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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 Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s first groundwater rules rub against SGMA

San Luis Obispo County has been restricting new groundwater wells in the Paso Robles subbasin for nearly a decade. Now county supervisors are hoping to tack on a carbon sequestration mandate.

Aquafornia news Fronteras

Arizona’s water supply is shrinking, but its population is growing. Is it sustainable?

Maricopa County’s population has more than doubled over the past 30 years, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the country. But meanwhile, Arizona’s water supply has become more and more depleted. So as growth continues, can the state sustain even more residents? In most areas of central Arizona, a developer can’t build a new home without first proving that there’s enough water to last that property 100 years. But there are loopholes for larger lots in rural areas, like many homes in Rio Verde Foothills. And as water becomes scarcer, some worry even properties with those 100-year plans might not all be sustainable.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

DWR Awards $5 Million for Delta communities to improve flood emergency response

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced awarding $5 million in funding for seven emergency response agencies within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to increase their ability to respond to flood emergencies. This funding will help to improve the emergency response efforts for first responders and help these communities prepare for threats of flooding in the Delta, which is increasingly vulnerable to flooding from storm events and sea level rise. 

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

The befouling of Point Reyes National Seashore

It’s an October morning at Point Reyes National Seashore and I’m scooting under barbed wire fences, wary of sliding into cow pies.  My guide on this safari is Jocelyn Knight, wildlife photographer. We’re stalking a toxic waste dump hidden from public view behind a hill at “Historic E Ranch, established circa 1859” land lorded by the National Park Service. Park regulations require Seashore pastures to remain open to the public, but the dump is inside the E Ranch “core” of barns and dwellings, and the public is disallowed. … According to EHS investigators, a septic tank was installed without the required permit; its sewage level exceeded the operational limit; they could not locate a leach field. The ranch land drains into the Pacific.

Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

What role can history play in saving the Great Salt Lake, solving Utah’s water woes?

John Wesley Powell offered a poignant message for Western U.S. communities when he was the featured speaker in a room full of developers and government leaders at a major irrigation conference held in Los Angeles in October 1893. Powell, then director of the U.S. Geological Survey, started off strong, receiving applause from those listening to him, noted Greg Smoak, a professor of history and director of the American West Center at the University of Utah. … “There is not enough water to irrigate all the lands … There is but a small portion of the irrigable land which can be irrigated when all the water, every drop of water, is utilized,” Powell warned the crowd, adding that he foresaw a future filled with battles over water rights.

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Aquafornia news Patch - Venice

‘We Will Win’ actor James Cromwell against bulldozing Ballona wetlands

Oscar-nominated actor and star of “Succession” spoke in support of lawsuits aiming to stop a project that plans to bulldoze the Ballona Wetlands on Sunday. More than 200 residents of Venice, Culver City, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey attended an event held by Defend Ballona Wetlands where Cromwell spoke about his support and involvement with the organization. Cromwell said Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Ballona Institute, approached him 25 years ago asking him to visit the wetlands. When he did, Cromwell said it was moving and he knew he wanted to do whatever it took to support efforts to protect it.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego approves new financing method that’s expected to generate millions for river park upgrades

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved Tuesday a new funding source to pay for upgrades to the San Diego River, which officials say could become a regional attraction with recreational amenities and riverfront dining.  The council voted to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district, which would generate money any time a parcel within half a mile of the river sees its property tax go up in the next 45 years.  Combined with a separate EIFD the county government approved in September, the river is expected to get somewhere between $380 million and $750 million for a wide variety of projects.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: All the spin on desalination makes it easy to forget what’s at stake

In 1995, Bill Clinton was president, Pixar produced Toy Story (the first fully computer-animated feature film), and a NATO offensive ended war in Bosnia. It was also the year the California State Water Resources Control Board determined that California American Water was pumping roughly three times more water from the Carmel River than it is legally entitled to. The board issued Order 95-10, requiring Cal Am to cut back its use of river water to the legal limit. Here we are, 27 years later, and the cease-and-desist order is still in effect. … And that brings us to the issue du jour, a controversial desalination plant proposed by Cal Am, set to go before the California Coastal Commission for a vote on Thursday, Nov. 17. There are a lot of reasons to object to this project …
-Written by Sara Rubin, editor of the Monterey County Weekly. 

Aquafornia news The Capistrano Dispatch

Santa Margarita Water District holds groundbreaking ceremony for Ranch Water Filtration Plant

The Santa Margarita Water District is getting started on its first drinking water treatment plant, which will be in Rancho Mission Viejo. … The [Ranch Water Filtration Plant] will treat groundwater from the San Juan Basin to supply some 1.6 billion gallons of drinking water per year to customers, according to SMWD Public Information officer Nicole Stanfield. Currently, all the district’s water is sourced from Northern California and the Colorado River. The plant, however, would establish a local source of drinking water.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Westlands shake-up: Reformers sweep election, oust water board’s president. Is its GM next?

A slate of candidates aiming to reform the powerful Westlands Water District swept into victory on Monday night, cementing a new board majority and likely spelling the end of the line for the district’s general manager. The four candidates – Justin Diener, Ernie Costamagna, Jeremy Hughes, and Ross Franson – captured the four available seats in preliminary results. In the process, they are primed to boot the lone incumbent running for re-election from his seat – current Westlands board president Ryan Ferguson.

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Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

These are the driest reservoirs in California

Despite recent rain storms across the state, California’s historic drought shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. With the lack of meaningful regular precipitation, capacity at California’s reservoirs continue to decline, putting stress on the state’s water supply. Across the board, nearly all of California’s major water supply reservoirs managed by the California Department of Water Resources are well below historic averages. … Shasta, the largest state reservoir with a capacity of 4,552,000 acre-feet of water, is currently at 31% capacity. Historically, capacity at Shasta Lake is usually around 57% this time of year. Lake Oroville, which has a capacity of about 3,537,000 acre-feet of water, is in even more dire straits. As of Nov. 14, Oroville is at 29% capacity, almost half of the historic average of 58%.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Priorities for California’s water

In the last decade, California—along with the rest of the world—has entered a new phase of climate change. The changes that scientists predicted have started to arrive. California’s already variable climate is growing increasingly volatile and unpredictable: The dry periods are hotter and drier, and the wet periods—lately too few and far between—are warmer and often more intense. … The snowpack—that once-reliable annual source of water—is diminishing as temperatures rise. Water withdrawals during multiyear droughts are depleting the state’s reservoirs and groundwater basins. … This report considers the state of water in California: What changes are we seeing now, and what should we expect in the near future? 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Why California wildfires burned far less this year

California is enjoying fewer extreme wildfires than it has in years, which experts attribute to a combination of summer rain, calm weather and increased forest management. As of Thursday, fires had blackened less than 363,000 acres throughout the Golden State. That’s far less than last year, when 2.5 million acres burned, and 2020, when fires torched a record 4 million acres. … But Ferguson and other experts warned that wildfires are now a year-round threat, largely thanks to climate change, which dries out vegetation and soil with record-breaking high temperatures and persistent drought.

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Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Indigenous advocates for removal of Klamath Dams speak out against hydropower at COP27

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-02) isn’t the only one from the North Coast making the rounds at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. On Tuesday, Danielle Frank, of Ríos to Rivers and a youth leader of the Hupa Valley Tribe, and Brook Thompson, who is a member of the Yurok Tribe and Karuk Tribe, shared the story of the dams in the Klamath River basin at a panel titled Centering the Protection of Rivers and Rights in Achieving Climate Justice in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. They were speaking alongside Indigenous people from other parts of the world who have also been fighting to protect rivers in their communities. … Six dams in the Klamath River basin have severely impacted water quality, temperatures and flows, which in turn have led to the degradation of the ecosystem. In 2002, the river experienced one of the largest fish kills in its history, leading to a 20-year legal fight to bring the dams down.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water rules add to challenges for farmers

Already grappling with drought, lower commodity prices and higher production costs, more farmers are feeling the added pinch of groundwater regulations as local agencies implement plans that include pumping limits and new fees to balance long-term groundwater resources as required by the state. … Regulations and fees by local agencies as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, affect farmers more directly this year, including farmers in Madera County. Madera County farmer Jay Mahil said groundwater sustainability agency fees that are part of his county property tax bill are “coming at a time when growers are receiving all-time low returns on commodity prices, and farm input costs have doubled.”

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Districts agree to collaborate on Tuolumne River

Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding with the state to advance a voluntary agreement for the Tuolumne River. MID and TID, which jointly operate the Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River, joined dozens of other California water agencies in committing to collaborate with the state to finalize agreements that will provide water supply reliability to communities, while enhancing river ecosystems. Contra Costa Water District signed onto the agreement in September. … The action by the districts signals momentum towards an alternative to regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2018, as part of the first phase of the state’s Bay-Delta water quality control plan.

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Aquafornia news Nature

Analysis: Smarter ways with water

In just a few months this year, abnormally low water levels in rivers led China to shut down factories and to floods in one-third of Pakistan, killing around 1,500 people and grinding the country to a halt. A dried-up Rhine River threatened to tip Germany’s economy into recession, because cargo ships could not carry standard loads. And the Las Vegas strip turned into a river and flooded casinos, chasing customers away. … With mounting climate-fuelled weather disasters, social inequality, species extinctions and resource scarcity, some corporations have adopted sustainability programmes. One term in this realm is ‘circular economy’, in which practitioners aim to increase the efficiency and reuse of resources, including water — ideally making more goods (and more money) in the process.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Orland residents on dry wells getting connected to waterlines

The wheels keep turning in the large-scale Glenn County water project to help those with dry and drying wells connect to the city of Orland’s water lines. Over the course of the past year, the city has been working to connect those on wells within city limits to the source. Orland City Manager Pete Carr said the city has connected roughly 12 out of 34 of those households so far. Carr added that the city expects to have all 34 homes connected within the next couple of months. As part of the overall project, DWR has provided some additional funding to help the city drill a second well and put in an additional water tank to up the storage in anticipation of the new customers outside of the county, which consists of about 160 households.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Opinion: Bill would impose water tax on exported crops

Alfalfa is often the target of critics of irrigated agriculture who frequently rely upon simplistic explanations to heap scorn upon growing a forage crop in the West during times of drought. Two Democratic congressmen from Arizona — Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva — last month introduced the “Domestic Water Protection Act of 2022” (H.R. 9194), which would impose an excise tax on the sale of a “water-intensive” crop. The tax is 300% of the price for which the crop is sold and is paid by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of the crop. The bill defines water-intensive crop as a crop grown in an area experiencing prolonged drought at the time such crop is grown, and by a manufacturer, producer, or importer that is a foreign corporation or foreign government.
-Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance.

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Microplastics in anchovies, seabirds, coastal waters, study finds

More than half of anchovies and all of the seabirds that feed on them were found to have microplastic particles in their digestive tracts, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The researchers tested 24 anchovy and 19 common murres for microplastic particles and found particles of at least 5 millimeters in 58 percent of the fish and all of the birds. The researchers also analyzed seawater samples from Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, finding a microplastic concentration of about 2 microparticles per 1,000 liters.