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Farm Leaders: Federal Water Rules are Game Changers

Scott VanderWal came across the South Dakota border to southwest Minnesota’s Farmfest to scare farmers. The American Farm Bureau vice president wasted no time doing that as keynote speaker Wednesday before a panel launched into a water issues discussion. “Right this minute, a California farmer is in the legal battle of his life over Waters of the U.S.,” the Volga, S.D., farmer said about rules federal authorities have released, but courts have put on hold until court cases can be decided.


U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker visits Fresno, Hears Water Concerns

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker made a brief visit to Fresno on Wednesday, where she talked with farmers and agriculture officials about trade, economic opportunities and, primarily, water. “She was well briefed,” said Rep. Jim Costa, the Fresno Democrat who invited Pritzker to visit. “She knew the challenges created for water users here in the Valley.” Costa said Pritzker talked for 30 to 40 minutes about efforts by the U.S. Department of Commerce to improve economic activity for businesses, as well as business opportunities and the impact of trade for California.

Suit: California Failed to Study Oil Well Impact on Water

Environmentalists sued state agencies Wednesday to halt oil well injections into a federally protected aquifer near California’s Central Coast. California oil and gas regulators failed to assess environmental consequences before forwarding a so-called aquifer exemption to federal officials for final approval, the Center for Biological Diversity said in the lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Water Savings Drop in California in June After Restrictions Lifted. Is it a Trend?

State officials will continue closely watching water conservation efforts this summer after statewide savings dropped in June – although some still praised the 21.5 percent savings. Water districts in Orange County largely mirrored the state’s trends, with overall water usage climbing. State Water Resources Control Board leaders released new data Tuesday showing June’s water conservation was several percentage points less than May (28 percent) and less than June 2015 (27.5 percent). The state uses 2013 as a base year for comparison. In all, the state saved 46.6 billion gallons of water in June, compared with 60.6 billion gallons in June 2015, according to the figures.

How Well are Southern Californians Saving Water Without Being Told to?

In June, state officials ended a mandatory conservation program that had been in place for a year. Absent the program, the state as a whole used 14 billion gallons more this June than June 2015, which was the first month of state-imposed conservation targets. Here in the hottest, most populous part of the state, we used about 2 billion more gallons. Of nearly 200 local agencies reporting, about 8 in 10 used more water.

The ‘New Normal’ For Wildfires In California

Blame the increase in frequency and severity of wildfires in California on drought and climate change. As the number of fires goes up each year, so does the costs of suppression. Those firefighting costs have also increased because more people are living in what fire scientists call the “urban-wildland interface.” “It just shows you the cost escalation because of just the way we’ve chosen to live in our landscape,” says Scott Stephens, Professor of Fire Science at UC Berkeley and co-director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the university.

BLOG: What We Can Learn About How the French Manage Groundwater

France and California have different environmental, agricultural, economic, institutional and cultural contexts. However, both are moving to more local management of groundwater. In California, the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) required the creation of local groundwater sustainable agencies (GSA) and groundwater sustainability plans (GSP) to end groundwater overdraft and other undesirable conditions by 2040.

France has a similar water policy reform process. The 2006 French water law (published by the Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise, JORF, 2006) shifted from centralized management of individual withdrawals to decentralized management of collective withdrawals.

Feds to Take New Look at Delta, Endangered Fish Species

Scientists from two federal agencies are about to overhaul the rules governing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, potentially increasing protections for endangered fish populations and limiting the amount of water pumped to Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will re-examine the nearly decade-old environmental regulations covering the Delta water pumps – rules that some experts say have been rendered nearly obsolete by drought and the devastation to endangered species. The old rules will remain in effect during the review, which could take two years or longer.