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Westlands Water District to Split Top Jobs Amid Missteps, Criticism

Westlands Water District, which has come under fire from farmers and the federal government over its financial and other dealings, has decided it no longer wants its general manager to also function as the district’s top lawyer, agency officials said Monday.

Tom Birmingham will no longer serve as both general manager and general counsel of Fresno-based Westlands, the largest agricultural water district in the nation. He will remain as general manager, but the board is seeking new legal representation, said Westlands board President Don Peracchi.


EARTHQUAKES: Nearly 200 SoCal Cities Unprepared, Experts Say

Facing threats of earthquakes, wildfires and floods, almost 200 Southern California cities depend too much on big government to protect them, which will lead to slower recovery time when “the big one” hits, according to experts on disaster preparedness.

A report released recently as part of the newly launched SoCal Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative was presented at the University of Southern California. It urged community members to ask tougher questions of their own civic leaders.


BLOG: How Bad is Water Management in California?

California’s combination of climate, native ecosystems, and human uses makes water management inherently hard, unsatisfactory, and evolving.  California is doomed to have difficult and controversial water problems. No matter how successful we are.

California is one of the few parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate (Figure 1).  These climates tend to be dry (not much water), attractive places to live and farm (bringing high water demands), with mismatch between wetter winters and dry summer growing seasons.  The scarce water supply in the wrong season for human activities makes human management of water problematic for native ecosystems.

Tribal Water Rights a Component to Unraveling Drought on the Colorado

Native American tribes in the Colorado River basin already have legally quantified rights to roughly one-fifth of the river’s flow, according to a new report from the non-partisan Colorado River Research Group. CCRG said that tribal water rights are a misunderstood and underpublicized facet in dealing with water shortages in the Southwestern United States. Of the seven Colorado River basin states, signatories to the Compact of 1922, the so-called Law of the River, only California and Colorado have larger paper rights to water than the tribes.

Researcher: Environmental Analysis Crucial as Pot Laws Liberalize

As marijuana laws liberalize across the country, much attention will need to be given to the impact that large-scale production could have on the environment, a pair of university scientists assert.

Existing cannabis grow sites pose a high risk of ecological consequences because they potentially use large amounts of water and are near the habitat for threatened species, researchers Van Butsic and Jacob Brenner observe.


Resource Advocates Envision a Greener Future for the County

A half century from now, the residents of Calaveras County may remember our time as one of drought, fire and dying forests. But if even a few of the visions discussed at a historic meeting on Thursday are realized, they will also remember that 2016 was a time of hope.

The meeting in the Chesborough Room at the Calaveras County Public Library was an informal gathering of ranchers, conservationists, a water district official and others with interests in the soon-to-form Calaveras County Resource Conservation District that voters approved in the election on June 7.

FOCUS: State, County Grapple With Historic Tree Die-Off

As wildfires burn in Southern California, a debate is smoldering about what to do with millions of dead and dying trees — which have been ravaged by drought and beetle species up and down the state.

Facing the biggest die-off since recordkeeping on the topic started about four decades ago, state officials have already started to cut down hundreds of thousands of dead trees near houses, roads, power lines and other sensitive areas.


Sacramento Region to California: We’ve Got Plenty of Water

The Sacramento region’s largest water districts have given a resounding answer to the question of whether they could handle three more years of drought: We have plenty of water.

The State Water Resources Control Board last month asked California’s urban water districts to evaluate how much water they would need in the next three years if drought persisted – and whether their supplies would meet that demand. Districts that certify their supplies are adequate will not face mandatory water-use cuts. Those with inadequate supplies must set conservation goals proportional to their anticipated shortfall.



OPINION: The Coachella Valley Must Confront Water Realities

Like a lot of valley residents, I was born, raised and educated elsewhere – born and raised in upstate New York and educated at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  I came to the valley and decided to stay and raise a family here, because this Valley is home to more than 120 golf courses and I’m a golf course superintendent.  And to be a golf course superintendent in the desert requires one to become proficient in all matters having to do with water – source, access, cost, infrastructure, quality, etc.


OPINION: Groundwater Could Be a Godsend, If We Protect It

Despite winter rains and the lifting of urban conservation rules this month, California is still desperate for water. Reservoirs in Southern California are low, and we’re sucking groundwater from the Central Valley.

But what if there’s a vast pool of unidentified water? How much would we use immediately, how much would we save and how would we protect it? Our new study published this week in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences concludes that the Central Valley has almost three times more fresh water underground than the state estimates.