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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: 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 The Press

California seeks input on Delta benefit program

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced a series of workshops intended to solicit public input on the development of a community benefit program associated with the Delta Conveyance Project (DCP). According to DWR, community benefit programs go beyond traditional concepts of mitigation. They attempt to provide greater flexibility in addressing possible community impacts associated with the major construction projects.

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

Vallecitos Water District wins awards for sonic tech disrupting algae blooms

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at Mahr Reservoir, it was announced Thursday. The district received the “Excellence in Action” national award from the WateReuse Association and the “Innovation and Resiliency” state award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies for its use of an ultrasound technology to address water quality at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir with a reduced need for chemical treatment. The most common method of treating algal blooms is with chemicals. VWD instead uses technology developed by the international company LG Sonic, which provides an overview of the water quality allowing identification and treatment of algal blooms.

Aquafornia news Food and Water Watch

News release: Almost 500,000 COVID Infections May Have Been Prevented with a National Water Shutoff Moratorium

Almost half a million COVID infections could have been prevented last year if there had been a national moratorium on water service shutoffs, according to new research from Cornell University and the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch. The findings also show that during the same period, from mid-April through the end of 2020, 9,000 COVID deaths could have been prevented with a robust moratorium on water shutoffs. The study found that states that had instituted policies to prevent water shutoffs reduced the growth rates for COVID infections and deaths. 

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: Appellate decisions limiting groundwater pumping in an overdrafted basin

A California Court of Appeal recently issued two opinions affirming a physical solution limiting the right to pump groundwater by a landowner who has never pumped from the groundwater basin or who has not established the amount or reasonableness of pumping. A landowner filed the underlying lawsuit in 1999 to quiet title to its claimed superior groundwater rights in a groundwater basin that had been in a state of overdraft for decades. The lawsuit became a comprehensive groundwater adjudication involving approximately 70,000 landowners in the Antelope Valley area of California, including two separate classes and the United States.

Aquafornia news Cornell Chronicle

New research: Study exposes global ripple effects of regional water scarcity

Water scarcity is often understood as a problem for regions experiencing drought, but a new study from Cornell and Tufts universities finds that not only can localized water shortages impact the global economy, but changes in global demand send positive and negative ripple effects to water basins across the globe. … [I]n the lower Colorado River basin, the worst economic outcomes arise from limited groundwater availability and high population growth, but that high population growth can also prove beneficial under some climatic scenarios. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: New priorities needed for California’s next drought

A series of key decisions await Gov. Gavin Newsom as the state heads back into a potential drought. So this seems like the right moment to review what happened last time: Water was prioritized for big agriculture at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, endangered species and California communities. The State Water Board, in a review of the drought of 2014-15, found operations “not sustainable.” We hope Newsom will prevent a repeat of that disaster by … [p]rotecting the human right to water for drinking and sanitation, protecting public health for those who live adjacent to our rivers, and protecting endangered species.
-Written by Darius Waiters, of Restore the Delta’s Climate Water Team, and Brandon Dawson, a policy advocate with Sierra Club California.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Helix, Padre Dam Municipal water districts use lawsuit win to help customers

Two East County water agencies plan to reduce future water rates by using millions of dollars they received from the County Water Authority as part of a legal settlement. The Water Authority announced a plan Feb. 25 to distribute $44.4 million to its 24-member agencies — including the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District — after receiving a check for that amount from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. A San Francisco Superior Court ruled in favor of the Water Authority in January in two lawsuits against Metro challenging rates and charges. The money is for legal damages and interest from the decade-long rate cases. 

Aquafornia news The Spectrum

Opinion: The water tap – exceptional drought calls for exceptional measures. Or does it?

Last week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought emergency. In the press release that followed, he urged Utahns to “evaluate their water use and find ways to save not only because of current drought conditions but also because we live in one of the driest states in the nation.” The suggested water-saving recommendations … included … fixing leaks; running full loads (dishwashers and washing machines); turning off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, soaping up, doing dishes or rinsing vegetables; reducing showers by at least one minute; waiting to water; and planning now for the irrigation season by implementing water-wise landscaping or purchasing a smart irrigation controller.
-Written by Joan Meiners, an Environment Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News through the Report for America initiative by The Ground Truth Project.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

Blog: New DWR powerplant turbine helps California achieve clean energy future

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) took another step in its ambitious efforts to reduce climate change impacts by replacing an old electricity-generating turbine with a new, energy efficient model at the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Powerplant in Butte County that will help the Department achieve its goal of using 100 percent zero-emission resources by 2045.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Opinion: SLO should advance plan to pipe reclaimed water to Edna

A water project that would generate revenue, make wise use of reclaimed water and preserve large tracts of open space in the city of San Luis Obispo was first made public over 10 years ago. Since then, the city has made no progress on the proposal to allow Edna Valley landowners to reuse some of the city’s treated wastewater to irrigate vineyards and other agricultural crops. Surplus water already could be assisting growers in Edna Valley, which is an important part of the city’s greenbelt. 
Written by Neil Havlik, who served as San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager from 1996 to 2012.

Aquafornia news AgNet West

Blog: SGMA video series now available in three languages

The Water and Land Use Series of videos is now available in Hmong as well as English and Spanish. The videos provide insight on how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is taking shape. PhD Candidate at UC Merced, Vicky Espinoza has been working on the videos for several months. The series is available on the YouTube Channel CaliWaterAg. The goal of the project has been to make SGMA information more accessible and encourage more engagement from community members.

Aquafornia news Politico

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s drought is back, but nobody wants to hear it from Newsom

California’s drought conditions might normally prompt calls for shorter showers and shutting off sprinklers. But Californians are in no mood to hear it after a year of pandemic deprivation. Especially from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing an almost certain recall election after imposing multiple rounds of business closures and constantly telling residents to stay home. … California is particularly parched because 2020 was not only dry, but extremely hot. Experts think the state is about where it was in 2014, when former Gov. Jerry Brown asked Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Magazine

Flow rules stalled as tunnel advances

As California stares down the barrel of yet another dry year, alarm bells are already ringing over conditions in the Delta. Environmental groups, fishermen, tribes, and a host of others are calling on the State Water Resources Control Board to complete and implement a long-delayed update to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay and Delta (Bay-Delta Plan), to protect the imperiled ecosystem. At the same time, plans for a structure with the potential to divert more water than ever to southern cities and farms are creeping ahead. 

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

California water officials tell communities to prepare for potential water shortages

An extra dry summer with potential for water shortages – that’s what state and federal officials are telling Californians to prepare for. Predictions for 2021 are bleak. Lake levels are low and the Sacramento region is not getting the spring showers many hoped for. According to the US drought monitor, most of the Central Valley is experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions. This week the Department of Water Resources lowered its expected forecast of water deliveries made to cities and farms by half. But any conservation restrictions would be up to local authorities.

Related articles:

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: California’s complex water rights system explained at water 101 workshop

From the very first gold miners making claims to divert streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills to the later wrangling that enabled irrigation of Central Valley farmland and drinking water to be sent to growing cities in California, water rights are an indispensable cornerstone of the state’s water supply and delivery system.

Aquafornia news Arizona PBS

Tribal leaders ask for more funding, less meddling for water projects

Arizona tribal officials told a Senate committee Wednesday that the federal government can help address a crisis with water infrastructure on their lands through more funding, and less meddling. Navajo Department of Water Resources Director Jason John and Colorado River Indian Tribes Chairwoman Amelia Flores made the comments during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on water infrastructure for Native communities. Leaders of Oregon and Alaska tribes also testified at the hearing. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Audit: San Diego’s effort to inspect industrial polluters is outdated, inefficient

A San Diego program that aims to keep toxic sewer water out of the Pacific Ocean suffers from outdated methods and inadequate efforts to identify and inspect the business sites of industrial polluters, a new city audit says. The 56-page audit says the program, which oversees industrial polluters served by San Diego and 12 other local sewer districts, needs to step up efforts to find polluters and modernize its inspection program. The program – the Industrial Wastewater Control Program – is also understaffed and not capable of handling the larger workload it should handle without adding more workers, the audit says.

Related article:

Aquafornia news Half Moon Bay Review

Water war continues to affect salmon run

The upcoming salmon season doesn’t look promising for recreational and commercial fishermen on the Coastside. But environmentalists from the Central Valley are hoping to change that in the future by easing the movement of salmon between the Pacific Ocean and inland rivers. One of those rivers is the Tuolumne River. Its stewards at the Tuolumne River Trust are sounding the alarm over the river’s health and say that committing more water to this distant river will help the salmon populations more than 100 miles away in places like Coastside fisheries.

Aquafornia news The Point Reyes Light

Private tests show bad water quality near park ranches

Water quality testing commissioned by two groups lobbying for the end of ranching in the Point Reyes National Seashore shows fecal contamination exceeding federal recreational standards in several waterways feeding the Pacific Ocean. In response, seashore personnel point to their nearly finalized general management amendment, which requires water quality improvements. The tests from two rainy January days included samples from and near Kehoe Lagoon, Abbotts Lagoon and Schooner Creek, and showed exceedances in levels of E. coli and Enterococcus—bacteria that serve as common indicators for fecal contamination. 

Aquafornia news The Daily Sentinel

Water outlook a concern for endangered fish

Meager anticipated snowmelt runoff is expected to mean another challenging year for maintaining even below-optimal levels of flows in the Colorado River downstream of the Palisade area for the benefit of endangered fish. … What’s referred to as the 15-Mile Reach of the river between the Palisade area and the Gunnison River confluence is of particular concern for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, which focuses on four endangered fish. The stretch is primarily used by two of the fish — the razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. But it’s also used by a third, the bonytail. And a fourth, the humpback chub, which favors downstream stretches such as Westwater Canyon, indirectly benefits from efforts to bolster flows in the 15-Mile Reach.