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‘Extreme Year’: Past 12 Months Among the Driest Ever in California History

The current ongoing two-year dry period in California, punctuated by the third-driest water year on record for the Central Sierra, is part of California’s overall arid fate so far in the 21st century, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

The Golden State’s hydrology now increasingly resembles conditions in the Colorado River Basin this century, where multiple, consecutive, drier-than-average years are mixed with an occasional wet year. California’s last wet water year was 2016-2017, the second-wettest on record.

As Drought Worsens, California Farmers Are Being Paid Not to Grow Crops

Green fields of alfalfa and cotton rolled past as Brad Robinson drove through the desert valley where his family has farmed with water from the Colorado River for three generations. Stopping the truck, he stepped onto a dry, brown field where shriveled remnants of alfalfa crunched under his boots.

The water has been temporarily shut off on a portion of Robinson’s land. In exchange, he’s receiving $909 this year for each acre of farmland left dry and unplanted. The water is instead staying in Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, to help slow the unrelenting decline of the largest reservoir in the country.

New Water Year Begins with Most of the Basin in Drought

October marks the beginning of a new calendar for those who measure and manage the west’s water. The good news? Across the Colorado River basin, there’s a lot less “exceptional drought.”

The amount of land under the absolute driest designation is down about 60% in less than a year. The bad news is that more than 90% of the basin remains in some level of drought.

A Bitter Dispute Ends as California Water Agencies Pledge Cooperation on Colorado River

Two years ago, a pact to safeguard the West’s shrinking water supplies took effect at a ceremony high above the Colorado River.

On a terrace overlooking Hoover Dam, water officials from seven states that rely on the river had gathered to sign a deal in hopes of preventing reservoirs from falling to critically low levels.

San Diego’s Water Recyclers and High Bill Payers Draw Pool Noodles

The cost of getting water from the drought-stressed Colorado River is spiraling and parts of San Diego County with some of the highest bills and big water recycling projects on the horizon seem to be drawing pool noodles together.

That is, in any case, the rough sense that stuck out to me as I re-shuffled through my notes from last week’s story about huge, forecasted increases in the price of Colorado River water, which is controlled by San Diego County Water Authority.

A Tiny Piece of Plastic Is Helping Farmers Use Far Less Water

On the bone-dry western flank of Arizona, where the Colorado River Basin meets the Mojave Desert, sit 11,000 acres of alfalfa, sorghum, wheat, and Sudan grass belonging to the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), all destined to be harvested and sold for animal feed. For anything to grow here, irrigation is a must. Less than a quarter inch of rain has fallen so far this year, according to Josh Moore, who manages the farm on behalf of his tribe.

Opinion: How to Make Your Voice Heard on the Future of the Threatened Salton Sea

The 22-year-long drought in the Colorado River Basin is growing more severe. The levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell are lower than they have ever been. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has ordered mandatory cutbacks of water deliveries in 2022 with more cuts predicted in the following two years.

Experts are acknowledging that the river has changed fundamentally: “No doubt climate change is real. We’re seeing it on the Colorado River every day,” as an official quoted in an Aug. 17 Desert Sun article said.

Metropolitan Water District, Supplier of Most of Pasadena’s Water, Partners with Other Agencies to Conserve Water in Lake Mead

In response to worsening drought conditions, the board of Southern California’s regional water wholesaler and other water agencies across the Southwest have announced a partnership with the federal government to fund a short-term agricultural land fallowing program in California that will conserve water on a large scale.

The partnership among the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Central Arizona Project, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the Palo Verde Irrigation District is expected to help conserve up to 180,000 acre-feet of water over the next three years, amounting to about a 3-feet increase in Lake Mead’s water level.

As the West Bakes, Utah Forges Ahead with Water Pipeline

As drought and climate change strangle the Colorado River, a small county in Utah nevertheless continues forging ahead with a billion-dollar pipeline to suck more water from it to sustain its growing population.

The proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a 140-mile straw from one of the country’s largest reservoirs to Washington County in southwestern Utah, has sparked backlash from other states in the Colorado River basin and environmentalists, and now has the Biden administration in a difficult position.

Drought Could Result in Water Reduction Mandates

Continued droughts are forcing the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to ask water agencies to voluntarily conserve water.

Jeff Stephenson, the water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority, said the county is decades ahead in conservation practices.

“Here in San Diego we have a great history of water efficiency. We cut water use per person in half over the last 30 years,” he said.

The supply alert comes a day after the first ever water shortage was reported on the Colorado River.

Although that shortage mostly affects Nevada and Arizona, San Diego does receive 60% of transfer water from the Colorado River.

“What puts us in a better position versus other parts of the state, especially Northern California, is 30 years ago when we started diversifying our water supplies,” Stephenson said.