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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: 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 Maven's Notebook

CA Water Commission: Ensuring the reliability of the State Water Project, Part 1: Strategic Priorities and Programs

One of the California Water Commission’s statutory responsibilities is to conduct an annual review of the construction and operation of the State Water Project and make a report on its findings to the Department of Water Resources and the Legislature, with any recommendations it may have.  Having just finished the 2020 State Water Project review, the Commission has launched its 2021 State Water Project review with a theme focused on creating a resilient State Water Project by addressing climate change and aging infrastructure to provide multiple benefits for California. 

Aquafornia news Havasu News

Colorado River Indian Tribes will get $209K to stop water loss from irrigation canals

The Colorado River Indian Tribes will receive $209,000 for irrigation canal projects, Congressman Paul Gosar announced Tuesday. The federal funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior to help CRIT pay for canal lining. The project is intended to help stop water seepage from the canal. CRIT relies on the Colorado River as its primary source of water, and water conserved with help the Tribes meet existing demand during times of drought, Gosar said. The project will line nearly 4,000 feet of the earthen canal with a membrane covered in sprayed concrete. The stretch of canal has been identified as having the most significant seepage rate of all 232 miles of canals in the Colorado River Irrigation Project, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Opinion – Are water wars about to boil?

Not counting long and ugly court battles, the two most likely solutions to California water wars are voluntary agreements or involuntary edicts. Our Modesto Bee Editorial Board long has favored voluntary agreements, or compromises negotiated mainly between local irrigation districts (representing our farmers) and state and federal officials. The other side, chiefly represented by environmental and fishing interests, would prefer that the California State Water Board simply take huge amounts of water from our Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers, mostly to benefit fish — what could be called involuntary edicts. 
-Written by Garth Stapley, The Modesto Bee’s opinion editor.

Aquafornia news Colorado State University

New research: Trees have unexpected impacts on water use in northern Colorado

Colorado’s water supply is under threat from climate change and population growth. Limiting outdoor use is an increasingly popular approach to conserving water, yet to implement effective conservation policies, utilities managers need a better understanding of local outdoor water consumption. … [Colorado State University’s Melissa McHale] said trees can provide long-term benefits even if they need to be watered directly when they are first planted. … The research team found that residential properties with a higher ratio of vegetation cover to lot size tended toward less water consumption. 

Aquafornia news California Fisheries Blog

Blog: Use of Shasta Dam TCD slide gates

The slide gates at the bottom of the Temperature Control Device (TCD) on the inside face of Shasta Dam (Figure 1) allow deeper, colder water in the reservoir to be drawn into the power plant intake penstocks and released to the river below. Use of the slide gates allows more colder water to be released for salmon in the river below in summer and fall in years when reservoir levels are low and the cold-water-pool is limited. In 2014 and 2015, NMFS and the Bureau of Reclamation learned that when the reservoir level is low and the slide gates are opened to access cold water, some warmer surface water is also drawn downward into the slide gate openings.

Aquafornia news Ingrained

Podcast: Moving forward in a dry year

Tractors are working ground in the Sacramento Valley, as the 2021 rice season is underway. Whether it’s farmers, those in cities or for the environment, this year will pose challenges due to less than ideal rain and snowfall during the fall and winter. Jon Munger At Montna Farms near Yuba City, Vice President of Operations Jon Munger said they expect to plant about one-third less rice this year, based on water cutbacks. As water is always a precious resource in this state, rice growers work hard to be as efficient as they can. Fields are precisely leveled and will be flooded with just five-inches of water during the growing season. Rice is grown in heavy clay soils, which act like a bathtub to hold water in place. High-tech planting and harvest equipment also help California rice farms and mills operate at peak efficiency.

Aquafornia news Restore the Delta

Blog: The dam problem for the Bay-Delta estuary

The dams that are built in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Watershed protect thousands of people and billions of dollar’s worth of agriculture but they are far too old and far too many of them need repair. Some unnecessary dams are drying rivers and putting business in front of the environment.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California is on the brink of drought – again. Is it ready?

California is at the edge of another protracted drought, just a few years after one of the worst dry spells in state history left poor and rural communities without well water, triggered major water restrictions in cities, forced farmers to idle their fields, killed millions of trees, and fueled devastating megafires. … Just four years since the state’s last drought emergency, experts and advocates say the state isn’t ready to cope with what could be months and possibly years of drought to come.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Mercury News

Kamala Harris visits Oakland to tout federal jobs plan

For the first time since her historic ascension as the nation’s first woman vice president, Kamala Harris returned to her native Oakland on Monday to promote the Biden administration’s ambitious proposal to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and create jobs…. Harris toured the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s water treatment plant, speaking to employees and touting the district as the kind of operation that should be emulated. …. Harris highlighted the water portion of the [Biden] plan, saying the goal is to invest in jobs that can build up, replace and modernize water infrastructure — all with the goal of getting clean drinking water to everyone.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

As Colorado River drought deepens, Arizona prepares for water cutbacks

Unrelenting drought and years of rising temperatures due to climate change are pushing the long-overallocated Colorado River into new territory, setting the stage for the largest mandatory water cutbacks to date. Lake Mead, the biggest reservoir on the river, has declined dramatically over the past two decades and now stands at just 40% of its full capacity. This summer, it’s projected to fall to the lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam. The reservoir near Las Vegas is approaching a threshold that is expected to trigger a first-ever shortage declaration by the federal government for next year, leading to substantial cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

A battle over water comes to a sweet end

Nearly five years ago we brought you the story of a little town an hour south of the Oregon border that was doing battle with a big timber company over who owned the rights to a pristine spring that gurgles in the shadows of Mount Shasta, the majestic snow-capped dormant volcano. After $1.5 million in legal fees and countless hours of argument and activism, the City Council of that town, Weed, Calif., recently approved a deal securing use of the water in perpetuity. It was a David-over-Goliath victory for Weed, population 2,700. 

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: Complexities – Thinking about the San Francisco Estuary during the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference

In anticipation of this week’s Bay-Delta Science Conference, I thought it would be useful to consider some of what it takes to understand a complex ecosystem like an estuary and to encourage everyone working in the San Francisco Estuary – scientists, policymakers, and local stakeholders – to continue shifting our ecosystem management focus from the simple to the complex. I’ll explain why in a moment. Here are four suggestions for improving ecosystem management in the San Francisco Bay-Delta:

Aquafornia news The Daily Beast

The next time you’re out West, you might see clouds on steroids

The idea of cloud seeding and weather modification has been around since 1940. There were federally funded programs in the 1960s—one named Project Skywater that ultimately had mixed results. In the 1970s and 1980s, the US government began experimenting on how weather modification could be used as a war tool. But outside of ski resorts like Vail, where the technology is used to help increase snow during snowstorms, interest in cloud seeding largely dropped off. … According to the North American Weather Modification Council, there are currently several projects being run in California, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Utah, among other states with a project here or there.

Aquafornia news National Geographic

Endangered trout may soon return to the paved Los Angeles River

Flowing a few inches deep following a recent rain, the Los Angeles River looks more like a vast flooded interstate highway rather than any river found in nature. And yet it is the largest paved waterway in the world, best known as the filming site for car scenes in movies such as Grease and Terminator 2. … But now, following decades of public frustration about the river’s poor condition, the city—in coordination with the state and federal agencies—has mobilized to restore the waterway and its habitats. One of the most prominent pilot projects in the billion-dollar effort is the Los Angeles River Fish Passage and Habitat Structures Design Project, which aims to allow fish—especially steelhead—to move freely through the river once again.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at “water banking,” an idea also being weighed in Colorado

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. Lawmakers on Monday weighed whether so-called “water banking” would be preferable to prevailing water law doctrines that govern surface and groundwater rights disputes in the driest state in the U.S. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials. 

Aquafornia news Antelope Valley Press

LaMoreaux tapped for Palmdale Water District Authority

The general manager for a local water utility company joined the Board for the Delta Conveyance Design Authority. Palmdale Water District announced on Monday that Dennis LaMoreaux has been appointed as an alternate director for the Authority.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Why is it taking so long to restore the sediment-choked Elk River?

The Elk River is the largest tributary to Humboldt Bay and provides habitat for three runs of salmon and steelhead. But after this timber-rich watershed was heavily logged more than 20 years ago, major storms washed soils from clear-cuts into the river, causing ecological devastation, local flooding, and contamination of local drinking water supplies. We talked to Darren Mierau of CalTrout about the Elk River Recovery Program and the big challenges facing this effort.

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Podcast: Jeff Kightlinger

In this episode John Howard and Tim Foster welcomed the longtime but soon-to-be-retired Metropolitan Water District of Southern California head honcho Jeff Kightlinger for a wide-ranging discussion that covered the status of the Delta Tunnel Project, climate change and the snow survey, the drought, working from home, jukeboxes, his punk rock roots and Dan Walters‘ connection to the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: How California stands to benefit from Biden infrastructure proposal

Perhaps more than any other part of the country, California stands to benefit from the $2.2 trillion proposal introduced last week by President Biden…. the sweeping plan would inject huge sums of money into wider roads, faster internet, high-speed trains, charging stations for electric cars, airport terminals, upgraded water pipes and much more. … The infusion is being seen not only as the path to a long-overdue upgrade of the freeways, dams and aqueducts that have long been California’s hallmark but also as a way to scale up and export the state’s ambitious climate policies.

Aquafornia news The Weather Network

Another California drought in 2021 is possible, along with more wildfires

It was in 2016 that the state of California declared a four-year drought had finally come to an end. Now, in 2021, it could be entering another very dry season. It is in the winter season that folks on the West Coast welcome dreary days packed with cloud and rain. California usually sees the most rain and snow in the month of February. This year, however, was different: It was quite dry all of the winter season, and we can blame La Niña for this pattern. … Thirty per cent of California’s water supply comes from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and only 57 per cent of normal precipitation has fallen this season. This, coupled with lower than average snowpack for 2020 as well, could spell trouble down the road when it comes to water supply.

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