California Facing ‘Invisible Water Surcharge’

Crop water demand in California’s San Joaquin Valley has increased to the size of a major reservoir in just 12 years due to climate change, a study has found.

An integral region for agriculture, particularly in fruit and nut production, it has been subjected in the past 10 years to severe drought conditions, with extreme temperatures that have evaporated water supply.

Spring is Arriving Earlier and Warming Faster. That’s Bad News for the West’s Water Supply

Spring is arriving sooner and warming up faster than ever before, new research shows. And that means more than just early wildflower blooms across Arizona.

A longer, warmer spring can stress water supplies in the West. The longer spring season may also produce ripple effects on agriculture as water demand will likely increase, and growing seasons may shift.

Colorado River Basin-megadrought-new agreement

Water Agencies Unite and Commit to Reducing Demands on Colorado River

Recognizing that a reliable water supply is critical to all economies and communities relying on the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin, more than 30 water agencies and providers have committed to take additional actions to reducing water demands and helping protect the Colorado River system.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was delivered to the Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, municipal and public water providers in the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin affirmed their commitments to implement comprehensive and innovative water conservation programs, initiatives, policies, and actions within their communities, including:

  • Expanding water efficiency programs for indoor and outdoor water use.
  • Implementing programs and policies reducing and replacing non-functional, decorative grass by 30 percent while protecting urban landscapes and trees canopies.
  • Increasing water reuse and recycling programs where feasible.
  • Implementing water efficiency strategies and best practices, such as water loss controls, conservation-based rate structures, industrial and commercial conservation, land use coordination and other suitable conservation strategies within each community.

Colorado River Basin and megadrought

“As we consider the long-term aridification of the Colorado River Basin, the math is simple: water uses exceed water supplies,” said John Entsminger, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “But solving that equation will require all Colorado River water users across every sector to make hard decisions and be fully invested in water conservation if we are going to bring our shared river system into balance.

“This problem is of the highest magnitude, but collectively we have the resources to find the solution,” said Brenda Burman, Executive Strategy Advisor of Central Arizona Project. “The path forward will require all Colorado River water users to contribute, and Central Arizona Project continues to make investments and commitments to support the Basin to reach a sustainable water future.”

“The significance of nearly 30 municipal and industrial providers of Colorado River water signing on to this agreement is truly historic,” said Gene Shawcroft, General Manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. “The commitments of municipal and industrial water agencies in both the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins toward a unified approach to problem solving is critical in light of the current drought conditions and historic low reservoir elevations confronting the basin. I hope this agreement will provide an example of effective Basin-wide collaboration on the many Colorado River issues we face now and into the future.”

“Forging a sustainable future for the Colorado River will take a commitment from all of us to use less water. More than two dozen water agencies from cities across the Southwest have made this commitment on behalf of the millions of people they serve,” said Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This MOU is a key step towards bringing the River into balance, and powerful proof that working together, we can build solutions.”

Conservation actions, programs, policies

Under the MOU, each participating water provider will implement the conservation actions, programs and/or policies most appropriate for its individual communities and water efficiency goals. While these water agencies primarily represent urban water uses, which is only a small fraction of the Colorado River’s total water consumption, the conservation strategies outlined will help reduce demands and protect water levels in lakes Powell and Mead.

“A sustainable, long-term plan for the Colorado River Basin requires all water users to reduce water demand commensurate with what the Colorado River can realistically supply given the new normal of hotter, drier weather,” said Ron Burke, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “To this end, the Alliance for Water Efficiency commends the commitments from local water providers to expand water efficiency and conservation programs.”

In a joint letter of support, seven environmental, conservation, and non-governmental organizations called the MOU “an important step in the right direction,” further stating that “achieving these commitments is a necessary first phase to preserve the longevity of the Basin.”

Today’s announcement builds upon an initial MOU executed in August 2022 between Aurora Water, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Pueblo Water and Southern Nevada Water Authority, significantly expanding participation and commitments from water providers across the Basin to implement best practices to conserve and enhance water efficiency.

Links to Water Provider LettersJoint Letter from NGOs and Alliance for Water Efficiency Letter

Below is a list of all participating municipal and public water providers, as well as the respective media contacts:


Central Arizona Project

Crystal Thompson, , 602-321-9349

DeEtte Person, , 480-620-7685

City of Chandler

Toni Smith, , 408-782-2701

City of Mesa

Weston Brown, , 480-644-5713

City of Peoria

Briana Cortinas, , 623-773-7825

City of Phoenix

Michael Gertzman, , 602-534-1209

Athena Sanchez, , 602-261-8681

City of Tempe

Nikki Ripley, , 480-313-8850

City of Tucson

Andy Squire, , 520-306-0080

Scottsdale Water

Valerie Schneider, , 480-312-5689

Town of Gilbert

Kelsey Perry, , 480-273-0398


City of Burbank Water and Power

Jeannine Edwards, , 818-238-3856 or 818-561-8019

City of Santa Monica

Constance Farrell, , 424-280-0008

Coachella Valley Water District

Lorraine Garcia, , 760-398-2661 x2549

Eastern Municipal Water District

EMWD, Public and Government Affairs Department, 951-928-3777 x4219

Foothill Municipal Water District

Nina Jazmadarian, , 818-790-4036 x102

Long Beach Water

Lauren Gold Howland, , 562-570-2314

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Rebecca Kimitch, , 202-821-5253

Maritza Fairfield, , 909-816-7722

Rancho California Water District

Kimy Wall, , 951-401-9587

San Diego County Water Authority

Mike Lee, , 760-208-0588

Western Municipal Water District

Grace Cardenas, , 951-290-7026


Aurora Water

Greg Baker, , 303-739-7081

Castle Rock Water

Carrie Mahan Groce, , 303-660-1381

Colorado Springs Utilities

Jennifer Jordan, , 719-668-3848

Denver Water

Todd Hartman, , Media line: 303-628-6700

Travis Thompson, , Media line: 303-628-6700

Pueblo Water

Joe Cervi, , 719-584-0212

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Chris Woodka, , 719-766-4253


Southern Nevada Water Authority

Bronson Mack, , 702-822-8543


Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority

David Morris, , 505-264-5691

City of Santa Fe

Christine Chavez, , 505-955-4219


Central Utah Water Conservancy District

Lisa Anderson, , 801-226-7100

Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District

Matt Olsen, , 801-565-4300

Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities

Chloe Morroni, , 801-702-0801

Washington County Water Conservancy District

Karry Rathje, , 435-668-5622

A Water Crisis: Colorado Agriculture Facing Changes as Drought Continues

An estimated 40 million people rely on water that originates in the Colorado River Basin, but the river can no longer keep up with demand, and it’s raising serious questions about the future of water in the west.

Surrounded by bright orange pumpkins and empty shanks of corn outside his store east of Pueblo, Shane Milberger surveys his field.

2020 Urban Water Management Plan Underway

An update to the plan for meeting the region’s long-term water needs is under development by the San Diego County Water Authority, in collaboration with its 24 member agencies. Once completed, the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan will serve as the long-term guide to ensure a reliable water supply that sustains the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion economy.

The Water Authority Board of Directors’ Water Planning and Environment Committee is holding a special online meeting at 1:30 p.m. on November 12 for an update on the developing plan.

New Study says Forecasters are Overestimating Future Demand for Water

Californians have grown used to the idea that water is a precious commodity, one that we risk running out of without conservation.

A new report by the Pacific Institute suggests Californians have learned to conserve so well that water forecasters need to rethink their approach to estimating future water demand.

Latest Survey of California Snow Pack Measures Below Normal

The last seasonal survey of snow in the Sierra Nevada confirms that California had a dry winter that will leave much-needed runoff levels below normal, authorities said Thursday.

The snow was only 1 ½ inches deep at the traditional manual measuring site at Phillips Station in the range east of Sacramento, and the water contained in it was equivalent to just a half-inch, which is 3 percent of the May average for the location, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Sierra snow melt typically provides about 30% of the state’s water supply.

More broadly, 130 electronic snow sensors scattered throughout the Sierras indicated that California’s snow pack water equivalent is 37 percent of the May average.

Readings for April also were well below average.

“March and April storms brought needed snow to the Sierras, with the snow pack reaching its peak on April 9, however those gains were not nearly enough to offset a very dry January and February” and the last two weeks of higher temperatures have rapidly reduced the snow pack, said Sean de Guzman, chief of the department’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section.

The snow measurements help in predicting runoff into reservoirs that will help meet California’s water demand in the summer and fall, the water agency said.

At the moment, reservoirs are in good shape, with the six largest close to or even above their historical averages. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is currently more than 80% full, authorities said.

Driving Water Conservation

As California approaches what could be another drought, water utilities are eager to find new ways of curbing water demand. Stanford researchers have developed a machine learning model that detects unexpected water-use consumption patterns – data water utilities can use to inform resource planning and water conservation campaigns.

Western Groups Push For Water Infrastructure

More than 100 Western water and agricultural organizations are urging Congress to include rebuilding and improving water infrastructure in any construction legislation it considers. The group sent a letter March 25 to key committees and Western senators, saying investments are needed to meet current and future water demands. The group is led by the Western Growers Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, Family Farm Alliance and the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. The group noted that President Donald Trump has said rebuilding highways, roads and bridges is an area both political parties should be able to work on together. The Democratic party’s list of priorities includes an ambitious infrastructure program.

Efficiencies Lower Long-Term Water Demand Forecast For San Diego Region

Updated water-use projections for the San Diego region through 2040 are substantially lower than earlier forecasts due to efficiencies that have become standard practice at homes and businesses countywide. That’s good news because it signals the potential for lower spending on water supply development and delivery in coming decades compared to previous forecasts.