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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: 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 California WaterBlog

Blog: Episode 2 – “Unraveling the knot” Water Movement in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – Tidal Forces

Tides are the biggest driver of Delta flows, and in Episode 2 we look at their impacts in different locations under a variety of inflow conditions.  Tides have a twice-daily cycle in the region, with a range of about six feet at Martinez.  In the first part of the animation, we remove all in-Delta controls and diversions and fix inflows at a common moderate early summer level to isolate effects of tidal forces from those of inflows, gates, and export diversions.  

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: California’s wildly inequitable water rights system

Prior appropriation, or the notion of “first in time, first in right,” has been a prime directive of California water law for well over 150 years. It has brought us a system that is so inequitable in its impacts that more than one million residents of California lack access to safe drinking water, while industrial agriculture used more water to grow almonds and pistachios during California’s last drought than all of California’s residents.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Explore the water trail on the San Francisco Bay

The trailheads [of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail] span the gambit of habitats along the shore in the Bay and beyond. Launch into the Napa River at the semirural Cuttings Wharf trailhead. Explore marsh habitat and sloughs winding upriver, surrounded by hills, to the riverfront development along downtown Napa’s Main Street Boat Dock. From the sandy Encinal Beach trailhead in Alameda, glimpse harbor seals and California brown pelicans with the San Francisco skyline rising up next to you …

Aquafornia news Regional Water Authority

News release: Regional Water Authority receives national WaterSense® Partner of the Year Award for water-efficiency outreach

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today honored the Regional Water Authority (RWA) with the national 2021 WaterSense® Partner of the Year Award for its dedication to helping consumers and businesses save water, even with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This is the second WaterSense Award for RWA, which in 2016 earned a WaterSense® Excellence in Education and Outreach Award for its outstanding efforts to educate Sacramento-area residents about water efficiency and the WaterSense brand.

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Aquafornia news Los Vaqueros Reservoir JPA

News release: Los Vaqueros Reservoir Joint Powers Authority formed

The Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project (Project) passed a significant milestone today in officially filing agreements needed to form a Joint Powers Authority. This important milestone puts a group of Local Agency Partners one step closer to Project implementation. Los Vaqueros Reservoir is an off-stream reservoir that was originally built by Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) in 1998. 

Aquafornia news NBC Los Angeles

Hydropower decline adds power grid strain in drought

After water levels at a California dam fell to historic lows this summer, the main hydropower plant it feeds was shut down. At the Hoover Dam in Nevada — one of the country’s biggest hydropower generators — production is down by 25%. If extreme drought persists, federal officials say a dam in Arizona could stop producing electricity in coming years. Severe drought across the West drained reservoirs this year, slashing hydropower production and further stressing the region’s power grids. 

Aquafornia news San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Opinion: New ballot measures target the right problems

We also learned last week of two new ballot measures for the 2020 ballot … The first proposal would ban collective bargaining for government workers. The second measure would require 2 percent of the state’s general-fund revenue each year to fund water projects until the state amasses an additional 5 million acre-feet of available water supplies.
-Written by Steven Greenhut, Western region director for the R Street Institute and a member of the Southern California News Group editorial board.

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Opinion: A joint effort to protect the Central Valley’s water, ecology

Like a human fingerprint, California’s Sacramento Valley is truly unique. On the leading edge of ecological and economical sustainability, it’s also an exceptional place to live, work, and raise a family. The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural and human abundance: productive farmlands, teeming wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, the largest salmon runs south of the Columbia River, dynamic rural and urban communities, and life-giving rivers and creeks that support it all.
– Written by Curtis Knight, executive director of Cal Trout; Jeff McCreary, director of operations for Ducks Unlimited Western Region; Tim Johnson, president and CEO of the California Rice Commission; and David Guy, the president of the Northern California Water Association.

Aquafornia news The Sierra Fund

Blog: Protecting meadows as green infrastructure in the face of climate change

Meadows are hotspots for biological diversity and provide numerous ecosystem benefits, especially in relation to the land mass they cover, including flood attenuation, sediment filtration, water storage, water quality improvement, carbon sequestration, and livestock forage. Approximately 50% of meadows in the Sierra Nevada are known to be degraded, in large part due to land-use practices including overgrazing.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: Is California’s wildfire season already winding down?

The nation’s firefighters spent a record 69 days this year at their highest level of alert, the dreaded level 5, rushing from one drought-driven wildfire to the next. Now they’re finally getting at least somewhat of a break. Last week, federal fire managers downgraded the National Preparedness Level to 3 after a handful of September storms smacked the Pacific Northwest and residual rain fell in California’s far north.

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Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Trump-era water opinions in the air as Biden considers new plan

Following nearly two years of litigation regarding Trump-era water policy, the federal government has until Oct. 14 to come up a plan to balance competing needs for the precious resource. … On Sept. 30, Ernest Conant, regional director of the Department of the Interior’s Region 10, penned a letter to officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to begin reevaluating the environmental impact of water allocations from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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Aquafornia news Grist

The Colorado River is drying up. Here’s how that affects Indigenous water rights

Lake Mead is considered full when its stores reach 1,220 feet above sea level or more, but the reservoir is projected to sink to 1,066 feet above sea level by the end of the year, revealing rock that has been submerged since it began filling in the 1930s. With every foot that Lake Mead falls, the basin comes closer to triggering substantial cutbacks for certain water users along the river. … [I]f lake levels continue to decline, future cutbacks could impact the 30 Native American tribes with lands in the basin.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Oct. 28 Water Summit panel to examine drought impacts across California

Register today for our Water Summit, hosted this year as an engaging virtual experience on the afternoon of Oct. 28, to hear a variety of perspectives detailing the on-the-ground impacts of the the current drought in California. With the theme, Pivoting Today’s Pain into Tomorrow’s Gain, the online event will examine what’s being done to get through the drought now gripping California and highlight some of the innovative programs, projects and partnerships aimed at addressing the challenges in the longer term. 

Aquafornia news Friant Water Authority

News release: Reclamation awards construction contract for first phase of Friant-Kern Canal repairs

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation and Friant Water Authority announces the selection of a construction contractor to begin work on the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. Brosamer & Wall/Tutor Perini Joint Venture, based in Walnut Creek, was awarded a $177 million contract to perform the construction aspects of the first phase of work to repair the Friant-Kern Canal along a portion of the 33-mile stretch. This portion of the canal has lost more than half of its capacity due to subsidence—a sinking of the earth from groundwater extraction. 

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: Extinction’s Edge: Zero Delta smelt found in September 2021 during CDFW Fall Midwater Trawl Survey

For the fifth September in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has caught zero Delta smelt in its Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Once the most abundant fish on the entire estuary, the fish is now near extinction in the wild, although UC Davis continues to raise the fish in a captive breeding program. The Delta smelt population has plummeted over the decades since the State Water Project began exporting Delta water to San Joaquin Valley grower sin 1967.

Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Lake Shasta landslide knocks out water to hundreds in Jones Valley

A landslide along the shore of Lake Shasta, likely caused by the rapidly falling lake level, has knocked out water service to hundreds of Jones Valley area residents. Meanwhile, Shasta County Public Works Department officials are trying to repair water lines and pumps broken by the landslide, but they have hit supply ordering delays and shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. … The land above the pump station began to slump in September and work in the area was interrupted by the Fawn Fire, which burned in the area for more than a week…

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California Drought: Which cities in Santa Clara County are saving the most and the least water

The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is the main wholesale water provider in Santa Clara County, on June 9 declared a drought emergency and called on all residents to reduce water use 15% from 2019 levels to preserve supplies. In August, the most recent month for which data is available, countywide water use dropped by 9%. That was an improvement from a 6% drop in July, but still is significantly under the goal. Here is the percentage change in water use between August 2019 and August 2021 at the 13 cities and private water companies the Santa Clara Valley Water District serves.

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Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

‘Climate change is here’: Mike McGuire calls for urgent action

As the Western United States navigates yet another historic drought year fueled by the ongoing climate crisis, environmental scientists are calling for immediate action. State Sen. Mike McGuire invited the North Coast community to a virtual town hall Wednesday to explore bold solutions that will be needed in the months and years to come.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

San Rafael flood risk prompts Canal insurance project

Activists and researchers have teamed up to seek an affordable flood insurance program for residents in the low-lying Canal area of San Rafael. Stephanie McNally of Canal Alliance said she is working on a pilot program with Jeffrey Rhoads of Resilient Shore; Kathleen Schaefer, a researcher for the University of California, Davis; and Stuart Spiegel, interim manager of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Their idea is in its early stages, and the team has submitted a grant proposal to set up the program and find an insurance funding source.

Aquafornia news The Inquirer (Diablo Valley College)

New study shows California’s water usage is contributing to rise of greenhouse gas emissions

Bay Area environmental research groups Pacific Institute and Next 10 paired up in a webinar on Sept. 28 to discuss a new study focused on water usage, sourcing and the ways that both are impacting greenhouse gas emissions. Colleen Dredell, director of research at the San Francisco-based nonprofit Next 10, emphasized that the goal of the collaborative report, entitled “The Future of California’s Water-Energy-Climate Nexus,” was to come up with solutions that would help California meet its targeted energy and greenhouse gas goals by 2030. Currently, California is not on track to meet these goals.