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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 Chris Bowman.

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Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

San Diego water customers still waiting for bills

Nearly a year passed before Point Loma resident Jerry Greene received his water bill.  He thought his wife had set up auto-pay to have the water bill automatically deducted from their account. … Greene had no idea that he was not receiving bills. He had no idea that the city suspected a leak at his house. How could he? He had not received a notice or a bill for nearly a year. … Through a public records request the city told CBS 8 that as of December 2023, more than 25,100 water customers were not receiving bills due to many issues which include high water usage, low-water usage, misread meters and repeated estimated meter reads. 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

California releases formal proposal to end fracking in the state

California oil and gas regulators have formally released their plan to phase out fracking three years after essentially halting new permits for the practice. The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) wrote that they would not approve (PDF) applications for permits for well stimulation treatments like fracking to “prevent damage to life, health, property, and natural resources (PDF)” in addition to protecting public health and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. … Hydraulic fracturing injects liquids, mostly water, underground at high pressure to extract oil or gas. Oil companies say fracking has been done safely for years under state regulation and that a ban should come from the Legislature, not a state agency.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Uinta Basin oil shale proposal ends, but Utah is still interested in developing

Another company has given up on trying to develop oil shale in the Uinta Basin, faced with legal battles, environmental concerns and money going down the drain. Estonia’s national energy company announced that it was wrapping up its fruitless oil shale venture in Utah at the end of last month. Estonia Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev said that the company’s project in Utah was “neither profitable nor promising” in a news release. … Oil shale is a hard sedimentary rock that can be heated to release synthetic crude oil. It’s a thirsty and expensive process that threatens air quality, water quality and endangered species, and exacerbates global warming, according to nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust staff attorney Michael Toll.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Caltrans proposes southern Marin flood control project

A notoriously flood-prone section of southern Marin could soon get its own defense against sea-level rise. Caltrans is proposing protections for the area along Richardson Bay between Marin City and Tamalpais Valley. The project would include the Manzanita Park and Ride lot and the Highway 101 interchanges at Shoreline Highway and Donahue Street. An online public meeting to introduce the plans is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 29. The webinar can be accessed at bit.ly/3ud2ovl. … The lower half of the Manzanita lot is closed an average of seven to 12 weeks out of the year because of frequent tidal flooding driven by sea-level rise, according to Caltrans. Intense rains coupled with high tides also flood the southbound Highway 101 offramp at the Donahue Street interchange in Marin City, O’Donnell said.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

SLO County could see new water conservation requirements

Some San Luis Obispo County residents may need to cut their water use in the coming years under new regulations proposed by the state — one city as much as 30%. The new regulation framework, titled “Making Conservation a California Way of Life,” was rolled out by the California State Water Resources Control Board in the fall. The agency was still considering public feedback received on the proposed regulations as of Monday and will likely release an updated draft in March, according to spokesman Edward Ortiz. As currently proposed, the regulations would require some cities in San Luis Obispo County, but not all, to reduce residential and commercial water use by 2035, according to the state water board’s data.

Aquafornia news Sonoma County Gazette

Charting the future of ocean salmon fishing: a community effort

With the Russian River’s Coho salmon at risk, Sonoma County and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are drafting new rules to protect our salmon. Get involved in the upcoming meetings to support this cause. In Sonoma County, a concerted effort is underway to secure the future of California’s salmon, with a broad invitation extended to all interested parties. The CDFW is set to host an essential virtual meeting on Mar. 1 at 10 a.m., focusing on the state of salmon populations and the strategies required for their survival. … The Russian River and its tributaries in Sonoma County are pivotal for the survival of the endangered Coho salmon. Initiatives like the North Coast Salmon Project are at the forefront of efforts to counteract the species’ decline, addressing major challenges such as habitat degradation and water diversion.

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Aquafornia news KCLU - Thousand Oaks

Water bottle waste: Ventura County legislator proposes state law to chip away at problem

It’s a type of pollution we see everywhere. We see them by the side of the road, floating in creeks and on our beaches. They are plastic water bottles. A state assemblyman from the Tri-Counties wants California to set an example, and to use alternatives. “Single use plastics just have a very negative impact on pollution, on the environment over,” said Democratic State Assemblyman Steve Bennett of Ventura. He said they do everything from create pollution which harms ecosystems to creating greenhouse gas emissions. On Wednesday, Bennett introduced a bill in Sacramento intended to make the state government a leader on this issue. It would ban state agencies from buying single use water bottles.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Silver lining to California winter storm damage: lower property taxes

If the floods, slides and landscape mayhem triggered by the string of winter storms severely damaged your house in California, there’s one bit of relief you can claim: a property tax cut. Under state law, property owners who suffer at least $10,000 in damage to their home’s current market value can apply for a reassessment. They have to file an application with their county assessor’s office within 12 months of the incident unless their county offers a later deadline. … If your home was substantially damaged or destroyed in the recent storms, Proposition 19 from 2020 allows you to transfer the taxable value to a newly purchased or constructed house anywhere in the state within two years after you sell the damaged property.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: El Niño is fading — but La Niña may be on way. What it means for California weather

… El Niño’s time in the limelight is coming to an end. The warmer-than-average Pacific waters that define El Niño are cooling off and temperatures are expected to drop below normal in the coming months. The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña watch last week, meaning conditions are favorable for La Niña to develop this summer.  … From April to June, there’s a 79% chance of El Niño transitioning to “neutral” conditions, with sea surface temperatures closer to normal. The shift, coinciding with the typical end of the wet season, suggests less precipitation in California in the spring. … La Niña is typically associated with drier-than-normal conditions in Central and Southern California.

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Aquafornia news KUNC - Greeley, Colo.

What a multi-million dollar price tag for Colorado River water says about the West’s unquenchable thirst

In Colorado, the water that comes from our taps and keeps our fields growing can be in limited supply. That means heated debates over water – who gets to use it and how money should be spent to keep it flowing – are constant. That is evident right now, after a Colorado water agency announced plans to buy nearly $100 million of water from the Colorado River, even without plans to change how that water is used. “The purchase represents the culmination of a decades-long effort to keep Shoshone’s water on the west side of Colorado’s mountains, settling the region’s long-held anxieties over competition with the water needs of the Front Range, where fast-growing cities and suburbs around Denver need more water to keep pace with development,” explained KUNC reporter Alex Hager. He joined In The NoCo host Erin O’Toole to tell us more.

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Aquafornia news Politico

Fixing a hole

…. Southern California has done a great job saving water — so good a job that it’s now facing a budget deficit. The Metropolitan Water District, the state’s largest water supplier, is considering double-digit rate increases after its 19 million customers saved so much water over the past two years that sales dropped to their lowest levels since the 1970s. … The problem has been building for decades but became urgent over the past two years when water sales came in 11 and then 24 percent less than forecast. At the same time, inflation drove up costs. While the district has chosen to dip into its reserves in the past to avoid large rate increases, Met General Manager Adel Hagekhalil argued that’s not enough anymore in light of increasing extreme weather swings. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County adopts groundwater recharge plan

The Butte County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the Butte County Recharge Action Plan during its meeting Tuesday in an effort to help bolster groundwater reserves throughout the region. Department of Water and Resource Conservation Director Kamie Loeser brought the item before the board with a presentation by Assistant Director Christina Buck, who helped head the project. Loeser said the plan was spurred by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order last year that loosened restrictions on collecting floodwater. After the order, Butte County put forth a letter of intent to create a project. … With the approval of the board, the plan will also be sent to the California Department of Water Resources. Buck said the plan was also derived from the considerable amount of stormy weather last year that led to flooding throughout the county, adding that the plan also culminates from data and studies conducted.

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Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

San Diego let wetlands take root and complains it can’t remove wetlands to prevent floods

Wetlands, a muddy, weedy and endangered ecosystem, protect coasts from storm surge and sea-level rise. They provide habitat for countless threatened species and they clean rainwater from storms before it flows to the surf.  But they also clog up channelized creeks designed to send flood water into the ocean before it destroys homes and businesses. To prevent devastating floods in the future, the city of San Diego will have to figure out how to better balance its responsibilities to protect them while protecting people and their property.  It is not doing either very well. The city got a lot of heat from residents after record-breaking rain and resulting floods destroyed their homes Jan. 22. The southeastern fork of Chollas Creek topped its banks and flooded houses and apartment buildings with five feet of water in some places.  

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Hundreds of formerly federally regulated Colorado wetlands and streams are unshielded right now

That’s the best way to protect hundreds of acres of wetlands and streams in Colorado, in the absence of federal rules that once did that work? It’s one of the biggest water issues facing state lawmakers this year. But as the legislative session kicks into high gear, there is no consensus yet on how to proceed. Last week, Republican Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, introduced Senate Bill 127 as a first stab at figuring it out. At issue is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now defines so-called Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, which determines which waterways and wetlands are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The definition has been heavily litigated in the nation’s lower courts since the 1980s and has changed dramatically under different presidential administrations.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Commentary: Will cataloging California’s top policy issues inspire politicians to think long term?

California’s public policy issues tend to stretch across multiple years or even decades, while the attention spans of politicians are abbreviated by election cycles and term limits. The short-term mentality of governors and legislators undermines the continuity that’s needed to deal with long-term issues. Many examples of the syndrome exist but a classic is a project that has been kicking around in one form or another, with multiple name changes, for at least six decades – moving water from the Sacramento River around, through or under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the head of the California Aqueduct. It was touted as the last major link in the state’s water system, and originally it was to be a 43-mile-long “peripheral canal” around the Delta when first proposed in the 1960s.
-Written by CalMatters columnist Dan Walters.

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Aquafornia news NBC 5 - Medford, Oregon

Special meeting for Klamath River dam removals

On Tuesday night a special meeting to talk about the effects of the Klamath River dam removal was held in Montague. … Many concerns were brought up during the meeting such as the mud, water quality, housing, wildlife safety, recreation, and more. One of the largest concerns raised was if dangerous materials are present in the remaining water. Some folks presented reports saying metals like chromium, barium, lead, and more were found at high levels in the Klamath River. … Speaking of the water, another main concern was people’s wells. Specifically, those wells drying up.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management

Blog: The Fish and Wildlife Service should go back to the drawing board on the Longfin Smelt listing

Over the past decade and a half, a persistent collection of petitioners has pressed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to list the Bay-Delta population of longfin smelt under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The longfin smelt spawns in freshwater tributaries that feed the Bay, including lower portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta. Although the scarcity of longfin smelt in surveys that record pelagic fishes in the Bay and Delta is readily explained — the surveys poorly sample the habitats of longfin smelt during its two-year rearing period and do not at all sample its spawning habitat — data from those surveys have been used to support the notion that the longfin smelt population is greatly imperiled and may be verging toward extinction. Other data and analyses undercut this notion.

Aquafornia news What's Up News

Atlantic Ocean is headed for a tipping point − once melting glaciers shut down the Gulf Stream, we would see extreme climate change within decades, study shows

Superstorms, abrupt climate shifts and New York City frozen in ice. That’s how the blockbuster Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation and the catastrophic consequences. While Hollywood’s vision was over the top, the 2004 movie raised a serious question: If global warming shuts down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is crucial for carrying heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes, how abrupt and severe would the climate changes be? Twenty years after the movie’s release, we know a lot more about the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation. Instruments deployed in the ocean starting in 2004 show that the Atlantic Ocean circulation has observably slowed over the past two decades, possibly to its weakest state in almost a millennium. 

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Managing a cyanobacteria harmful algae bloom “hotspot” in the upper San Francisco estuary

At the January meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, interim Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Lisamarie Windham-Myers highlighted recent research on Harmful Algal Blooms, and highlighted upcoming Delta science events. This month’s article spotlight focuses on research funded by the Delta Science Program on the harmful algal blooms in 2022, a uniquely bad year for the toxic menace.  The research, led by Ellen Preece, focused on how nutrient loading affected cyanobacteria harmful algae blooms (CHABs) in the Deep Water Ship Channel and the Stockton waterfront area in the summer of 2022 and considered four categories of management actions to mitigate the occurrence and impact of the blooms. 

Aquafornia news New York Times

From NYC to Miami, major cities along the East Coast are sinking

New satellite-based research reveals how land along the coast is slumping into the ocean, compounding the danger from global sea level rise. A major culprit: overpumping of groundwater. The most vulnerable areas of Boston have been sinking up to 3.8 centimeters per decade, which adds up to nearly 10 centimeters by 2050, based on the analysis of satellite data from 2007 to 2020. Parts of New York City and Long Island are sinking over 3 centimeters per decade. … The new research from Virginia Tech and the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite data to show the mounting threats to coastal communities. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live along coasts, where aging buildings, roads and rails face structural damage from floods.