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 U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: Assistant Secretary Trujillo highlights Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments for drought resilience in California

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo today wrapped a visit to California where she highlighted historic investments being made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to boost water infrastructure and tackle western drought. On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Trujillo joined state and local partners to commemorate the Water Replenishment District (WRD)’s 60 years of using recycled water for groundwater replenishment and to celebrate a $15.4 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for WRD’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program to help protect groundwater resources for 4 million people in the region. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: White sturgeon – Is an ancient survivor facing extinction in California?

In California, sturgeon populations have persisted through periods of extreme overfishing, sedimentation and mercury contamination from hydraulic mining, species invasions, and alteration of rivers by dams and levees (Zeug et al. 2014, Gunderson et al. 2017, Blackburn et al. 2019). … Suddenly, the future of these ancient fish does not seem so secure. Between late August and early September, 2022, hundreds of sturgeon perished in the San Francisco Estuary. According to Jim Hobbs, program manager for the Interagency Ecological Program at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Bay Delta office, “the white sturgeon carcass count total will be over 400 and the total for green was 15. ”

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Aquafornia news Law360

Hoopa Valley tribe sues U.S. over California water contracts

A California tribe has renewed its lawsuit accusing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of violating its sovereignty and fishing rights in California’s Trinity River after settlement talks with the Biden Administration collapsed.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County Supervisors to discuss Infrastructure Master Plan

The Butte County Board of Supervisors will be unveiling, discussing and likely approving its 2023 Infrastructure Master Plan as compiled by its Public Works Department at its meeting Tuesday. Each year the board goes through this process to determine infrastructure needs. … Presentations will be provided regarding the California drought as well as an update on activities by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

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Aquafornia news LAist

Water agencies: Who’s running in the November general election and why it matters

Water in California is complicated…and governing water use is arguably even more complicated. Local water agencies are as diverse as the communities and landscapes of California. There are thousands of agencies across the state, both public and private, that provide water. They range from a system serving a single mobile home park to huge agencies serving millions of people and businesses and thousands of acres of farmland. Some water agencies’ governing boards are appointed by a county board of supervisors or city council. The five-member board that oversees the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is appointed by the L.A. mayor and serve for five-year terms, for example. Others are directly elected by voters. Those are the ones you’ll see on your ballot.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Destined for great water – Kristin Sicke

There are many wonderful attributes in the Sacramento Valley with a central ingredient being the talented water resources managers who work in this region and are devoted to ridgetop to river mouth water management that serves water for multiple benefits. To get a better glimpse into the region and see the talented managers and the multi-disciplinary approach they pursue every day to continually improve water management, we encourage you to read this series, which starts below with Kristin Sicke’s personal story, or you can listen to the various personal stories on podcast at Stories You Haven’t Heard.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Opinion: A lost civilization reminds us to share the wealth and vote while we still can

After generations of Chacoans had painstakingly built the elaborate settlement that became the cultural and economic center of the people living in what’s now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, suddenly it was abandoned.  Obviously, no one survives to explain why, but theories abound. … Drought followed around 1100 and competition for scarce resources was rampant and brutal, leading to political and social upheaval. Mass graves reveal skeletons with clear evidence of blunt-force trauma, mutilation and burning of bodies.
-Written by Diane Carman, a Denver communications consultant. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin Headlands wetlands project seeks to reverse erosion

The Marin Headlands’ unique offering of breathtaking landscapes mixed with former military bases dating back to World War II has been a draw for millions of visitors through the decades. But the combination has not been without downsides. In the hills overlooking Rodeo Beach, the remnants of former U.S. Army buildings of Fort Cronkhite have slowly been eroding parts of the landscape, gouging deep trench-like gullies into the hillside that have drained natural wetlands. The National Park Service is now working to reverse the damage and restore more than an acre of wetlands that can be used as home to species such as the endangered red-legged frog, said park service ecologist Darren Fong.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

Editorial: California needs to cut back water usage

The general manager of the West Slope’s Colorado River District is calling out California for its meager water conservation plan, and he is right on. Andy Mueller made his comments in a memo to his district’s board of directors and during the board’s meeting earlier this month, according to reporting by The Daily Sentinel’s Dennis Webb. This was in response to an Oct. 5 letter by officials with California water entities using Colorado River water, which proposed conserving up to an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead annually. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Friday Top of the Scroll: Calif. cities are breaking piggy banks to buy water. S.F. pays $30k. Here’s why.

As California trudges through its second year of intense drought, forcing local communities to raid contingency funds to pay sky-high retail prices for water supplies, Federal lawmakers are revisiting a deal with the City of San Francisco deemed to be “too-good-to-be-true.” A new bill, introduced by Rep. Connie Conway (R-Tulare), seeks to bring some equity back to one of California’s oldest and biggest water storage deals between the Federal government and the state’s historic big city. For a century, Hetch Hetchy, a dammed up valley deep in Yosemite National Park, has served as a singular lifeline for San Francisco’s water and energy supplies. … The law set San Francisco’s rent for the sprawling valley-turned-dam at $30,000 … Despite decades of inflation, the cost for renting the space has never inched beyond that $30,000 sum.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tear out your lawn, get more free cash. LADWP ups rebates for customers

Los Angeles residents, now is a great time to pull out your lawn. With water supplies continuing to tighten, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday that the city’s Department of Water and Power will pay homeowners and businesses significantly more to remove their grassy turf. Approved applications will receive $5 per square foot, a 67% increase from the previous $3-per-square-foot incentive. The payment is capped at $25,000 per residential property. Removing your lawn is just half the process; in order to get the rebate, you must have an approved plan for replacing the grass with drought-tolerant plants.

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Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Court orders more study on Del Puerto Reservoir proposal

A court ruling on the proposed Del Puerto Reservoir is a minor setback, a leader on the project said. The ruling involved only the environmental effects of relocating Del Puerto Canyon Road from the reservoir site, said Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District. The plaintiffs also had cited concerns about wildlife, recreation and excessive pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…. Del Puerto is partnering on the new reservoir with the four irrigation districts that make up the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority. They farm about 250,000 acres in a stretch from Crows Landing to Mendota.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Former Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman to head Central Arizona Project

Former U.S. Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman will take over as general manager of the Central Arizona Project in the new year, one that promises to include pivotal interstate negotiations over conserving the Colorado River water that supplies the CAP canal. Burman led the Bureau of Reclamation during the Trump administration, a period in which the agency managing Colorado River water and dams helped broker a Drought Contingency Plan. In that plan, Arizona agreed to take less water from the system to prevent catastrophic losses later. Continued poor weather and overuse have since set off new talks about conserving more in an attempt to halt Lake Mead’s slide toward the point that the river no longer flows past it.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Foundation honors CalMatters reporter for coverage of water resources in California and the West

Rachel Becker, who covers water resource issues for the nonprofit news website CalMatters, is the first recipient of the Water Education Foundation’s Rita Schmidt Sudman Award for Excellence in Water Journalism honoring outstanding work that illuminates complicated water issues in California and the West. Foundation Executive Director Jenn Bowles announced the award Oct. 27 at the Foundation’s Water Summit in Sacramento. Joining Bowles for the presentation was her predecessor, Sudman, a former radio and television reporter who led the Foundation for nearly 35 years.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Dried up: Threats to Colorado snowpack pose risks far downslope

As unseasonable fall warmth bakes the Rocky Mountain hillsides, veteran snowmaker Tony Wrone has come to terms with the fact that these are no longer the winters of his youth….  Wrone said he is concerned that these conditions may repeat themselves, particularly because meteorologists have once again predicted a hot, dry fall…. When Wrone starts making snow this season in Aspen — less than 200 miles southeast of the Colorado River’s headwaters — he’ll be contributing to that river system’s core: the snowpack on which 40 million people across seven states depend. As snowfall has become more unpredictable, so has the amount — and timing — of runoff that feeds the Colorado River each spring.  

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Friant Water Authority not concerned with low water levels

While the water year began with one of the lowest storage amounts ever, the Friant Water Authority believes low water allocations will leave them largely unaffected.  The Friant Water Authority contended with several factors when it came to water allocation last year. Chief among them was “water debt” owed to the State Water Project. This year, despite a deepening drought, the authority will no longer have that burden. … After the one month mark of the 2023 water year, numbers are where they are expected to be, as far as October is concerned according to [Friant Water Authority's Ian] Buck-Mcleod. As the forecast predicts rain in the upcoming weeks for the majority of the state, he said this is a positive look for the waterways. 

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Zero Delta smelt found in Midwater Trawl Survey for seventh September in a row

For the seventh September in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has caught zero Delta smelt during its Fall Midwater Trawl Survey of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The last September when Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the relative health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, were found in the survey was in 2015, when 5 were caught by CDFW biologists. The last year when any Delta smelt were caught during the entire four-month survey was in 2016, when a total of 8 Delta smelt were reported. 

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

North Coast tribes get $750K for climate resiliency projects

About three-quarters of $1 million in federal funds is headed to three North Coast tribes to help build climate resiliency. On Wednesday, the Department of Interior announced $45 million in investments to tribal climate resilience projects across the country, including $4.2 million to support nine tribes in California. … The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed into law about a year ago and includes a host of funding to repair the country’s bridges, roads and railways. The law also included funds for climate projects, including millions in funds for Klamath River restoration projects, but nowhere near the amount of funding that would have been made available had the law’s companion bill, the Build Back Better Act, been passed.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

San Francisco’s first approved onsite greywater reuse system operational

San Francisco-based water reuse technology company Epic Cleantec announced that a luxury residential building in San Francisco now hosts the city’s first approved and operational onsite greywater reuse system. The system can recycle up to 7,500 gallons of greywater per day, or 2.5 million gallons per year. The building, Fifteen Fifty, is owned by Related California, an affiliate of Related Companies. … The Fifteen Fifty installation captures, filters, and disinfects the greywater from showers, laundry, and rainwater. It then purifies the water and reuses it for toilet flushing. Greywater reuse can help reuse up to 95 percent of a building’s water use. For a state like California, grappling with an extended drought, this conservation can be key.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Plastic bags are supposed to be recyclable in California. The attorney general suspects they are not

Nearly a decade ago, a California law required manufacturers of plastic bags to make their bags recyclable. The state’s top cop says this doesn’t appear to be happening. On Wednesday, Attorney General Rob Bonta sent letters to seven plastic bag producers that supply the bulk of California’s grocery stories, demanding they provide proof that their bags can really be recycled. The move is among the strictest enforcement actions yet for a major state recycling law aimed at tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in oceans, soils and skies.