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.

Subscribe to our weekday emails to have news delivered to your inbox at about 9 a.m. Monday through Friday except for holidays. Or subscribe via RSS

For breaking news, follow us on Twitter.

Check out our special news feeds devoted to:

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 Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Stewarding California’s wet years

When it comes to water, California has been—to put it mildly—going through it. The PPIC Water Policy Center’s senior fellow (and former director) Ellen Hanak summed up the situation nicely at our annual fall conference on November 14: “If you think our weather’s getting crazier, the data agree with you.” While the state’s average precipitation hasn’t changed, she said, volatility has increased dramatically. The question is how to make that happen. In the first panel, moderated by senior fellow Jeff Mount, Central Valley Flood Protection Board president Jane Dolan praised the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) flood management efforts, though she cautioned that flood preparation isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. 

Aquafornia news Deseret News

Will Green River be home to a new lithium mine to help U.S. go ‘green’?

Lithium. It’s a soft, silvery metal that is the least dense of any metal on the periodic table and vital for transitioning to electric vehicles because of its use in batteries that also include laptops and cellphones. There is a vast source of this material in Green River, Emery County, where there is a planned site to mine lithium at a former military base, where surface ground disruption has already happened. The company’s website said there is a separate chunk of a project area near Moab. Bruce Richardson, chairman and chief executive officer of Anson Resources, recently briefed lawmakers on the project’s progress, which is still in the permitting process. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Big Basin: Redwood trees’ recovery “remarkable” 3 years after huge fire

More than three years after a wildfire devastated Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the massive redwood trees in California’s oldest state park continue to recover with surprising speed. But some wildlife species, particularly salmon and steelhead trout in the park’s streams, and some types of birds, are still struggling and could take many years to bounce back. That was the conclusion of researchers who spoke at a recent scientific symposium exploring how Big Basin is faring in the wake of the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire. The best news: The park’s famed old-growth redwoods, some of which tower more than 250 feet and date back more than 1,500 years, are nearly all green again, showing significant amounts of new growth after the wildfire’s flames charred their bark black and for a while gave them a doomed appearance.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Inside the two companies that dominate the U.S. carrot crop

Fresh carrots are an expanding $1.4 billion U.S. market, and Americans are expected to consume 100 million pounds this Thanksgiving — roughly five ounces for every human being in the country. At least 60% of those carrots are produced by just two companies, Bolthouse and Grimmway, both of which were acquired by buyout firms, in 2019 and 2020 respectively. … Cartels are less funny for neighbors of the two producers in Southern California’s Cuyama Valley, who are calling for a boycott of Big Carrot over the amount of water their farms are sucking out of the ground. In 2022, Bolthouse and Grimmway together were responsible for 67%, or 9.6 billion gallons, of the area’s total water use. Local residents said they expect their wells to dry up if the carrot farms continue to use as much water as they do …

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

IID Div. 2 director JB Hamby runs for re-election

Imperial Irrigation District Division 2 Director JB Hamby has announced his candidacy for re-election to the IID Board of Directors in the March 5 primary, according to a press release.  Elected to the board with 66 percent of the vote in 2020, Hamby’s division covers parts of El Centro, Heber, Holtville and Seeley. … In less than three years, Hamby has delivered on major initiatives at the IID. He worked to secure a historic $250 million investment for the Salton Sea from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for projects to protect public health and habitat in close coordination with Reclamation and the state of California, according to the release. Earlier this year, he was elected chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and serves as the Colorado River Commissioner for California, where he has established close working relationships with the seven Colorado River Basin States and Department of the Interior officials.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Thornton files new permit to build Larimer County water pipeline

The city of Thornton took a second shot Monday at finishing a key 70-mile water pipeline by renewing its request for Larimer County to approve the first 10 miles, as more than 10,000 potential homes in Thornton await certainty on finding a water tap.  Thornton has staged a quiet public relations blitz with Larimer County residents bordering the redrawn pipeline route after the northern Colorado county’s commissioners rejected the first map. Larimer County has the right to review Thornton’s pipeline under state “1041” regulations on land use for big projects.  Thornton, in Adams County, has for decades reached across county borders to buy up farms and water rights for Cache la Poudre River flows, and now needs to take delivery through a pipeline to keep growing beyond its current population of about 147,000. 

Aquafornia news UC San Diego

Blog: Atmospheric river reconnaissance flights begin

Seven atmospheric rivers classified as strong or greater dumped rain and snow on California during the 2022-2023 rainy season, lifting the majority of the state out of drought conditions and causing disastrous flooding. This duality of promise and peril typifies atmospheric rivers, which are ribbons of water vapor in the sky that can deliver massive amounts of precipitation, and makes accurate forecasting essential to both water managers and public safety officials. To better understand and forecast atmospheric rivers, “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft from the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron have begun  flights over the Pacific Ocean starting this November as part of Atmospheric River Reconnaissance program (AR Recon), led by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Aquafornia news The Almanac - Palo Alto

Community organizations turn to rain gardens to prevent flooding in East Palo Alto

Last winter, residents experienced the second largest flood in East Palo Alto history. Now Bay Area nonprofits are installing gardens designed to soak up stormwater and mitigate future flooding. On Nov. 11, Climate Resilient Communities (CRC), Fresh Approach, and Grassroots Ecology broke ground on the first of 25 rain garden systems to be installed for homeowners at no cost. CRC received nearly $1 million in funding for the project from Coastal Communities, an organization working to reduce water pollution. … Efforts to curtail the effects of flooding are more important than ever as California heads into an ‘El Nino’ year, a period of cooler and wetter weather. Many older East Palo Alto residents still remember flooding in 1998 that resulted in $40 million dollars in damages.

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency launches strategic plan

Next year will mark 40 years of the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency. In anticipation of the agency’s ruby anniversary, it has launched its Strategic Plan 2024+, which highlights the plans, goals and vision of the organization moving forward. The 18-page document outlines the history of the agency, its mission, vision and values and provides in-depth goals. The first goal is to operate and maintain a reliable water supply through facilities and infrastructure by developing and implementing a Health and Safety Plan for all of Pajaro Valley Water’s projects, collaborating with partners to improve operational efficiencies, strengthening the partnership between the agency and city of Watsonville and developing and implementing a Condition Assessment, Vulnerability Assessment and Asset Management Plan.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: San Diegans hold their breath waiting for Tijuana River sewage relief

“If I had a chance to tell Gov. (Gavin) Newsom something about the pollution in the Tijuana River Valley, I would tell him to get it fixed as soon as possible because the odor is horrible, and I don’t know what else it’s doing to our health. Like my partner says, if this was happening to rich people in La Jolla, this would have been taken care of a long time ago.” That’s what Analisa Corrales, a nine-year resident of the Nestor neighborhood in San Diego, told me when I asked how she felt about the pollution from the Tijuana River Valley and how aerosolized contaminants might be affecting the health of her and her three children. They are 12 years old, 7 years old and 6 months old, and they live less than 2 miles from the sewage-choked river.
-Written by Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S./Mexico Border program and a longtime human rights advocate.

Aquafornia news Times-Standard

Monday Top of the Scroll: PG&E releases potential plan for removal of Eel River dams

On Friday, PG&E released a potential draft plan for removing Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam on the Eel River. The framework is part of the process of surrendering the utility company’s federal license to operate the Potter Valley hydroelectric project, established more than 100 years ago. The project hasn’t generated power since 2021, but dams still block fish passage. In statements, environmental and fish advocacy groups celebrated that the plan, which includes full dam removal, would restore historic flows to the headwaters of the Eel River and pressed the need for speed to save declining fish populations.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Republican lawmaker seeks to undo Central Valley Project environmental protections

More than 30 years ago, a piece of federal legislation dropped like a bomb on California’s Central Valley farmers. Reverberations from that legislation continue through today. Just last month, a San Joaquin Valley congressman added language to an appropriations bill that would unwind a key portion of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA). … One of its cornerstones was that 800,000 acre feet of water per year would be carved out of supplies that had been sent to towns and farms and redirect it to the environment instead. Specifically, the legislation hoped to save salmon populations, which had been crashing. Thirty-one years later, salmon are still on the brink. Now, Republican lawmakers are trying to get rid of the environmental protections in the CVPIA for good.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Here’s how much it rained and snowed in California in the past week

A stubborn storm well off the California coast brought rain showers to the state throughout the week before finally moving across Northern California on Saturday. It was the first region-wide moderate rainfall of the season for the Bay Area, while the Sierra Nevada saw some light snowfall. The North Bay and Central Coast saw the highest precipitation totals in the past seven days, with 1.5 to 4 inches of rain in Big Sur and the Marin Headlands. While accumulations were impressive along the coastal mountains, seven-day precipitation totals were lower than originally forecast in the lower elevations due to the unfavorable position of the storm. San Francisco received 1.27 inches of rain, with 0.88 inches in Oakland and 0.43 inches in San Jose.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news ProPublica

The future of the Colorado River hinges on one young negotiator

[John Brooks] Hamby 27, … California’s boyish-looking representative on issues concerning the river, sat shoulder-to-shoulder with the other states’ powerful water managers, many of whom have decades of experience, an almost uncomfortable sight given their latest brawl over the beleaguered Colorado River. … Combined, these roles position Hamby as arguably the most powerful person involved in talks on the future of the Colorado River, a waterway that is relied upon by an estimated 35 million people and supports about $1.4 trillion worth of commerce. They also place him at the center of the river’s most consequential moment since midcentury, when Arizona and California went to the Supreme Court to fight over the amount of water they were allocated. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Flooded California towns secured millions in aid. Who gets the money?

Merced and Monterey counties got $20 million each from the state in October to help the residents of Planada and Pajaro recover from January floods. But local officials want to spend at least some of the money on infrastructure, while residents want all of the money to help relieve debt they’ve incurred from the natural disaster. That is, after all, what state lawmakers ostensibly sent the money for.  Days of rain led to a flood of local canals and creeks in the area on Jan. 9, forcing the complete evacuation of the majority-Latino community of Planada, population almost 4,000.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

An energy company wants to build hydropower projects on the Navajo Nation. Not everyone is on board

Percy Deal, a member of the Navajo Nation, is looking up at a pale stripe of sandstone that stands out against the rim of Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona. Juniper trees speckle the steep cliffsides facing the site of a proposed hydropower project. … The hydropower company Nature and People First applied for preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year to investigate the possibility of building three pumped water storage projects on and below Black Mesa to generate electricity for nearby cities like Phoenix and Tucson. Deal and other Black Mesa residents are worried that the project could do damage to land and water that has ecological and cultural significance to both the Navajo and Hopi tribes. … They’re concerned about potential overuse of groundwater underneath the Black Mesa region, which is still reeling from the environmental consequences of decades of extractive coal strip mining.

Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

Sites Project Authority certifies Sites Reservoir’s final environmental report

An important milestone was reached Friday for the construction of another reservoir in California. The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Sites Reservoir was certified and the Sites Reservoir Project was approved by the Sites Project Authority, the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act. Next up for the Sites Project Authority is to move the project through the final planning stages. After getting through the final stages, crews will begin building the reservoir. … The Sites Project says the final EIR evaluates the environmental impact and proposed mitigation measures that come with construction and operations. It was updated to address public comments and updates to the project following a draft that was released in 2021.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Will another snowy winter boost the Colorado River? It hasn’t happened in this century

Six months after three southwestern states struck a deal to keep more Colorado River water behind drought-shrunken Hoover Dam, those states face the first test of whether it’s enough to keep the region out of crisis. The arrival of the winter snow season, which sustains the river and last year bailed out water users facing critically low reservoirs, brings new questions for water managers: Will El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean produce a wet winter in the Southwest and parts of the Rockies? And could a second straight wet winter wallop the region with above-average snowfall and again forestall more drastic conservation measures?

Related article: 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Schooling fish – Behind the scenes of Putah Creek fish sampling

It’s a curious thing, teaching a classroom of future fish conservationists about revitalizing degraded ecosystems. Putah Creek was an unconventional place to teach ecology. After the creek turned bad, it stayed that way for decades – deteriorated habitat, nonexistent flow, garbage, rusted cars, even gravel mining. And while conditions have improved, many students, and even some scientists, still remain skeptical that this ecosystem could ever be anything but a spoilt ecosystem. Is it really possible to genuinely rehabilitate an ecosystem like that through improved management and community building? Those lessons work in other cases, for other ecosystems, but surely not this one. 

Aquafornia news Comstock's magazine

Protectors of an honored heritage

Malissa Tayaba, vice chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians’ Tribal Council, steps through an attentive crowd that’s transfixed by a group of dancers in feather-trimmed regalia, following the stringent beat of clapper sticks. Today’s event is the annual Big Time celebration, and it is being held on the tribal rancheria that is also home to the Red Hawk Casino and Resort near Placerville. Tayaba grew up on this slope of government-allotted tribal land.  She maneuvers through the savory vapors of “Indian tacos” (frybread with various toppings) before heading into a maze of blankets, beads, shell jewelry, and fox and coyote pelts for sale. The scene is vibrant, but Tayaba knows that this corner of the oak woodlands looked very different when she was young. Back then, as she describes it, the reservation was just a smattering of trailers with no running water.