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 The Sacramento Bee

What does California rain, snow mean for drought conditions?

California’s string of heavy rainstorms in January continue to provide temporary relief to the state’s chronically dry land. Drought conditions across the golden state have either improved or remained the same compared to one week ago. The U.S. Drought Monitor, in a weekly update published Thursday, reports the state remains free of both “extreme” or “exceptional” drought for the second week in a row. California’s Central Coast, which was devastated by the severe storms, has exited moderate drought conditions and is now “abnormally dry.” In the northwest corner of the state, the majority of Del Norte County is drought free for at least the second the week in a row.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Flood control cuts slow progress in north state

As California grappled with drought conditions over the past three years, flooding was the last thing on most people’s minds. That changed this month when bomb cyclone rainstorms saturated the state and left communities reeling from rushing water. Unbeknownst to many, work on flood control progressed during the dry times. Chico-based River Partners has supplemented repairs to levies by restoring watersheds in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. … Much of this work is on hold, however, after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced deep cuts to the state budget that hit flood plain projects particularly hard. From funding levels of $250 million a year, the governor cut flooding mitigation to $135 million — a fraction of the $360 million to $560 million called for in the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan adopted in 2012 and updated last year.

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Aquafornia news WIRED

How sensor-dangling helicopters can help beat the water crisis

After weeks of near-constant rain and flooding, California is finally drying out—but hopefully not getting too dry, because the state needs all the rain it can get to pull itself out of a historic drought. This is California at its most frenetic and contradictory: Climate change is making both dry spells and rainstorms more intense, ping-ponging the state’s water systems between critical shortages and canal-topping deluges.  A simultaneous solution to both extremes is right beneath Californians’ feet: aquifers, which are made up of underground layers of porous rock or sediments, like gravel and sand, that fill with rainwater soaking through the soil above. … In paleo valleys, those coarser sediments are topped with perhaps just a few feet of soil, so they readily channel water into the aquifer system—this is where you’d want to refill.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Exeter takes last step to start Tooleville water connection

The saga over connecting Exeter and Tooleville’s water systems entered its most important phase to date on Jan. 24., in which an agreement will now be sent to the state for review. City manager Adam Ennis said that the approval of the consolidation agreement between Exeter and Tooleville will be one of the last steps before they can execute the project. The agreement outlines the responsibilities of Tooleville Mutual Non-Profit Water Association (TMNPWA) and Exeter for making the water connection a reality. Exeter is now awaiting approval of this agreement from the State Water Board, and if it is approved, they will finally be allowed to break ground on the project. This was a long time coming, as the city has spent years working on a solution to Tooleville’s water woes. 

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Aquafornia news Lost Coast Outpost

News release: Federal plan to cut Klamath River flows threatens salmon fishery, local tribes and fishermen warn

Despite the wet winter, the Department of Interior has announced plans to cut Klamath River flows up to 30% below the minimum mandated by the Endangered Species Act to protect listed coho salmon. River flows will drop below 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the first time in decades. This could prove disastrous to juvenile coho salmon along with other species including Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and Pacific lamprey. The Yurok Tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations have already filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the federal government. … In 2002, similarly low flows led to the infamous Klamath Fish Kill when tens of thousands of adult salmon died as they tried to make their way to their spawning grounds.  In 2004, similarly low flows caused a massive juvenile fish kill which in turn led to a collapse of the entire west coast salmon fishery.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

News release: State Water Board issues new drought and conservation reporting order

The State Water Resources Control Board on Jan. 1 issued a “Drought & Conservation Technical Reporting Order” that requires all water systems, including those operated by urban water suppliers, to report monthly information on sources, supply and demand, supply augmentation and demand reduction actions on a quarterly frequency. The complete submittal of monthly reports in 2023 will now satisfy the Electronic Annual Report’s supply and demand reporting, which is collected in 2024. The report covering January, February and March will be due April 30 and must be submitted using the new web-based reporting tool, SAFER Clearinghouse. The order also notes that there may be a change in reporting frequency and public water agencies may be required to provide addition drought reporting on a weekly or monthly basis.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey County asks for state, federal help for key projects

With federal and state elected officials listening in, representatives from 10 Monterey County departments lobbied for assistance – financially and legislatively – for what they consider the top priorities for 2023. Homeless funding, reservoir improvements, clean drinking water, refurbishing all or parts of the historic jail in Salinas, a new health clinic in Marina, immigration reform and a reauthorization of the Farm Bill, a veterans home, and ensuring ongoing flood relief assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, were all selected as the most important projects that will need federal or state assistance, or both. Last week’s annual workshop was an opportunity for department heads to outline these needs for elected officials that included U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, state Sen. John Laird, state Assemblyman Robert Rivas and state Assemblywoman Dawn Addis.

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Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Extreme weather creates a food crisis for California farmworkers

On a brisk afternoon in mid-January, Eloy Ortiz is pacing the back alley behind a white house in Watsonville, California, in the heart of California’s strawberry industry. The house is under an evacuation warning after weeks of torrential rain, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of women and children from crowding around the back gate. … Ortiz is a board member and volunteer with the Center for Farmworker Families, a nonprofit that assists farmworker communities throughout Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties on California’s Central Coast. The group has been distributing food for over a decade, but this is a big crowd, even by their standards. Many of the women in line pick strawberries for a living, and the crop has taken a beating from California’s winter storms. Farmers face up to $200 million in damages, according to the California Strawberry Commission.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Chevron El Segundo among worst water-polluting refineries

A study of oil refineries nationwide ranked the Chevron El Segundo facility on Santa Monica Bay as the largest water polluter for nitrogen and selenium in 2021, compared to 80 other oil operations. The pollutants, which are byproducts of the oil refining process, are legally discharged into the Pacific Ocean. Authors of the report, as well as conservationists, are calling on federal environmental officials to revise and tighten regulations that permit such discharges into water bodies, saying they have the power to do so but choose not to act. … In an email to The Times, the oil company said it directly treats all of the facility’s process wastewater and storm water runoff “under a rigorous discharge permit … 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Their Arizona community was ideal. Then their neighbor cut off the water

In the warmth of Arizona’s winter sun, 50 residents gathered in front of neighborhood activist Cody Reim’s house last weekend, eager to discuss a solution to their problem. Despite living a few miles from a river, their community has no water supply services. … In Rio Verde Foothills, an unincorporated community with no municipal government, near Scottsdale, the fashionable, wealthy desert city adjoining the state capital of Phoenix, none of the homes are connected to a local water district. There is only one paved road, no street lights, storm gutters, or pipes in the ground. Instead residents have wells – or water tanks outside their homes, which they used to fill at a local pipe serviced by Scottsdale.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Research project to develop better tools for Pinal agriculture

Researchers from the University of Arizona are working on groundwater and agricultural research that could help sustainable farming practices in central Arizona. The project, funded with a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and led by the University of California, Davis, integrates over two dozen experts from institutions in Arizona, California and New Mexico. … As a megadrought drains the Colorado River reservoirs and water cuts are enacted, farmers across the Southwest are turning to groundwater to sustain their operations. This has caused unprecedented overdraft in aquifers in the Central Valley of California, central Arizona and the Lower Rio Grande basin in New Mexico, according to project leaders.

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: Fighting a flood of misinformation about CA water

The past weeks following our recent large storms have been awash in misinformation and hypocrisy about operating and permitting water infrastructure in California. Even those who closely follow the news about California water are likely unaware that the data shows that more than half of the runoff from the storms in early January was captured and stored in the Central Valley. Or that the loudest voices criticizing environmental protections for our rivers and fisheries during the storms – which are requirements of the Trump Administration’s 2019 biological opinions – are the very same voices demanding that legislators and the courts keep those biological opinions in place. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Newsline

Opinion: Colorado should kick lawns to the curb

Over the course of the next seven years, an average 35,000 housing units will be built each year in Colorado. If past trends persist, around 70% of those housing units will be single-family homes. From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, it’s likely that Coloradans will see more single-family suburban developments popping up — and with them, lawns. Conventional grass lawns ornament the vast majority of American homes, covering three times as much surface area as irrigated cornfields in the United States. Although lawns are often purely aesthetic, sometimes they are chosen for their durability; lawns hold up against cleats, dogs and kids. … But there are far too many cropped, green lawns that are neglected until a weed sprouts up or it’s time to mow. Too many lawns exist just for the sake of being maintained.
-Written by Sammy Herdman, a campaign associate for Environment Colorado.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Storm deluge stirs hope for water supply

California farmers are encouraged by the series of atmospheric river storms that brought near-record rain and snow, filling depleted reservoirs and bolstering the snowpack. Frost Pauli, vineyard manager for Pauli Ranch in Potter Valley in Mendocino County, said he feels optimistic after three intense years of drought. He said the winter storms “have been excellent for our water supply.” Farmers with water rights along the Russian River in Mendocino and Sonoma counties have been subject to water diversion curtailments since 2021, after the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted actions spurred by a drought emergency declaration by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Other water supply cuts were mandated for watersheds including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the Scott River and Shasta River watershed.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Colorado River in crisis – The West faces a water reckoning

Over the last several years, managers of water agencies have reached deals to take less water from the river. But those reductions haven’t been nearly enough to halt the river’s spiral toward potential collapse. As Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, continues to decline toward “dead pool” levels, the need to rein in water demands is growing urgent. Efforts to adapt will require difficult decisions about how to deal with the reductions and limit the damage to communities, the economy and the river’s already degraded ecosystems. Adapting may also drive a fundamental rethinking of how the river is managed and used, redrawing a system that is out of balance. This reckoning with the reality of the river’s limits is about to transform the landscape of the Southwest.

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Aquafornia news Border Report

Tijuana running out of water, turns to California for help

As of Friday morning, more than 600 colonias were without running water in Tijuana and Rosarito, where residents say service has been spotty since last year. Facing the possibility of running out of water, Tijuana’s State Commission for Public Services, CESPT, turned to the San Diego County Water Authority for help. Agreements in place between Mexico and the United States allow for water deliveries in times of emergency or severe drought. So last week, the San Diego-based agency began sending water to Tijuana. Compounding the problem is the deterioration of Tijuana’s main aqueduct that delivers water from the Colorado River, the city’s main source of water. So far, repairs are taking longer than expected.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: California water rights, history and groundwater among Water 101 Workshop topics

Don’t miss a once-a-year opportunity at our Water 101 Workshop to get a primer on California’s water history, laws, geography and politics. One of our most popular events, the annual workshop will be hosted at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento on Thursday, Feb. 23. California’s water basics will be covered by some of the state’s leading policy and legal experts, and participants will have an opportunity to engage directly with the guest speakers during Q&A sessions.

Aquafornia news CBS Colorado - Denver

New rules will expand how water can be reused in Colorado

Water is already a scarce commodity in the West, but if Colorado keeps growing we are going to need even more. One source could be treating reused drinking water. It’s a scenario water providers and the state are already planning for. … It’s not something that will likely happen soon. Direct potable reuse water will need to be treated with state-of-the-art technologies to make it safe to drink and that process is expensive, but providers and the state want to be prepared. That’s why just this month [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] implemented new rules to regulate direct potable reuse water. So that way if water providers are going to practice direct potable reuse, they are doing it safely. 

Aquafornia news KOMO - Seattle

La Niña weather isn’t done, but ocean temperatures are heading toward a new phase

La Niña brings cooler than normal and wetter than normal winter weather for the Pacific Northwest…usually. Cold storms with high amounts of rain and mountain snow, along with a few more rounds of lowland snow, keep the precipitation above average and temperatures below. Cooler and wetter than the average for the Pacific Northwest, La Niña also creates drier than average winters over the southwest United States; most often, a drought builds. Not this year! Our rare, third-consecutive La Niña winter has been filled with variability.

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Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

The other ‘big one’: How a megaflood could swamp California’s Central Valley

Sediment research has found that six storms similar to or even more severe than the 1861-62 storm hit California in the past 2,000 years, arriving about every 200 to 400 years…. Given this history, it is inevitable that another great flood will hit the state someday, and climate change is thought to boost the odds of such an event. And when the next great flood comes, the damages could well dwarf those of any previous global weather disaster, adding up to more than $1 trillion — an extraordinary catastrophe with triple the cost of the feared great quake on the San Andreas fault. 

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