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.

Subscribe to our weekday emails to have news delivered to your inbox about 9 a.m. Monday through Friday except for holidays. Or subscribe via RSS feed.

For breaking news, follow us on Twitter.

Check out our special news feeds devoted to: 

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 The Sacramento Bee

California warns of ‘fourth dry year’ as drought continues

Yes, Northern California received some rain this week, dousing much of the Mosquito Fire and bringing a light coating of snow to the Sierra Nevada. But one of the worst droughts in recorded history remains an everyday reality, and the outlook for winter is for more of the same, a top official with the state Department of Water Resources said this week. … On the other hand, [John Yarbrough, the agency’s assistant deputy director] said the state will enter the upcoming winter in better shape than it did a year ago. The flurry of storms last October and December means California’s major reservoirs are holding more water than at the same time in 2021.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Drought, new dams, discord dominate election for Santa Clara Valley Water District

Over the past two years, Silicon Valley’s largest water provider, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, has had a long list of challenges and setbacks. In 2020, the federal government ordered its largest dam, Anderson, near Morgan Hill, drained for earthquake repairs. The price tag has since doubled to $1.2 billion. The district’s plan to build another big dam near Pacheco Pass also doubled in cost, and that $2.5 billion project has been hit with a lawsuit and funding shortfalls. As the drought worsened, the district has pushed for conservation and spent tens of millions of dollars to buy water from Sacramento Valley farmers at high prices.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Proposed California surf park is rejected by city council

A developer’s proposal to build a surfing lagoon in the Coachella Valley desert has been rejected by the city of La Quinta after residents raised concerns about noise, lighting and the resort’s substantial water footprint in a time of severe drought. The City Council’s five members voted unanimously Wednesday night against a zoning change that would have allowed the developer to build the resort and surf park. … The wave basin would have stretched across 12 acres and required 18 million gallons to fill. … The uproar parallels a larger debate over how the Coachella Valley — with its 120 golf courses, artificial lakes and developments filled with thirsty grass — should adapt to worsening water scarcity. 

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Klamath River salmon facing increased mortality in post-fire conditions

The Six Rivers National Forest Fisheries Program has partnered with the Klamath Basin Fish Health Assessment Team to monitor water quality and fish health conditions in the Klamath River. This is in response to increased mortality and disease rates among the chinook and steelhead salmon populations in the river. According to officials, this die-off is a result of poor fish health conditions in the Klamath River due to changes in flows, water temperature and fish density. These conditions began to change in early August due to the nearby McKinney Fire’s effect on the water.

Aquafornia news ABC30 - Fresno

Valley farmer calling on state to increase water source

The devastating drought is continuing to ravage the Central Valley and is creating more of a water crisis for farmers. Right along the edge of West Fresno County sits miles and miles of uprooted almond trees. Farmer Joe Del Bosque says he’s never seen it like this. … Del Bosque says they’ve done everything to be efficient with their water. He says every orchard and field has water-saving technology. But that’s not enough. Now, he’s calling on lawmakers to increase their water storage to be able to save more water in the future.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Turning tomatoes into drinking water? Ingomar Packing Company, Botanical Water Technologies team up to make this happen

Two companies are teaming up to respond to the drought in California by turning the water in tomatoes into drinking water. Los Banos-based Ingomar Packing Company, a tomato processor, is partnering with Botanical Water Technologies to make this happen. Tomatoes are made up of about 95% water. … Despite coming from tomatoes, Rees said the water doesn’t taste like it. … The plan is for the Los Banos Ingomar site to create more than 200 million gallons of potable water per year by 2025.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Mosquito Fire: CA blaze 60% contained as rainy weather ends

Firefighters have made substantial progress this week in containing the Mosquito Fire, as a storm system brought several inches of rain to the Northern California foothills and allowed the last remaining mandatory evacuation orders in Placer and El Dorado counties to be lifted. … The National Weather Service earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, issued a flash flood watch for the Mosquito Fire zone, advising that thunderstorms could cause dangerous debris flows. Fortunately, the advisory expired with no significant flooding reported. The Mosquito Fire, California’s largest wildfire of 2022, destroyed 78 structures and damaged 13 others, mostly homes in the Michigan Bluff and Volcanoville communities. Cal Fire says its damage assessment is complete.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Lake San Marcos $10.1 million cleanup deal gets judge’s approval

A $10.1 million environmental remediation settlement between resort owner Citizens Development Corp. and local governments received approval by a California federal judge. The deal resolves a decade of litigation over the environmental cleanup of contaminated surface water and groundwater in and around Lake San Marcos and San Marcos Creek. The settlement approval on Wednesday dismissed with prejudice all claims against San Diego County and the cities of San Marcos and Escondito. The settlements were fair, reasonable, adequate, and consistent with the purposes of the Superfund remediation program under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the US District Court.

Aquafornia news Patch - Martinez

Last week of September declared Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, on Wednesday declared the last week of September as Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week in recognition of the rivers playing a critical role in the state’s economy and environment. The proclaimed week will kick off Sunday and was established from Senate Concurrent Resolution 119. Dodd said the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy and Delta Protection Commission have both been vital in protecting the expanse formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Aquafornia news Downey Brand LLP - JDSupra

Blog: Court holds CEQA is not preempted in federal hydroelectric relicensing proceeding

In County of Butte v. Dep’t of Wat. Resources (2022) 13 Cal.5th 612, issued on August 1, 2022, the California Supreme Court carved out a role for the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) even where the project is largely governed by a federal proceeding. The case arose in connection with the relicensing of the Oroville Dam by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). The Federal Power Act (“FPA”) (16 U.S.C. § 791, et seq.) delegates to FERC the authority to license hydroelectric dams; the FPA has “a significant preemptive sweep.” Despite a comprehensive federal process for licensing dams, the Supreme Court held that state agency review under CEQA was not entirely preempted.

Aquafornia news Legal Planet

Blog: U.C. Davis Law School to host “Clean Water Act at 50″ conference

On Friday, October 7th, the California Environmental Law & Policy Center at U.C. Davis School of Law will convene a major, day-long conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.  The event will assess the progress the U.S. has made over the past half-century in abating water pollution; focus on some of the law’s most contentious, current features; and predict how the Act will likely–and should–evolve in the decades to come.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Coastkeeper welcomes East Coast transplant to helm

San Diego Coastkeeper announced this week that Phillip Musegaas will take over in October as the water-quality nonprofit’s new executive director. He’s moving from Washington, D.C., where he worked for more than seven years as the Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s vice president of programs and litigation. He’ll replace the group’s outgoing leader Matt O’Malley, who took over in late 2016. The nonprofit has recently focused on improving the region’s ailing stormwater system, backing water recycling efforts and calling attention to leaky sewage pipes linked to beach closures.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Drought is killing the trees at Lake Tahoe

Fir trees are dying in the Lake Tahoe Basin at a quicker rate than in the rest of California. The trees are perishing in greater numbers and faster than previously seen before… Four thousand acres of trees in the Lake Tahoe Basin are affected by mass mortality, according to an aerial survey by the Forest Service in 2021. The survey found that around 70,000 trees are dead in Lake Tahoe, with over a million trees dead across the Tahoe National Forest. Across the entire state of California, the survey also found that 9.5 million trees had died. It is thought that the main driver of these deaths is the scorching drought that has gripped the state recently, leading to blisteringly high temperatures, water shortages, wildfires and other extreme weather.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Carson City Nevada News

South Lake Tahoe leads the way as city council approves water bottle ban

In 2016, the City of San Francisco was the first American municipality to ban the sales of water that comes in plastic bottles. At the time it was called a bold move that was building on a global movement to reduce the huge amount of waste from the billion-dollar plastic bottle industry. South Lake Tahoe was an early adopter of the single-use plastic bag ban, as well as bans of single-use plastic, styrene, and straws. … Plastic bottles break down into tiny pieces (microplastics) that can be found in the lake and water bottles are the most commonly sold in South Lake Tahoe. At this time, soda bottles and other beverages sold in plastic will still be available. Water sold in reusable cans and boxes is becoming more popular, and they will still be allowed.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Antelope Valley Press

Littlerock Dam sediment removal begins

In a project some three decades in the making, the first trucks carrying sediment removed from the reservoir behind Littlerock Dam moved out, on Wednesday. The Palmdale Water District has been working on the project to remove years of sediment that has built up, and restore water storage capacity to the reservoir. The reservoir collects rain and snow melt from the watershed in the San Gabriel Mountains and is one of three sources of water for the District. The others are groundwater pumped from wells and State Water Project water carried through the California Aqueduct.

Aquafornia news Beyond Pesticides

Blog: Neonicotinoid insecticides keep poisoning California waterways, threatening aquatic ecosystems

According to a September 15 Environment California press release, California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) data confirm more bad news on neonicotinoid (neonic) contamination: nearly all urban waterways in three counties show the presence of the neonic imidacloprid at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) chronic benchmark for harm to aquatic ecosystems; in five other counties, well over half showed its presence at similar levels. Neonic use is strongly correlated with die-offs and other harms to a variety of bees and pollinators, and to other beneficial organisms.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California should expect a ‘fourth dry year’ as drought persists

California’s reservoirs will enter fall in a slightly better position than last year, but the Golden State should prepare for more dryness, extreme weather events and water quality hazards in 2023, officials say. … [S]ome of the state’s biggest reservoirs, including Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta, are slightly more full than they were at the same time last year, but still remain well below average. Water managers are now preparing for a “fourth dry year,” as well as more unpredictable weather and wildfires associated with climate change, DWR Assistant Deputy Director John Yarbrough said during a meeting of the California Water Commission.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

No surface water for Ariz. farmers next year

Arizona farmers this year benefitted from mitigation water that otherwise would have cut their Central Arizona Project irrigation deliveries to zero. They won’t be so fortunate next year. When the Bureau of Reclamation issued its first-ever Tier 1 restriction of Colorado River water from Lake Mead, Arizona’s farmers faced the elimination of their surface water supplies from the Central Arizona Project (CAP) for 2022. That portion of CAP surface water, known as the “ag pool,” is part of a 512,000-acre-foot cut Arizona faced under the restrictions as part of the Drought Contingency Plan, an agreement designed to preserve water in the Colorado River system.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Forbes

California’s water emergency: Satisfying the thirst of almonds while the wells of the people that harvest them run dry

In just the past month, as California temperatures soared during a drought so severe some experts say it hasn’t been this parched in 1,200 years, about 250 wells, mostly in the state’s bread basket, have gone dry. They’re part of the more than 1,100 California wells that have dried up so far this year, a 60% increase from 2021. While that may not seem like a lot, given that California has 274,000 wells, it’s an ominous sign and a personal tragedy for the one million Californians who struggle for clean water. In many cases, it also pits hugely important agricultural producers, who rely on underground water for their crops, against their own workers, who need it to drink.

Aquafornia news Fresh Water News

Tribal breakthrough? Four states, six tribes announce first formal talks on Colorado River negotiating authority

Colorado and three other Upper Colorado River Basin states have, for the first time in history, embarked on a series of formal meetings to find a way to negotiate jointly with some of the largest owners of Colorado River water rights: tribal communities. The states, which include New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, began meeting with six tribes several weeks ago, according to Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board who also represents Colorado on the Upper Colorado River Basin Commission.

Related articles: