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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 SF Gate

The deadly 1862 flood that wiped out and reshaped California

Californians live with the specter of the Big One, but many don’t realize “The One” may not be an earthquake. One hundred and sixty years ago, the biggest flood in modern history wiped out California: 4,000 dead, one-third of all property destroyed, a quarter of the state’s 800,000 cattle drowned or starved. California went so utterly bankrupt that its governor, Legislature and state employees didn’t draw a paycheck for 18 months. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

News release: Pacific lamprey found in Santa Margarita River, for the first time in decades

“They will recolonize, if we pave the way for them,” said Damon Goodman, former biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arcata office who is now a regional director in Northern California for CalTrout. If this sounds similar to the Field of Dreams famous quote: “if you build it, they will come,” it is. And it is exactly what happened with Pacific lamprey recolonizing in the Santa Margarita River in Southern California. Found in the river in August 2019 for the first time since last documented in 1940, this is now the furthest south the species has currently recolonized, 260 miles south of the previous location in San Luis Obispo which recolonized in 2017. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes spending $1B on water infrastructure

[Arizona] Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed spending $1 billion from the state’s general fund over three years to help “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” In his final State of the State address, the governor said the budget he sends to lawmakers will prioritize water infrastructure including desalination. … Long discussed as an idea to deliver some of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River without drawing down Lake Mead, seawater desalination on the Sea of Cortez would pump treated water to Morelos Dam near Yuma for distribution in Mexico. The U.S. parties paying into the program would then take some of Mexico’s river water as compensation.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Arizona farmer struggles with water shortage

Arizona rivers and reservoirs saw record low water levels last year as megadrought and rising temperatures continue. The forecast for 2022 isn’t much better. In this episode of Arizona in Focus, Nancy Caywood, a farmer in Casa Grande, learns how to live with less water and what that means for her future and ours.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Could a small dam on Dry Creek ease flooding in Modesto area? Here are some options

A new report examines how erecting a small dam on Dry Creek might reduce its role in Modesto-area flooding. Stanislaus County Public Works will hold a Jan. 18 open house on the idea. It does not have funding yet for the project, which could cost as much as $48 million based on the consultant’s work. The report looks at 11 possible sites where Dry Creek might be impounded, generally in the Waterford area. It recommends four of them for further study, which the county Board of Supervisors could consider in the spring, Public Works Director David Leamon said in an email Friday.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Harry and Meghan’s Montecito estate challenged by drought

Maybe one of the reasons Harry and Meghan are reportedly looking to sell their Montecito estate is that they learned that it’s costly and not environmentally friendly to maintain a large home and garden during a drought, especially one featuring rolling lawns, a lush garden, a swimming pool and an artificial pond. News last week that the couple were dissatisfied and “not over the moon” with their sprawling $14 million, nine-bedroom, 16-bath mansion came as the State Water Resources Control Board imposed mandatory restrictions on Californians’ outdoor water use.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

California scientists debate risks, rewards of mosquitofish

Government officials warding off deadly diseases often praise the lowly mosquitofish as a public health messiah. But some environmentalists have dubbed it the “plague minnow” and the “fish destroyer.” Today, nearly a century after the finger-sized fish was first introduced to California in a Sacramento lily pond, it’s arguably the most ubiquitous freshwater fish in the world. But the mosquitofish also ranks among the world’s worst invasive species. Balancing the pest-control prowess and ecological destruction of the fish, nearly every mosquito and vector control district in California, including in Marin, now deploys the creature with varying strategies.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: To fight climate change, we must redesign San Diego communities

As the world struggles for consensus on climate action and national policy focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of climate change occur all around us. … The San Diego region is a case in point. Its beaches and coastal bluffs are being eroded by ocean storms and sea level rise. Its inland valleys and mountains suffer from severe drought, leaving them vulnerable to wildfires. Long-term drought and higher temperatures contribute to the loss of natural habitat and wildlife. Its population, industry and agricultural economy rely heavily on water from shrinking, faraway sources — the Sacramento Delta in Northern California and the Colorado River.
-Written by Robert Leiter, former director of land use and transportation planning for the San Diego Association of Governments; Julie Kalansky, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Cary Lowe, a California land-use attorney who has written widely on environmental and planning topics. ​

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: In Ojai, a glimpse of how to nurture land in a drier world

The Ojai Valley in Ventura County is a magical place. Consider its elements: the sweet smell of California citrus blossoms in the spring, the open space preserved by orchards, the seasonal creeks that run free through the cultivated lands. But the Ojai Valley is also a place in peril. That’s because the water source that keeps this inland Ventura hamlet thriving is nearly dry. Lake Casitas reservoir was built in the late 1950s, when decades of plentiful rain hid the true nature of California’s arid climate. Back then, the official projections for water-resources potential were optimistic. Today, that story has changed dramatically.
-Written by Stephanie Pincetl, a professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and founding director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Monday Top of the Scroll: Newsom California budget adds money for drought, fires, agriculture

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will propose spending billions of additional dollars on drought response, wildfire suppression and rural workforce development programs, according to budget documents reviewed by The Sacramento Bee. The governor’s plan includes $750 million in one-time money to help communities affected by the drought, including for water conservation, water efficiency, replenishing groundwater supplies and helping small farmers.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Charts show why California’s recent rain won’t end drought

California just received more precipitation in the last three months of 2021 than it got in the previous year. The mountains are heaped with historic amounts of heavy snow. But the rain had no sooner given way to sun than state regulators issued new rules forbidding water-wasting practices such as hosing down sidewalks and driveways. What’s going on? The short version is that, although 33.9 trillion gallons of water have fallen on the state since Oct. 1, that’s not enough to wash away our tenacious drought. Here are some graphics to help to tell the story.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Anderson Dam – Cost to rebuild key Bay Area dam nearly doubles to $1.2 billion

In the latest setback for a project that has been fraught with delays and cost overruns for more than a decade, the price tag to rebuild Anderson Dam — Santa Clara County’s largest — to improve earthquake safety is nearly doubling, from $648 million to $1.2 billion. The news comes one year after the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the government agency that owns the dam near Morgan Hill, announced that another of its large construction plans, a proposal to build a huge new reservoir near Pacheco Pass, also had doubled in price, from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion.

Aquafornia news Aspen Times

Phoenix among those voluntarily losing Colorado River water

The city of Phoenix last week outlined how it will voluntarily contribute water to a regional plan to shore up the country’s largest reservoir that delivers Colorado River water to three states and Mexico. The river cannot provide seven Western states the water they were promised a century ago because of less snow, warmer temperatures and water lost to evaporation. Water managers repeatedly have had to pivot to develop plans to sustain it for the long-term.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Study predicts rising heat and hardship in San Joaquin Valley

Within three decades, the San Joaquin Valley’s annual average temperature could increase by 4 degrees, worsening water quality and health hazards in the impoverished communities of California’s agricultural heartland, according to a new regional climate change report. Those hit hardest by the increasing heat will be poor farming communities that lack the resources necessary to adapt, according to the UC Merced report. 

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Record December rains draw spawning salmon to Marin County creeks

What a difference six months can make. In July, Marin County creeks were almost bone dry and now there’s so much water running through them that salmon are spawning like no one has seen for decades. It is a testament to the unpredictability of nature that, after the second driest summer in state history, the salmon should have such ideal conditions for spawning. … Todd Steiner, executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said so much water is flowing at exactly the right time that it is making for a perfect set of conditions for the fish to breed.

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Aquafornia news CNBC

2021 ranks as fifth hottest year as carbon, methane emissions rise

The last seven years have been the hottest on record, with 2021 ranking as the fifth hottest year as the world continues to see a rise in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released on Monday. … Extremely dry conditions also exacerbated wildfires throughout July and August, especially in several Canadian provinces and the U.S. West. The Dixie Fire became the second-largest fire in California’s history, burning nearly 1 million acres and resulting in poor air quality for thousands of people across the country.

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Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

County looking at SGMA impact on property values

There’s the definite possibility the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act could have a negative impact on farmers’ property values. So the question is can farmers affected by the SGMA receive relief when it comes to the amount of property taxes they pay. The answer is maybe. The Tulare County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder’s Office has addressed this issue, stating farmers affected by the SGMA could possibly receive relief when it comes to the property taxes they pay.

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Aquafornia news Science Moab

Water sustainability on the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation is the size of West Virginia. Throughout the Nation, the topography, precipitation patterns, and water recharge are extremely diverse, but not well understood. Here we talk with principal hydrologist Crystal Tulley-Cordova about her work with the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources and her research around the precipitation, recharge sources, and opportunities for sustainable water use on the Navajo Nation.

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

Water treatment plant on track to be running by next summer

A project three decades in the making is nearly complete and is scheduled to deliver a reliable source of drinking water to Turlock residents by next year.  The Regional Surface Water Supply Project was formed in 2011 as the Cities of Turlock and Ceres, in cooperation with Turlock Irrigation District, to start the process of building a plant to deliver treated Tuolumne River water to residents. The City of Turlock has been working for 30 years to secure this alternate drinking source, as its current drinking water supply is 100% groundwater — and dwindling. 

Aquafornia news KQED

California court OKs controversial Newark housing plan along its climate-vulnerable wetlands

A California district court has sided with the city of Newark and developer The Sobrato Organization in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups who challenged a plan to build hundreds of two-story tract homes along fragile wetlands in Alameda County. Environmentalists said the dwellings would be built in a federal flood zone and could succumb to rising seas in coming decades, arguing that the project’s environmental review was inadequate.

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