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water

Kerry Klein / KVPR

The winter of 2016 to 2017 was extreme. Not only did it put an end to an extended drought in most of California, it delivered far more rain than average, and even set some rainfall records.

The state experienced a different kind of extreme in 1862, when the state was pounded by storm after storm over a short period of time, which caused what some called megafloods—the likes of which we haven’t seen since.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The California Water Commission delivered bad news last Friday to the backers of a proposed new dam on the San Joaquin River near Fresno. Supporters had hoped to receive around $1 billion in funding for the $2.7 billion project from the money voters approved in the 2014 Proposition 1 water bond. Instead, the commission awarded Temperance Flat only $171 million. Other proposed storage facilities fared better, such as the Sites Reservoir, which scored nearly $1 billion in funding. So what are the winners and losers saying?

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno has long relied on groundwater to meet its needs, but a new surface water treatment plant is slated to begin operating this summer. While the city faced complications with their last treatment plant, they’re hoping the lessons learned help solve problems before they start.

Fresno’s new Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant is huge, and built to do one thing: Treat water from the Kings River, and send it out to Fresno residents.

Westlands Water District website

It wasn’t a "Miracle March" but last month's spring storms helped turn around what might have been a devastating year for California’s water supplies into one that is merely depressing. But was it too late for many valley farmers? We spoke with Johnny Amaral, deputy general manager for external affairs for Westlands Water District on Valley Edition. He joined us to talk about how this year is shaping up for valley growers, and also about some other issues in the news.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new report from the Visalia-based Community Water Center indicates that nearly 500 local water board seats have gone uncontested in recent elections. In the southern San Joaquin Valley, the report finds that 87 percent of seats on public water boards went uncontested. When only one candidate is seeking a seat, the election for that seat is not held.

Community Water Center

More than 300 California communities lack access to clean drinking water. A disproportionately high number of those communities lie in the San Joaquin Valley, as we reported in our 2017 series Contaminated. Last fall, a bill with a proposed solution passed the state senate but has since remained in limbo, receiving both broad support and opposition—even in the San Joaquin Valley.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new study identifies those San Joaquin Valley residents without access to drinking water, but a solution may be close at hand.

Hundreds of thousands residents in the San Joaquin Valley lack access to clean drinking water. This is especially common in unincorporated communities categorized as disadvantaged, which are also overwhelmingly Hispanic.

Creative Commons user Pmk58

California has a new water problem, but it's not drought, and it's not endangered fish. Instead it's a roughly 20-pound creature that's described as an "invasive swamp rodent" called the nutria. It's already causing problems in Merced County wetlands and state officials worry the pesky and prolific rodent could further destroy already fragile ecosystems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta and threaten the state's network of canals and levees.

Florence Low / Department of Water Resources

The process of bringing running water to over 700 homes in East Porterville is now complete. The State Department of Water Resources made the announcement today, bringing an end to a saga that gained national attention during California’s most recent drought. Hundreds of homes in the unincorporated area east of the City of Porterville had their private wells go dry during the drought.  Many residents were forced to turn to bottled water, or water delivered to their homes by trucks.

CA WaterFix

The California Department of Water Resources has announced it will scale back Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two water tunnels beneath the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta. Under the proposal released today the California WaterFix would be broken up into two phases. The first phase would include only one tunnel with a capacity of 6,000 cfs. A second, smaller tunnel with a capacity of 3,000 cfs could be added at a later date.

By some measures, Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in California. His empire of almonds, pomegranates, pistachios and citrus covers over 120,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Known today as The Wonderful Company, Resnick and his wife Lynda have grown their multi-billion dollar fortune on products like POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Wonderful Halos mandarin oranges. And despite California’s drought, in recent years they’ve kept growing, thanks to shrewd management of their most precious resource - water.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The 2016-2017 water year was one of the wettest on record in California. While all that water in the system was enough to officially end the state’s drought, its impact on endangered species is another story, especially when it comes to the Delta smelt. A survey conducted in October 2017 by state and federal agencies found only 2 of the fish, the lowest number on record.

Laura Tsutsui / KVPR

The San Joaquin River is the second largest in California. Last year, it was listed by an environmental group as the second most endangered river in America. Recent years of drought haven’t taken their toll, but an exceptionally wet 2017 spelled optimism for many involved in the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. While significant obstacles to bring back the river’s salmon remain, there’s also progress swimming right below the surface.

Nearly 40 years ago, back when Peter Moyle was a professor at Fresno State, the San Joaquin River was different. 

Westlands Water District website

Growers in the Westlands Water District hope congressional approval of a deal with the federal government could resolve a long-standing problem on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley - drainage. However final approval of the deal reached in 2015 remains both elusive and controversial.  

Westlands Water District website

Last week was a bad one for one of California Governor Jerry Brown’s biggest priorities – the project known as California WaterFix. The board of the Westlands Water District voted 7-1 to reject a proposal to participate in, and help pay for the $16 billion twin tunnel project. That vote has left many asking whether the project has a future. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California farmers and environmental justice leaders are joining forces to support a bill that would help fund a clean drinking water program.

From Keith Pickett’s front yard just east of Bakersfield you can see the trees of where the official city begins. He’s on the board of a tiny water system with less than 30 homes. It’s called the East Wilson Road Water Company and the water he’s washing his dishes with is polluted with nitrates.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Oil companies in California produce more water than oil. In the San Joaquin Valley that also has created a problem: what to do with all of that unwanted water? In most cases that wastewater is injected back into the ground, deep below the aquifer. But in some cases, injections may have contaminated federally protected aquifers that could be clean enough for drinking water.

Friant Water Authority

A section of the the Friant-Kern Canal in Tulare County is sinking so much that it's lost about 60 percent of its flow.

Doug DeFlitch with the Friant Water Authority says the canal that helps irrigate a million acres of farmland has sunk two to three feet in some places over about a 25 mile area. The original design capacity in the area is about 4,000 cubic feet per second and he says it’s dropped to 1,600 cfs. 

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Drive through the pomegranate and pistachio orchards between Highways 41 and 99 and you may stumble upon Valley Teen Ranch, a cluster of residential homes where juvenile offenders come to be rehabilitated.

Today, a few men are in their living room playing a basketball video game and making small talk with Connie Clendenan, the ranch’s CEO. “I'm for the Warriors, don't we have them?” asks Clendenan. “I'm from Oakland, so yeah,” one of the men laughs.

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