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 AgWeb

California dairy farmers prayed for rain – now it’s forcing some to evacuate

Not long ago, California dairy producer Ryan Junio prayed for rain. The ongoing water scarcity challenges that faced the Golden State was the No. 1 concern for this Tulare County dairy farmer. “As a dairy producer, water scarcity is an ever-growing challenge and is my top concern,” Junio said last summer. Junio wouldn’t have thought that nine months later he would be dealing with a different water crisis, as massive flooding has wreaked havoc on California’s largest dairy hub, Tulare County, home to 330,000-plus dairy cows. Recently Junio’s farm, Four J Jerseys, which consists of two dairies located in Pixley and home to 4,200 cows, had to evacuate one dairy that sits south of the Tule River.

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Aquafornia news Business Insider

The Biden administration is offering to pay Colorado River farmers to let fields go dry during a devastating drought. They’re worried it’s just the first step in losing their way of life

Troy Waters is a fifth-generation farmer in Grand Valley, Colorado. With a new water conservation program funded by the Biden administration, he fears his way of life will turn to dust and blow away in the wind like dried-out topsoil. That’s because the federal government wants to conserve water in the drought-ravaged Colorado River by giving farmers and ranchers cash to let their fields lie fallow, but the interstate agency running the program isn’t offering these producers enough money to quit farming voluntarily, Waters said. … Water conservation is a major political issue in the American West. Climate change has made the Colorado River the driest it’s been in more than a thousand years. Chronic overuse has depleted the reservoirs that sprawling cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas depend on. 

Aquafornia news Reuters

Explainer: What California’s atmospheric rivers mean for drought, floods, fires

California has experienced an exceptionally wet winter with 11 atmospheric rivers battering the state since late December. A twelfth such storm is due to land on Tuesday, threatening to cause even more flooding, landslides and road closures. Atmospheric rivers are vast airborne currents of dense moisture carried aloft for hundreds of miles from the Pacific and funneled over land to fall as bouts of heavy rain and snow. Here’s what such storms mean for the near and long term. California has received 147% of average rainfall so far this season, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Drought in Spain’s northeast empties reservoirs

The medieval church of Sant Romà disappeared from view in the 1960s, when the town of Vilanova de Sau, an hour north of Barcelona, was flooded to create a reservoir. In the past three decades, its spectral belltower has broken the surface several times, serving as a punctual reminder of Spain’s fragile water resources. But today the church’s tower, its nave and the building’s foundations are all exposed. The bare, steep ridges of the Sau reservoir show how far its levels have receded, and the cracked earth around the remaining pool of water is trodden by tourists attracted by the ghost village’s reappearance. Drought in Spain’s northeast reached “exceptional” levels last month, menacing access to drinking water for 6 million people in the Barcelona metropolitan area.

Aquafornia news Hakai Magazine

Plastic bags are leaving their mark on the deep-sea floor

Plastic pollution is everywhere, from the tip of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Wherever it goes, plastic has unexpected effects: it transports pathogens, strangles wildlife, and, sometimes, becomes habitat. But on the bottom of the Philippine Trench, 10,000 meters deep, plastic is reshaping life on the seafloor. In 2021, Alan Jamieson, a marine biologist at the University of Western Australia, Deo Florence L. Onda, a microbial oceanographer at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, and their crew descended into the third-deepest trench in the world. The place was swarming with plastic bags. As the scientists watched, the deep-sea current was dragging plastic bags along the seafloor, scraping it with parallel lines like tire tracks.

Aquafornia news The Revelator

PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ are everywhere: Here’s what that means for wildlife

Images of starving polar bears staggering across the snow earned the species the dubious honor of being the “poster child” of climate change. But now another human-caused environmental danger threatens these apex predators: pollution from a class of 12,000 chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). And they’re not the only ones. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group analyzed hundreds of recent peer-reviewed scientific studies and found more than 120 different PFAS compounds in wildlife. Some 330 species were affected, spanning nearly every continent — and that’s just some of what scientists have identified so far.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Sites Reservoir’s novel approach to storing water for the environment

In 2014, Proposition 1 set aside $2.7 billion to fund the “public benefit” portions of water storage projects through the Water Storage Investment Program. Water storage for the environment played a crucial role in determining how much funding the projects would receive. One of these projects, Sites Reservoir, offers a novel approach to storing water to benefit freshwater ecosystems when they need it most. We talked to Jerry Brown, executive director of the Sites Project Authority, to learn more about plans for the reservoir and its ecosystem water budget.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Newsom touts lithium development near Salton Sea, counters rural fears

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday hailed the state’s rapid transformation to renewables from a unique spot: a lithium processing project in impoverished Imperial County, at the state’s sunbaked southern end that he and others say is part of a “transformational” industry that will bring good new jobs here while also preserving the environment for young people and aiding public health. … He brushed off concerns about global economic volatility and fears of massive renewables slicing through rural communities to power far-off cities, saying in an interview with The Desert Sun/USA Today that what is being done here is a template for vital, sustainable economic projects.

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Aquafornia news National Geographic

Is tap water safe to drink? Here’s what you really need to know.

Most U.S. residents don’t need to worry about the safety of their tap water, but millions of Americans are still exposed to contaminants every year.  It can take a water crisis to highlight where drinking water infrastructure is failing. One of the most devastating water crises in recent memory was the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water in 2014. As of January 2023, nine years after the initial contamination, residents are still dealing with the effects. And last year, a water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi left many of the city’s 150,000 residents without potable water, a problem that persists today.  Here, drinking water experts from the EPA, academia, and advocacy groups weigh in on what you need to know about your tap. 

Aquafornia news ABC News

Amid extreme climate and natural disasters, is California still a desirable place to live and vacation? Experts weigh in.

Earthquakes, snow, wildfires, flooding, smog, fog, heat, drought — these are just some of extreme natural disasters and climate conditions experienced in the Golden State in any given year. California is notoriously the “land of extremes,” Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told ABC News. Snowpack from the winter could quickly melt into flooding come spring. Heat waves in the summer pave the way for wildfires in the fall. Now, intense moisture from atmospheric rivers is walloping the West Coast with an inundation of precipitation — oftentimes too much at once. A pervasive megadrought has been plaguing the region for decades and to top it off, tectonic shifts could cause an earthquake at almost any given moment.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

SoCal rain: 40,000 pounds of storm trash collected since February after back-to-back storms, county says

Could too much rain cause more pollutant problems? It’s definitely something to keep an eye on as Southern California prepares for yet another storm. The wet conditions have caused sinkholes and toppled tress, but all the rain is also sending more pollutants into the ocean. … One way Los Angeles County has prevented more trash from flowing into the ocean is with the latest device called “The Interceptor,” which sits at the mouth of the Ballona Creek near Marina del Rey. It has collected trash since October 2022. According to the county, since then, it captured nearly 122,000 pounds of trash. Of that load, 40,000 pounds of trash was captured from February to today.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘A living pantry’: How an urban food forest in Arizona became a model for climate action

Near downtown Tucson, Arizona, is Dunbar Spring, a neighborhood unlike any other in the city. The unpaved sidewalks are lined with native, food-bearing trees and shrubs fed by rainwater diverted from city streets. One single block has over 100 plant species, including native goji berries, desert ironwood with edamame-like seeds and chuparosa bushes with cucumber-flavored flowers. This urban food forest – which began almost 30 years ago – provides food for residents and roughage for livestock, and the tree canopy also provides relief to residents in the third-fastest warming city in the nation. … The plan, headed up by Lancaster, was to plant multi-use drought-tolerant shade trees in street-side basins that could capture rainwater and create “a more liveable community” …

Aquafornia news CNN

Monday Top of the Scroll: A 12th atmospheric river is headed toward California, threatening even more floods

Still reeling from an onslaught of powerful storms and destructive floods, California is bracing for a 12th atmospheric river that’s expected to bring a new round of heavy snow and rain to the state. The latest in the parade of storms ushered moisture into California Sunday, lashing the state with high winds and dumping more rain and snow over the region before it was expected to spread inland Monday. Thousands were under evacuation orders Sunday in two small central California towns – Alpaugh and Allensworth – as officials worried roads could become impassable and isolate residents, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. …The next atmospheric river, mainly taking aim at southern California, is expected to be colder than the last and arrive Tuesday with high winds, heavy rain, mountain snow and the threat of more floods. 

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Aquafornia news Western Water

Testing at the source: California readies a groundbreaking hunt to check for microplastics in drinking water

Tiny pieces of plastic waste shed from food wrappers, grocery bags, clothing, cigarette butts, tires and paint are invading the environment and every facet of daily life. Researchers know the plastic particles have even made it into municipal water supplies, but very little data exists about the scope of microplastic contamination in drinking water.  After years of planning, California this year is embarking on a first-of-its-kind data-gathering mission to illuminate how prevalent microplastics are in the state’s largest drinking water sources and help regulators determine whether they are a public health threat.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Earth to hit critical warming threshold by early 2030s, climate panel says

Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around “the first half of the 2030s,” as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court to weigh Navajo Nation water rights in Arizona

The Supreme Court will hear a major water rights dispute from Arizona on Monday to decide whether the federal government has broken its promises to the Navajo Nation for more than 150 years. Nearly a third of the Navajo households do not have running water and must rely on water that is trucked in. The Navajo Nation blames the U.S. government for having breached its duty of trust that came with an 1868 treaty that established their reservation in what is now northeast Arizona and smaller portions of southeastern Utah and northeastern New Mexico. That treaty “promised both land and water sufficient for the Navajos to return to a permanent home in their ancestral territory,” attorneys for the Navajo Nation told the court. “Broken promises. The Nation is still waiting for the water it needs.”

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Ugly deeds, politics and high drama swirl amid the waters of a re-emerging Tulare Lake

The drama was high on the Tulare Lake bed Saturday as flood waters pushed some landowners to resort to heavy handed and, in one instance, illegal tactics, to try and keep their farm ground dry — even at the expense of other farmers and some small communities. Someone illegally cut the banks of Deer Creek in the middle of the night causing water to rush toward the tiny town of Allensworth. The levee protecting Corcoran had its own protection as an armed guard patrolled the structure to keep it safe. At the south end of the old lake bed, the J.G. Boswell Company had workers drag a piece of heavy equipment onto the banks of its Homeland Canal to prevent any cuts that would drain Poso Creek water onto Boswell land.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

El Niño expected to develop later in the year

La Niña is finally over after three years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This winter has not acted like a typical La Niña winter with California getting drenched, especially in Southern California where La Niña typically signals a drier than average winter…. Climate models are nearly certain El Niño will develop later this summer or fall. California is typically wetter during El Niño conditions, although the signal becomes murkier from Sacramento northward.

Aquafornia news Fox Weather

California crops lost after floods; how much of the US will feel the shortage?

Too much thing, rain, is sinking farmers’ bottom lines across California’s Central Coast. The area some call “America’s salad bowl” more resembles a soup bowl as round after round of atmospheric river-fueled storms overwhelmed farmland. We all may start to notice a difference in the grocery store as some staples become harder to find. FOX Weather brought you to Pajaro, California when the levee failed recently. The farming community in the Pajaro River Valley disappeared under feet of water. Similar scenes played out across the Salinas River Valley, another iconic farm area in Monterey County which is the fourth top agricultural producer in the state, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

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Aquafornia news KESQ - Palm Springs

Governor Newsom to visit Salton Sea for update on lithium production

Governor Gavin Newsom will join local leaders on Monday for a visit to Imperial Valley. He will get an update on progress being made toward lithium production. Lithium is the material essential to battery production. Imperial Valley contains some of the largest lithium deposits in the world, specifically underground near the Salton Sea, a region also known as Lithium Valley. The Salton Sea was once a top tourist destination, attracting some of old Hollywood’s biggest names, but over the past few decades, it’s become an ecological disaster. Evaporation and agricultural runoff have exposed toxins in the lakebed and created a perfect environment for dangerous algae blooms and bacteria to thrive.