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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 Desert Sun

La Quinta City Council rejects Coral Mountain Resort project in 5-0 vote

Plans for a large development in La Quinta that would include hundreds of houses, a hotel and a high-tech surf wave basin — a centerpiece that’s drawn strong opposition from some residents and climate experts — were unanimously rejected by the city council Wednesday night following a lengthy meeting in a room packed with both opponents and supporters of the project. The vote marks a major defeat for the current plans for Coral Mountain Resort, a roughly $200 million private development mapped for 386 acres of vacant land on the southwest corner of 58th Avenue and Madison Street. … [C]oncerns have largely centered on whether the wave basin would be an appropriate use of water amid a historic drought across California that experts say has been fueled by climate change.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Placer County prepares for water quality challenges as Mosquito Fire burns

This week’s rain has been a welcome sight for those dealing with the impacts of the Mosquito Fire. The early season moisture has helped to significantly dampen fire activity over the last several days. Estimates and measurements show that anywhere from 1 to 2.5 inches of rain has fallen over the burn region since Sunday morning. But as that rain runs down the steep canyons and into Placer County’s many waterways, ash and debris from the fire’s burn area can easily end up in the water supply system. Andy Fecko, general manager of the Placer County Water Agency, said plans to keep that water supply safe began the night the fire was first reported near Oxbow Reservoir.

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Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

Agriculture hails court victory, amid ‘slow erosion’ of water rights

A court ruling last week over senior water rights came as welcome news to agricultural interests that have long battled the State Water Resources Control Board over drought curtailments. Yet while the decision sets a limit on the board’s authority, the agency retains several regulatory tools for curtailing the diversions, and lawmakers could add more. California’s Sixth Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled the board lacks jurisdiction under the state water code “to curtail an entire class of pre-1914 appropriative water rights.” Farmers obtained them before California began regulating water rights in 1913 and have fought hard to preserve them ever since.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Salmon are nosing at the riverbanks trying to escape the Klamath River

Tribal scientists had hoped that the incoming fall run of adult chinook salmon would escape the devastating effects of August’s debris slide on the Klamath River, which killed tens of thousands of fish. But they were disappointed. The salmon, which were gathering at the estuary at the time of the debris slide, migrated upstream early to spawn and found themselves trapped in toxic waters. … What the river really needs, according to Karuk Tribal Fisheries Field Supervisor Kenneth Brink, is a good springtime flow to flush out the debris. But spring, of course, isn’t coming anytime soon. There is water behind Iron Gate, the Klamath’s lowermost dam, but toxic algal blooms have made it hazardous to salmon, too.

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Aquafornia news The Conversation

Desalinating seawater sounds easy, but there are cheaper and more sustainable ways to meet people’s water needs

Coastal urban centers around the world are urgently looking for new, sustainable water sources as their local supplies become less reliable. In the U.S., the issue is especially pressing in California, which is coping with a record-setting, multidecadal drought. California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently released a US$8 billion plan for coping with a shrinking water supply. Along with water conservation, storage and recycling, it includes desalination of more seawater. Ocean desalination, which turns salt water into fresh, clean water, has an intuitive appeal as a water supply strategy for coastal cities. The raw supply of salt water is virtually unlimited and reliable.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Water misuse complaints on the rise in Sacramento

As the state’s water worries continue, more Californians are getting serious about saving water. In Sacramento, the city said more people are turning off the tap and keeping an eye on their neighbors. … New numbers reveal that when it comes to water misuse, complaints from the public have more than doubled. From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the city received 3,051 complaints about water misuse. The year before that, 1,170 complaints were received. Through a public records request, KCRA 3 Investigates found countless complaints of water-wasting; with people calling, emailing and sending photos and videos to report water gushing down the drain.

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Aquafornia news Smithsonian Magazine

The breathtaking Glen Canyon reveals its secrets

At dusk, the bats appear in the ghost forest that surrounds us—blackened tree trunks encrusted with a white coating. These cottonwood and willow groves are long dead but, amazingly, still upright after more than half a century underwater. I am camped on the fickle shoreline of Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the United States, after Lake Mead. Once a vacation destination visited by two million people annually—as a kid I learned to water-ski there during family visits in the 1980s—Lake Powell is today just a hint of its former self, littered with stranded boat ramps and even entire abandoned marinas. Instead of a recreation idyll, it’s a symbol of water troubles in the West and the impact of climate change.

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Aquafornia news Half Moon Bay Review

New water funding could recycle into Coastside

To combat an increasingly hotter and drier atmosphere, state officials are looking to fund new water projects that could kickstart a recycled water system on the coast.   With a dwindling snowpack and fewer available resources, researchers from the Department of Water Resources project that climate change impact could reduce the state’s water supply by up to 10 percent by 2040. That’s about 6 million to 9 million acre-feet of water supply. For comparison, the Shasta Reservoir holds 4.5 million acre-feet.  To make up for losses, the state is looking at financing major water projects. Last month Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a slew of moves to increase water supply and adapt to more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change through 2040. One of the biggest ways it could do that is through recycled water.

Aquafornia news Livermore Independent

Public asks to extend Delta Conveyance EIR review period

Calls for more time reverberated throughout the first public hearing for the draft environmental impact report (EIR) of the Delta Conveyance Project (DCP), along with continued pleas to cancel the project in consideration of Bay Delta communities and ecosystems. While the public review period will end on Oct. 27, many speakers at the Sept. 13 hearing characterized the provided three months as insufficient to digest the EIR, which spans thousands of pages over 39 chapters and touches on topics such as water quality, seismicity, recreation, socioeconomics and tribal cultural resources.

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Meet the ‘flying potato’ of an alga that killed so many Bay fish this summer

At times this summer, the shores of San Francisco Bay looked like a piscine battlefront — strewn with dead white and green sturgeon, leopard sharks, striped bass, bat rays, smelt, anchovies, and other fish. It started in late July in Alameda and expanded throughout the entire Bay. By late August, some 10,000 fish had reportedly died at Oakland’s Lake Merritt alone. … The murk came from the sheer density of the culprit, which was multiplying in the millions: a miniscule organism called Heterosigma akashiwo — akashiwo means “red tide” in Japanese. 

Aquafornia news Edhat

Blog: EDC and Lompoc settle Clean Water Act lawsuit

The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) reached a final settlement with the City of Lompoc over ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act caused by the City’s operation of its municipal wastewater treatment facility. Evidenced by the City’s own reports, EDC discovered that the City has been discharging water contaminated with toxic pollutants for over twenty years into the San Miguelito Creek and the Santa Ynez River.  These discharges threaten public recreation opportunities and impact downstream water quality and the health of the Santa Ynez River ecosystem, which is important to snowy plovers and other shorebirds, along with endangered steelhead that travel through the River estuary to the ocean and back upstream to spawning grounds as part of their lifecycle.

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Touring Malibu Creek watershed

As most reading this know, we have lost 90% of the wild fish that used to navigate our rivers and streams in California. Here on the South Coast, steelhead populations have dwindled into the single digits and extinction is a very real threat. CalTrout has been studying the causes and remedies for the shocking decline in wild fish for over 50 years and updating our Save our Salmonids (SOS) report as a roadmap back to wild abundance. Five initiatives came out of that report, one of them – Reconnect Habitat – calls for us to remove barriers to fish migration to and from the ocean and their spawning habitat. In this case, the barrier is the 100-foot Rindge Dam. 

Aquafornia news UC Merced

New research: Researchers take new approach to quantify water use

Like many other researchers, environmental engineering professors Erin Hestir and Joshua Viers are trying to quantify water use in California’s Central Valley. The difference is, they are doing it from the sky. Through NASA’s applied sciences program, their team will leverage the power of Earth-orbiting satellites and drones to gather data with high spatial and temporal resolution and then analyze it to help resource managers make better-informed decisions, particularly around water use in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news National Review

Opinion: Environmentalists push dam removal in American West

The great cities of the American southwest would not exist if it weren’t for dams. Without the massive federal and state projects to build dams, pumping stations, and aqueducts (most of them completed 50 to 100 years ago), more than 60 million Americans would be living somewhere else. Without dams to capture and store millions of acre-feet of rainfall every year, and aqueducts to transport that water to thirsty metropolitan customers, the land these cities sit upon would be uninhabitable desert.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Toxic chemicals are everywhere. California can limit our exposure

Most parents take extra precautions to protect their children from toxic chemicals — from locking cabinets of cleaning supplies to scrutinizing ingredient labels. But some toxic chemicals are near impossible to limit their exposure to. California can change that. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are a class of over 9,000 industrial compounds that are added to everyday products to repel stains, water or oil. … Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” they do not break down in the environment — ever. … According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, these chemicals may be contaminating the drinking water of up to 200 million Americans.

-Written by Rebecca Fuoco, science communications officer at the Green Science Policy Institute; and Arlene Blum, founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a research associate in the Cell and Molecular Biology Department at UC Berkeley.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Wildfires are burning away the West’s snow

[Colorado State University professor Stephanie] Kampf and her team set out to determine whether more wildfires are burning at high elevations. The answer is unequivocally yes. And the consequences are dramatic: Snow in wildfire-burned areas is melting 18 to 24 days earlier than average….And the snowpack is critical to the health of Western people and ecosystems: According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), it contributes 20% to 90% of surface water used for agriculture, energy production, aquatic species habitat and more.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

As California begins monitoring microplastics in water, experts brace for health impacts

Microplastics, or the small fragments of plastics and polymers from clothing, packaging and cosmetics, are now found virtually everywhere on Earth — from the highest peaks to the depths of the ocean. At five millimeters long or less, these tiny specks are also cropping up in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Microplastics have been detected in commercially farmed shellfish and, recently, in beef and pork, with little known about how much plastic we’re ingesting — or the impacts of this material on our health or the health of the planet. That’s why this month, California took the first step in regulating microplastics in its municipal water supplies, making it the first government agency in the world to do so.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Standard

Purple pipe dreams: How SF’s revolutionary recycled water plan dried up

Thirty-one years ago, supervisors in San Francisco passed a landmark piece of legislation as a signal of the city’s commitment to the environment and conserving water.  Any new buildings that were bigger than 40,000 square feet and located in designated zones on the city’s west and east sides would be required to have “purple pipes.” These pipes, which are literally required to be the color purple, would be installed to transport waste to a recycled water plant. … Over the last three decades, San Francisco has seen more than 70 structures go up with dual-plumbing systems that separate potable from recycled water. … But there’s just one problem. … San Francisco never built a recycled water treatment plant for these buildings.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Column: California’s water usage was built on a historic lie. The cost is now apparent

The compact — essentially an interstate treaty — set the rules for apportioning the waters of the river. It was a crucial step in construction of Hoover Dam, which could not have been built without the states’ assent. The compact stands as a landmark in the development of Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix and other Western metropolises. But it is also a symbol of the folly of unwarranted expectations. That’s because the compact was built on a lie about the capacity of the Colorado River to serve the interests of the Western states — a lie that Westerners will be grappling with for decades to come.
-Written by Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Drought-stricken inland California sees much needed rainfall

Much-needed rainfall and thunderstorms are hitting central and northern parts of California, bringing relief to places that typically see little precipitation in September. An upper-level low-pressure system, an occurrence more likely in winter, is churning off the coast of Northern California. It follows unprecedented heat across much of California at the start of September, when a prolonged heat wave shattered thousands of records across the West.

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