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 CNN

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: New maps show where snowfall is disappearing

Snowfall is declining globally as temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, a new analysis and maps from a NOAA climate scientist show.  But less snow falling from the sky isn’t as innocuous as just having to shovel less; it threatens to reinforce warming, and disrupt food and water for billions of people. … Less snow falling from the sky also means less snow piling up into snowpack — a deep, persistent cover of snow that accumulates during the winter. … The threat to water supplies from declining snow is most pronounced in climates subject to more extreme boom-and-bust cycles of precipitation, like the Mediterranean climate found in California and other parts of the American West.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

When will California see its next major storm?

The next chance at showers in the valley will be on Thursday night and into this weekend as a cold storm system drops into the region from the north. Valley rain totals will be on the lighter side (generally 0-0.25″ expected) and Sierra snow totals will range from 6-12″ above 4,000-5,000 feet. Although these storms will bring decent snowfall totals, Northern California has yet to see an atmospheric river system akin to those last year that dropped multiple feet of snow in the Sierra. By Sunday, high pressure is set to become the dominant feature over California, which means dry conditions, and although this week will bring wet weather to much of the region, it will be a while longer before a major atmospheric river slams into the state this far south.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Commentary: The Salton Sea has even more lithium than previously thought

Want to produce a huge amount of lithium for electric vehicle batteries — and also batteries that keep our homes powered after sundown — without causing the environmental destruction that lithium extraction often entails? Then the Salton Sea may be your jam. Companies big and small have been swarming California’s largest lake for years, trying to find a cost-effective way to pull out the lithium dissolved in scorching hot fluid deep beneath the lake’s southern end. Now a new federal analysis suggests even more of the valuable metal is buried down there than we previously understood.
-Written by LA Times columnist Sammy Roth.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Giving Tuesday is your chance to support water education in California and the West

Today on Giving Tuesday, a global day of philanthropy, you can support impartial education and informed decision-making on water resources in California and the West by making a tax-deductible donation to the Water Education Foundation. Your support ensures that our legacy of producing in-depth news, educational workshops and accessible and reliable information on water reaches new heights in 2024.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun News

Nevada’s strategy to conserve water may be used by Utah nonprofit to save the Great Salt Lake

A Utah nonprofit group is proposing legal protections and water conservation measures like Nevada’s to save the rapidly drying Great Salt Lake. The United States Geological Survey considers a water level of 4,198 feet the “minimum healthy level” for the lake, but it’s mostly been lower than that since 2000. Today, the lake sits at 4,192 feet, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. It has lost 73% of its water and 60% of its surface area since 1850, according to a 2023 Brigham Young University report.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tourists are flooding Mexico’s wine country. They’re also destroying it

Valle de Guadalupe is a semi-arid wine-making subregion in Baja California, which is a desert where the land is freckled with agave, cactus and chaparral alongside grapevines and olive trees. It lies a two-hour drive south of San Diego. … Water woes are another looming factor. Rain has always been scarce here, and signs are growing that the valley’s demand for water is overwhelming its infrastructure. Unlike many wine regions in California that are able to rely on varying sources of water, Valle de Guadalupe has the Guadalupe Aquifer, a body of porous ground or sediment that holds groundwater, as its only source of water. Depending on the rainfall each year, the water table rises and falls. But since 1995, the general trend has been more water being sucked out of the aquifer than going in …

Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Fish rearing facilities offer life support for endangered suckers

It takes a village to raise suckers, and the Klamath Tribes are growing hundreds of the bottom-dwelling fish in constructed ponds near Chiloquin, Oregon. On a bright October morning, a crew has gathered to return a small number of them to the Sprague River, a tributary of Upper Klamath Lake. Two technicians take turns transferring netfuls of fish from kiddie pool-sized holding tanks to a waiting truck. Fisheries Technician Charlie Wright sits perched next to the tank, verifying that each fish has been fitted with a passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag, which allows biologists to track where they go and how well they survive.

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Aquafornia news Lookout Local Santa Cruz

Levee agreement marks a watershed moment for the people of Watsonville and Pajaro

Ari Parker’s mother, who passed away earlier this year at 100 years old, often asked her daughter the same question Pajaro and Watsonville residents have asked since the 1950s: Is the levee replaced? Parker, a Watsonville City Council member, represents the northeast corner of the city near where the Salsipuedes and Corralitos creeks split. Her mother was born and raised in Pajaro. Both mother and daughter have experienced more than a lifetime’s share of floods and levee breaches over the years — two generations whose lives have been shaped under the constant threat of preventable disaster.

Aquafornia news Santa Clarita Valley Signal

SCV Water to discuss lawsuit over contaminants 

The governing board of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency is meeting in closed session Friday to discuss a 36-page complaint against manufacturing giant 3M and more than a dozen other businesses in October 2020, accusing them of poisoning the state’s water supply with their products.  The lawsuit claims that from the 1960s through the present, the company has manufactured and distributed “fluorosurfactant products” — known to the average consumer as chemicals that create Teflon coating, “Scotchgard,” stainproofing compounds, waxy surfaces and aqueous film-forming foam (“AFFF”), a firefighting agent used to control and extinguish Class B fuel fires.

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Aquafornia news CNBC

Climate change may make homeowners insurance unaffordable

Leigh C. knew that the homeowners insurance on her home in Black Forest, Colorado, an area just northeast of Colorado Springs, would be renewing soon. But when she opened her new bill, she thought she had misread the number. “I called them to see if that was a mistake,” she told CNBC Select. Looking at the itemized numbers, Leigh found that her annual property insurance premium renewal jumped 124% from $3,767 to $8,361. Even though she volunteers for United Policyholders, a nonprofit that advocates for homeowners insurance policyholders after major disasters, Leigh had trouble believing her eyes. … In its press release, State Farm specifically cited “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure” as one of the reasons it would no longer accept new applications for property insurance. Government officials have also noted the tie between homeowners insurance availability and climate change. 

Aquafornia news Lookout Local Santa Cruz

One of Santa Cruz County’s largest water sources is ‘critically overdrafted’; fixes are on the way

More than 50,000 residents of Santa Cruz County are reliant on a single water source: the dwindling Mid-County Groundwater Basin, which the state deemed “critically overdrafted” nearly a decade ago. Now local agencies are embarking on efforts to boost the ability of the basin to capture more rain during the wet months along with an ambitious plan to replenish the basin’s drinking water supply with recycled wastewater. A number of agencies — including Soquel Creek Water District, the City of Santa Cruz Water Department, the Central Water District — and several thousand private well owners share the underground basin, a reserve made up of a group of linked aquifers, in an area that encompasses the Eastside of Santa Cruz, Live Oak, Soquel, Aptos and Capitola.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Taylor Creek interruptions likely impacted kokanee salmon reproduction, but fish expert warns alternative could have been worse

On Nov. 3, 2023, the U.S. Forestry Service temporarily interrupted the water flow to Taylor Creek from the Fallen Leaf Lake dam for three days. This raised concern from community members regarding the spawning kokanee salmon and the future of their eggs. University of Nevada, Reno Professor Sudeep Chandra says the flow into the lake also attracts kokanee to the stream for spawning and that while this interruption could impact reproduction, another concern is ensuring warm water invasive fish species don’t move across the ecosystem, becoming fully established in Taylor Creek and Fallen Leaf Lake.

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Aquafornia news The Daily Wildcat

Study seeks to explore future of water sustainability for Yuma farming

It may be hard to be-leaf, but during the winter months, 90% of vegetables come from fields in Yuma, Arizona. With 230,000 acres of land used for agriculture, Yuma county ranks third in the nation for vegetable production, according to Visit Yuma. But with drought conditions and water shortages in the West, agriculture is at risk. To help address these issues, researchers in Arizona evaluated water efficiency and salt balances for 14 common crop varieties in the Winter Lettuce capital, coordinated by the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture. The study took place over seven years and the results were published in a paper in November 2023.

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Aquafornia news CBS - Pittsburgh

Cyberattack on Pittsburgh-area water authority sends alarms to Department of Homeland Security

A cyberattack over the weekend on the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa has international implications.  Aliquippa would seem to be an unlikely target for international cyber criminals, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investigating the possible attack by an anti-Israeli Iranian group on the water authority.  On Saturday, the nondescript water authority building in the woods on the outskirts of Aliquippa became the target of an international attack. A piece of computer technology that monitors water pressure suddenly shut down and a message appeared on its screen. … Deluzio says the Aliquippa attack raises concerns about more attacks within the United States and the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure, especially in our poorer communities. 

Aquafornia news Aspen Public Radio

At water summit, Indigenous youth speak up about the climate future they want

It was the last session at a recent One Water Summit in Tucson, Arizona, and some of the Indigenous youth speakers about to present were not sure if anyone would show up. The three-day One Water Summit, which takes place annually in different U.S. cities, brought together top leaders from the Environmental Protection Agency, key Colorado River stakeholders, and others discussing recent political actions and highly-debated solutions to water issues like drought, flooding and clean water. Would those important figures be interested in hearing from youth? It turns out, yes. After youth speakers presented during a session focused on Indigenous-based water solutions, several attendees in the room were in tears. The young panelists’ words were that powerful.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists discover a hidden stash of carbon off California coast

A Pacific rock crab scuttling along the ocean floor will one day become a part of a vast, critical stash of carbon that lies off the coast of Northern California, which scientists have now measured for the first time.  This reserve holds untold millennia worth of the would-be greenhouse gas, according to a study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The Pacific Ocean seafloor has exceptional carbon-caching prowess, highlighting the importance of leaving this hidden reservoir undisturbed, scientists say. Doug George, an ocean scientist with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management who co-authored the study, is impressed by the “phenomenal amount of carbon trapped in just the top layers of the seafloor.”

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Blog: Water authority freezes up again on providing records

[The San Diego County Water Authority, the region’s water supplier] dropped a 360-page lawsuit on San Diego’s boundary referees – the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO – just weeks after it said Fallbrook Public Utilities District and Rainbow Municipal Water District could ditch the Water Authority. But the Water Authority won’t tell me how much it spent suing everybody. … David Edwards, the Water Authority’s general counsel, said in an email that the Water Authority has the information I requested — the total cost per hour and hours spent on the litigation, a copy of the contract with Meyers Nave, and what part of the agency’s budget from whence this expense came – but those records are “exempt from production.” 

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

It’s looking like a banner year for baby newts

In the past two weeks, iNaturalist users have recorded over 2,000 observations of the California newt, and another 400 of the similar-looking rough-skinned newt—signaling the start of a busy breeding season for the golden-eyed amphibians that travel to and from water bodies. But for Sally Gale, the founder of the Chileno Valley Newt Brigade, a North Bay volunteer group, the real surprise has been that nearly all the observations her team made were babies: newts just one or two inches long, likely making their life’s first forays outside of their birthplace of Laguna Lake. 

Aquafornia news Scientific American

Author interview: Climate adaptation is backfiring

So flash forward to the last section of the book, is all about Arizona, where I grew up. And there the issue, obviously, is not too much water, there’s too little water.  I talk about the Central Arizona Project, which is a canal that brings Colorado River water hundreds of miles across the desert into Phoenix and Tucson. Most of the book focuses on the farmers there who because they’re the ones who are feeling the impacts of the water shortages in the Colorado River. They’re finding themselves–some of these cases, some of my sources and characters in the book, are people who are being cut off from their water supplies. One of them’s a young farmer, he’s in his 30s, he just had his first kid, he’s a fifth-generation grower, and he’s now realizing that he doesn’t, he’s not going to have any water, at least not the way he thought he was going to.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Monday Top of the Scroll: El Niño update for California: Meteorologists say this one could be ‘historically strong’

Past El Niño years won’t help meteorologists determine what this winter will look like, the National Weather Service said in a Tuesday morning update, because conditions this year are not typical. An El Niño was declared in May, meaning sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal in the equatorial eastern Pacific. This region of the ocean typically drives large-scale atmospheric patterns that impact us locally, said Courtney Carpenter, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, in a video update. Here’s what El Niño conditions mean for California, and what meteorologists predict winter in the northern parts of the state will be like, as of late November:

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