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 Ripon Advance

Blog: Committee OKs Moore’s bill to manage saline lake ecosystems

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) to better manage conservation efforts for saline lake ecosystems and migratory birds in the West. … The Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act of 2021, H.R. 5345, which Rep. Moore introduced on Sept. 23 with lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), would authorize the director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a regional program to assess, monitor and benefit the hydrology of saline lakes in the Great Basin …

Aquafornia news SevenFifty Daily

Distilleries are innovating to save water in drought-stricken areas

Water is the key to distilling—and distilling traditionally uses a lot of water for fermentation, proofing, and especially cooling. … Blinking Owl is in a rare position in California. Orange County, where the distillery is located, has one of the largest groundwater reclamation systems in the world. This allows Blinking Owl to rely on its local municipal system to provide a sustainable option. Friesen notes that water conservation is a problem that’ll require both municipal and industry solutions. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: Now it’s San Francisco’s turn to ask residents, suburban customers to cut water use

San Francisco’s robust water supply, long unruffled by the severe dry spell now in its second year, has finally begun to feel the pinch of drought, and city water managers are recognizing it may be time to cut back. Officials at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plan to ask city residents and businesses to reduce water use by 5%, compared to two years ago, and ask the more than two dozen communities that buy water from the city to reduce water use nearly 14%….The planned cutbacks are part of a water shortage emergency that the SFPUC’s governing board is looking to declare at its meeting Tuesday. 

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Aquafornia news Western Water

California spent decades trying to keep Central Valley floods at bay. Now it looks to welcome them back

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains. … The hope, shared by stakeholders who have traditionally fought over water and land, is to rebuild habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife while simultaneously providing benefits, like improved flood protection and groundwater recharge, for towns and farms.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Rush is on to drought-proof California’s archaic water system

Droughts come and go routinely in the Golden State, including the last which stretched from 2012 to 2016, but long-term solutions rarely seem to follow. Once the atmospheric rivers finally return to mercifully fill up Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, the thirst for change evaporates. … But one thing is glaringly different this time around: California’s coffers are overflowing, creating an opportunity for the nation’s most populous state to renovate and prep its outdated water systems for climate change.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

La Niña: Is California heading into another dry winter?

You may have seen it on social media or heard it while talking to a friend: This is a La Niña year, so California won’t get any rain this winter and the severe drought is only going to get worse. Right? Maybe not. Although that’s a common belief, it’s not supported by past history. The reality is that a lot depends on where you live.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

If the Colorado River keeps drying up, a century-old agreement to share the water could be threatened. No one is sure what happens next.

The West could be facing a water shortage in the Colorado River that threatens a century-old agreement between states that share the dwindling resource. That possibility once felt far off, but could come earlier than expected. One prominent water and climate scientist is sounding the alarm that the Colorado River system could reach that crossroads in the next five years, possibly triggering an unpredictable chain-reaction of legal wrangling that could lead to some water users being cut off from the river. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State’s groundwater “cop” hands out more criticism of valley plans

Another set of comments critical of how San Joaquin Valley groundwater plans will impact drinking water wells dropped on Friday from the powerful State Water Resources Control Board. The comments focused on plans that cover the City of Fresno and many surrounding towns as well as Visalia and a number of smaller towns in Tulare County. Specifically, it commented on plans covering most of the Kings and Kaweah subbasins.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Adjusting past hydrology for changes in climate

Many water management and regulation decisions require an understanding of current and future hydrology. These include regulatory decisions on new water rights, plans and design for habitat restoration projects, long-lived water infrastructure (conveyance, storage, and levees, etc.), water demands (orchards and vines), groundwater sustainability plans and policies, negotiating long-term agreements and contracts among water agencies and water users, etc. 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: California Department of Fish and Wildlife saves more than 2 million chinook salmon from drought; begins releasing fish into Klamath River as conditions improve

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has begun releasing juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into the Klamath River now that river conditions have improved with cooler temperatures and increased flows that give the young salmon their best chance at survival and reaching the Pacific Ocean. More than 2 million baby Chinook salmon that were hatched in early 2021 at CDFW’s Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County were held over the summer at three different CDFW facilities, including 1 million fish trucked to the Trinity River Hatchery through Redding in triple-digit heat.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Garcetti expects L.A. to get billions in infrastructure funds

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is optimistic infrastructure projects in America’s second-biggest city will be big beneficiaries of the sweeping federal infrastructure bill – potentially receiving tens of billions of dollars. … [The bill] will allocate about $110 billion for roads and bridges, plus funds for rail, public transit, the power grid and drinking-water systems. Funds may also help the city speed up the completion of an important water project…

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

The Great Salt Lake is dying. It’s time to make our maps show it

Today’s Great Salt Lake bears little resemblance to how it’s depicted on maps, which show a familiar blue footprint spreading across northwest Utah. The maps conceal the urgency of our water woes by drowning out how climate change and allocation issues have impacted one of the West’s iconic bodies of water. The Salt Lake Tribune and AccuWeather will update their Utah maps to show the lake as it really is, a puddle of its former self, rimmed by vast reaches of exposed lake bed.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Court orders removal of 75 tons of abandoned phone cable from Lake Tahoe

Eight miles of abandoned telephone cable laid off the West Shore of Lake Tahoe were ordered removed under a settlement, according to a federal court decree. Pac Bell stopped using the cables in the 1980s. In a suit filed by California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the cables are leaching lead into the lake. Besides concerns over the lead in fish, the lake is a source of drinking water for residents living along its shores.

Aquafornia news Water Education Colorado

As winter wildfires burn, will they forever alter Colorado’s forests, water?

The megafire era gripping the West isn’t just a threat to human development. Fires now burn so intensely that they literally reshape forests, shift tree species, and turn calm waterways into devastating mudflows. A 2017 University of Colorado study analyzing 15 burn scars left from fires in Colorado and New Mexico found that as many as 80% of the plots did not contain new seedlings.

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Aquafornia news Tehachapi News

Water district asks for hearing in city suit

The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District has filed a request for a hearing in its lawsuit against the city of Tehachapi. But according to its general manager, Tom Neisler, the filing made in Kern County Superior Court on Nov. 9 is procedural and does not mean that a hearing is imminent. Challenging the city of Tehachapi’s Sept. 7 approval of the Sage Ranch project, the district filed suit on Sept. 16, claiming that the city violated multiple state laws in its approval of the planned development.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Private water company’s woes leave Santa Cruz mountain community high and dry

A private water company in the Santa Cruz Mountains that residents are concerned has exposed them to unsafe drinking water in the last year has been fined $21,000 by the California State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water. … For the last year, nearly 500 of Big Basin Water Company’s customers have dealt with repeated water outages and boil advisories. During an outage, outside contaminants can make their way into a water system and boil advisories are typically issued until the utility company’s tests show the water is safe to drink again.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Cloud seeding gains steam as West faces worsening droughts

As the first winter storms rolled through this month, a King Air C90 turboprop aircraft contracted by the hydropower company Idaho Power took to the skies over southern Idaho to make it snow. Flying across the cloud tops, the aircraft dropped flares that burned as they descended, releasing plumes of silver iodide that caused ice crystals to form and snow to fall over the mountains. In the spring, that snow will melt and run downstream, replenishing reservoirs, irrigating fields and potentially generating hundreds of thousands of additional megawatt hours of carbon-free hydropower for the state. 

Aquafornia news Forbes

How much is water worth? Why a billionaire-owned stake in a California water bank could be worth more than $1 billion

I’m your host Michela Tindera, and this is Priceless. In this episode, we’re headed West to the epicenter of one of the most productive farming regions in the world—California’s Central Valley—where the area is in the throes of a megadrought that has been drying up wells and damaging crops across the western United States. It’s there in the Central Valley, where a billionaire couple own a majority stake in one of California’s largest water storage facilities.  

Aquafornia news Del Norte Triplicate

Past-due water fees could be waived

Crescent City’s water and sewer customers who didn’t pay for their water over a 15-month period during the pandemic will likely have those delinquent notices waived. From March 4, 2020 to June of this year, there were 334 accounts past due, for a total of $71,984.60. … On November 15, the city council authorized City Manager Eric Wier to apply for funding to pay off those bills. The funding will come from $985 million that the State of California received  under the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Editorial: It’s time to weigh a water plan minus Potter Valley plant

It’s getting hard to find the lake at Lake Mendocino. A bed of cracked, dry dirt grows steadily as the shoreline recedes, exposing abandoned homesteads that had been submerged for decades. State officials warn that the lake could go dry — a first for a major California reservoir. Lake Mendocino is a crucial link in the North Coast’s water supply chain, and even a drought-busting winter won’t ensure its recovery.