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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 Doug Beeman.

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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 Arizona Daily Star

Monday Top of the Scroll: Another La Niña could be more bad news for the Colorado River

Our third La Niña weather pattern in three years seems almost certain, and one climate expert says that could be bad news for the already overtapped Colorado River. … The Climate Prediction Center for the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration forecast a 91% chance of a La Niña weather pattern dominating the Northern Hemisphere from September through November, and a 54% chance from January through March of 2023. La Niña winters typically mean drier, warmer weather in the Southwest that can, although doesn’t always, spread as far north as Colorado’s southern Rockies, which would clearly drive down Colorado River flows. The last two to three years in particular have seen fairly low to very low river flows in the basin, at the same time La Niña conditions were present.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Distrust of satellite monitoring delays Madera County’s plan to penalize growers for over pumping

Fear and confusion over a new groundwater monitoring technology pushed back the “penalty phase” of Madera County’s attempt to get a handle on its pumping problem. The Madera County Board of Supervisors was supposed to have voted on penalties for growers who pump more than they’re allowed at its Sept. 13 meeting. But after three hours of debate and hearing from more than 15 members of the ag community about whether the county’s new water monitoring system – Irriwatch – is working properly, supervisors pushed the decision off to Sept. 27.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘The American lawn feels irresponsible’: the LA homes ditching grass for drought-friendly gardens

A lush green lawn has long been a symbol of the perfect American home. But as a prolonged drought reshapes life in California, many residents are rethinking what a beautiful yard should look like. In Los Angeles, which imposed sweeping restrictions on outdoor water use this year, thirsty lawns are out – and California native plants are in. … The choice to conserve may be contagious. Starting this June, more than a thousand southern California residents a month made plans to replace their lawns with more drought-friendly landscapes, according to data from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

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Aquafornia news The Press

Antioch to get new desalination plant

Antioch is investing in its water supply future. A new $110 million desalination plant is being built in Antioch. With construction underway at an existing water treatment facility, the new desalination plant will service the needs of Antioch’s population of more than 115,000 people, as well as help to improve its water supply reliability, city officials say. … The primary reason for the need for the desalination plant is due to increased salinity in the water supply. The city of Antioch derives much of its water source from the San Joaquin River …

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Climate change is transforming Redwood Valley, a ‘holy grail’ wine region in California

Many Bay Area wine drinkers might not be able to point out Redwood Valley on a map, but they’ve probably tasted Redwood Valley wine. This little-known slice of inland Mendocino County has become the go-to vineyard region for some of California’s most popular young wine producers … But the last three years have dealt Redwood Valley one devastating blow after another. Drought, frost and fires have decimated the crops, particularly in older vineyards. Many grapevines last year yielded less than 10% of the output of an average harvest. … When rain is plentiful, dry farming isn’t a problem — and, some argue, leads to higher-quality wines. But during this period of extended drought, the vines struggle, and it shows.

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Aquafornia news The Triplicate

Newsom appoints first Native woman to key state board

On Tuesday evening, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Yurok Tribe’s Forestry Department Director Dawn Blake to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. … Dawn is an enrolled Hoopa Tribal member and Yurok descendant with a Master of Science degree in natural resources. … Ranging from wildlife research to prescribed burning, Dawn is well-versed in all aspects of modern forest management. As the Yurok Forestry Director, she manages more than 70,000 acres of Yurok-owned forest for the benefit of current and future generations of Yurok people. She oversees the Tribe’s 15,000-acre Old-Growth Forest and Salmon Sanctuary on Blue Creek, a critically important tributary of the Klamath River. 

Aquafornia news Salon.com

Can the California plastics law solve our plastic problem?

Thanks to a law in California signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this past June, there could be much less plastic waste in California within a decade, serving as a potential pilot for this legislation being enacted elsewhere. The landmark legislation requires that all packaging in the state be compostable or recyclable by 2032, and sets guidelines for increasing the levels of recycling of plastic packaging in the state by the same year. By signing SB 54 into law, Newsom seeks to hold polluters responsible, shifting the burden of responsibility for plastic pollution from consumers to the plastics industry.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Caltrans favors elevating Highway 37 to address flood risks

In an effort to protect Highway 37 from rising sea levels, a new state study calls for elevating the route onto a causeway within the next two decades. Presenting its findings this month, Caltrans said its preferred solution is to build a 30-foot-high, four-lane causeway along the current alignment of the highway, a 21-mile corridor connecting Highway 101 in Marin County to Interstate 80 in Vallejo. The plan would include a pedestrian and bicycle path and might include an extension of SMART train service between Novato and Suisun City. The announcement was celebrated by project proponents who say the causeway is the only way to adapt the highway to the threats from rising water and improve wetland habitats in San Pablo Bay.

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: The Delta Plan Ecosystem Amendment – Updated vision and guidance for restoration

At its June 23, 2022 meeting, the Delta Stewardship Council adopted an amendment to Delta Plan Chapter Four (Protect, Restore, and Enhance the Delta Ecosystem), referred to as the Ecosystem Amendment. The Ecosystem Amendment is the result of a multi-year, iterative effort of public and agency outreach and coordination, and it leverages decades of research and planning to identify a path forward, increase coordination, and work toward a common vision for a restored Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diegans could soon pay much more for water, now that a long-delayed rate analysis is moving forward

San Diego officials say they will complete a long-delayed comprehensive analysis of city water rates this year that could lead to sharp increases to pay for major infrastructure projects such as the Pure Water sewage purification system now under construction. The last time San Diego completed such an analysis in 2015, city officials voted to raise water rates by 40 percent over a four-year period. City water customers already face a 3 percent rate hike in January to cover rising imported water costs. That increase, which the City Council approved this week, was prompted by the County Water Authority voting in June to increase what it charges the city for imported water.

Aquafornia news PBS NewsHour

Here’s how California’s canals could advance the state’s renewable energy goals

Last year, a study published in Nature Sustainability by researchers from University of California at Santa Cruz along with UC Merced found that it may be possible to tap into the network of public water delivery canals as a way to both conserve water and advance the state’s renewable energy efforts. The researchers studied the concept of “solar canals,” which includes assembling a canopy of solar panels to prevent evaporation while also generating electric energy. The idea is being put to the test in an experiment called Project Nexus.

Aquafornia news KTVU 2 - Los Angeles

Tribe, environmentalists oppose mining project in Santa Clara County

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is calling on Santa Clara County to stop a project they say will destroy hundreds of acres of sacred land. A private company wants to build a sand and gravel mining plant there and will need the county’s approval to do it. It’s not just the tribe that’s against this project. The tribe has the support of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, the ACLU and environmental groups like Green Foothills. They all say the risks far outweigh the benefits and once the damage is done, there’s no turning back. … [E]nvironmentalists also say digging pits hundreds of feet into the soil will have devastating effects on the groundwater table and interrupt the migration patterns of animals that live there.  

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Harmful algae detected in Tahoe Keys; Signs posted reflect various threat levels

The presence of harmful algal blooms in the Tahoe Keys Lagoon has been detected and officials are asking people to stay out of the water within a specific area. The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board on Friday announced that tests confirmed the presence of harmful algae and have posted signs in certain areas to coincide with potential health risks present. Lahontan said it regularly monitors the lagoon at multiple locations and these multiple advisories exist due to the varying levels of toxin detections. The latest results from the HAB sampling indicate the highest levels have been detected at the corner of Venice and Alpine Drive, resulting in a danger advisory.

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Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Prairie Creek restoration underway as part of transformation of former Orick mill site

For workers with the Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation, creating new fish habitat as part of the restoration of Prairie Creek in their ancestral territory is more than just a job. … This is the second year the construction corporation and the Yurok Fisheries Department have been working on restoring the ecological integrity of Prairie Creek. The five-year $25 million restoration project includes redirecting the creek away from U.S. Highway 101 and getting as close as possible to recreating its original condition after being used as a lumber mill for decades.

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Opinion: Memo to lawmakers – Our future demands good water infrastructure

Just as California is preparing its electrical grid to provide 90% clean energy by 2035, our state leaders must also look to future investments in water infrastructure. The need for a safe and reliable source of water will continue well into the future, underscoring the need for investing in a modern infrastructure system today. Much of California’s water infrastructure system was constructed decades ago, and while reliable, it is not infallible. On Sept. 6, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California began emergency repairs on its Upper Feeder pipeline, requiring millions of Southern Californians to suspend outdoor watering for up to 15 days.
-Written by Jennifer Capitolo, executive director of the California Water Association, a leading trade association that represents more than 90 regulated water utilities across California serving more than 7 million customers.

Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

FIELD teams up with company to teach sustainable water management in desert

As California’s drought continues, with fewer fields planted because irrigation water isn’t available, one company is promoting an unlikely source for water — the Mojave Desert.  And FIELD — the Farmworkers Institute of Education & Leadership Development headquartered in Tehachapi — has teamed up with owners of a desert ranch to provide a new program to teach sustainable water management and conservation. Cadiz Ranch is a 45,000-acre property in what some might call the middle of nowhere. The ranch is about 190 miles southeast of Tehachapi in San Bernardino County, south of the Mojave National Preserve and northeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

Aquafornia news San Diego County Water Authority

News release: Mel Katz elected Board Chair of San Diego County Water Authority

New officers for the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors were elected today, with Mel Katz starting his two-year term as Board chair on Oct. 1. Katz, vice chair of the Board for the past six months as a representative for the City of Del Mar, will serve with incoming Vice Chair Nick Serrano, a Board representative from the City of San Diego, and incoming Secretary Frank Hilliker. Katz will serve as the 27th board chair since the Water Authority’s founding in 1944.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Friday Top of the Scroll: Lithium Valley panel releases draft report, will miss October deadline

California’s Lithium Valley Commission has released a draft of the report it is legally required to prepare by Oct. 1 with 44 possible recommendations, some of which have already been met in the state’s recently passed budget and new legislation…. While all sides agree the potential production of the lightweight mineral from a vast, underground geothermal reserve at the south end of the dwindling Salton Sea is an enormous opportunity for the region, the recommendations at times represent competing wish lists from different factions…. Community advocates also want the “Lithium Valley” region to be clearly mapped, and to include eastern Riverside County communities that endure high rates of asthma and from toxic dust blowing off the rapidly drying sea, as well as Imperial County towns and cities. 

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Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Federal ideas reflect little progress toward solving Colorado River crisis

The clock is ticking for the Colorado River, but solutions on how to save the river basin, which provides water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico, still appears to be elusive, at least from the federal government. However, proposed solutions are starting to bubble up through Colorado agriculture’s community, including projects that received funding to address drought this week from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Palos Verdes fault could unleash destructive L.A. earthquake

A fault system running nearly 70 miles along the coast of Los Angeles and Orange counties has the potential to trigger a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, according to a new study that is the latest to highlight the seismic threats facing Southern California. … A quake of that magnitude on the southern San Andreas fault, rupturing between the Salton Sea near the Mexico border and passing through Palm Springs and into Lake Hughes, north of Santa Clarita in L.A. County, could cause 1,800 deaths… Under the simulation’s scenario, freeways linking the region to Las Vegas and Phoenix could be destroyed, as could the aqueducts that bring in most of L.A. County’s water.

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