Water news you need to know

A collection of top water news from around California and the West compiled each weekday. Send any comments or article submissions to Foundation News & Publications Director Chris Bowman.

Subscribe to our weekday emails to have news delivered to your inbox at about 9 a.m. Monday through Friday except for holidays.

For breaking news, follow us on Twitter.

Check out our special news feeds devoted to:

Please Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing. Also, the headlines below are the original headlines used in the publication cited at the time they are posted here and do not reflect the stance of the Water Education Foundation, an impartial nonprofit that remains neutral.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California increases water allocation after wet winter, but fish protections limit pumping

With runoff from this year’s snow and rain boosting the levels of California’s reservoirs, state water managers on Tuesday announced plans to increase deliveries of supplies from the State Water Project to 40% of full allotments, up from 30% last month. The increased allocation, which had been widely expected, means that suppliers serving 27 million Californians, as well as some farming areas, will have substantially more water available to use and store this year. But the Department of Water Resources also said officials have had to limit pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta this year because of environmental protections for native fish.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Probation under SGMA will cost the region, farmers say

Farmers in the critically overdrafted Tulare Lake Subbasin in the San Joaquin Valley are bracing for escalating costs as state and local agencies assess fees on wells and groundwater pumped. For the first time, the California State Water Resources Control Board last week placed the subbasin on probationary status as part of regulations under the state’s landmark 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. … Kings County Farm Bureau Executive Director Dusty Ference said new state and local groundwater-related fees will impact farmers and communities. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: What are baseflow droughts—and why should we care?

Last fall, UC Riverside’s Dr. Hoori Ajami co-authored a study looking at how long-term droughts are impacting river flows across the US. We asked Dr. Ajami and The Nature Conservancy’s lead river scientist, Dr. Bronwen Stanford, to tell us about the study and its implications. First, what is a “baseflow drought” and how is it distinct from a precipitation drought? Hoori Ajami: Water in a stream has two sources: precipitation and groundwater. “Baseflow” is groundwater’s contribution to a stream’s flow. We were specifically interested to see how a river’s baseflow changes after a precipitation drought. …”

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

What’s being done to save California salmon as populations continue to decline?

From the Sacramento River to the coast, salmon populations have struggled to survive, and fishing for salmon in California has been canceled for the second season in a row, marking the third season in the state’s history a fishing ban has been in place. The heart of the problem: dams and climate change. …  Steve Lindley, director of NOAA’s Fisheries Ecology Division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said the removal of dams from Oregon to Northern California on the Klamath will help with survival even if drought returns.   

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Breaking down new rules about ‘forever chemicals’

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, can be found in those items and hundreds of other household products. the chemicals have made their way into our showers, sinks and drinking glasses — a 2023 study detected PFAS in nearly half of the nation’s tap water. … For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency is regulating PFAS. This month, the E.P.A. announced that it would require municipal water systems to remove six forever chemicals from tap water. Lisa Friedman, a reporter on the Climate desk at The New York Times, wrote about the new rules.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: Sites Reservoir project is huge boondoggle with harmful effects

When Californians voted for Proposition 1 in 2014, they had every reason to expect sound investments in climate-resilient water projects. And all but one of the projects selected to receive the proposition’s $2.7 billion in water supply funding fulfill those criteria.They replenish groundwater basins and enhance the storage capacity of existing reservoirs to better withstand droughts — benefits that are realized by all people across the state. Unfortunately, the one project that does not measure up — the Sites Reservoir Project — would be publicly funded to the tune of nearly $900 million. 
-Written by Max Gomberg, a former California State Water Resources Control Board climate adviser and a senior policy consultant and board member of the California Water Impact Network.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Woodlake residents sue government entities over flood damage; glad to see progress on infrastructure projects

More than a year after floods devastated the small town of Woodlake in Tulare County, residents finally feel hopeful about the future thanks to new infrastructure projects and an ongoing lawsuit they are bringing against local governments and other agencies. In March of 2023, homes in northwest Woodlake were hit with floods after historic storms and snowpack brought a deluge onto the valley floor. It took many residents months and tens of thousands of dollars to repair their homes. Residents banded together and took legal action against what they said was a government failure to properly prepare and respond to the floods. 

Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

Listen: Clean air and water could become a fundamental right in CA

CA Assemblymember Isaac Bryan’s Green Amendment would ensure Californians have the right to clean air and water. Would it bring real changes?

Aquafornia news Washington Examiner

Arizona Democrats stray from abortion message and focus on water in rural areas

Arizona Democrats are looking to capture voters mindful of one resource that is sparse in the desert state: water. As political battles over abortion and the southern border hit close to home for some Arizonans, record-setting high-temperature summers and droughts worry many. Democrats look to rein in rural voters who have turned on the party by framing water as a “life or death” matter going into the 2024 elections. … In tandem, Mayes and Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) have cracked down on controversial farms that had unlimited access to the state’s limited groundwater supply. Last year, the pair ended a contract with a Saudi Arabian company, Fondomonte, that grew alfalfa in Arizona and then shipped the hay back to the Middle East. Under the contract from former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, the company was given unlimited access to groundwater in Arizona.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: Making every day Earth Day – Analyzing data with the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis

Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day, which originally started in the 1970s with a focus on recycling, using less electricity, and conserving water. Fast forward to today, Earth Day has become so much more and is everything from mitigating the impacts of climate change to environmental justice. For environmental scientists like me, doing research in various ecosystems on all sorts of species, every day can begin to feel like Earth Day. After all, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, we are doing everything we can to improve our corner of the world. 

Aquafornia news Mesa County

News release: County contributes $1 million to the Shoshone Water Rights

On April 23, during the administrative public hearing of the Board of Mesa County Commissioners, they approved a million-dollar contribution toward the permanent protection of the most senior, non-consumptive water right on the Colorado River — the Shoshone water rights. “Mesa County’s $1 million investment in the Shoshone water rights is not just a financial commitment, but a pledge to our community’s future,” said Bobbie Daniel, Chair of the Board of Mesa County Commissioners. “By safeguarding these rights, Mesa County ensures that the West Slope’s lifeblood — our beloved Colorado River — continues to sustain our families, farms, and natural habitats. …”

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Fresno State News

News release: Fresno State makes waves in water education with new minor

Fresno State is introducing a groundbreaking new minor, in collaboration with the California Water Institute, focusing on multiple facets of the water industry for students to add to their educational plan. … This new water minor is designed for students who want to learn more about water systems in California, as well as those interested in water-related careers after graduation. The minor is open to all disciplines at Fresno State and allows students of any study background to learn more about the water management challenges that impact a reliable water supply.

Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Protecting biodiversity means saving the bogs (and peatlands, swamps, marshes, fens…)

As it does every year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) will be evaluating plant and animal species to determine which ones deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. About half of the species chosen for analysis so far in 2024 have something in common: Their futures depend on the conservation of wetlands. A mere coincidence? Probably not. While wetlands cover just 6 percent of the earth’s land surface area, they provide habitat for a whopping 40 percent of plants and animals.  In all likelihood, we can expect this trend of wetland-dependent species coming under the protection of the Endangered Species Act to continue, predicts Amy McNamara, a freshwater ecosystems strategist for NRDC. But this, she says, “is something that we should work to avoid at all costs.” 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Different type of atmospheric river saved state from drought

Atmospheric river storms are like punches in a boxing match. A flurry of weak ones are OK. But it’s best to avoid the big knockout blows. That’s exactly what happened in California this winter. Scientists say that from Oct. 1 to April 1, the state actually received more atmospheric rivers, the famous moisture-laden meteorological events that are critical to the water supply, than it did last year — 44 this winter compared to 31 last winter. But the intensity made all the difference. Statewide, California had just 2 strong atmospheric rivers this winter, compared with 7 last year. Many of the biggest this winter hit Washington and Oregon instead. The result was, for the most part, a remarkably, blissfully average rainy season for California. 3 were moderate and 7 were strong. This year, 26 were weak, 16 were moderate and 2 were strong.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego may scale back its ambitious Pure Water sewage-purification plans — or scrap some entirely

With San Diego more than half done with the first phase of its Pure Water sewage recycling system, city officials say they are considering major changes to how they will handle the second, larger phase. … Plans for the second phase, which were mostly put in place 13 years ago, could change significantly based on new state regulations and new information about how much purified water the city is projected to need. … But the city could abandon a plan to build the phase two purification plant on a vacant 17-acre site in Mission Valley, and plans to store purified water from that plant in either Lake Murray or the San Vicente Reservoir.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California is finally getting a new state park this summer

After a decade in the works, California is getting a new state park this summer. Dos Rios Ranch, a 1,600-acre plot west of Modesto where the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers converge, has long been slated to become the next state park. On Monday, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced it would open June 12. … Department of Parks and Recreation Director Armando Quintero has characterized Dos Rios as a needed public investment in a “a park-poor region.” The site for Dos Rios was donated by the Chico conservation group River Partners, which spent $40 million restoring the area from its previous incarnation as a dairy farm to its more natural state as a floodplain, a transition that state leaders have touted as climate-resilient. In Monday’s announcement, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the Dos Rios restoration “a key asset to fighting the climate crisis.”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Flash sale – Water maps & guides on sale for Nation Environmental Education Week

Our popular water maps don the office walls of many in the water world, and our Layperson’s Guides are the go-to resource for impartial overviews of key water topics and landmarks across California and the Southwest. In recognition of Earth Day on Monday and National Environmental Education Week, we’re offering a 20 percent discount through April 27 on these educational products: Maps & PostersLayperson’s Guides: Discount code NEEW2024 Map & Guide Bundles: Discount code NEEW2024-Bundles. Our book, Water & the Shaping of California: Discount code: NEEW2024-Book Take advantage of our discounted prices today! Sale ends Saturday! 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Steelhead trout, once thriving in Southern California, are declared endangered

Southern California’s rivers and creeks once teemed with large, silvery fish that arrived from the ocean and swam upstream to spawn. But today, these fish are seldom seen. Southern California steelhead trout have been pushed to the brink of extinction as their river habitats have been altered by development and fragmented by barriers and dams. Their numbers have been declining for decades, and last week California’s Fish and Game Commission voted to list Southern California steelhead trout as endangered. Conservation advocates said they hope the designation will accelerate efforts to save the fish and the aquatic ecosystems on which they depend.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Redding Record Searchlight

Why Mount Shasta’s glaciers are in peril due to climate change

For the past two years, Mt. Shasta has emerged from winter covered in thick blankets of white snow that conceal what decades of drought have done to the Northern California mountain’s ancient glaciers. The seasonal snows come and go on the 14,179-foot peak. For hundreds of years, the glaciers have clung to the mountain’s steep slopes, slowly changing and moving over time. But for the past few decades, droughts and periods of abnormally warm weather have caused the glaciers to shrink. Scientists have studied the glaciers and documented their demise as climate change — with its warmer temperatures and dearth of snow — has slowly caused Mt. Shasta’s glacial masses to dwindle, especially during the 2020-22 drought.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Why rising groundwater may threaten San Francisco buildings

Long before rising seas wash over San Francisco’s shores and flood its streets, rising groundwater mixed with salt water from the bay could touch and degrade underground structures like sewage lines and building foundations. … That’s the implication of a study released this week by scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. They compiled research from around the globe showing that as sea levels rise, coastal groundwater is lifted closer to the surface while also becoming saltier, more corrosive and potentially more destructive to subterranean systems. … Habel’s publication aligns with a growing body of data from Bay Area researchers and others about the risks posed by rising groundwater as sea levels are projected to rise …

Related article: