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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 Marin Independent Journal

Editorial: Point Reyes water plan must instill confidence

Point Reyes National Seashore’s leadership could have done a lot better in responding to water tests that show unacceptable pollution levels. The park declined our request for comment, citing ongoing litigation seeking to derail the park’s new ranch and elk management plan. That plan, to its credit, includes measures to reduce ranches’ possible role in pollution levels – some of which far exceeded state health standards for E. coli bacteria – and resumption of regular testing. The recent report was conducted by an environmental engineering firm hired by environmental organizations, among them the Olema-based Turtle Island Restoration Network, part of which includes the Salmon Protection and Awareness Network, or SPAWN. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

Dried up: In Utah, drying Great Salt Lake leads to air pollution  

Air pollution in Salt Lake City was so bad last year it set off the fire alarms in Elizabeth Joy’s clinic. Joy, a family and sports medicine doctor, said that her patients had to be evacuated as part of the emergency response. Yet in sending the patients outside, the alarms actually put people in an even more dangerous position given the city’s air quality at the time — which was judged to be the worst in the world on that particular day. … Cars and wildfires contribute to Utah’s air pollution, but the Great Salt Lake is a less obvious but important contributor. Sitting just northwest of Salt Lake City, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere is drying up because of water use and drought amid a changing climate, sending dust with toxic metals — including arsenic — in the air of a metro area with approximately 1.2 million people.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Regional San recognized again as utility of the future today

For a third time, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) has been recognized as a Utility of the Future Today by a partnership of water sector organizations. The Utility of the Future Today Recognition Program was launched in 2016 by a partnership of water sector organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Research Foundation, and the WateReuse Association. Input was also provided from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the program is to guide utilities of all sizes toward smarter, more efficient operations and resource recovery.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Drought-tolerant LA yard thrives after city cease notice

Water-hungry lawns are symbols of Los Angeles’ past. In this series, we spotlight yards with alternative, low-water landscaping built for the future. … For decades, [Susan and Steve] Matloff’s Windsor Square neighborhood has been lined with stately homes bordered by sprawling lawns and sidewalks wet from sprinkler overspray. You could argue that the neighborhood is no different from others in Southern California where lush, green lawns have traditionally been a statement about pride of place. But the pervasive water waste involved in tending to a lawn as drought in California continues prompted the Matloffs to consider their footprint, as well as L.A.’s future water independence.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: A new tool could help protect 30% of the state’s waters by 2030

California has set an ambitious goal of protecting 30% of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. We spoke with CalTrout’s legal and policy director Redgie Collins about a promising but underutilized tool that could help protect water bodies throughout the state: The Outstanding Natural Resource Waters (ONRW) designation. As Collins says, “You can designate all the land you like, but in order to preserve any ecosystem, freshwater is critical.” There’s a lot of interest in identifying and protecting Outstanding National Resource Waters in the West. What is this designation and what does it accomplish? Is it the same as Wild and Scenic?

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

Opinion: California’s water threatened by overuse of unregulated pesticides and herbicides

The water scarcity California has been experiencing over the last two decades is the result of the worst drought to hit the American Southwest in the past 1,200 years. … [I]ssues regarding water quality arise due to the state’s high use of pesticides in agriculture, with several Environmental Protection Agency-reapproved toxic herbicides not being regulated by state legislation. From 2004 to 2015, over 2 billion pounds of pesticides have been used in California, with the most recent numbers indicating an annual use of 209 million pounds. Though it represents only 2-3% of total U.S. cropland, the Golden State uses up to 20% of all pesticides employed in the U.S.
-Written by Stan Gottfredson, CEO of Atraxia Law, a San Diego-based firm that helps agricultural workers and their families affected by paraquat exposure compile the necessary information to support their Parkinson’s disease injury claims against liable manufacturers. 

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Monday Top of the Scroll: Angry at other states, Arizona towns, tribes rethink planned water cuts

Faced with deep cuts to the water supply, and angry that other states are not doing their share, tribes and local governments in Arizona are increasingly talking about backing off earlier offers to give up some water. The Gila River Indian Community said in August that it will begin storing water underground “rather than contributing them to system conservation programs for Lake Mead.” Officials in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Peoria and Glendale are considering following suit, asking to get their full allotment of water instead of financial compensation they might have received for reducing their take from the system…. But a spokesperson for the California Natural Resources Agency said the state has long been working for years to conserve Colorado River water and that it is continuing to do so. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wetland or ‘fake habitat’? Delta project sparks debate

Southwest of Sacramento, the branching arms of waterways reach into a patchwork of farm fields and pastures. Canals and wetlands fringed with reeds meet a sunbaked expanse of dry meadows. These lands on the northwestern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have now been targeted for restoration following the widespread destruction of estuary marsh habitats that began over a century ago. But one habitat restoration project funded by a large agricultural water district is drawing criticism from environmental advocates. They say that while the project is based on claims of ecologically important marsh habitat, a large portion of the land is a high-and-dry former cattle pasture that does little to benefit endangered fish.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Here’s the alarming amount of ice California’s longest glacier just lost in the heat wave

Mount Shasta, the widely recognizable face of California’s far north, has lost almost all its defining snow cover for a second straight year. Another summer of scorching temperatures, punctuated by the recent heat wave, has melted most of the mountain’s lofty white crown, typically a year-round symbol of the north state’s enduring wilds. … While the seven named ice sheets have been retreating for years, if not decades, the diminishing snow, which helps insulate the glaciers and keep them from thawing, has caused an unprecedented melt-off: About 20% of the glaciers’ ice, and possibly more, is expected to have vanished over the past two summers.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘Water is our most precious resource’: alfalfa farmers asked to give up crop amid megadrought in US south-west

On an early August morning in California’s Imperial Valley, tractors rumble across verdant fields of alfalfa, mowing down the tall grass and leaving it to dry in shaggy heaps under the hot sun. Here, in one of the oldest farming communities in the Colorado River basin, the forage crop is king. One out of every three farmed acres in the valley is dedicated to growing alfalfa … Now, with the basin on the brink of the most severe water cuts in history, the alfalfa industry has been propelled to the center of longstanding debates over sustainable water use and the future of farming in the west.

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Aquafornia news FOX40 - Sacramento

91% chance La Niña impacts fall in California, National Weather Service says

Meteorologists are pretty confident the La Niña conditions we’ve seen all year are going to be with us at least a few months longer. There’s a 91% chance the La Niña conditions last from September to November, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said in an update Thursday. Those odds have strengthened since the meteorologists’ last update in August… California isn’t projected to have a particularly wet or particularly dry fall, but it’s winter meteorologists will be keeping an extra close eye on. If La Niña continues, it’ll be the third La Niña winter in a row – a rare phenomenon we’ve only seen twice since 1950.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Ruling invalidates Klamath irrigators’ injunction

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has thrown out a lawsuit in which Klamath Basin irrigators won an injunction against federally authorized releases of stored water from Upper Klamath Lake. The court ruled the lawsuit shouldn’t have been allowed to proceed because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is under court orders to protect tribal water rights and comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), wasn’t named as a defendant and can’t be compelled to participate in state court litigation. The complaint was filed against the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) for failing to protect the irrigators’ water rights.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bills to tackle extreme heat

As temperatures took a turn for the sweltering last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of bills intended to protect state residents from extreme heat. First up was AB 1643, from possible future Assembly speaker Robert Rivas, D-Salinas. It creates an advisory committee to study the effects of extreme heat on workers, businesses and the economy. Then there was AB 2238 from Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, D-Arleta, to create a heat warning and ranking system akin to the one used for measuring hurricanes.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Fresno officials “irritated” by gravity in wastewater saga, according to ag district

The city of Fresno hadn’t bothered recently with a mound of groundwater that accumulates beneath its southwest wastewater treatment plant every year. For decades, it traded a chunk of the water to the Fresno Irrigation District (FID) for about half the amount back in Kings River water, but had let that deal lapse the past two years. Then the state’s groundwater law cast that percolated sewer water in a much more attractive light. So attractive, the city and FID are now concerned that another ag district is getting a little too handsy with it.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Business Journal

Water woes

Business has been slow at C&S Nursery Inc. in Baldwin Hills. Cristian Rosales, who owns the company with his brother Santiago, said the slowdown this summer was due to customers being reluctant to buy new plants. … The strict restrictions on outdoor watering have severely pruned business at nurseries throughout the Los Angeles area with one owner claiming sales were down 90% in August. They agree their future may lie with native California plants and growing material that uses less water. The water restrictions are from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which in April asked its member water agencies to either go to a one-day a week watering schedule or go on a water budget – a setting of volumetric limits on the amount of water used. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Mosquito Fire in CA spawns monster pyrocumulus clouds

Fire clouds that reached altitudes of up to 40,000 feet over the Mosquito Fire in Northern California over the past week have left scientists in awe. … The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and U.S. Forest Service officials say the fire, which started near Oxbow Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest on Tuesday, Sept. 6, is now 10% contained, The Sacramento Bee reported. The fire has torn through 41,443 acres, or 64.8 square miles, in El Dorado and Placer counties, and threatens more than 5,000 homes and other buildings.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Hurricanes rarely reach California. How did Tropical Storm Kay do it?

California is a hotbed for extreme weather. A historic heat wave brought a punishing 10 days with record-shattering high temperatures. The Mosquito Fire in Placer and El Dorado counties created a huge plume of smoke visible from 60 miles away. Atmospheric rivers produce torrential downpours and can cause widespread, damaging floods. Hurricanes — rotating storms with sustained winds 74 mph and over — typically aren’t a concern on the West Coast. And history shows that it’s incredibly rare for a hurricane to get close to California.

Aquafornia news Popular Science

What is ‘cloud seeding’?

[T]he US is far from the only place experiencing extreme dryness. Countries like China are also struggling, as well as parts of Europe and Africa. China has turned to cloud seeding as a potential solution to its drought problems. It’s also being more regularly utilized in the United Arab Emirates. Cloud seeding is more or less a technological way to make it rain, even when the weather is anything but rainy. Planes fly over a region, releasing a compound like silver iodide into clouds to cause condensation. … Cloud seeding already happens across states like Arizona and California, but interest in the technology appears to be increasing. But not everyone is on board. Critics say it’s expensive, and it’s unclear if it’s that effective.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

Campaign aims to dispel common myths about water use in Las Vegas

As soon as the U.S. Department of the Interior last month announced that Nevada would lose 8% of its water allotment from the Colorado River next year amid the continuing drought, officials with the Southern Nevada Water Authority started fielding questions from concerned residents. And with those questions came some inaccurate finger-pointing about the water situation — namely that California is using our water; same with casinos on the resort corridor. The authority last week, in an ongoing video series to bring educational awareness for conservation, addressed those concerns. It’s one of about 12 videos it has done in recent years, stressing that the water supply here — especially with continued conservation — is secure.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Plan to regulate water pollution from grazing gets OK from California Coastal Commission

With water contamination at Point Reyes National Seashore at dangerous levels, the California Coastal Commission gave the green light Thursday to a strategy to regulate private ranchers and require them to stop practices that increase fecal pollution from cattle. The commission spent hours Thursday debating a second version of a water-quality strategy from the National Park Service, to address chronic water pollution caused by private ranching in the only national seashore on the West Coast.

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