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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: 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

Happy Thanksgiving from Aquafornia!

Dear Aquafornia readers,

Aquafornia is off for the Thanksgiving weekend.

We will return with a full slate of water news on Monday, Nov. 29.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter where we post breaking news and on Facebook and LinkedIn, where we post Foundation-related news. 

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: SFPUC calls for 10% voluntary reduction in water use as it declares water emergency

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is urging nearly 3 million water customers throughout the Bay Area to cut water usage by 10%, as it declares a water shortage emergency due to the ongoing drought. … By declaring the emergency, the agency would be able to access water reserves and resources only available during emergencies, officials said. Under the measure, customers are urged to reduce water usage by 10% compared to 2019-2020 levels…. Along with providing water to San Francisco, the agency also has customers in portions of Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California farmers rush to drill wells for groundwater in drought

On the parched west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drought has created a windfall for companies like Big River Drilling. A water-well contractor based in the Fresno County community of Riverdale, Big River can hardly keep up with demand for new wells as farmers and rural residents seek to extract more water from underground. … But talk about poor timing: California farmers are supposed to start throttling back their groundwater pumping to comply with a state law called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

These four metrics are used to track drought, and they paint a bleak picture

Drought has tightened its grip on the Western U.S., as dry conditions tick on into their second decade and strain a river that supplies 40 million people. Experts agree that things are bad and getting worse. But how exactly do you measure a drought, and how can you tell where it’s going? Brad Udall is an expert on the subject, studying water and climate at Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center. Lately, his forecasts for the basin haven’t been particularly uplifting.

Aquafornia news Capital and Main

California utilities leaving millions in debt relief on the table

As the application window for a near billion-dollar state program designed to help cash-strapped Californians with pandemic-related drinking water debt nears its close date, almost 50% of eligible water systems have fully completed the application, but nearly one quarter haven’t yet started the process — a scenario that could see many struggling households lose the chance to have their financial burdens alleviated. 

Aquafornia news Audubon Magazine

Ending uncertainty over Clean Water rules will put Biden officials to the test

Half a century ago, Congress set loose a torrent of confusion when it wrote the Clean Water Act to protect the “waters of the United States.” Lobbyists and lawyers have fought ever since over the phrase, often dubbed WOTUS. Its meaning seems grade-school simple but quickly grows as murky as a backwoods swamp. Into these perilous waters the Biden administration wades.

Aquafornia news Antelope Valley Press

RCSD eyes eminent domain process to obtain water rights

The Rosamond Community Services District Board of Directors, on Thursday, agreed to begin eminent domain proceedings to obtain water rights from agricultural land owned by the Calandri family on Rosamond’s west side. The Board unanimously approved a Resolution of Necessity, which declared it in the public interest to acquire the property for the water rights. Ed Lear, a litigation attorney representing the Calandri family, said they will challenge the action as a violation of the water basin adjudication.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Did drought, wildfire affect California Christmas tree industry?

Consumers should prepare to pay more than usual for live and fake Christmas trees this year because of climate change and supply chain issues, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. The real Christmas tree harvest was impacted by wildfires, floods and extreme weather in Oregon, which is the number one producer of Christmas trees in the nation and where many West Coast sellers buy their trees.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Infrastructure bill passage to boost California projects

In actions that carry out President Biden’s economic agenda, the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed two pieces of significant legislation, including a $1.2 trillion bipartisan package that includes $8.3 billion for critical water projects in drought-parched California and the West. On Friday, the House also passed the president’s social safety-net bill, the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, on a party-line vote.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Seizing the Drought

After a year of extreme drought, massive wildfires, and even a brief spate of record-breaking rainfall, Californians no longer question whether the climate is changing—climate change is here. The escalating crises add urgency to the issue of how Californians manage their water. From November 15–17, the PPIC Water Policy Center convened three expert panels (as part of our annual water priorities conference) to discuss how we can “seize the drought” to meet the challenges we’re already facing. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Southern California fire threat, red flag warnings amid Santa Ana winds

High fire danger is forecast for Southern California over the Thanksgiving holiday, as Santa Ana winds bring dry, gusty conditions from Ventura to San Diego on Wednesday through Friday. … [Officials] described the event as the strongest of the season so far, with gusts of up to 70 mph, along with humidity percentages into the single digits. Given the threat, Southern California utilities are considering cutting power to nearly 200,000 customers to prevent their equipment from sparking a wildfire.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Court issues key ruling in favor of Monterey Peninsula water district

A key hurdle for a Monterey Peninsula public water agency to acquire the assets of California American Water Co. was cleared Friday when a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Cal Am that the water district chief said was just one of many attempts to thwart the takeover. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills denied a lawsuit filed in August by Cal Am challenging the water district’s certification of a key study — called an environmental impact report — that the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District prepared as part of its acquisition effort.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: Delta Conveyance project fisheries informational webinar highlights

As planning and environmental review efforts continue to support the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) determination of whether a single tunnel option to modernize Delta conveyance should be approved, an important component of the environmental review process is to assess environmental resource impacts within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s (Delta) estuary.

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Aquafornia news Colusa Sun Herald

Clear Lake to receive funding for Source Water Protection planning

To help agricultural producers improve water quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $1.6 million in funding through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) for three projects in high priority watersheds in California. … The Clear Lake project has been selected for funding as a new Source Water Protection planning watershed, targeting conservation efforts through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), according to the release.

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Aquafornia news The Desert Review

The gold mine that wants to save the Salton Sea reaches for big projects

The mining company, Imperial Gold, is currently in the process of being approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create a new gold mine by Black Mountain that would see new jobs and health benefits introduced into the Imperial Valley. …. But what was perhaps the most exciting prospect was how their mine construction could have a direct beneficial impact on the health crisis at the Salton Sea, according to [Chief Operating Officer for Imperial Gold, Marc] Leduc.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

CalEnviroScreen directs billions of dollars to California communities in need. Here’s how it works

CalEnviroScreen — short for California Communities Environmental Health Screening — was developed by the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to help identify communities that are most burdened by environmental issues. … The methodology behind some measures is straightforward, like air quality. For air quality, the tool pulls the annual mean concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 of each census tract from California Air Resources Board data. Others, such as drinking water contaminants, are more complicated and involve combining data points from a variety of sources.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico

News release: U.S. – Mexico binational meeting on transborder water pollution

The U.S. and Mexican governments met today in Tijuana to discuss transboundary water pollution challenges along the shared border. … Recognizing the critical importance of addressing water pollution for the benefit of citizens on both sides of the border, the U.S. and Mexican delegations reviewed the important progress made toward reducing pollution levels. Mexico highlighted their $46 million dollars of investment by local, state, and federal authorities completed between 2019 to 2021 in water sanitation projects for the Tijuana River …

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Yosemite enviro law conference: How Tribal partnerships can help attain national conservation goals

Amy Cordalis is a fisherwoman, attorney, mother, and member of the Yurok Tribe, the largest federally recognized Tribe in California. From 2014-2016, she was General Counsel for the Tribe, the first woman and first Yurok tribal member to serve in that position. She is also the principal of the Ridges to Riffles Conservation Fund, a non-profit fund representing Native American tribes in natural and cultural resource matters.

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Opinion: Back Forty — A crash course in California water politics

When farmers turned the San Joaquin Valley into an agricultural powerhouse in the 20th century, they dammed and drained its central river … siphoned water from Northern California’s river systems and brought it south to thirsty farmland. … Released on streaming platforms earlier this month, [the documentary film] River’s End is an urgent crash course on the water wars that are shaping California—and, by extension, the U.S. food system. Viewers get a primer on California’s major rivers and salmon runs, then watch as agribusiness—and the city of Los Angeles—wreak havoc on them, with moneyed interests seizing water through lobbying and shady deals.
–Written by Teresa Cotsirilos, a staff writer and producer at FERN, where she covers food systems, labor, and climate change in the Western US.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR completes first phase of Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project

As part of an ongoing effort to protect and restore critical habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has restored more than half of the 1,187 acres of former grazing and dairy lands into rich habitat for fish and wildlife as part of the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project. The project is one of the largest multi-benefit freshwater tidal marsh restoration efforts implemented.