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 Colorado Sun

A conversation with Lorelei Cloud, the first-ever tribal member on Colorado’s water board

With Western water challenges in mind, Lorelei Cloud has a message for policymakers: There should be room for partnerships — not fear — when Native American tribes join the negotiating table. In March, Cloud became one of the newest members of the state’s top water agency, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, when Gov. Jared Polis appointed her to represent the San Miguel-Dolores-San Juan drainage basin in southwestern Colorado. She’s also the first known tribal member to hold a seat on the board since its creation in 1937. … Her appointment comes at a time when tensions over water in the West are high. The Colorado River Basin, which spans seven states in the Southwest and portions of northern Mexico, is two decades into a severe, prolonged drought. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: The toll of the San Joaquin Valley floods – “It’s not pretty”

Lois Henry is the engine behind the small but mighty two-person journalistic operation that is SJV Water, an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. She and reporting partner Jesse Vad have been at ground zero for much of the spring flooding that’s already occurred. We asked her what she’s seen—and what might happen as the weather heats up. The San Joaquin Valley has already experienced serious flooding this year. What are you seeing on the ground? First, I know that some people are cheering on the return of Tulare Lake. The water is coming back to the former lake bed, but I want to be clear that it’s not pretty. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado leaders are rallying against a railway project that would carry crude oil along the Colorado River

A railway project in Eastern Utah is drawing significant pushback in Colorado as elected officials voice concerns about crude oil risks to the Colorado River, which is the West’s primary freshwater river.  The Uinta Basin Railway project would build around 80 miles of train tracks connecting oil production to America’s rail network. That would allow producers to ship crude oil on trains through Colorado to refineries elsewhere in the country. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board and the United States Department of Agriculture have given the project the go-ahead, prompting a letter from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse criticizing the federal review of the project. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Listen: “Deeper Pockets, Deeper Wells”

Despite the rain-soaked year California has had, the ongoing issues of drought and limited water remain. Bloomberg reporters Peter Waldman, Mark Chediak, and Sinduja Rangarajan join this episode to talk about how farms that grow lucrative cash crops like almonds and pistachios are digging deeper and deeper wells to tap the state’s dwindling groundwater supply–leaving people in some communities with less to drink.

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Accelerated restoration project begins on Big Chico Creek

In April 2023, the permitting and design phase began at Big Chico Creek, or Ótakim Séwi, for the Iron Canyon Fish Passage Project which will create a path for anadromous and other migratory native fish to travel beyond Iron Canyon to Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and into critical cold-water habitats. The project team will approach project permitting and design simultaneously as we work towards construction in 2025. What happens during this phase?  Before project construction can begin, the project team must obtain necessary permits to meet relevant state and federal regulations. 

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Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: DWR’s latest misinformation about the Delta Conveyance Project

If the Delta Conveyance Project had already been constructed, in 2023 the project would have provided zero acre feet of additional water supply, while contractors would have had to pay as much as $1 billion or more to pay for the project this year.  However, you’d never know this based on DWR’s latest misinformation about its Delta tunnel project. … Currently, the State Water Project’s and federal Central Valley Project’s existing pumping plants in the South Delta could be diverting a lot more water than they are today while complying with existing or even stronger environmental regulations. However, for the past several weeks the SWP and CVP have been pumping significantly less water than they are allowed to, because San Luis Reservoir is completely full, meaning there is no place for the CVP and SWP to store additional water diversions. 

Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

An extra boost of water is flowing into Grand Canyon after a wet winter

An extra pulse of water has been sent through the Grand Canyon this week. The Bureau of Reclamation is running a “high-flow experiment” at Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, which means a big release of water designed to move and redeposit sand and sediment will make its way downstream from the dam. This experiment is the first since 2018, and comes in response to forecasts for an above average spring snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. Sediment carried and moved by high flows helps to rebuild beaches and sandbars, which provide habitat for wildlife in the Grand Canyon. The restored beaches are also important for ensuring enough campsites exist for the canyon’s many rafters and boaters.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

Blog: New science informs extent of hexavalent chromium groundwater plumes in Hinkley Valley

The USGS report, commissioned by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, showed how the valley’s geology affected background hexavalent chromium concentrations in groundwater. Hexavalent chromium occurs naturally in groundwater in the Mojave Desert. Concentrations increased in Hinkley Valley beginning in 1952 when the Pacific Gas and Electric Company discharged it into unlined ponds. From there, hexavalent chromium entered the aquifer. Once in the ground, a plume of hexavalent chromium traveled with groundwater away from the Hinkley compressor station into Hinkley Valley.  

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Biden Administration’s definition ‘waters of the United States’ goes into effect in select states while regulatory uncertainty continues

Controversy over the Clean Water Act definition of “waters of the United States” persists as the Biden Administration’s new rule goes into effect in 24 states, but is enjoined in the remaining 26 states, continuing the trend of regulatory uncertainty that has characterized the issue for decades. The Biden Administration’s definition of “waters of the United States” (2023 Rule) comes after definitions adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015 (the 2015 Clean Water Rule) and the Trump Administration in 2020 (the Navigable Waters Protection Rule). However, neither the 2015 Clean Water Rule nor the Navigable Waters Protection Rule were valid at the time President Biden assumed office.

Aquafornia news Nature

New research: Southern California winter precipitation variability reflected in 100-year ocean salinity record

Rainfall in southern California is highly variable, with some fluctuations explainable by climate patterns. Resulting runoff and heightened streamflow from rain events introduces freshwater plumes into the coastal ocean. Here we use a 105-year daily sea surface salinity record collected at Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California to show that El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation both have signatures in coastal sea surface salinity. … This analysis emphasizes the strong influence that precipitation and consequent streamflow has on the coastal ocean, even in a region of overall low freshwater input, and provides an ocean-based metric for assessing decadal rainfall variability.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey Peninsula water users battle Cal Am rate increase

It’s a good thing for California American Water Co. that rate increases aren’t determined by a popularity contest, otherwise state regulators on Tuesday would have sent the Monterey Peninsula water purveyor packing. Members of the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, held a two-part hearing at Seaside City Hall Tuesday afternoon and evening to solicit public viewpoints on an application – called a rate case — filed by Cal Am to increase water rates over a three-year period beginning next year. The CPUC got an earful. All but two of the 17 speakers who testified to the CPUC representatives were highly critical of Cal Am. One of two who did not lodge complaints said there was plenty of water in the Carmel River aquifer, which wasn’t the focus of the hearing. 

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Lower Tule River Irrigation District receives $2 million water preservation grant

Since “every drop” of water counts a $2 million grant awarded to the Lower Tule River and Pixley Irrigation Districts will help those districts preserve as much of their water as possible. On Friday the Bureau of Reclamation announced the districts were awarded the $2 million grant. The funding was part of $140 million announced by President Joe Biden’s administration. The Department of the Interior is providing the funding for water conservation and efficiency projects. There were 84 projects in 15 western states that received the funding from the Infrastructure Bill. In addition the Tule Hydroelectric Rehabilitation Project for a facility above Springville was awarded a $500,000 grant as part of the $140 million awarded.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: Commonsense measures needed to fight California’s water mismanagement

Sticker shock at the grocery store has become the norm for many American families, with food prices increasing by 11.4 percent in 2022. According to the USDA, an average family of four is paying $131 more per month this year, and groceries now account for 20 percent of an average household’s income. Since 1959 the U.S. has been a net food exporter of agricultural goods, but for the second time in the last three years, the U.S. will be a net agricultural food importer. The ongoing war in Ukraine, China’s growing influence on the U.S. agriculture industry, and supply chain backlogs should all serve as warning signs that the security of our domestic food supply is at risk.
-Written by David Valadao, a dairy farmer from the Central Valley and the representative for California’s 22nd District; and Cliff Bentz, now representing Oregon’s 2nd District, specialized in ranch reorganization and water law as an attorney in Eastern Oregon.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Ahead of ‘big melt,’ lawmakers ask Newsom to pay up for flood response

Lawmakers want Gov. Gavin Newsom to devote an additional $200 million to flooding in the San Joaquin Valley as their districts recover from flood damage and face down the new threat of rapidly melting snow in the southern Sierra Nevada. A group of 12 bipartisan members of the state assembly requested the funding for disaster relief in a letter Tuesday, citing the need for greater emergency response to flooding and more investment in protection efforts long term. … In his January budget proposal, Newsom cut $40 million for floodplain restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley, which allow for rivers to flood in strategic places during storms or snowmelt, reducing the risks downstream and benefiting ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

As lost California lake roars back, some want to make it permanent

Tulare Lake, the long dormant lake that made a surprise comeback in California’s San Joaquin Valley this year, has gotten so big with the wet weather that water experts say it won’t drain until at least next year, and maybe well after that. … While landowners as well as local, state and federal officials are focused on keeping major towns and infrastructure dry, the broader issue of whether there’s a better way to manage water in the basin looms. … the re-emergence of the lake, for some, has sparked a sense of awe and enthusiasm, if not the desire for a more natural, more resilient landscape. Nowhere does this sentiment run deeper than among the ancestors of the native Yokuts whose creation story was inspired by the historical waters.

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

News release: Sacramento River pulse flow expected to increase survival of juvenile salmon traveling to the ocean

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and University of California Santa Cruz will tag several groups of juvenile salmon in the Sacramento River system. The tags will help us measure the benefits from the river’s first “pulse flow.” A pulse flow is a rapid increase and decrease in dam released water designed to resemble natural spring runoff. The researchers want to know if the pulse flow increases the survival of juvenile salmon and improves their chances of returning to the river as an adult to spawn. They plan on measuring this by implanting tags into juvenile salmon migrating downriver before, during, and after the pulse. They will compare their speed and survival on the way to the ocean.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

LADWP prepares for flooding in the Eastern Sierra

Following an epic winter that has grown the California snowpack to historic levels, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is preparing for an equally epic runoff season. With the Eastern Sierra snowpack at 296% of normal, the municipally owned water agency for the City of Los Angeles is anticipating runoff to be 225% of normal and is implementing safety measures. Runoff season, when temperatures increase and snow melts, typically lasts from May to June, but with an extra 326 billion gallons of water needing to go somewhere, LADWP expects runoff season to last through August. … Doing so allows LADWP to use aqueduct water instead of water purchased from other places. The agency expects 130 billion gallons of water to come to the city through the LA Aqueduct this spring and summer — enough to meet 80% of the city’s annual demand.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Yosemite Valley to close Friday as melting snow causes flood risk

Most of Yosemite Valley will close to the public this Friday, through at least Wednesday of next week, because of the potential for flooding along the Merced River. The extraordinary snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada this year is beginning to melt with the warm weather this week, swelling rivers with runoff and creating the likelihood of high water in mountain creeks and rivers, including those in Yosemite. The shutdown at the park will affect campgrounds, hotels, shops and visitor centers in the valley, the most popular part of Yosemite. Park officials warn that the closure will likely mean other parts of Yosemite see much heavier traffic. Officials say visitors should prepare for limited parking throughout the park.

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Aquafornia news Denver Post

Colorado snowpack powers simulated spring flood of Grand Canyon

A huge amount of the water that flows down from Colorado’s snowy mountains into the West’s depleted Lake Powell reservoir is rocketing out of pipes this week to power a massive, simulated flood through the Grand Canyon — the first one in five years to try to revitalize canyon ecosystems the way nature once did. Federal operators of the Glen Canyon Dam atop the Grand Canyon opened jets to begin this surge before sunrise Monday, sending what they described as “a pulse” of water whooshing through the Colorado River as it curves through the base of the canyon. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said they’ll maintain the surge until Thursday evening, ensuring a flow for 72 hours at 39,500 cubic feet per second of water. 

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Storms cost Sacramento millions. Here’s why atmospheric rivers may become more expensive

When rain storms pummel Sacramento, a city surrounded by levees, crews work all hours of the night to prevent flooding.  They monitor, control and maintain the city’s more than 100 stormwater lift stations, which residents depend on to pump water into creeks, canals, or the Sacramento or American Rivers.  These stations failing would cause water to burst out of the city’s gutters, drain inlets and manholes, said supervising plant operator Philip Myer. … During power outages in windy downpours, the city sends electricians to hook up generators to pumping stations. Other crews clear fallen trees that clog up drainage systems. Rain doesn’t drain out of Sacramento naturally or for free.