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 Chris Bowman.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

State considers using effluent water credits

The Arizona Water Banking Authority is exploring the possibility of buying purified wastewater to distribute later – which would be unprecedented. At the AWBA commission’s meeting on Sept. 13, new bank manager Rebecca Bernat asked whether she should look into the possibility of the bank using effluent water credits. Until 2019, AWBA has only used excess Colorado River water long-term storage credits. That’s for the Central Arizona Project water stored in aquifers. Users can get the water later during a potential shortage by pumping it back out.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Future ancestors of freshwater fishes in California

We are living in the Anthropocene, an era being defined by global mass extinctions caused by humanity. While on-going and impending extinctions of birds and other terrestrial vertebrates gain the most attention, the situation with freshwater fishes (and other freshwater organisms) is as bad or worse, partly because many freshwater extinctions are nearly invisible events, hidden by murky waters (Moyle and Leidy 2023). The extinction threat is especially high for obligatory freshwater fishes including many species endemic to California (Moyle and Leidy 2023). The ultimate cause is competition between people and fish for clean water.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s remote wilderness is getting polluted by balloons

Avid hiker Alyssa Johnston was exploring a trail in the High Sierra when something in the distance caught her eye. She approached the bright colors and realized they were Mylar balloons — and did not belong in the wilderness. Mylar balloons, which have a metallic coating and are filled with helium, have become a concern for biologists and nature lovers, disrupting the enjoyment of outdoor spaces and posing harm to wildlife. Their ability to travel long distances in the air means they are polluting extremely remote areas, although responsible balloon shops are working to educate customers on safe disposal. Johnston has pulled balloons out of lakes numerous times. Often, she said, “they’ll just disintegrate and I’m just trying to pick up all the little pieces because it’s this beautiful, pristine lake and then now you have this ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon.”  

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tübatulabal tribe celebrates homecoming with return of a slice of its ancestral lands

Tribal members celebrated the return of more than 1,200 acres of their ancestral lands in the jagged hills above Weldon on Saturday in a ceremony marked with gratitude, emotion and prayer. Chairman Robert Gomez opened the event by thanking a large number of people who helped find, purchase and deed the land back to the Tübatulabal tribe, which has called the Kern River Valley home for more than 5,000 years. Western Rivers Conservancy was chief among those Gomez called out for their help in obtaining the land. Western Rivers, a non profit dedicated to restoring rivers, helped secure funding through the state Wildlife Conservation Board and Sierra Nevada Conservancy and facilitated the handover of the land to the tribe.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

A year after Great Salt Lake’s record low, half the lake is left for dead

During the winter of 2022, Utah lawmakers on Capitol Hill boarded a pair of Black Hawk helicopters to tour something bleak: the sprawling exposed lakebed, drying mud flats and the water that remained at the Great Salt Lake, which had reached an all-time low. It inspired them to act. The following months saw a flurry of water conservation bills and millions of dollars dedicated to reversing the lake’s decline, including a $40 million trust. The Great Salt Lake sunk to a record low in the fall of 2022, and another round of water reforms followed. Then came a record-busting amount of snowpack in 2023 that many Utahns hoped would buy some time and stave off the lake’s collapse.

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: State Water Board delivers $3.3 billion to California communities to boost drought resilience and increase water supplies

Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water. The State Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. 

Aquafornia news Pomerado News

San Diego expected to approve water-rate hikes of almost 20 percent

San Diego water bills would rise nearly 20 percent under a rate-increase proposal the City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday. The increase, which city officials began studying last fall, would be the first comprehensive rate hike approved by the council in nearly eight years. It would include a 10.2 increase this December and an 8.75 percent jump in January 2025. City officials say they need additional revenue increases to cover rising costs for imported water, upgrades to thousands of aging pipes and a long list of short-term and long-term capital projects. The capital projects include the Pure Water sewage-recycling system, which has been under construction since last year, and upgrades needed to several aging city dams that state officials have deemed in poor condition.

Aquafornia news Seattle Times

At beaver summit, role of hefty rodents praised in climate change fight

As the nation faces a future of increasing flooding, drought and wildfires, millions of 60-pound rodents stand by, ready to assist. Beavers can transform parched fields into verdant wetlands and widen rivers and streams in ways that not only slow surging floodwater, but store it for times of drought. … Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor of physical geography at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities … who spoke earlier this week at the first-ever Midwest Beaver Summit, is part of a broader “beaver restoration” movement that has gained ground in recent years with ecologists in Colorado using simplified human-made beaver dams to encourage the animals to recolonize waterways, and California passing a new law encouraging nonlethal approaches to human-beaver conflicts.

Aquafornia news KUER - Salt Lake City

How rural southwest Utah is proving the potential of renewable geothermal energy

There’s a new hotspot in the world of geothermal energy: a seemingly sleepy valley in Beaver County. Its secret? The valley sits on top of bedrock that reaches temperatures up to 465 degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph Moore, who manages the Utah FORGE research project, pointed across a dirt parking lot to a well being drilled at the University of Utah’s subterranean lab. … The mission of the FORGE project — which stands for Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy — isn’t to produce its own electricity. It’s to test tools and techniques through trial and error and, in the process, answer a big question: Can you pipe cool water through cracks in hot underground rock and create a geothermal plant almost anywhere?

Aquafornia news Lodi News-Sentinel

A messy aftermath: Residents concerned about debris, erosion on Mokelumne River

Residents of a senior community in east Lodi want to know which agency is responsible for removing downed trees from the Mokelumne River. Joyce and Mike Tracy said the heavy storms that hit Lodi at the beginning of the year caused three trees to fall into the river in March, blocking water flow downstream. As a result, water levels have risen to the top of the riverbank, causing damage to properties in the Casa de Lodi community at 29 Rio Vista Drive.

Aquafornia news The Good Men Project

Reviving a famously polluted California lake

Jesus Campanero Jr. was a teenager when he noticed there was something in the water. He once found a rash all over his body after a swim in nearby Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. During summertime, an unbearable smell would waft through the air. Then, in 2017, came the headlines, after hundreds of fish washed up dead on the shore. “That’s when it really started to click in my head that there’s a real issue here,” says Campanero, now a tribal council member for the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians of California, whose ancestors have called the lake home for thousands of years. The culprit? Harmful algal blooms (HABs). 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California gets $100 million to plant trees and combat heat

California is among the states that will share in more than $1 billion in federal funding to help plant trees in an effort to mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials announced last week. The Golden State will receive about $103 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service … for tree planting and maintenance, urban canopy improvements and other green efforts. The funding comes from President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and marks the act’s largest investment to date in urban and community forests, officials said. … “This grant funding will help more cities and towns plant and maintain trees, which in turn will filter out pollution, reduce energy consumption, lower temperatures and provide more Californians access to green spaces in their communities,” read a statement from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about the program.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: A court settlement puts the E.P.A. on track to regulate pesticides more strictly

Call it a win for the little species, though all kinds of endangered animals and plants stand to benefit. A sweeping legal settlement approved this week has put the Environmental Protection Agency on a binding path to do something it has barely done before, by its own acknowledgment: Adequately consider the effects on imperiled species when it evaluates pesticides and take steps to protect them. … In the same area as crop-damaging insects, there may be threatened bumblebees and butterflies; among unwanted weeds, endangered plants. At the same time, pesticides help farmers produce enough food to meet the demands of a growing population. … Aquatic species like salmon and mussels do, too, as they are particularly vulnerable to pesticides that contaminate nearby water …

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

‘Salton Sea Conservancy’ bill stalls in California Legislature

Would a proposed Salton Sea Conservancy help efforts in the troubled region? Elected officials and local organizations are split, with some saying it will just add another layer of bureaucracy to already mired efforts. California Senate Bill 583, authored by state Sen. Steve Padilla, D-San Diego, and coauthored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, would create the Salton Sea Conservancy, “tasking it with coordinating management of all conservation projects in the region to restore the shrinking sea and reducing the negative health impact the Sea imposes,” according to Padilla’s office. There are currently 10 similar state conservancies under the California Natural Resources Agency, including the local Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. 

Aquafornia news NASA

News release: NASA announces summer 2023 hottest on record

Summer of 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The months of June, July, and August combined were 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (0.23 degrees Celsius) warmer than any other summer in NASA’s record, and 2.1 degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than the average summer between 1951 and 1980. August alone was 2.2 F (1.2 C) warmer than the average. June through August is considered meteorological summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This new record comes as exceptional heat swept across much of the world, exacerbating deadly wildfires in Canada and Hawaii, and searing heat waves in South America, Japan, Europe, and the U.S., while likely contributing to severe rainfall in Italy, Greece, and Central Europe.

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Aquafornia news Business Insider

Las Vegas wants to ensure firms have a water-conservation plan

Las Vegas isn’t just a hot spot for revelers. Thousands of businesses, particularly from California, have moved to the region over the past few decades, and the population is booming alongside other Southwestern cities. All of that growth in a region plagued by extreme heat, drought, and a dwindling water supply raises tough questions for city and state officials who want to spur economic growth without draining the Colorado River dry. In one example of that challenge, Arizona’s governor in June halted construction in areas around Phoenix, citing a lack of groundwater.

Aquafornia news Fresnoland

Advocates want water board diversity in California’s Central Valley

During three weeks in December and January, storms dumped 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow on California. With it came unwelcome floods for many communities of color. The winter and spring storms were a rare chance for drought-stricken communities to collect rainwater, rather than have their farms, homes and more overwhelmed by water. Much of the rain that fell instead overflowed in lakes and streams, leading to disaster in low-income Central Valley towns like Allensworth and Planada. In the aftermath of the damage, community leaders are reiterating a call to diversify water boards to give marginalized groups more power. The California State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees the distribution of water in the state, has acknowledged that its workforce does not reflect California’s racial composition.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Colorado River water – Abattis lose latest bid to pry control from IID

Imperial County’s largest farming family has lost again in its years-long bid to gain control of valuable Colorado River water allocations associated with its land. The Imperial Irrigation District on Tuesday won a motion to dismiss a case by Mike Abatti and several relatives, close friends and business associates that closely mirrored an ultimately unsuccessful series of cases they had brought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear their petition in 2021. U.S. Southern District Court Judge Michael Anello, based in San Diego, issued the motion to dismiss the new case after hearing oral arguments from both sides a week ago, based on res judicata, a legal term meaning that the matter already had been judged.

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Aquafornia news KUSI - San Diego

California Water Board holds meeting on Tijuana Sewage

For decades, Mexico has dumped millions of gallons of sewage from the Tijuana River Valley into the Pacific Ocean, without any concern for the environment. The sewage then moves north, contaminating the waters of Imperial Beach, and even Coronado. Year after year, politicians have tried and failed to stop the sewage. In September 2020, under President Donald Trump, Congress allocated $300 million to the EPA as part of Trump’s replacement for NAFTA, the US-Mexico-Canada agreement. Despite the allocation of funds, the money was halted once the Biden Administration took over, which is normal procedure. Biden Administration officials wanted to “re-study” how best to use the funding, to effectively attack the sewage problem.

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

San Diego Pure Water project will reduce need for imported water

California is looking to boost water supply and considering new regulations to recycling wastewater straight to your tap. Some refer to it as toilet to tap, however experts in the field say this phrase is anything but accurate. … CBS 8 visited San Diego’s Pure Water project. It’s in phase one of construction and will supply nearly half of the city’s drinking water by the end of 2035. The water goes through a rigorous recycling process. Our crews got to see it all happen at the Pure Water demonstration site. “Five different treatment steps,” said Dough Campbell, the deputy director of Pure Water operations. Campbell said water is treated at a wastewater plant before it ever arrives to Pure Water. Then the water goes through a five step process of ozone, biologically active carbon filters, membrane filters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet lighting.