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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 Aspen Global Change Institute

Blog: Unraveling the mystery of disappearing Colorado River water

There’s a mystery afoot in the upper Colorado River Basin: the amount of winter snowpack and the resulting spring and summer runoff haven’t added up in recent years. In 2021, for example, measurements of the snowpack looked close to normal (80% of average), but the streamflows in the spring and summer of that year were only 30% of average, much lower than what was expected. Where did that water go? In the megadrought-stricken Western US, understanding the causes of this mismatch is a question that the 40 million users of water sourced from the Colorado River urgently need answered.

Aquafornia news Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District

In Memoriam: EVMWD mourns the loss of Board Director Phil Williams

Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District board of directors and staff were saddened by the death of Board Director Phil Williams. Director Phil Williams served on EVMWD’s board of director since 2001, representing EVMWD’s Division 4, which includes areas of Corona and western Lake Elsinore, as well as the unincorporated communities of Horsethief Canyon and Alberhill. “We have lost an admired and respected member of the EVMWD family” said Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Greg Thomas. … Williams, a local real estate broker and licensed general contractor, was a lifelong resident of Lake Elsinore. As a board member for EVMWD, Williams served as board president seven times over his 21 year tenure on the board.

Aquafornia news Palo Alto Weekly

Palo Alto partners with Mountain View, other Peninsula cities in planning colossal upgrade to wastewater plant

Seeking to modernize aged equipment and cut down on the nitrogen that flows into the San Francisco Bay, Palo Alto and its partners are embarking on an ambitious makeover of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, a project that will cost $193 million and take about five years to complete. The City Council is preparing to approve next month a $161 million contract with Anderson Pacific Engineering Construction to upgrade the wastewater treatment system at the regional plant on Embarcadero Road, near the Baylands. … A key goal of the upgrade is to reduce this outflow of nitrogen, which causes algae to bloom in the bay, [plant manager] Jamie Allen said. Over the summer, the a red algae bloom across the region killed fish throughout the area.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability researchers use airborne technology to spot groundwater recharge sites

Recently, researchers from Stanford flew California skies on a kind of airborne treasure hunt. Probing hundreds of feet into the ground with electromagnetic signals, they were in search of liquid gold – water, or more precisely a place to capture and store it. … [Rosemary Knight, Ph.D., a researcher with the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability] just released a new study, confirming the airborne technology’s ability to locate what is now popularly called “paleo valleys.” They’re long, buried riverbed pathways created thousands of years ago by the movement of glaciers that once covered the Sierra. Filled with porous material, experts believe they could act like a high-speed express lane to carry diverted flood water deep into the aquifer.

Aquafornia news Tucson.com

Tucson, other cities commit to long list of water-saving goals

Get rid of ornamental grass. Recycle more wastewater. Make indoor and outdoor watering more efficient. Limit outdoor watering to a few days a week. Create water rate structures that encourage conservation. Minimize business use of thirsty swamp cooling. Crack down on water leaks.  A group of 30 cities and water districts, including Tucson, committed to carrying out these water conservation measures in an agreement signed last week. The measures, described by the agency officials as unprecedented, are aimed at reducing water demand by cities across the West to make the region less reliant on dwindling Colorado River supplies.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: Delta Adapts – On the way to a multi-benefit climate adaptation strategy

An adaption strategy for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta must address and reduce climate change impacts in a way that meets the coequal goals, builds resilience for the future, and prioritizes the most vulnerable communities. Climate change is already altering the physical environment of the Delta, resulting in significant impacts on its people and resources that are only expected to worsen over time. The Delta Stewardship Council recognized the need to address climate change and completed the Delta Adapts Vulnerability Assessment in 2021, which is the first comprehensive study of projected climate hazards in the Delta and Suisun Marsh, identifying the people and resources most vulnerable to increased flood risk, extreme heat, drought, and wildfire smoke.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Drought prompts water transfer between Loveland and Sweetwater reservoirs

Sweetwater Authority has begun transferring water between its two reservoirs in response to drought conditions, the agency announced. The move has paused access to fishing at Loveland Reservoir and local anglers fear that continued draining will result in a permanent end to one of the few, free options to fish in the region. Tuesday marked the beginning of a water transfer from Loveland, which is near Alpine, to the Sweetwater Reservoir south of Spring Valley, where it will be treated by the agency and then supplied to its 200,000 customers in Bonita, Chula Vista and National City.

Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

Unchecked pollution is contaminating the salmon that Pacific Northwest tribes eat

OPB and ProPublica purchased 50 salmon from Native fishermen along the Columbia River and paid to have them tested at a certified lab for 13 metals and two classes of chemicals known to be present in the Columbia. We then showed the results to two state health departments, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials and tribal fisheries scientists. The testing showed concentrations of [mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs]… EPA documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that even with minimal data available, agency staff members have flagged the potential for exposure to chemicals in salmon caught not just in the Columbia but also Washington’s Puget Sound, British Columbia’s Skeena and Fraser rivers, and California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Newport Beach, Newport Bay Conservancy look ahead to Big Canyon restoration project

Discussion of restoring Big Canyon, which has long been impacted by human activity and development as Orange County grew, started in 2002, according to project manager and Newport Beach assistant city engineer Bob Stein, but nothing came of it until about 2015. … That led to Phase I, which cost roughly $1.6 million and recently concluded its monitoring period. That phase addressed roughly 6 acres of the park and focused on the rehabilitation of the creek that runs through it and riparian restoration. Urban runoff was diverted to a water treatment center.

Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

Golden Hills water rights issue tabled until December water district meeting

The final regular meeting for two members of the Board of Directors of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District was a quick one, with little business conducted. Director James Pack served eight years on the board and Director Kathy Cassil served four years. Both opted not to run for reelection. At the Nov. 16 meeting, board President Robert Schultz and the district’s General Manager Tom Neisler both thanked the two for their service on the board. Neisler said he hopes they will attend the December meeting at which the district will transition to a new board.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Appellate Court awards attorneys’ fees in 2015 curtailment case

On Friday, November 18, 2022, the Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District (Sixth District Court) reversed the Santa Clara County Superior Court’s denial of an attorneys’ fees award in favor of a group of California irrigation districts and water agencies (Districts) that successfully challenged the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) decision to issue certain water right curtailment notices during the 2015 drought. The Sixth District Court held that the Districts are entitled to attorneys’ fees incurred prosecuting the Superior Court litigation against the State Board. The full Opinion is here

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado lesser prairie chicken now a threatened species

Federal wildlife officials have declared the boom-or-bust lesser prairie chicken a threatened species in Colorado, and endangered in states to the south, a goal of a long environmental campaign but a disappointment to farmers who fear new restrictions. … Wildlife scientists and advocates say the bird is a leading indicator of healthy continuous grassland and prairies, and the species once ranged across nearly 100 million acres in the Southwest with a population possibly in the millions. It’s now limited to a range of a few million acres broken up by row crops, overgrazing and oil and gas development, with aerial surveys putting the population at 32,000 across five states. … With a threatened designation, farmers and ranchers are able to continue most land uses but face new reviews on significant changes. 

Aquafornia news Payson Roundup

Opinion: Native American tribes fight for water rights

The fierce struggle for water in a drought-stricken West continues to roil politics — and embroil a host of tribal water claims. The decades-long drought has dried up reservoirs and forced federal water cutbacks for the 40 million people in seven states who rely on the Colorado River for water. But it has also dramatically increased the stakes for the region in decades-old water claims by a host of tribes — including the Navajo and the White Mountain Apache. The Tonto Apache Tribe also has a decades-old claim to water from the Colorado River. Efforts to settle that claim with water from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir with a payment from the federal government to buy into Payson’s pipeline have been stalled for years — and missed out on a gush of federal pandemic and infrastructure aid to tribes.
-Written by contributor Peter Aleshire. 

Aquafornia news Business Wire

Rincon water rebates a hit with customers

Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District (Rincon Water) announced today that it completed an initiative to provide nearly $1.2 million in rebates to customers and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the program. The rebates were made possible following years of litigation by the San Diego County Water Authority against the Metropolitan Water District for violating existing exchange agreements between the two agencies. The customer rebates come as residents across the county prepare for the holiday season, giving Rincon Water customers a boost to help put food on the Thanksgiving table and some extra gifts for family members next month.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

News release: ASU tapped to lead statewide water initiative

Arizona State University and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Nov. 16 that the university will lead a multi-year Arizona Water Innovation Initiative to provide immediate, actionable and evidence-based solutions to ensure that Arizona will continue to thrive with a secure future water supply, according to a news release.  Ducey has committed resources and has asked ASU to work with industrial, municipal, agricultural, tribal and international partners to rapidly accelerate and deploy new approaches and technology for water conversation, augmentation, desalination, efficiency, infrastructure, and reuse.

Aquafornia news Globe Newswire

News release: ACWA Fall Conference explores top California water issues

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Fall Conference & Exhibition Nov. 29-Dec. 1 will draw local water agency leaders from throughout California to Indian Wells for three days of updates, analyses and perspectives on multiple issues affecting the state’s water community. The event will also feature an international perspective on water management and connect attendees with a leader behind a movement to change policy priorities in addressing catastrophic wildfires. Delivering the Opening Breakfast keynote on Nov. 30, Ambassador Marco Sermoneta, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, will share his insights about how Israel has addressed water management challenges.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought has pushed 100-year-old Colorado River Compact to the brink

100 years ago, Wyoming signed onto a deal to divide the water that flows through the Colorado River basin among seven states. It’s based on a formula — one likely based on mistaken beliefs about the river itself — that did not award extra credit for living in the mountains where the snow piles up. Instead, the states signed a compact allocating the water where it would readily be put to work. It meant the more populated states of California, Colorado and Arizona would get the biggest shares. … But more than two decades into a punishing drought that climate scientists say will likely intensify with more warming, the system can no longer supply everything that some 40 million people in a warming and drying region desire from it, or that grocers nationwide sell from its verdant fields. 

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State water agency wades into lawsuit to maintain its authority over groundwater plans

A lawsuit over groundwater plans in the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley is being closely watched as it could have implications for how the state’s groundwater mandate moves forward, according to a recent briefing on the issue at the Kern Groundwater Authority. At the Nov. 16 meeting, authority attorney Valerie Kincaid explained that the lawsuit, filed in 2020, seeks to have a court invalidate six groundwater plans in the Delta-Mendota Subbasin, which runs along the western edge of the valley from west of Fresno north to west of Modesto. The Department of Water Resources filed an amicus brief in the suit, which was bought by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Kincaid explained. An amicus, or friend of the court brief, can be filed by a group that has a strong interest in a case.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Coastal Commission approves Cal Am’s desal plant in Marina, but many hurdles remain.

After more than a decade in the trying, a major desalination plant to serve the Monterey Peninsula has cleared a significant hurdle—in theory, at least. In a 13-hour meeting that adjourned just after 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 17, the California Coastal Commission approved a conditional coastal development permit for California American Water, the private water utility that serves the greater Monterey Peninsula, to build a desalination project in neighboring Marina, a city whose residents are vehemently opposed to it, and who would not be served by it. One thing that was continually brought up during the meeting, and that was acknowledged in the Coastal Commission’s staff report that recommended approval (with many conditions, some potentially insurmountable), is that the project is rife with complexity, both from technical and environmental justice standpoints. … One question that remained unanswered was who would pay for the project.

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Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

The world’s largest dam removal will touch many lives in the Klamath River Basin

… hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat are blocked by four dams on the lower Klamath River. But an historic decision made on Thursday in Washington, D.C. holds the promise to change that. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of removing those four dams should set free a huge stretch of one of the West’s most important coastal rivers for salmon and reopen 400 miles of habitat — much of which salmon have been unable to reach for more than a century…. Next year, deconstruction work will begin at JC Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams, with the biggest dams scheduled to be removed in 2024. Getting to this point has taken decades of negotiation and planning, and removing the four dams will be a massive, $500 million undertaking that many in the surrounding communities still oppose.

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