California’s rich agricultural productivity comes with a price.
The dry climate that provides the almost year-round growing
season also can require heavily irrigated soils. But such
irrigation can also degrade the local water quality.
Two of the state’s most productive farming areas in particular,
the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and parts of the Imperial
Valley in southern California, have poorly drained and naturally
Environmental Working Group analyzed California State Water
Resources Control Board data on the San Joaquin Valley
communities with nitrate levels in drinking water meeting or
exceeding the federal legal limit. We found that almost six in
10 are majority-Latino. Latinos are also a majority in Valley
communities with nitrate at or above half the legal limit,
which is linked to increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
Runoff and other discharges from agricultural lands affect
water quality by transporting pollutants including pesticides,
sediment, nutrients, salts, pathogens, and heavy metals from
cultivated fields into surface waters. … Sue McConnell is the
manager of the Central Valley Board’s Irrigated Lands
Regulatory Program. At the September 15 State Water Board
meeting, she gave an update on the implementation of Order
WQ-2018-0002, hereafter referred to as the ‘petition order’.
Bright-green blotches of algae have been popping up all over
the Delta since early summer, from Discovery Bay to the
Stockton waterfront, befouling the air and poisoning the water
with toxins that can sicken or even kill humans and animals.
Veteran Delta watchers believe that this year’s harmful algal
blooms may be the worst ever, and worry that some features of
Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently released Water Resilience
Portfolio for California will aggravate the problem.
Once a week, Florencia Ramos makes a special trip to the R–N
Market in Lindsay, California. “If you don’t have clean water,
you have to go get some,” says Ramos, a farmworker and mother
of four who lives in the neighboring Central Valley town of El
Rancho. She has been purchasing jugs of water at the small
store for more than a decade now.
The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies
from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is
heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive
in Central Valley’s aquifers. While only one banking program
has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could
have huge implications for water storage and movement in the
Contaminated water has long plagued California’s Southern
Central Valley, a region home to many farmworkers. SB 974, a
bill by Senator Melissa Hurtado, seeks to provide safe drinking
water by exempting small disadvantaged communities from certain
Toxic algal blooms have resulted in a “danger” advisory not to
go in the water at Prado Regional Park Lake and not to eat fish
from the lake. A similar advisory at part of Big Bear Lake has
been posted since last month.
The California state water board is working on an update to a
permitting process with water discharge requirements that make
sure wineries are in compliance with water quality regulation
and allows them a pathway to compliance. The new order will
affect over 2,000 wineries that discharge winery waste to land
for the purpose of disposal or reuse for irrigation and soil
To be clear, not all algae are dangerous. In fact the vast
majority are beneficial to ecosystems. They’re the base of the
marine and aquatic food webs, providing nutrients for fish and
shellfish, which in turn feed other animals — including people.
They also produce half of our oxygen. “But a small handful of
these organisms are harmful,” says phytoplankton ecologist Pat
Glibert of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental
Providing a reliable source of drinking water is a challenge
for many small water systems in the San Joaquin Valley, where
dropping groundwater levels, aging systems, and water quality
problems are acute. … We talked to Laura Ramos and Sarge
Green of Fresno State’s California Water Institute about this
The California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control
Board said lab results from July 14 revealed high levels of a
toxin called microcystins in scum samples from Mormon Slough,
the downtown marina and Morelli Park Boat Launch that ranged
from four to more than 20 times the state’s Tier 3 danger
The state of California, long derided for its failure to act in
the past, says it is now moving full-bore to address the Salton
Sea’s problems, with ambitious plans for wildlife habitat
expansion and dust suppression.
Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), which naturally occur in
waterbodies, can grow very rapidly into an algal bloom due to
factors such as warm water temperature, calm conditions, and
certain nutrients in the water. While some algae are harmless,
certain types can produce toxins that can make people and
The recovery from the COVID shutdown gives us a rare
opportunity to rethink our relationship with the global
ecosystems on which we depend. Like so many others, I long for
a return to normalcy. But that’s not what we need. We must come
out of this pandemic looking to address other looming crises.
Our unsustainable agricultural system, along with climate
change, are at the top of the list.
Health officials are urging residents and visitors to stay out
of the water in Discovery Bay after dangerous levels of harmful
algae were detected. Marisa Van Dyke of the State Water
Resources Control Board reported that recent lab results from
water testing showed “significant” harmful algal blooms
occurring in Discovery Bay. Multiple locations recorded a
“danger” level, the highest threshold, she said.
Over the years, much attention has been given to California’s
drought, but less is known about the more than one million
Californians in more than 300 communities who don’t have access
to clean drinking water. To address this crisis, CSU faculty
and students are performing community assessments, conducting
research and assisting local engineering projects, often with
support from Water Resources & Policy Initiatives. Take a look
at some of the CSU’s ongoing work.
Agricultural runoff is one of the largest sources of pollution
in the nation’s waterways. In recent years, scientific journals
and the media have been filled with reports of toxic algae
blooms and dead zones near and far… Unfortunately, in today’s
highly politicized federal climate, it is unlikely that an
effective solution to this problem will emerge from the U.S.
EPA – at least not at the moment. So efforts by state
regulators are particularly important.
Agricultural runoff is one of the largest sources of pollution
in the nation’s waterways….In California alone, more than a
quarter million residents in largely agricultural areas are
served by water systems with degraded groundwater quality.
In the past decade, environmental groups have had success
bringing back patches of life in parts of the river delta. In
these green islands surrounded by the desert, water delivered
by canals and pumps is helping to nourish wetlands and forests.
Cottonwoods and willows have been growing rapidly. Birds have
been coming back and are singing in the trees.
Over the last 20 years, UC research has shown that dairies in
the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys are potentially major
contributors of nitrate and salts in groundwater. To maintain
the quality of this irreplaceable natural resource, the
California Water Resources Control Board has ramped up
regulations to ensure that diary manure and wastewater
application isn’t contaminating the aquifer.
During a week full of COVID-19-related uncertainty, a pair of
new lawsuits are a reminder of one constant: disputes over
Klamath Basin water. This past week, PacifiCorp and Klamath
Water Users Association each filed petitions for review of
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for temperature in the Upper
Klamath and Lost River subbasins.
Dozens of dead fish are floating to the surface along a Fresno
County waterway and people living nearby are worried about
their water. Fancher Creek flows from Pine Flat all the way
into Fresno, mostly to let farmers get irrigation water. But
fish also use the water, except right now, for about 200 yards,
all of them are dead.
The Atwater City Council this week unanimously declared its
highest priority public improvement project to be restoring the
city’s clean water. The urgent resolution came after a
carcinogenic chemical, 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP), was found
in several Atwater wells — and in quantities exceeding
state-approved maximum contaminant levels.
A bill that could help disadvantaged Central Valley towns
including ones in Tulare County provide safe and affordable
drinking water is facing opposition by Republican critics,
including GOP representatives from California. In December
2019, Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) unveiled a $100 million proposal
to make improvements in small towns suffering from contaminated
More than dust-filled air could be plaguing residents around
the quickly evaporating Salton Sea in Imperial Valley.
University of California, Riverside research shows toxic
aerosols could also be filling the air. The problem has to do
with agricultural fertilizer in the Salton Sea wetland area.
The Central Valley Regional Water Board has issued a 25-year
permit for toxic discharges of agricultural wastewater into the
San Joaquin River and Bay-Delta… Fishermen and environmental
groups have appealed the water board’s decision to the state of
California, leaving the future of this permit uncertain.
Pure Water Monterey has finally secured a critical final state
approval and is poised to begin delivering potable recycled
water to the Seaside basin by mid-February. After an all-day
inspection of the $126 million recycled water project’s
advanced water purification facility by a nine-member team on
Tuesday, the state Division of Drinking Water signed off both
verbally and by email.
Tests are still finding such deadly pesticides as DDT, despite
the ban of its use in farming during the 1970s. There are also
untold amounts of ammunition from military testing as well as
uranium left over from the Atomic Energy Commission for
WWII-era testing. Proponents don’t claim sea water import is a
perfect answer; just the most feasible means of containing
these toxins as they are heavier than water.
At a breakfast event hosted by the Water Association of Kern
County shortly after the amendments were adopted, a panel
discussed what the new program from the Central Valley Regional
Water Quality Control Board means for dischargers in the
Central Valley. The panel speakers were Clay Rodgers, Assistant
Executive Officer at the regional water board; Tess Dunham, an
attorney with Somach Simmons & Dunn; and Richard Meyerhoff, a
water quality specialist with GEI Consultants.
The city of Corcoran and Curtimade Dairy have been neighbors
for more than 100 years. But about four years ago, their
relationship turned contentious. The city said it planned to
sue the dairy for contaminating its drinking water wells with
nitrates, a contaminant that if consumed, can interfere with
the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues.
Many of the people and businesses that once relied on the lake
have left, driven away by the smell of dying fish or the fear
of health problems. Those who remain — farmworkers, families,
the elderly — are generally too poor to afford the rising cost
of property elsewhere in the valley.
The increasing spills that have polluted the Tijuana River Valley
and ocean off Imperial Beach have resulted in frustration and
anger in recent years, but also triggered broad political
collaboration at the local, state and federal level that has put
the region on the brink of real action.
When lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved the
Trump administration’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada
last month, they authorized $300 million to help fix failing
sewer systems that send raw sewage and toxic pollution flowing
into rivers along the U.S.-Mexico border. … But environmental
groups are condemning the new United States-Mexico-Canada
Agreement, or USMCA, saying it fails to establish binding
standards to curb pollution in Mexico’s industrial zones.
The river is a powerful example of Mexico’s failure to protect
its environment: A New York Times analysis of 15 years of
efforts to clean up the Santiago found that attempts floundered
in the face of legal loopholes, deficient funding and a lack of
In 2018, there were more than 300 reported incidents of toxic
or harmful algae blooms around the world. This year about 130
have been listed on an international database, but that number
is expected to increase. … The causes of the blooms vary, and
in some cases are never known, but in many parts of the world
they are being increasingly linked to climate change and
The supervisors authorized the disbursal from the Coachella
Valley Air Quality Enhancement Fund to help pay for the planned
north end restoration of the 360-square mile lake, which will
include the establishment of a lagoon to overlay exposed playa
and mitigate the resulting atmospheric impacts.
The company, Watsonville-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., was
accused of polluting a South Bay creek with manure for years,
despite orders and warnings dating back to the 1980s. The
judgment, the largest for a water pollution lawsuit in county
history, will be used in part to restore the damaged Fisher
Environmentalists who had high hopes Gavin Newsom would lead
the way to sustainable water use in the San Joaquin Valley are
waking up to the knowledge that the new governor isn’t going to
be any more effective than the old governor. Sustainability is
just too big a lift.
It came as a bittersweet surprise to biologists and government
agencies monitoring the steadily shrinking Salton Sea’s slide
toward death by choking dust storms and salt. Thousands of
acres of exposed lake bed have become, of all things, the
unintended beneficiaries of lush marshlands that are homes for
endangered birds and fish at the outlets of agricultural and
urban runoff that used to flow directly into the Salton Sea.
Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for
many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to
develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is
accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big
farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign
agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped
up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
Through a variety of panel discussions, presentations and a
showcase of student research, the Re:Border conference is
exploring how San Diego State University and its regional
partners can contribute to innovative solutions for
water-related challenges in the transborder region.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
A new study that looked back at 3 decades of satellite data
finds that these summertime algal blooms are indeed worsening
in large freshwater lakes around the world—and that climate
change may be undercutting efforts to combat the problem.
The board charged with overseeing the water quality in much of
the San Francisco Bay Area unanimously approved a plan
requiring local businesses, residents and government agencies
to reduce the amount of fecal bacteria they put into the
Petaluma River watershed, including San Antonio Creek.
Today, the quality of river water has improved markedly since
the early 1970s, though critics say the red tape imposed
through the Clean Water Act has become burdensome. The Clean
Water Act has not been altered much over the past 50 years,
though how we interpret the act has recently changed
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
By looking at how to manage levels of salt, mercury and
nutrients heading into the San Joaquin River, researchers are
aiming to boost water quality and reduce impacts on fish and
other aquatic life in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
… The project will examine wetlands — about 40 miles
southwest of UC Merced’s campus — that drain into the San
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The initial selling point of Prop. 65 — that it would eliminate
toxins in the water supply by holding big business liable for
its leaks — has largely been forgotten in 2019. These days, the
law is better known for requiring eyebrow-raising warning
labels on everything from bread to steering wheel covers to —
briefly — Starbucks coffee, and it has turned into a national
A tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
When nitrogen-based fertiliser runs into water systems it can
result in toxic algae blooms, leading to oxygen depletion and
vast oceanic ‘dead zones’. Evidence suggests their use also
contributes to air pollution, increased rates of cancer and
reduced biodiversity, as well as emitting nitrous oxide – an
extremely potent greenhouse gas. … A team of scientists, led
by the University of California, Davis, has come up with a
five-step plan to tackle this two-sided problem.
Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will
vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the
pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not
everyone agrees on the details.
Access to safe and affordable water is a basic human right.
Many of our communities have been without safe water for years
or even decades because of contamination of our drinking water
sources. Living in communities without safe water is a public
health crisis. It is also a crisis of basic justice and equity.
California’s largest inland lake, the Salton Sea, lies in the
Imperial and Coachella valleys. The lake, which is more than 50
percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean, is becoming more salt
than water because it’s essentially evaporating. The lake and
the area that surrounds it — once hotspots for tourism and
wildlife — have essentially become ghost towns.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
A Native American tribe has granted personhood to a river in
northern California making it the first known River in North
America to have the same legal rights as a human, at least
under tribal law. The Yurok Tribe based near the southern
border of Oregon confirmed the new status on the Klamath River.
Senate Bill No. 690 seeks to reduce exposure to dangerous
pathogens, limit beach closures and address water quality
issues in the Tijuana River Valley. The bill will also allow a
$15 million budget allocation for cleanup efforts as well as
prioritizing projects that will address water quality, flood
control, trash and sediment.
There are numerous agencies involved in water quality issues
that are focused on the San Francisco Bay and the Delta. In
this brown bag seminar, Stephanie Fong, Interagency Ecological
Program Coordinator Chair, California Department of Fish and
Wildlife, discussed the technical, geographical, and political
boundaries that separate water quality monitoring in the Bay
and the Delta.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new
plan to reduce water temperatures for endangered fish in the
Upper Klamath and Lost River watersheds, though it could come
at a price for farmers and ranchers.
Elected leaders from around the San Diego region met with the
Trump administration on Tuesday to ask for help stopping the
sewage-tainted water that regularly flows in the Tijuana River
across the border with Mexico. Specifically, regional leaders
tried to persuade federal authorities to fund a more than
$400-million plan to capture and treat the pollution…
NRDC just released two analyses that look at how state water
pollution control and public health officials deal with one of
the most significant causes of nitrogen and phosphorus
pollution and one of the most important effects of nitrogen and
Because harmful algae blooms have increased significantly over
the past 40 years and are now found in every state in the
country, NRDC set out to find out how states are tracking this
growing menace and how (and whether) states are educating and
warning the public of the threats posed by toxic algae. … To
our dismay, 16 states reported no data at all.
The mayor of this beach town, which abuts Tijuana, Mexico at a
point that is visible by a border wall marking the two
countries, is fed up with sewage and toxic chemicals flowing
into the United States, and he is heading to Washington, D.C.,
to ask the Trump administration to do something about it.
Tijuana’s sewage system appears to be incapable of handling the
sewage generated in the Mexican city, and Imperial Beach Mayor
Serge Dedina called the situation unacceptable. Dedina hoped to
get the attention of President Donald Trump, who is in San
Diego on Wednesday for a fundraiser.
From New York City to coastal California, a poison-producing
living slime is overtaking waterways and shorelines, killing
pets, ravaging tourism markets and making its way into local
drinking water. So far this year, algae has been implicated in
dog deaths and illness in California, Georgia, North Carolina
In 2019, at long last, justice was finally achieved; it was
secured through the combined power of the people and allies who
said it was finally time to bring safe water to all
Californians. On July 24, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation
that will make sure all Californians have access to safe,
affordable drinking water.
Through a $3 million contract with the California State Water
Resources Board, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will
conduct a statewide drinking water needs analysis to identify
risks and solutions for water systems and private wells
throughout the state.
Salmon and steelhead that were once abundant in this great
watershed are now at risk of extinction, a preventable disaster
that can be averted by moving forward with the planned removal
of four aging hydroelectric dams. While the Klamath River was
once the third-largest salmon producer on the west coast, its
fish runs have been declining for decades.
The state’s moves open up more opportunities for extension of
drinking water service, operations and maintenance for domestic
wells, and even demands action for Salton Sea conservation. The
myriad issues east valley residents face are exacerbated by the
public health impacts of the receding Salton Sea.
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
Heather Hansman’s new book Downriver: Into the Future of Water
in the West explores the water emergency with remarkable calm
and even-handedness. She focuses on a single river, the Green
River, where ranchers, frackers, rafters, fishermen, and
urbanites all fight for their share of the water, while
contending with Byzantine state policies.
Farmers clearly appreciate the yields that fertilizers
facilitate, but many acknowledge that these chemicals are
tainting the land and water. Enter the Central Coast Wetlands
Group and the Coastal Conservation and Research, Inc. and their
new bioreactor designed to process agricultural runoff, turning
algae-bloom-triggering waste into benign nitrogen gas.
Senate Bill 513, authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado
(D-Sanger), is headed towards Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for
approval. The bill, which received bi-partisan support, will
provide relief for families without reliable access to water by
delivering a temporary alternative source of water supply.
In 2012, California became the first state in the country to
declare that “Every human being has the right to safe, clean,
affordable and accessible water” when the state legislature
inserted that statement into its state water code. Now, a new
UCLA study finds, the state may be making progress on turning
that goal into a reality.
The Exeter City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to scrap
plans to connect Exeter’s water system with Tooleville, a rural
community of about 80 households that has struggled for years
with dirty water.
Using dairy lagoon water to irrigate silage corn is standard
practice. Running the thick, nutrient-rich water through
subsurface drip systems could someday be just that as two
California dairy farms, an irrigation company, and an
environmental organization are working together to solve the
challenges involved in the water thrifty practice.
However, this is brackish water. For a few months we will see
it in the Colorado below Morelos Dam, reminding us of the river
that once flowed there. It is agricultural drainage that comes
from farms in southwestern Arizona that use the Colorado River
to irrigate in the desert.
Keyes’ problems with unacceptable high levels of arsenic arose
in late 2006 when the district was issued a Notice of
Non-Compliance from the California Department of Public Health.
… The quality of Keyes’ drinking water had not deteriorated
but the Environmental Protection Agency had lowered the maximum
allowable contaminant level for arsenic from 50 parts per
billion to 10 parts per billion. Three of four Keyes wells were
testing at 12 to 14 parts per billion.
The only bi-national financial institution dedicated to funding
environmental infrastructure projects along the border unveiled
six possible solutions to slowing down the cross-border sewage
spills that routinely shut down southern San Diego’s beaches.
A high-profile series of dog deaths has awakened the public to
the growing problem of toxic algal blooms, spurred by rising
temperatures and pollution. The blooms are emerging as a
national, not just regional, concern, according to preliminary
data reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
A new method to measure pore structure and water flow is
described in a study published in the journal Water Resources
Research. With it, scientists should be able to more accurately
determine how fast water, contaminants, nutrients and other
liquids move through the soil — and where they go.
The intent of the Salton Sea restoration is to mitigate losses
of habitat for wildlife as the Salton Sea shrinks. However,
mitigating lost habitat by replacing it with something harmful
does not result in any benefits to wildlife; in fact, it makes
things worse by creating a new exposure pathway that subjects
wildlife to contaminants.
Michelle Newcomer is a research scientist in Berkeley Lab’s
Earth & Environmental Sciences Area with expertise in
hydrological and biogeochemical aspects of environmental
issues, especially in watersheds and river environments. Now
she is turning her expertise to algal blooms…
The Colorado is the most significant water supply source in the
West, but it carries an annual salt load of nine to 10 million
tons, said Don Barnett, executive director of the Colorado
River Basin Salinity Control Forum. … For the past 40 years,
the the forum has been “silently working away” at improving
water quality and lowering salt content on the Colorado, which
supplies water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico.
A lot of money will soon be flowing into California communities
with contaminated drinking water thanks to the new Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Today at its meeting, the State
Water Board will talk about how to implement that $1.4-billion
program. One community that could use the help is north of Moss
The proposed rule would re-write EPA’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations and significantly narrow the authority
of states and Indian tribes when acting on Section 401
Although more fundamental ESA reform is needed, last week’s
action yielded modest and common-sense improvements to
implementation of an imperfect law. New efficiencies, clarity,
and transparency will serve the purposes of the ESA and the
Not every bloom is toxic, but the toxins produced by the
blue-green algae can be harmful and even deadly for pets when
they eat the algae or drink the water, even in small amounts,
water experts warn. Summer heat, stagnant or slow-moving water
and nutrients from agricultural or septic runoff are an ideal
recipe for the toxic stew.
Hydrogen sulfide is associated with the natural processes
occurring in the Salton Sea, a non-draining body of water with
no ability to cleanse itself. Trapped in its waters are salt
and selenium-laden agricultural runoff from surrounding farms,
as well as heavy metals and bacterial pollution that flow in
from Mexico’s New River, authorities said.
In recent years, algae blooms – actually microscopic bacteria
called cyanobacteria – have erupted in hundreds of lakes
nationwide, putting at risk Americans whose drinking water
comes from those lakes, or who swim, ski or fish in them. If
ingested, microcystins can cause adverse health effects in
people and animals, ranging from skin rashes to serious illness
and even death.
Microcystins are poisonous toxins that can form in blooms of
blue-green algae. In recent years, algae blooms – actually
microscopic bacteria called cyanobacteria – have erupted in
hundreds of lakes nationwide, putting at risk Americans whose
drinking water comes from those lakes, or who swim, ski or fish
Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced last week the
selection of Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC to perform
restoration work after the proposed removal of four Klamath
dams, and on Monday, KRRC announced it had filed with Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission the answers to a plethora of
questions brought forward by a Board of Consultants in December
The 110-mile Russian River and all its tributaries move through
many active communities and working lands which can affect
water quality. Some of the main categories of water quality
impacts can include chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and
A new federal management plan for the Klamath River is proving
to be a disaster for salmon, a lawsuit alleges. The Yurok Tribe
and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the
National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday because the new
plan has led to drought-level flows in the lower Klamath River
and an increase in salmon with a potentially lethal parasite…
Where Napa’s water quality is concerned, no news may be good
news. A three-year analysis of the city’s water sources showed
reservoirs meeting all federal and state limits on a variety of
contaminants, a recently released report states.
The city of Stockton is working to fix a broken bubbling system
that has caused an overgrowth of harmful algae along the
Stockton waterfront. People who work near the deepwater channel
believe the green sludge is preventing others from playing on
Sutter County has been ordered to reduce arsenic levels in its
drinking water or face some steep penalties from the
Environmental Protection Agency. … If the county doesn’t
comply, it could be fined more than $32,000 for each violation.
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
I’m here with Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president
emeritus of the Pacific Institute. Peter serves on the Circle
of Blue Board of Trustees from his base in California, where
Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill directing some $130
million to improve access to clean drinking water for many
County and tribal officials are reporting that new testing at
sites around Clear Lake have revealed half a dozen areas with
cyanobacteria levels that trigger health warnings. Water
monitoring is regularly done by the Big Valley Band of Pomo
Indians and Elem Indian Colony, a valuable service that helps
facilitate safe lake use.
Customs and Border Protection commissioned a six-month study,
published earlier this year, of 42 samples from the river and
two culverts during dry, wet, post-rain, and standing water
conditions. … Justin Castrejon, a Border Patrol agent and
regional spokesman, said the report validated the claims of
agents who have complained of physical health ailments after
patrolling the affected areas.
The solution lies in filling the sea with water. But what
source would produce enough water to cover the lakebed (playa)
years into future years? Where would we get such huge
quantities of fresh or salt water? There is but one realistic
source: the Sea of Cortez.
State water officials ordered an investigation this week into
the elusive source of contamination in Richardson Bay, where
water samples collected near Tiburon beaches have shown high
bacteria levels for more than two months.
San Diego County officials are finalizing a list of projects
that could help fix the region’s sewage problems. Sewage flows
from Tijuana regularly foul San Diego’s ocean waters. That
prompted the state, the Port of San Diego, a clean water group
and several municipalities to sue the federal government to fix
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
Today, Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) along with Reps. Susan Davis
(CA-53), Scott Peters (CA-52), and Mike Levin (CA-49), hosted a
press conference to announce the introduction of their Tijuana
River Valley Pollution Solution bill package. The combined
legislation would further support mitigation efforts in the
The “Water Justice Act” would invest nearly $220 billion in
clean and safe drinking water programs, with priority given to
high-risk communities and schools. As part of that, Harris’
plan would declare a drinking water infrastructure emergency,
devoting $50 billion toward communities and schools where water
When Gov. Gavin Newsom called for constructing and maintaining
delivery systems to get water to at-risk communities in his
State of the State address, he received widespread support. But
the fight over funding for the project got divisive – and fast.
The Environmental Protection Agency rejected a petition by
environmental and public health groups Thursday to ban a widely
used pesticide that has been linked to neurological damage in
children, even though a federal court said last year there was
“no justification” for such a decision.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) urged people to avoid
physical contact with the water at San Luis Reservoir in Merced
County until further notice and avoid eating fish from the lake
due to the presence of blue-green algae. DWR increased the
advisory from warning to danger after detecting an increased
amount of microcystins.
Moving forward, we have an opportunity and an obligation to
build on this agreement by addressing the barriers that
confront small water systems that often have the most
difficulty delivering safe, clean water. As advocates and
organizers work to ensure that investments go to the
communities with greatest needs, the public health community
has the responsibility to step forward and align itself with
the struggle for water as a human right.
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
Amid the vital habitat for wildlife, officers found that the
suspects were using pesticides and fertilizers, including a
55-gallon drum of Roundup, and had an open trash pit and water
pit used for premixing chemicals.
The California Senate on Monday sent legislation to Gov. Gavin
Newsom that will spend $130 million a year over the next decade
to improve drinking water for about a million people. …
Newsom had proposed a tax on most residential water bills to
address the problem. Instead, the Senate approved a bill that
would authorize spending up to $130 million each year on the
state’s distressed water districts, with most of it coming from
a fund aimed at fighting climate change.
Weather conditions that make this a landmark year, like more
rain, could be part of the reason for the algae blooms in
Horseshoe Lake, putting the upper Bidwell Park lake off limits
for use for the foreseeable future.
Legislative leaders reached a compromise with Newsom to take
some money out of a fund used to improve air quality and use it
for drinking water. … The state Assembly approved the
proposal on Friday by a vote of 67-0. It now heads to the state
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
The unincorporated Fresno County community of Lanare has long
been a poster child for California’s widespread contaminated
drinking water. For the past 13 years, Lanare’s water had
tested higher than the state limit for arsenic, but that
changed in February, when the water received a passing grade
after a $3.8 million state grant paid for two new drinking
To find out what’s in Southern California’s oceans, Spectrum
News 1 went below the streets of Los Angeles into a storm drain
to track the flow of water. We’re diving into a question
scientists are facing: what is in L.A.’s water?
The lake visitors call the “gem of Chico,” the local go-to
location for a quiet and relaxing day trip on the waterfront,
is infested with toxic algae, officials say. The Butte County
Public Health Department warned people on Monday to stay away
from Horseshoe Lake after colonies of microscopic cyanobacteria
grew out of control…
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) announced Monday she
has secured a $15 million one-time investment of General Funds
for the southern Central Valley. The funds will address failing
water systems that deliver safe clean drinking water to
California’s most vulnerable communities.
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
By the State Water Resources Control Board’s estimates, more
than a million Californians don’t have safe drinking water
flowing through the pipes into their homes. … As Gov. Gavin
Newsom prepares to send his revised $213 billion budget to the
legislature for approval, a trailer bill proposes that the
legislature appropriate $150 million a year to a Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
The Santa Clara stretches 84 miles and through two counties
from the San Gabriel Mountains to the ocean just south of
Ventura Harbor. Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars
have been invested to protect and restore the river, work that
some say has reached a tipping point.
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.
While there are all kinds of water safety issues to be aware
of, the State Water Resources Control Board wants the public to
know about one that may not be so obvious — freshwater harmful
algal blooms, or HABs. As California confronts the realities of
climate change, HABs have become increasingly common in rivers,
lakes and reservoirs, and they can be especially dangerous to
children and pets.
Slow moving plumes of potentially toxic water are sitting
underneath homes, businesses and schools throughout Arizona.
… While some cities like Phoenix do not use groundwater for
drinking water, much of the state does.
The Senate voted 37-1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would
create a fund dedicated to improving the state’s drinking
water. But the bill is clear the money could not come from a
new tax on water bills. Instead, Senate leaders have signaled
their intention to use $150 million of existing taxpayer money
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
Cautiously, cautiously – that’s Napa County’s approach to
creating a watershed computer model that could someday
influence rural land use decisions in an effort to keep
contaminants out of city of Napa reservoirs. Given the stakes,
supervisors want stakeholders such as the wine industry and
environmentalists involved in various decisions.
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer
The funding allows CalTrout to develop a broad team of agency
partners to restore a 950-acre tidal marsh estuary surrounding
Cannibal Island, adjacent to the mouth of the Eel River. …
The goal of restoration is to transform the monotypic landscape
of diked and drained land back to a mosaic of natural habitats
and pasture with reconnected tidal slough channels and access
for aquatic-dependent species.
Clean water is important, and there are a million people in the
Central Valley without access to it. But do we need a new tax
to pay for it? Maybe we don’t. Just last week, a state Senate
budget subcommittee eliminated Gov. Newsom’s recommendation for
a water tax and replaced it with a $150 million continuous
appropriation from the General Fund.
Many have gazed across its shimmering expanse and seen an idea
just as big to fix it. … So far, with the exception of
geothermal energy, none have seen the light of day.
But with new interest in Sacramento, the rough
outlines of immediate, medium range and long-term plans to
protect public health and restore wildlife are taking shape.
When the federal government reduced how much arsenic it would
allow in drinking water in 2006, the water system in Jim
Maciel’s Central Valley community was suddenly considered
unsafe to drink. Bringing that arsenic content back down to a
safe level required a lot of work, as he explains to a few
colleagues at a water leadership institute in Visalia.
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
Elkhorn Slough has received a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of the Interior, which will be used to help restore
approximately 63 acres—about 83 football fields—of tidal
wetlands at the Slough. … Additional funds — equaling a $26.7
million — have been pledged by state and local governments,
private landholders, and conservation groups.
People who live along the southern border all say the same
thing: When it rains, it stinks. The reason is a failing, aging
network of pipes that run from Mexico to wastewater treatment
plants in the U.S. When heavy rains fall, the pipes often break
and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not
only a putrid odor but public health and environmental
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
No family should have to live in a community in which the water
that comes from their taps puts their children’s health at
risk. Over the last several years, the state has authorized
millions of dollars for emergency actions and one-time patches,
but has shied from doing what’s necessary to sustainably solve
It’s true that a report published late last month in the
journal Environmental Health found a link between California
tap water and cancer. The study noted high levels of arsenic,
plus numerous other contaminants that may be more toxic in
combination than they are separately. … The problem is very
serious — but not necessarily statewide.
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted
Tuesday to allow access across its lands for critically needed
state wetlands projects at the Salton Sea, designed to tamp
down dangerous dust storms and give threatened wildlife a
boost. In exchange, California will shoulder the maintenance
and operations of the projects, and the state’s taxpayers will
cover the costs of any lawsuits or regulatory penalties…
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of
Across its multitude of neighborhoods, communities and
cultures, the City of Long Beach offers a diverse haven for
businesses and families to thrive. At the same time, the unique
location of Long Beach in Southern California places it at the
mercy of significant human health risks caused by both
environmental and man-made factors.
Once one of most extensive wetland areas in North America, the
edges of the San Francisco Bay have become covered with farms,
industry, and urban areas, squeezing out the marches and their
animal and plant occupants. But at the lower end of the Napa
River, a remarkable effort is underway to undo a century and
half of damage to the once-thriving marshes.
While the state agency responsible for policing Los Angeles
County’s polluted urban and stormwater runoff boasts
significant progress in its monumental task, a National
Resources Defense Council report this week criticizes the
water-quality panel for lackluster enforcement.
It’s taken four years but fishermen along California’s North
Coast who have seen crab and salmon seasons truncated and even
closed altogether will finally see some relief after $29.65
million in federal disaster relief funding was approved by
Congress. It was in the 2015-16 year the Dungeness crab fishery
and the Yurok Chinook salmon fishery both collapsed due to poor
An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired
deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming
farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money
with no relief in sight. Though nearly four years have passed
since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District
agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the
deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be
measured in inches.
As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve
contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last
week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill
prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.
Every day, an estimated 100 million gallons of runoff
contaminated with various pollutants flows through L.A.’s
massive storm drain system to foul our rivers, creeks and,
ultimately, our coastal waters. … Today, NRDC urged the
Newsom Administration to encourage the Los Angeles Regional
Water Quality Control Board to address this serious public and
environmental health threat.
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based
congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal
agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the
Tijuana River … Local and state officials as well as
environmental activists have decried the condition of the
Tijuana River for years, which regularly causes beach closures
along the county’s coastline, particularly after heavy rain.
Imperial Irrigation District general manager Henry Martinez and
California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot have
reached an agreement in principle that the state will be
responsible for construction and maintenance of more than 3,700
acres of wetlands aimed at controlling toxic dust and restoring
wildlife habitat. In exchange, the water district will sign
easements for access onto lands it owns that border
California’s largest lake.
A U.S. appeals court is forcing the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to make a final decision on whether it will ban
the use of a common pesticide linked to developmental disorders
in children. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on
Friday ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether it
will ban the use of chlorpyrifos across the country. The agency
has until mid-July to make its determination.
In a wide-ranging interview with KQED, California’s newly
confirmed top environmental regulator says ensuring safe,
affordable drinking water for all Californians is one of his
top priorities; China’s rejection of previously accepted waste
materials is a “crisis” that requires reforming the recycling
process; and that the same innovation the state has brought to
addressing climate change needs to be applied to developing
alternative, safer pesticides.
Here’s what we know. The lower Klamath dams and reservoirs do
not provide multipurpose water storage, flood protection, or
irreplaceable energy. What they do provide are major barriers
to fish migration, toxic blue-green algae and fish disease (C.
shasta). The dwindling fish populations are proof. We must move
forward with removing the dams and restoring the Klamath to the
free-flowing river it once was.
I am standing where stream flow begins, in a nameless tributary
of the Russian River to the east of Hopland, California. This
particular spot and location has been a grazing livestock
ranch, primarily sheep, going back more than 100 years. This is
one of thousands of spots in the watershed where water comes to
the surface, joins in a channel, and starts its path
EPA won’t regulate any pollution to surface waters that passes
through groundwater. … If pollution travels through
groundwater, EPA says, it “breaks the causal chain” between a
source of pollution and surface waters. That could affect
regulation of pollution from a variety of sources, including
seepage from coal ash and manure management ponds, sewage
collection systems, septic system discharges, and accidental
spills and releases.
Residents are concerned a proposed project aimed at tackling
the pollution problem in the Tijuana River Valley will
ultimately negatively affect them. … Some residents voiced
they are not happy to hear about a proposal to build what they
have dubbed a “sewage pond” near their homes.
Smith River Neighborhood Watch coordinator Joni Forsht began by
telling local Easter lily bulb growers that though the goal
wasn’t to put them out of business, she wanted them to change
their methods “as far as what you’re putting on the lily bulbs
and where it’s going.” But before Wednesday’s meeting was over,
the growers said they felt attacked.
Prior to the installation of the system, the rain garden was
hardpan dirt, allowing all the rainwater—contaminated and
polluted with oil, gas, sediment, cigarette butts and plastic
wrappers—to drain directly into Orrs Creek and the Russian
River. The new garden is 3- to 5-feet deep and composed of
carefully constructed layers of soil and rock, allowing the
water to be cleaned mechanically and biologically filtering the
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez
and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are
the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton
Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton
Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will
inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and
taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous
An invasive bamboo-like species called arundo is encumbering
the natural ecology of the Salinas River and increasing flood
risk to nearby farmland. But the conservation agency charged
with protecting the area recently secured nearly $3 million
from state coffers for the purpose of fighting the invasion.
Since 1993, the Lake Almanor community has been fortunate to
have representatives from the California Department of Water
Resources (CDWR) assisting in the testing and assessment of the
health of the lake and its tributaries. … The testers check
for water temperature at the test location, dissolved oxygen,
turbidity (amount of suspended matter in the water) and for
various metals and minerals.