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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 High Country News

California’s algae bloom is like a ‘wildfire in the water’

Lake Merritt, in the center of Oakland, California, is a tidal estuary connected to the Pacific Ocean. It usually teems with life, both human and marine. In early September, its 3-mile shoreline was bustling with joggers. But in the sunset-blackened waters, the gleaming white corpses of thousands of decaying fish bobbed along in the gentle tide and piled up in mounds along the lagoon’s edges. In late July, an algae bloom began spreading in San Francisco Bay, which stretches 60 miles north to south.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

There’s a new movement in California tourism: visiting tribal lands

Starting this month, California’s tourism bureau is trying something it’s never tried before: nudging travelers toward the state’s tribal lands, many of which haven’t historically hosted large numbers of sightseers, in hopes of benefiting from a largely untapped resource of rich cultural history. A new promotional campaign called “Visit Native California” represents the bureau’s first effort to spotlight the cultural heritage of some of the 109 federally recognized tribes here and help them gain a foothold in the state’s immense tourism market. It comes at a time when several tribes and Indigenous communities are just beginning to build new tourism businesses.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water supplier defends drought response in report

Marin Municipal Water District is pushing back on a Marin County Civil Grand Jury report asserting the agency nearly faced depleting its reservoirs this year because it had not taken past steps to build a more resilient water supply. The grand jury assessment lacked credibility, included factual errors and is now being used to incite more critique of the district’s handling of the drought last year, the district Board of Directors said. The grand jury report came after two winters of drought in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 threatened to deplete local reservoirs as soon as mid-2022. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monsanto’s Roundup, linked to cancer, is a wine controversy

One of the most hotly debated issues in California wine these days involves a chemical that can be found in every Home Depot in America: Roundup. Monsanto’s high-profile herbicide is the go-to method of weed control for many California vineyards. … But Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is probably a carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization. … That revelation has spurred a new outcry in the California wine industry. Some winegrowers who farm according to organic, biodynamic or regenerative protocols — which prohibit the use of glyphosate and other synthetic chemicals — are speaking out against Roundup with renewed fervor, calling for an end to its use in vineyards.

Aquafornia news CNN

California’s Mosquito Fire prompts more evacuations as it races toward mountain communities, burning homes and cars in its path

The Mosquito Fire burning in Northern California flared up Tuesday afternoon, charging toward a mountain community and torching more homes as it burned dangerously close to a high school. …The Mosquito Fire continues to push steadily to the east in heavily forested areas with extremely dry vegetation, officials said…. drought-ravaged Western states are home to growing areas of easy-to-burn dry brush that can become fuel for more volatile wildfires. The fires are also burning amid a water shortage emergency that is forcing residents to limit outdoor watering as California’s reservoirs shrink.

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Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Opinion: Can solar investment help farmers survive the Central Valley water crises?

Agricultural businesses are under growing economic pressures as drought conditions worsen and inflation continues to climb. Rising energy costs have been a particularly damaging repercussion of the drought, with farmers spending more on electricity in order to keep wells and irrigation systems pumping water to their crops. California agriculture lost $1.1 billion in 2021 as a direct result of water shortages, and the Central Valley alone sat on roughly 385,000 acres of idle land. Unfortunately, intensifying climate change makes this year’s outlook just as grim. … Saving money on energy bills has made solar more attractive than ever, especially now considering the new Inflation Reduction Act offering additional benefits to renewable energy.
-Written by David Field, co-managing partner and co-founder of solar finance and development platform Luminia. 

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California is negotiating up to 400,000 acre-feet in Colorado River water cuts amid drought

California water agencies that depend on Colorado River supply are quietly negotiating combined reductions of between 320,000 and 400,000 acre-feet from the fast-dwindling Lake Mead reservoir next year…. California has the largest and oldest rights to Colorado River water, totaling 4.4 million acre-feet per year, with the bulk of that piped to farmers served by the Imperial Irrigation District, at the state’s hot, dry southeastern end…. It’s unclear if the amounts being discussed would be enough to assuage harsh criticism from officials in other river basin states who are already being forced to make cuts under previous legal agreements, or more importantly, to satisfy federal officials who say 2 million to 4 million acre-feet in reduced use is needed from seven states in 2022 to keep the system and its huge, drought-ravaged reservoirs afloat. 

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Aquafornia news SFist

Third consecutive La Niña winter now looking likely

A third consecutive La Niña pattern has taken shape in the Pacific Ocean, and that’s not excellent news. … The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña Advisory on Thursday, saying that there is a 91% chance of the La Niña cycle continuing between September and November … In a typical La Niña, as SFist has discussed in the past, our part of California is neither guaranteed to see more nor less rain, though if the patterns of the past two winters holds, signs point to less-than-average rain and lower-than-average snowpack in the Sierra — the latter has been the result of early snow and warm winter months. That all but guarantees us another year or two of this mega-drought.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

What the Western drought reveals about hydropower

The relentless Western drought that is threatening water supplies in the country’s largest reservoirs is exposing a reality that could portend a significant shift in electricity: Hydropower is not the reliable backbone it once was. Utilities and states are preparing for a world with less available water and turning more to wind and solar, demand response, energy storage and improved grid connections. That planning has helped Western states keep the lights on this summer even in severe drought conditions. Take California, which experienced record demand during a heat wave last week but did not have to impose any rolling blackouts. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Fishgate project aims to help salmon

The brainchild for fishgate came to River Partners Senior Restoration Ecologist Michael Rogner,  and Co-Founder of River Partners and Director of Special Projects John Carlon, over a couple of beers at a bar. Fishgate is an automated/engineered fish door which helps struggling Chinook salmon at River Partners’ Willow Bend Preserve near Colusa return back to their native riverside ranges along the Sacramento River.  The first-of-its-kind fish gate designed by the Cal Poly Irrigation & Training Research Center will prevent juvenile salmon from being trapped on the restored floodplain.

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Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Northstate rice farmers struggle to grow crops as drought persists

Dry, cracked rice fields can be seen driving along Interstate 5 in Glenn and Colusa counties. This year has been more than challenging for farmers as California continues its third consecutive year of extreme drought conditions. KRCR spoke to fourth generation farmer Chris Johnson on Monday about not being able to plant crop due to lower water allocation from the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID). Chris Johnson’s farms would only receive an allotment of 7% from the GCID with an agreement that the water might not even be enough to finish the year.

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Aquafornia news Fortune

How 2 MIT scientists built a desalinator the size of a briefcase

Large-scale modern desalination has been around for some 60 years, and huge factory-sized plants are turning seawater into drinking water, from California (where there are a dozen desalination facilities) to Spain (where a Barcelona plant, Europe’s largest, supplies 20% of the metro drinking water) to the Middle East (where Saudi Arabia produces a fifth of the world’s desalinated water).

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Broad-based buy-in is key to Bay-Delta water plan

California is at a transformational moment when it comes to managing water. As aridification of the western United States intensifies, we have an opportunity to advance a better approach to flow management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and our rivers through a process of voluntary agreements to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. The agreements, signed by parties from Red Bluff to San Diego, propose a new structure for managing water resources in the Delta and beyond in a way that is collaborative, innovative and foundational for adapting to climate realities while benefiting communities, farms, fish and wildlife.
-Written by Jennifer Pierre, the general manager of the State Water Contractors, an association of 27 public water agencies; and David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association, which represents Sacramento Valley water interests.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Divers remove 3,000 pounds of trash from a lake near Tahoe

Scuba divers who pulled 25,000 pounds of litter and junk out of Lake Tahoe last year have just begun a similar cleanup in Fallen Leaf, a small alpine lake adjacent to Tahoe, and they’re already surprised by the amount of garbage they’re finding. … After scouring one mile of the lake’s 7-mile shoreline down to 25 feet of depth, the crew has pulled out 3,000 pounds of refuse, including about 100 car tires. … Over three days this fall, in addition to pulling up countless beer cans and glass bottles, West’s crew of 16 volunteers also discovered what they believe to be the remains of a 100-year-old Ford Model T automobile: four narrow tires, a chassis and an engine block resting on the silty lake bed.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Racism robbed this historically black California town of its water. Now, they’re developing water of their own

[Valeria] Contreras lives in Allensworth, a small town of about 500 people an hour’s drive north of Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley. She runs her own catering company, and in her spare time she is also the general manager of the Allensworth Community Services District, which oversees the town’s water supply. Back in February, Contreras had no idea why the water had stopped flowing. And it was her job to fix it. … Clean, safe and affordable drinking water is considered a human right under state law, but nearly a million residents don’t have access to it. Like Contreras, many of them live in the Central Valley, a patchwork of desert scrub and irrigated farmland that’s twice the size of Massachusetts and produces 25% of the nation’s food supply. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Challenger for seat on powerful Kern water board “withdraws,” at least in spirit

Would-be challenger Eric Averett said he is “withdrawing” from the race for a seat on the powerful Kern County Water Agency board of directors. His name will still appear on the ballot, however. Averett said he couldn’t get his name off the ballot as the deadline to do so had already passed when he decided not want to run against Incumbent Phil Cerro. … With the drought and other issues, Averett said, the agency board needs to maintain “continuity” and he didn’t want an election battle to become a distraction. Three other agency board members are running unopposed. Those include Laura Cattani, Ted Page and Charles Wulff.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

‘A lesson in discrimination’: A toxic sea level rise crisis threatens West Oakland

Toxic waste lurking in the soil under West Oakland neighborhoods is the next environmental threat in this community already burdened by pollution. The stability of buried contamination from Oakland’s industrial past relies on it staying in place in the soil. But once the rising waters of San Francisco Bay press inland and get underneath these pockets of chemicals and gases, a certain amount of that waste will not stay in place. Instead, it will begin to move. More than 100 sites — colorless gases in dirt under schools, flammable chemicals buried in shallow soil near parks, petroleum in pockets of groundwater from iron manufacturing — lie in wait.

Aquafornia news GV Wire

Feds remove ’squaw’ from 650 place names. is squaw valley next?

Making good on a promise to replace the word “squaw” from America’s landmarks and places, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has announced the renaming of at least 650 geographic features.    “Squaw,” which originated from the Algonquian language, was once used to refer to a native woman, but now is considered derogatory and racist by Native Americans and others. … Of the 650 new name changes, 80 are in California, at least four are in Fresno County, and one is in Tulare County. … Five Fresno county lakes and streams have been changed including “Squaw Valley Basin” which will now be known as “Yokuts Basin.”

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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