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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 Santa Barbara Independent

Water war breaks out over cannabis cultivation in Santa Barbara County

The Coalition for Responsible Cannabis filed an administrative action that if successful could wreak havoc on 22 major cannabis cultivation sites that are now drawing water from wells that draw from the Santa Ynez River. According to legal papers attorney filed Tuesday, attorney Marc Chytilo is demanding the state’s Water Resources Control Board issue a cease-and-desist order to each of cannabis cultivators improperly drawing water from the river. He also requested the state water board join with Fish and Wildlife to initiate a comprehensive investigation of cannabis cultivation along the Santa Ynez River. 

Aquafornia news Nossaman LLP - JDSupra

Blog: California becomes first government in world to require microplastics testing for drinking water

On September 7, 2022, California became the first government in the world to require microplastics testing for drinking water, an emerging contaminant that is found throughout the environment. The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) approved a policy handbook that details how it will implement a four-year plan, including testing logistics as well as how it will select the public agencies that will be required to test. Microplastics represent an emerging contaminant of concern for which there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Aquafornia news Climate and Water Law

Report: Climate change & water law – How will water law respond to climate change in the Intermountain West?

Climate change continues to have detrimental effects on the environment, especially water resources. The Intermountain West faces record-breaking droughts and increased water scarcity. Water law in the Intermountain West was not developed to confront the unstable environment that climate change creates. This article addresses the ways in which western water law in the Intermountain West may inevitably adapt to climate change. 

Aquafornia news NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Blog: Helping decision-makers improve water management

A new study from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Western States Water Council (WSWC) and Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. points the way to accelerating how knowledge and technology are transferred to and from public agencies and environmental organizations. … In this latest paper, the team outlines a path for how to protect environmental resources by not only offering technical solutions, but by developing strategic relationships and fostering a culture of organizational support. Two water case studies – the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) and the Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN) – are used to highlight how effective knowledge and technology transfer can be done. 

Aquafornia news USA Today

Climate change and sea level rise threaten California beach living

Tyree Johnson loved his apartment that overlooked the Pacific Ocean — until it started to crumble down a cliff into the sea. For 15 years, he could enjoy sunsets over the water from his back porch in Pacifica, a few miles southwest of San Francisco. Pods of dolphins swam by and hang gliders floated overhead. But all that splendor came with a risk: The bluffs were weakening and ocean was gnawing away below.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

California Drought: Is desalination the solution?

Desalination is a controversial topic, due to its environmental impacts, energy use and monetary cost. California currently has 12 desalination plants, but there could be many more in the future. DWR is offering $6 million in financial assistance to support desalination projects that will help develop new sources of local water supplies in California, according to a news release from DWR.  While desalination is a complex process, [Kris Tjernell, deputy director of the Integrated Watershed Management with the California Department of Water Resources] described it as “simply the removal of salts and other impurities from water, such that it becomes available for drinking water, agricultural irrigation and other potential uses.” 

Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

Venice water main break floods street near canals

A water main ruptured in Venice Thursday afternoon, leaving a street looking more like one of the nearby canals than a path for cars. The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the 400 block of East Linnie Canal Court at about 3:45 p.m. as water began to flood the street. A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesperson said a 6-inch water main ruptured, and they had to shut off water to 38 customers at about 7:15 p.m. It was unclear when water service was restored.

Aquafornia news E & E News

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California water pipeline hits legal setback

A controversial Southern California water pipeline project has hit another snag, with a federal judge’s ruling that allows the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw key approvals granted during the Trump administration. In the latest turn of a long-running and politically sensitive dispute, U.S. District Judge George Wu ruled yesterday that BLM acted properly when it remanded two rights of way that had been granted to Cadiz Inc. by the Trump administration.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Increasing pressures on Colorado River water in New Mexico

Colorado River tributaries in New Mexico bring water to the alfalfa fields in the Four Corners and the forested hills of the Gila wilderness in the southwestern part of the state. But Colorado River and reservoir management was designed during a much wetter period. And now, water officials are grappling with how to make do with less. State Engineer Mike Hamman, New Mexico’s top water manager, said the state “really feels the shortages” because it doesn’t have the big reservoirs of other states in the Colorado River Basin. … Nevada, Arizona and Mexico will all receive less water from the Colorado River next year because of rapidly-declining reservoirs, the Interior Department announced on Aug. 16.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

What climate change could mean for fog in the San Francisco Bay Area

While coastal fog isn’t unique to the California coast, few places in the world are so deeply associated with the ethereal movements and cooling spritz of fog’s peek-a-boo routine. Fog pours through the Golden Gate and crawls up and down the wrinkled hills of the city and the nearby coast. It cloaks and chills…. Fog is … partly why [Bay Area residents] use less water than most Americans. Summer fog is why the mighty coastal redwoods grow where they do, surviving California’s dry season thanks to refreshing gulps of cold, wet air. It is why, until recently, few people worried about wildfires along the coast…. It nourishes the natural world. It enriches the area’s cultural identity. It might even be an untapped resource in California’s growing anxiety over water.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Water Summit to focus on rethinking water in the West in response to drought & climate change

Our premier event of the year, the Foundation’s 38th annual Water Summit on Oct. 27 in Sacramento will highlight conversations that examine our relationship with water resources and how best to address the challenges presented by ongoing drought and a changing climate. With this year’s theme, Rethinking Water in the West, a variety of policymakers, experts and officials will be discussing important topics in water across California and the West. 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

The mad rush for groundwater in the Central Valley

Most Californians are feeling the effects of the drought. But in areas of the state where people rely on groundwater, such as the San Joaquin Valley, the pain of this drought is especially severe. Wells are going dry and there’s intense competition to find and pull more water from underground. In a rural area about 30 miles north of Fresno, a drill pipe rotated as it burrowed deeper and deeper into the earth in a search for untapped reservoirs of groundwater. If this well finds water, nearby homeowners whose first well has gone dry will use it. If the drill pipe doesn’t hit water, people here, like many in this part of California who aren’t hooked up to municipal water systems, won’t have water without buying it. 

Aquafornia news Desert Research Institute

New study examines impacts of three desert landscaping strategies on urban irrigation and air temperatures

In a new study in the journal Hydrology, a team of scientists from DRI, Arizona State University (ASU), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), examined the irrigation water requirements of three common types of urban landscapes. Then, they compared air temperature, surface temperature, and wind speed around the three sites to learn how differences in landscape types impact their surrounding environment. The three landscape types analyzed in the study were a “mesic” tree and turf-grass landscape with water-intensive plants; a “xeric” landscape consisting primarily of desert plants on drip irrigation; and an intermediate “oasis” landscape type with a mix of high-and low water use plants.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The White House

Former Interior official appointed to federal seat on Upper Colorado River Commission

President Biden announced his intent Wednesday to appoint Anne J. Castle as United States Commissioner, Upper Colorado River Commission. Castle is a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School, focusing on western water issues, including Colorado River policy and management…. From 2009 to 2014, Castle was the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior where she oversaw water and science policy for the Department and had responsibility for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

The debate over Cal Am’s desalination plant returns to center stage

Although the debate over desalination as a water supply has been an ongoing fight across the Monterey Peninsula for the better part of the 21st century, the issue was pushed to the collective backburner over the last two years as other water-related issues began to heat up. … However, on Sept. 2, the desalination debate turned up to a boil. The California Coastal Commission deemed Cal Am’s project ready for a vote, nearly two years after Cal Am withdrew its application for a desal plant in November 2020 and a year after the Coastal Commission ruled that the utility’s follow-up application was incomplete.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Stanislaus-area water suppliers are at center of court ruling

Water suppliers in and near Stanislaus County had a leading role in a ruling Monday limiting state cutbacks during drought. The 6th Appellate District Court found that the State Water Resources Control Board lacks the power to interfere with so-called “senior” water rights holders and curtail their diversions of water from rivers. The case stems from orders imposed by the state board in 2015, during the previous drought, when it halted farms and cities throughout the Central Valley from taking water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts joined the suit to protect their rights to the Stanislaus River.

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

San Diego overcharged water customers $79 million since 2014

Months after a judge ruled the City of San Diego is overcharging some water customers, the city has yet to pay up, or make changes to its rates. Attorneys say the delay is costing taxpayers millions in penalty fees. They filed the case back in 2017, saying San Diego was violating a portion of the California constitution, which states governments that provide services are not allowed to charge more for those services than it costs them to deliver. … Specifically, the suit alleged San Diego had been overcharging single family residential customers in tiers 3 and 4, which are those who use more water than the average customer.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Massive Mosquito Fire becomes California’s largest wildfire in 2022

The Mosquito Fire became the largest wildfire to burn in California this year after growing over 63,000 acres Wednesday night, fueled by dried vegetation in an area that was cooling off after record-breaking heat last week. The massive fire has been burning for more than a week since it ignited on Sept. 6. It has spread over 14,000 acres since Tuesday. As of Wednesday night, the fire now covers over 63,000 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news BBC News

California drought: On patrol with the celebrity ‘water police’

In a blistering third year of drought, Californians have been asked to limit their indoor water usage to 55 gallons (208 litres) per person per day. It takes about 30 gallons to fill a bathtub, so forget about a deep Jacuzzi experience. Yet in the gated communities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills – exclusive enclaves in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu – lush lawns and filled swimming pools and koi ponds make it clear that some are ignoring the rules. So officials have created a device to take power showers away from rich and famous water hogs. A small metal disc with a pinhole drilled through the middle, it has seriously reduced the flow of water into some multimillion dollar homes. People here call Derek Krauss the ‘water police’.

Aquafornia news Phys.org

Researchers develop a new way to predict droughts

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have developed a new method to assess the likelihood of extreme drought conditions in several different regions of the United States over the remainder of the century. Using this method, based on highly detailed regional climate models, they have found that droughts are likely to be exacerbated by global warming. This finding is especially likely in regions like the Midwest, Northwestern U.S. and California’s Central Valley. … In looking at future forecasts of droughts over the course of the remainder of the century, the researchers believe the new technique can help them to understand “flash drought” events that have a quick onset period that could be as short as few weeks.