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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Aquafornia news Olive Oil Times

California’s wet winter leaves groves susceptible to disease, waterlogging

The El Niño cycle bring­ing wet weather to California is one of the strongest such cycles on record, accord­ing to researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). Their asser­tions are cor­rob­o­rated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s cli­mate pre­dic­tion cen­ter, which also reported a 62 per­cent chance El Niño would con­tinue from April through June with his­tor­i­cally strong con­di­tions early in the year. … Record-shattering rains poured over sections of California this week, with rainfall totals as high as ten inches (25 centimeters), bringing widespread flash floods. As atmospheric rivers pound California, olive growers face the challenge of potential diseases and problems that may ensue.

Aquafornia news Eos

Five key needs for addressing flood injustice

What do Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Tula, Mexico (a city outside Mexico City), have in common? Both have histories of communities experiencing unequal flood exposure, unfair recovery outcomes, and a limited ability to adapt to flooding. These inequalities represent what we call flood injustice, and they demonstrate how flood risk is shaped by politics and policy as much as, or perhaps even more than, by weather and climate change. Cedar Rapids saw a major flood in 2008 that displaced more than 18,000 residents and incurred over $3 billion in economic losses. Flooding primarily occurred within affordable housing and other residential areas west of downtown. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

After shutting down, these golf courses went wild

[Former golfing grounds in northern California] haven’t been doused with pesticides or rodenticides since 2018, which was when this 157-acre stretch of land stopped being the San Geronimo Golf Course, and began a journey toward becoming wild, or at least wilder, once again. A small number of shuttered golf courses around the country have been bought by land trusts, municipalities and nonprofit groups and transformed into nature preserves, parks and wetlands. … The restoration of the San Geronimo land is still underway. Floodplains will be reconnected, and a fish barrier has been removed, allowing access to more robust migratory and breeding grounds for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout. Trails are planned that would skirt sensitive habitat, making the land a publicly accessible ecological life raft, starkly different from its time as a golf course.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Louisiana wetlands are undergoing an ‘ecosystem collapse,’ scientists say

Rapidly rising seas are wreaking havoc on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, and could devastate three-quarters of the state’s natural buffer against hurricanes in the coming decades, scientists found in a study published Thursday. The new research documents how a sudden burst of sea level rise over the past 13 years — the type of surge once not expected until later this century — has left the overwhelming majority of the state’s coastal wetland sites in a state of current or expected “drowning,” where the seas are rising faster than wetlands can grow. … The news is dire for a state that has already lost over 2,000 square miles of wetland area since 1932, bringing the ocean ever closer to New Orleans and other population centers and leaving them more vulnerable to storms.

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Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

No more Delta smelt? The Delta tunnel project threatens their extinction for good

A project to move water from the Sacramento region down to Southern California was recently approved by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The $16 billion Delta Conveyance Project is causing major controversy around environmental concerns. This is a very complex issue, Californians are in need of water all over the state. But with a project like the delta tunnel, environmentalists say the 50 species of fish in the delta are at risk as well as the wildlife and people who depend on the fish.

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

Why was water released from Hodges Reservoir?

CBS 8 is Working for You to investigate the Lake Hodges water supply, after receiving a huge response to our report on the release of more than 600 million gallons of water into the ocean. Now, CBS 8 has learned, the city of San Diego has lost its access to Lake Hodges water, due to a state order by the Division of Safety of Dams, which shut down a pipeline operated by the San Diego County Water Authority. The city of San Diego is under the state order to keep Lake Hodges water levels low – at 280 feet – because Hodges Dam was found to be unsafe. Neighbor Michael Citrin was not happy to learn that, since January, the city of San Diego has released 619 million gallons of water from Lake Hodges, and there is no end in sight as another storm is on its way next week.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Chanslor Ranch in Bodega Bay now open to the public under Sonoma County ownership

If open space, ocean views and wildlife are your thing, Chanslor Ranch in Bodega Bay should be your next destination. Long a privately owned getaway known primarily for horseback trail rides, the 378-acre ranch across Highway 1 from Bodega Dunes and Salmon Creek state beaches is now in county hands and open to the general public. … [V]isitors are welcome to hike 4.5 miles of trail leading up coastal hills, down to Salmon Creek and around the rugged landscape, which is bounded in part by the creek. The land is known for a diversity of habitat, from wetlands to coastal prairie, as well as many plants and animals. The wetlands are a stopover for migrating birds, as well. 

Aquafornia news NPR

New report unveils what plastic makers knew about recycling

The plastics industry has worked for decades to convince people and policymakers that recycling would keep waste out of landfills and the environment. Consumers sort their trash so plastic packaging can be repurposed, and local governments use taxpayer money to gather and process the material. Yet from the early days of recycling, plastic makers, including oil and gas companies, knew that it wasn’t a viable solution to deal with increasing amounts of waste, according to documents uncovered by the Center for Climate Integrity. … But the industry appears to have championed recycling mainly for its public relations value, rather than as a tool for avoiding environmental damage, the documents suggest.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Biden administration announces truce in Klamath Basin water wars

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it has brokered a “historic” agreement between tribes and farmers in the Klamath Basin over chronic water shortages, a problem that has fueled enduring water wars in the rural area along the California-Oregon border. … The agreement is technically a memorandum of understanding between the three tribes, the Klamath Water Users Association and the Interior Department. It does not lay out a new plan for how water supplies will be allocated, which is the underlying source of tension in the region. Instead, the deal calls for a wide range of river and creek restoration work as well as the modernization of agricultural infrastructure. It comes with $72 million of federal funding.

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Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Pacific storm train to bring one-two punch of wet weather and renewed flooding this weekend

California residents have received a welcome break from rain and storms following the deadly mudslides that tore through southern parts of the state earlier in the month. The floodgates of the Pacific Ocean will again be flung open as AccuWeather meteorologists project a storm duo to provide a one-two punch of wet weather this weekend into early next week. A brief storm will break the dry stretch for Northern California around midweek. … Areas of Southern California that received historic rain amounts from the atmospheric river last week will be spared from any precipitation with this round. However, AccuWeather experts say the next pair of storms will take a path farther to the south, increasing the risk of hard-hit areas receiving additional rainfall.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Before and after: Sierra Nevada snowpack expands steadily over past month, satellite photos show

What a difference a month makes. On Jan. 1, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply, was a meager 28% of its historic average. October, November and December had brought few storms, leaving ski resorts with many runs closed and water managers around the state beginning to get nervous that California could be heading back into the kind of dry conditions that defined the 2020-22 drought. But since then, winter has arrived. Multiple atmospheric river storms have sent the Sierra Nevada snowpack back to respectable levels. On Wednesday, it was 74% of the historic average.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Virtually explore the Delta; remembering Bob Johnson; grab a spot while they last for upcoming tours & events

We’ve expanded our digital Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta library. You can now virtually visit the Delta by watching a series of short videos that show its multiple dimensions: a hub of California’s water supply, an agricultural cornucopia, a water playground and a haven for fish and other wildlife. Find out how you can access our video series, plus learn more about our upcoming tours and events and read about Bob Johnson, former Reclamation Commissioner and our Board Past President, who passed away recently. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Water district between two counties and two subbasins forges its own groundwater sustainability path

The small Kern-Tulare Water District moved forward recently in breaking away from two other groundwater agencies to form its own independent groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). As the state’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) turns 10 this year and the 2040 deadline to bring aquifers into balance edges closer, groundwater agencies have splintered and reformed throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley. Most notably, the Kern Groundwater Authority which initially had 16 water district members,  reorganized as most of those members have broken off to form their own, or regional GSAs. Kern-Tulare, which covers 19,600 acres, and straddles two water subbasins and two counties, had always planned to go independent …

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers regroup after storms batter state

With a respite from stormy weather, farmers say they are surveying for any damage and waiting for the ground to dry so they can access fields and orchards to make repairs or do other practices. Historic and deadly storms that brought two weeks of rain and powerful winds to California led to mudslides, flooding and widespread power outages and related evacuations. A state of emergency was declared for eight Southern California counties. In Santa Barbara County, farm manager Sheldon Bosio of Goleta-based Terra Bella Ranches said three mudslides affected about 40 avocado trees or about half an acre, which is half of what was lost from mudslides caused by storms last year.

Aquafornia news Wired

The city of tomorrow will run on your toilet water

… Normally in the US, all [household] water would flush out to a treatment facility, and eventually out to a body of water; 34 billion gallons of wastewater is processed this way across the country every day. But with multiple problems for cities now converging—extreme heat, water shortages, and rapid population growth—increasingly scientists are finding clever ways to extract more use from water that’s flushed away. … What Epic Cleantec has achieved is to essentially shrink down what a water recycling plant does into a system that fits in a high-rise basement, lightening the burden on municipal wastewater treatment and reducing pressure on water supplies.

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

SDSU report calls Tijuana River contamination a public health crisis. ‘We know people are getting sick.’

A new report released Tuesday and written by researchers at San Diego State University calls the Tijuana River a “public health crisis,” citing broad evidence of unhealthy conditions from untreated sewage to industrial waste.  Authors synthesize multiple studies that have documented pollution over the years, leading with a recent paper that documented that the threat also extends to ocean-going mammals. Bottle nose dolphins stranded in San Diego died from infection by a bacteria “generally transmitted through contact with feces or urine in contaminated water, food or soil.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

San Diego water customers still waiting for bills

Nearly a year passed before Point Loma resident Jerry Greene received his water bill.  He thought his wife had set up auto-pay to have the water bill automatically deducted from their account. … Greene had no idea that he was not receiving bills. He had no idea that the city suspected a leak at his house. How could he? He had not received a notice or a bill for nearly a year. … Through a public records request the city told CBS 8 that as of December 2023, more than 25,100 water customers were not receiving bills due to many issues which include high water usage, low-water usage, misread meters and repeated estimated meter reads. 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

California releases formal proposal to end fracking in the state

California oil and gas regulators have formally released their plan to phase out fracking three years after essentially halting new permits for the practice. The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) wrote that they would not approve (PDF) applications for permits for well stimulation treatments like fracking to “prevent damage to life, health, property, and natural resources (PDF)” in addition to protecting public health and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. … Hydraulic fracturing injects liquids, mostly water, underground at high pressure to extract oil or gas. Oil companies say fracking has been done safely for years under state regulation and that a ban should come from the Legislature, not a state agency.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Uinta Basin oil shale proposal ends, but Utah is still interested in developing

Another company has given up on trying to develop oil shale in the Uinta Basin, faced with legal battles, environmental concerns and money going down the drain. Estonia’s national energy company announced that it was wrapping up its fruitless oil shale venture in Utah at the end of last month. Estonia Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev said that the company’s project in Utah was “neither profitable nor promising” in a news release. … Oil shale is a hard sedimentary rock that can be heated to release synthetic crude oil. It’s a thirsty and expensive process that threatens air quality, water quality and endangered species, and exacerbates global warming, according to nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust staff attorney Michael Toll.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Caltrans proposes southern Marin flood control project

A notoriously flood-prone section of southern Marin could soon get its own defense against sea-level rise. Caltrans is proposing protections for the area along Richardson Bay between Marin City and Tamalpais Valley. The project would include the Manzanita Park and Ride lot and the Highway 101 interchanges at Shoreline Highway and Donahue Street. An online public meeting to introduce the plans is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 29. The webinar can be accessed at … The lower half of the Manzanita lot is closed an average of seven to 12 weeks out of the year because of frequent tidal flooding driven by sea-level rise, according to Caltrans. Intense rains coupled with high tides also flood the southbound Highway 101 offramp at the Donahue Street interchange in Marin City, O’Donnell said.