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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 Chris Bowman.

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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 San Francisco Chronicle

Two dams are coming down on California’s Eel River. Will it threaten water supplies?

… Over the next several years, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the current owner of the Potter Valley Project, is planning to retire the hydroelectric plant and remove two dams on the Eel River that provide water for the facility. With power production shut down, tunneling water into the Russian River won’t be necessary. … The Potter Valley Project provides a portion of the water supply for large swaths of Mendocino and Sonoma counties. … Scores of vineyards here are tethered to water rights that are subject to restriction when river levels drop. During the recent drought, hundreds of water-rights holders were forced to stop pumping — a scenario many believe was a preview of a future where the Eel River doesn’t continue to supplement the Russian. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Sierra snowpack “unusually normal,” reservoirs brimming at end of winter

As winter conditions wind down, the beginning of April is always the most important time for California’s water managers to take stock of how much snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada. This year, something unusual happened. After years of extreme drought and several very wet flood years, the Sierra snowpack, the source of one-third of the state’s water supply, is shockingly average this year: 104% of normal on Friday. And more is on the way.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last Call for Water 101 Workshop in Sacramento

Last call to register for our Water 101 Workshop, an annual daylong course on California water hosted at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento! View an agenda here for our popular workshop that details the history, geography, and the legal and political facets of water in California. Plus, workshop participants are invited to grab one of the few remaining seats on the optional groundwater tour on April 4. Find more details and register here today! And see what else we have on tap this spring!

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Salmon populations are struggling, bringing economic woes for California’s fishing fleet

… The season typically runs from May to October, but California Chinook salmon populations have declined so severely in recent years that fishery authorities are considering whether to adopt severe restrictions this season or impose a ban on fishing altogether for the second consecutive year. … [Many salmon fishers lay] much of the blame on California water managers, who [they say] send too much water to farms and cities and deprive rivers of the cold flows salmon need to survive.

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Aquafornia news KSBW 8 - Central Coast

After decades without safe drinking water, a California community will receive aid to build a pipeline

A generational issue for the families living in San Lucas continues as they’ve gone decades without drinking water. Soon federal, state, and local leaders will secure nearly a million dollars to build a pipeline to King City. … Plants not growing, animals dying, young children unable to bathe, this is the reality for those living in the unincorporated South Monterey County town of San Lucas.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona AG investigating groundwater overpumping as ‘nuisance’

Attorney General Kris Mayes told La Paz County residents she’s considering a lawsuit to stop corporate farms from overpumping groundwater there and in Cochise County. Her investigators are seeking examples of harm such as dry wells, cracked foundations and dust on which to build a possible case using the state’s nuisance laws, she said Thursday. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘We are the guinea pigs’: Arizona mining project sparks concerns for air and water

[Denise] Moreno Ramírez wasn’t surprised when she heard an Australian mining company, South32, planned to open a manganese, zinc, lead and silver operation in the same area where her family had worked. … But this latest proposed mine was alarming, she said, because Biden is fast-tracking it in the name of the energy transition – potentially compromising the mountain’s delicate ecosystems, many of which have begun to be restored as mines have shut down. … A growing network of Arizona residents say that allowing the mine to proceed as planned could introduce a grave new layer of environmental injustices. …Conservationists say they worry that South32 is seeking to use water irresponsibly amid long-term drought. 

Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

High concentration of ‘forever chemical’ found in Red Bluff residents’ water

Residents at Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park were given bottled water and warned about possible contamination in their well during a March meeting organized by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and California’s Division of Drinking Water. First reported by the Red Bluff Daily News, the concern stems from alarming levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Those man-made chemicals, called PFAS, are used to make a huge number of modern products like stain-resistant material, nonstick cookware, food packaging and waterproof clothing. They’ve also been linked to health impacts including cancer, liver and thyroid damage.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

‘Avoid water contact’ at all LA County beaches, officials warn

After another spate of late-spring rain, Los Angeles County public health officials are warning people to stay out of the water until at least Wednesday. The Department of Public Health issued an ocean water quality rain advisory for all Los Angeles County beaches due to the stormy weather. … The warning stretches the entire LA coastline.

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Restoring protections for Colorado endangered waters and wetlands

Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation to restore protections to key waters and wetlands struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in a decision leaving more than half of the nation’s water supply at risk of industrial pollution. Margaret Kran-Annexstein, director of the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club, said House Bill 1379 is in sync with Colorado voters, pointing to a recent survey which found nearly nine in 10 voters want to limit damage and pollution from development, industry and mining on wetlands and streams.

Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

Southern California water board member admits to stealing $30K in water

An elected member of a Ventura County water board has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of stealing water for his Oxnard farm. Daniel Naumann, 66, admitted to one count of grand theft of water, Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said in a Friday news release. As part of his plea agreement, five other felony charges will be dropped, the Ventura County Star reports. Naumann, a Camarillo resident who is owner and operator of Naumann Family Farms, was an elected board member of the United Water Conservation District and an alternate board member of the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency. … Despite those roles, Naumann took nearly $30,000 in water between 2019 and 2021 using “diversion bypasses [that] were installed on two commercial water pumps that irrigated Naumann’s crops,” the release stated.

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Commentary: Fresno County farmers without water look to the sun for income

Some Bee colleagues and I recently took a tour of Westlands Water District — the nation’s largest agricultural water district, located on the western edges of Fresno and Kings counties. … But facing the twin challenges of drought and new state restrictions on groundwater use, Westlands farmers and counterparts throughout the San Joaquin Valley are considering a new money maker for their land: solar power.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Manifesting successful aquatic restoration

Successful aquatic restoration traditionally comes from extensive research and knowledge of the system, collaboration among stakeholders, and thorough planning. But what if there was another way to ensure restorations are creating the results we want to see? With increasing effects of climate change, urbanization, and other anthropogenic factors, aquatic organisms, especially ones that are endangered, need successful restorations more than ever to aid in their survival. One Ph.D. student at UC Davis, Madeline Eugenia Fallowfield— or Madge, says she’s studying the “power of positive thinking” to improve the success of aquatic restoration projects. 

Aquafornia news

Happy César Chávez Day from Aquafornia!

Dear Aquafornia readers,

Aquafornia is off Friday, March 29, in honor of César Chávez Day, a state holiday in California. We’ll return Monday with a full slate of water news. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter where we post breaking water news and on FacebookLinkedIn and Instagram

– The team at the Water Education Foundation.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Court ruling against bond financing for controversial delta tunnel won’t impede project, state says

A recent court ruling may have thrown a wrench in the state’s funding plans for the controversial and expensive Delta Conveyance Project – a tunnel to move Sacramento River water 45 miles beneath the ecologically sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In January, the Sacramento Superior Court denied the state Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) request to finance the project through bonds. Tunnel opponents hailed the ruling as a blow to the project. But state staff say the ruling will not impede funding. DWR has appealed the case and is still planning on using bonds to pay for the project if it comes to fruition.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

Just how wet has California’s rainy season been?

On Sunday, California’s rainy season officially comes to an end. … So, how did this wet season stack up? As of Tuesday, California had received slightly more rain than usual this winter — 104 percent of the average, according to state data. The state’s snowpack, which accumulates in the Sierra Nevada and typically provides 30 percent of the state’s water supply for the year, is at 101 percent of normal for this time of year. The state’s reservoirs are at an even higher 116 percent of their normal levels, in part because they are still benefiting from the back-to-back “atmospheric rivers” that slammed California last winter.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kings County farmers suffer sticker shock over proposed fees even as state takeover looms

Kings County growers are organizing to stop a set of groundwater and land fees they say will wipe out small farmers, even as the drumbeat of a looming state takeover grows louder. Managers of the Mid-Kings River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which covers the northern tip of Kings County, have been holding a flurry of meetings asking farmers to approve the fees – a combination of $95-per-acre-foot of water pumped and $25-per-acre of land  – at its April 23 meeting. That is after April 16, when the state Water Resources Control Board will hold a hearing to decide whether to put all of Kings County, known as the Tulare Lake groundwater subbasin, into probation for failing to come up with an adequate plan to stop over pumping.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado River tribes take harder stance on basin negotiations

If federal officials want tribal support for Colorado River deals, they need to pay tribes to conserve, protect their future water use and include them in negotiations, tribal leaders said Wednesday at a conference in southwestern Colorado. Basin states and the federal government are negotiating a new set of operating rules to replace existing drought-response agreements that expire in 2026. Tribes weren’t included when the agreements were originally negotiated in 2007. Basin officials should not make the same mistake again, tribes say. … Compensating tribes for not using their water, and for choosing to cut back on the water they do use, is another key point [for the tribes.]

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: California has to conserve water. Why is Sacramento dragging its heels?

On the heels of two wet winters, it’s easy to forget how close some parts of California came to running out of water a few short years ago. But this climate amnesia will not help us prepare for the next inevitable drought. … the water board is about to trample the hard-won work that’s been done so far by allowing water utilities until 2035 or later to implement meaningful reductions. … Because the water board’s latest plan for implementing efficiency standards has such an extended timeline, water will inevitably become even more expensive, including for low-income households and communities. 
-Written by Robert Hertzberg, a former speaker of the Assembly and former majority leader of the state Senate; and Assembly member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), running to replace Adam Schiff in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

‘Humbling, and a bit worrying’: Scientists fail to fully explain record global heat

Deadly heat in the Southwest. Hot-tub temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. Sweltering conditions in Europe, Asia and South America. That 2023 was Earth’s hottest year on record was in some ways no surprise. For decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm about rapidly rising temperatures driven by humanity’s relentless burning of fossil fuels. But last year’s sudden spike in global temperatures blew far beyond what statistical climate models had predicted, leading one noted climate scientist to warn that the world may be entering “uncharted territory.” … [R]esearchers are scrambling to explain why 2023 was so anomalously hot. Many theories have been proposed, but “as yet, no combination of them has been able to reconcile our theories with what has happened,” Schmidt wrote.

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