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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 Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Solar development in the San Joaquin Valley

Hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland may come out of irrigated production in the coming decades to help balance overdrafted groundwater basins under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. At the same time, California needs to ramp up clean energy development to meet the goals of SB 100—and the valley has high solar potential. At a virtual event last week, PPIC Water Policy Center research fellow Andrew Ayres moderated a panel of experts and local stakeholders; they explored how solar development could help California meet multiple objectives while overcoming some challenges and delivering lasting benefits to the region.

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Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Permit to reopen Cambria’s Water Reclamation Facility remains continually delayed

It’s been more than two years since Cambria applied to turn its emergency water system into a more permanent fixture, but there’s been little progress since then. According to Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) board member Harry Farmer, the permit application was submitted to the county in July 2020. … Cambria’s water issues have been ongoing for more than a decade, but the problems with the now-proposed water reclamation facility started in 2014, after the district declared a water supply emergency. Due to a dire water shortage situation, SLO County proceeded to grant the CCSD an emergency permit to build a water supply project, bypassing the typical requirements needed to obtain an operating permit. 

Aquafornia news Utah Business

Not all of the ideas to save the Great Salt Lake are good ones

You’ve probably heard by now, but the Great Salt Lake is drying up. The lake reached record lows this summer, dropping to 4,190.1 feet in July. To put this in perspective, the lake was flexing about 3,000 square miles in the 90s. Now, it’s withered to less than 1,000.  There are some obvious things we can do about this, mostly on the agricultural side of things. But now we’re hearing of all kinds of less obvious ways we could save it, like amplifying snow storms or piping in water from California, among other ideas. … One of those ideas is called cloud seeding. The Utah Division of Water Resources explains it this way: “Ground-based seeders shoot silver iodide into winter clouds where it helps form ice crystals. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Draft report offers starkest view yet of U.S. climate threats

The effects of climate change are already “far-reaching and worsening” throughout all regions in the United States … The draft of the National Climate Assessment, the government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, provides the most detailed look yet at the consequences of global warming for the United States… As greenhouse gas emissions rise and the planet heats up, the authors write, the United States could face major disruptions to farms and fisheries that drive up food prices, while millions of Americans could be displaced by disasters such as severe wildfires in California, sea-level rise in Florida or frequent flooding in Texas.

Aquafornia news Fox KTVU - Oakland

California wildfires and drought: Where are we?

November is historically one of California’s worst months for deadly, wind driven mega wildfires. This year, there has been far less large runaway wildfires statewide, rainy conditions are to thank. … Mother nature has been kind to California so far this year, there have been fewer extreme heat spells, far fewer wind events, and more humidity. … But, California is still in a dangerous drought. The state’s six giant mega reservoirs, Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, New Melones, Don Pedro and San Luis, on average are only at 33%  capacity. Normally, all six are near 54%.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

NASA prepares mission to measure all of Earth’s water as multi-year drought bears down on California

With a multi-year drought bearing down on California and the West, there’s an intense focus on nearly every drop of water. But in a few weeks, we may begin to get a history making look at where that water is and where it’s going. Not just here, but around the entire planet. … Using technology, including a sophisticated form of radar, the satellite will survey and measure nearly all the water on the Earth’s surface, including lakes, rivers, reservoirs and the ocean itself. … Experts believe understanding flood patterns could help us recover and store valuable water that’s currently being lost. Perhaps diverting it into underground aquifers or reservoirs. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

LA suit over Monsanto PCB water contamination clears first legal hurdle

A Los Angeles County judge on Monday advanced LA’s lawsuit against Monsanto over chemicals the city says have contaminated its water supply. Monsanto filed a demurrer — essentially a series of objections to the city’s complaint — arguing, among other things, that the city filed a public nuisance claim “for property located outside the city’s jurisdictional boundaries.” … The city sued Monsanto in March over polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a “probable” human carcinogen, and which were banned in 1979 but have nonetheless lingered in a variety of older products like paints, sealants and electrical equipment. According to LA’s complaint, and similar complaints filed by other California cities, rain causes those chemicals to seep into rivers, lakes and streams.

Aquafornia news Northern California Public Media

Santa Rosa looks to shore up strategy to keep Eel River water available for use

PG&E has begun relinquishing its control of the Potter Valley Project. Concerned that this will reduce water supplies, Santa Rosa is exploring options. Mendocino County’s century old Potter Valley Project consists of two Eel River dams, a tunnel diverting some of the Eel into the East Fork of the Russian River, and an inoperable powerhouse in need of expensive repairs. … PG&E, which operates the project, abruptly withdrew its re-licensing application three years ago. It’s looking to surrender it in 2025. In response to the 2019 notice, Representative Jared Huffman formed an ad-hoc group that spawned the “two basin partnership” – a collection of fisheries advocates, local governments, and tribal authorities seeking to wrestle control of the Potter Valley Project.

Aquafornia news Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

New research: Accumulation, transformation and transport of microplastics in estuarine fronts

Millions of tons of riverine plastic waste enter the ocean via estuaries annually. The plastics accumulate, fragment, mix and interact with organisms in these dynamic systems, but such processes have received limited attention relative to open-ocean sites. In this Perspective, we discuss the occurrence and convergence of microplastics at estuarine fronts, focusing on their interactions with physical, geochemical and biological processes. Microplastic transformation can be enhanced within frontal systems owing to strong turbulence and interactions with sediment and biological particles, exacerbating the potential ecosystem impacts. The formation of microplastic hotspots at estuarine fronts could be a target for future plastic pollution mitigation efforts. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Efforts to protect groundwater are tested by drought

Balancing the state’s groundwater supplies for a sustainable future may not be easy due to severe drought and ongoing economic challenges facing farmers. “We’ve got the lowest prices and highest production costs and the least-reliable water supply that we’ve had since I’ve been farming,” said Bill Diedrich of Firebaugh, who farms row crops and permanent crops on the west side in Madera and Fresno counties…. Diedrich, who relies on groundwater for irrigating farmland in Madera County and surface water for ground in Fresno County, said farming at this time “is very difficult.” He said the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which tasks local agencies to balance groundwater supplies in affected basins by 2040 and 2042, means farmland must come out of production.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Lake Mead’s dire drought-stricken future foreshadowed at deadpool reservoir

Operations at one of Spain’s largest hydropower plants have been halted due to drought-like conditions, foreshadowing the future of the rapidly receding Lake Mead. Electric utility company Endesa SA has shut down its facility in Mequinenza, Zaragoza, Spain after its water levels receded below 23 percent capacity, Bloomberg reported. This is below the minimum required to produce electricity. The plant first opened in 1966, and until now, has never been shut down. Spain is suffering one of the most severe droughts seen in more than a decade, with around 32 percent of the country affected due to rising temperatures and lack of rainfall.

Aquafornia news Stanford News

New research: Beaver dams buffer rivers against climate extremes

As climate change worsens water quality and threatens ecosystems, the famous dams of beavers may help lessen the damage. That is the conclusion of a new study by Stanford University scientists and colleagues, publishing Nov. 8 in Nature Communications. The research reveals that when it comes to water quality in mountain watersheds, beaver dams can have a far greater influence than climate-driven, seasonal extremes in precipitation. The wooden barriers raise water levels upstream, diverting water into surrounding soils and secondary waterways, collectively called a riparian zone. These zones act like filters, straining out excess nutrients and contaminants before water re-enters the main channel downstream.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tiny, rural Allensworth takes on climate change with help from state grant

The state awarded $300,000 to the Allensworth Progressive Association, a local nonprofit, to “implement neighborhood-level projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and the environment and expand economic opportunity for residents,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The money will be used, in part, for planning flood control and infrastructure for wastewater management. … Funding comes from the state’s Transformative Climate Communities program, which awarded $96 million to 10 disadvantaged communities throughout the state last month. The projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64,000 metric tons, according to the press release.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Water is essence of carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration garners a lot of attention from those interested in climate change and sustainable agriculture. The piece that should be added to much of the conversation, however, is the relationship of water and carbon. “We should be considering that carbon sequestration and plant growth doesn’t happen without water,” says Nick Goeser, Principal and co-founder of Carbon A List … Goeser, who co-founded Carbon A List with Christophe Jospe, adds that raising public awareness that carbon sequestration and sustainability don’t happen without water is important.

Aquafornia news News West Publishing

Things aren’t getting any better on the water front

City officials recently met with the Bureau of Reclamation about the current and forecasted conditions of the Colorado River Basin. Needles City Manager Rick Daniels, at the Nov. 1 Public Utilities Board meeting, said that as of Oct. 16 Lake Powell is 25% full and Lake Mead is at 28% — for a total system storage capacity of 33%. … BOR, he said, is forecasting that by the end of the year the Lower Colorado River Basin will be in a Level 1 shortage with a high possibility of being in a Level 2 shortage, which would mean “further cutbacks particularly in the more junior water rights states.”

Aquafornia news Brownstein

Blog: Untangling water affordability – policy challenges and community impacts

From water infrastructure failures in Jackson, Mississippi, to a political and financing puzzle in California, water affordability is an emerging policy concern for an industry already facing huge challenges. Tune is as Brownstein’s Jessica Diaz speaks to industry experts Jennifer Capitolo and April Ballou about how the issue of water affordability and fragmentation is playing out among providers, the potential and pitfalls that come with federal assistance programs and the critical balance of providing affordable water without sacrificing safety or reliability. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Mistaken flash-flood warning sent in L.A. amid heavy rain

A flash-flood warning mistakenly went out to a far larger area than intended Tuesday as a heavy storm continued to lash Southern California, killing at least one person and forcing multiple swift-water rescue attempts. The warning, which was meant for about 1,500 people in the Fish fire burn area east of Duarte, went wide when a “glitch” changed the small, targeted area to all of L.A. County, according to the National Weather Service. The warning was canceled, and a corrected warning was sent to those in the burn scar area. Although the weather service issues such warnings, the alerts that are sent to cellphones come from a separate, federally managed system that the weather service does not control, said John Dumas, a meteorologist with the Oxnard office.

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Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

Southern California beaches under high bacteria warning after heavy rainfall

Beaches across Southern California have been placed under a high bacteria and high surf warning after heavy rainstorms covered the southland on Tuesday. The public is being advised to stay out of the water across all Los Angeles County beaches due to possible heightened levels of bacteria caused by “storm drainage, chemicals, debris, trash, and other public health hazards,” said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The advisory for all L.A. County beaches will last until Thursday at 3 p.m. People who enter the ocean water during this period could become ill, officials warned.  The bacteria and debris typically seep from nearby city streets and mountain areas, likely contaminating ocean waters around discharging storm drains, creeks and rivers after rainstorms, officials said.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Our farmers are conserving to help Colorado River

With a harsh desert climate fed only by a river over 80 miles away, water conservation is always on the minds of our Imperial Valley farmers, who demonstrate on a daily basis how to maximize water-use efficiencies while increasing their yields. Since 2003, IID has implemented and managed large-scale conservation programs that have yielded over 7.2 million acre-feet of conserved water to fulfill the obligations of the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water conservation and transfer program…. IID believes that the key to accomplishing Reclamation’s call for 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of Colorado River reductions to protect critical reservoir elevations is to develop cooperative solutions that respect the Law of the River, existing agreements and the water-rights priority system. 
-Written by Tina Shields, water department manager for the Imperial Irrigation District, which supplies Imperial Valley agriculture. 

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Solano board supports moving Highway 37 plan forward

The Solano County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to Caltrans supporting the Highway 37 Interim Project for interim and long-term solutions to congestion and sea rise issues. One of those solutions, Supervisor Erin Hannigan said, will eventually be making the highway a toll road, which she said many of the motorists using Highway 37 have indicated they support if it means less congestion. “Due to current and projected traffic congestion and flooding of the (Highway 37) corridor, the region requires both an interim and long-term solution to address these pressing concerns, including balancing a variety of transportation needs with enhancing recreational opportunities and protecting and enhancing sensitive marshland habitats,” …