As the single largest water-consuming industry, agriculture has become a focal point for efforts to promote water conservation. The drive for water use efficiency has become institutionalized in agriculture through numerous federal, state and local programs. Since the 1980s, some water districts serving agricultural areas have developed extensive water conservation programs to help their customers (From Aquapedia).
While you may have heard about the Trump administration’s attempts to narrow the scope of Waters of the United States (WOTUS), California is expanding its regulations, including broadening the definition of wetlands subject to permitting requirements. … Projects impacting California surface waters and wetlands that are outside federal jurisdiction will now need state authorization under new and more expansive rules.
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003 to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial, long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not yet.
In SB1, State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins provides a compelling case to protect California’s air, navigable water, drinking water and workers. … However, despite our recognition that some in our state feel recent administrative rulings and legislative changes to federal law may not be the right prescription for California, we believe this legislation is overbroad, duplicative and unworkable.
The dominant water issue facing our community and every community in California today is the insecurity of the water supply. The California Legislature is facing up to the serious need to take less water from the surface and groundwater for human use to preserve wildlife habitats and industries such as fishing. Both depend upon water filling the streams and waterways that ultimately find their way to the ocean.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be 50%, followed by a 75% revise.
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river. These projects are in different stages of permitting and funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
A new study released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts a release of up to 9 million acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead this year, which means a possible shortage declaration looming in 2020 might be averted. The snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is about 130 percent of average, with flows into Lake Powell predicted to be 128 percent of average during the runoff season.
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan for Western states to take less water from the overburdened Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal signing ceremony.
Attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday vehemently opposed the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back a regulation known as Waters of the United States, a move they said would end federal oversight of 15 percent of streams and more than half of the nation’s wetlands.
What the state requires our community to do is challenging. Land development, population growth and climate change make planning for the future very complicated. The new state law requires us to face these challenges and work together as a community to create a plan.
A bill moving through the state legislature looks to make repairs and enhancements to the Friant-Kern Canal. Senate Bill 559 was authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado, representing the 14th Senate District, and was co-authored by several other San Joaquin Valley lawmakers. The legislation recently advanced through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water with a vote of 7 to 0.
Daryl Vigil, water administrator at Jicarilla Apache Nation, who worked on the study, said it’s relatively new for local and federal lawmakers to include tribes in national water policy conversations. “That conversation and that opportunity wasn’t available before,” Vigil said. “But now with the conclusion of this DCP and the inclusion of tribes in that dialogue, I think that sets the stage for that to happen.”
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation today.
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional 1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the groundwater condition.
The tall, bamboo-like plants clustered in dense thickets along sections of the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley have long attracted the attention of those who have strolled in that area. Green and stately with long, sword-like leaves, they belong to a species known as Arundo donax, or more commonly, giant cane. … But the plant is a nuisance and local officials have decided to do something about it.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
2019 marks the sixth straight winter that scientists from NASA/JPL have been flying over portions of the Sierra range, using light-detection and ranging lasers called lidar to map and decode the snowpack. The Airborne Snow Observatory program, or ASO, is based on technology that NASA has been using for years to look at Mars and other planets.
A team of Stanford University researchers believe they have identified the best way to replenish the shrinking aquifers beneath California’s Central Valley. … The study from Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, published in the journal Water Resources Research, found that unless action is taken, the ground in that region will sink more than 13 feet over the next 20 years.
Prior to the installation of the system, the rain garden was hardpan dirt, allowing all the rainwater—contaminated and polluted with oil, gas, sediment, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers—to drain directly into Orrs Creek and the Russian River. The new garden is 3- to 5-feet deep and composed of carefully constructed layers of soil and rock, allowing the water to be cleaned mechanically and biologically filtering the biocontaminants.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12 months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion liters).
Even as winter and early-spring storms have filled reservoirs to the brim and piled snow on Sierra Nevada mountaintops, state and federal officials say they’re limited in how much water they can send south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
While California recovers from the worst drought in state history, a myriad of impacts resulting from climate change threaten Southern California’s imported water supply. As a shadow of drought hangs over the region, this documentary explores the dire consequences of inaction that lie ahead.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous condition.
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost other groundwater users far less overall.
The end of California’s drought, announced last month amid one of the rainiest winters in memory, could offer a surprising benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. Longer term, however, more severe droughts associated with climate change could contribute to an increase in the number of infections in the state and nationally.
Statewide leaders in agriculture recently launched an initiative to clean oilfield wastewater for use in arid Western states, hoping to reduce the region’s carbon footprint and improve the lives of ranchers and farmers.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee with bipartisan support.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation — rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the Klamath Project this summer and fall.
Let’s face it, the 2018-2019 water year has been awesome! … Even with this great news, the California Department of Water Resources says, “the days of taking water for granted is over.” Niki Woodard is the Deputy Assistant Director for California Department of Water Resources and she believes the small steps we take at home add up and can make a huge difference for our state.
An international team of researchers has carried out the first systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to urban regions—the practice of transferring water from rural areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations. … The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban water reallocation,
When Babbitt speaks, people take notice, and he didn’t disappoint before a packed house at the annual Anne J. Schneider Lecture April 3 in Sacramento, offering thoughts on some of California’s thorniest water issues and proposing a Bay-Delta Compact, a kind of grand bargain to end persistent conflict surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While the city struggles with the final phase of a state ordered rezone for affordable housing, it’s tackling the first phase of a possibly more complicated state ordered project based on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … Part of the increased cost would be for the purchase of water from Consolidated Irrigation District and part would go toward servicing a debt incurred for building the infrastructure and other capital costs associated with getting the project ready to go.
More than a decade in the making, a new state definition of wetlands will likely take effect early next year—as will procedures intended to protect them from dredge-and-fill activities. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted final amendments to the state wetland policy last week, after including changes that moved it closer to its original intent of limiting its application to agriculture.
While flooding is clearly a problem, the extra vegetation that thrives can lead to another problem. A hotter-than-average summer – such as one fueled by climate change – can cause vegetation to dry out faster. With all this natural kindling in place, it doesn’t take much to start a fire.
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands, working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands for groundwater recharge.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and damaging infrastructure. … New research from Stanford University suggests a way to map precisely where and how to use groundwater recharge to refill the aquifers and stop the sinking.
Activities that remove vegetation and disturb the soil are the most harmful. “Things like energy exploration and development can do some of that as well as off-highway vehicles,” Duniway said. He said livestock overgrazing is another culprit, as well as droughts and wildfires. Climate models predict those conditions will only get worse.
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.” … IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
At its core, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council exists to ensure that the town of Borrego Springs survives and benefits from the groundwater sustainability plan process. To that end, BVSC members are taking a more creative look at the town as the hospitality hub for the state park, relying on a geotourism program from National Geographic, and aggressively trying to buy out 70% of water from farmers.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to protect water users from deep losses and keep the reservoirs and river healthy.
Cadiz says that the aquifer refills at the rate of 32,000 acre feet per year (not 50,000); but, renowned scientists working with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service say the refill rate is more like 2,000 to 10,000 acre feet per year — at least 40,000 acre feet per year less than the Cadiz plan. The math just doesn’t add up.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest agricultural region address its difficult water management problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
Among other ramifications, the new procedures largely duplicate (and in some respects are inconsistent with) federal procedures, but add a significant new layer to the already byzantine regulatory process for permitting projects that involve fill of federal and state waters and wetlands.
Under the Clean Water Act, states are allowed to enforce rules more stringent than federal standards. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted rules that largely mirror the federal regulations the Trump administration plans to repeal. California’s new rules had been in the works since 2008, but the process took on added urgency when the Trump administration announced its intention to relax federal wetlands protections.
Tehama and Butte counties teamed up Friday to host a Northern Sacramento Valley forum on sustainable groundwater held at Rolling Hills Casino. … The forum was a chance to look at neighboring agencies and see similarities and differences as well as how they are progressing in the planning, Fulton said. It was a place to connect with the agency in their area so they would know where to go if they had questions.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the North Coast. … People who live in rural areas rely almost exclusively on groundwater, and while cities in Sonoma County get most of their water from the Russian River, groundwater provides a critical back-up source that is used during droughts or in emergencies.
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
On March 29, the State Water Resources Control Board announced that cannabis cultivators with water rights are not allowed to divert surface water for cannabis cultivation activities at any time from April 1 through October 31 of this year unless the water diverted is from storage. … It’s really just common sense because it prohibits using water from surface sources, such as streams, creeks, and rivers during California’s dry season.
Klamath Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit against Reclamation in federal court in Medford. Klamath Water Users Association will follow suit in a separate legal filing, jointly with Klamath Drainage District, Shasta View Irrigation District, Tulelake Irrigation District and individual farmers Rob Unruh and DuVal. Limitation to water supply stem from protections in the biological opinion for endangered sucker in Upper Klamath Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
It might be tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors, especially given all the rain and snow this winter. But our work is not done. In fact, the San Diego County Water Authority’s board leadership will ask the board of directors to consider options to leverage the investments we have made in decades past to meet the challenges and opportunities of decades to come.
It started with a question: How big can Las Vegas grow before the water runs out? The answer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal is The Water Question, a 10-part series online and in print that brought together different parts of the newsroom. Together, staff took The Water Question from a planned Sunday package to both a series and online resource that asks and answers critical questions for Las Vegas.
Mention of climate change may still provoke skepticism in other sectors, but in California’s agriculture industry, the discussion is less about whether disruption is coming than it is about how farmers will adapt. A consensus appears to have emerged that extreme weather conditions — drought and flooding, hotter summers and milder winters — will increase competition for irrigation water such that some crops now produced in the Central Valley may no longer be economically feasible in the region.
Almost everyone who flies into San Francisco or San Jose airport has seen it — a vibrant patchwork quilt of colorful water. … As part of a huge effort called the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the Cargill salt company has freed almost 16,000 acres of their salt ponds.
Political leaders from the valley are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to closely scrutinize new water quality standards proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. … “The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to the EPA misses the mark,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, who joined almost a dozen congressmen, including conservatives Kevin McCarthy and Tom McClintock, in sending a letter to the EPA.
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April 15, there’s no time to lose.
On the first morning of a water conference in downtown Phoenix on Friday, an academic expert spoke of aridification in the Colorado River basin due to the ill effects of humans burning fossil fuels. After dinner, a writer of vivid predictive fiction spoke about his book “The Water Knife,” which describes Phoenix in a dusty and water-starved river basin, in the not-so-distant future.
This post provides an overview of our recommendations for actions the State Water Resources Control Board can take before, during, and after droughts to make water rights administration and oversight more timely, fair, and effective. … Here are five actions the Board can take to build on past gains and its institutional knowledge from past drought experiences:
For years, the desert town of Borrego Springs has been living on borrowed time, drawing more water from the ground than its rains replace. But a reckoning is near. In March, a nearly 1,000-page draft report was released outlining how the community must and will reduce its water use by a staggering 74.6 percent between now and 2040.
Unfortunately, the thing that almost always lingers on after an adverse event such as a prolonged drought is government’s heavy hand in regulations and mandates that are hastily put together in an attempt to mitigate the drought and get us through it.
After 10 hours, 12 minutes and more than five dozen public speakers, supervisors … increased requirements for preserving trees and replacing cut-down ones for vineyards and other development in watershed areas, but decided against a complete ban on projects on ground steeper than 30 percent.
One video follows Matthew Sligar on a “typical 14-hour workday” during the planting season. Another offers a step-by-step explanation of how rice is planted in Butte County. In others, he takes viewers on virtual tractor rides and demonstrates important tools, like his autonomous agriculture drone. Sligar doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, either, such as weed and pest control management and water usage.
PG&E’s announcement it would no longer seek a new license to operate the complex set FERC’s “orphan project” process in motion… Prospective licensees have until July 1 to file applications with FERC. … A new licensee must be able to pay for the continued maintenance and operation of all project facilities and be capable of monitoring and complying with regulatory requirements arising from the project’s impacts.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the executive director, and many of the activist staff.
The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a complex policy essentially treating cannabis as a crop inferior to other traditional agricultural crops from a water rights perspective. Other states have not made such a strong policy choice yet, but will certainly be faced with how to address this influx of permit applications, and will feel pressure from farmers of traditional crops, who do not always welcome cannabis growers with open arms.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states signed on as co-sponsors.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Current water sharing proposals fail to achieve the balance needed to restore our salmon runs. Meanwhile, additional massive increases in Delta diversions are planned by the Trump administration under these agreements, which would make conditions for salmon even worse. This is a formula for extinctions and the end of salmon fishing in California. There is no support for this proposal among fishermen or conservationists.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
Felicia Marcus, who stepped down as Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board early this year, joins us to discuss California’s water challenges, what the state learned from the recent drought and the future of its water wars.
In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which included a program designed to preserve the nation’s dwindling wetlands. This federal program has never been wholly successful in achieving that goal. … California has the ability to fill this alarming regulatory gap, at least here in the Golden State.
The City Council approved a regional plan for managing the area’s groundwater resources, which brings a measure of local control and to qualify for state funds for water-related projects. … California City is one of three primary stakeholders in the document, with the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency and the Mojave Public Utility District. These three entities are the major water providers in the region covered by the plan.
Parts of Sonoma Valley … have seen a persistent decline in groundwater levels over the last decade – and it may be expanding. These chronic declines, based on data from the USGS and the Sonoma County Water Agency, indicate that groundwater withdrawals are occurring at a rate exceeding the rate of replenishment within the deeper aquifer zones of southern Sonoma Valley.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a former lobbyist and frequent foe of California environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of the department.
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley farmers and a handful of cities.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB headquarters in Santa Rosa.
Nearly 2 million acres designated as critical habitat for three imperiled frog species survived a court challenge Wednesday by California farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service had designated the land in 2016 under the Endangered Species Act to protect two high-altitude species — the mountain yellow-legged frog and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog — as well as Yosemite toads.
Like a climate chameleon, California turned brown during the 2012–16 drought, as vegetation dried or died off. But the change wasn’t uniform. According to research from UCLA and Columbia University, large areas of the northern part of the state were not severely affected, while Southern California became much browner than usual.
A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is showing positive results. … The pilot project is testing the feasibility of increasing water storage by recharging groundwater aquifers, which can then be drawn upon in dry years.
Chula Vista residents looking to conserve water now have another reason to keep an eye out for a leaky faucet, with the city announcing its participation in the 2019 National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation at a City Council meeting on March 26. The challenge, which is put on by the Wyland Foundation, is entering its eighth year of existence, and this will be the first year Chula Vista partakes.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
“The community is miserably divided,” said Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon during a meeting on Tuesday. Dillon and her four fellow board members were tasked with crafting and approving the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, a controversial new law that seeks to conserve trees and forested areas while improving water quality for the many creeks that feed the Napa River.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late last week that eight organizations have received a total of $1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were given priority for the grants.
This is a very worthy cause. But needed improvements can easily be paid for with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus or with the billions in approved state water bonds. Imposing a first-ever tax on something as basic as water is a horrible idea.
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, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere in California 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.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River, which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if they change their minds. But with or without IID’s participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton Sea…
A California law that passed in 2014 gave local control to agencies to manage their groundwater. The Glenn Groundwater Authority – created in 2017 – is an agency that was formed under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to regulate groundwater at a local level. … The GGA was created by forming a joint exercise of powers agreement which was signed by nine local agencies. The purpose is to be the groundwater sustainability agency for the Glenn County portion of the Colusa Subbasin.
After a seven-year drought finally came to an end this winter, California has been hit with a deluge of vibrant greenery and super blooms. But we’re still keeping an eye out for how to make our own backyards more sustainable and water-friendly.
The winter’s rainy weather is finally starting to clear, and Long Beach is looking to the sunny months ahead by expanding a program to motivate residents to transform their yards into drought-tolerant gardens. The city’s Lawn-to-Garden turf removal program, which first launched in 2010, has received new funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and will use it to implement changes.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
The state of California declared the drought is over – but don’t touch your sprinkler programming. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city is not easing watering restrictions because the next “drought is right around the corner,” and conservation is “the new normal.”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from Congress to implement it.
Field D-17 on the Bowles Farming Company’s ranch in California’s Central Valley is dry and unplanted when I visit it with Emery Silberman in the spring. … Mounted there, he shows me, is a small piece of equipment from a company called WaterBit that’s designed to provide more granular control of conditions in the field … to save on valuable resources like water and fertilizer.
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While the administration found the deal would not have a significant impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. … Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands. Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
France and California face a common challenge of managing overdraft in intensively exploited aquifers. As of 2018, large areas of France and California have overexploited groundwater (see maps below). And both regions have passed landmark groundwater legislation, the Loi sur l’Eau et les Milieux Aquatiques (LEMA) of 2006 in France and the Groundwater Sustainable Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 in California.
The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted Thursday to start exploring the feasibility of a demand-management program as part of a larger effort to manage falling water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and avoid violating the Colorado River Compact.
Because the Green is the biggest tributary of the Colorado River system, the amount of water available for the divvying is decided by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement that delineated how much water was in the Colorado River Basin and how it should be split up. … It’s a rigid framework for a system that’s inherently variable…
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to climate change.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry. The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority all recognize the importance of curbing urban sprawl, encouraging farm-to-fork enterprises, and providing open space for urban dwellers through various policies. However, well-meaning changes may have unintended consequences, putting these goals in jeopardy.
It’s inevitable. Every year, big swaths of California will burn. The question now that spring is here is how bad it will be. If recent history is any guide, this year’s wildfire season could be grim, despite a new push by state officials to keep flames at bay. For all of its lush redwood forests and snow-capped peaks, most of the Golden State is semi-arid… And a shifting climate has been delivering ever hotter summer weather.
According to a map released March 14 by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the state is exhibiting no areas suffering from prolonged drought… If that doesn’t wet your whistle, the snowpack is about 140 percent of average for this time of year, says the state Department of Water Resources. So, how do you convince people they still need to conserve and not water their lawns every day?
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most, it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir. But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal water consumption?
An interview with Don Hankins, professor of geography and planning at Chico State and a Plains Miwok traditional cultural practitioner. He has spent his academic career working on water and fire issues in California, with a focus on applied traditional Indigenous stewardship.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed all departments to stop using a popular weed killer until more is known about its potential health and environmental effects. Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended the moratorium on glyphosate — a main ingredient in the herbicide brand Roundup.
The current wet winter, on the other hand, is like getting a new position with a great salary but little job security. The money’s nice, but after seven years of unemployment, there’s a backlog of debts to pay. And the cash could stop coming at any time.
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150 million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion — the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about $400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced the most subsidence.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019 water year. The California Department of Water Resources announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70 percent for most state water contractors. The department transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern County Water Agency.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea this week to promise that this time, things will be different and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to family members who still live in the area, as well as the communities around the lake.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting that the Trump administration is now pushing federal legislation that would eliminate public health and environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing surface water.
Three times now, Escondido has proposed building a large recycled water treatment plant on lots along Washington Avenue, first near its eastern terminus, the second time in the middle of the city, and now near the western end of the street. … The water plant is needed to divert used water from being dumped into the ocean and to bring less expensive, higher-quality recycled water to avocado farmers in the eastern and northern parts of the city.
Over 147 million trees in California forests have died over the last eight years. Most of these forests are near the southern Sierra Nevada, which shows an increasing threat to iconic California landmarks like the Sequoia and Yosemite national forests.
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic drought.
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Water Education Foundation will join regional water managers and federal agency representatives at the daylong event, “Moving Forward Together: From Planning to Action Across the Watershed“ at Cal State Fullerton.
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer about why, and what’s at stake.
Napa Valley’s annual groundwater checkup concluded that water levels in a majority of monitoring wells were stable in spring 2018, despite a drop in overall groundwater storage following a subpar rainy season.
According to new research, the San Joaquin Valley aquifer in the Central Valley shrank permanently by up to 3 percent due to excess pumping during the sustained dry spell. Combined with the loss from the 2007 to 2009 drought, the aquifer may have lost up to 5 percent of its storage capacity during the first two decades of the 21st Century, according to … a new study published in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here. The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation…
The often shown symbol of the California drought, Santa Barbara County, with nearly dry water reservoirs and dead lawns for an estimated eight years, is now declaring itself out of the emergency crisis. The decision was made Tuesday morning by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to ensure community involvement in water management decision-making.
Water is coming out from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River. The dam is at about 82 percent of capacity, and the warm weather is melting the mountain snow. Michael Jackson, area director for the Bureau of Reclamation, says the flow out of the dam is being increased. Flood releases don’t usually start until April, so the extra water is good news for valley growers, with extra irrigation water available.
Beginning in the 19th century, technological developments were opening our access to groundwater as advancements in drilling for extracting petroleum were spun off and developed for the water well industry. Still, even into the 1940s, most pumping reached only shallow depths of less than 30 feet, removing water at modest rates. That changed radically after World War II … Today, a little more than a half-century later, the world gets about 35 percent of its fresh water this way, making it a sizable—and quite new—development in world history.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
While high drama plays out in nations across the planet, California has also been having a bit of drama — torrential rains turning communities into isolated islands up north, mudslides and flooding down south. So, it seems to make sense that state officials have officially declared the latest drought to be over, finished, soaked.
Candice Meneghin serves on the board of the Fillmore and Piru Basins (FPB) Groundwater Sustainability Agency as an environmental representative for the Santa Clara River Environmental Groundwater Committee. … She spoke to Clean Water Action’s communications manager about her work representing environmental interests in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) process.
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55 percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s announcement is a disappointment.
Political leaders responsible for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them. In the future, the basin, which serves much of Paso Robles wine country, could start receiving water from the State Water Project, Lake Nacimiento, and/or the Salinas Dam.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River. Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year, according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit their natural surroundings and communities.
The view from my window here in central California is of a front lawn almost as dried out as the fairways at Carnoustie, Scotland. Like many of my neighbours I’m concerned about climate change and with it the exorbitant price of water. After my monthly bill tripled, I decided it was time for a new strategy. I shut down the sprinkler system and tested a new aesthetic. To my delight, I discovered that brown is beautiful.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to offer.
For the first time in eight years, California is drought-free. According to the United States Drought Monitor, which uses data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of the most northern and southern counties are still “abnormally dry,” but the state has no drought conditions to show. Could the drought’s end mark the return of practices such as excessive lawn-watering? Not necessarily.
Full and rising reservoirs from this winter’s storms have the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors poised to terminate the drought-caused emergency declaration, although South Coast purveyors are worried a water shortage will persist for an extended time, according to a county staff report.
North County political leaders responsible for the health of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin are launching discussions about which multi-million-dollar water projects could help solve the aquifer’s woes—and how basin pumpers will pay for them.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take the helm of the United States section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
A sprawling stretch of salt ponds on the western edge of San Francisco Bay, once eyed for the creation of a virtual mini-city, is back at the center of debate over regional development after the Trump administration this month exempted the site from the Clean Water Act.
Thanks to a wet winter across the state, the entirety of California is free of drought for the first time since 2011, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Thursday update. Don’t confuse that with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2017 announcement that the statewide drought had officially ended.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states … ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food bill and for years it has given support to farming communities. It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working poor.
Local officials have received an OK to divert more water into Lake Casitas, years after prolonged drought conditions shrunk the reservoir to historic lows. But the new measures were in effect just a matter of days and just for one storm.
Sacramento law makers have shown little interest in helping the Valley solve its water problems yet the only path forward is to get them to take interest in the area that grows most of the state, and the nation’s food. A panel discussion last Wednesday at the Citrus Showcase, an industry conference for growers hosted by Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM), discussed the looming deadline for local governments to comply with the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA).
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers. What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
Rebuffed by an Arizona House panel, a Globe lawmaker convinced a Senate committee Tuesday that Pinal County farmers should get $20 million more to help drill new wells to replace Colorado River water they will give up. The 6-3 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee came after Republican Rep. David Cook argued the farmers were promised the cash as part of the drought contingency plan enacted by in January.
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan from proceeding, and its board president called the latest development a violation of California environmental law. But Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others in a working group are finalizing new documents to remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust, about this impending challenge.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over 35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January — coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely following what happens next.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is two years overdue and still months away from completion. The Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating faster than it’s being replaced…
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders came together March 7 to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with providing California residents and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water. Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying water.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where 84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
California’s Central Valley is already the bread basket for the nation. But now a new Oakdale company — in partnership with the University of California, Davis — wants to help make it the hemp capital of the country. The California Hemp Corporation was formed by Oakdale residents Jeff McPhee and Kent Kushar last year… “We want to grow hemp up and down the San Joaquin Valley, just like every other one of our crops,” McPhee said. “This crop will change California.”
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana face similar water challenges. California is better known for having too little water and Louisiana too much – both challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting wet winter weather led both states last week to release significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to build climate-resilient communities across the country.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to California this year, you might not expect drought preparations to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
A process is underway that’s extremely important, and likely to be way over most of our heads. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was passed in 2014, which set deadlines for local agencies to come up with plans to manage the water beneath them “… without causing undesirable results.”
This particular California winter has unfolded in good news/bad news fashion. Courtesy of a string of recurring atmospheric rivers, potent storms have caused flooding, power outages and canceled flights. But they have also lifted all but a thin slice of the state near the Oregon border completely out of drought.
The Trump administration released its 2020 budget request on Monday, proposing major cuts to federal government spending. While the cuts are unlikely to become reality — Congress has rejected many of Trump’s previous requests — the budget is an important signal of the administration’s priorities and suggests a major funding fight in October.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton Sea.
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate water game, the words are inextricably linked.
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in 2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of the process.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors are exploring what it’d take to bolster the county’s authority in issuing groundwater well permits. Following a report about groundwater conditions in the Adelaida region of the North County on Feb. 26, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have its staff look at how it could increase the level of review and discretion the county has over approving or denying well applications.
Much of the United States could be gripped by significant water shortages in just five decades’ time, according to predictions made in a new study. … In the researchers’ projections, water supply is likely to be under threat in watersheds in the central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain States, California, and areas in the South (especially Florida) and the Midwest.
The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves available to cope with future droughts. Groundwater overdraft has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the state.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a reliable water supply.
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada and five other Western states sent a letter to California on Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
Political disputes, interstate suspicion and funding concerns have long been a fact of life when it comes to the Colorado River. Those same factors now are delaying a final agreement on how to handle drought in the river basin. But, at least none of the states involved has called out its navy. Arizona did that 85 years ago to prevent completion of Parker Dam, the concrete structure on the Colorado River that backs up Lake Havasu on the border between California and Arizona.
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least 4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about 1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come from?
It seems like a simple question: How many people can Southern Nevada support with the water it has now? But the answer is far from easy. The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth and conservation and the severity of drought on the Colorado River. (Last in the paper’s Water Question series.)
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground water.
Environmentalists and rural water users expressed broad support last week for a bill that would create small water reserves in aquifers across Nevada. Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Nev., aims to prevent regulators from issuing more rights to water than there is water available, an issue already playing out in more than 100 groundwater basins.
As droughts intensify and the snowpacks diminish, California will need creative solutions to provide enhanced water supplies for urban use and agriculture. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories are working on addressing these problems, focusing on groundwater recharge, low-cost desalination, and energy efficient purification.
The question comes up with every dire media report or bleak new forecast about the Colorado River: How much longer can Nevada’s largest community continue to rely on a single source of water to power its prosperity? It’s an important question, maybe the most important. No Southwestern state gets less water from the river than Nevada. No major city depends on that water more than Las Vegas. But the Colorado is in trouble. (Part 1 of 8 in a series.)
People interested in state-mandated plans to manage local groundwater can get an update Thursday evening in Chico. … The meeting 6-8 p.m Thursday at the Masonic Family Center, 1110 W. East Ave., is focused on a newly approved planning area that includes Chico and Durham, and stretches north and west to the Tehama County line and the Sacramento River, and south and east to Butte Valley and the northern border of the Western Canal District.
Heavy rains this winter will help replenish groundwater aquifers and benefit projects that use excess surface water to recharge groundwater basins. At the California Department of Water Resources, planners focus on a voluntary strategy known as Flood-MAR, which stands for “managed aquifer recharge.” The strategy combines floodwater operations and groundwater management in an effort to benefit working landscapes, and could also aid local groundwater agencies as they implement the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Former Interior Secretary and Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt will be the distinguished speaker at the 2019 Anne J. Schneider Memorial Lecture on April 3 at the Crocker Art Museum in downtown Sacramento. Babbitt’s talk is titled “Parting the Waters — Will It Take a Miracle?”
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater Sustainability Plans.