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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Aquafornia news The New York Times

McKinney fire kills thousands of fish

The McKinney fire began on July 29 and has exploded to more than 60,000 acres, killing four people and becoming California’s largest fire so far this year. According to local tribal leaders, the fire has also led to the mass fish kill in the Klamath River, which runs for more than 250 miles from southern Oregon, through Northern California and out to the Pacific Ocean. Up to three inches of rain fell on areas burned by the fire on Tuesday, sending a debris flow of burned soil, rocks and downed timber into the river, said Mike Lindbery, a public information officer for the McKinney fire. That debris turned into a plume of brown “sludge” that made its way downriver …

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Will a third straight La Nina year worsen the drought in California?

Although we’re currently mired in the dog days of summer, it’s time to look ahead to the rainy season. The state thirsts for a wet winter, with extreme drought existing in just under 60% of California. Below-average rain and snow have plagued the state the last couple of years, coinciding with La Niña conditions and expanding drought conditions. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) currently puts the odds of a third straight La Nina year at 62-66%. With an exceedingly rare “triple dip” La Niña expected, what can we expect for our water year that begins in October?

Aquafornia news Associated Press

In dry California, salty water creeps into key waterways

Charlie Hamilton hasn’t irrigated his vineyards with water from the Sacramento River since early May, even though it flows just yards from his crop. Nearby to the south, the industrial Bay Area city of Antioch has supplied its people with water from the San Joaquin River for just 32 days this year, compared to roughly 128 days by this time in a wet year. They may be close by, but these two rivers, central arms of California’s water system, have become too salty to use in some places as the state’s punishing drought drags on. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

A battle for safe drinking water grows heated amid drought in California’s Central Valley

Thousands of acres of crops, from corn to nectarines, surround Melynda Metheney’s community in West Goshen, California — one of the key battlegrounds where residents say irrigation and overpumping have depleted drinkable water. … In 2012, Community Water Center (CWC) told the Goshen community of about 3,300 that its water was contaminated with nitrates. Residents spent two years fighting to connect to Cal Water — the third largest regulated utility in the nation — and only some did. Some of Metheney’s West Goshen neighbors still don’t have well water.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

California water war: San Joaquin Valley landowners battle over scarce resource

Water is the lifeblood in the parched San Joaquin Valley, sustaining endless acres of trees, seeds and pastures that feed a hungry nation. But a controversial pipeline sits empty, as dry as dust, caught in an angry feud between two of California’s largest land barons, Silicon Valley developer and farmer John Vidovich and Pasadena-based longtime cotton king J.G. Boswell Company. Vidovich needs the pipe to move water. The Boswell Company wants it blocked, saying it threatens the company’s own water supplies, which run through a canal over the pipeline’s underground route. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

San Francisco Bay restoration plan updated amid funding surge

Proponents of a new plan to rehabilitate San Francisco Bay say they hope to make significant gains in the coming years because of millions of dollars in new federal funds. The estuary, the largest on the west coast of North America, covers 60,000 square miles from the foot of the Sierra Nevada to the Golden Gate, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The estuary and the surrounding mountains, which hold about half of California’s water supply, are home to highly diverse ecosystems, including 100 endangered and threatened species, and support a multi-billion dollar economy.

Aquafornia news Law360

9th Circ. says FERC got Calif. hydro project orders wrong

A California state agency didn’t waive its permitting authority over four hydroelectric projects when it allowed the project developers to withdraw water quality certification applications that didn’t comply with state law … 

Aquafornia news Stanford News

New research: Stanford-based initiative WastewaterSCAN will monitor wastewater for COVID-19, monkeypox, influenza A, and RSV genetic markers to help guide public health responses

Researchers at Stanford University and Emory University have launched a nationwide initiative to monitor monkeypox, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases in communities by measuring viral genetic material in wastewater. The effort will also provide health officials and the public with free, high-quality data, which is critical to informing public health decision making. The initiative is already producing data, including the first detections of monkeypox DNA in wastewater in the United States.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Cal Am asks community for input on Monterey Peninsula water project

Monterey Peninsula residents will have the opportunity to share their perspectives and give feedback on local water issues next week. California American Water will host a community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9 at CSU Monterey Bay. Cal Am staff, engineers, consultants and customer service representatives will be in attendance to discuss water resources. One of the main topics up for discussion at next week’s forum will be the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project — a proposed solution to the water crisis on the Peninsula. The project aims to reduce existing water use on the Peninsula by replacing reliance on the Carmel River. 

Aquafornia news

Tijuana sewage spill shutters Imperial Beach and Coronado shorelines, yet again

Adam Wraight pulled a blue sewage “warning” sign out of the sand near Imperial Beach Pier on Thursday morning, replacing it with the more ominous yellow and red placard telling beachgoers that waters were officially closed. … Shorelines from the border up through Coronado were closed to swimming Thursday as the result of a pipeline that ruptured in Tijuana near Smuggler’s Gulch over the weekend. Sewage has been spilling over the border into the river’s estuary for days, but it’s just now making its way to the ocean and floating up the coast on surging northward currents.

Aquafornia news UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Blog: Informing equitable stormwater investments in L.A. County

In a drought-prone area like Los Angeles, rainwater provides tremendous potential to boost local water supply, as well as provide multiple other ecosystem and community benefits. That’s why in 2018, L.A. County voters approved Measure W, a tax that raises about $280 million annually to capture, clean and reuse water runoff. Measure W and the program it created, the Safe Clean Water Program, funds projects to clean and strengthen the local water supply and build community resilience. Research by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Stantec is helping to ensure that these investments benefit all Angelenos, especially residents of disadvantaged communities, as the program already calls for. 

Aquafornia news Patch - Palm Desert

Salton Sea, Indian Tribe to get 5,000 acre-feet of water annually

A natural resources investment company announced Thursday it intends to allocate up to 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to the Salton Sea and Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe as part of a public-private partnership intended to help reinvigorate the dying Salton Sea and ensure reliable potable water for communities on tribal land. Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc. said that an agreement with the Salton Sea Authority, tribe and Coachella Valley Water District will be part of a wider water distribution enterprise known as the Cadiz Water Conservation & Storage Project, which originally focused on drawing water from the Colorado River and delivering it to Southern California metropolitan areas via a single pipeline.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Microplastics increasingly found in Colorado’s snowpack

As the focus on the electron microscope resolved, Richard Reynolds found himself feeling more resigned than surprised. The slide before him was a snowpack sample collected from pristine Colorado high country. The sample revealed, at intense magnification, the snowpack’s expected sprinkling of rock fragments and spikey grains of sand. It also revealed what shouldn’t have been there at all: long, straight, human-made fibers of plastic. … A host of wildlife and water quality researchers are likely to descend on the study results to gauge impacts of invisible plastic fibers riding snowmelt into every crevice of the high country. They’ll also be looking for any dangers for the cities downhill that rely on that water.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Two-way thinking in natural resource management

In California, we know the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in a prolonged state of decline and the status quo is not working – at best. Time is increasingly limited before more species go extinct. More research along the lines of the last 40 years is unlikely to yield novel breakthrough information and abate the trajectory. More research is always needed, but more decisions are also needed – if they are the right decisions. However, it is challenging, especially given the ever-changing mix of system thinking needed for each problem and through time. This disorientation contributes to our bad intuition about probability, poor perception of time, and faulty decisions overall (Nowotny 2016).

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Heavy rains strand 1,000 people in Death Valley CA

A torrential downpour stranded 1,000 visitors and workers at Death Valley as rain washed out hundreds of miles of roads in the national park in California. All of the more than 1,000 miles of roads within the park remain closed while workers evaluate the damage, the National Park Service said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 6, one day after heavy rains slammed the desert. The monsoon downpour, which dumped 1.46 inches of rain — narrowly missing the 1911 record of 1.47 inches — trapped 500 visitors and 500 workers in the park, CNN reported. 

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Are Criollo cattle a regenerative solution to a 1,200-year megadrought?

Tucked high in a mountain range in San Diego County, California, ranch managers Rob Paulin and Jeremey Walker rely on “spunky” cows to mitigate wildfire by grazing on the chaparral brush and shrubbery that traditional market cattle won’t seek—let alone eat. … Originally from the Andalucía region of Spain, these Raramuri Criollo cattle are small and trim—weighing about 800 pounds each, compared to a 1,200-plus-pound Angus cattle. After being brought from Spain 500 years ago, they evolved in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, where they learned to survive by searching for food in the far corners of the rough landscape.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Why ‘water walks’ are becoming a trend for California hikers

The last leg of Nina Gordon-Kirsch’s monthlong hiking journey was a 10-mile ascent up the western flank of the Sierra Nevada to a pair of gleaming alpine lakes near Ebbetts Pass, about equidistant between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. … The moment capped a 33-day sojourn along the length of the Mokelumne … She’s not alone: California’s complicated relationship with water, strained by historic drought, is driving all kinds of people to embark on “water walks.” The practice involves tracing a river or waterway “from sea to source,” or in reverse direction, under one’s own power, in an effort to gain perspective on our complex water supply.

Aquafornia news CBS News

Friday Top of the Scroll: Millions at risk of power and water shortages as two of the nation’s largest reservoirs on the brink of “dead pool status,” U.N. warns

Millions of people in the Western U.S. are at risk of seeing reduced access to both water and power as two of the nation’s biggest reservoirs continue to dry up inch by inch. The United Nations issued a warning on Tuesday that the water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at their lowest ever and are getting perilously close to reaching “dead pool status.” Such a status means that the water levels are so low that water can’t flow downstream to power hydroelectric stations. At Lake Mead, located in Nevada and Arizona, the country’s largest artificial body of water, levels have gotten so low that it’s essentially become a graveyard – human remains, dried-out fish and a sunken boat dating back to World War II …

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Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Arizona and California farmers, targets for Colorado River cuts, draft their conservation strategy

Knowing they are targets, farmers in southern Arizona and California who receive irrigation water from the Colorado River are discussing a plan that could go a long way toward meeting a federal conservation mandate in the drying basin. With key reservoirs Mead and Powell at record lows and despite the continued decline of the Salton Sea, federal officials are demanding historic cuts in water use next year, on the order of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet, or roughly one-third of the river’s recent annual flow.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As drought grips Catalina, desalination keeps crisis at bay

Island-dweller Lori Snell grimaced as she tallied her bill recently at the Avalon Laundry — nearly $50 for three large loads. … That preoccupation with water has now become critical as severe drought grips California and its Channel Islands — a rugged, eight-isle archipelago that hosts several human outposts and a handful of species that exist nowhere else on Earth. But although some of the island’s wildlife is struggling for survival, conditions for humans are a little different today than in droughts past, due largely to a desalination plant that opened in Avalon in 2016. The plant today provides about 40% of Avalon’s drinking water.

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