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: 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 CBS 8 - San Diego

San Diego overcharged water customers $79 million since 2014

Months after a judge ruled the City of San Diego is overcharging some water customers, the city has yet to pay up, or make changes to its rates. Attorneys say the delay is costing taxpayers millions in penalty fees. They filed the case back in 2017, saying San Diego was violating a portion of the California constitution, which states governments that provide services are not allowed to charge more for those services than it costs them to deliver. … Specifically, the suit alleged San Diego had been overcharging single family residential customers in tiers 3 and 4, which are those who use more water than the average customer.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Massive Mosquito Fire becomes California’s largest wildfire in 2022

The Mosquito Fire became the largest wildfire to burn in California this year after growing over 63,000 acres Wednesday night, fueled by dried vegetation in an area that was cooling off after record-breaking heat last week. The massive fire has been burning for more than a week since it ignited on Sept. 6. It has spread over 14,000 acres since Tuesday. As of Wednesday night, the fire now covers over 63,000 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

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Aquafornia news BBC News

California drought: On patrol with the celebrity ‘water police’

In a blistering third year of drought, Californians have been asked to limit their indoor water usage to 55 gallons (208 litres) per person per day. It takes about 30 gallons to fill a bathtub, so forget about a deep Jacuzzi experience. Yet in the gated communities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills – exclusive enclaves in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu – lush lawns and filled swimming pools and koi ponds make it clear that some are ignoring the rules. So officials have created a device to take power showers away from rich and famous water hogs. A small metal disc with a pinhole drilled through the middle, it has seriously reduced the flow of water into some multimillion dollar homes. People here call Derek Krauss the ‘water police’.

Aquafornia news

Researchers develop a new way to predict droughts

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have developed a new method to assess the likelihood of extreme drought conditions in several different regions of the United States over the remainder of the century. Using this method, based on highly detailed regional climate models, they have found that droughts are likely to be exacerbated by global warming. This finding is especially likely in regions like the Midwest, Northwestern U.S. and California’s Central Valley. … In looking at future forecasts of droughts over the course of the remainder of the century, the researchers believe the new technique can help them to understand “flash drought” events that have a quick onset period that could be as short as few weeks.

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

Supervisors take 1st step to overhaul water, drought management strategies

The Board of Supervisors directed the chief administrative officer Wednesday to update the county’s water and drought-management strategies, including sustainability efforts, and deliver a final report within the next year. The overhaul, proposed by board Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas, will incorporate the entire region, including local municipalities, Imperial County and bi-national cities.

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Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Judge: Cambria lot owners can’t build due to water shortage

A group of property owners in one San Luis Obispo County community can’t build homes on their lots due to a severe lack of water, a federal judge ruled recently. U.S. Central California District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer made her ruling on Sept. 6 — dismissing a 2019 lawsuit filed by five landowners who claimed the Cambria Community Services District and San Luis Obispo County ruined any economic benefits from their Cambria properties by effectively refusing to allow them to develop homes. The landowners — none of whom reside in California — alleged that the community services district and county wrongly deprived them access to water and sewer services, therefore denying their right to build on their properties.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

2022 a bad year for rice harvest in California; drought concerns

The Sacramento River Valley is one of the top producers of rice. Half of the crop is exported to Japan and Korea and much of the sushi rice eaten in the United States is grown here. But according to the California Rice Commission, of the 500,000 acres normally produced, only 250,000 will be harvested this year. His crop is ready for harvest in a couple of weeks. The California rice grower managed to squeak out about a quarter of what he normally yields.

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Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Evaluating drought relief in Shasta County

Severe drought continues to impact California, and many residents need immediate relief. As summer winds down, Northstate communities are battling the lowest water levels of the year as is typically the case in September, and 2022 being the driest year on record, in the 139 year history of data keeping in Redding, has only exacerbated the problem. The Shasta County Department of Resource Management received a grant of over $2.4 million in July from the state Water Resources Control Board to be used through 2024. Relief efforts made possible by this grant include bottled water delivery, well deepening, repairs and replacement.

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

How Disneyland’s weather station helps save water and keep 1,000 floral beds blooming

Keeping Disneyland’s 17,000 trees green and 1,000 floral beds blooming takes a mammoth effort by the Anaheim theme park’s horticulture team that’s focused on reducing water consumption during Southern California’s latest drought. Constant readings from Disneyland’s weather station in the Toy Story parking lot combined with a sophisticated irrigation control system have allowed the horticulture team to cut water usage by 13% compared to the same period last year, according to Disneyland officials. … Disneyland is currently ahead of schedule on its commitment to reducing irrigation usage by 11% under a plan approved by the state, according to Disneyland officials.

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: SF Bay fish kill update – Recovery of long-lived species like sturgeon could take decades

Starting in late August of this year, the San Francisco Baykeeper and state and regional authorities began receiving increasingly frequent reports of unprecedented numbers of dead fish in the path of a massive “red tide” algae bloom on San Francisco Bay. The fish included large sturgeon, sharks, bat rays, and striped bass, as well as big quantities of smaller fish such as gobies and anchovies, in the water and along the shoreline of the bay. As a investigative reporter who has focused on fish, water, environmental justice and regulatory capture issues for 40 years, the images of the dead fish and other marine organisms were particularly devastating, since I’ve spent thousands of hours fishing on and reporting on the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California’s drought regulators lose big case. What it means for state’s power to police water

California’s drought regulators have lost a major lawsuit that could undermine their legal authority to stop farms and cities from pulling water from rivers and streams. With California in its third punishing year of a historic drought, an appeals court ruled Monday that the State Water Resources Control Board lacks the power to interfere with so-called “senior” water rights holders and curtail their diversions of water from rivers. The case stems from orders imposed by the state board in 2015, during the previous drought, when it halted farms and cities throughout the Central Valley from taking water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. … [Brian Gray, a water-rights expert at the Public Policy Institute of California] said the court’s ruling did suggest that the board could exercise its authority over senior rights holders by using emergency powers granted by the governor.

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Aquafornia news Politico

‘Forever chemicals’ are everywhere. The battle over who pays to clean them up is just getting started.

State and local governments across the country are suing manufacturers of toxic chemicals that are contaminating much of the nation’s drinking water, aiming to shield water customers and taxpayers from the massive cost of cleaning them up. These pervasive “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, are linked to a variety of health hazards, including cancer. Now, as state lawmakers and federal regulators get serious about removing them, scores of governments and water suppliers are in pitched court battles over who is on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage — the companies that created the chemicals or the customers who are drinking them. … In Orange County, Calif., water managers found PFAS in dozens of wells that draw from a vast groundwater basin that supplies 2.5 million people.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado farmers face difficult questions over future of river water

Surrounding Bernal’s land are the vistas of the Grand Valley, a strip of high desert situated on Colorado’s Western Slope marked by dusty mesas and cliffs and the winding, ever-present Colorado River, which plunges down from the mountains to the east. Grand Valley farmers and ranchers use the water to irrigate tens of thousands of acres, growing everything from peaches and corn to wheat and alfalfa. But since 2000 flows on the river have declined 20% and water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead have dropped to less than 30% of their combined storage. With the river overtaxed, Grand Valley farmers now face difficult questions regarding the future of water in Colorado and the West. 

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Aquafornia news Capital Press

Water shutoff leaves Klamath farmers scrambling to save crops

For Mike McKoen, a year of uncertainty farming in the Klamath Project has become a fight to the finish. With onion harvest fast approaching, McKoen had been counting on a steady supply of water from Upper Klamath Lake to irrigate his fields at a critical point in the growing season. Otherwise, he risks the crop dying in the ground and his investment turning to dust. Then came the Aug. 19 announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The project had run out of water for the summer, despite farmers’ arguments to the contrary. All remaining water in the system was needed to protect endangered fish, according to the agency. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A rare third year of La Niña is on deck for California, forecasters say

Californians should brace for another year of La Niña as the stubborn climate pattern in the tropical Pacific is expected to persist for a third consecutive year, forecasters say. The latest outlook, published Thursday by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, has increased the chances of La Niña sticking around through November to 91%, a near certainty. The pattern may also linger into winter, with an 80% chance of La Niña from November to January and a 54% chance from January to March. La Niña is the cooler phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern and is a significant driver of weather conditions across the globe, including temperature, rain and snowfall, jet streams and tropical cyclones.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

Here’s how climate change is hurting the U.S.

Day after day, week after week, the United States faces a barrage of climate extremes: wildfires in California. Drought on the Great Plains. Flooding in Florida. Yet assembling those puzzle pieces into a clear picture often can be difficult. It’s a problem the Interior Department and NOAA aim to address with a new website that provides data on real-time extreme event conditions as well as risk profiles at the national, state and local levels. A key feature is a running tally of climate-juiced hazards — such as droughts, wildfires and floods — and the number of U.S. residents facing these threats. The website is constantly updating these figures, but it also provides historical data for context.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

California’s wine country buckles under climate extremes

California’s wine country, including the famed Napa and Sonoma valleys, faces a climate crisis so dire that it’s posing an existential threat to the future of the state’s industry. Grapes have been hit with one extreme after another. The 2022 season started out with a deep frost that iced over verdant green buds, nipping them right off the vine. For the crops that survived, the freeze quickly gave way to drought and heat. Just in the past week, record-breaking temperatures baked parched vineyards. Then there’s the ever-present threat of wildfires and smoke damage.

Aquafornia news KUNC

As the Colorado River shrinks, water managers see promise in recycling sewage

In the parched Colorado River basin, water managers are turning over every stone looking for ways to keep the taps flowing. Now, they’re finding more water in some unusual places – shower drains and toilet flushes. At a sprawling sewage treatment plant in Carson, California, the occasional breeze delivers a pungent whiff of a reminder of how used water becomes “reused.” Here, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is planting the seeds for a massive new facility, where a multi-billion-dollar installation could help recycle wastewater and keep drinking supply flowing for the agency’s 19 million customers. 

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Aquafornia news Earth Island Journal

Collaboration, not control: Understanding what water wants can help protect built environments from floods and droughts

This diminutive puddle, which I have likely passed without noticing many times, is actually evidence of natural springs beneath the park that seep continually, he tells me. It’s a small sign of water’s hidden life, the actions this life-sustaining compound continues to pursue, despite our illusion that we control it. As climate change amplifies floods and droughts, people like Pomerantz are recognizing the importance of such minutiae that highlight water’s agency. In his free time, Pomerantz hunts and maps ghost streams, the creeks and rivers that once snaked across the San Francisco Peninsula before humans filled them with dirt and trash or holstered them into pipes, then erected roads and buildings atop them.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Water use drops significantly in Santa Clara County; drought targets met by increased conservation

After months of missing water conservation targets while California’s drought worsened, the 2 million residents of Santa Clara County appear to have turned the corner and are making significant progress now — much of it by dialing back sprinklers that irrigate their lawns and other landscaping. Santa Clara County residents reduced water use by 16% in July compared to July 2019 levels, according to new numbers out Tuesday, surpassing the goal of 15% set by the area’s main water provider, the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

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