Seepage Monitors Installed at Oroville Dam

This week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will install eight new measurement devices at the base of the Oroville Dam. The devices, called piezometers will monitor seepage and will be used to confirm seepage measurements that the DWR already collects. Seepage refers to a small amount of water that can pass through the dam.

DWR said seepage is normal and expected, especially in large, earthen dams like Oroville. Seepage is measured and collected through a drainage system.

There were 56 piezometers originally installed in the dam fifty years ago which, as anticipated, have since stopped functioning. DWR plans to install additional piezometers throughout the facility in the coming years.

IRWM - SD Wild Animal Park Biofiltration Wetland

Projects Create Wetlands, Improve Water Quality in San Diego Region

Since 2005, the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program has supported and funded water conservation, water quality and resource projects throughout San Diego County.

Program partners, including staff of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, the California Department of Water Resources, and regional water industry leaders, met at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College Monday to celebrate 15 years of achievements.

The program facilitates collaboration on water resources planning and projects in the region by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders.

Collaboration improves regional water quality

Projects supported and funded by the program, or IRWM, have increased long-term water supply reliability, improved water quality, created wetlands and increased local water supply sources. Funding for the IRWM projects is provided from several propositions approved by voters and administered through the California DWR.

“Since it started, the Water Authority has been a strong supporter of the IRWM, partnering with the City and County of San Diego to develop the program,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl, in a keynote address at the Monday meeting. “Bringing diverse stakeholders together through collaboration funds water reliability projects throughout the San Diego region.”

The collaboration has resulted in improved water supply reliability through the successful funding of conservation, water reuse, and other supply projects throughout the region, she said.

Another benefit of collaborating through the program is it brings traditionally underrepresented communities to the table to have projects funded.

Environmental health and safety, open space

The San Diego IRWM program has helped fund 25 projects in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities supporting the improvement of water reliability and water reliability in all parts of the region.

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program and sponsored by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project.

The restoration of Chollas Creek was intended to improve environmental health and safety, surface water quality, and availability of green open space for Encanto, a disadvantaged urban community in San Diego.

IRWM Program - Chollas Creek - WNN

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program. Photo: Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project

Wetlands, educational opportunities

Another project funded under the IRWM program, created wetlands to improve water quality at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The biofiltration wetland project, sponsored by the San Diego Zoo Global, has also served to educate thousands of students, teachers, and park visitors through various programs.

The IRWM continues to identify opportunities to fund projects to bring multiple benefits to the region.

The program is included in California’s draft Water Resilience Portfolio, released in January. Three state agencies created the portfolio, which proposes recommended actions to help California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and other challenges.

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

California’s Winter: Wet Times, Dry Times and Water Supplies

After a wet and snowy start, California’s winter has gone bust. The 2019-2020 water year started off with robust precipitation, after a series of storms in November and early December 2019.

But the new year has not been as bountiful. Dry conditions in January and February added little to the Sierra Nevada snowpack.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack Feb 27 2020 California DWR-WNN

California’s Winter: Wet Times, Dry Times and Water Supplies

After a wet and snowy start, California’s winter has gone bust. The 2019-2020 water year started off with robust precipitation after a series of storms in November and early December 2019.

But the new year has not been as bountiful. Dry conditions in January and February added little to the Sierra Nevada snowpack.

NASA-NWS-Sierra Snowpack Comparison - Water News Network Feb 2020

Left: 2019, Right: 2020. Sierra Nevada snowpack is below normal for this time of year, at about 58% statewide. Graphic: NASA/National Weather Service via NWS Sacramento

Drought-resilient water supplies through diversification

Due to California’s climatological variability, including periods of drought, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have diversified water supply sources. Those successful efforts ensure supply reliability for the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion regional economy.

“Based on current supply levels, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies will meet anticipated demands through a combination of drought-resilient local and regional water resources,” said Goldy Herbon, Water Authority senior water resources specialist.

Water supplies will meet demand

Herbon said the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, conserved agricultural water transfers, savings from canal lining projects and continued water-use efficiency measures are among the reasons the region’s water supply will meet demand.

The multi-decade water supply diversification plan, along with major infrastructure improvements and forward-thinking policies, also promote fiscal and environmental responsibility.

“A comparison of the snowpack across the Sierra-Cascade range over the past 6 years shows the true variability of a California wet season. While numbers are similar to the 2017-2018 winter, snow did extend into somewhat lower elevations back then.” NWS Sacramento, February 26, 2020

Dry times in Northern California

While rainfall totals have been closer to average in most of Northern California, downtown Sacramento and downtown San Francisco did not receive any precipitation in February, according to the National Weather Service. The last time San Francisco saw a dry February was in 1864, according to the NWS.

NWS Sacramento Dry February 2020

Rainfall above historical average in San Diego

Southern California is faring better, with rainfall at 125% of the historical average at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.

Most major California reservoirs are at or above the historical averages for late-February.

The state’s largest six reservoirs currently hold between 92% (Oroville) and 132% (Melones) of their historical averages for February 26. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is 107% of its historical average and sits at 78% of capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Water Supply-Major Reservoirs-DWR-WNN Feb 2020

California’s largest six reservoirs hold between 92% and 132% of their historical averages for Feb. 27. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is at 107% of its historical average and is at 78% of capacity. Graphic: California Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources February 27 conducted the third manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 29 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 11.5 inches, which is 47% of the March average for this location, according to a DWR news release. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack, which provides a more accurate forecast of spring runoff.

Spring storms could boost snowpack

“Right now, 2020 is on track to be a below-average year but we could still see large storms in March and April that will improve the current snowpack,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “While periods of dry conditions are expected in California, climate change has made them more unpredictable and extreme which is why we must always use the water we have wisely.”

March April May precipitation 20-Feb-2020 NWS CPC

The seasonal outlook for March, April, and May sees below-normal chances for a wet period across California and the Southwest U.S. while most areas are favored to be warmer than usual. Graphic: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Looking ahead, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast favors above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation through May for most of California.

NWS CPC Spring 2020 temperature forecast-WNN

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast favors above-normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through May for most of California. Graphic: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Westlands Says 15% Water Allocation Is ‘Good News’ in Dry Year

Despite President Donald Trump’s highly publicized signing of a memo last week directing more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers, the Bureau of Reclamation’s initial allocations announced Tuesday more closely reflected the below-normal Sierra snowpack and scant winter rain.

Farmers in the Friant Division will receive 20% of their Central Valley Project contract allocation while South-of-Delta growers will get 15%, Reclamation officials said.

The state Department of Water Resources reports that as of Monday, the average snow water content in the Sierra was 41% of the April 1 average. Northern Sierra precipitation is about 51% of the seasonal average.

SoCal Water Managers Want to Know Who – Exactly – is Sinking the California Aqueduct

A state report released in December pinned blame for sinking along the California Aqueduct on excessive nearby groundwater pumping to irrigate vineyards and nut orchards.

That was a pretty pointed finger, but not pointed enough for some committee directors in the large and powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

They wanted names.

The issue came up at a meeting of MWD’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee on Feb. 10 where a presentation was given about subsidence along the Aqueduct. Ted Craddock, acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources gave the presentation and answered questions.

State Seek Input on Delta Tunnel Plan

The California Department of Water Resources is holding a public meeting in Brentwood, Thursday, Feb. 20 at the Brentwood Community Center from 6 – 8 p.m. to review the details of the Delta Conveyance Project

The Delta Conveyance Project is the latest iteration of the state’s plans to build a tunnel through the Delta that will convey water from the Delta’s northern reaches to a forebay near Byron. From there, water will move on to the Central Valley and Southern California through the existing State Water Project network of canals. Previously known as WaterFix, or the twin-tunnels project, Gov. Gavin Newsom reduced the project to a single tunnel last year, spurring the new initiative.

Newsom Proposes a New Approach to Reach Agreements With Water Agencies

Imagine more water flowing through the Delta during dry years, and a habitat restoration for endangered species. That’s what Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing in a new approach to reach agreements with water agencies—rather than issuing rules that are often challenged in court.

Carlos Romero, president of the Stockton Chapter of the California Striped Bass Association, said he used to fish in the Stockton area but the fish are becoming harder to find.


Opinion: Why Desalination Can Help Quench California’s Water Needs

If you’ve ever created a personal budget, you know that assigning your money to different investment strategies is a crucial component to meet your financial goals. When you stop dipping into your savings account each month, savings can begin to build.

Understanding why desalination is so critical to California’s water future is a lot like building a personal budget. With a changing climate, growing population and booming economy, we need to include desalination in the water supply equation to help make up an imported water deficit.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture recently released the Water Resilience Portfolio. In it, officials highlighted the importance of diversifying water supplies through the introduction of new water sources and preparing for new threats, including more extreme droughts.

Opinion: California’s Water Department Must Face The Reality of Climate Change and Diverse Needs

As we enter a new decade, California faces increasing environmental challenges caused by climate change, creating an uncertain future for our water resources. We need bold leadership to address these impacts. It is time for California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) to implement water policy for the state that shores up our precious waterways and diversifies water supplies in the face of these imminent threats.