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 Fox 10 - Phoenix

Arizona’s megadrought: The latest and what can we do to help

The federal government is expected to restrict Arizona’s water supply even more in the coming months due to the megadrought, heading into the new year. However, no one knows exactly what that will mean, but we do know the three-decade drought is shrinking the Colorado River with no end in sight. … Buckeye’s population is currently at about 75,000 but sits on 600 square miles of open land with plans to develop about every last inch, but satisfying thirsty mouths is a drop in the bucket compared to watering thirsty crops. .. Buckeye does a leg up, thanks to an underground aquifer up to a thousand feet deep. Every drop is closely monitored and replenished by law.

Aquafornia news Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

New research: Global expansion of sustainable irrigation limited by water storage

Expansion of sustainable irrigation (i.e., using sustainable water resources to irrigate water-limited croplands) can increase food production, while neither depleting water stocks nor encroaching upon nature. Yet, there is a mismatch in timing of water availability and of irrigation needs in many geographies, necessitating temporary water storage. We quantify global volumes of water that requires temporary storage to be leveraged for an expansion of sustainable irrigation and discuss options to provide that storage. While dammed reservoirs are crucial for today’s irrigation, dams alone will not suffice to fully leverage sustainable water resources in the future and while creating major impacts on nature and people. This highlights the urgent need for alternative solutions to water storage and demand side approaches to food security.

Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Colorado Basin tribes address a historic drought—and their water rights—head-on

To the Ute Mountain Ute, grappling with its water supply is an ongoing challenge. Despite having senior water rights dating back to 1868, when the Kit Carson Treaty created the reservation, the tribe received none of its rightful water for decades as non-Native settlers dammed rivers and diverted flows. And like many tribes across the Southwest, it still struggles to properly quantify and settle some of the water claims already validated by a long stream of court decisions. Even when tribes have been able to secure their water rights, they have often lacked the expensive infrastructure for getting it to their reservations, which means their water gets used, without payment, by non-native groups.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: Sustainable techniques bring concrete results: making DWR infrastructure carbon-friendly

With Governor Newsom’s recent pledge to invest $8 billion in water infrastructure, carbon-friendly concrete is increasingly in the mix in Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) infrastructure projects. This includes efforts to modernize California’s largest water delivery system, the State Water Project (SWP). … The cement industry produces about 7% of carbon emissions globally (about double the emissions from global air travel.) Over half of these emissions are from the chemical alteration of materials during production. The remaining emissions are from the burning of fossil fuels to generate the high temperatures needed to make concrete.

Aquafornia news

World on fire: How do we adapt to a hotter planet?

Researchers around the globe agree: the Earth is getting warmer and warmer, extreme weather such as heat waves and long droughts increase the risk of wildfires. The group Wildfires in the Anthropocene at the Pufendorf Institute connects researchers from across Lund University who study fires from different perspectives: climate change, health, environmental security, fire safety and biodiversity. Every year, the wildfire season grows longer in California, fires in the Amazon and Australia are increasing dramatically and this summer, large fires took hold of southern Europe. These more extreme and unpredictable fires occur more frequently and are more difficult to fight.

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Aquafornia news Public News Service

New film highlights water struggle between rural high desert and LA

A new film about the transfer of water from the high desert to Los Angeles – called “Without Water” – has just been released on the internet. The film highlights the struggle between the community around Long Valley, which is between Mammoth and Bishop California – and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The D-W-P has court permission to terminate longstanding water leases and limit irrigation water in Long and Little Round valleys. Matt McClain, campaign manager the Keep Long Valley Green Coalition, said that would endanger wildlife, fish, cattle grazing, tourism and Native American cultural sites. So advocates are asking for at least 2.8 acre feet of water per year going forward.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: San Francisco cuts deal with California water regulators to avoid severe restrictions

Three of California’s biggest water suppliers, including the city of San Francisco, have reached a deal with the state that calls for reducing their immense consumption of river water but not as much as the state had initially demanded. The compromise, announced Thursday, is the latest breakthrough in a years-long effort by state regulators to protect flows in California’s once-grand but increasingly overdrawn rivers. The toll on the waterways, where as much as 90% of the water is pumped to cities and farms, has been exacerbated by drought, leaving fabled runs of salmon and other plants and animals at risk of perishing. … But whether Thursday’s deal, known as “voluntary agreements,” will meaningfully increase river flows — and protect fish and wildlife — remains uncertain.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sues makers of cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’

The state of California on Thursday sued the manufacturers of a class of chemicals known as “forever chemicals” that are found in a variety of consumer items including food packaging and cookware and are linked to cancer and other illnesses. The chemicals at the heart of the lawsuit are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. They are resistant to environmental degradation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and hundreds of scientific studies. They have also been found in the bloodstreams of 98% of people tested, as well as in wildlife, fish, water — including rivers, lakes and nearshore waters — and soil.

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Aquafornia news PBS NewsHour

​In California, where water is a human right, some communities still go thirsty

For some in Pixley, the needs for a place to worship and for reliable water are both affecting everyday life, and they hold nearly equal value among some. … California is in a prolonged drought, which only adds to Pixley’s problems. The community is one of nearly 400 in California whose water systems rated as “failing”. State emergency grants and water-focused legislation offer solutions, but communities face a long road ahead as California enters a fourth year of drought and running water becomes harder to guarantee in some places.

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Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Metropolitan Water District Vice Chair tells city committee to expect increasing reductions of water supplies

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Vice Chair Cynthia Kurtz told a City committee she predicted the implementation of more mandatory water reductions by next year as the region faces the challenges of climate change and extended drought. Kurtz knows Pasadena’s water situation well. She served as Pasadena City Manager twice, most recently stepping down as Interim City Manager in August. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the first three months of 2022 have seen record dry weather, and pushed nearly 94% of California into severe drought conditions.

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Aquafornia news

New research: Treated wastewater can be more dependable and less toxic than common tap water sources

Recycled wastewater is not only as safe to drink as conventional potable water, it may even be less toxic than many sources of water we already drink daily, Stanford University engineers have discovered. … The engineers found that, after treatment, potable reuse water is cleaner than conventional drinking water sourced from pristine-looking rivers. In most rivers, someone upstream is dumping in their wastewater with much less treatment than occurs in potable reuse systems. Conventional wastewater treatment plants just aren’t equipped to deep clean. This leaves many organic contaminants, such as chemicals from shampoos and medicines, floating down river and straight into a drinking water plant.

Aquafornia news Water Sources IMPACT

The Klamath Basin is not a lost cause: compromise and controversy in one of America’s most contentious watersheds

As a society, what do we do when too little water has been promised to too many people? What should we be doing differently? In the United States, there is perhaps no better to place to turn for answers to these questions than the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Basin watershed is considered one of the most complicated areas for water governance in the United States owing to its transboundary location (the basin crosses the Oregon-California border), its history of complex litigation and persistent inter-institutional (and interpersonal) conflict, and more than 60 different groups of people who have an interest in the basin’s water allocation.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe, Ariz.

Is drought in Arizona and the Southwest the new normal?

Two decades of the Southwest megadrought have marked Arizona’s driest period in 1,200 years. With climate change in full swing, greenhouse emissions well above pledged targets and the state facing cutbacks to its share of dwindling Colorado River water, many wonder: Is drought the new normal? In an ideal world, drought would be as simple as the settings on a hair dryer: more heat, more evaporation. But it’s not an ideal world, and less so every day, thanks to climate change, rising water demand — and changing land use.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent-Journal

Marin creeks get influx of coho salmon spawners after rains

Marin County residents and visitors can once again watch the natural spectacle of endangered coho salmon making their annual return to their spawning grounds in Lagunitas Creek this winter. The rainfall this month was enough to signal the red-and-silver salmon to make their way from Tomales Bay — where they have been holding these past weeks — to begin the long journey against the currents of the creek.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Are native fishes and reservoirs compatible?

The question addressed in this blog comes from a new PPIC report that calls for reforms in management of environmental water stored behind dams in California. The report shows it is possible to manage water in ways that are compatible with maintaining a natural ecosystem in streams below and above dams (Null et al. 2022). An appendix to this report focuses on fishes (Moyle et al. 2022). It provides information on how dams and reservoirs affect native fish populations and supports the need for improved water management to avoid future extinctions.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Homes and businesses cracked as wells tapped water in SLO

The last time San Luis Obispo ran critically short of water, the city pumped heavily from wells along Los Osos Valley Road. The aquifer was so overtaxed by residents and farmers that the ground sank, resulting multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements over damaged businesses and homes. Since the 1990s, the city has adopted a series of water measures — including rebates for more efficient fixtures, upgrading the sewer plant to deliver treated water to landscaping, and building a pipeline delivering water from Lake Nacimiento…. The city is currently leading the Groundwater Enhancement Project, which it described as “an initiative to to ensure responsible use of groundwater in the San Luis Obispo Valley Groundwater Basin.”

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Gov. Cox put new water rights on hold. Will it actually help the Great Salt Lake?

Gov. Spencer Cox announced this month that all new water rights in the Great Salt Lake Basin are on pause, given the lake’s crisis situation. The move sounds big, sweeping and dramatic — it applies to the lake’s main tributaries that drain nearly 10,000 square miles in Utah. Still, it’s hard to say how much of a difference it will make for the Great Salt Lake, which has continued to shrink after hitting another record low over the summer, almost entirely due to Utah’s water diversions. The governor’s current suspension only applies to new water right applications and does not interfere with existing ones. New water rights would be the most junior with the lowest priority anyway. And in periods of drought, junior water right holders sometimes don’t get to divert any water at all.

Aquafornia news U.S. Geological Survey

News release: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments combine science and technology to track biological threats in US waters

The U.S. Geological Survey announced today it has signed a cooperative agreement with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, or MBARI, to develop portable robotic DNA samplers capable of independently monitoring for living threats in the rivers and streams without constant support from researchers. With new investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the partnership will help advance detection of invasive species, pathogens and parasites which cause ecological and economic damage to aquatic systems. These organisms can wreak havoc on our waterways, threaten commercial and recreational fishing industries and promote the spread of zoonotic diseases that can impact humans.  

Aquafornia news SJV Water

“Drop out” from race for seat on a powerful Kern water board appears poised to win

If challenger Eric Averett maintains his lead over incumbent Phil Cerro for a seat on the powerful Kern County Water Agency board, it may prove just how effective a campaign statement can be. Averett said he tried to withdraw his name from the ballot after belatedly learning Cerro would run. But he missed the deadline to have his name removed, Averett told SJV Water in September. He vowed not to campaign – dropping out of the race in spirit – and said he would support Cerro. But when Averett filed his paperwork to run, he did one thing Cerro didn’t, he submitted a campaign statement.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

New satellite will see water’s big picture

By foot, horse, and canoe, European explorers centuries ago undertook years-long expeditions to document the length and breadth of major rivers. Today, satellites make the first pass of discovery. Though rivers meander and melting glaciers birth new lakes annually, the world’s major drainages have largely been mapped. Yet one fundamental dimension remains largely a mystery: the rise and fall of water bodies globally. Accurately measuring, at low-cost, the weekly changes in rivers, lakes, and wetlands would allow scientists to observe how much water moves through them. Land-based gauges do some of this work. But where gauges are scarce — Alaska, Africa, Asian headwaters — these numbers are inaccurate or unknown.