March 2015

California lawmakers weigh $1 billion water spending plan; few details on key projects

The lack of details marked a change from the usual practice for flood bond spending. Lawmakers typically know what projects they are approving, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. The office says spending for flood protection in California has been slowed in recent years as projects have struggled to find federal and local matching funds and get lengthy, mandatory environmental clearances. The office has criticized earlier versions of the flood protection plan for not addressing these delays.

Associated Press, March 25, 2015

Water Transfers Threaten Fish and Tribes

Salmon and the Native Americans in Northern California who depend on them are facing grave threats from the continued shipment of water to agribusinesses in the dry San Joaquin Valley.

East Bay Express, March 25, 2015

Water details become vital as drought worsens

For the third year running, Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, is pushing legislation to provide public access to otherwise confidential reports about groundwater wells. Her Senate Bill 20, which cleared its first committee Tuesday, clearly warrants approval by the full Legislature.

Sacramento Bee, March 24, 2015

Mercury News editorial: Jerry Brown's lame response to California's drought

California is in a drought of historic proportions with no end in sight. Scientists and political leaders, including Gov. Jerry Brown, agree. The governor called an official state of emergency way back in January 2014 -- but you wouldn't know it from his actions since. Lame doesn't begin to describe Brown's failure to show leadership on this threat to the state's long-range future that's easily as dire as the massive budget deficit he inherited in 2011.

San Jose Mercury News, March 23, 2015

Thirsty crops should require state regulation

This is what the Brown administration isn't talking about as it tightens the spigot on landscaping: Urban use accounts for only 20% of California's developed water. Agriculture sucks up 80%.

Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2015

It's time to get serious about the California drought

The cold reality is that even if the current drought were to end tomorrow, there will be more extended droughts in California's future. There is still a distressing lack of emphasis and urgency on key aspects of long-term state water policy.

San Diego Union Tribune, March 21, 2015

Drought legislation must target agribusiness and Big Oil

Governor Jerry Brown and lawmakers touted the introduction of drought legislation in the Legislature on March 19, while leaders of environmental and consumer groups urged Brown to put real limits on the "most egregious" water users - corporate agribusiness and big oil companies - to really address the drought.

Daily Kos, March 19, 2015

$1 billion in California drought relief may just be the beginning

Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers from both parties announced Thursday a $1-billion plan to deal with California's persistent drought, describing the legislation as a mix of short-term relief and support for long-term water projects."This is a struggle," Brown said at a Capitol news conference. "Something we're going to have to live with. For how long, we're not sure."

Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2015

Dry Southern California Offers Northern Farmers Top Dollar for Water

As California continues to endure its historic drought, a huge water district in the southern part of the state is offering to pay what is thought to be its highest price ever for water from farmers in the north -- more than double what it paid just five years ago., March 18, 2015

California Targets Wrong Water Wasters

As the state's water supply plummets to scary levels, officials are going after people who overwater their lawns. That's a good idea. But they're not the worst culprits.

East Bay Express, March 18, 2015

California: New mandatory water conservation rules for lawns, hotels, restaurants

Acknowledging that California's water conservation efforts are falling short as the state descends into a fourth year of punishing drought, the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday imposed new mandatory water conservation rules that will affect millions of people -- from how homeowners water their lawns to how restaurants and hotels serve their guests

San Jose Mercury News, March 18, 2015

Fate of Delta smelt sinks as numbers drop

A tiny fish in the middle of California's tug of war over water has declined so sharply in the drought it could be headed toward extinction. State crews who trawl the Delta waters with a net found only six of the fish in March, the lowest March count on record, environmental groups and scientists reported Tuesday.

San Jose Mercury News, March 17, 2015

As California Drought Enters 4th Year, Conservation Efforts and Worries Increase

California is facing a punishing fourth year of drought. Temperatures in Southern California soared to record-high levels over the weekend, approaching 100 degrees in some places. Reservoirs are low. Landscapes are parched and blighted with fields of dead or dormant orange trees. And the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is counted on to provide 30 percent of the state's water supply as it melts through early summer, is at its second-lowest level on record.

New York Times, March 17, 2015

As drought worsens, L.A. water agency offers cash to Sacramento Valley farmers

Sacramento Bee, March 12, 2015

Op-Ed: California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

Our state's water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.

Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2015

Agencies admit failing to protect water sources from fuel pollution

The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and protecting California's ever-dwindling water sources from the industry's pollution all fell down on the job, one state official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.

Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2015

California is pumping water that fell to Earth 20,000 years ago

As California farms and cities drill deeper for groundwater in an era of drought and climate change, they no longer are tapping reserves that percolated into the soil over recent centuries. They are pumping water that fell to Earth during a much wetter climatic regime -- the ice age.

Reveal, March 9, 2015

Mercury News editorial: California urban water users must get serious about conservation

Lower water use has to become the norm. Agriculture can adjust by shifting from, say, almond orchards back to less water-intense crops, but even if it does, cities will need to step up. Residents shouldn't be waiting to get started.

Mercury news, March 9, 2015

Water storage projects need critical analysis

The commission's challenge will be to take a broad view of the state's plumbing system and to develop a strategy for better integrating storage and water transfers into an efficient, statewide network. That must include independent analyses of which surface water and groundwater projects work best in California's diverse geography and consideration of the impact of climate change on our water supply.

Sacramento Bee, March 7, 2015

Drought stays with us; so does inaction

From the state we have a requirement to come up with a way to manage ground water. That's good, but at the rate we are going, the timeline set for a plan may be much too late. The state wants a balance between water in and water out by 2035. If we have a few more years of drought, who thinks there will be any water left underground to worry about?

The Sentinel, March 6, 2015

Future unclear for salmon

Despite the drought, thousands of king salmon splashed their way up the San Joaquin River and its tributaries last year. But the real test may be still to come., March 6, 2015

'Limited' water exports OK'd

State water watchdogs may allow more water to be pumped south from the Delta this month, but only under "very limited circumstances.", March 6, 2015

Big Businesses Weigh In On Drought

Several companies including Coca-Cola and General Mills announced today they will work together to push for better water management in the state.

Capital Public Radio, March 5, 2015

NOAA: El Nino is 'too little, too late' for California drought

El Nino is here, but don't expect the Pacific Ocean circulation phenomenon to do much for the drought afflicting California and the western U.S., forecasters said Thursday.

Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2015

Tuesday snow survey shows dismal 20 percent snowpack in central Sierra

The water content of the snow for California is at 19 percent of the average for this time of year, with the central Sierra at 20 percent of average., March 5, 2015

Chevron, Linn Told to Halt California Wells on Water Concern

California regulators ordered oil drillers including Chevron Corp. and Linn Energy LLC to halt operations at 12 injection wells in the state because of concerns they may taint groundwater.

Bloomberg Business, March 3, 2015

California drought likely a fixture, says Stanford study

Human-caused climate change is increasing drought risk in California -- boosting the odds that our current crisis will become a fixture of the future, according to a major report Stanford scientists released Monday morning.

Mercury News, March 2, 2015

California drought: State to boost water deliveries after feds pull back

California water officials delivered a rare piece of good news Monday, saying the state's vast system of lakes and reservoirs is full enough to offer cities and farms slightly more water than they expected to provide earlier this year.

San Francisco Chronicle, March 2, 2015

February 2015

WATER: LaMalfa and Garamendi introduce legislation to build Sites Reservoir, store water for millions of Californians

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-03) this week announced the introduction of HR 1060, which will accelerate the completion of a feasibility study of Sites Reservoir and authorize the project should it be found feasible.

Lake County News, February 28, 2015

Bill would double federal funds to restore S.F. Bay

California lawmakers led by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced legislation last week to double the amount of federal grants to restore the bay, the largest estuary on the West Coast, to $10 million a year.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 27, 2015

New California water legislation might be on tap

California water legislation is starting to trickle across Capitol Hill. One newly introduced bill would speed approval of Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley. Another would help restore San Francisco Bay habitat. More targeted bills are coming.

McClatchy DC, February 27, 2015

Drought: No reservoir water projected for many Valley farmer

The federal government informed California cities and farms Friday that the state's biggest reservoirs may not be able to provide most of the water typically doled out. And, unless there's significant rain and snow in the next few months, no water will be given to growers on the fertile west side of the San Joaquin Valley, for the second year in a row, farmers reported.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 27, 2015

Mercury News editorial: Delta's health should take priority over pumping

California needs to get serious about protecting the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of Silicon Valley's most valuable water sources. The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state's residents.

San Jose Mecury News, February 24, 2015

Water rights' cost draws scrutiny

A provision in California's landmark 2014 Water Bond Act, Proposition 1, could lead California into overspending on water-- and that has sparked concern from the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal adviser.

Capitol Weekly, February 24, 2015

Oil industry's toxic wastewater threatens California water supplies

Newly revealed documents and media investigations show that state regulators allowed the oil industry to drill more than 2,400 illegal injection wells for wastewater disposal or oil production into protected California aquifers, including some with water clean enough to drink or irrigate crops.

Sacramento Bee, February 21, 2015

State water chief admits mistakes in management

The head of the watchdog agency overseeing California water said he was "mistaken" last year when he approved emergency actions that harmed threatened fish.

Stockton Record, February 19, 2015

Water for California Farms - or for Fish?

Opposing recommendations from federal and state agencies Wednesday, the head of California's water board advised regulators to deny agribusinesses' request for increased pumping from the Delta during the next two months.

Courthouse News Service, February 19, 2015

Arsenic, nitrates among pollutants in California drinking water: report

Water in California violated federal quality standards more than 1,000 times during the fiscal year, triggering reports to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the report said.

Reuters, February 18, 2015

California water officials eye new restrictions in drought

As the California drought drags on, water officials are considering expanding mandatory outdoor water restrictions on homeowners and adding new limits on restaurants, hotels and decorative fountains.

Fresno Bee, February 17, 2015

Meet The Biggest Threats to California's Environment: The Winners of the Annual Cold, Dead Fish Awards

For its disastrous water policies and the near-extinction of American River steelhead, as well as its continuing drive to raise Shasta Dam, David Murrillo, MidPacific director of the [B}ureau [of Reclamation], receives the "Extinct Steelhead" award.

East Bay Express, February 16, 2015

Threatened Smelt Touches Off Battles in California's Endless Water Wars

The immediate future looks grim. Despite a few powerful winter storms, California is facing a likely fourth year of drought, which is wreaking havoc on the delta's ecosystem. The waterway where the federal researchers were working contained large patches of water hyacinth, an invasive plant that has proliferated in the dry conditions. Last fall, scientists doing a comprehensive survey recorded their lowest-ever seasonal tally of delta smelts, by a substantial margin. Another species, the longfin smelt, hit its second-lowest number.

New York Times, February 14, 2015

U.S. Soon to Face Worst "Megadroughts" in a Millenium, Scientists Predict

Analysis released Thursday from scientists at NASA, Cornell University, and Columbia University predicts that climate change will cause droughts in the Southwest and Great Plains of the U.S. that exceed any experienced in the last 1,000 years.

Newsweek, February 13, 2015

Editorial: Amid a lack of fracking data, the state should halt new operations

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources does not know how much, if any, of the waste pumped into the improperly permitted wells was from fracking. Industries are required to report the amount and composition of the waste they inject into wells; the state should compile this information in a timely manner and make it readily available to the public.

Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2015

High levels of benzene found in fracking waste water

Data culled from the first year of those tests found significant concentrations of the human carcinogen benzene in this so-called "flowback fluid." In some cases, the fracking waste liquid, which is frequently reinjected into groundwater, contained benzene levels thousands of times greater than state and federal agencies consider safe.

Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2015

California Pledges Changes in Protecting Underground Water

California has proposed closing by October up to 140 oilfield wells that state regulators had allowed to inject into federally protected drinking water aquifers, state officials said Monday. The deadline is part of a broad plan the state sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week for bringing state regulation of oil and gas operations back into compliance with federal safe-drinking water requirements.

Associated Press, February 9, 2015

California Legislature Wants Oversight On Water Bond Money

In total, California has $7.5 billion in bond revenue to work with. Most will be allocated to state departments through the budget process. Democrat Mark Levine chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, which will hold an oversight hearing on the bond. Levine says the state should be cautious.

Capitol Public Radio, February 9, 2015

California drought: Obama administration to invest $50 million in relief

To ease the pain of a drought that's gripped the American West for three years, the federal government will invest $50 million in relief projects across the region, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Friday. Since California is ground zero for the drought, a federal water project that supplies many of the Central Valley's farms will get almost 40 percent of the money. The rest will be used to finance a water conservation grant program and help states prepare for the next long stretch of bone-dry weather.

San Jose Mercury News, February 6, 2015

Jerry Brown 'not ready' for mandatory water restrictions in drought

Sacramento Bee, February 6, 2015

Set water priorities to prepare for drought

California needs a new approach to managing the environment during drought: One that is deliberative, not reactive. We can learn a lot from our Australian friends in this regard. They weathered a brutal decade-long dry period -- called the Millennium Drought -- through careful planning and prioritization. This included investing in habitats that provided refuge for at-risk species during the driest periods.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 5, 2015

Water Board orders diverters to further justify senior Delta water rights

Persons claiming senior water rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed are now going to be required to provide the State Water Resources Control Board detailed information on the water rights they claim and diversions associated with those rights.

Central Valley Business Times, February 4, 2015

State considers tighter water limits, hopes for relief this week

California water officials are considering tightening restrictions on outdoor watering, even as they hold out hope that a series of storms late this week will provide some relief for the drought-stricken state.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 2015

January 2015

State let oil companies taint drinkable water in Central Valley

Oil companies in drought-ravaged California have, for years, pumped wastewater from their operations into aquifers that had been clean enough for people to drink. They did it with explicit permission from state regulators, who were supposed to protect the increasingly strained groundwater supplies from contamination.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2015

Sierra snowpack dismal for January; fourth year of drought looks likely

The latest survey of California's mountain snowpack on Thursday brought the bad news slamming home: This month will rank as the driest January in state history at many locations, virtually assuring a fourth straight year of drought.

Sacramento Bee, January 30, 2015

California wild salmon harvest continues to dwindle with drought

It's still a little too early to tell for sure, but the news on the California wild salmon front is not good. A combination of low water levels in streams because of the drought and high summer temperatures resulted in a massive die-off of young salmon in Northern California.

Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2015

Brown's tunnel vision could sink taxpayers

Gov. Brown appears undisturbed by the financial, environmental and safety concerns of the tunnels. His brand of tunnel vision can't reverse itself. It prefers to focus on the joys of spending and a glowing legacy down the road. The governor will be long out of office but California taxpayers, and their children, will be stuck with the costs.

Orange County Register, January 29, 2015

Plan to raise Shasta Dam takes hit after federal biologists say they can't support it

Biologists at the main federal agency that oversees the Endangered Species Act have concluded they cannot endorse a $1.1 billion plan to raise the height of the dam at California's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, because of its impact on endangered salmon. In a 349-page draft report completed in late November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that it is "unable to support" any of the project's five options being considered.

Mercury News, January 27, 2015

Southern California's Water Supply Threatened By Next Major Quake

Research shows that a magnitude 7.8 quake on the San Andreas Fault could sever all four aqueducts at once, cutting off more than 70 percent of the water sustaining Southern California.

NPR, January 27, 2015

Feinstein hosts 7 California reps in closed-door water bill talk

The never-sending search for a California water bill showed, perhaps, a little progress Tuesday as seven Democratic House members met for over an hour with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The late-morning meeting in Feinstein's third-floor Senate office was the first of its kind in the new Congress.

Fresno Bee, January 27, 2015

Private wells in California farm area show high uranium

One in four household water wells in parts of California's Central Valley contains potentially harmful levels of uranium, a U.S. Geological Survey study said. The federal study attributed the higher-than-expected uranium levels to farming in the Central Valley, which is one of the country's leading agricultural regions.

Associated Press, January 26, 2015

California water officials may dam 3 Delta channels in emergency measure to combat drought

State water officials say they may dam parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in an emergency measure to protect freshwater used by millions of Californians. The Department of Water Resources said Monday that if the drought persists they may build temporary rocky barriers blocking three channels on the Delta.

Associated Press, January 26, 2015

Water panel begins process of considering bond projects

The California Water Commission is beginning the lengthy process of deciding which projects will be funded under the water storage portion of the $7.5 billion water bond passed by the state's voters in November.

Capitol Press, January 26, 2015

Sites Reservoir in a waiting game

Sites Reservoir is in a holding pattern as project leaders wait for the state to settle on regulations for distributing funds from last year's $7.5 billion water bond.

Corning Appeal Democrat, January 25, 2015

Important California Water Infrastructure Talks Start This Week

Today, the California Water Commission, a nine-member body appointed by the governor, will begin piecing together the rulebook for a water-infrastructure spending spree. In November, voters approved a $US 7.5 billion bond that allocates $US 2.7 billion to "water storage" projects. The commission is charged with selecting the projects that will receive state funds. Applicants will include new reservoirs, underground storage, and proposals to clean up dirty aquifers.

Circle of Blue, January 21, 2015

Boxer vows no more 'secret' talks on drought bill

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer on Wednesday set down some markers on California water legislation, denouncing "secret negotiations" and stressing the importance of seeking statewide support.

McClatchy DC, January 21, 2015

Century Later, the 'Chinatown' Water Feud Ebbs

While the water theft remains a point of contention, the battle long ago turned into one about the clouds of dust that were the legacy of the lost lake, 200 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

New York Times, January 20, 2015

Pressure's on to help Delta fish suffering amid drought

Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, called the depleted fish populations "a very deep concern," not only for fisheries, but because they can trigger provisions in the Endangered Species Act that restrict water diversions from the Delta.

Sacramento Bee, January 20, 2015

California drought could end with storms known as atmospheric rivers

As much as Californians might hope for a series of atmospheric rivers to sweep in and end the three-year drought, experts warn that so much rain at once could bring devastation.

Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2015

Work is just beginning for California water policy

While talk of water storage causes most to think of large dams, which will continue to play an important role, there is a much wider range of alternatives and opportunities to explore.

Sacramento Bee, January 18, 2015

Calif. boosts water allocations but warns of continued drought

California's State Water Project boosted its anticipated water deliveries to contractors from 10 percent to 15 percent of requested amounts, but officials warn the drought is still severe and drastic measures could still be taken later this year to meet basic health and safety and environmental needs.

Capitol Press, January 16, 2015

California Drought Outlook Extends at Least Into April

Most of California will still be in drought in April even though conditions will probably improve across the southern part of the state, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center.

Bloomberg News, January 15, 2015

Proposed Water Quality Rules May Limit California Ag Activities

A new effort to regulate grazing and its potential impacts on water quality has California ranchers concerned new rules could limit their food production activities and yield little environmental benefits. The State Water Resources Control Board and the nine regional water quality control boards said in public documents they're working together on the new project to explore ways to improve environmental benefits from grazing, while protecting surface and groundwater.

Sierra Sun Times, January 14, 2015

Garamendi co-sponsors water legislation

The legislation would expand rebates and grants for water conservation and efficiency; support local investments in water recycling and improved groundwater management and storage; invest in research into water-saving technologies and desalination; and establish an open water data system. The measure would also help local communities take steps to become better prepared for drought.

The Reporter, January 13, 2015

Supreme Court declines to hear appeals in California water dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge by California growers and local water management agencies to federal guidelines that limit water diversions to protect the Delta smelt fish. The decision not to hear two related cases means a March 2014 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals siding with the federal government remains intact.

Reuters, January 12, 2015

California's Almonds Suck as Much Water Annually as Los Angeles Uses in Three Years

The US now exports 70 percent of almonds. The thing is, nuts use a whole lot of water: it takes about a gallon of water to grow one almond, and nearly five gallons to produce a walnut. Residents across the state are being told to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns, but the acreage devoted to the state's almond orchards have doubled in the past decade. The amount of water that California uses annually to produce almond exports would provide water for all Los Angeles homes and businesses for almost three years.

Mother Jones, January 12, 2015

San Joaquin Valley farmers reach secret deal in water dispute

A staggering economic and environmental problem festering for three decades in the southern San Joaquin Valley would be addressed by a secret deal reached between the Obama administration and farmers -- one that is sounding alarms for Bay Area lawmakers...Details of the deal between Westlands and the federal Bureau of Reclamation have not been revealed to members of Congress, who would have to approve it. But according to a short "principles of agreement" document that has been made public, the deal would forgive $342 million in federal debt that Westlands owes for construction of the 1960s extension of the Central Valley Project to deliver water to the San Joaquin Valley farms.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 10, 2015

LOIS HENRY: It's good to be a water lawyer, especially now

"Probably more than any other body of natural resource law, groundwater law is often honored more in the breach than in the compliance," wrote water attorney Gary Sawyers in a primer on California water law.

The Bakersfield Californian, January 10, 2015

PD Editorial: Questions ahead on state water supply

For policymakers and Central Valley growers, it's time to confront the reality that taxpayer-subsidized water and thirsty crops that can't be fallowed are the wrong mix.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, January 10, 2015

Delta smelt legal battle heads to Supreme Court

Citing the severe state drought, lawyers for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a strict federal rule from the 1970s that calls for curtailing the water diversions to protect the threatened delta smelt and other imperiled species regardless of the cost to humans and the economy.

Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2015

Drought: California water use down 10%, still short of target

Figures released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board show California residents used 9.8 percent less water in November than in the same month in 2013. That's an improvement over October, when year-over-year use was down 6.8 percent, but still short of Brown's goal of cutting back 20 percent.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 2015

Capitol Hill Californians will push for drought legislation again

This week, as the 114th Congress commences, lawmakers prepare to revive anti-drought proposals that divided the state last year. Tactics and strategies are still being crafted and the outcome is uncertain, as are the lessons that may or may not have been learned.

Freson Bee, January 6, 2015

EDITORIAL: Californians need a new mindset about water

Measures that once seemed extraordinary will have to become a new mindset for Californians. Even though winter storms have brought rain and snow, the drought is far from over. We should not ease up on efforts to conserve.

Fresno Bee, January 3, 2015