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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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: How powerful land barons shaped the epic floods in California’s Central Valley

In most parts of California, and indeed the United States, the idea that the government would largely cede to private companies management of a natural disaster that could decimate multiple towns, displace thousands of farmworkers and wreak destruction across hundreds of square miles would be unfathomable. But that has long been how things operate in the Tulare Lake Basin. Land barons, chief among them J.G. Boswell’s founder, seized control of the basin and its water generations ago and have since managed it with minimal government interference. … The flood-prone Tulare Lake Basin is the one part of the Central Valley that has a special exemption from state-required flood control plans, leaving the area without a clear public strategy for managing floodwaters.

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Aquafornia news Washington Post

One of the most intense El Niños ever observed could be forming

A fast-forming and strengthening El Niño climate pattern could peak this winter as one of the most intense ever observed, according to an experimental forecast released Tuesday. The new prediction system suggested it could reach top-tier “super” El Niño strength, a level that in the past has unleashed deadly fires, drought, heat waves, floods and mudslides around the world. This time, El Niño is developing alongside an unprecedented surge in global temperatures that scientists say has increased the likelihood of brutal heat waves and deadly floods of the kind seen in recent weeks. Will that make El Niño’s typical extremes even more dramatic in the winter?

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Aquafornia news KVPR - Bakersfield

Nine years in, California’s groundwater sustainability overhaul is becoming a reality

For years, conversations about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – known commonly as SGMA – have largely taken a tone of speculation and even apprehension. The 2014 law, which aims to slow California’s unlimited tapping of underground aquifers, gives locally organized groundwater sustainability agencies until 2042 to overhaul pumping practices for the spectrum of groundwater users — from cities and rural communities to dairies, small farms and agricultural conglomerates. Ultimately, the consequences could be dire: the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California predicted even in the best-case scenario, as much as 500,000 acres of farmland may need to be fallowed in order to adequately reduce groundwater pumping. 

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Seize a coveted sponsor spot for Oct. 25 Water Summit; Join virtual Q&A for 2024 Water Leader applicants; Keep on top of water news

The Water Education Foundation’s 39th annual Water Summit will be held Wednesday, Oct. 25, in Sacramento with the theme, Taking On the Improbable in Western Water. Exclusive sponsorships are available for the breaks, lunch and evening reception, all of which are prime networking opportunities for the water professionals in attendance. You can view details of the various sponsorship levels and benefits here.

Also, join the team at the Water Education Foundation for a virtual Q&A session on Oct. 31 to get an overview of the popular but competitive California Water Leaders program and tips on how to apply for the 2024 cohort.

Aquafornia news Forbes

California may crack down on washing machines without filters—here’s why

A California bill is looking to make oceans cleaner by requiring new washing machines to filter microfibers from their emissions, a move designed to stop microfibers from falling off clothes and harming ecosystems—but the state has faced pushback from laundromats. AB 1628—which hasn’t yet been approved by the governor—would require all new residential and commercial washing machines sold on or before January 1, 2029, to include a microfiber filtration system to reduce the amount of microfibers that end up in oceans and freshwater, though older models without the filter can still be used if they were bought before the set date.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

ExxonMobil loses bid to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California

ExxonMobil lost a court bid Wednesday to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California — a crucial part of its efforts to restart offshore oil wells that were shut in 2015 after a pipeline leak caused the worst coastal spill in 25 years. A federal judge refused to overturn a 2022 decision by the Santa Barbara County Board Supervisors that denied ExxonMobil’s request to use trucks to carry crude from the three wells. A request for comment from ExxonMobil about the decision wasn’t immediately returned. … But county supervisors voted against issuing a permit amid concerns over the effect on local traffic and the potential for spills and accidents.

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

‘Creative and constructive’: Supervisors advance Borrego Springs water rights

The Board of Supervisors Wednesday unanimously advanced a proposed ordinance amendment that would align county regulations with a court ruling in connection with water rights in the Borrego Springs community. Supervisors also voted to find that the amended ordinance complies with state Environmental Quality Act guidelines. The supervisors will consider adopting the updated ordinance during a second reading, at their Oct. 11 meeting. In 2021, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled that users in the Borrego Springs Subbasin have the right to pump groundwater.

Aquafornia news AgAlert

Grasshoppers wreak havoc, destroy crops in North State

Farmers in counties along the California-Oregon border have reported millions of dollars of losses from a renewed torrent of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets feeding on rangeland and irrigated crops this season. “The problem is getting worse,” said Marc Staunton, who farms in Tulelake. “As the landscape dries up, they are just continuing to spread. If you thought last year was disgusting, this year, it was unreal. “It was a plague-like amount and totally destroyed crops,” he added. Siskiyou County Agricultural Commissioner James Smith filed a request last week with the California Office of Emergency Services seeking a disaster declaration from the secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. The preliminary damage to farmers in the county is estimated at $8.6 million in reported crop losses of pasture, rangeland, alfalfa and small grain crops.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Times launches Climate California

Wildfires. Sea-level rise. Extreme heat. Drought. California is already dealing with the consequences of climate change, and our state’s future will be defined by how we adapt. To better cover this vital story, the Los Angeles Times is launching a new Climate California section. You can expect aggressive and impactful reporting on climate change, the natural world, health and science — and even more of the sophisticated, ambitious and approachable coverage that has earned the Los Angeles Times four Pulitzer Prizes in environmental journalism in the last two decades. Climate California will include coverage from our newly formed Environment, Health and Science department, which includes existing Environment, Science and Health reporters and several new contributors …

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Forever chemicals at former NASA lab are leaking into LA River, say watchdogs

Two highly toxic chemicals polluting a former NASA research site are also probably contaminating the Los Angeles River and aquifer from which the region’s agricultural growers draw their water, watchdog groups and a whistleblower charge. … The Santa Susana field laboratory about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles is already notorious for its radioactive waste, but the site, which is owned by the federal government and Boeing, is also now suspected of leaching polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) “forever chemicals” into the water.

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Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Zone 7 opens PFAS water treatment facility

The Zone 7 Water Agency recently unveiled its new state-of-the-art water treatment facility, which will use an ion exchange treatment process to remove PFAS chemicals from the Stoneridge groundwater well in Pleasanton. … Nearly 30 Tri-Valley officials, residents and Zone 7 staff members gathered for the event to celebrate the first-of-its-kind facility in Northern California. Located on Stoneridge Drive just west of Mohr Elementary School, the Ion Exchange PFAS Treatment Facility uses tanks that are filled with small ion-exchange polymers, which are designed to attract PFAS chemicals, otherwise known as forever chemicals, in the water.

Aquafornia news Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Opinion: Delta project a key to future SCV water

Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, we are fortunate to enjoy a high quality of life. We pride ourselves on having created a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family, which can be attributed in part to maintaining a reliable supply of high-quality water.  … At SCV Water, we serve over one-quarter of a million customers throughout the valley, and up to 50% of our water supply each year is imported from the State Water Project, which is owned and operated by the California Department of Water Resources. … [I]f the Delta Conveyance Project had been operational during the rain events of January 2023, the improved SWP could have transported an additional 228,000 acre-feet of water while still meeting fishery and water quality requirements.
-Written by Matt Stone, general manager of SCV Water

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Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Commentary: A big update on water politics on the Monterey Peninsula.

Across Monterey County, there are few topics more talked about or litigated than water.  David Schmalz here, and I’ve covered water in most corners of the county for the better part of the last decade, and in my opinion, the topic has never been more interesting or eventful than it is right now, at least on the Monterey Peninsula. I’m going to be covering a lot of ground here—err, water, I mean—but I’ll keep it as tight as I can. There’s a lot to catch you up on. First, on Sept. 13, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District released its draft “resolution of necessity,” a document that, if approved, is the first step in the eminent domain process for a public buyout of Cal Am’s Monterey service area.
-Written by columnist David Schmalz. 

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Opinion: Pesticides’ uneven regulatory system violates civil rights

The state of California’s regulatory agencies, especially the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), boast that we have the toughest network of environmental laws, designed to protect public health, in the country. Yet over the decades, it has been devilishly difficult for people with negative health impacts resulting from pesticide exposures to prove it in court. … [N]either DPR nor any county ag commissioners consider the interactions and cumulative impacts of multiple pesticides over time as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A further CEQA requirement – considering less toxic alternatives to specific pesticide applications – is regularly and roundly ignored.
-Written by Woody Rehanek, a farmworker for 18 years and a special ed teacher for 18 years for Pajaro Valley USD. He is a member of SASS (Safe Ag Safe Schools) and CORA (Campaign for Organic & Regenerative Agriculture). 

Aquafornia news U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

News release: Biden-Harris Administration announces $13 million WIFIA loan for water supply resiliency and dam stabilization in California

[On Wednesday] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan totaling $13 million to the United Water Conservation District in Oxnard, California. This funding will support the planning and design to modernize the district’s largest surface water source, the Santa Felicia Dam, and expand the local drinking water supply by 20%. Since its creation, EPA’s WIFIA program has announced $19 billion in financing to support over 110 projects that are strengthening drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure while creating over 60,000 jobs.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: CDFW’s cannabis enforcement program targets illegal operations on public and private lands

Wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) spearheaded several enforcement investigations in August and September. From Sept. 4-8, MET officers targeted several illegal cannabis operations on rural private lands in Shasta, Tehama and Sutter counties. Officers received a tip from a hunter who stumbled on one of the trespass grow sites and reported it. As a result, MET officers eradicated more than 5,500 illegal plants, arrested four suspects, seized several firearms including one stolen handgun, dismantled several water diversions and removed thousands of pounds of trash.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: CDFW announces the availability of $2 million to support non-lethal beaver damage management

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the availability of up to $2 million in grant funding for non-lethal beaver damage management (PDF)(opens in new tab), in support of ecosystem restoration and protection under the Nature-Based Solutions Initiative and CDFW’s beaver restoration and human-wildlife conflict program objectives. The North American beaver’s critically important role as an ecosystem engineer and keystone species, particularly as climate change, drought and wildfires increase in severity, has gained rapidly growing recognition in recent years. Because they are crucial to restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems and their functions, CDFW has implemented new measures to maintain healthy beaver populations in suitable habitat throughout California.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Where does the Colorado River start? Mapping the stream from the headwaters to the basins

The Colorado River crosses seven states and Mexico and is 1,450 miles long – the sixth longest in the nation according to river conservation organization American Rivers. More than a natural spectacle, the river supplies drinking water for one in 10 Americans and just half of the river water nourishes nearly 90% of the nation’s winter vegetable crops. But the constant demand means the river also faces aridification and overconsumption. Here’s everything you need to know about the river many call the “lifeline of the Southwest.”

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

St. Helena to consider forming a water/wastewater commission

Who’s best suited to manage St. Helena’s financially strained and politically sensitive water system: the City Council or the people? A group of citizens is pushing for the council to form a permanent water and wastewater commission that would serve as a council-appointed board of directors overseeing water and wastewater operations, financing and staffing. … WASH has the council’s attention. On Tuesday the council agreed to form a temporary working group to identify how citizens can best support the water and sewer enterprises and make the recommendation to the council about a potential permanent advisory body.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Why California can’t provide safe drinking water to all its residents

More than a decade after California became the first state in the nation to declare that access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water was a human right, about a million residents remain connected to failing water systems — many of which may increase their risk of cancer, liver and kidney problems, or other serious health issues. The number of failed water systems has jumped about 25% since 2021, an increase driven partly by the collection of more data. … The crisis has cast a harsh light on the state’s ability to provide clean and affordable drinking water to all its residents, particularly those in the Central Valley, where widespread contaminants afflict communities with substandard infrastructure and where the heavy use of agricultural fertilizers and fumigants, as well as the overpumping of aquifers, has worsened water quality.

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