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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 Deseret News

Can Lake Powell be drained? Different solutions to Western drought

Basking in the sunshine on a boat at Lake Powell is the quintessential backdrop for a perfect summer getaway. The human-made reservoir straddling the Utah-Arizona border has been a beloved destination spot that has spanned generations for many families. The glistening green waves against red rock canyons is home to many summer memories — but also to one of the nation’s greatest water reserves. … The blue-green water levels are getting lower and lower each year, raising questions about the future of the lake for tourism and recreation as well as generating hydroelectric power. 

Aquafornia news New York Times

Why does the American West have so many wildfires?

In just one weekend, the McKinney Fire, fueled by strong winds and high temperatures, burned more than 55,000 acres in Northern California, becoming the state’s largest wildfire so far this year. The blaze is only the beginning of the West’s fire season, which traditionally peaks between mid-July and October. All fires need fuel and a spark. In the West, fuel is plenty, with flammable pine needles, shrubs and grasses that can ignite easily. And while the region’s dry vegetation has always made it prone to fires, climate change is intensifying wildfires and lengthening fire season.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Could Lake Tahoe get even clearer? Scientists say there’s a way

Lake Tahoe, the world’s clearest large lake, could become even clearer over the next few years due to changes in its plankton population, scientists said in a new report. Researchers at UC Davis last week released their annual “State of the Lake” report, detailing several significant changes in Tahoe’s water, including the plunging level of Mysis shrimp, a type of zooplankton, which could increase clarity. The team of scientists predicted that the drop in the population of Mysis shrimp will have a cascading effect on the lake. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

When there’s arsenic in the water, but ‘we have nowhere to go’

In California’s Eastern Coachella Valley, some of the state’s poorest workers toil in fields and groves of date palms. … Three times a week, Pascual Campos Ochoa, 26, loads up a duffel bag with a brown fleece blanket and a plastic container of oatmeal. A van picks him up from the dusty trailer park where he lives — where stray dogs wander among the carcasses of old cars and working electricity is not a given — and takes him to a clinic for kidney dialysis.  Still, it was not until recently, he said, that he considered that his health problems may be tied to … the water tainted with high levels of arsenic that spewed for years from its aging pipes.

Aquafornia news NPR News for Southern California

Listen: As our climate permanently changes how is California fighting aridification?

Climate change has had a major impact across the world, specifically in California, one example of it has been the increasingly disastrous wildfires and drought issues we see today. With aridification, or the gradual change to a drier climate, changing the state, it does leave many wondering what can be done to limit its effects on Californians. The stricter statewide regulations on water, the state has shown a willingness to take the situation seriously–but the recent resignation of a California drought official did put into question just how urgent California officials are viewing aridification.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Lawn removal inspiration for fighting California’s drought

In case you missed the memo: Glossy green lawns fed by sprinklers arcing water into the sky just don’t work anymore in these days of lingering drought. … Water districts are offering rebates for removing lawns, but many won’t give you money for installing artificial turf (which keeps water from flowing into the ground, potentially killing trees and beneficial micro-organisms in the soil) or a bunch of rocks and a couple of cacti. Instead, you must include drought-tolerant plants and an efficient way to keep them watered, such as drip irrigation.

Aquafornia news Fox 40 - Sacramento

California cities introduce rules and fines on water use during the drought

As California enters yet another year of a continued drought, cities and counties across the state implemented water restrictions in the hopes of reducing strain on the states water sources. According to the state, banning the watering of non-functional lawns will save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water a year. In April, Contra Costa Water District asked users to reduce water usage by 15%. The district proposed a temporary drought surcharge of up to 15% starting in July. 

Aquafornia news The Denver Post

Editorial: A water crisis is here, the West must act aggressively, collectively

A billboard in St. George urges residents to use less water — “Utah is in a drought.” … Lake Powell and Lake Mead (as well as crucial upstream feeder dams) have reached record lows. Our aquifers are simultaneously being depleted. Snowpack is, on average, lower than historic levels, and even in a good snow year, it is melting too fast. Less water is available than ever before, as documented by The Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson’s Colorado River crisis story in July.

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: Five things you should know about California’s drought

With typically arid springs and summers, droughts are normal in California… but not at this intensity: Climate change is intensifying drought across the state, which puts the state in a precarious position that compromises water supplies for drinking and agriculture, increases wildfire risk, and threatens fish and wildlife. … We can adapt to future droughts through reducing our water use and switching to more sustainable water uses. We can expand our existing usage of recycled water, replenish our groundwater aquifers and increase our flexibility in crop and municipal uses. 

Aquafornia news Business Insider

Steak costs more these days. Drought may keep prices high for years.

The brown hills of Northern California are peppered with cattle. They spend their days slowly meandering under the sun, munching drought-withered grass. Cattle are California’s fourth-biggest agricultural commodity, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state’s agricultural department. But increasingly dry conditions are making the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone’s ranch was dry for the first time in the 46 years his family has owned it.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Food choices are the real drivers of water usage

960,000 acres of land in California are used to produce alfalfa, using 2 million gallons of water per acre, per year, all of which goes to feed livestock. What kind of livestock? Mostly dairy cows, of which there are 2.5 million in California alone. … It turns out, states [author Richard] Oppenlander, “60 to 70 percent of California water goes to livestock and crops to feed them.” …Once I learned that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, (raising the cow, growing grain for the cow, cleaning the cow) buying non-dairy milk sounds like a much wiser choice. Once I learned that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, giving up meat altogether seems like the only choice.

-Written by Patsy Ouellette, a longtime environmental advocate.​

Aquafornia news The Hill

Opinion: Plastics plague our oceans, killing marine mammals

A humpback whale was spotted off San Diego’s coast on Valentine’s Day 2020, entangled in a green plastic fishing net. It struggled to migrate up California’s coast, leaping repeatedly to desperately try to rid itself of the net.  But rescuers were unable to safely get close enough to try to cut the net off. … The plague of plastic in our oceans is steadily worsening, taking an increasingly deadly toll on whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals, not to mention other marine life. 
-Written by Dave Phillips, executive director of Earth Island Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Berkeley; and Mark J. Palmer, a biologist and the associate director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Opinion: Calif.’s great water experiments have failed. It’s time for real solutions.

As California’s prolonged drought continues, the State is at a crossroads. Recent headlines have been dominated by devastating wildfires and a growing number of the State’s poorest communities without water.  These catastrophic conditions demand answers and solutions from our leaders. … With the cost of living continuing to climb, the San Joaquin Valley’s most vibrant sector – agriculture – cannot continue to feed our communities, state, nation, or the world, if we do not have the most basic resource necessary to grow food, water. 
-Written by William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms, director of the Westlands Water District, and chairman of the Valley Future Foundation.

Aquafornia news CNBC

Monday Top of the Scroll: Vice President Kamala Harris to announce $1 billion to states for floods, extreme heat

The White House is making more than $1 billion available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to announce the grant programs Monday at an event in Miami with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters. … she is expected to address extreme weather events across the country, including the flooding in Kentucky and Missouri and the wildfires in California.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Blade

Newsom rallies local water agencies to do more, preliminary water savings reach 7.5 percent for June

Governor Gavin Newsom convened local water leaders this past Friday, for the second time in recent months, to call for their continued action to drive down urban water use and help Californians make permanent changes to adapt to a hotter and drier future. Preliminary numbers that reflect 95 percent of the population show that Californians cut back on water use by 7.5 percent overall in June this year compared to June 2020. The increase in conservation comes a month after Governor Newsom directly called on local water leaders to step up their work to ensure all Californians are doing their part to save water.

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Aquafornia news Union Democrat

New Melones Reservoir dips to lowest level in 5 years, federal officials cite ‘unprecedented drought’

New Melones Reservoir, the Golden State’s fourth-largest capacity reservoir, was 70% empty Wednesday — its lowest level in five years — due to the drought described by officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as “unprecedented.” Federal authorities closed the lower boat ramp at Tuttletown Recreation Area in Tuolumne County earlier this month because of the lowering water levels. … On Wednesday, the reservoir was holding 722,889 acre-feet of water, three-tenths of its 2.4 million acre-foot capacity, and it was 70% empty, according to state Department of Water Resources data.

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado River basin farms stunted by megadrought, as more sacrifice lies ahead

Colorado River basin water has transformed Nancy Caywood’s fields in the desert southwest of Phoenix into carpets of green cotton and alfalfa for generations. But in June, the alfalfa was expected to dry up, and a vast majority of the cotton wasn’t even planted. The irrigation canal that serves her property was shut down amid a 22-year megadrought that has hurt growers across the seven states that comprise the basin. Vultures gathered in the muddy pools of her canal, feasting on the dying fish, a week after her hay was cut in early June, likely for the last time this year.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

3 issues to watch as heat strains the grid

Drought conditions gripping the U.S. are shining a bright light on a severe and emerging risk to the nation’s long-term power supply: water scarcity…. The danger is most glaring on the parched West Coast where California, plagued by climbing temperatures, saw hydroelectric generation fall 48 percent below a 10-year average last year, and output was likewise curbed across the Pacific Northwest. The current dry spell — considered one of the worst on record — will likely take a bigger chunk of California’s hydropower out of commission….

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Aquafornia news Axios

California’s McKinney Fire explodes in size amid heat, drought

A wildfire in far northern California, near the border with Oregon, grew from ignition on Friday afternoon to become the state’s biggest fire so far this year, at nearly 52,500 acres by Sunday evening. The latest: At least two people were found dead in a car in a residential driveway on Sunday morning in the town of Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook on Monday. … The big picture: The McKinney Fire is affecting an area that is experiencing a drought, heat wave and dangerous weather conditions with dry thunderstorms Sunday and Monday. These storms will spark lightning strikes but little rain.

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Aquafornia news KCRA 3 - Sacramento

Tahoe ‘State of the Lake’ report highlights changes in the water

For over 50 years, researchers with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) have been carefully observing the waters of Lake Tahoe. This week, the annual “State of the Lake” report was released. According to UC Davis TERC director Geoffrey Schladow, 2021 data shows some major changes that hadn’t been observed to this point. One of the most notable is a drop in the Mysis shrimp population. This non-native plankton species was introduced into the lake in the 1960s.

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