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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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 KDRV - Medford

Water shortages impact Klamath basin economy, new study says

An Oregon State University study is showing the economic impact that water shortages have had on farms and ranches in the upper Klamath basin. The study was partially funded by Klamath County.  It found that crops and livestock grown and raise din the area are worth about $368 million annually. It also generates more than $176 million in income for more than 3,000 employees.  The study found that about $12 million in labor income and 210 jobs have been lost with the decline in livestock production because of water restrictions. It also found that more than $12 million in labor income and 120 jobs are presently at risk because of the maximum amount of water the Bureau of Reclamation allows farmers to use. 

Aquafornia news TID Water & Power

News release: Brad Koehn appointed general manager at Turlock Irrigation District

The Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Board of Directors has appointed Brad Koehn as General Manager, effective June 21, 2024. Koehn will replace Michelle Reimers who announced her resignation on May 31, 2024, after an 18-year career with the District. Koehn has been with TID for 13 years and has held various leadership roles at the District, most recently serving as the Chief Operating Officer since 2020. … Koehn is a licensed professional engineer and land surveyor in the State of California, and joined the District in 2011 as the Civil Engineering Department Manager. In 2018, he was appointed to Assistant General Manager of the Power Supply Administration. Prior to working at TID, Koehn spent 16 years in private practice engineering, most recently co-owning a local civil engineering firm.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Why Mexico City’s water crisis is causing it to sink

On a recent morning, visitors wandered around Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin America’s oldest — and one of its largest. Walking from chamber to chamber, tourists snapped images of dramatic ceiling-high altars, soaring columns and sculptures. But there’s another unintended detail that stands out: the cathedral is leaning. … This sinking, which is known as land subsidence, crops up across the world. While it can be subtle in many places — it pushes land down around an inch or two a year in much of the U.S. — the rates in Mexico City are some of the highest in the world. Some areas in Mexico City are slipping as fast as 20 inches a year in recent decades, according to researchers. Overall, the clay layers under the soil have compressed by 17 percent in the last century.

Aquafornia news Morning Ag Clips

Report: Cover crops benefits may outweigh water-use in California

Cover crops are planted to protect and improve the soil between annual crops such as tomatoes or between rows of tree and vine crops, but growers may be concerned about the water use of these plants that don’t generate income. “Cover crops are one of the most popular practices we see farmers employ through our Healthy Soils Program,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. … These potential benefits are especially salient in the San Joaquin Valley, where groundwater challenges are more acute. A new report evaluates the water implications of cover cropping practices to lay the groundwork for their adoption in the context of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which is intended to protect groundwater resources over the long-term. “Yes, cover crops require a nominal amount of water to establish – and sometimes rainwater is sufficient – but the myriad co-benefits are worth it,” Ross said.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Revealed: a century-old water war is leaving this rural California county in disrepair

Two rural California airports that are crucial to local air ambulance services, firefighting efforts and search and rescue operations are unable to perform critical repairs, blocked by an agency 300 miles away: the city of Los Angeles. The airports are two of several major pieces of infrastructure in California’s Owens valley left in disrepair because of LA policies, an investigation by AfroLA, the Sheet and the Guardian reveals. Los Angeles has owned large swaths of Inyo county, where the Owens valley is located, for more than a century. With ownership of the land comes rights to its water – water that is key to servicing the thirsty metropolis of 3.8 million people. Aqueducts carrying water from Inyo and neighbouring Mono county to LA provided 73% of the city’s water supply last year.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Commentary: Navajo and Hopi water deal has a (Capitol) Hill to climb

Navajo and Hopi are hardly friends. Yet they have unanimously agreed to a deal that could finally bring running water to thousands of tribal homes that lack it in northeastern Arizona. The wide-reaching settlement would resolve a slew of tribal water claims in Arizona, not just those for the Little Colorado River that have been tied up in court for generations. As a result, Navajo and Hopi would be entitled to water from the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River, as well as to the effluent they produce and the groundwater that lies beneath their lands. The deal also carves out a permanent homeland for the San Juan Southern Paiute tribe and quantifies water rights for use on those lands. That’s huge. The closest Arizona ever got to a settlement was more than a decade ago, when some tribal members balked at the last minute and the deal fell apart under its own weight.
-Written by columnist Joanna Allhands. 

Aquafornia news Mendo Fever - Mendocino County News

News release: PG&E’s extension request sparks worry among Eel River preservationists

PG&E announced on Friday, May 31 late last week that it will request a 7-month extension from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in decommissioning the Eel River dams. Stakeholders were expecting the utility to file its Draft Surrender Application plan with FERC this month, with a final version due in January 2025. PG&E now says it will file the draft plan in January 2025 and the final version in June 2025. In announcing the delay, PG&E expresses support for the still vague proposal for the New Eel-Russian Facility. This proposal would see a dam-free diversion from the Eel River to the Russian River constructed and managed by the newly formed Eel Russian Joint Powers Authority. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. fire hydrants vanishing; utility tries to outsmart thieves

In parts of Los Angeles County, fire hydrants have become a hot item. Thieves have stolen at least 302 hydrants since the start of 2023 in several areas of the county, according to Golden State Water Co. Many of the thefts have occurred in the communities of Florence-Graham, Willowbrook and West Rancho Dominguez, as well as eastern Gardena near the 110 Freeway. Sometimes, thieves have unscrewed bolts to remove hydrants. Other times, they’ve used a vehicle to knock the hydrant loose. Those targeting the hydrants have often used a shutoff valve before dislodging them. But on several occasions, they’ve left water gushing. Law enforcement officials and managers of Golden State Water Co. say they believe the hydrants are being taken to recycling centers and sold for scrap metal. The brass in the hydrants is especially in demand.

Aquafornia news United Nations

Blog: Leaders at World Water Forum urged to prioritize drought resilience

Drought is a hazard, but it needn’t be a disaster. That is, provided all communities are adequately equipped before it strikes. At the 10th World Water Forum, held in Bali from 18 to 25 May, experts urged decision-makers to prioritize drought resilience in the face of climate change, drawing inspiration from success cases around the globe. Representatives from the scientific, non-profit, and technical sectors made the case for building resilience to the world’s costliest and deadliest hazard at an event featuring partners of the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA.) … “Drought and desertification are not just problems for the Sahel region of Africa and for developing countries,” said UNCCD policy officer Daniel Tsegai before an international audience. “We already see impacts in highly productive and populated parts of the developed world like California, Spain, and Australia.”

Related global drought articles: 

Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Water infrastructure systems across the U.S are aging

Water is essential to many of our daily activities, but aging infrastructure jeopardizes these systems. According to the EPA, the country has underinvested in water infrastructure, a sentiment Jerry Burke, who is part of the American Society of Civil Engineers, also shares. … [I]ssues range from constant water main breaks to decades-old water pipes, and they are just two of the reasons why the ASCE gave the country a C in its latest infrastructure report card. The report card is released every four years and highlights the condition and performance of the country’s infrastructure. This past 2021 report was the first time in 20 years that the grade was out of the D range. Each state is also given a report card, with California also obtaining a C-.

Related water infrastructure articles: 

Aquafornia news Politico

Mexico’s new president is a climate scientist. That could be a boon for California.

California officials are cheering Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum’s victory as one for the California climate, too. “Having an engineer whose background is working on climate, it’s a big deal,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat representing California’s inland border region who was in Mexico City with Sheinbaum’s team on Sunday to witness her landslide victory. … California politicians already enjoy close relationships with their Mexican counterparts and have agreements in place to work on a host of climate issues, including drought, land conservation, recycling and cross-border truck emissions. … Josué Medellín-Azuara, an environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Merced said he was hoping for more collaboration on water infrastructure and drought resiliency in particular.

Related background article: 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: A California case of stealing water comes up nearly empty

It’s not every day that a former source gets indicted. So when a San Joaquin Valley water manager was charged by federal prosecutors two years ago with allegedly stealing millions of dollars worth of water for lavish personal gain, it stopped me cold. It simply did not square with the person that I thought I knew. Former general manager Dennis Falaschi of the Panoche Water District ended up agreeing to a plea deal last week, acknowledging that he stole some water and falsified some income on a tax return. But upon any objective examination, the deal is far more of a black eye to federal prosecutors than to Falaschi himself because the feds had accused him of stealing $25 million worth of water – more water than some California cities use annually. The government utterly failed to prove anything close to its original case.
-Written by columnist Tom Philp. 

Aquafornia news USA Today

Tuesday forecast shows brutal temperatures to Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada

The first rounds of dangerous heat have arrived this summer. Millions of Americans will endure extreme heat throughout California and Texas on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Excessive heat warnings, excessive heat watches and heat advisories have been issued across both states and the desert Southwest. Extreme heats will impact the Great Basin and Intermountain West toward the end of this week continuing into next week. The Lower Rio Grande Valley can expect record-breaking temperatures and dangerous heat indices through Wednesday. The heat index could reach 117 degrees in the valley, while Corpus Christi can expect a heat index of 111 degrees on Tuesday.

Aquafornia news UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources

Blog: Water in California’s streams is poorly monitored, impeding effective management

California relies on its rivers and streams for a plethora of services—water supply, flood control, biodiversity conservation, and hydropower generation, to name a few. As a result, understanding the flow of water through the state’s stream network is critical for supporting California’s economy and ecosystems. A new study published by UC Berkeley researchers in Nature Sustainability finds, however, that California’s rivers and streams are critically under-monitored, making it difficult to properly manage water supply and control floods, monitor changes in freshwater biodiversity, and understand how climate change is affecting water supplies.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Geoengineering faces a local vote with global consequences

The fate of the nation’s first outdoor experiment of the potential to limit global warming by altering clouds will be determined this week by a handful of local officials in the San Francisco Bay Area. But before the city council of Alameda, elected by a community of 77,000 people, decides on whether to allow the resumption of the internationally significant research, it will discuss replacing the roof of a senior center and other municipal issues. The consideration of the marine cloud brightening study — official, agenda item “7-B” — stands to be one of the first consequential public hearings on solar geoengineering in the nation. The unusual situation set to play out Tuesday night illustrates just how hard it is to test technologies that might be used in the future to brighten clouds or spray aerosols in the stratosphere — promising but ethically fraught ways to turn down the planet’s thermostat by reflecting sunlight back into space.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Map shows US lakes full of water right now

Numerous lakes and reservoirs across the United States have reached full capacity or near full capacity because of two unusually wet winters. This resurgence in water levels is a significant shift from the past few years when many regions faced severe drought conditions. The map below shows all the lakes currently at full capacity across the whole of the U.S. These include several lakes that have been the subject of great concern in recent years after prolonged drought conditions. However, two wet winters in 2023 and this year, have improved the outlook significantly, particularly in California.

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

County says it found no evidence of increased illness at South Bay Urgent Care tied to sewage spills

County public health officials say that a two-week investigation showed “no conclusive evidence” of increased gastrointestinal illness at a South Bay health clinic that claimed its patients suffered such symptoms since Tropical Storm Hilary inundated the heavily polluted Tijuana River in August 2023.  Public statements about a rising trend in the incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting spurred the county to dispatch experts to South Bay Urgent Care from Feb. 5 to Feb. 18 during a period when several inches of rain fell across the region.  A close review of patient charts during that fortnight, said Dr. Mark Beatty, an assistant medical director in the county’s epidemiology and immunization department, did find incidences of gastrointestinal illness, but at rates no greater than were observed at other medical providers in the area. 

Aquafornia news Valley Ag Voice

Placing Central Valley’s dairy industry and wetlands in focus 

Wetlands are the Earth’s largest natural source of methane — a potent greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere — according to the Department of Energy’s Larence Berkeley National Laboratory.   Methane is a key point of controversy among dairy producers and the environmental justice community given that dairy and livestock are responsible for over half of California’s methane emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board.   However, a peer-reviewed paper recently published by CABI Biological Sciences argues that the state’s dairy sector can reach climate neutrality in the coming years through aggressive methane mitigation which almost no other sector can achieve.  

Aquafornia news Counter Punch

Blog: Triumph and vision – the Tachi Tribe Environmental Protection Agency

In the spring of 2024, I met top members of the Tachi Yokuts Tribal Environmental Protection Agency at their offices on the Santa Rosa Rancheria near Lemoore CA. During the extremely wet winter a year earlier, the great Tulare Lake had once again overflowed its dams, dikes, levees and ditches, as it does every once in a while despite all the efforts of government and agribusiness, and spread to its full size of 800 square miles just south of the Rancheria, The return of the lake brought new faith and determination to these extraordinary people, who have lived here since long before the coming of the Europeans whom they have barely managed to survive.
-Written by Bill Hatch, a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of San Francisco.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

UC study examines organic strawberry costs

A new study that can help growers and other readers estimate costs and potential returns for Central Coast organic strawberries was recently released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “This study provides growers with a baseline to estimate their own costs, which can help when applying for production loans, projecting labor costs, securing market arrangements, or understanding costs associated with water and nutrient management and regulatory programs,” said Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and study co-author.