Water news you need to know

A collection of top water news from around California and the West compiled each weekday by veteran journalist Matt Weiser.

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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 Courthouse News Service

Friday Top of the Scroll: California urged to rethink 40 years of ‘piecemeal’ freshwater protections

The bitter drought validated scientists’ warnings that despite longstanding endangered species protections, the state’s outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in the face of climate change. … A report released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California recommends the state stop prioritizing individual species recovery plans and adopt holistic management methods that improve entire freshwater ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news CALmatters

Battle lines are drawn over oil drilling in California

The state is moving to ramp down oil production while Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a closer look at the environmental and health threats — especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive landscapes as well as public health.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Megafarms and deeper wells are draining the water beneath rural Arizona – quietly, irreversibly

Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.

Aquafornia news The Weather Channel

California storm parade continues with more rain, feet of Sierra snow through the weekend

Unlike Wednesday’s system, the heaviest rainfall from this storm is expected in Northern California, where several inches of rain is expected, particularly north of Interstate 80 in the coastal ranges and Sierra foothills below snow level. This could lead to flash flooding and debris flows, especially in recent burn areas.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Environment

Supreme Court to consider taking up water permitting case

The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other projects. … The question in the case is whether states unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in litigation over pipelines and other projects.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Environment

EPA considering second round of national PFAS testing

Water suppliers across the nation could be required to sample for manmade “forever chemicals” in an attempt to gauge just how prevalent the contaminants are in drinking supplies. … Every five years the Environmental Protection Agency can order large water suppliers and a sampling of smaller districts to test for up 30 chemicals that aren’t currently regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Citizens committee files to stop Oroville Dam re-licensing, says DWR is untrustworthy

The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. … The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Planned Palm Springs arena has big water needs, adds to climate footprint

The planned downtown Palm Springs entertainment arena, like many desert projects, is a thirsty one, requiring almost 12 million gallons of water each year to accommodate an American Hockey League affiliate team and other visitors.

Aquafornia news Estuary News

Flows and ecosystem function dominate Delta Plan amendment

With the Delta lagging behind the Bay on four of the State of the Estuary Report’s five indicators, the last long-range plan for restoring its ecological health abandoned, and the threats from climate change becoming ever more alarming, the need for a new regulatory vision for the region may never have been greater.

Aquafornia news Estuary News

Helping the homeless clean up watersheds

Homeless volunteers collect so much trash in the Russian River watershed — 150,000 pounds as of October this year — that the state Water Resources Control Board sees it as a model for the rest of California.

Aquafornia news National Public Radio

Biologists investigate mass die-off of freshwater mussels

In recent years though, biologists and fisherman noticed something was wrong. On sections of the Clinch and other waterways in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, dead mussels were turning up on shores and could be seen glinting from the river bottom. …  “The loss is really huge and it’s happening really quickly,” says Emilie Blevins, a conservation biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “It’s a major concern for the future and for the future of our fresh water.”

Aquafornia news The Point Reyes Light

Rains make way for Lagunitas Creek coho return

After a dry fall, the first storms of the winter kicked off the annual migration of coho salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the streams where they spawn. Over 10 inches of rain fell on Lake Lagunitas last week… Streamflows are now high enough to allow endangered central California coast coho to migrate.

Aquafornia news Simi Valley Acorn

Raising sewer rates by 40%

The city mailed notices to Simi Valley property owners (not renters) proposing raising sewer rates about 40% over the next five years to pay for much-needed upgrades to the city’s sewer system. The sewer treatment plant and many of the underground pipes are nearly 50 years old. The plant must be upgraded and many sections of pipe replaced.

Aquafornia news Santa Ynez Valley News

Vandenberg Air Force Base at high risk of water scarcity, according to report

Vandenberg Air Force Base is among the U.S. military installations most at risk for water scarcity, according to a new federal government report. Of the 102 military bases identified as at risk for water scarcity in the Government Accountability Office report published on Nov. 27, Vandenberg was the only one that was identified in all six climate-related assessments that sought to identify such installations.

Aquafornia news Reuters

Most U.S. states have cut environmental budgets and staffing since 2008: study

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project released on Thursday showed some 30 states have reduced funding for pollution control programs, 16 of them by more than 20%. Forty states, meanwhile, have cut staffing at environmental agencies, half of them by at least 10%, the report showed.

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

CSUF researchers look at how California’s history of rain and snow can help explain climate change

To find out more about how major floods, fires and droughts played a role in past climates, Stephanie Hernandez, an earth science major, and fellow Cal State Fullerton faculty and student researchers are working on a first-ever study focusing on California’s precipitation history and comparing it with the past 10,000 years.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times Matt Weiser

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Atmospheric rivers cost $1 billion a year and getting worse, study says

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers found that from 1978 to 2017, atmospheric rivers accounted for $42.6 billion in flood damage in 11 Western states — 84% of the estimated total water-related damage of $50.8 billion. That’s roughly $1.1 billion in damage done by atmospheric rivers every year.

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Aquafornia news Hakai Magazine Matt Weiser

Securing SoCal water to benefit NorCal salmon

Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across earthquake country between Northern California and San Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually, just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered chinook.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times Matt Weiser

California must act now to prepare for sea level rise, state lawmakers say

The rising sea might feel like a slow-moving disaster, they said, but this is a social, economic and environmental catastrophe that the state cannot afford to ignore. By the end of this century, the sea could rise more than 9 feet in California — possibly more if the great ice sheets collapse sooner than expected.

Aquafornia news Durango Herald Matt Weiser

New way to monitor snowpack could be critical in the arid West

At a time when monitoring mountain snowpack is crucial for communities throughout the American West, has the next generation of measuring snow depth arrived? Some top researchers seem to think so.