The State Water Project (SWP) is responsible for bringing
drinking water to 25 million people and provides irrigation for
750,000 acres of farmland. Without it California would never have
become the economic powerhouse it is today.
The nation’s largest state-built water and power development and
conveyance system, the SWP diverts water from the Feather River
to the Central Valley, South Bay Area and Southern California.
Its key feature is the 444-mile long California Aqueduct that can
be viewed from Interstate 5.
The SWP has required the construction of 21 dams and more than
700 miles canals, pipelines and tunnels. To reach Southern
California, the water must be pumped 2,000 feet over the
Tehachapi Mountains; it’s the highest water lift in the world.
Today, about 30 percent of SWP water is used for irrigation,
mostly in the San Joaquin Valley, and about 70 percent is used
for residential, municipal and industrial use, mainly in Southern
California but also in the Bay Area. The SWP was built and is
operated by the California Department of Water Resources.
State water officials offered an early look at the downsized
California WaterFix project earlier this month, and
conservationists and far-traveling indigenous tribes say they
still believe it has the potential to permanently alter life in
and around the Delta.
Recently, the Department of Water Resources posted a short
video providing an overview of the California Environmental
Quality Act and the preparation of environmental documents for
the Delta Conveyance Project. The video was narrated by Ken
Bogdan, Senior Staff Counsel for the Department of Water
Resources; this post is based in part on the video, with extra
information added from internet sources and the Notice of
Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled
to vote on a resolution granting Committee Chair Raul Grijalva
(D–Ariz.) wide-ranging subpoena power over the Interior
Department. One inquiry in the hopper: a closer look at the
process that yielded the Trump Administration’s
freshly-released biological opinions governing the
federally-operated Central Valley Project.
The EIR scoping meetings for the single-tunnel delta conveyance
facility (DCF) began this week. My comments focus on two
critical areas where DWR appears to be repeating their mistakes
of their past despite the Newsom administration’s stated
intention of taking a fresh approach
California’s governor revealed a plan on Tuesday that would
keep more water in the fragile San Joaquin River Delta while
restoring 60,000 acres of habitat for endangered species and
generating more than $5 billion in new funding for
Democratic congressman from Fresno introduced two pieces of
legislation that aim to repair aging canals and water
infrastructure in California that’s been damaged by sinking
ground levels – called subsidence, caused by groundwater
The Santa Monica City Council approved a water self-sufficiency
plan Tuesday that will double the price of water and wastewater
removal by 2024. The rate increases will finance about $42
million in infrastructure projects that will allow Santa Monica
to stop importing water from the Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California by 2023.
As we enter a new decade, California faces increasing
environmental challenges caused by climate change, creating an
uncertain future for our water resources. … It is time for
California’s Department of Water Resources to implement water
policy for the state that shores up our precious waterways and
diversifies water supplies in the face of these imminent
As I watch the way Governor Gavin Newsom is handling water
policy, I have two thoughts. First, the governor is on a track
that seems driven by adherence to some of Governor Jerry
Brown’s worst water policies. And, second, he’s not getting
The problem with the theory is that a delta tunnel (state
officials like to call it a “conveyance”) would yield all those
benefits only if it were one piece of a larger complex of
projects, policies and agreements to keep water flowing through
the overly depleted San Joaquin River and limit the volume and
timing of water diversions. And those other parts of the puzzle
simply aren’t there.
On Friday, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR)
announced an increase in 2020 State Water Project (SWP)
allocations to 15 percent of requested supplies, up from the
year’s initial 10 percent allocation announced on December 2.
For decades, California’s coastal aquifers have been plagued by
invading seawater, turning pristine wells into salty ruins. But
the state’s coastal water agencies now plan to get more
aggressive in holding back the invasion by injecting millions
of gallons of treated sewage and other purified wastewater deep
The Newsom administration appears to be a house divided on
water, as competing interests pull it in opposite directions.
The main flash point is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
threatened estuary and source of water for a majority of
At the January meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s
Conservation and Local Resources Committee, Nancy Vogel,
Director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program at the
Natural Resources Agency, gave committee members an overview of
the draft resilience portfolio.
Since July, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State
Water Contractors have engaged in fruitless negotiations over
how to pay for a single-tunnel Delta Conveyance Facility. On
December 23, right before the holidays, DWR made their 6th
proposal to the State WaterContractors with a major shift in
The Santa Fe Irrigation District approved three percent water
rate increases for the next three years at a Jan. 16 hearing.
… The rate increases aim to help meet the district’s
objectives to ensure equity across customer classes, encourage
conservation and maintain financial stability as it faces
challenges such as the rising costs of imported water.
Now Trump’s team is set to impose new environmentally damaging
Bay-Delta water diversion and pumping rules. … These new
rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing
wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to
a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin
Response to Wednesday’s action by the California Department of
Water Resources to initiate an environmental impact report for
a tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was
not popular with the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
Even though water districts and cities throughout the San
Bernardino Valley rely on local rainfall and mountain runoff
for about 70 percent of their water supply, local supplies are
not enough. The region relies on Sierra snowmelt from Northern
California to meet the remaining 30 percent.
As Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration attempt to
establish a comprehensive and cohesive water policy for the
state, officials are seeking public input on the draft water
resilience portfolio released earlier this month. The document
was issued in response to Newsom’s April 2019 executive order
directing his administration to inventory and assess a wide
range of water-related challenges and solutions.
California’s governor has restarted a project to build a giant,
underground tunnel that would pump billions of gallons of water
from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of
the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Wednesday
issued a Notice of Preparation for the project, which is the
first step in the state’s lengthy environmental review process.
While Newsom has been forced to address climate change on many
fronts during the past year – think wildfires, blackouts and
automobile standards – the state’s myriad water challenges must
remain a priority. Our state’s water system is decades old and
needs to be re-envisioned for a new era.
At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council,
Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the San Francisco Estuary
Partnership, briefed the Council on the 2019 update to the
State of the Estuary report. She began with some background on
With virtually no public notice, state officials quietly gave
away a significant portion of Southern California’s water
supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with
the Trump administration in December 2018. One year later, it
remains unclear why the California Department of Water
Resources signed the agreement…
The Henry J. Mills Water Treatment Plant will be out of service
for nine days and the Western Municipal Water District will not
be able to import water, forcing the agency to rely on its
reserves, officials said. The work began Friday, Jan. 10, and
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California crews will
be fixing and modifying the facility until Jan. 19, according
to the agency.
The factors causing the decline of many fish and fisheries in
the upper San Francisco Estuary have made their management
controversial, usually because of the correlation of declines
with increased water exports from the Delta and upstream of the
Delta… To address this problem better, the California Fish
and Game Commission is developing new policies for managing
Delta fish and fisheries, with a special focus on striped bass.
South Coast Water District will gear up to undertake its next
milestone for desalination: financing the project. On Thursday,
Jan. 9, after press time, General Manager Rick Shintaku
requested authorization from SCWD’s Board of Directors to enter
into an agreement with Clean Energy Capital to conduct a cost
analysis for the proposed desalination project.
Who can deny the value of potable water to every living thing
in this city, this county, this state? Four million residential
and industrial customers in 43 cities in the Los Angeles, San
Gabriel and San Fernando Basins are dependent on multiple water
sources – groundwater pumped from below them, by aqueduct from
the Colorado River, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, Mono Lake, the
Owens Valley and recycled from wastewater treatment plants.
Farm organizations welcomed a new water planning document from
state agencies while they analyzed the document’s proposed
strategies. Titled the California Water Resilience Portfolio
and released last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration
described the document as an effort to guide water management
in a way that works for people, the environment and the
Consistent with the science developed over the last three
decades, the Newsom administration is pursuing comprehensive,
watershed-wide solutions that address the numerous factors that
limit the abundance of native fish in the Delta. These types of
solutions are the ones that are most likely to achieve the
state’s co-equal goals of the 2009 Delta Reform Act…
Governor Newsom’s administration recently released a draft
Water Resilience Portfolio plan… This plan also emphasizes
diverse relatively precise policy initiatives for state
agencies, often in support of local and regional water
problem-solving and with some aspirations to bring state
agencies together. It is a good read, clearly reflecting
intense and diverse discussions over several months.
As of Thursday, the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack — a major
source of California’s water supply — stood at 90% of its
historical average. That’s the highest total in early January
in four years, when it came in at 101% on Jan. 2, 2016.
Department of Water Resources is preparing Oroville Dam’s
primary spillway for use this winter season. The reconstructed
spillway was completed this spring and used for the first time
in April since the 2017 spillway crisis threatened 188,000
The new guidelines call for diverting more water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and urban
areas further south. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the group
Restore the Delta, says despite Newsom indicating he was going
to sue over the new federal guidelines, that hasn’t happened
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is set to
conduct the first snow survey of 2020 on Thursday. … The
information is critical to the water managers who allocate
California’s natural water resources to regions downstream.
The governor’s apparent willingness to play into the hands of
monied, agri-business players at the expense of the health of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta remains the biggest
mystery of his short tenure. It also threatens to trash his
reputation as a strong protector of California’s environment.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
The California Department of Water Resources announced an
initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020
calendar year. According to a DWR announcement, the initial
allocation is based on several factors, such as conservative
dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to
meet water supply and environmental demands.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Despite increased maintenance of Oroville Dam since the
spillway fell apart in February 2017, members of the
community-led Oroville Dam Ad Hoc Group have expressed concern
about the age and wear of mechanics within the spillway’s main
gates, citing similar failures on dams of the same era.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the
Oroville Dam rebuild as one of 10 outstanding civil engineering
projects. Two runners-up and a winner will be chosen at the
2020 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement gala in
Washington D.C. on March 13.
Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel will
retire Dec. 7, leaving a very large and important hole to fill.
The agency is the second largest contractor on the State Water
Project and pays 25 percent of the bill for that massive
endeavor, giving it a very big voice on most water issues.
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
The Mojave Water Agency on Thursday cut the ribbon on its Deep
Creek Hydroelectric Clean-Energy System, a project that
produces electricity from California Aqueduct water and
replenishes the groundwater in the Victor Valley.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
As part of a statewide effort to reduce seismic and hydrologic
risk to State Water Project facilities, the California
Department of Water Resources’ Castaic Dam Modernization
Program begins this week with an assessment of a stream release
structure at Castaic Dam in Los Angeles County.
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
The health of North America’s largest estuary, the San
Francisco Estuary, is showing some signs of improvement, but
much of the historic damage caused to the massive watershed has
either not improved or worsened, according to a new report.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
The state Department of Water Resources and Butte County
announced the settlement Tuesday, more than two years after
spillways at the Oroville Dam crumbled and fell away during
heavy rains. The repairs resulted in heavy truck traffic that
damaged Butte County roads. Butte County sued in August 2018.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
The proposed water rates include a fixed meter charge per month
and a variable consumption charge per unit of water. The city
says most single family residences will see about a $15
increase in January of 2020. … The last rate increase was
approved by the city council five years ago, but he says a lot
has changed since then.
Santa Maria and several other Central Coast Water Authority
members are planning to claim an additional 12,214 acre-feet of
state water that was set aside decades ago. The move — which
would be funded by issuing a $42 million bond — would increase
Santa Maria’s annual right to state water from 17,820 to over
27,000 acre-feet each year.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis
Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million
people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a
picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in
beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
At the August meeting of the California Water Commission, Karla
Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR),
spoke to the commissioners about the Department’s strategic
plan and the work underway on the Delta conveyance project,
which she noted nests into the strategic plan as a key feature
of what needs to be done to modernize the State Water Project.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
Today, the California Department of Water Resources began
assessment work on Pyramid Dam’s spillways in Los Angeles
County as part of a statewide effort to reduce seismic and
hydrologic risk to State Water Project facilities spanning 705
miles throughout California.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Recently, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion
on the future of California water featuring Secretary Wade
Crowfoot, Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, and
State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre.
While there’s no court action yet, the Water Authority is
gearing up for what in the water world amounts to a rare change
in relationship status. After decades buying water from the
Water Authority, Rainbow and Fallbrook want a divorce.
Here we provide an updated account of Suisun Marsh fishes to
show why the marsh is so important for conserving fishes in the
upper San Francisco Estuary in general…and why we continue to
be enthusiastic about working there.
The Department of Water Resources is continuing to work on the
environmental planning and permitting to modernize State Water
Project infrastructure in the Delta. This effort is consistent
with Governor Newsom’s direction and support for a
single-tunnel project to ensure a climate resilient water
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.
Computer models are in use every day, all around us. Car makers
use them to test the safety of vehicles, meteorologists use
them to predict the weather, and marketing professionals use
them to analyze connections between people and products. Rooted
in math and science and computer programming, models are also
an important tool in water management…
The State Water Project helped make Kern County the number one
agricultural county in the nation and ensures Bakersfield
always has a clean, high quality supply of drinking water while
protecting our region against drought. The State Water Project
reflects our past generation’s drive to make California the
great state it is today.
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.
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.
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)…
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.
Are you planning a road trip this summer? Consider taking a
detour to one of the many beaches along the California State
Water Project (SWP) – you’ll find them teeming with fish,
natural beauty, and fun ways to spend your vacation.
An earthquake doesn’t have to happen in your neighborhood or
city, or even your region, for it to have an impact, especially
on Southern California’s water supply. According to UCLA
Professor Jon Stewart, the three main water systems that bring
water to Southern California each cross the San Andreas Fault
at least once.
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
The latest update of the California Water Plan was released
this past week. You may not have heard the news. You may not
even know there is a California Water Plan. And that’s just
fine, because it doesn’t mean a darn thing.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) urged people to avoid
physical contact with the water at San Luis Reservoir in Merced
County until further notice and avoid eating fish from the lake
due to the presence of blue-green algae. DWR increased the
advisory from warning to danger after detecting an increased
amount of microcystins.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
San Diego faces a hidden earthquake threat — to its water
supply. A quake, even one so far away that nobody in San Diego
feels it, could force mandatory water-use restrictions. That’s
because most of San Diego’s water comes from hundreds of miles
away through threads of metal and concrete that connect us to
distant rivers and reservoirs.
Industry veteran Gloria Gray took the helm at the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California. In this interview, Gray
shares how she plans to steer the largest water supplier in the
nation through changing political priorities and climate
conditions to continue safeguarding the future of California’s
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
We estimate that nearly 20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated
cropland in the valley has no access to surface water. … With
groundwater cuts looming and no other water supply to fall back
on, groundwater-only areas are on the front line of the effort
to bring basins into balance.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
The standoff between Sacramento County and the California
Department of Water Resources over the Delta’s future took a
twist in June, moving from quiet canals and pear orchards along
the river to a courtroom in the central city. That’s where
county officials were granted a temporary restraining order
against DWR to halt what they call risky and illegal drilling.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
A civilian watchdog panel called has upon several agencies to
clear up muddy communications to help end spats among members
receiving and distributing water as they move toward another
25-year deal for Lake Cachuma water.
The facility would serve two main purposes. In addition to
weaning Camarillo customers off imported water from Calleguas
Municipal Water District, it would also help filter out the
everincreasing amount of salt found in the plumes of water
beneath much of the eastern half of the city.
This tour travels deep into California’s water hub and traverses the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The tour will make its way to San Francisco Bay and includes a ferry ride.
In order to address the impacts of climate change on the
state’s water resources, the Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has been developing its own comprehensive Climate Action
Plan to guide how DWR is and will continue to address climate
change for programs, projects, and activities over which it has
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
Governor Newsom recently called for a state portfolio of
actions to manage water under rapidly changing climate and
other conditions. This post reviews the state of water
portfolio planning in California today.
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
There are more concerns over lake levels in Oroville as Butte
County leaders take initiative to explore alternative options
for safety measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR), a
leg of the State Water Project, manages the Oroville Dam. On
Wednesday, DWR officials remained adamant in saying they have
no plans to release water from the Oroville Dam spillway.
As part of efforts by Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) to assess its 2014-2016 turf replacement
program during the California drought, we evaluated how yards
changed after converting a lawn through a MWD rebate in LA
County. We also evaluated trends in participation across
On our August Edge of Drought Tour, we’re venturing into the
Santa Barbara area to learn about the water challenges and the
steps being taken to boost supplies. The region’s local surface
and groundwater supplies are limited, and its hydrologic
recovery often has lagged behind much of the state despite the
recent lifting of a drought emergency declaration following
this winter’s storms.
Mission Springs Water District alleged that Desert Water
Agency, which also provides water to more than 100,000 Palm
Springs and Cathedral City residents, made a board decision
that violated a previous settlement between the two agencies.
… Last month, the issue over groundwater management in Desert
Hot Springs picked up steam when a study group
formed by Mission Springs published a 16-page report that
lambasted Desert Water Agency’s actions…
Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet
says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to
die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably
believe the next scare to come down the information highway. So
it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam
Like everyone else in Santa Clara Valley who uses wells,
farmers will see their groundwater production charges go up 6.8
percent this year. But unlike the others, they’ll continue to
receive substantial subsidies. In approving the increased
charges for well users, the Santa Clara Valley Water District
board left intact for at least two years the current structure
that allows farmers to pay only 6 percent of the amount
residents and businesses pay.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
When asked about his priorities, California’s recently
appointed Natural Resources Secretary quickly rattles off a
range of topics: climate change; strengthening water supply
resilience; and building water capacity for communities,
agriculture, and the environment, among them.
Because of the wet weather this winter, the district is
proposing to lower its Stage Two Drought Condition to a Stage
One Drought Condition, which would lift many mandatory drought
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has turned two
big lakes into a monster battery capable of storing enough
energy to power tens of thousands of homes. It involves using
the excess wind and solar power L.A.’s renewable energy sites
produce during the day to pump water from Castaic Lake uphill
7.5 miles to Pyramid Lake.
The California Energy Commission is offering the city of San
Luis Obispo a $3 million loan to build a 261-kilowatt solar
photovoltaic system as well as a 264-kilowatt hydroelectric
generation system — both located at the city water treatment
plant on Stenner Creek Road behind Cal Poly. By generating its
own power at the treatment facility, SLO could earn savings of
$266,863 annually compared to its current power bill.
At first blush, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest action on water
seems fanciful and naive. But it has logic and conceivably
could work. Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything
the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry
Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for
California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water
Santa Maria residents are being asked by the city to cut down
on the amount of water softeners used through the end of the
year. City officials say the city will begin delivering
better-quality municipal water with a lower mineral content.
… Using water softeners in addition to this new municipal
water could be damaging to pipes and fixtures.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
Every day during the winter and spring, pumping operations for
the state’s two largest water projects in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta are fine-tuned to comply with detailed
regulations via the Endangered Species Act. These same
regulations provide no similar guidance on what flows are
appropriate through the Delta and out to San Francisco Bay
during this critical time in the lifespan of species such as
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
The Department of Water Resources issued notice that it will
seek an updated environmental permit to operate the State Water
Project through a state-based approach in partnership with the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … Historically,
DWR has received environmental coverage for its pumping
operations through environmental parameters issued by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
California State Treasurer Fiona Ma announced the competitive
sale this week of $299.6 million in California Department of
Water Resources water system revenue bonds to refinance certain
State Water Project capital improvements, including a portion
of the costs of the Oroville Dam Spillways Response, Recovery
and Restoration Project.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of
the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades.
… But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling
(relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end
with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
Currently, the city has two significant environmental impact
reports, which CEQA requires, making their way through the
development process. One is for a plan to build a 7-mile
pipeline to tap into Ventura’s long-held investment in state
water. … The other project would capture effluent from
Ventura’s wastewater treatment plant, treat it and turn it into
John O. McClurg, 93, passed away peacefully on March 22, 2019,
in Carmichael, California. … In January 1952 John received a
bachelor’s degree in engineering from USC and went to work for
the California Department of Water Resources in its Ventura
County field office.
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.
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the
Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved
extending the contract for water imported from Northern
California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the
state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project
water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water
supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of
the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping
for the Antelope Valley.
A long-standing feud over who should pay a $650 million bill
for state water infrastructure reared its head Tuesday, as
board members of Santa Clara County’s regional water district
weighed whether to raise water bills or ramp up reliance on
Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted to renew their
participation in two water storage projects so that the water
wholesaler can continue to plan for more alternative water
sources during droughts. The board voted unanimously to
participate in phase 2 of the Sites Reservoir project, a JPA
formed in 2010 to create a reservoir 75 miles northwest of
Sacramento. … Also, by a unanimous vote, directors
committed up to $355,000 for a second phase of participation in
the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in southeastern Contra
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles,
videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon
like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry
Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years,
you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow
with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each
winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the
state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting
go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental
Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and
lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent.
It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not
in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The
paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater
could be used to recycle water. However, making these
improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100
A coalition of environmental groups has called on California
members of Congress to prioritize the San Luis (B.F. Sisk)
Dam seismic remediation over federal funding for new California
dams. San Luis Dam is in a very seismically active area.
Independently reviewed risk assessments for Reclamation have
shown that a large earthquake could lead to crest settlement
and overtopping of the dam, which would result in large
uncontrolled releases and likely dam failure.
Gloria Gray became chairwoman of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California on Jan. 1 and made history,
though not for the first time. She has two big goals:
seeing through a controversial public works project to build
two new California water tunnels and ensuring her agency is
represented by a more diverse group of people.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state
governments released new climate change assessments that
outline the projected course of climate change and its
potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting
of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department
of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on
hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of
the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon,
Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the
result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too
sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an
average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the
nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new
study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet;
and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet.
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
Dam inspectors overlooked technical details during safety
evaluations that could have identified structural problems with
the Oroville Dam spillway before it broke during heavy rains in
February 2017, according to an assessment ordered by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC assembled an
independent, six-person panel to assess the safety inspections
that are required every five years for the roughly 2,500
hydropower facilities that FERC regulates.
Despite the last few storms that brought the North State much
needed rain, this water year has been relatively dry, and those
conditions are reflected in the Department of Water Resources’
initial State Water Project allocations.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
Employees of the state Department of Water Resources, with the
help of firefighting crews, were cutting brush and watering
down landscapes around Lake Oroville to prevent the
117,000-acre blaze from damaging the reservoir’s
infrastructure, including the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.
This tour ventured through California’s Central
Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an
imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering
about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state,
the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40
percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the government to
speed up environmental reviews and streamline regulations that
he says are hindering work on major water projects in
California and other Western states. Trump signed a memorandum
aimed at helping the Central Valley Project and the California
State Water Project in California, the Klamath Irrigation
Project in Oregon and California and the Columbia River Basin
system in the Pacific Northwest.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
Another attempt by the state Department of Water Resources to
have the Butte County District Attorney’s lawsuit against the
department thrown out was thwarted Friday. The civil suit stem
from the Oroville Dam crisis and the alleged 3.4 billion to 5.1
billion pounds of debris which fell from the collapsing
spillway into the Feather River in February 2017.
Nearly six decades ago, shortly after becoming governor, Pat
Brown persuaded the Legislature and voters to approve one of
the nation’s largest public works projects, the State Water
Plan. New reservoirs in Northern California, including the
nation’s highest dam at Oroville on the Feather River, would
capture runoff from snowfall in the Sierra, and a massive
aqueduct would carry water southward to San Joaquin Valley
farms and fast-growing Southern California cities.
A local oversight committee will get to have a say as long-term
changes are considered for the Oroville Dam, after Sen. Jim
Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher recently came to an
agreement with the state Department of Water Resources.
A Butte County Superior Court judge will determine where
lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources for
the Oroville Dam crisis will be considered in a written ruling.
This comes as Judge Tamara Mosbarger heard arguments on Friday
from plaintiffs and the defendant.
Splitting California into three new states would scramble
nearly every segment of government that touches residents’
lives, from taxes to Medi-Cal to driver’s licenses. … But of
all the gargantuan tasks facing Californians should they choose
to divide themselves by three — a proposal that has qualified
for the November ballot — none is arguably more daunting than
carving up the state’s water supply.
A lawsuit filed by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey
against the state Department of Water Resources over
environmental damages resulting from the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis is moving forward in court. Butte County Superior Court
Judge Stephen Benson overruled DWR’s demurrer, which is
essentially a plea to have a case dismissed, through a written
ruling filed on May 31.
The Legislature created the Department of Water Resources in
1956 for the purpose of managing the State Water Project, then
in its early stages of planning. … AB 3045 would create
a new State Water Project Commission under the state’s Natural
Resources Agency to run the project – the agency, whose
secretary serves in the governor’s cabinet, has broad authority
The California Department of Water Resources announced Monday
this year’s allocation has been raised to 35 percent of full
distribution, or 1.48 million acre-feet of water statewide.
(One acre foot is enough to cover one acre of land with a foot
of water.) As of last month, the agency planned to distribute
only 30 percent of normal.
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the
state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and
ecological resource. The tour made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north
state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the
agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water
Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the
Oroville Dam spillway.
A bill proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher which would take
the State Water Project out of the hands of the state
Department of Water Resources passed unanimously on Tuesday
through a legislative committee. Assembly Bill 3045 passed 15-0
through the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and
is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
There are 34 storage facilities, 30 dams, 23 pumping plants and
nine hydroelectric power generation plants that are part of the
California State Water Project, and the Department of Water
Resources is in charge of not only operating but also of
inspecting all of them. Local Assemblyman James Gallagher says
that’s a conflict of interest, and a bill he’s pushing looks to
take some of that authority away from DWR.
The nearly 30 contractors that are part of the State Water
Project are expected to receive 30 percent of the water they
have requested for 2018 – up from January’s estimate of 20
percent – according to the Department of Water Resources. DWR
Director Karla Nemeth stated in a news release that late
precipitation and snow in March contributed to the rise in
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of
work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state
Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a
monthly media update call. This comes as DWR submitted an
updated 2017-2018 Lake Oroville operations plan on Tuesday to
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California
Division of Safety of Dams for approval.
Oroville Dam operators said Tuesday they may have to release
water over a partially rebuilt spillway for the first time
since repairs began on the badly damaged structure last summer.
Department of Water Resources officials said anticipated storms
could trigger releases this week or next.
The storms of March may not have rained glory on the state, but
they dropped enough snow on the Sierra to greatly improve the
drought situation and, with another storm rolling in this week,
water resources officials believe thirsty California will make
it through the year.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
State Parks workers were pulling cable up a launch ramp at
Bidwell Marina Thursday because the water level in Lake
Oroville is on the rise. March’s storms have brought the lake
level up almost 13 feet since the start of the month, according
to the Department of Water Resources website.
After a historically wet season last year, relatively little
precipitation has fallen this year in California during two of
the three historically wettest months. Officials are urging
stricter water conservation and caution drier months ahead.
After last week’s rains, the Sierra snowpack — a critical
factor in water availability — climbed to just 39 percent of
California water officials tromped through long-awaited fresh
snowdrifts in the Sierra Nevada mountains Monday, but a welcome
late-winter storm still left the state with less than half the
usual snow for this late point in the state’s important rain
and snow season.
The storm that wrought avalanches at ski resorts and whiteouts
on mountain roads last week was so fierce that California water
officials postponed their much-anticipated monthly survey of
snow depth, setting the stage for potentially better news this
Welcome drifts of fresh snow await California’s water managers
on their late-winter survey of the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack
Monday after a massive winter storm slowed the state’s plunge
back into drought. The storm piled snow by the foot in the
mountains, forcing Department of Water Resources officials to
postpone the measurement for a few days.
Dams and reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the California
Department of Water Resources will be inspected more regularly
thanks to a new law Gov. Jerry Brown signed this week. What
does this mean for Tulare County’s reservoirs and aging dams,
Kaweah and Success?
Locals who lost business or saw their property value decrease
because of the Oroville Dam crisis are anxious to be reimbursed
through a class action lawsuit filed last week. … There
is a variety of plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit,
including a child care facility, a water ski shop, a ranch and
A year ago, nearly 200,000 Northern California residents were
alarmed by an alert from the state Department of Water
Resources informing them of the potential failure of the
auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam. … Everything
department officials do at the Oroville Dam affects our [state
Sen. Jim Nielsen] community — from the water level to the