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 Arizona Department of Water Resources

Blog: Humpback chub – The tale of a Grand Canyon native fish species

Emily Higuera is an Environmental Programs Specialist for the Colorado River Management Section. She participates on behalf of the department in a number of programs, including the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, which focuses on environmental compliance upstream of Lake Mead to Lake Powell, as well as the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, which provides compliance at Lake Mead to the Southern International Boundary. Emily has always had a bird’s eye view of the Grand Canyon, until her trip with the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Group in June of 2022. That river experience, she said, “truly encapsulated the depth and wonder that is the Grand Canyon.”

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: First Klamath River dam to be removed by end of summer

We are thrilled to share that (de-)construction for removal of the Klamath River dams is well underway. Copco 2, the first of four lower dams slated to be removed, will be removed by the end of September, according to Mark Bransom, CEO of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. How will Copco 2 be removed? In a recent interview with KDRV, Bransom explained that contractors will drill small holes into the large concrete structure of the dam, pack those holes with explosives, and then detonate them. This will enable crews to break up larger pieces of concrete into smaller pieces that are more easily managed by their equipment. When will the other dams be removed? By the end of 2024, the remaining three dams — Copco 1, Iron Gate Dam, and J.C. Boyle Dam — will be removed.

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Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Toxic lead levels at CA child care facilities

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are more than 9 million lead pipes (which is a significant source of lead contamination) in drinking water across the United States.  It’s a problem that gained a national spotlight after the Flint, Michigan water crisis which began in 2014. Shortly after, California became the first state in the country to make a commitment to remove all of its lead service lines. But the lead pipe problem still persists. That problem is highlighted in a new report mandated by state law and focuses on potential lead contamination in the drinking water of state-licensed childcare facilities. The report revealed that drinking water at almost 1,700 childcare facilities across California (roughly 1 in 4) exceeded the amount of lead the state allows in drinking water.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

Experts say SoCal’s record winter rainfall is contributing to explosion of mosquitoes, bees and gnats

It’s something a lot of people have noticed around Southern California lately: bugs. Bugs, bugs and more bugs, everywhere you look. … It’s not just nuisance bugs and gnats but it’s also mosquitoes and bees. It all adding up to a busy season so far for pest control experts. “I’ve been real busy,” said Nick Cappellano, who owns Allied Pest Control. “I average between 16 and 22 jobs a day, responding to all sorts of things: ants, spiders, ear wigs, which are considered the pincher bugs that end up in the house.” For those wondering why we’re seemingly under attack this spring, experts say look no further than all the record rain we received over the winter.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: How we can all be guardians of the Delta – What we heard at our Tribal Listening Session

Before colonial and American expansion, California’s Delta watershed was occupied by the original guardians of the Delta. These were the Native Peoples of the numerous villages and Tribes of the Bay Miwok, Coast Miwok, Plains Miwok, Maidu, Nisenan, Ohlone, Patwin, Pomo, Wappo, Wintun, and Yokuts. Today, those original villages and Tribes are represented by many local tribal groups that still have a deep connection to the Delta watershed from Mount Shasta to the Tulare Basin. As the Council works towards its mission of achieving the coequal goals, we must partner with Native American Tribes to ensure their lived experiences and perspectives are heard and reflected in our shared work to create a more resilient Delta. This is why the listening session the Council held in April was so crucial. 

Aquafornia news Politico

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: How California averted painful water cuts and made a Colorado River deal

For months, California officials led by Gov. Gavin Newsom felt like they were at the bottom of a multistate dogpile in the closely-watched staredown over water rights across the American West. … That all changed in a dramatic way on Monday, when California went from the main villain over dwindling Colorado River supplies to something of a surprise beneficiary. The joint plan presented alongside Arizona and Nevada and roundly viewed as a victory by California officials — as well as environmentalists and business leaders alike. … It’s a remarkable turnaround when many were expecting only the Biden administration — and then, likely, the courts — to be able to break the stalemate and enforce a lasting solution.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California urged to end water grab on Scott River

The fight to maintain water levels in Northern California rivers for fish received a push after the Karuk tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations filed a petition with the California Water Resources Control Board seeking to permanently enforce minimum flows on the Scott River. Located in Siskiyou County, California, the Scott River is a 60-mile tributary of the Klamath River and home to several trout and salmon species, including some of the last Southern Oregon-Northern California coho salmon – a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997. … The petition filed Monday is not unlike the tribe’s petition filed in 2021, which spurred the state’s water board to adopt drought-related emergency regulations that set a minimum flow standard for the same river.

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Aquafornia news The Record

Newsom’s Delta Tunnel speed-up plan could hurt region’s fishing, farming, critics say

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on May 19 a plan to build out California’s clean and green future faster, but some local leaders aren’t thrilled with what it could mean for the controversial Delta Tunnel project. Newsom and the state Department of Water Resources have shown support for the $16 billion project to convey water from the Delta down to southern California, a concept tossed around since the 1980s. The current iteration downsizes the project from two tunnels to one. The governor hopes to speed up construction, expedite court reviews, streamline permitting and California Environmental Quality Act processes and start a climate projects financing program — all to expedite clean infrastructure projects across the state.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Epic Sierra snowpack headlines Headwaters Tour in June

Our Headwaters Tour June 21-22 will take you into the Sierra Nevada to explore the impacts of this year’s historically large snowpack, reported at well over 200% of average. Remaining seats are limited so don’t miss your chance to examine water issues happening upstream that have dramatic effects throughout the state. What exactly is an ‘average’ snowpack and how is it measured? How are those measurements then translated into forecasts of California’s water supply for the year, and is climate change making our reliance on historical patterns as a predictor obsolete? You’ll get an opportunity to learn about these topics directly from experts including Sean de Guzman, manager of the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

How hot is California going to get this summer? Here’s what experts say

Californians can expect hotter-than-average temperatures this summer. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the weather for June, July and August will be warmer than normal. The temperature map shows that in California, especially in northern parts of the state, there will be a 33% to 50% probability that temperatures will be above average. The rest of the U.S. — with the exception of a few Midwestern states — can also anticipate a warmer summer. The map is color-coded and the darker the color, the higher the likelihood that it’ll be hotter than normal. No portions of the country can expect below-normal summer temperatures.

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Aquafornia news NPR

California wants to store floodwaters underground. It’s harder than it sounds

For much of the last few decades, when the sky didn’t produce enough water for his cows and crops, Dino Giacomazzi — like most farmers in California’s southern Central Valley — pumped it from the earth. Underground aquifers, vast bank accounts of stored water, were drained. Now, after a historically wet winter, Giacomazzi and the state of California want to put some of that water back. “It is a no-brainer, win-win, multi-benefit opportunity,” said Giacomazzi, standing on his Central Valley farm, which depends on groundwater to grow almonds, lettuce and tomatoes for pizza sauce. More water stored underground means fewer flooded farms, and more water available to farmers like him during the next inevitable drought.

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Fight to get rid of California’s famous Hetch Hetchy Reservoir alive and well as it turns 100

As California’s famous Hetch Hetchy Reservoir celebrates its 100th birthday, the fight to get rid of it is alive and well. Spreck Rosekrans is with Restore Hetch Hetchy, a group dedicated to draining the reservoir and restoring it to its original state. … But like most things, it’s not that simple. Hetch Hetchy provides around 97 percent of drinking water to San Francisco. Jenn Bowles is with the Water Education Foundation, an impartial organization that doesn’t have an official stance on the issue. She said San Franciscans are very particular about their water, which is considered especially pure and soft. … Past efforts to remove the reservoir have failed, but Rosekrans still has hope. He said he thinks the undamming of Hetch Hetchy is something he’ll see in his lifetime.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

What is produced water?

“Produced water” is water that returns to the surface as wastewater during oil and gas production. The water typically contains hydrocarbons from the deposit as well as naturally occurring toxic substances like arsenic and radium, salts and chemical additives injected into the well to facilitate extraction. These additives include carcinogens and numerous other toxic substances that have the potential to harm human health and contaminate the environment. … In California, a local water board allows oil companies to sell their wastewater to farmers for irrigation, claiming the practice is safe. But an Inside Climate News investigation found that the board relied on scant evidence produced by an oil industry consultant and never reviewed long-term impacts on plants, soil, crops and wildlife.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Photos show Yosemite flooding as major river swells

A warm spell has hastened the melt-off from Yosemite National Park’s nearly unprecedented snowpack and brought minor flooding to Yosemite Valley. Over the past week, the Merced River has periodically spilled onto the valley’s roads, trails and campgrounds, and more on-and-off flooding is expected through the Memorial Day weekend. Yosemite Valley closed for two days in late April because of the flood risk, but park officials say they don’t expect to go that route this time. They’re advising visitors to be mindful of high water on roads and caution against getting too close to rivers and creeks. Already, two people caught in the swift currents of the Merced River had to be plucked out by rescue crews.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Dairies are returning to work after floods

Dairy operators in Tulare and Kings counties say they are thankful to return to the normal rhythms of feeding, milking and calving after historic flooding in March burst levees and forced dairies to rapidly evacuate their cows. The resumption of dairy activities is welcome news in two neighboring counties where milk and milk products are top commodities. Tulare County is the state’s leading milk and milk products producer. Kings County ranks fourth. Peter de Jong, owner of Cloverdale Dairy in Hanford, evacuated 5,000 cattle over two days in pouring rain in March, a feat he and his staff say they never want to repeat.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Saving rice in the era of global warming

Look inside my pantry any given week, and you’ll see rice paper for summer rolls, rice noodles for my slapdash version of pad Thai, a few packets of rice ramen, sake, rice wine vinegar, and rice cakes that the teenager likes to smear with peanut butter. There’s a bag of arborio for an occasional herby risotto, brown rice for rainy day khichdi, a basmati from Bryce Lundberg’s farm in Northern California, and a red rice that Anna McClung, a plant breeder, developed from a variety considered a weed. In the freezer now, there’s a tub of dosa batter, made of rice flour and lentils, from my local Indian grocer.

Aquafornia news UCSB - The Current

How a drought affects trees depends on what’s been holding them back

Droughts can be good for trees. Certain trees, that is. Contrary to expectation, sometimes a record-breaking drought can increase tree growth. Why and where this happens is the subject of a new paper in Global Change Biology. A team of scientists led by Joan Dudney at UC Santa Barbara examined the drought response of endangered whitebark pine over the past century. They found that in cold, harsh environments — often at high altitudes and latitudes — drought can actually benefit the trees by extending the growing season. This research provides insights into where the threats from extreme drought will be greatest, and how different species and ecosystems will respond to climate change.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Meet the czar coordinating Great Salt Lake’s rescue plan

The state’s new czar overseeing all things Great Salt Lake has a lot of work ahead while an environmental time bomb continues to tick. Last week, Gov. Spencer Cox tapped Brian Steed to fill a new slot as lake commissioner. If confirmed by the Senate, Steed will coordinate the many state agencies overseeing the Great Salt Lake’s water supply, water quality, wildlife and industries, all while preparing a strategic plan on how to keep the lake from shriveling up, and delivering it to lawmakers by November. That’s no small feat for any state employee, and Steed’s also going to juggle it with his current job as executive director of the Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University. Record-breaking snowpack may have bought Steed a little breathing room — it has already raised the lake’s elevation more than four feet from its record low in November. 

Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Heavy snowpack hampers foraging efforts of Tahoe bears

Spring is in the air in the foothills around Placer County, meaning Rob Hyde’s property in Applegate needs yardwork. He isn’t the only one who knows it’s lush and green in the foothills. … While bear sightings in the foothills aren’t new, executive director of the Bear League, Ann Bryant, who helps rescue and educate the public about bears in Tahoe, said the lower-elevations are seeing more bears than normal because the many bears around Tahoe woke to a heavy snowpack that is still persisting, forcing them down the mountains. … Bryant said bears getting into bird feeders and unsecured trash of people who aren’t used to them have been the bulk of the calls. She worries the easy food and a snowpack that isn’t melting quickly will have lasting effects on the bears that are usually at higher elevations.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

“Brave the Wild River” takes us down the Colorado River of 1938

Melissa Sevigny’s new book, published Tuesday, will make readers yearn for the adventure and natural beauty of a Colorado River rafting trip at the same time that it fires them up over sexism in science and media. Drawing on the detailed diaries of two botanists who became the first white women to “Brave the Wild River,” as the book is titled, the Flagstaff-based author guides us through the rough waters and peaceful moments of a story about facing fears and bucking norms to pursue scientific passions for the benefit of future generations. At a time when the Colorado River is making headlines like never before, due to drought conditions and tense negotiations between states over dividing up the fluctuating water supply, Sevigny takes us back.