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 Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Heat and drought shape Southern California’s summer outlook

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is Monday. What’s in store for the upcoming season of beach days and barbecues in Southern California? To start with, it will be dry. That’s not just because California’s Mediterranean climate means rain mostly falls during a few wet winter months, but because the state is in its third year of drought…. Major reservoirs statewide were at 76% of average levels this week, with the long, hot summer months still ahead….This month, 59.64% of the state is categorized as being in extreme drought, the second-worst category, with just 0.18% in exceptional drought — but then this is May, not July.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California just adopted new water restrictions: What you need to know

California water regulators strengthened the state’s drought rules this week, ordering local suppliers to take steps to reduce water usage to stretch limited supplies this summer. Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that more stringent statewide water restrictions could come if the state doesn’t make more progress on conservation soon. … As part of the new rules, the state also banned the use of drinking water for irrigating grass that is purely decorative at businesses and in common areas of subdivisions and homeowners associations. Here is a breakdown of what is going on:

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State funding to retire valley farmland could more than double under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget

A state program aimed at retiring and repurposing farmland could get $60 million – more than doubling its current funding – under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget. The Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program was created with $50 million from the 2021 state budget. The program helps pay for farmland to be taken out of production and repurposed to less water intensive uses. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have pumped groundwater for crops without limits for generations. But groundwater levels are plummeting …

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Agenda now posted for special June 9 workshop in Southern California on precipitation forecasting & drought management

California’s vast network of surface water reservoirs is designed to hold carryover storage from year to year to ensure water is available for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes during dry months and years. But climate change has begun to affect our reliance on historical weather patterns to predict California’s water supply, making it even more difficult for water managers to manage drought conditions and placing a greater emphasis on better precipitation forecasting at longer lead times. Learn about efforts being made to ‘get ahead of the storms’ through new science, models and technology at our special one-day workshop June 9 in IrvineMaking Progress on Drought Management: Improvements in Seasonal Precipitation Forecasting.

Aquafornia news CNN

Lake Mead boats emerge as water level drops to 1,050 feet

The water level in Lake Mead — the nation’s largest reservoir — dropped below 1,050 feet elevation for the first time last week, a critical milestone that signals more stringent water cuts are around the corner for the Southwest…. As of Tuesday, Lake Mead’s level was around 1,049 feet above sea level…. If the lake’s water level is expected to stay below 1,050 feet by January 2023, the more significant Tier 2 shortage would be implemented. Additional cuts — each tier with rising impact on agriculture and municipal water use — are expected if Lake Mead continues to fall. 

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Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California moves to curb harmful tire pollutant collecting in Bay, threatening wildlife

If you think about the pollution your car causes, chances are you’re not thinking about the tires. And probably even less about a faraway creek, where a Coho Salmon is dying. But researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere … say as the rubber wears away from car tires during everyday driving, it spreads tiny micro particles, including a destructive chemical called 6PPD. … Now, with information gathered in part by the [San Francisco Estuary] Institute, the State of California is stepping in, laying the groundwork for potential regulations to curb the toxic tire pollution.

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Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Shasta Lake levels will drop, but not as drastically as 2021

Each year, Lake Shasta brings in locals and tourists from all over, especially for Memorial Day weekend. Businesses on Lake Shasta are dealing with low lake levels and short staffing but despite the challenges, they still expect a good holiday turnout. … With a three-year drought, lake levels are front-of-mind for many frequent lake visitors, but there is good news. Lake levels are currently about 120 feet below full pool and expected to drop 155 feet later this summer, but that’s still 30 feet higher than we saw last year. Matt Doyle, general manager of Lake Shasta Caverns, said businesses around the lake are very hopeful for this year’s summer.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Delta water crisis linked to California’s racist past, tribes and activists say

Tribes and environmental groups are challenging how the state manages water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a major source for much of California, arguing the deterioration of the aquatic ecosystem has links to the state’s troubled legacy of racism and oppression of Native people. A group of activists and Indigenous leaders is demanding that the state review and update the water quality plan for the Delta and San Francisco Bay, where fish species are suffering, algae blooms have worsened and climate change is adding to the stresses. 

Aquafornia news Grist

How the “exchange contract” pits California farmers against each other

[On the southeast side of California’s Central Valley] farmers are pumping unreliable groundwater to make up the difference, hoping their already struggling wells don’t go dry … Others will rip up their trees and leave their fields fallow. … About 100 miles away, on the northwest side of the Central Valley, the situation could not be more different. Even during an unprecedented drought, the almond and pistachio farmers around the city of Los Banos will get around 75 percent of a normal year’s water … The startling contrast is the result of an obscure and contentious legal agreement known as the exchange contract …

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Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Sonoma Co. vineyard exec faces $3.75M fine over alleged environmental violations

A well-known Sonoma County vineyard executive is facing a multi-million-dollar state fine for allegedly removing trees and destroying a small wetland on a rural patch of land east of Cloverdale. Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms could be on the hook for up to $3.75 million in fines for allegedly cutting down trees, grading, ripping and other activities near tributaries to Little Sulphur Creek, Big Sulphur Creek and Crocker Creek in the Russian River Watershed … In a complaint filed May 9, the Water Board accused Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms of also failing to abide by a 2019 cleanup and abatement order, which required them to restore the streams and wetlands.

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Aquafornia news ProPublica

Salmon hatcheries funded by U.S. government haven’t ended fish’s decline

Today, there are hundreds of hatcheries in the Northwest run by federal, state and tribal governments … The fish they send to the Pacific Ocean have allowed restaurants and grocery seafood counters to offer “wild-caught” Chinook salmon even as the fish became endangered. The hatcheries were supposed to stop the decline of salmon. They haven’t. The numbers of each of the six salmon species native to the Columbia basin have dropped to a fraction of what they once were, and 13 distinct populations are now considered threatened or endangered.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

PFAS pose ‘watershed’ moment for Superfund liability

The Biden administration’s ambitions to crack down on “forever chemicals” — touted as an administration priority — are facing headwinds from key industries that say they could be unfairly punished and held liable for contamination they did not create. Members of the water and waste sectors are ramping up pressure on Congress and EPA to shield them from an upcoming proposal as the agency makes progress on addressing PFAS contamination. 

Aquafornia news Wild Rivers Outpost

Tar is still leaking into the Smith River after last month’s suspected DUI crash, officials confirm

Gobs of oily tar continue to slip past containment booms and drain into the Smith River, nearly a month after an overturned trailer spilled 2,000 gallons of the hot asphalt binder onto U.S. 199 between Hiouchi and Gasquet. Spokesperson Eric Laughlin with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response confirmed with the Outpost that the toxic goop is actively leaking into the Smith River, and that the agency received new reports of the material traveling downstream on Friday.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Assemblyman maneuvers to slow proposed river flow increases

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, is maneuvering against a bill that seeks higher flows on local rivers. Assembly Bill 2639 would set a Dec. 31, 2023, deadline for the State Water Resources Control Board to complete its plan for tributaries to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They include the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. The decision would follow decades of wrangling over whether fish should get more water on the lower rivers at the expense of farms and cities.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Unprecedented fire, wind and snowmelt in the Southwest

It is mid-May, and a couple of days ago, the Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico reached 299,565 acres in size, surpassing the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire as the state’s largest wildfire on record. … It is mid-May, and a dozen other fires have already charred tens of thousands of acres across the West … It is mid-May, and the spring winds have been relentless … It is mid-May, and the temperature in Phoenix has reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit two days in a row.

Aquafornia news

Non-motorized watercraft can still spread invasive species at Lake Tahoe

Everyone boating in Lake Tahoe already goes through a process of “Clean, Drain, Dry” protocols prior to launching to keep invasive species out of the big, beautiful lake. But what about other vessels in the lake like paddle boards, electric surfboards, kayaks, and canoes? … For pristine waters that have no invasive species, such as Echo Lakes, Angora, and Fallen Leaf lakes, even Lake Tahoe is considered a threat from the Eurasian watermilfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, and Asian clams currently found in Big Blue. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

County Corner: Our answers on groundwater leave more questions

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order outlining the temporary strategies for California to manage the ongoing drought. Within this order, he outlined rules for counties, cities and other public agencies as it relates to new wells or alterations to an existing well. One rule requires farmers and ranchers to get written verification from their local groundwater sustainability agency that the new well or alterations “would not be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program” for the area. 

Aquafornia news Mono Lake Committee

Blog: Surface water exports curtailed by low Grant Lake Reservoir storage

During the 2021 runoff year (April 1, 2021–March 31, 2022), the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) was allowed to export up to 16,000 acre-feet of stream diversions from the Mono Basin because Mono Lake was above 6380 feet above sea level on April 1, 2021. Yet, only 13,300 acre-feet of water was taken, consistent with the low reservoir requirements in DWP’s water licenses, which were amended last year by the California State Water Resources Control Board. The new licenses contain an overall minimum level of 11,500 acre-feet of storage for Grant Lake Reservoir, with a minimum of 20,000 acre-feet for July–September. 

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Aquafornia news & the West

Weighing the consequences of losing carbon-free energy in California

Old environmental arguments over the consequences of nuclear power had seemed almost resolved in California. Antinuclear sentiment was intensified by the 33-year succession of accidents, from Three Mile Island in 1978 to Chernobyl in 1986 to Fukushima in 2011, severely diminished their appeal. California was getting ready to wave goodbye to its last nuclear plant. Up Close We explore the issues, personalities, and trends that people are talking about around the West. The political realities of 2022 and the need to reduce carbon emissions might change things.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California bans watering of ‘non functional’ lawns around businesses as drought persists

Californians can expect to see more yellow grass around hospitals, hotels, office parks and industrial centers after water regulators voted Tuesday to ban watering of “nonfunctional” turf in commercial areas. The State Water Resources Control Board also moved to order all the state’s major urban water providers to step up their conservation efforts. The moves are the strongest regulatory actions state officials have taken in the third year of the latest drought.

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