On the Water Front

Drops of wisdom for Colorado legislators

The Colorado legislative session has begun at a key time for water in Colorado and the west. Though we’re off to a solid snow year, the Colorado River is crashing and the prolonged drought we’re in requires improvements to how we manage water. Fortunately, both Speaker McCluskie and Senate President Fenberg have prioritized water for their chambers. And while advancing water law and policy at the capitol is notoriously complex and fraught, we hope other members of the general assembly will follow the footsteps of their leadership. Unfortunately, there’s no quick solution to fix water scarcity in Colorado; that means we must begin engaging the multitude of issues required to tackle this challenge immediately. So, EDF has put together the following guiding principles to help legislators create the most durable, multi-faceted solutions for Colorado water management and law-making.                                                                                                           Read More »

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Exciting new partnerships help Groundwater Accounting Platform expand to new regions

This blog is co-authored with the California Water Data Consortium.
By Mike Myatt (Senior Director, Climate Resilient Water Systems – EDF) and Hannah Ake (Senior Program Manager – California Water Data Consortium)

A key first step toward managing groundwater sustainably in California, as required by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), is tracking how much water is being used and how much is available – otherwise known as water accounting – because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. This is especially true during drought.

To help groundwater agencies more easily track and communicate supply and demand, state water agencies, the California Water Data Consortium, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a partnership last year to make an open-source Groundwater Accounting Platform (Platform) available to groundwater agencies. In the exciting latest news, three more water agencies have signed on to use the platform and help expand its functionality as the Department of Water Resources has committed more funding and expertise to further develop it. The Platform offers a readily accessible source code and is a cost-effective option for water managers to adapt and customize accounting practices; rather than developing their own tools from scratch. 

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Texas is drying up. We better protect our groundwater.

It is obvious to any Texan that we are in a horrific drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 80% of Texas has been facing drought conditions most of the year. Extreme or worse drought now covers 51% of the state.

The drought is hurting water supplies, particularly in Central Texas, which has received as little as 5 inches of rain since October in some areas, well below average. Coleman County had its driest January-to-June period on record going back to 1895.

Groundwater functions as a buffer to streams and rivers during periods of low rainfall, sustaining vital baseflow and spring flow.  But increased groundwater pumping coupled with a prolonged decrease in aquifer recharge from little rainfall causes the connection between rivers and groundwater to be lost and rivers and springs to dry up.

Although it will rain again, the reality is that Texas is becoming more arid. In the future, we will see less rain and more days of triple-digit temperatures.  As Texas weather changes, so must our methods of managing groundwater, which will become increasingly precious.

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California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program is already oversubscribed. Here are 3 features of successful applications.

Last month, the state of California reached an important milestone in its effort to proactively address water scarcity and the changing agricultural landscape: The Department of Conservation awarded over $40 million to regional organizations to strategically repurpose previously irrigated farmland in ways that create new public benefits while reducing groundwater use.

The highly competitive Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP) received 12 applications requesting over $110 million  — more than twice the funding available during the program’s inaugural year. The four successful proposals, which received $10 million each, came from critically overdrafted groundwater subbasins in the San Joaquin and Salinas valleys. Here are three common features that gave the successful applications a competitive edge.

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California’s new farmland repurposing program requires community engagement. This guide describes how.

Land Repurposing Community Engagement GuideMany regions in California are embarking on a new era of water and land management strategies as local agencies implement sustainability initiatives and climate change intensifies droughts and water scarcity.

However, too often low-income rural communities have had little opportunity to influence land and water decisions that directly impact — and often harm — them, resulting in such outcomes as wells drying up and limited access to parks.

California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program aims to ensure these communities as well as small-scale farmers are more involved in land and water use planning by making their engagement a requirement for funding recipients.

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