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 KSL

Judge to Arizona community: Water not required to flow from Scottsdale

A Maricopa County judge in Arizona denied residents emergency relief over their Scottsdale water source that has been cut off since Jan. 1 because of drought conditions and despite repeated city warnings to find an alternative water source. The action for an emergency stay was brought by some residents of the nearby unincorporated community of Rio Verde Foothills who saw their deliveries of water run dry at the beginning of the year due to action by the city of Scottsdale, whose leaders said they repeatedly warned the community that continued deliveries were unsustainable due to drought.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: CDFW is partnering on experimental programs to aid listed Chinook salmon recovery during the drought and help ensure long-term resiliency

Climate change including multi-year droughts, extreme flooding, and extreme weather swings negatively impact California.  Aridification of our ecosystem, and multi-year droughts are damaging to cold-water-dependent species such as Chinook salmon.  Such is the case with the current drought we are experiencing, which has exacerbated the stressors impacting the Sacramento River’s threatened spring-run Chinook salmon and endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. These stressors include the inability to maintain suitable water temperatures, increased predation, and diminished habitat quantity and quality.  Coupled with drought impacts in freshwater is the recently discovered thiamine deficiency in adult Chinook returning from the ocean which impacts the health of their offspring.  

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

How golf courses are adapting to a changing world

[S]evere drought, which affected 90% of the state by the end of 2022, led to historic water restrictions in Southern California — impacting millions of people. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says L.A.-based golf courses use about 1.6 billion gallons of drinking water each year, about 1% of the total potable water used in the city. Meanwhile, courses use only about one billion gallons of recycled water. Those restrictions are also pushing golf courses across the region to incorporate new technology to become more efficient with their water usage.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Biden Administration redefines WOTUS

On January 18, 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (collectively, the “Agencies”) finalized a rule (2023 Rule) redefining how the Agencies interpret “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The 2023 Rule attempts to return federal jurisdiction to the scope reflected in pre-2015 regulations and relies on the best available science, agency experience, and Supreme Court precedent.  The 2023 Rule is scheduled to go into effect on March 20, 2023, but will likely face legal challenge.

Aquafornia news Comstock's magazine

Taking stock after the storm

[C]limate experts and state officials are taking stock of flood protection systems and our ability to take advantage of the rainfall. The good news, they report, is “the ongoing rains are already boosting California’s water storage system.” The bad news, they warn, is “it would be hasty, though, to assume the ongoing storms and wet forecast mark an end to the drought.” … A significant casualty of the storm systems has been our trees. Perpetually saturated soils have loosened their roots, and vicious winds have taken them down. Over the summer, we published an opinion piece by the Sacramento Tree Foundation and Regional Water Authority that urged Sacramentans to care for trees during drought, illustrated by a satellite view of the area’s canopy loss. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Untreated sewage closes three beaches in Los Angeles County

The release of 64,000 gallons of untreated sewage prompted the closures of several Los Angeles County beaches Wednesday, public health officials said. A blocked main line led to the sewage entering the storm drain system near Admiralty and Palawan ways in Marina del Rey, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a news release. The blockage was cleared by Wednesday afternoon, but Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Venice City Beach and Dockweiler State Beach were ordered closed. … The closures will remain in effect until bacterial levels in daily water testing meet health standards, the department said.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Video: From India to Selma, farming has been a way of life for the Brar family

This is the first in a series of videos we’re calling “Rooted in the Valley.” We hope to highlight family farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, how they came to this area from all over the world and what the future holds as water becomes a key factor in their ability to survive. 

Aquafornia news Lake County News

County to hold virtual forum on how to respond in case of invasive mussel introduction

If invasive mussels were to get into Clear Lake, how would the county of Lake respond? The Lake County Water Resources Department, partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and consultants at Creative Resource Strategies, invites the public to attend a virtual forum to discuss how the county will respond in the event invasive quagga or zebra mussels become introduced or established in Clear Lake. The forum will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, via Zoom. … Anyone that has a business or residence in Lake County, and/or values or recreates on Clear Lake or other lakes in the county is encouraged to participate in the webinar. Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake located entirely in California, and consistently ranks among Bassmaster’s top 10 bass fishing lakes.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: More dams not the answer to California’s water storage woes

It doesn’t matter whether California is mired in historic drought or soaked from record-setting storms. The same dinosaur mentality about how the state should capture, store and allocate water never fails to resurface. … Writing about these issues from a different perspective, one that doesn’t view “the environment” as a pejorative, often makes me feel like a salmon fighting against the current. So this time around I enlisted the help of a much bigger fish: Dr. Peter Gleick, a world-renowned expert on water and climate issues and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan global water think tank. … Let’s reinforce that point: Valley farmers depend on fresh water funneled through the Delta for their irrigation. If the Delta gets polluted by salty ocean water, the impact on agriculture would be immense. Letting the rivers flow, to keep the Delta fresh, benefits growers as well.
-Written by Marek Warszawski, Fresno Bee columnist.

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Aquafornia news KBAK - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, Kern River Valley makes Cal Water’s top water-saving districts for Dec. 2022

Bakersfield and the Kern River Valley made the list of Cal Water’s top water-saving districts for December 2022. California Water Service, Cal Water, said customers surpassed the state’s conservation target of 15% in December 2022, saving 16.5% company-wide over December 2020. In a release it said, “This is the eighth month in a row Cal Water customers reduced their water use, with 11 districts saving more than 15%.” The 11 Cal Water districts that surpassed 15% in water-use reductions are …

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Opinion: Restore floodplains money in California budget, Gov. Newsom

What’s worse? Horrifying killer storms or slow death by drought? California’s climate can be extreme — drought or deluge. Both are deadly, each exacerbating damage caused by the other. Fortunately, some people are doing the necessary, innovative and difficult work to combat drought and deluge at the same time. Infuriatingly, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal abandons some of the most important flood-control, drought-fighting measures taking place in our state. He removed a $40 million allocation approved last year for floodplain restoration — work designed to reduce lethal flooding, store water underground, remove carbon from the atmosphere and create wildlife habitat. This comes on top of a decision two years ago to remove $60 million for other San Joaquin Valley floodplain projects.
-Written by Adam Gray, formerly representing Merced County and part of Stanislaus County in the California Assembly.​

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: 2 big California reservoirs hit highest levels in 2.5 years

California’s water supply has hit a new milestone for the year in the wake of three weeks of wet weather. Water levels at two of the state’s largest reservoirs are now at their highest point in 2.5 years, Chief Meteorologist Mark Finan said. … Lake Shasta and Oroville have both added more than 1 million acre-feet of water in the past month and the levels continue to rise. Inflow rates into those reservoirs have decreased considerably, which is to be expected during periods of dry weather. As of Tuesday, Lake Shasta is at 55% of its total capacity and Lake Oroville is at 62% of capacity. Last summer, Lake Shasta peaked at about 40% of its total capacity.

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Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

Lake Mead’s decline may slow, thanks to winter’s wet start

Hefty snowfalls from a series of atmospheric rivers have brought a slightly rosier outlook for the beleaguered Colorado River. While not enough to fend off the falling water levels entirely, the snow that has dropped in recent weeks across the mountains that feed the river is expected to slow the decline at Lake Mead, according to the latest federal projections released last week. Forecasters now expect Lake Mead to finish this year around 1,027 feet elevation, about 19 feet lower than its current level. That’s about 7 feet higher than the 2023 end-of-year elevation in the bureau’s forecast from last month. As for Lake Powell, the reservoir located on the Utah-Arizona border is now expected to finish 2023 at 3,543 feet, or 16 feet higher than last month’s forecast and about 19 feet higher than its current level.

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Aquafornia news Reinsurance News

Moody’s RMS estimates $5-7bn in economic losses from California flooding

Global catastrophe and risk modelling solutions firm, Moody’s RMS estimates total US economic losses from the recent California flooding to be between $5-7 billion. This estimate reflects inland flood impacts for the US, which includes damage to infrastructure. The insured losses are anticipated to be between $0.5-1.5 billion, including losses to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the private flood market. Since late December, California has been hit with extreme rain and winds, leaving entire neighbourhoods under water, downing trees, and causing severe mudslides.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Madera Co. ditches plan to tinker with groundwater penalties

Madera County is keeping its recently approved current structure for penalizing farmers who blow past their water allocation, forgoing an option to implement a tiered penalty structure.  The decision came during Tuesday’s Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting and maintains the status quo for the Chowchilla, Delta-Mendota and Madera Subbasins.  The backstory: Last September, the Board adopted a new penalty structure for water overdrafts, setting the 2023 fine at $100 per acre-foot in excess of the allotted amount. The penalty would increase by $100 per year and cap out at $500 in 2027 and beyond.

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Aquafornia news Deseret News

Arizona water shortage clashes with housing needs

Arizona needs tens of thousands of new housing units to meet demand, but first, developers will need to find enough water. The state’s water woes have been on full display this month as it lost 21% of its Colorado River supply to cuts, homes outside Scottsdale, Arizona, had their water cut off by the city, and a recently released model found planned housing units for more than 800,000 people west of Phoenix will have to find new water sources. Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states and short 100,000 housing units, a state Department of Housing report released last year found, but depending on where they’re located, some homes will be more easily built than others.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

California dumps toxic waste in states with weaker laws

In September 2020, workers in Brawley near the Mexico border began loading dump trucks with soil from the site of an old pesticide company. As an excavator carefully placed the Imperial County waste into the vehicles, a worker sprayed the pile with a hose, state records show. … Shipping documents indicate the soil was contaminated with DDT, an insecticide the federal Environmental Protection Agency banned decades ago and that research has linked to premature births, cancer and environmental harms. The Brawley dirt was so toxic to California, state regulation labeled it a hazardous waste. That meant it would need to go to a disposal facility specially designed to handle dangerous material – a site with more precautions than a regular landfill to make sure the contaminants couldn’t leach into groundwater or pollute the air. At least, that would have been the requirement if the waste stayed in California. But it didn’t.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

DWR expects to begin spillway work between May and October

The California Department of Water Resources is set to begin phase one of its plan to replace the hoists on the Oroville Dam spillway sometime between May and October. Project Manager Zerguy Maazouddi, who works under DWR’s Division of Operations and Maintenance, said the first phase of prerequisites such as site surveys and approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. … The idea behind the project is that during the winter times when the lake level is higher, a new hoist is created. During the later parts of the year, the hoist will be installed. This will last for eight cycles.

Aquafornia news Colusa Sun-Herald

New analysis projects capabilities of Sites Reservoir during heavy river flows

The Sites Project Authority released findings from a new analysis that projected Sites Reservoir could have diverted and captured 120,000 acre-feet of water in just two weeks if the reservoir had been operational from Jan. 3 through Jan. 15 and would continue to capture water over the next few weeks as flows continue to run high. … The project, which has been in the works for more than 60 years, hopes to turn the Sites Valley, located 10 miles west of Maxwell where Colusa and Glenn counties meet, into a state-of-the-art off-stream water storage facility that captures and stores stormwater flows in the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – for release in dry and critical years for environmental use and for communities, farms and businesses statewide to utilize when needed.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Healdsburg council hears proposal for new Alexander Valley Water District

Organizers behind a proposed water district in the Alexander Valley put forward Monday their vision for a new entity that would seek to safeguard legal standing of agricultural landowners in the famed grape-growing region. They made their presentation at the Healdsburg City Council’s regular meeting where they called for the formation of the Alexander Valley Water District. It would give valley property owners, many of them grape growers, a stronger legal foothold to protect their rights to draw on Russian River flows and connected groundwater. … The move comes in response to a host of factors, such as the multi-year drought that has spurred state regulators in recent years to curtail water rights for thousands of water rights holders along the upper Russian River, forcing some to cut back on irrigation with surface water flows or turn to groundwater.