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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: Field courses help young people see the real world

It was perhaps unsurprising I wound up a field ecologist. Raised in Wisconsin, I spent almost all my childhood free time roaming largely unchaperoned in nature, pre-internet. It was there that I developed a deep love for nature, water and fish that would stay with me my whole life. It was a privileged upbringing. And yet somehow it was years later, when I was 22 and taking a university field course, that I finally figured out I wanted to pursue a career in fish and ecology. It’s unclear how many biologists trace their paths back to experiences like these, but I suspect there are many. Field courses are so impactful, and we need them now, more than ever before. 

Aquafornia news O’Melveny

Blog: California Court of Appeal upholds subordination of dormant groundwater rights

Last week, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District of California issued a long-awaited decision in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Cases, resolving a dispute more than two decades in the making. The case adjudicated groundwater rights in the Antelope Valley Adjudication Area (AVAA) in northern Los Angeles County and southeast Kern County. The adjudication, which commenced in 1999, involved private water suppliers, public agencies, the federal government, and overlying landowners who pump water for agricultural, industrial, commercial, and domestic uses. Although currently unpublished, the court’s opinion illustrates several important developments in California groundwater law.

Aquafornia news Perkins Cole

Blog: Conviction for violation of Clean Water Act required knowing discharge “into water”

The Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for three counts of violations under the Clean Water Act because the district court failed to instruct the jury that the defendant needed to knowingly discharge material “into water” to convict. … In the summer of 2014, Lucero executed a scheme under which he charged construction companies to dump dirt and debris on lands near the San Francisco Bay, including wetlands and a tributary subject to the Clean Water Act. Although Lucero admitted to “walking the land” where the dumping happened, the period when the dumping occurred was unusually dry due to drought. The trial court found Lucero guilty on two counts of discharges into wetlands and one count of discharge into a tributary.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

St. Helena set to impose penalties for exceeding water rations

The city is getting ready to impose new penalties for water customers who exceed their rations during St. Helena’s Phase II water emergency. On Tuesday the City Council told staff to bring the recommended penalties back for adoption at the April 13 council meeting. The new penalties would take effect May 1. Meanwhile, city officials will develop clear conservation targets and look at adjusting the city’s water management policies, including how water allocations are calculated.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Strong state oversight needed to ensure California’s wetlands are protected

When the first European explorers arrived in California’s Central Valley, they found a vast mosaic of seasonal and permanent wetlands, as well as oak woodlands and riparian forests. What remains of those wetlands are still the backbone of the Pacific Flyway; along with flooded agricultural fields, they support millions of migrating waterbirds each year. According to a just-released study from Audubon, tens of millions of land birds rely on the Central Valley as well… But today, the situation is dire. More than 90% of wetlands in the Central Valley – and throughout California – have disappeared beneath tractors and bulldozers. 
-Written by Samantha Arthur, the Working Lands Program Director at Audubon California and a member of the California Water Commission.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Magazine

Blog: Refreshing the Estuary Blueprint

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s next update to it’s 2016 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Estuary—or Estuary Blueprint—will bring a new focus on equity and environmental justice to ongoing efforts to restore and protect the Bay and Delta.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. By some estimates, the amount of farmland that will have to be taken out of production to balance groundwater demand and supply is equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park — a transition that could serve a huge blow to the agricultural economy, rural communities and the environment. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Magazine

Beavers make good neighbors

Much like when tech money reshapes an historical neighborhood, a beaver’s move downtown can cause the locals to worry. In Napa, the animals’ sprawling waterfront complexes create worrying pools along the riverbank, while the native cottonwoods are whittled down and threaten landowners’ roofs. It seems destined that two species known for their environmental engineering would struggle to live in unison. However, municipalities like Napa and Martinez in Contra Costa County have learned to live with their beavers, and the upcoming California Beaver Summit aims to set the record straight.

Aquafornia news Merced Irrigation District

News release: Restoration of salmon habitat continues on the Merced River

Efforts are continuing to support restoration of crucial habitat for salmon spawning and rearing on the Merced River. Last fall, Merced Irrigation District completed the Merced River Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project. Adult salmon, which migrated from the ocean to the river, are already known to have used the new gravel beds for spawning. Now, in the coming months, surveys will be done by biologists to further study the use of the new stretch of river and the developing juvenile salmon that may rear there.

Aquafornia news My Mother Lode

Vandals hit local water authority’s supply system

Vandals caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Calaveras County water authority’s supply system and now the public’s help is being sought to catch the suspects. The crime occurred sometime during the weekend of Saturday, March 6th at the Utica Water and Power Authority’s (Utica) public water supply system east of Forest Meadows near the end of Pennsylvania Gulch Road in the Murphys area. Authority officials note that this is the only water supply for more than 10,000 residential, commercial and agricultural customers between Murphys and Angels Camp. 

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

News release: ACWA-Sponsored SB 323 passes Committee hearing

ACWA-sponsored SB 323 (Caballero) passed out of the Senate Government and Finance Committee on March 25, following a hearing in which ACWA staff and members testified in support….The bill would improve financial stability for public agencies by creating a 120-day statute of limitations for legal challenges to water and sewer service rates. It comes as water and wastewater agencies have faced increased litigation from ratepayers over whether agency rates comply with Proposition 218 and other existing laws.

Aquafornia news Allen Matkins

Blog: 2021 land use, environmental & natural resources update

With the end of the first quarter of 2021 approaching, we thought it timely to issue an update on selected recent developments and proposed changes in law and policy touching environmental, land use, and natural resource issues. At the national level, with the new Biden administration, federal policies already have undergone a significant sea-change from those of the Trump administration. And the Golden State continues to lead with a protective agenda on land use, environmental, and natural resources legislation and regulation.

Aquafornia news Patch

Oceanside ranked among worst water quality

Water-related challenges are among the biggest issues in Oceanside, ranging from our drinking water quality to concerns over drought and runoff polluting the ocean. With an overall score of 39.79, Oceanside finished just above Moreno Valley, CA, and Garden Grove, CA to be ranked as the 3 cities with the worst water quality. The city with the highest-ranking was Columbus, OH, with a score of 81.03.

Aquafornia news East County Magazine

Santee council gets update on Padre Dam’s big project

Padre Dam Water District wants to keep everyone in the loop about its massive sewage reclamation project, especially the city where the project is located — Santee. At its March 24 virtual meeting, the Santee City Council approved a legal agreement to work collaboratively with the joint powers authority that is overseeing the nearly $700 million program called Advanced Water Purification. … The Advanced Water Purification project got going in 2014 and is similar to several other water reclamation projects in the state, including one being built by the city of San Diego called Pure Water. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Blog: USC student tackles Kern River for media project

It may surprise you (it surprises me all the time) but a lot of young people are deeply interested in how our world runs. Especially young people who also have a passion for journalism. One of those young people, Jonathan Horwitz, a graduate fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, contacted me some months ago asking about water. He wanted to do a multimedia project on the subject and eventually settled on the complexities of the Kern River. Below is a link to his finished product, which I think deserves an A+.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Magazine

Friday Top of the Scroll: Delta study predicts stronger floods and less water supply

[F]or those who live in the legal Delta zone – some 630,000 people – the braided weave of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their maze of associated wetlands and levees provides a place of home, community, and recreation. And, as a recent study by the Delta Stewardship Council shows, climate change is tugging on the watery thread holding it all together. … The council’s overview reveals a grim outlook for the millions of people that are tethered to the region’s water: drought similar to that experienced in 2012-2016 will be five to seven times more likely by 2050. This will result in more severe and frequent water shortages and, as the report bluntly states, “lower reliability of Delta water exports.”

Related article:

Aquafornia news KCRA

Below-average winter prompts California water conservation

The second consecutive dry winter has prompted state water managers to reduce allocations to the state water project that supplies millions of Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The state Department of Water Resources announced this week that it will only be able to deliver 5% of the requested allocations following below-average precipitation across the state. That figure is down from the initial allocation of 10% announced in December. Many of the state’s major reservoirs are recording just 50% of average water storage for this time of year, and won’t see a major increase due to a snowpack that is averaging just 65% of normal, according to state statistics..

Relate articles:

Aquafornia news Grist

Farms, feathers, and fins share water in California

The rivalry between farms and wildlife for water and land was long seen as a zero-sum game, especially in California where water is such a precious commodity that the state’s water futures are traded on the stock exchange. That competition has been particularly sharp in the Central Valley: 95% of the region’s historic wetlands have transformed into farmland, and the region’s increasingly scarce water supply has been prioritized for farming. As a result, some of the migratory birds that rely on the Central Valley for habitat, food, and water sources have seen steep declines in the past century. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Foundation board of directors reappoints Mike Chrisman as president; welcomes Hancock water resources VP to board

Each year, the Board of Directors of the Water Education Foundation votes to accept a member of the graduating Water Leaders class to join the board for a three-year term. For the 2020 class, the board selected Carl B. Evers III, vice president of water resources for Hancock Natural Resource Group, where he is responsible for the management of water policy at the state and national level for the company’s agricultural investments in the western United States.  Evers joins a board whose president is Mike Chrisman, who served as California natural resources secretary for seven years under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Aquafornia news Science News

Simple structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Many of the wetlands in the western United States have disappeared since the 1700s. California has lost an astonishing 90 percent of its wetlands, which includes streamsides, wet meadows and ponds. In Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, more than 50 percent of wetlands have vanished. Precious wet habitats now make up just 2 percent of the arid West — and those remaining wet places are struggling. Nearly half of U.S. streams are in poor condition, unable to fully sustain wildlife and people, says Jeremy Maestas, a sagebrush ecosystem specialist with the NRCS who organized that workshop on Wilde’s ranch in 2016. As communities in the American West face increasing water shortages, more frequent and larger wildfires and unpredictable floods, restoring ailing waterways is becoming a necessity.