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.

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Aquafornia news Harvard Law Today

Troubled waters: As climate change and usage threaten water in the West, Supreme Court’s decision in upcoming case will carry weight

Can Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado agree to a new apportionment of the Rio Grande’s waters without the U.S. government’s approval? The Supreme Court of the United States is set to hear a case next week that may affect access to water for millions of Americans — and set a precedent that could impact millions more, as increased usage and climate change further strain supply of the precious resource. … If [the court sides with the states], the government might be understood to have less weight to throw around in other negotiations, such as the one that is also happening about the Colorado River. 

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Aquafornia news Mountain Democrat

Faced with mega fires, water managers adopt new principals

In early February 2024 the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association adopted new forest management principles with the goal of solving the ongoing problem and severe effects of California’s mega wildfires. “Over 100 years of suppressing wildfires and changing climate have produced overgrown forests and catastrophic mega wildfires that are impacting communities, degrading California’s headwaters’ water quality, water infrastructure and forest resources in Sierra Nevada watersheds, (ultimately) creating a toxic smoke health hazard throughout the state,” MCWRA’s website reads. “These severe mega wildfires release tons of greenhouse gases and eliminate the ability of forests to absorb and store atmospheric carbon,” the website continues.

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Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Oregon Fish & Wildlife expert says quagga mussels will be catastrophic for fish and water systems

You may have heard that various kinds of invasive plants and animals create problems for species that are native to an area. In the case of the quagga mussel, which only grows to the size of a thumbnail, its effects extend beyond the natural ecology and into the built environment. … Rick Boatner, the invasive species coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the invasive mussels are what’s known as filter feeders. “They’re removing the lowest part of the food web out of the water system, the phytoplankton and stuff like that,” Boatner said. “So now you will not have the food needed for our salmon fry and steelhead trout species…”

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Meeting notes: Kern water districts look at joining forces to fix domestic wells and study sinking along the Friant-Kern Canal

The Kern subbasin, composed of 22 water entities across the valley portion of Kern County, is working on a groundwater sustainability plan its members hope will be accepted by the State Water Resources Control Board after the subbasin’s initial plan was deemed inadequate. Currently the subbasin has two main objectives. One is partnering with Self-Help Enterprises to assist with the administration of a program to fix domestic wells harmed by over pumping. The other is gathering support among the 22 entities to participate in the Friant-Kern Canal subsidence study. Proposed partnership: Under the proposal, Self-Help  would assist with subbasin’s well issues in several ways.

Aquafornia news UC Berkeley

New study: What artificial streams can teach us about insects, algae and our changing climate

A network of artificial streams is teaching scientists how California’s mountain waterways — and the ecosystems that depend on them — may be impacted by a warmer, drier climate. Over the next century, climate change is projected to bring less snowfall to the Sierra Nevada. … In a new study, University of California, Berkeley, researchers used a series of nine artificial stream channels off Convict Creek in Mammoth Lakes, California, to mimic the behavior of headwater streams under present-day conditions and future climate change scenarios.

Aquafornia news 10 News - San Diego

Treatment facility to provide 30% of the drinkable water in East County

In the near future, recycled wastewater could account for 30% of the drinkable water in the East county. The water would go through several purification steps at a new facility being built in Santee. More than 10 years and $950 million after the project began, the East County Advanced Water purification is just a few years away from opening. The facility will provide water to East County in a sustainable way. Before, much of the water used in East County homes was released back into the ocean. By the end of 2026, 11.5 million gallons of purified water will be treated and released daily.

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Aquafornia news NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Blog: US, Germany partnering on mission to track Earth’s water movement

NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR (German Aerospace Center) have agreed to jointly build, launch, and operate a pair of spacecraft that will yield insights into how Earth’s water, ice, and land masses are shifting by measuring monthly changes in the planet’s gravity field. Tracking large-scale mass changes – showing when and where water moves within and between the atmosphere, oceans, underground aquifers, and ice sheets – provides a view into Earth’s water cycle, including changes in response to drivers like climate change. 

Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

Study shows short pesticide exposure harms fish

Although pesticides can rid your home of cockroaches or farm fields of unwanted insects, they also can harm fish and potentially even people, according to a new study from Oregon State University. At high concentrations, these commonly used pyrethroid pesticides, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin and cyhalothrin, act as a neurotoxin for pests. … At low concentrations, the pyrethroid pesticides disrupt fish’s endocrine system, which produces hormones. The scientists wanted to better understand how short of an exposure would harm fish.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Novato residents oppose water pump station proposal

Plans to build a water pump station in Novato are drawing opposition from neighbors. The North Marin Water District is considering building the station at “Site 2,” a parcel on a city-owned greenway that borders Arroyo San Jose Creek near Ignacio Boulevard and Palmer Drive. … Opponents say the pump station will be an eyesore in the creek’s promenade area. 

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: In honor of Fix a Leak Week, DWR’s Go Golden initiative celebrates partnerships to repair aging water infrastructure

Household leaks waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide every year, enough to provide water to over 11 million homes. During Fix a Leak Week (March 18 to March 24), the Department of Water Resources (DWR) encourages everyone to find and fix leaks inside and outside their home to save water. Leaks are not just a household problem – parts of California’s water delivery infrastructure are aging and developing leaks too. This aging infrastructure can cause significant water loss and hinder our ability to deliver water efficiently. DWR is committed to repairing them to maintain our infrastructure and protect California’s valuable water supplies for future generations.

Aquafornia news AP News

Monday Top of the Scroll: California proposes delaying rules aimed at reducing water on lawns, concerning environmentalists

California regulators this week proposed delaying new rules aimed at reducing how much water people use on their lawns, drawing praise from agencies that said they needed more time to comply but criticism from environmentalists who warn that the delay would damage the state’s already scarce supply. Last year, California proposed new rules that would, cumulatively, reduce statewide water use by about 14%. Those rules included lowering outdoor water use standards below the current statewide average by 2035. On Tuesday, regulators proposed delaying that timeline by five years, until 2040. The State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to vote on the rules later this year. The state would not punish people for using too much water on their lawns. 

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Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Court upholds State Water Board’s revised flow objectives for the San Joaquin River

The Sacramento Superior Court has ruled in favor of the State Water Board’s 2018 Bay Delta Plan update, denying all 116 claims by petitioners. In December 2018, the State Water Resources Control Plan adopted revised flow objectives for the San Joaquin River and its three major tributaries, the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers. The new flow objectives provide for increased flows on the three tributaries to help revive and protect native fall-run migratory fish populations. The Board also adopted a revised south Delta salinity objectives, increasing the level of salinity allowed from April to August. Several petitions were filed in several counties challenging the Board’s action.  

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Largest new reservoir project in 50 years in California gains momentum

… A windswept county in the Sacramento Valley — whose entire population of 22,000 people is just one-third of Palo Alto’s — may soon be known for something else: the largest new reservoir anywhere in California in the past 50 years. Last weekend, President Biden signed a package of bills that included $205 million in construction funding for Sites Reservoir, a proposed $4.5 billion project planned for the rolling ranchlands west of the town of Maxwell, about 70 miles north of Sacramento. … The make-or-break moment for Sites is a series of hearings scheduled to run from June to November in which the State Water Resources Control Board will analyze fisheries studies and other documents and decide whether to award it the water rights to move forward.

Aquafornia news 8 News - Las Vegas

Better snowpack for Colorado River may fend off ‘whiplash’ of recent years

Snowfall this week in the Rockies has improved the water picture for the Colorado River, but one expert says she’s not counting her chickens before they’re hatched. Current information on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s website shows that snowpack levels in the Upper Colorado River Basin are at 110% of normal for this time of year. That’s an improvement over March 1 when it was at 101%. … important weeks are still ahead, even though the snowpack peak is typically measured on April 1 each year. 

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Aquafornia news Half Moon Bay Review

Federal Council announces salmon fishing alternatives

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering three options for the ocean salmon season, set to begin May 16. The federal council that manages water from California, Oregon and Washington state came up with two options that would entail a short salmon season, and it’ll come with small harvest limits for both commercial and sport fishing. The last option includes closing off the ocean fisheries for the second consecutive year. Last year, commercial and recreation salmon fleets in California were left anchored following the PFMC’s decision to cancel the 2023 fishing season due to years of drought, low river level and dry conditions affecting the Chinook salmon populations in the Klamath and Sacramento rivers.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Here’s what California’s wet winter means for wildfire season

California enjoyed a second consecutive winter of above-average precipitation this year, and many are hoping that will translate to another relatively calm fire season. But that’s far from a sure thing, even though the outlook for the next few months is good, experts say.  In 2023, about 320,000 acres burned statewide due to wildfires, well below the five-year average of 1.7 million acres. Storms that winter played a part: Rain revitalized a landscape parched by years of drought and a colossal Sierra Nevada snowpack provided additional moisture as it melted through the warmer months. … The Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center’s four-month outlook issued March 1 calls for minimal fire activity across Northern California from March through May. 

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Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

Listen: What Klamath dam removal means to tribes

After decades of advocating, tribal members cheered as a blast at JC Boyle Dam this year kicked off the process of drawing down the reservoirs behind three Klamath River dams. The removal is expected to restore the river and reopen spawning habitat that salmon haven’t been able to reach for more than a century. OPB science reporter and editor Cassandra Profita brings us the perspective of the tribes living along the Klamath River: what the country’s largest dam removal project means to them and their hopes for the future.

Aquafornia news NBC - Palm Springs

Restoring the Salton Sea: Lithium, wetlands and the 10-year plan

This half-hour special dives into the troubles and triumphs at the Salton Sea. The sea is the largest body of water in California. It formed after a levee at the Colorado River burst in the early 1900s, and after the levee was fixed, it cut off the flow of fresh water. Since then, the sea has become polluted with chemical runoff from nearby farms. It’s also slowly evaporating. The chemical-filled water releases gases that trigger asthma in nearby communities, and toxic dust from around the shoreline acts as an irritant as well. Despite all of the negatives, there are a few positives. New wetlands are forming as the sea slowly pulls away from the shoreline, playing host to thousands of migrating birds. Developing wetlands make the sea an important stop along the Pacific Flyway.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Why the US has the second-highest weather damages in the world

The United States suffers the world’s second-highest toll from major weather disasters, according to a new analysis — even when numbers are adjusted for the country’s wealth. The report released late last month by Zurich-based reinsurance giant Swiss Re, which analyzed the vulnerability and damages of 36 different countries, suggests that weather disasters may become a heavy drag on the U.S. economy — especially as insurers increasingly pull out of hazardous areas. Those disasters are driving up insurance rates, compounding inflation and adding to Americans’ high cost of living. … Some insurers have stopped offering home insurance policies in California, which has seen numerous large wildfires in the past few years. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

California is digitizing its century-old paper water rights records

In a Sacramento office building, university students carefully scan pieces of paper that underpin California’s most contentious and valuable water disputes. One by one, they’re bringing pieces of history into the digital era, some a century old and thin as onion skin. The student workers are beginning to digitize the state’s water rights records, part of a project launched by the state’s water regulator earlier this year. It may seem simple, but scanning two million musty pages is part of a $60 million project that could take years. The massive undertaking will unmask the notoriously opaque world of California water. Right now, it’s practically impossible to know who has the right to use water, how much they’re taking and from what river or stream at any given time in the state.

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