not harm
the surrounding environment. … It requires the State Lands
Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of
water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the
A caravan of scientists, staffers and water watchers wound its
way through the maze of roads on Owens Lake last week in search
of answers: Are the dust control measures working and will this
project ever be done? The answers are yes and probably not,
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed and flooded nearly
100 years ago, but the prospect of draining the reservoir
continues to inspire romantic imaginings… The fantasy of
Hetch Hetchy’s grand return was recently given new dimensions
with the release of an economic assessment concluding that the
valley represents a sunken treasure trove of tourism revenue.
Efforts to help improve Coho salmon habitat at Muir Woods
National Monument in California are scheduled to begin in
August, with crews removing previously placed boulders in
Redwood Creek and then revegetating the creek with native
The city of Stockton is working to fix a broken bubbling system
that has caused an overgrowth of harmful algae along the
Stockton waterfront. People who work near the deepwater channel
believe the green sludge is preventing others from playing on
Close to one thousand Los Angeles Zoo bred mountain
yellow-legged frogs and tadpoles will be released into a
tributary to Cooper Canyon, located in the Angeles National
Forest. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Los Angeles Zoo, and Forest Service will release the
tadpoles Aug. 14 …
The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision earlier
this year to exempt portions of the Arroyo Grande Oil Field
from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The five-year project will clear sedimentation and vegetation
to restore flow capacity of a four-mile stretch of the
state-maintained Elder Creek in Tehama County. With a goal of
clearing approximately one mile per year, the project reduces
flood risk for the nearby town of Gerber and surrounding
farmland, which includes fruit and nut orchards.
Crews for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
recently bulldozed hundreds of federally endangered plants in
Topanga State Park, and both state and city authorities have
launched investigations into DWP’s actions, part of a wildfire
prevention project aimed at replacing wooden power poles with
It turns out that the same structural problems that caused the
failure at Oroville Dam in February 2017 also exist at the
spillway of San Antonio Dam, just two miles north of Lake
Nacimiento and above the community of Bradley.
I’m here with Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president
emeritus of the Pacific Institute. Peter serves on the Circle
of Blue Board of Trustees from his base in California, where
Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill directing some $130
million to improve access to clean drinking water for many
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency board will submit a
sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources in
2021 and begin to implement that plan in 2022-2024. The board
last week heard a presentation about funding options to pay for
the groundwater management plan — including fees, taxes or
assessments to customers — and specific projects to implement
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
County and tribal officials are reporting that new testing at
sites around Clear Lake have revealed half a dozen areas with
cyanobacteria levels that trigger health warnings. Water
monitoring is regularly done by the Big Valley Band of Pomo
Indians and Elem Indian Colony, a valuable service that helps
facilitate safe lake use.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
To mow or not to mow? This question is at the heart of a
nationwide movement against lawns and in favor of more
sustainable landscapes. These ten homeowners and garden
enthusiasts created unique, beautiful lawnless yards—and you
The heavy rains that hit the Central Coast this past winter are
keeping recreators at area lakes and reservoirs happy this
summer. However, the precipitation has done little to ease
concerns for a group fighting Monterey County over the water it
withdraws from Lake Nacimiento.
The findings of Tom Corringham and Daniel Cayan, both of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of
California at San Diego, confirm the connections between
extreme weather events and El Niño…
Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Wednesday to decide on a bill that
would make California the first state in the nation to require
water suppliers who monitor a broad class of toxic “forever
chemicals” to notify customers if they’re present in drinking
Thirty-two years ago, poet Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends
of the L.A. River, cut a hole in the chain link fence that
blocked our collective access to the Los Angeles River. He was
inspired by a vision of a re-wilded urban waterway brought back
to life for the benefit of the city’s residents and its urban
wildlife. Three years ago, the city of Los Angeles and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers took a big step toward that vision…
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
The water cycle is the movement of water on the planet — from
falling as precipitation, such as rain, ice or snow, to being
absorbed in the soil or flowing into groundwater and streams
and then being evaporated to start all over again. Research by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey shows water has been
moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages of
the cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Colorado
School of Mines (Mines) is developing a microbe-based system
that could remove toxic compounds from oilfield produced water
so it can be reused in other water-intensive sectors such as
agriculture and energy production.
California has grown from 10 million to at least 40 million
since 1950, making it necessary to move water over long
distances to where people live and work. Close to two thirds of
the state’s population is bunched in a few water-dependent
Researchers from Stanford University have developed an
affordable, durable technology that could harness energy
generated from mixing freshwater from seawater. Outlined in a
new paper … they suggest that this “blue energy” could make
coastal wastewater treatment plants energy-independent.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
Naturalist and artist Obi Kaufmann has made a specialty of
pairing information-packed text with gorgeous art. …
Kaufmann’s second book, “The State of Water: Understanding
California’s Most Precious Resource,” has a narrower though
still ambitious focus: California’s rivers, lakes and
watersheds, their wildlife, and the ways in which we humans
have altered them.
Customs and Border Protection commissioned a six-month study,
published earlier this year, of 42 samples from the river and
two culverts during dry, wet, post-rain, and standing water
conditions. … Justin Castrejon, a Border Patrol agent and
regional spokesman, said the report validated the claims of
agents who have complained of physical health ailments after
patrolling the affected areas.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
More than halfway through his term, experts say, the president
has had almost no lasting impact on California’s major
environmental rules despite making broad promises and
appointing former industry officials into top jobs. The reason:
California, a quasi-country with 40 million people and the
world’s fifth-largest economy, has been aggressively passing
its own state laws, filing lawsuits against the federal
government and cutting deals with other states and countries to
go around the Trump White House.
One of the most visible aspects of the project happening now is
the construction of a much larger emergency spillway. Workers
will remove 2.8 million cubic yards of material to make room
for the spillway. That’s nearly as much material as it took to
build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt…
San Diego County officials are finalizing a list of projects
that could help fix the region’s sewage problems. Sewage flows
from Tijuana regularly foul San Diego’s ocean waters. That
prompted the state, the Port of San Diego, a clean water group
and several municipalities to sue the federal government to fix
Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is
progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of
the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina
Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and
David Orth with New Current Water and Land.
The report estimates there are a cluster of major California
crops that are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperature
changes: wine grapes, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, table
grapes, hay, oranges, cotton, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and
pistachios. Specifically, avocado production in California
could fall 40 percent by 2050 due to climate change factors.