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 Mercury News

Salmon have returned to the East Bay’s water source in record numbers. What does it mean?

… Last week, the East Bay Municipal Utility District announced a record-breaking fall salmon run in the Mokelumne River … According to EBMUD, over 20,000 salmon have already returned to spawn in the river this year, a figure not seen in 80 years of record-keeping. … Yet salmon observers across the state say the record-breaking numbers are unlikely to be a step toward large, more sustainable salmon populations. Instead, the salmon in the Mokelumne this year could just be the fleeting appearance of progress in developed, modern river systems that don’t prioritize the fish’s success.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Wetlands are appearing around the Salton Sea. Could this be a natural solution?

About 3 miles east of Bombay Beach, and a half-mile back from the Salton Sea’s receding shoreline, the crunchy exposed playa gives way from a mostly empty white landscape to more and more native vegetation, and then suddenly a few shallow ponds appear, surrounded by dense vegetation. The Bombay Beach wetlands are an unexpected side effect of the shrinking sea, and Audubon California is eyeing this phenomenon as at least a partial solution to the complex issues at the Salton Sea. Proposals abound aimed at mitigating the effects of the sea’s quickly receding shoreline, from importing water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez (still just an idea) to the state’s 4,000-acre habitat restoration along the sea’s southern edge (nearing completion).

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

SoCal’s water wars threatened to tear San Diego apart

Two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s smallest customers — avocado and citrus farming communities in North County tired of paying ever-rising water rates to urbanize San Diego — were prepared to leave quietly in search of cheaper water elsewhere.  These water divorce proceedings began back in 2020. But at the 11th hour, the Water Authority started pulling out all the stops to keep them in line, and all hell broke loose. The Water Authority leaned on powerful friends at the State Capitol and former enemies in Los Angeles, where the biggest water supplier in the world lives: the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.   The Water Authority also turned to the courts, dropping a 360-page lawsuit against its defectors, Rainbow Municipal Water District and Fallbrook Public Utilities District, and a little-known organization that gave them permission to leave: the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO.  

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Kern River flowing year-round through Bakersfield will be spectacular

Congratulations to Bakersfield for boldly moving forward with new flows for the Kern River. This piece adds perspective from up north in our Great Central Valley. Winters and Davis in the 1990s were where Bakersfield has been in recent decades. Putah Creek’s channel courses through Winters and Davis. (Putah, by the way, is really a river with about half the typical flow of the Kern!) With no guaranteed flows for lower Putah Creek since construction of Monticello Dam and the filling of Lake Berryessa in the 1960s, our waterway’s habitat was dwindling and public access was shabby. Deep into a 1980s drought, our creek’s alarm went off. Children at Davis’ summer camp saw fish flapping in the mud. Parents were appalled, the city of Davis was embarrassed and those who value nature were dismayed. Dirt bikes could roam 20 miles of dried channel.
-Written by Joe Krovoza, the former chair of the Putah Creek Council.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

New Colorado River model lets everyone test drought solutions

Everyone from policymakers to armchair warriors has a theory on the best way to solve the Colorado River crisis. Soon they’ll have a chance to test out their ideas. The Colorado River’s flow is dropping — it’s about 18% lower in the 21st century than it was in the 20th century — and that’s a big deal to the 40 million people who depend on it for water across the West. But solving the crisis gets complicated, quickly. That’s where a team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, think they can help. They’ve developed a new way of looking at water-saving efforts across the enormous basin, and they’re turning it into an interactive map and dashboard that everyone can use.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Restoring the Klamath River: Dam removal is just the 1st step

… A series of hydroelectric dams had altered the Klamath’s flow more than a century ago, creating an unnatural system that left fish and people high and dry. … But the 6,500-member Yurok Tribe and its neighbors in the Klamath River Basin still had cause to celebrate: They had won a 20-year-long struggle to demolish four decommissioned hydroelectric dams in the middle basin. That massive project, the largest in U.S. history, is ongoing and expected to be completed sometime in early 2025.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

As groundwater levels fall in the U.S., powerful players block change

… In May, with Nevada facing increasingly severe water problems, a state legislative committee was considering a proposal backed by environmentalists and water managers that would have made it harder in some parts of the state to get new permits to pump water.. … [A Kansas] aquifer is running out of water, fast. But the board hasn’t slowed down the pumping. In a country where the value of land often depends on access to water, powerful interests in agriculture, heavy industry and real estate draw vast amounts of water out of the ground.

Aquafornia news U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

News release: Wave of construction kicks off at Folsom Dam

In early 2020, while the rest of the Sacramento region headed to their homes to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic, a long line of construction equipment under contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District was instead heading to the jobsite. The first of eight dikes bolstering the west and south shores of Folsom Lake, Dike 8, gradually rose three and a half feet at the southern tip of the lake. Contracted workers donned safety vests, boots, and something new—the face mask—while work continued on Dike 8. … Folsom Dam is not just one structure; it’s made up of a main dam, two wing dams (left and right), the Mormon Island Auxiliary Dam, and the eight dikes. Dike 8 was the first of all this infrastructure to be raised 3.5 feet, but far from the last. All of these components are scheduled to undergo a similar raise by 2028

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Aquafornia news KPBS - San Diego

As winter rains approach, Imperial Beach hopes rain barrels will lighten the load

Imperial Beach wants more residents to start using rain barrels. That’s the goal behind a new set of guidelines adopted by the city last week, which officials hope will ultimately help shore up the city’s aging infrastructure against rising sea levels. Rain barrels are tanks that collect and store rainwater for future use. They can help users conserve drinking water and save money on irrigation. They also have the added advantage of reducing the amount of rainfall that flows into the city’s stormwater collection system.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Groundwater water recharge project brings learning opportunities to Oceano Elementary School

The Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) and Lucia Mar Unified School District teamed up for a construction project that aims to help recharge the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin and reduce flooding. Will Clemens, OCSD general manager, said that the stormwater capture and groundwater recharge project is crucial for environmental and safety reasons because once the project is completed, flooding won’t overwhelm Oceano’s streets and residents.

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Aquafornia news Daily Beast

Locals are fighting billionaires’ Solano County utopian city at every turn

California Forever, a group of Silicon Valley titans hoping to create a new city in a rural area 60 miles northeast of San Francisco, has faced local resistance from the day it launched this summer with a splashy website and promises to “bring back the California Dream.” … [A recent public meeting] concerned California Forever’s proposal to fund a study on upgrading the county’s water infrastructure. Many cities in Solano County get their water largely from the notoriously old and unreliable North Bay Aqueduct. California Forever approached the water authority about funding a study on a replacement to serve both their city and existing ones in Solano County. In a press release, the group called it a “win-win” and a “free lunch” for the community.

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - Las Vegas

Making it rain: Cloud seeding effort aims to bring more water to Red Rock Canyon

Nevada and other states in the Colorado River Basin continue to face a water crisis. Drought has stretched on for more than two decades and is compounded by the effects of climate change. Last year, Lake Mead dipped to an all-time low. Can human intervention make a difference? Can we get more desperately needed water from the clouds to the ground? FOX5 went on a journey seeking an answer to that question up to Mt. Potosi where a cloud seeding generator is located. Cloud seeding is something that’s been done for decades but the generator, which specifically targets Red Rock Canyon, was only set up last fall. It all started with one Blue Diamond resident’s idea.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

As Water Board investigates two Carmel Valley sewage spills, Cal Am explains what went wrong.

In the immediate aftermath of a sewage spill at Carmel Valley Ranch on Aug. 6 and then another on Aug. 16, California American Water officials were out on the scene right away, seeking to contain the overflow. Paperwork moves much slower. Months later, in response to a notice of violation issued on Oct. 26 by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Cal Am has filed a technical report explaining what the utility believes happened. … According to the water board’s findings, “Due to the proximity of the storm drain to the manhole and the County [Environmental Health Bureau of the Monterey County Health Department]’s observation that sandbags were not effective in stopping the overflow from entering the storm drain, Central Coast Water Board staff assume that up to 1,200 gallons of sewage discharged to the storm drain.”

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: California’s amazing terminal lakes

When Californians talk of lakes, they usually mean reservoirs, the 1500 or so artificial bodies of water behind dams. Alternately, they may be referring to the 4,000 or so natural lakes in the Sierra Nevada or to one of the few large natural lakes in the state, such as Lake Tahoe or Clear Lake. But some of the most interesting lakes in the state draw our attention mainly when demand for water threatens to dry them up. These are terminal lakes, that mostly depend on seasonal rain or snow melt to maintain them as lakes. They are called terminal lakes because water flows into the basins through streams, but leaves mostly by evaporation or sinking into underground aquifers. Each lake has its own unique chemistry and other characteristics, although most are highly productive so are important to migratory waterfowl and invertebrates.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

River district funds helped in tapping federal money for water projects

Four recently announced federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grants for water projects in the region all included one notable common denominator — they all got help in their application process through a special Colorado River District program made possible by a voter-approved tax measure in 2020. On Nov. 15 the Department of Interior announced $51 million in funding via the Bureau of Reclamation for 30 new environmental water resource projects in 11 states. The projects focus on water conservation, water management and restoration efforts that will result in significant benefits to ecosystem or watershed health, the Interior Department says. Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Brain visited Grand Junction at the time of the funding announcement to highlight recipients of funding in Colorado.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Lake Mead may reach record lowest levels in 2025, scientists warn

Lake Mead could drop to its lowest point ever in 2025, new projections have estimated. The latest “most probable” projections from the Bureau of Reclamation estimate that Lake Mead could reach water levels as low as 1,040.77 feet in September 2025. This is the lowest the lake has ever been. It has reached this point before, in July 2022. It is the lowest the reservoir has been since it was first constructed in the 1930s.

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Aquafornia news

Happy Thanksgiving from Aquafornia!

Dear Aquafornia readers,

Aquafornia is off for the Thanksgiving weekend. We will return with a full slate of water news on Monday, Nov. 27.In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for breaking news and on Facebook and LinkedIn for Foundation-related news. We are grateful for our readers! Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Aquafornia news 90.3 KAZU - Central Coast

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Construction on a safer Pajaro River levee will begin next summer

An agreement signed on Tuesday between local leaders and the Army Corps of Engineers cleared the way for construction to begin next year on a replacement for the ailing Pajaro River levee. The long-awaited project will provide 100-year flood protection for the communities of Pajaro and Watsonville, compared to the eight- to 10-year protection of the current structure. The signing ceremony at Watsonville City Hall came 57 years after Congress first authorized rebuilding the inadequate levee system, directing in the Flood Control Act of 1966 that the work be done “expeditiously.” The levee’s failure in March, which flooded the town of Pajaro and drove thousands from their homes, spotlighted a federal funding system that prioritized flood control projects in rich communities over disadvantaged ones.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kern River battles continue as ag districts accuse Bakersfield of pulling off a historic ‘water heist’

If anyone thought a recent court order mandating 40% of the Kern River’s flow remain in the river for fish was the end of the story, think again. Agricultural water districts are striking back. … at what they say is an historic water heist by the city of Bakersfield. On Tuesday, a coalition of ag districts filed a motion to stay and a motion for reconsideration of Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp’s injunction and implementation order requiring water in the river. The group, including Kern Delta Water District, Kern County Water Agency and the North Kern, Buena Vista and Rosedale-Rio Bravo water storage districts contend, among other things, that the implementation order was rushed by … not affording them due process.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Going to the source: Can meadow restoration beef up California’s water supplies and reduce flooding?

California’s 280,000 acres of mountain meadows dotting the Sierra Nevada are more than pretty rest stops along arduous alpine trails. They also act  like giant water sponges, filtering water and slowing it down as runoff barrels down mountainsides. Yet more than 50,000 acres of meadows are in need of restoration. US Forest Service ecologist Karen Pope said California has some of the best meadows in the world, and likens them to “nature’s speed bumps” for their ability to moderate water flows for downstream users. Their restoration is part of a bigger picture, encapsulated in the Department of Water Resources’ strategic Water Plan, which acknowledges climate change as an “urgent threat” and calls for focusing on the state’s watersheds, water systems and communities.

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