Tag Archives: By L. Owens Viani

Farm To Water Table

California repurposes farmland to save its water supply.

By Lisa Owens Viani

Orchards planted in the old Tulare Lake bed were flooded in atmospheric river storms.Ken James/California Department of Water Resources
Orchards planted in the old Tulare Lake bed were flooded in atmospheric river storms. Photo by Ken James/California Department of Water Resources.

Last winter, 31 atmospheric rivers drenched California after an extended drought, filling the state’s reservoirs to the brim for the first time in years and enabling the state’s two main surface water supply systems—which bring fresh water from the mountains to thirsty cities and farms via a complex network of reservoirs, canals, and pipes—to provide all of their promised water allocations. Massive, long-disappeared wetlands such as Tulare Lake in the southern San Joaquin Valley reemerged, and other parts of the valley were still underwater in late spring. But despite the soaking, the state continues to plan for a hotter, drier future, including ways to recharge parched aquifers. “This year was an exception to the rule,” says Andrew Schwartz, the lead scientist and manager of the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re in an aridifying climate and things will just continue to get drier.” Continue reading Farm To Water Table

A Star on the Horizon

Indigenous landscape designer Tim Lehman helps move a master plan and a mission forward.

By Lisa Owens Viani

Lush, Green Vegetation Around Ponds
Volunteers replanted the areas around three large ponds with
native and Indigenous food plants. Photo by Tim Lehman.

After Native Americans occupied Fort Lawton—today part of Seattle’s Discovery Park—in a peaceful protest in the early 1970s, the city negotiated a long-term leaseback of 20 acres of the 534-acre site with the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. “The land was supposed to be given back to the local tribe from which it was taken, but that didn’t really happen,” says Meghan Jernigan, a traditional medicine program director with United Indians, which led the protest. “There wasn’t a lot of political support, but a growing, cross-cultural coalition made this space thrive and allowed for development of the Daybreak Star Cultural Center.” Continue reading A Star on the Horizon

Game Changer

Shorter, wilder courses and ample room for habitat are just some of the transformations coming to golf.

By Lisa Owens Viani

San Geronimo Golf Course
Ephemeral drainages will be restored in Larsen Meadow, the former back nine of San Geronimo Golf Course. Photo by Erica Williams, courtesy Trust for Public Land.

One outcome of the last housing boom was a glut of golf courses built to market new suburban developments. As courses have closed or sat vacant, planners and communities have debated their next best use.

Continue reading Game Changer

Tier Drops

Water out West is disappearing. Seven states, 30 tribes, and millions of people will need to adjust.

By Lisa Owens Viani

The Central Arizona Project carries Colorado River water across a stretch of desert north of Bouse, Arizona. Photo © Ted Wood/The Water Desk.

In early August 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared the first ever Tier 1 shortage for the Colorado River, based on the agency’s projection that Lake Mead would drop below a threshold of 1,075 feet above sea level in January. Water levels in the river’s two main reservoirs—Lake Powell (behind Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona) and Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam on the Arizona–Nevada border)—are now at their lowest since they were filled and flows in the river have declined. Continue reading Tier Drops

One Big Picture

A cool map for a warming watershed arrives at the right moment.

By Lisa Owens Viani

As the western United States continues to wither in an extended drought, the Colorado River’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have fallen to their lowest levels since they were first filled—Lake Mead in 1935 and Lake Powell in 1963—according to John Fleck, a professor of practice in water policy and governance in the Department of Economics and director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Continue reading One Big Picture

A Landmark Law Passed for Land and Water Conservation

The Great American Outdoors Act permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

By Lisa Owens Viani

Congress puts permanent cash behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improvements to national parks. C-SPAN screen capture by LAM.

On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a milestone law to lock in permanent federal funding for public lands and parks. Continue reading A Landmark Law Passed for Land and Water Conservation

Floods that Know No Bounds

This article is also available in Spanish. (For a full list of translated articles, please click here.)

Two countries. One troubled watershed. No solution—yet.

By Lisa Owens Viani

Named for the walnut trees that used to line its banks, the Arroyo de los Nogales, a tributary of the Santa Cruz River, flows from south to north, descending from the high Sonoran desert in Mexico into Arizona. Continue reading Floods that Know No Bounds