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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: 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 Bloomberg

Colorado River water negotiators optimistic ahead of deadline

Officials involved in the talks over how to cut Colorado River water use amid a historic drought say they’re optimistic a consensus will be reached by states before a Feb. 1 deadline even though the negotiations are in a delicate place. If the seven Western states don’t reach consensus, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation will consider mandating water cuts—a move the states are working feverishly to avoid. More than likely, “we’re going to end up with some kind of hybrid outcome in which we have agreement in part, and some mandatory imposed outcomes from the federal government,” said Tom Buschatzke …

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

President Biden to visit California Central Coast with Gov. Newsom

President Joe Biden will visit California’s storm-wracked Central Coast on Thursday to survey recovery efforts with Gov. Gavin Newsom. The White House said Biden and Newsom will meet with local officials, residents affected by the storms and public safety responders in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, where storms have caused severe floods and landslides. Biden is expected to arrive around noon at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, where he will speak with reporters before taking a helicopter to view storm damage from the air on his way to Watsonville Municipal Airport. From there, the president will travel to Capitola to meet with merchants and residents affected by the storms, which damaged the Capitola Wharf and nearby businesses. Biden will also travel to Seacliff State Park, where another pier was damaged by tidal surges.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Water 101 Workshop offers rookies & veterans alike a chance to gain a deeper understanding of California water

One of the Foundation’s most popular events, our daylong Water 101 Workshop on Feb. 23 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone new to California water issues or newly elected to a water district board — and really anyone who wants a refresher — to gain a solid statewide grounding of California’s most precious natural resource. Hosted at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Water 101 details the history, hydrology and law behind water management in California and is taught by some of the state’s leading policy and legal experts.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

For all their ferocity, California storms were not likely caused by global warming, experts say

As California emerges from a two-week bout of deadly atmospheric rivers, a number of climate researchers say the recent storms appear to be typical of the intense, periodic rains the state has experienced throughout its history and not the result of global warming. Although scientists are still studying the size and severity of storms that killed 19 people and caused up to $1 billion in damage, initial assessments suggest the destruction had more to do with California’s historic drought-to-deluge cycles, mountainous topography and aging flood infrastructure than it did with climate-altering greenhouse gasses. Although the media and some officials were quick to link a series of powerful storms to climate change, researchers interviewed by The Times said they had yet to see evidence of that connection.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

North state rice farmers encouraged by rain

Rainfall from the recent storms in California have been an encouraging sign for rice farmers in the north state. Lake Oroville, which feeds water to farmers along the Feather River, has surpassed its historical average capacity for this time of year with its elevation measured at about 779 feet on Sunday, a rise of more than 100 feet since Dec. 1. The lake is at 56% of its total capacity and carries more water now than last year’s highest recorded capacity of 55% in May 2022… Colleen Cecil, executive director of Butte County Farm Bureau, said conversations about how much water will be allocated to farmers are happening now, but that the area will likely have enough water to produce as much or more than last year.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Saved by a rainy day? Californians ‘harvest’ water during historic storms

When Kitty Bolte looked at her yard at the start of California’s powerful winter storms, she saw more than half a foot of standing water behind her house. At first Bolte, a horticulturalist by trade, contemplated pumping it out onto the street. But with the historic rains coming in the midst of a historic drought, that seemed oddly wasteful. So instead, she and her boyfriend decided to save it. They found a neighbor selling IBC totes – large 330-gallon plastic containers surrounded by wire – on Craigslist, and filled them up using an inexpensive Home Depot pump. They also dragged some spare garbage cans outside to sit under the downpour, gathering 800 gallons in all. … One inch of rain on a 1,000 sq ft roof can result in 600 gallons of water – enough to water a 4 by 8 ft food garden for 30 weeks. In her cisterns, Dougherty collects much more – 2,000 gallons at a time that are stored in large plastic vessels that can be closed off.

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Aquafornia news CBS News

Eating one fish from U.S. lakes or rivers likened to drinking month’s worth of contaminated water

Eating one freshwater fish caught in a river or lake in the United States is the equivalent of drinking a month’s worth of water contaminated with toxic “forever chemicals,” new research said on Tuesday. The invisible chemicals, called PFAS, were first developed in the 1940s to resist water and heat and are now used in items such as non-stick pans, textiles, fire suppression foams and food packaging. But the indestructibility of PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, means the pollutants have built up over time in the air, soil, lakes, rivers, food, drinking water and even our bodies. There have been growing calls for stricter regulation for PFAS, which have been linked to a range of serious health issues including liver damage, high cholesterol, reduced immune responses and several kinds of cancer.

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Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

How government regulations are preventing flood waters from replenishing drought-stricken areas

A chorus of Republicans and moderate Democrats in the San Joaquin Valley has called for the Newsom administration to ease pumping restrictions and export more water to drought-stricken regions of the state. For two weeks a surge of floodwater flowed nearly unimpeded through the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and into the bay. It was another missed opportunity to seize on a wet year to export and store more water, argued the lawmakers. Climate extremes and a lack of preparation underline the challenge. But the fault lies with an inflexible process for updating the pumping permits rather than on water managers, according to a group of irrigation districts and water agencies with contracts for the exports. This week the same regulatory inertia put up another obstacle in the way of Delta pumping.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area flood risks increase due to rising groundwater, new map shows

During the recent storms that left widespread flooding in their wake, water wasn’t just coming down from the sky or in from the ocean. It was also bubbling up from underground into basements and inundating wastewater systems. Shallow groundwater, the layer of water just underground, rises up during wet winter weather, contributing to flooding problems. The groundwater table is expected to go up as the sea level rises, according to climate scientists. … The report maps out current and future groundwater levels along the bay shoreline in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Marin counties, based on climate change models, to give local governments newly available data to incorporate into planning for sea level rise.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

2,000 gallons of gas estimated to have reached river after crash

Some 2,000 gallons of gasoline are estimated to have reached the Colorado River after an accident in Glenwood Canyon Tuesday resulted in fuel spilling from a tanker. Kaitlyn Beekman, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division, said in an email Wednesday that the estimated volume of gas that made it to the river came from the Colorado State Patrol’s on-scene responders, with whom CDPHE has coordinated. … She said that upon learning of the spill, her department immediately began contacting downstream water systems to alert them.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: GOP claims about Prop. 1 water projects mostly off base

California voters approved a ballyhooed $7.5-billion bond issue eight-plus years ago thinking the state would build dams and other vital water facilities. But it hasn’t built zilch. True or false? That’s the rap: The voters were taken. The state can’t get its act together. Republicans and agriculture interests in particular make that charge, but the complaint also is widespread throughout the state. There’s some truth in the allegation. But it’s basically a bum rap. No dams have been built, that’s true. But one will be and two will be expanded. And hundreds of other smaller projects have been completed.
-Written by LA Times columnist George Skelton.

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Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: New restoration project kicks off on Scott River tributary

As drought persists and future impacts of climate change threaten, salmonids across the state will increasingly seek out refuge from warming waters.  Cold-water streams like Big Mill Creek, a tributary to the East Fork of the Scott River, offer important refuge for these fish including the federal and state threatened coho salmon. In the next few years, CalTrout, with the support of The Wildlands Conservancy and our project partners, will prepare to implement a project to restore fish access to upstream habitat in Big Mill Creek creating impacts that could ripple throughout the whole watershed. … Much of the river is warm, but there are cold-water pockets where thousands of coho salmon can be found. 

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

City of Bakersfield looking to drought-resistant streetscaping in long-range effort to save water

California may be flooding, but the multiyear drought is far from over. It only makes sense that the city of Bakersfield has its eye on reducing water use over the long term on city-owned properties and streetscaping along Bakersfield’s busy avenues and major traffic arteries. It’s why the city has begun taking advantage of incentives offered by California Water Service Co. that have the potential to return hundreds of thousands of dollars to city coffers, while saving millions of gallons of water annually. CalWater has established a program for customers, both big and small, that incentivizes turf replacement with drought-tolerant landscaping, sometimes called xeriscape. The program reimburses CalWater’s account holders up to $3 for each square foot of turf removed.

Aquafornia news Bay Area News Group

Editorial: Steinbeck, rainstorms and California’s water challenges

“During the dry years, the people forgot about the rich years, and when the wet years returned, they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.” Sadly, nothing much has changed in California and the Salinas Valley since 1952, when John Steinbeck wrote those words for the opening chapters of his novel, “East of Eden.” As a result, the atmospheric rivers drenching the state have been a decidedly mixed blessing. The rainfall means for the first time in more than two years, the majority of California is no longer in a severe drought. The Sierra snowpack is at 226% of average for this time of year, the largest we’ve seen in more than two decades. Reservoirs are filling at a rapid rate. … Then there’s the bad news, starting of course with the deaths of 17 Californians …

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California faces monumental dangers in future floods

The storms that have been battering California offer a glimpse of the catastrophic floods that scientists warn will come in the future and that the state is unprepared to endure. Giant floods like those that inundated the Central Valley in 1861 and 1862 are part of California’s natural cycle, but the latest science shows that the coming megafloods, intensified by climate change, will be much bigger and more destructive than anything the state or the country has ever seen. A new state flood protection plan for the Central Valley presents a stark picture of the dangers. It says catastrophic flooding would threaten millions of Californians, putting many areas underwater and causing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. The damage could total as much as $1 trillion.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Imperial Valley growers brace to give up Colorado River water

Across the sun-cooked flatlands of the Imperial Valley, water flows with uncanny abundance. The valley, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, is naturally a desert. Yet canals here are filled with water, lush alfalfa grows from sodden soil and rows of vegetables stretch for miles. … But now, as a record-breaking megadrought and endless withdrawals wring the Colorado River dry, Imperial Valley growers will have to cut back on the water they import. The federal government has told seven states to come up with a plan by Jan. 31 to reduce their water supply by 30%, or 4 million acre feet. The Imperial Valley is by far the largest user of water in the Colorado River’s lower basin — consuming more water than all of Arizona and Nevada combined in 2022 — so growers there will have to find ways to sacrifice the most.

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Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Shasta, Oroville, Folsom reservoir levels after weeks of rain

Without a doubt, weeks of rain and snow since late December are absolutely helping with California’s water supply. But how much help exactly is a question many have been asking. KCRA 3 Chief Meteorologist Mark Finan goes over where water reservoirs in Northern California stand. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot of good news. … Shasta is the state’s biggest reservoir, able to hold 4 1/2 million acre-feet of water. As of Jan. 17, it stands at 52% capacity compared to 34% a year ago. … As of Jan. 17, [Folsom] is at 54% capacity compared to 56% a year ago. The thing to understand about Folsom’s capacity right now is that it is already in flood control mode, meaning that water is already being released to balance out the reservoir because there is still plenty of the year to go. And then there’s the snowpack to consider when it melts.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Ringing in a New Year with a feast!

Happy New Year to all the friends, supporters, readers and tour and workshop participants of the Water Education Foundation! We’re grateful to each and every person who interacted with us in 2022. As we turn the page to 2023, flood-swamping atmospheric rivers have put a dent in our drought in California and across the West. Time will tell just how much. Ideally we want storms more spaced out through the winter. However they come, you can always keep up with the latest drought/flood/snowpack developments of our “feast or famine” water world with our weekday news aggregate known as Aquafornia. At the Foundation, our array of 2023 programming begins later this month as we welcome our incoming Water Leaders class. We’ll be sure to introduce them to you and let you know what thorny California water policy topic they’ll be attempting to solve.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Can we capture more water in the Delta?

A massive amount of water is moving through the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta in the wake of recent storms, and calls have risen from all quarters to capture more of this bounty while it’s here. We spoke with PPIC Water Policy Center adjunct fellow Greg Gartrell to understand what’s preventing that—and to dispel the myth of “water wasted to the sea.” … People complain that we’re wasting water to the ocean. While it’s true that there are pumping restrictions right now to protect fish, the maximum the projects could be pumping is about 14,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), not quite double what they’re currently pumping (8,000 cfs on Jan 12). With current outflows at about 150,000 cfs, we’d still see 144,000 cfs flowing to the ocean if they were pumping without restrictions.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California faces long, costly storm recovery

A pier in Santa Cruz split in half. Extensive flooding in Soquel Village, Capitola and Planada. Vital bridges badly battered or closed. More than 500 reported mudslides across California in the last few weeks, including some that damaged homes and cars in L.A. hillside communities. The atmospheric river storms that pummeled California for weeks inflicted “extensive” damage to as many as 40 of the state’s 58 counties, and total repairs could reach as much as $1 billion, according to authorities. The estimated cost is likely to change as teams of local, state and federal officials on Saturday began damage assessment that is expected to continue for several weeks, according to Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

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