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West’s Active Winter So Far Has Had A Huge Impact On Drought

Drought conditions have dramatically improved this winter in the West and this trend is expected to persist into the spring. A dominate weather pattern featuring a southward dip in the jet stream, or upper-level trough over the western U.S., has allowed a series of precipitation-rich storm systems to track through the region, especially over the last month.

San Diego County’s Long-Time Water Chief Retires

The San Diego County Water Authority’s General Manager notified the region’s water board on Wednesday that she is retiring. Maureen Stapleton has held the top job at the agency for more than two decades. She led the Water Authority through the complicated settlement negotiations surrounding the Colorado River. That deal cleared the way for a huge water transfer with the Imperial Valley that provides a significant chunk of local drinking water. Stapleton also encouraged projects like the Carlsbad Desalination plant as a way to diversify the region’s water supply.

Arizona, Other Western States Unlikely To Meet Colorado River Drought Plan Deadline

The odds are looking increasingly poor that Arizona and other Western states will meet a March 4 federal deadline for wrapping up Colorado River drought plans. That’s not just because of the ongoing conflict over a now-shelved water rights bill for Eastern Arizona that prompted a threat from the Gila River Indian Community to bolt this state’s drought plan. It’s also not just because of a Southern California irrigation district’s efforts to secure $200 million in U.S. funds to shore up the dying Salton Sea. Without that money, the Imperial Irrigation District — which holds more Colorado River rights than anyone else — says it won’t sign onto the drought plan that is supposed to cover all seven river basin states.

State Water Project Allocations Increased To 35 Percent

As a result of improved water supply conditions, the California Department of Water Resources on Wednesday announced an increase in 2019 State Water Project allocations. State Water Project contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are set to receive 35 percent of their requests for the 2019 calendar year, up from 15 percent allocation announced last month. Allocations are reviewed monthly based on snowpack and runoff information and are typically finalized by May.

See All That Water Flowing Into The Ocean? California Bill Aims To Save It

In stormy winters like this, residents of drought-prone Southern California fret about how much rainfall flows into the ocean, a reminder of the amounts of water the region is wasting instead of saving for good use. A new bill by a San Fernando Valley state senator aims to fix that. The bill introduced Monday by Sens. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would require huge reductions in the volume of treated wastewater discharged into the Pacific Ocean and California estuaries.

OPINION: Delta Interests Should Seize The Opportunity To Cease Water Fights

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is a major source of water for cities and farms across the state, and a major source of water conflict. In a Sacramento Bee commentary two years ago, we and our colleague Brian Gray promoted a grand compromise for the Delta. We suggested that the three broad interests fighting about its future—water users, environmental groups, and Delta residents—give up something in order to reduce conflict and make progress. During his first state of the state address, Gov. Gavin Newsom opened the door to just such a compromise.

Water World Shakeups

The longtime head of the San Diego County Water Authority announced Wednesday she is retiring after 23 years. We profiled Maureen Stapleton, the agency’s general manager, last year. She helped the region secure its own supplies of water, making her a respected civic leader. But amid a water war she helped launch and the bitter, personal disputes it’s set off, it became an open question whether Stapleton would be able to end her career on a good note. Last year, one of the Water Authority’s board members said an intoxicated Stapleton came up to him at an industry event and accused him of sleeping with an employee at a rival water agency. There’s no evidence such an affair happened.