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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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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 Western Water Notes

Blog: An ephemeral lake reveals itself in Death Valley

Visiting Death Valley today, it is hard to imagine nearly all of it once underwater. It contains the lowest point in the U.S. It is known for record-setting heat and aridity. But the land there — and many of the basins that dot the Mojave and the Great Basin — were once filled with water. During the last Ice Age, in the late Pleistocene, a lake filled much of what is now called Death Valley to a depth of about 600 feet. That’s only a bit shallower than the modern-day Lake Huron (with a max. depth of about 750 feet). It is believed that the body of water, later described as Lake Manly, stretched 90 miles long and 11 miles wide. And it was hardly alone. Further east, in the heart of the Great Basin, Lake Lahontan and Lake Bonneville, at their peak, stretched hundreds of miles.

Aquafornia news Reuters

Radius Recycling pollutes California waterways, environmental group says

A California environmental group has sued Radius Recycling (RDUS.O), opens new tab, alleging the recycled steel company’s operations are polluting the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries with dirty stormwater runoff. San Francisco Baykeeper filed its lawsuit on Tuesday in Oakland federal court, alleging the company has violated the federal Clean Water Act by failing to stop heavy metals and other pollutants from washing away during storms at four of its facilities in the San Francisco Bay area where cars are dismantled. Radius Recycling was formerly known as Schnitzer Steel, and was recognized last year by the research firm Corporate Knights as the world’s most sustainable company due to its reported improvements in things like energy, carbon, water and waste use.

Aquafornia news High Country News

A cartography of loss in the Borderlands

 …Local artists and curators…have taken on the task of remembering the [Mexicali] region’s departed waters. Since 2020, [they] have overseen the Archivo Familiar del Río Colorado, or Colorado River Family Album, a project that brings together contemporary art, environmental education and historical research to document bodies of water that are disappearing or are already gone …  In 2024, an exhibition at Planta Libre will collect archival documents and artwork that engages with water and its loss. Local artists will lead a series of walks in the surrounding region so that visitors can develop their own relationship with it … the absence of the Colorado River and the waters it nourished forms a cartography of loss that is written on the landscape. Their mission is to make those absences visible — to keep their memories alive, and to imagine possibilities for the future.

Aquafornia news Audubon

News release: CA Assembly Bill 828 protects vulnerable communities’ drinking water & California’s remaining managed wetlands

Across the diverse landscapes of California, reliable access to water is often an existential issue of survival. Sustainable water management is critical to the future of the state, for numerous vulnerable communities, and in the preservation of some of our most endangered bird habitat. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was enacted to ensure sustainable groundwater supplies for communities, the environment, and other users. However, without proper and additional implementation safeguards, SGMA is on course to deprive small communities of essential water supply and destroy the last remaining wetlands. AB 828 offers a measured and reasonable approach to protect safe and clean water accessibility for all California communities and safeguard the dwindling managed wetland acreage.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Sacramento flood work to remove American River Parkway trees

A community group is worried a project to strengthen levees in Sacramento will lead to the removal of several hundred trees along the American River Parkway, creating long-lasting environmental effects while damaging a popular regional recreation area. The community group, American River Trees, is specifically concerned about a portion of the levee upgrade project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers known as the “Contract 3B site,” where erosion protection measures will be constructed upstream of Howe Avenue along the river to Watt Avenue. … Project officials said the upgrades are needed to “armor the riverbank to reduce and prevent erosion which, if left unaddressed, could result in levee failure.” William Avery, a Sacramento State biology professor emeritus and a member of American River Trees group … said the project plans call for the removal of about 500 trees south of the river and about 200 trees on the north side …

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Here’s how much California’s snowpack has improved after recent storms

After a slow start to the year, the Sierra Nevada snowpack has grown by leaps and bounds in recent weeks, thanks to a series of heavy storms with especially big impacts in the northern Sierra.  The latest measurements from the California Department of Water Resources places the statewide snowpack at 85% of normal for this time of year, according to data as of Tuesday. In comparison, the snowpack was just 52% of average on Jan. 30 and a paltry 25% of average on Jan. 2. But the gains haven’t been evenly distributed. “Recent storms have provided a boost (to) the snowpack, but the Central and Southern Sierra still have not caught up from the deficit accumulated earlier this season,” said Michael Anderson, DWR’s state climatologist.

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Aquafornia news USA Today

‘Extremely rare event:’ Satellite images show lake formed in famously dry Death Valley

Kayakers and nature lovers are flocking to Death Valley National Park in California to enjoy something exceedingly rare at one of the driest places in the United States: Water. A temporary lake has bubbled up in the park’s Badwater Basin, which lies 282 feet below sea level. What is typically a dry salt flat at the bottom of Death Valley has for months been teeming with water after record rains and flooding have battered eastern California since August. In the past six months, a deluge of storms bringing record amounts of rain led to the lake’s formation at the park.

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Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: For the sixth year in a row, no Delta smelt were found in CDFW fall midwater trawl survey

For the sixth year in a row, no Delta smelt were collected in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) Survey in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from September through December 2023. Once the most abundant species in the entire estuary, the Delta smelt has declined to the point that it has become virtually extinct in the wild. The 2 to 3-inch fish, found only in the Delta, is an “indicator species” that shows the relative health of the San Francisco Bay/Delta ecosystem. When no Delta smelt are found in six years of a survey that has been conducted since 1967, the estuary is in a serious ecological crisis. The Delta smelt is listed as “endangered” under both the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act.

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Aquafornia news CBS - Colorado

Projects funded to prevent tons of salt from entering Colorado River each year

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently awarded $20.9 million for six projects along the Colorado River aimed at reducing the costly amount of salt in its water. Five of the projects are in Colorado. In a Feb. 12 press release, the BLM estimated economic damages currently caused by excess salinity in the Colorado River water at about $332 million per year. That economic damage mostly comes from the inability to plant certain types of crops which need the river’s water for irrigation, as well as costs associated with treating the river’s water for residential and commercial usage, according to a BLM report released six years ago. ”This funding will prevent approximately 11,661 tons of salt each year from entering the Colorado River,” the BLM announced in its press release.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Fish loss, sediment flows were expected after dam removal, Klamath River Renewal Corporation leaders say

The massive deaths of non-native fish and the deluge of sediments resulting from the drawdown of reservoirs as part of the Klamath River dam removals was expected and is predicted to result in long-range benefits.  Public concern has been expressed following because of the recently completed initial drawdown of reservoirs created by the John C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Irongate hydroelectric dams. Copco 2, a diversion dam, was removed late last year because it would have interfered with the Copco 1 drawdown. The dam removal project is the largest in U.S. history. During a Thursday video news conference, Mark Bransom, chief executive office for Klamath River Renewal Corporation, which is overseeing the dam removal project, and Dave Coffman, the habitat restoration as program manager for RES (Resource Environmental Solutions), briefly discussed the ongoing project and impacts of the recently completed initial drawdown.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Atmospheric rivers in California create a perfect storm of public health risks

After a torrential downpour, most post-storm damages are impossible to miss: submerged cars, houses torn in half by fallen trees, debris floating through the streets. But in California, extreme weather is also mixing up a soup of rain and disease. Climate-fueled outbreaks: In Southern California, an atmospheric river unleashed more than a foot of rain in parts of the region at the start of February. These types of storms also ravaged the state last year, following a decades-long period of drought. The climate-fueled cycle of rain and drought is driving an uptick in a fungal disease known as coccidioidomycosis, or Valley fever …

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Aquafornia news Appeal-Democrat

Sites analysis touts potential of reservoir

According to a new analysis by the Sites Project Authority, the proposed Sites Reservoir would be 80% full after recent storms had the long-planned project been in place. In development for several years, Sites Reservoir is considered one of the largest reservoir projects in California. It is an off-stream water storage project that will be situated north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Sites Valley, 10 miles west of Maxwell where Colusa and Glenn counties meet. Officials said once built, the reservoir will capture and store a portion of stormwater from the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – and release water to benefit communities, farms, businesses, and wildlife across the state during drier years.

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Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Leucadia’s drainage issues span decades, and there’s still a long way to go 

Twelve years ago, a San Diego County grand jury urged the city of Encinitas to find a long-term solution to improve the existing stormwater infrastructure in Leucadia Roadside Park, a neighborhood in Encinitas.  Last month, historic flooding across San Diego County damaged the homes and businesses of more than 1,000 residents – Leucadia Roadside Park was one of the communities hit hard. The area’s inadequate stormwater infrastructure was a major reason why. … Five of those businesses had substantial damage, four are still closed for repairs, she said, and one of those businesses may not be able to reopen. Repairs are costing some business owners tens of thousands of dollars. 

Aquafornia news Fast Company

This California county could be the key to U.S. lithium mining. But there’s a catch

In the quest to bolster domestic lithium production, a county in Southern California is emerging as a crucial player. The Salton Sea, a salty lake located in Imperial County three hours east of Los Angeles, contains some of the world’s largest lithium deposits. According to a Department of Energy report published last November, there are approximately 18 million tons of lithium here—enough to meet the demand for 375 million EV batteries, significantly more than all EVs currently on American roads. But there’s a catch. Extracting lithium from the Salton Sea involves a special extraction method that hasn’t been proven yet, leaving uncertainty about its commercial viability.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Editorial: Marin commitment to restoring historic wetlands commendable

Over the years, Marin has taken the initiative to restore its wetlands. The focus and work is a recognition of the importance this soggy acreage plays in the ecological chain that keeps our bays and oceans healthy and thriving. In many cases, it means restoring historic wetlands covered by years of built-up silt and blanketed by landfill. The announcement that work will soon start on two such projects is another sign that progress is being made to restore and revive these shorelines. In Kentfield, work will soon start to lower sections of the tall concrete flood-control walls built along Corte Madera Creek in the 1960s.

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Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Action Alert – Save southern steelhead from extinction

The evidence is undeniable: Southern California steelhead teeter on the brink of extinction. Southern steelhead serve as crucial indicators of watershed health and river ecosystem integrity. These fish play a role within the ecosystem that you, your family, neighbors, and friends are also a part of. If one piece of the ecosystem changes or disappears this ripples throughout the rest of the ecosystem affecting every other species – plant, animal, and human.  Historically, Southern steelhead thrived, with tens of thousands of them swimming through Southern California rivers and streams. Today, it’s rare to see them in double digits. Their dwindling numbers stem from habitat loss, fragmentation, and the encroachment of urbanization. We must act urgently to prevent the irreversible loss of this species.

Aquafornia news Mendocino County News

Opinion: If the Russian River goes dry, affluent Marin County has as much at stake as Mendo

PG&E has decided to withdraw the proposal that was submitted by the Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPMC), Sonoma Water, and Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT) to include the building of new infrastructure to continue some level of water transfer from the Eel River to the Russian River after removal of Scott and Cape Horn Dams as a part of their decommissioning plan being submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). What does this mean for the communities dependent on the Russian River? … If the ability to divert water from the Eel River to the Russian River ceases completely, it could have severe consequences for the 650,000 people who depend on the Russian River including Marin County.
-Written by Adam Gaska. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

The push to ‘reactivate’ river floodplains in California

California has lost most of its natural wetlands as rivers have been cut off from their natural floodplains. And it’s pretty remarkable what can be achieved when rivers are given space to reconnect with floodplains. I learned more about opening up spaces for rivers to roam while working on an article about floodplain restoration efforts in the Central Valley. These types of projects have received broad-based support in recent years as an effective nature-based solution that can bring various interrelated benefits. They include: reducing the risks of flooding in vulnerable communities downstream; capturing and storing more water underground in aquifers; improving water quality; and helping to repair ecosystems.

Aquafornia news Pacific Sun

North Bay nonprofit removes deadly ghost nets from Great Pacific Garbage Patch

If anyone can accurately describe the massive scope of the plastics problem in the Pacific, it’s [Mary] Crowley, the founder and director of Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit based in Sausalito. She didn’t, however, set out to become an expert on the topic. In fact, the seasoned mariner was happy operating her yacht chartering company and logging 125,000 miles sailing the world. Yet with each passing year, she noticed more and more plastic in the ocean. Finally, Crowley knew she had to act. Since 2009, she’s led eight cleanup expeditions, hauling more than 700,000 pounds of plastic out of our planet’s blue heart and transporting it to recyclers.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Cost of Owens Valley storm damage mounts for Los Angeles DWP

Heavy rain and flooding over the last year have caused roughly $100 million in damage to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power infrastructure and dust control systems in the Owens Valley, according to officials, and that figure is expected to climb as Southern California endures yet another atmospheric river this week. Although heavy storms have dumped a bounty of rain and snow along the southern Sierra Nevada, enabling Los Angeles to draw millions of gallons of water for its residents, the precipitation has also taken a heavy toll on systems designed to prevent choking dust storms from developing on the dry bed of Owens Lake.

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