Growing Returns

Arizonans have spoken: It’s time to protect rural groundwater.

Across roughly 80% of Arizona, there are virtually no groundwater regulations, meaning that anyone can drill a well and pump groundwater, even if it dries up neighboring drinking wells or depletes flows in nearby rivers and streams. It’s the land of “the deepest well wins,” putting livelihoods, communities, agriculture and ecosystems at risk.

To help address this risk, state Rep. Regina Cobb introduced legislation two years in a row that would safeguard critical groundwater supplies by providing at-risk groundwater basins or subbasins in rural Arizona the opportunity to opt in to Rural Management Areas (RMAs). Doing so would trigger the creation of a local advisory board that can leverage a suite of tools to develop a groundwater management plan that considers local needs and context.

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2021 began with a Texas-sized water crisis. In 2022, Texas needs solutions.

Last February, Texans got a terribly clear view of the fragility of their state’s water infrastructure, as a statewide freeze left millions of Texans without heat or electricity and almost half of the state’s population lost water.

This event provided a stark reminder of what’s at stake. The state’s 2022 water plan estimates that more than $80 billion in projects are needed to meet future water demands and build resilience across Texas.

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New EDF video helps Texans visualize and protect the groundwater they cannot see

Protecting Texas’ vulnerable groundwater supplies raises a challenging dilemma: How can you motivate people to stand up for an underground resource they cannot see?

So we made a video to bring this vital resource to life.

This year, EDF released “Beneath the Surface and Above: The Journey of Groundwater.” The video combines beautiful natural footage from filmmaker Ben Masters and others with computer-generated animation to illuminate the connection between Texas’ groundwater supplies and iconic rivers and springs — and to show how they all need to be protected to safeguard the state’s people, economy and environment.

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Wells and springs are drying up in Texas. Here is what leaders can do about it.

Millions of Texans are in danger of seeing their water supplies dry up as groundwater is being pumped out of aquifers across the state at an unsustainable pace.

Fortunately, there is still time for Texas to turn the tide and preserve groundwater for future generations.

Those are the conclusions of a new pair of reports released by EDF and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

The first report Five Gallons in a Ten Gallon Hat: Groundwater Sustainability in Texas by Robert Mace, executive director of the Meadows Center, shows Texas is losing groundwater at nearly twice the maximum sustainable rate. Moreover, according to long-term management plans approved by local groundwater agencies, overpumping is likely to increase in coming years unless officials change course.

A second report co-authored by EDF, Advancing Groundwater Sustainability in Texas: A Guide to Existing Authorities and Management Tools for Groundwater Conservation Districts and Communities, lays out a path for addressing the looming groundwater crisis utilizing existing law.

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The Grand Canyon Protection Act would advance water security and environmental justice at critical time

Climate change and drought are bringing home the urgent need to protect the Grand Canyon and secure clean water supplies for all communities in the Colorado River Basin. With the compounding threat of uranium mining, the stakes are high in the Grand Canyon — a global treasure, economic driver for Arizona, and place of great cultural and spiritual importance to at least 12 sovereign indigenous nations.

If passed, the Grand Canyon Protection Act would make permanent the 20-year temporary ban (enacted in 2012) on new uranium and other hard rock mining on about 1 million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Tom O’Halleran and Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, all Arizona Democrats. It has passed out of the House but has not yet received a vote in the Senate.

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Capturing water from atmospheric rivers will help build drought resilience in California. Here’s how.

This blog was co-authored by Nicole Schmidt, a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

Several locations in California set all-time 24-hour rainfall records this past weekend when an atmospheric river delivered much needed precipitation as the majority of the state remains in extreme drought conditions.

In Sacramento, this wettest day on record followed the longest consecutive dry spell on record amid California’s second driest year.

As scientists have been predicting, climate change is causing more dramatic extremes in weather — both wet and dry — and that pendulum swung very dramatically to the wet side over the weekend.

Consequently, it’s critical we prepare now to capture and store water during these shorter, intense wet periods so that more water is available during the inevitable increasingly severe drought years ahead. Read More »

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Measuring water use in California’s Delta is a “fool’s errand.” OpenET will change that.

As the hub of California’s water system, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is one of the most hydrologically complex and hotly contested areas in the state, if not the world.

That’s according to Brett Baker, a sixth-generation pear farmer and attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency, who also studied biology and fish in the Delta at UC Davis. The agency is one of three in the Delta that provided funding to OpenET, a new online water data platform that lets farmers and water managers easily track how much water crops use.

Starting in 2022, the state will allow farmers to use OpenET to report their annual water use in the Delta, which supplies water to 25 million people and 3 million acres of Central Valley farmland.

I talked to Brett about why this change is so important.

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3 acciones críticas para la equidad del agua en las comunidades latinas de California — ¡apúrense!

Es una paradoja penosa para California, la quinta economía más grande del mundo: Algunos de los mismos trabajadores agrícolas que recogen nuestra comida no pueden beber un vaso de agua limpia, o ni siquiera tener agua, en fregadero de la cocina.

He trabajado en temas de justicia ambiental en EDF durante los últimos seis años, y he tenido la oportunidad de hablar con algunos de estos trabajadores esenciales, muchos de los cuales provienen de países de habla hispana como yo.

A medida que el Mes de la Herencia Hispana llega a su fin, la sequía en California avanza obstinadamente. Es importante reconocer cuán importantes son estos trabajadores del campo que cosechan los alimentos en todo nuestro estado y más allá.

Más allá del reconocimiento que se merecen los trabajadores del campo, los líderes estatales y locales deben tomar al menos tres pasos críticos para eliminar esta paradoja:

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3 critical actions for water equity in California’s Latino communities – ¡apúrense!

Lea en español

It is a painful paradox for California, the world’s fifth-largest economy: Some of the very same farmworkers who pick our food can’t drink a glass of clean water — or any water in some cases — from their kitchen sink.

While working on environmental justice issues at EDF for the past six years, I have had the opportunity to talk with some of these essential workers, many of whom come from Spanish-speaking countries like me.

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close while the drought in California stubbornly marches on, it’s important to recognize how instrumental these farmworkers are to providing food throughout our state and beyond.

But besides recognition, state and local leaders need to take at least three critical steps to eliminate this paradox:

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Developing rural water leaders as drought and water scarcity intensify

An immigrant who left Mexico when he was young to make a new life in California. The owner of a small family farm who grew up in the Central Valley. A water utility operator who served in the Navy.

These are among the diverse participants who graduated at the end of July from our fourth cohort of the Water Leadership Institute, a program developed to help rural communities more effectively participate in water decision-making and policy.

EDF partnered with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and Self Help Enterprises six years ago, after passage of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), to develop the Water Leadership Institute. The West Turlock Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) joined forces with EDF and RCAC to bring the institute to Stanislaus County for this fourth installment, which was hosted online due to COVID-19.

Over 15 weeks, I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know these leaders better as they developed skills and understanding that will help them become stronger advocates for their water resources and their communities.

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