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.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Friday Top of the Scroll: Hot, inland California cities face steep water cuts with new mandate

Facing a future of shortages, California is entering a new phase of water conservation: Cities and towns must meet new mandates ramping down use over the next 15 years — and some will be hit harder than others.  Approved two weeks ago, the new state rules require 405 cities and other urban suppliers serving 95% of Californians to meet individualized water budgets. Suppliers serving roughly a third of Californians won’t need to cut water use to meet the 2040 mandates. Coastal California is expected to escape relatively unscathed with its cool climate, while hot, inland communities will face far steeper conservation requirements. Of a dozen water systems projected to face cuts of 40% or more over the next 15 years, seven are located in the Central Valley, where many suppliers already struggle with water availability and quality, according to preliminary state data. 

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Aquafornia news Utah State University: Center for Colorado River Studies

Analysis: The 2024 Colorado River runoff season comes to an end – how did we do?

Total [Colorado River] basin-wide reservoir storage is an appropriate metric to describe the status of the regional water supply and its year-to-year changes. Reclamation provides data on the storage contents of 46 reservoirs in the basin that are primarily managed by the Bureau of Reclamation but also by municipal water agencies and water conservancy districts. … the total amount of water in these reservoirs is the carryover storage available to sustain use during dry times. … Today, 62% of the total basin-wide storage is in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The combined contents of these two largest reservoirs in the United States peaked on 8 July at 18.5 million af. … Despite the modest runoff of 2024, water managers were able to increase reservoir storage, because they had done such a good job of limiting consumptive uses following the 2023 runoff season.

Related Colorado River blog: 

Aquafornia news ABC 15 Arizona

Arizona proposal to convert wastewater to drinking water moves forward

The proposal to turn treated wastewater into drinking water, otherwise known as Advanced Water Purification, is moving forward, according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. In early July, ADEQ announced the release of its draft rule, which is the operating rule that will apply to utilities that are considering Advanced Water Purification technology. ”This is a critical point for us as a state to have A.W.P. as an option for our utilities,” said ADEQ Water Quality Division Deputy Director Randall Matas. “It certainly can be a large component of Arizona’s water security portfolio and I think going into the future indeed will be a very important part.”

Related article:

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

In Nevada, alfalfa farmers are being paid to retire their water rights

As the only state in the Great Basin that doesn’t use Colorado River water for agriculture, Nevada’s farmers rely on groundwater wells. Yet many of the state’s aquifers are shrinking, threatening its cattle ranches and its cash crop, alfalfa hay, which helps feed California’s dairy cows. Groundwater is vanishing all over the country — the result of decades of excessive use and climate change-fueled drought. In some states facing severe groundwater decline, officials are beginning to penalize over-pumping or ordering farmers to stop irrigating because conservation alone won’t be enough. … With $25 million in federal pandemic aid, state officials decided to run a one-time test of whether farmers would be interested in selling all or a portion of their legal rights to draw groundwater. … By this spring, they had their answer: There were more applicants than money to pay them. Farmers and ranchers offered to sell $65.5 million worth of water rights, more than two-and-a-half times the available funding.

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Aquafornia news Redding Record Searchlight

Groups request more protection for 200,000 acres in Siskiyou County

From the air, the Medicine Lake Highlands in Siskiyou County appears as a vast expanse of mountains covered in forests of pine and fir. But what has groups such as Trout Unlimited, the Pit River Nation and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers of California eager to get federal protection for the area can’t be seen on the surface of the mountains or in the fields of volcanic rock. Underground lies an aquifer so large that it could hold the same amount of water as California’s largest 200 reservoirs combined, according to Trout Unlimited. That subsurface reservoir feeds a system of streams that are part of a valuable trout stream that extends south into Shasta County, the group says.

Aquafornia news E&E News by POLITICO

A water-deprived tribe could finally get a cut of the Colorado River — if Congress OKs it

One in 3 households on the Navajo Nation lacks access to safe drinking water, but a $5 billion deal reached in May could change that by giving the sprawling reservation’s 175,000 residents rights to the highly prized Colorado River. The agreement needs Congress’ blessing, though. And there are plenty of reasons for pessimism. Those include the eye-popping price tag, as well as controversial provisions granting the tribe the right to move water across legal boundaries and lease its supplies to cities or farms. Those issues inject the settlement squarely into the heated negotiations over how to parcel out the Colorado River’s diminishing flows among the seven states that rely on it.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Lithium critical to the energy transition is coming at the expense of water

Lithium needed for batteries that power electric vehicles and store electricity from renewable energy projects is likely to deplete—and in some cases, contaminate—local water supplies, according to a new paper published this week. … And at the Salton Sea in California, often referred to as Lithium Valley due to its potential to provide enough of the mineral by itself to support the nation’s energy transition, local community groups and environmentalists have sued to try to stop a [Direct Lithium Extraction] site on the verge of beginning operation. They claim county officials conducted an inadequate study of the project’s impacts on the area’s freshwater supply. Much of what is needed for the project will come from the declining Colorado River. 

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Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

News release: NOAA recommends nearly $220 million in funding for transformational habitat restoration and coastal resilience projects

NOAA is recommending nearly $220 million in funding for 32 transformational habitat restoration and coastal resilience projects this year, as well as an additional $66 million in funding in future years. The projects are funded under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. This is a historic investment in strengthening the climate resilience of our nation’s coastal ecosystems and communities. … landscape-scale effort in California’s Sacramento River watershed will restore habitat for endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, a NOAA Species in the Spotlight. A suite of projects along the Oregon coast will support the recovery of five populations of threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon. The projects will restore floodplain, wetland, and estuary habitats on which the juvenile coho rely.  

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Aquafornia news Bay Nature

California may list ancient, iconic white sturgeon as threatened

The Bay’s white sturgeon—huge, slow-to-reproduce “living fossils” that have hardly changed over their approximately 200 million years on Earth—are now facing such peril that the state of California has closed fishing for them under emergency regulations while it considers listing them as a threatened species. White sturgeon lurk in the murky bottom of San Francisco Bay and the Delta, stealthily making their way upriver to spawn and slurping up clams. Of San Francisco Bay’s two sturgeon species, white sturgeon are the homebodies (in contrast to anadromous green sturgeon, which spend much of their lives at sea). But adult white sturgeon numbers have been in decline for two decades, says UC Davis fish biologist Andrea Schreier.  “Changes to the Bay-Delta system and changes to our climate are happening too quickly for them,” Schreier says.

Aquafornia news Callifornia Policy Center

Blog: California’s water economy: The three biggest choices

If water strategy in California had to be distilled down to just three projects with the greatest impact, the answers might vary a great deal depending on who was asked. But in terms of quality of life impact, the ongoing implementation of State Water Resources Control Board to “Make Conservation a Way of Life” is the clear winner. In terms of financial impact, it’s the proposed “Delta Conveyance.” And in terms of potential to actually increase California’s water supply by a significant, game-changing quantity, it’s the San Joaquin County Blueprint’s “Fish Friendly Diversions” proposal.
—Written by Edward Ring, director Water and Energy Policy with the California Policy Center

Aquafornia news Hydro Review

Hydro power and de-risking climate change

At HYDROVISION International this week, there was the acute awareness that hydroelectric power globally is facing climate change-induced challenges. California is a prime example, said Lindsay Aramayo, who is an economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Golden State was facing its third straight drought year in 2022, and less water was flowing. That year, she said hydropower represented 8% of California’s generating mix, where it normally makes up 15% during a good year. “There are bad years, there are also good ones and they seem to fluctuate a lot,” said Aramayo. Aramayo joined other panelists at a HYDROVISION mega session to discuss the impacts of climate change on hydro infrastructure and the tools available for operators to adapt.

Aquafornia news The Los Angeles Times

How California’s weather shapes the state and its people

… William A. Selby’s comprehensive account of California’s varied meteorological phenomena, multitudinous microclimates and seasonal extremes, “The California Sky Watcher: Understanding Weather Patterns and What Comes Next,” solves many such mysteries of the climate that creates — and is created by — the state’s landscape and civilization.  Raised in Santa Ana, Selby is a retired Santa Monica College professor who has conducted research for the National Weather Service. His latest book, complete with helpful, dizzying and sobering diagrams and photographs, could easily serve as the text for a college earth science course. It takes a thoroughly empirical approach to California’s four seasons and their manifestation across its myriad topographies.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

One Sacramento California homeless camp to get resumed water delivery

With Sacramento County facing backlash for ending water delivery to about three dozen homeless camps amid a record-breaking heat wave, the city of Sacramento will resume delivery to at least one camp. Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced Thursday the city will pay for water delivery to resume for the rest of the summer at Camp Resolution in North Sacramento, where about 50 people live in city-issued trailers. “It’s the right thing to do,” Steinberg wrote in a statement on X Thursday. “We made our first two deliveries last week and this morning, and will continue regular drop-offs of water for every resident.”

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Surging California wastewater readings signal ‘very high’ COVID levels

As severe heat drove Bay Area residents indoors, a ripple effect may have triggered a spike in coronavirus infections and COVID-19 diagnoses across the region.  California is now one of seven states where wastewater levels of the coronavirus have soared to the “very high” mark for the first time since winter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The swell is evident in various indicators, including a rising number of repeat and first-time infections. The summer surge is driven by more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2, waning immunity from vaccinations, and more people letting down their guard.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Arizona tribes resolve decades-long water rights dispute

Leaders of the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe gathered Wednesday to sign off on a $5 billion water rights settlement that has taken decades. “Today marks a very historic day for the three tribes that we have here,” said Craig Andrews, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council, at the signing ceremony. “This is not just an Indian water settlement; it is an Arizona water settlement,” he added. The agreement stems from the recently introduced Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 2024, which would authorize the $5 billion to finance critical water infrastructure projects.  

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Aquafornia news The Current, UC Santa Barbara

News release: Groundwater is key to protecting global ecosystems

… As climate change and human water use rapidly deplete groundwater levels around the world, scientists and policy makers need better data for where these groundwater-dependent ecosystems exist. Now, a new study maps these ecosystems in dryland regions globally, examines their protection status and explores how they overlap with human communities. The research, published in the journal Nature, marks the first time that groundwater-dependent ecosystems have been mapped on a global scale. … Their results show that 53% of these ecosystems are in areas with known groundwater depletion, while only 21% exist on protected lands or regions with policies in place for their protection.

Related map:

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Plan now to attend our popular fall programs; Sign up for our weekday water newsfeed

It may be the dog days of summer but it’s a busy time at the Water Education Foundation as we prep for our fall events!  Space is becoming limited for one of our most popular water excursions, the three-day Northern California Tour in mid-October. Registration opens in just a few weeks for our premier annual event, the Water Summit, on Oct. 30 in Sacramento. Make sure you’re among the first to know this year’s theme by signing up for Foundation announcements.

Aquafornia news Sentinel Colorado

Colorado River officials propose tracking conserved water

Water managers in the upper Colorado River basin took another step this week toward a more formal water conservation program that they say will benefit the upper basin states. Representatives from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico unanimously passed a motion Wednesday at a meeting of the Upper Colorado River Commission to explore creating a way to track, measure and store conserved water in Lake Powell and other upper basin reservoirs. The motion directed staff and state advisers to prepare a proposal that lays out criteria for conservation projects and creates a mechanism for generating credit for those projects.

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Aquafornia news KNAU

USBR begins experimental water releases to control smallmouth bass in Grand Canyon

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has begun water releases from Glen Canyon Dam to cool the temperature of the Colorado River and slow the reproduction of an unwanted fish. The exotic and predatory smallmouth bass poses a threat to native species like the threatened humpback chub. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Reclamation’s Bill Stewart about the experimental program. So how often do you anticipate having to do these cool water releases? We’re in the really early phases of the implementation…and we anticipate intermittently continuing flows are needed to maintain that daily average water temperature below that target of 15.5 degrees Celsius. We’re doing this at locations where we know or suspect smallmouth bass to reside below the dam.

Related invasive species articles:

Aquafornia news

Another heat wave, plus monsoonal moisture, is coming to California

As California finally cools off after baking under a heat dome for more than a week, another spell of sweltering weather is already coming to the Golden State this weekend. ”Yes, this is happening…again,” said UCLA Climate scientist Daniel Swain, who covers California weather in his blog. The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center is warning the heat wave could bring afternoon highs in the 90s to 100s and overnight lows in the upper 60s to 70s to inland areas. “The likelihood of significantly above-normal temperatures” from July 22 to 26 is over 60%, the center said.  

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