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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 Chris Bowman.

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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 Orange County Register

Caltrans looking at addressing PCH flooding issues near Bolsa Chica wetlands

Pacific Coast Highway closing during high tides or heavy rainstorms near the Bolsa Chica wetlands is a common problem for drivers in the area, and Caltrans officials say they are looking to address the flooding problems in the future. When asked if Caltrans had plans to address the flooding concerns along that stretch of road at a recent Huntington Beach City Council meeting, Caltrans District 12 Asset Manager Bassem Barsoum said officials are working on a plan. Storms earlier this month forced a 93 hour closure of the road in town to traffic. 

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Replicating a census from the past to protect shorebirds of the future

… The more information we have about the movements of shorebirds and their numbers, the better equipped we are to manage the critical ecosystems they depend on and protect their populations for generations to come. When it comes to shorebirds though, acquiring such a level of robust information is not an easy task. Many shorebirds will utilize the entire hemisphere every year. In the winter they’re spread across the tremendously vast landscapes of North, Central and South America, and throughout the breeding season, they’re dispersed across the Arctic and other extremely remote locations. It’s nearly impossible to get a comprehensive picture of shorebird populations during these times, leaving birders and biologists one opportunity—migration.

Aquafornia news Northern California Public Media

Ecological revival returning life to Laguna, removing contaminants, easing flood danger

In Northern California, before European settlement it’s been said that clouds of birds would block out the sun and one could cross a river by walking across the backs of fish. According to historic accounts, the Laguna de Santa Rosa was once such a place. That’s the 22-mile-long network of wetlands that drains the Santa Rosa plain. After a century of degradation, restoration  is underway. Once a thriving wetland, history hasn’t been kind to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Historic dumping of untreated sewage, industrial and agricultural waste and cities growing up around it have all taken a toll. State health officials still recommend limitations on eating certain fish caught there, due to mercury and PCB contamination.

Aquafornia news NBC 7 San Diego

When taxes are due for San Diego County after flooding

Federal tax deadlines have been extended until June 17 for San Diego County residents affected by last month’s rainstorms, the Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday. The amended deadlines will offer relief “for individuals and businesses in parts of California affected by severe storms and flooding that began on Jan. 21,” according to the IRS. The relief extends to any areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which includes San Diego County.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Funding could be biggest hurdle faced by the Delta tunnel as water users weigh costs versus benefits of the $16 billion project

The controversial Delta Conveyance Project may have bigger problems than legal action over its recently approved environmental impact report.  Who’s going to pay the estimated $16 billion price tag? The concept, a tunnel to take Sacramento River water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to thirsty towns and farms further south, relies on the end users footing the bill. But over the decades that the project has languished in various iterations, those end users have become less enthusiastic to open their wallets. In fact, the single largest recipient of delta water via the State Water Project – and the single largest payer – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, has committed only $160 million for project planning this time around.

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Aquafornia news New York Times

How California’s rainy season is shaping up so far

With its Mediterranean climate, California receives most of its annual precipitation in just a few months, with the bulk of it falling from December to February. That means that by the time March 1 comes around, we usually have a good sense of how much water we’re going to have for the rest of the year. The state keeps track based on a “water year” that runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, so the whole winter rainy season will fall in the same year’s statistics. As of Sunday, California had received slightly more rain than usual this winter — 105 percent of the average, according to state data. In some parts of the state, though, it’s been much rainier than normal. Los Angeles, which just endured one of its wettest storm systems on record, had received 159 percent of its annual average rainfall as of Sunday. San Diego was at 133 percent, and Paso Robles at 160.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Coloradans could spend $2.5B replacing water-hungry grass

One of Colorado’s leading urban water conservation strategies — turf replacement — could require up to $2.5 billion to save 20,000 acre-feet of water, according to a recent report commissioned by the state’s top water policy agency. Colorado communities are facing a drier future with water shortages and searching for ways to cut down water use. … This turf-focused strategy has gained new momentum since 2020 and 2021, when the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin became shockingly apparent (to more than just water experts) as two enormous reservoirs, lakes Mead and Powell, fell to historic lows.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Researchers warn of a catastrophic collapse of ocean current

Scientists are sounding the alarm that a crucial component of the planet’s climate system is in gradual decline and could one day reach a tipping point that would radically alter global weather patterns. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is a system of ocean currents that circulate water in the Atlantic Ocean like a conveyor belt, helping to redistribute heat and regulate global and regional climates. New research, however, warns that the AMOC is weakening under a warming climate, and could potentially suffer a dangerous and abrupt collapse with worldwide consequences. … Considering the AMOC is the workhorse of the Atlantic, the consequences of such a collapse would result in “hugely chaotic changes in global weather patterns” that extend far beyond the Atlantic, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA who was not involved in the study.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

One of Northern California’s most polluted properties may be cleaned up

The legacies of California’s 1849 Gold Rush and the relentless search for gold that continued decades later are well known: the rise of San Francisco; statehood; Wells Fargo; Levi’s jeans; a Bay Area football team named after the fortune-seeking miners. But along the shores of Clear Lake, just north of Napa Valley’s famed wineries, is another gold-rush legacy: toxic pollution. From the 1860s until it closed in 1957, the Sulphur Bank Mine was one of the largest mercury mines in the United States. Gold miners in the Sierra Nevada used the mercury dug from its deep tunnels and craggy cavities to separate gold from the ore that held it. … Now a major effort has begun to clean up the historic mess and reduce health threats to people who have called the area home for thousands of years.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Microplastics found in every human placenta tested in study

Microplastics have been found in every human placenta tested in a study, leaving the researchers worried about the potential health impacts on developing foetuses. … [T]he most common plastic detected was polyethylene, which is used to make plastic bags and bottles. A second study revealed microplastics in all 17 human arteries tested and suggested the particles may be linked to clogging of the blood vessels. Microplastics have also recently been discovered in human blood and breast milk, indicating widespread contamination of people’s bodies. The impact on health is as yet unknown but microplastics have been shown to cause damage to human cells in the laboratory. 

Aquafornia news NPR

Wildfires are killing California’s ancient giants. Can seedlings save the species?

On a late autumn day, a team of forestry workers spreads out among the burned trunks of giant sequoia trees. The 1,000-year-old trees in the grove are dead but still standing, killed in an extreme wildfire that raced through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In the shadow of one of the trees, the crew gets to work, pulling tiny, 4-inch seedlings out of bags clipped to their belts and tucking them into the dirt. … Over only two years, about one-fifth of all giant sequoias have been killed in extreme wildfires in California. The numbers shocked ecologists, since the enormous trees can live more than 2,000 years and have evolved to live with frequent, low-intensity fires in the Sierra Nevada. Recent fires have burned bigger and more intensely than sequoias are accustomed to, a result of the way humans have changed the forest. 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Sacramento’s new watering rules go into effect March 1

To conserve water as California heads into the drier spring and summer months, the city of Sacramento announced new watering regulations set to go into effect March 1. According to the city’s watering schedule ordinance, residents and businesses in the city of Sacramento are required to follow a seasonal schedule when watering landscapes using sprinklers. Here is the seasonal watering schedule from the ordinance: Spring and summer From March 1 to October 31: Customers with even-numbered addresses can water Wednesday and Sunday. Customers with odd-numbered addresses can water Tuesday and Saturday. Watering must be done before 10 a.m. and/or after 7 p.m. Watering is not allowed 48 hours after one-eighths inch of rain.

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Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

CSU Monterey Bay team studies water from the sky

In October, CSU Monterey Bay received a $1.13 million grant from the U.S. Geological Survey to support their ongoing role in a project called OpenET. The tool uses satellites to calculate how much water is lost to the air after being applied to farmland. “There are still gaps in the information and understanding between how much water we need and how much we are actually using,” said Dr. AJ Purdy, a senior research scientist at CSUMB working on the project. “This project fills a big gap.” OpenET uses satellites from NASA, USGS, and others to measure evapotranspiration, or the amount of water that evaporates from soil combined with the water that transpires through plants — traveling from the roots and evaporating off the leaves. The satellites measure reflectance — energy from the sun that bounces off the Earth, which hits the satellites in different wavelengths that correspond to color. OpenET measures plant coverage, so it looks for green.

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Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: Governor’s water diversions obliterate Upper Sacramento fall Chinook salmon population by 96%

Scott Artis, the Golden State Salmon Association’s executive director, responded to the latest California salmon return numbers reported in the Pacific Fishery Management Council report released on February 16, 2024: “Under Governor Newsom, the upper Sacramento River, formerly the most important salmon producing river south of the Columbia, has been killed off. … Salmon eggs faced overheated water because of the failure of the State Water Resources Control Board to adequately control temperature pollution from Shasta Dam. … In 2023, the upper Sacramento River escapement (the spawning population) of fall-run Chinook salmon was 6,160 adults. Between 1995-2005, the average escapement was 175,496, which represents a loss of 96% of the upper Sacramento River’s spawning adults.”

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Aquafornia news Scripps News

Protests erupt as Mexico City could run out of water this summer

It has been far too dry for far too long in Mexico as a combination of drying reservoirs and increasing population has caused concerns of a water crisis.  According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of Mexico, including areas around and to the north of Mexico City, are in a long-term drought. … Local media reports that reservoirs could completely be out of water by late August if conditions don’t improve. … Elizabeth Carter, an assistant professor of civil engineering and earth sciences at Syracuse University … notes … that the U.S engineering projects in rivers that feed many of Mexico’s northern freshwater sources run dry before reaching Mexico. She cites the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, and the Central Arizona Project (Colorado River) as examples. 

Aquafornia news KPBS - San Diego

Momentum is building for a new national monument near the Salton Sea

On the north edge of the Salton Sea, a movement is gaining steam to create a new national monument that would protect swaths of recreational land used by the valley’s communities of color. A coalition of environmental groups and tribes, including the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe, Audubon California, Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas and the Center for Biological Diversity are urging the federal government to designate large sections of land there with similar protections to national parks. National monuments are typically shielded from mining and drilling and can also open the door for tribes and federal agencies to work together to manage the land.

Aquafornia news Sierra Club magazine

A tale of two sea level rise solutions

On a mid-winter morning in central California, Alyson Hunter and Bruce Delgado gathered at the Marina State Beach parking lot, the sea raging in the distance. Heavy rolling waves gushed toward shore, crumbling before the dune. The temperature was in the high 40s, though the morning sun was strong and the air was nearly still.  … Without a coordinated state-wide plan for sea level rise, however, cities and towns have arrived at vastly different approaches to their shared problem. This lack of coordination along the coast could present additional challenges down the line, sparing certain areas at first but ultimately worsening the impacts of sea level rise for more economically and environmentally vulnerable communities.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Opinion: Reform water law to include the environment

Arizona officials are proud of their 1980 state water policy. The Arizona Groundwater Management Act (GMA), after many earlier attempts, was approved only after the federal government threatened to withhold funding for the Central Arizona Project (CAP) unless Arizona controlled groundwater pumping. Without the CAP, California would have claimed “our” Colorado River water and restricted future economic development in Arizona. The environment wasn’t at the negotiating table then, so our rivers were on the menu. The GMA managed groundwater only in limited areas and sacrificed some rivers. We have now seriously degraded five of Arizona’s major perennial rivers: the Colorado, Gila, Salt, Santa Cruz, and San Pedro. Additionally, future perennial flow in the upper Verde River is deeply threatened.
-Written by Gary Beverly, a member of the Sustainable Water Network steering committee.​

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: Major winter storm to bring up to 10 feet of snow in Sierra Nevada this week

After a warm weekend of 70-degree temperatures in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, a big change is coming this week. A major winter storm is expected to impact Northern and Central California from Thursday through Sunday. Whiteout conditions are likely in the Sierra Nevada, where 4 to 10 feet of snow is expected above 6,000 feet. The snow line could drop below 2,000 feet in the Sierra and parts of the Bay Area on Saturday. … A weak weather system is expected to bring light rainfall to the California coast Monday and Tuesday. Up to a tenth of an inch of rain is forecast for the Bay Area and up to a quarter inch in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. 

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Facing a dwindling water supply and a federal deadline, Western states have yet to agree on Colorado River management plan

The Colorado River’s water serves 40 million people — including 2 million Utah residents. … The states are negotiating their preferred plan for those operations for Reclamation to consider. Their plan has to consider extreme drought and climate change in the American West, which make for a shrinking river. Reclamation asked the states to submit their plan in March so the agency would have time to analyze it. But now, Amy Haas, executive director of the Colorado River Authority of Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she thinks it is unlikely that the seven states will have a unified plan by then — which means the feds won’t yet be able to consider their proposal.

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