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 KTVU - Oakland

Critically low water levels at Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir

No matter where you look at Lake Shasta you can see the dramatic “bathtub ring” – bright orange soil contrasting with the blue water and the green tree line. It’s a visual reminder of the severity of California’s drought, and one not seen on a day-to-day basis in places like the Bay Area. But for those who work and live at Lake Shasta, it serves as a daily warning. … The lake was last completely full in 2019. The all-time low point for Lake Shasta was in 1977 when the lake was 230-feet below its maximum level.  The very next year, after a very wet winter, it was nearly full.   

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

NorCal tops SoCal in water conservation as savings improve

New data suggest Californians are steadily reducing water usage in the face of severe drought, although cities and towns in the northern part of the state are cutting back more than those in the thirsty and more heavily populated south. Water use in cities and towns across the state decreased 7.6% in June when compared with the same month in 2020 — significantly short of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s voluntary 15% goal last year, but a significant shift compared with the previous month, according to data released by the State Water Resources Control Board. In May, statewide savings were just 3.1%.

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Aquafornia news The Business Journal

How a Madera farmer fought a new groundwater fee — and (sort of) won

A proposed fee system to manage irrigated land in Madera County has sparked a successful protest, leaving one groundwater agency unfunded and at least one farmer claiming the process was done with minimal notice. … Three newly formed groundwater sustainable agencies — Chowchilla Subbasin, the Madera Subbasin and the Delta Mendota Subbasin — are left with no funding for four ongoing groundwater projects required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It’s the County of Madera that oversees the land, said Stephanie Anagnason, director of water and natural resources for Madera County.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

Cutback in Eel River diversions expected to prompt new curtailments for Russian River water rights

Federal energy regulators say Pacific Gas & Electric can begin drastically reducing Eel River water diversions bound for Lake Mendocino, which will likely result in additional curtailments of water rights for hundreds of landowners, ranchers and communities in the Russian River watershed. The new flow regime, approved last week after more than two months of consideration by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, authorizes PG&E to divert as little water as it did last year even though there is almost 50% more water in Lake Pillsbury than there was at the same time last year.

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Aquafornia news University of California, Merced

Study shows how restoring California’s overstocked forests yields multiple and diverse benefits

Mechanical thinning of overstocked forests, prescribed burning and managed wildfire now being carried out to enhance fire protection of California’s forests provide many benefits, or ecosystem services, that people depend on. In a paper published in Restoration Ecology, researchers at UC Merced, UC ANR and UC Irvine reported that stakeholders perceived fire protection as central to forest restoration, with multiple other ecosystem services also depending on wildfire severity…. The study showed that the total effect of an action … aimed at reducing fuels includes … secondary effects… such as providing water and hydroelectricity for agriculture and communities across the state …. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Effort to bring South Fork Kern River water to valley farmland buffeted by lawsuits, called a “joke”

Drought cut short a pilot program to bring South Fork Kern River water through Lake Isabella and down 60 miles to farmland northwest of Bakersfield. Now, a raft of lawsuits could upend the environmental impact report in support of the project, which has been a goal of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District since it bought the old Onyx Ranch in 2013. The project was doomed from the start, said one board member of the water district that led the lawsuit charge.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Lots of Tijuana’s sewage is crossing the border right now. Here’s why

Federal officials crossed the border Tuesday morning to assess the damage from the latest sewage disaster on the Baja side. The good news is that Tijuana isn’t currently pumping sewage to a broken wastewater treatment plant called Punta Bandera that effectively spills it, untreated, straight into the Pacific Ocean. The bad news is, that’s because at least one of a critical set of pipes that gets it there is completely busted in half. The other is precariously perched atop a crumbling cliff face. That means a lot of the sewage that would otherwise be flushed into the sea about six miles south of the border is making its way into the Tijuana River. The river’s mouth empties into the ocean just below the city of Imperial Beach….

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Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow: How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land…. In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Inflation, supply-chain snarls force San Diego to pay $80M more for water treatment chemicals

San Diego gave emergency authorization this week to pay an extra $80 million to chemical suppliers that say they need to sharply raise prices because of pandemic-related supply-chain issues, higher fuel costs and rising costs for raw materials due to inflation.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse

California scrambles to avoid SGMA fallowing—and another Dust Bowl

The Public Policy Institute of California is sparking new conversations around innovative alternatives to keep farmland in production and avoid devastating environmental and health impacts from fallowing as much as a million acres of land under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. PPIC has embarked on the first major research endeavor to investigate options for keeping farmers farming and for the complex policymaking needed to finance and expedite a suite of farming practices and regulatory restructuring. The hope is it would build some flexibility into California’s highly specialized agricultural system.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Local residents among the most likely to drink harmful water

Rural residents in Tulare County are more likely to be exposed to harmful water than a third of the state’s population and the State Water Board has been slow to flow funds into areas to fix failing water systems. A report by the California State Auditor last month revealed Tulare County was among nine counties in the state that represented almost 90% of Californians vulnerable to water systems with poor water quality.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Whitewater rafting from ridgetop to river mouth: seeing the multiple benefits of California water

The forests and meadows of the Sierra Nevada, Coast Range, and Cascade Mountains are the source waters for much of the Sacramento River Basin and the State of California. Healthy headwaters ensure increased water supply reliability and reduced flooding risks, improved water quality, reduced impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increased renewable energy supplies, enhanced habitat, and improved response to climate change and extreme weather.

Aquafornia news Ridgecrest Daily Independent

IWVGA spending $6.4M for rights to 750 acre-feet of imported water

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has signed an agreement to spend $6,396,000 to buy the rights to 750 acre-feet of state water per year to import from southwestern Kings County. A nonbinding letter of intent signed Tuesday and obtained by the Daily Independent lays out the terms between the IWVGA and an entity called Utica LJL, LLC to purchase water assets. Utica LJL is in the early stages of developing a site along Interstate 5 about four miles south of Kettleman City to build gas stations, restaurants, motels, an industrial park, and farmland.

Aquafornia news E&E News

EPA preps cyber rule for water sector

EPA is poised to announce a new rule that would require states to oversee more than 1,000 water utilities’ cybersecurity plans, according to a top White House official. Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security that EPA will be issuing a rule “shortly” to expand the regular reviews to include cybersecurity as threats at facilities mount across the country.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Opinion: Let’s seize lithium opportunities, bring jobs and benefits to Imperial

For decades, Imperial County has been a dumping ground. Home to one of three hazardous dumps in the state, we absorb toxic, dangerous waste from our metropolitan neighbors. One of the few remaining wetland habitats in California, our Salton Sea, is today polluted by decades of agricultural runoff filled with dangerous chemicals that create clouds of toxic pollution. -Written by Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle, a community-based organization focused on civic engagement and health-based initiatives. Olmedo also leads the Lithium Valley Community Coalition and serves on the state’s Lithium Valley Commission.

Aquafornia news GV Wire

Morro Bay lands $4.5m in federal funding. How will it be used?

The Morro Bay National Estuary Program is getting $4.5 million over five years to protect and restore water quality and habitat, the Biden administration announced on Monday. The funding comes from the bipartisan $978 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Biden signed last November.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California drought: Summer is crucial for saving water, but conservation still ho-hum

Californians began paying more attention to their water use as summer arrived, but statewide conservation remains well short of what the governor has requested during the drought. In June, municipal water consumption dropped 7.6% compared to the same month in 2020, marking a second straight month of savings, according to state data released Tuesday, and parts of the Bay Area did considerably better. The four prior months, however, saw increases in water use, sometimes by double digits. … California has experienced three extraordinarily dry years, exacerbated by rising temperatures, that have left reservoirs low, groundwater diminished and alternative supplies like desalination pinched.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Desert groundwater agency to pay $8,500 per acre foot for valley water rights

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority in eastern Kern County has signed a “letter of intent” to buy the rights to 750 acre feet of state water for $6,396,000 from a State Water Project contractor in Kings County. The purchase is part of the authority’s plan to bring that overdrafted groundwater basin into balance. The seller is Utica J.L.J. LLC, which purchased the Jackson Ranch and is developing a truck stop and industrial center on 400 acres at Utica Avenue and Interstate 5, just south of Kettleman City.

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Aquafornia news 12 News - Phoenix

Arizona may see drastic cut in Colorado River water

This month will be a moment of truth for Arizona cities. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to release its “24-month study” that announces how much water Lake Powell and Lake Mead will release in 2023. Meanwhile, seven western states must also present a plan to dramatically cut 2-4 million acre-feet of water. According to federal records, that amounts to as much as 25% of water allocated to the states.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

McKinney fire has hit the stratosphere, spewing the ‘fire-breathing dragon of clouds’

A fire big enough to make its own lightning used to be as rare as it sounds. But the McKinney fire, which erupted Friday [ in the Klamath National Forest], generated four separate thunder and lightning storms within its first 24 hours alone. … The troposphere is where weather happens, and where eye-searing clouds of smoke and soot circulate even from moderately sized fires. But when a smoke column such as those emanating from the McKinney fire shoots through that layer and enters the stratosphere — the higher, more stable layer above — it creates havoc with local weather and seeds the Earth’s atmosphere with aerosol pollutants whose consequence science is still sorting out.

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