Topic: Drinking Water


Drinking Water

Finding and maintaining a clean water supply for drinking and other uses has been a constant challenge throughout human history.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

One Sacramento California homeless camp to get resumed water delivery

With Sacramento County facing backlash for ending water delivery to about three dozen homeless camps amid a record-breaking heat wave, the city of Sacramento will resume delivery to at least one camp. Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced Thursday the city will pay for water delivery to resume for the rest of the summer at Camp Resolution in North Sacramento, where about 50 people live in city-issued trailers. “It’s the right thing to do,” Steinberg wrote in a statement on X Thursday. “We made our first two deliveries last week and this morning, and will continue regular drop-offs of water for every resident.”

Aquafornia news E&E News by POLITICO

A water-deprived tribe could finally get a cut of the Colorado River — if Congress OKs it

One in 3 households on the Navajo Nation lacks access to safe drinking water, but a $5 billion deal reached in May could change that by giving the sprawling reservation’s 175,000 residents rights to the highly prized Colorado River. The agreement needs Congress’ blessing, though. And there are plenty of reasons for pessimism. Those include the eye-popping price tag, as well as controversial provisions granting the tribe the right to move water across legal boundaries and lease its supplies to cities or farms. Those issues inject the settlement squarely into the heated negotiations over how to parcel out the Colorado River’s diminishing flows among the seven states that rely on it.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Why this type of ‘forever chemical’ seems to be everywhere

For years, scientists have worried about “forever chemicals,” substances used to make hundreds of household items that have been linked by research to a wide range of health problems. In response, a growing number of companies have pledged not to use the chemicals, and regulators have increasingly taken aim at them. But even as work continues to phase out the substances, scientists are beginning to focus on new types that are far more widespread than earlier realized — prompting worries about undetected health risks. A growing body of research has raised concerns about a forever chemical known as TFA, which is short for trifluoroacetic acid and has been found in increasing amounts in rainwater, groundwater and drinking water. The chemical has a composition that scientists say may make it especially hard to filter, although scientists lack consensus on whether it poses a human health risk.

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Aquafornia news Stanford Report

New study: A new approach to the growing problem of water affordability

Rising water prices are forcing many households in the United States to choose between rationing water or risking shutoff by leaving bills unpaid. A new study in Environmental Research Letters shows government agencies and water utilities may be underestimating the true number of households at risk of losing affordable access to basic water service – and offers a solution. … Accurate assessments of water affordability are important because they inform decisions about utility rates, assistance programs, and eligibility for government financing for infrastructure improvements. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: Sacramento must create water delivery system for unhoused

Just as one of the worst heat waves in recorded history was beginning, Sacramento County decided to stop delivering water to homeless encampments. A source of federal funds had run dry. Keeping the homeless alive simply wasn’t a county priority. That is an unfair hand to deal to the unhoused Sacramentans who had been relying on this water supply to survive. Water for any human being is not an option. It is a requirement to exist. This is a black eye to county supervisors who say they do a good job managing homelessness and don’t get credit for it. And now that the county has failed to meet this most basic of needs, the city should be prepared to step in and do the county’s job for them. Neither thirst nor the sun are going away. It’s quite ironic that the county stopped delivering water just about when the U.S. Supreme Court gave the county and local jurisdictions throughout the West more power to criminalize homelessness. At least in jail, the county provides water.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Why SF water stays pure amid California cleanliness issues

Thanks to Hetch Hetchy, [San Francisco] has some of the cleanest tap water across California. But for nearly 1 million people statewide, healthy drinking water remains out of reach.  … Experts and advocates who spoke to The Examiner unanimously used one word to describe the most pertinent solution to address the water issues plaguing the state: consolidation. In other words, getting big municipalities with access to dense water resources to absorb smaller, struggling water systems. … There are currently more than 7,000 water systems throughout the state, which is, in itself, a major part of the problem, the experts said, and why 2% of the population lacks clean drinking water access. … San Francisco is, in some ways, the poster child for the difference it makes when a large population is served by a consolidated water system. The City’s water is managed by a single public utility, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. … And, for nearly 100 years, San Franciscans have received their drinking water almost exclusively from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a rich snowmelt-fed body of water in the Yosemite Valley. … San Francisco is one of just five water systems that has not received a failing report since the state began evaluating them in 2017.

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Aquafornia news E&E News by POLITICO

These Biden rules could be trashed by Trump

The Biden administration pushed out a flurry of major environmental rules early this year under a looming threat of rollbacks if former President Donald Trump clinches the White House in November’s election. But some significant rules won’t get out the door in time to shield them from being reversed if Trump wins, a reality that was on stark display last week when the Biden administration released its plans for upcoming regulations. … Earlier this year, Biden’s agencies finished a series of significant regulations, including a high-stakes power plant rule on climate pollution, a policy governing conservation of public lands and drinking water standards for some members of the “forever chemicals” family known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. … EPA is expected to roll out a revised lead and copper rule for drinking water systems, which would trigger action sooner to reduce lead exposure and require lead pipes to be replaced within 10 years. That rule isn’t expected to be completed until October.

Aquafornia news The Santa Barbara Independent

Drinking water from three Santa Barbara County water systems fail to meet state requirements

Three water systems in Santa Barbara County failed the state’s annual assessment of drinking water systems, with another 12 falling into the “at-risk” category.  Serving a population of more than 6,000 individuals and more than one million tourists annually, the Solvang Water Division was the largest of the three failures. However, upon receiving the State Water Resources Control Board’s notice, Solvang immediately took the perchlorate-contaminated well offline. This resulted in no service interruptions and brought the number of current failing systems in the county down to two as of this Monday. 

Aquafornia news KPBS

Boats return to Miramar Reservoir after Pure Water pipeline installation

The Miramar Reservoir is once again open to motorboats, canoes, kayaks and float tubes. … [San Diego] closed the reservoir to boats last September to install a mile-long underwater pipeline. It’s part of the city’s effort to reduce San Diego’s dependence on imported water by purifying recycled water. Right now, most of the water in the Miramar Reservoir comes from the Colorado River. … The cost of that imported water has tripled in the last 15 years. 

Aquafornia news California Water Service

News release: Cal Water plans to invest $1.6 billion in next 3 years

To continue providing safe, clean, reliable tap water to customers across the communities it serves, Cal Water yesterday submitted Infrastructure Improvement Plans for its California districts from 2025-2027 in its General Rate Case (GRC) filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The application also proposes a Low-Use Water Equity Program, which would decouple revenue from water sales, to assist low-water-using, lower-income customers. … Associated rates set by the CPUC would become effective no sooner than January 2026. In the plans, Cal Water proposes to invest more than $1.6 billion in its districts from 2025-2027, including approximately $1.3 billion of newly proposed capital investments. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Kids have a right to water in US schools, but does that water make the grade?

Christina Hecht remembers how water made its way into school lunch law because the process was unusually easy. Back in the mid-2000s, a researcher toured school cafeterias in California and wondered, “What are these kids to do if they want a drink of water?” said Hecht, a policy adviser at the University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute. At the time, 40% of the state’s schools failed to offer free water in their cafeterias. That fact eventually reached the then governor and former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, who moved to pass SB 1413 requiring schools to offer free, fresh water during mealtimes. Advocates then used California’s example to convince US senators working on 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) – a federal package setting nutrition standards and food funding for public schools and childcare centers – to add drinking water to that legislation, too. … Yet experts say that 14 years after the passage of the HHFKA, many schools are still falling short of its potable water requirement.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: California environmental group sues U.S. Forest Service over Arrowhead bottled water operation

A Southern California environmental group is suing the U.S. Forest Service for allowing bottled water company BlueTriton Brands to pipe water out of the San Bernardino National Forest. The nonprofit group Save Our Forest Assn. filed the lawsuit in federal court, arguing the Forest Service violated federal laws by allowing the company to continue piping water from boreholes and water tunnels in the San Bernardino Mountains. The environmental group said the extraction of water, which is bottled and sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water, has dramatically reduced the flow of Strawberry Creek and is causing significant environmental harm. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Drinking water of a million people fails California requirements

Almost 400 water systems serving nearly a million Californians don’t meet state requirements for safe and reliable drinking water supplies — and fixing them would cost billions of dollars. More than two-thirds of these failing water systems serve communities of color, and more than half are in places struggling with poverty and pollution, according to an annual assessment released today by the State Water Resources Control Board. These water systems failed to provide water “which is at all times pure, wholesome, and potable,” as required. Some violated drinking water standards for chemicals, bacteria, taste or odor. Others rely on bottled water, or have failed to meet treatment, monitoring or other requirements. … The price tag for ensuring safe, affordable and accessible water supplies for all Californians is staggering — an estimated $16 billion over the next five years — as the state grapples with a multibillion-dollar deficit. 

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Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Pasadena’s drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal standards, annual report finds

The City of Pasadena’s drinking water once again meets or exceeds all state and federal requirements, according to the 2024 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report released Wednesday. The report, which covers the 2023 calendar year, details the sources, treatment, composition, and quality of the City’s water supply, as well as information on contaminants and health effects. In 2023, Pasadena Water and Power provided approximately 23,800 acre-feet or 8.6 billion gallons of water to serve more than 160,000 customers. About two-thirds of this supply was purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which sources water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project in Northern California. The remaining supply came from the City’s groundwater wells in the Raymond Basin aquifer.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

State workers warned of bacteria-tainted water in offices

Bacteria known to cause sometimes-deadly respiratory infections have been found in a midtown Sacramento state office complex, as more than 200,000 state workers started returning to their offices at least twice a week. Legionella, which could lead to a serious pneumonia named Legionnaires’ disease, have been detected in the water system of the five-building East End Complex, which houses three major state departments. Two of them — the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services — confirmed the test results to CalMatters today. …Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents 96,000 state workers, is demanding “immediate action.”

Aquafornia news National League of Cities

Blog: How cities can prepare now to meet new PFAS drinking water regulations

With the Biden Administration finalizing new PFAS drinking water regulations for municipalities, it is time for local leaders to begin working with their water utilities. Both local leaders and water utilities should start to think about how they are going to upgrade their water systems to detect and remove these toxins if they are present at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limit. The new regulations carry an effective date of June 25, 2024 – giving local governments until June 25, 2027, to meet the initial monitoring requirements and until June 25, 2029, to meet the treatment requirements. …For many communities, addressing PFAS drinking water contamination has been an active concern for the past several years. Lessons learned from those communities can provide helpful insights for others. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

ASU, SRP use lasers to show how forest work boosts water supplies

Forest thinning increases water supplies downstream while reducing wildfire risk, according to a study conducted by Salt River Project and Arizona State University.  Land managers and scientists knew forest thinning — a technique that clears smaller trees and vegetation to reduce fuel loads in forests — decreases wildfire hazard, but wanted to quantify how restoration projects also benefit watersheds. …One acre-foot of water can supply three Arizona families with water for a year. SRP provides water for much of metro Phoenix from snowfall and rain runoff across 8 million acres of land in northern Arizona.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Podcast: Microplastics are everywhere. What can we do about it?

For years, scientists on the hunt for microplastics have found them almost everywhere. First, they spotted tiny pieces of plastic in the ocean, in the bodies of fish and mussels. Then they found them in soft drinks, in tap water, in vegetables and fruits, in burgers. Now researchers are discovering that microplastics are floating around us, suspended in the air on city streets and inside homes. One study found that people inhale or ingest on average 74,000 to 121,000 microplastic particles per year through breathing, eating and drinking. Today on “Post Reports,” climate reporter Shannon Osaka answers host Elahe Izadi’s questions about these plastic particles that humans are taking in in much larger quantities than previously thought.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

New program to help Kern residents with nitrate-tainted water

A new water quality initiative in Kern County is gearing up to go live in the next few months to help residents whose water is contaminated with nitrates. The state’s nitrate control program launched in 2021. It offers free well testing and water deliveries for residents whose wells test over the limit for nitrates. The program is mandated by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and funded by nitrate polluters throughout the valley. Nitrates, which have infiltrated drinking supplies from fertilizers, septic tanks, dairies and other sources, can be harmful to pregnant women and infants. Kern is the latest valley region to establish large-scale nitrate remediation under the state program. It is still forming and will be fully operational next year.

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Aquafornia news MIT Technology Review

The cost of building the perfect wave

 … Just some 30 miles from Palm Springs, on the southeastern edge of the Coachella Valley desert, Thermal is the future home of the 118-acre private, members-only Thermal Beach Club (TBC). According to an early version of the website, club memberships will start at $175,000 a year. That price tag makes it clear that the club is not meant for locals. Thermal, an unincorporated desert community, currently has a median family income of $32,340. The community lacks much of the basic infrastructure that serves the western Coachella Valley, including public water service—leaving residents dependent on aging private wells for drinking water.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Monday Top of the Scroll: Proposed state cuts would sever water lifeline for tens of thousands of disadvantaged San Joaquin Valley residents

More than 20,000 San Joaquin Valley residents could be left high and dry, literally, by Sacramento politicians intent on using $17.5 million that had paid for water trucked to their homes to help fill California’s gaping two-year $56 billion deficit. A local nonprofit that has been hauling water to those residents  sent a letter recently to Governor Gavin Newsom and top leaders in the Legislature begging them to reinstate the money in the ongoing budget negotiations. “Cutting funding for such a crucial program would have devastating effects on rural and disadvantaged communities by immediately cutting them off from their sole source of water supply, and doing so with no warning,” states the June 11 letter from Self-Help Enterprises, a Visalia-based nonprofit that helps low-income valley residents with housing and water needs. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

PFAS filtration plant shows costs, challenge of water treatment

The Yorba Linda Water District in Orange County, Calif., is so proud of its $28 million PFAS filtration plant, considered the largest in the US, that it hosts regular tours of Boy Scouts, school groups, and on Monday, a group from South Korea. The need for the filtration plant is representative of the widespread PFAS contamination in groundwater and stream water in Southern California, and it symbolizes the costs that the YLWD and 14 other drinking water utilities in the region are suing to recoup from manufacturers of PFAS-containing firefighting foam or its components. Unlike nearby Los Angeles, the Yorba …

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

PFAS in Tucson: EPA orders cleanup by US Air Force, Air National Guard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding the U.S. Air Force and Arizona National Guard take action as concentrations of toxic “forever chemicals” are increasing in the groundwater in a historically contaminated area on Tucson’s south side. The EPA found the pollution came from the nearby military properties and ordered them to clean up the contamination. High concentrations of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were detected in Tucson’s groundwater near the Tucson International Airport at the National Guard base and at a property owned by the U.S. Air Force. The contaminants threaten the groundwater extracted at a water treatment run by Tucson Water in the Tucson Airport Remediation Project area, known as TARP. That water was intended for drinking, the EPA said in its May 29 order.

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Aquafornia news Daily Breeze

Struggling Angelenos get $253M in relief to pay late DWP and garbage bills

Some $253 million helped Angelenos pay back utility bills from March 2020 through December 2022, city officials announced on Wednesday, June 12. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, Councilmember Heather Hutt, state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Yana Garcia, Water Resources Control Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel, and officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and L.A. Environment and Sanitation celebrated the distribution of federal funding at a news conference. Officials said the aid was automatically applied to about 204,500 DWP customer accounts. The California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program was the source of the funds, administered by the state water board using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: CA voters to decide if clean air, water are human right

In the Golden State, we pride ourselves on our future-facing environmental values and our climate leadership. At the same time, nearly 1 million residents, primarily in disadvantaged communities, are without access to clean drinking water, and California cities such as Los Angeles, Long Beach and Fresno are burdened year after year by some of the dirtiest, most polluted air in the nation. This glaring duality underscores the failure of our current legal framework to ensure the fundamental rights of all Californians to clean air, water and a healthy environment. It’s time for a change. It’s time for California to enshrine this right into our state constitution. The inalienable rights of life, liberty, safety and happiness guaranteed in the state constitution are under threat by a climate crisis that negatively impacts the health and well-being of all Californians.
-Written by Terry Tamminen and James Strock, former secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Alan Lloyd, who also contributed to this piece, is also a former secretary of the California EPA.​

Aquafornia news PBS News Weekend

Listen: What frequent water main breaks say about America’s aging infrastructure

U.S. drinking water is among the world’s safest and most reliable, but aging infrastructure across the country is posing challenges. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there’s a water main break every two minutes. Shannon Marquez, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, joins John Yang to discuss why these problems are so common.

Aquafornia news The Press Democrat

Healdsburg recycled water pipeline project underway

Aiming to make sure that drinkable water isn’t wasted on non-drinking uses, Healdsburg is forging ahead this week with a multimillion-dollar infrastructure project designed around reclaimed H2O. Construction on the first phase of Healdsburg’s new recycled water pipeline will begin on Thursday, June 13, and last through Wednesday, June 19, on Kennedy Lane along the city’s south end. It’s the first of four legs of construction this year. Utilities Engineering Manager Patrick Fuss is warning drivers to expect some delays as a result of the construction, which is the first step in building a 4.7-mile underground line that will haul reclaimed water throughout the city to irrigate parks, the Healdsburg Golf Club, Oak Mound Cemetery and Healdsburg Elementary School. While the line will not provide direct hookups to residents, a public fill station for recycled water, which isn’t potable, will be available at a to-be-determined location along Healdsburg Avenue before the end of the year.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Chemical makers sue over rule to rid water of ‘forever chemicals’

Chemical and manufacturing groups sued the federal government late Monday over a landmark drinking-water standard that would require cleanup of so-called forever chemicals linked to cancer and other health risks. The industry groups said that the government was exceeding its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act by requiring that municipal water systems all but remove six synthetic chemicals, known by the acronym PFAS, that are present in the tap water of hundreds of millions of Americans. The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the new standard, put in place in April, will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Should clean air and water be the right of every Californian?

A contentious proposal to amend California’s Constitution to enshrine environmental rights for all citizens has been delayed for at least another year after it failed to gain traction ahead of a looming deadline. ACA 16, also known as the green amendment, sought to add a line to the state Constitution’s Declaration of Rights affirming that all people “shall have a right to clean air and water and a healthy environment.” The single sentence sounds straightforward enough, but by the start of this week, the proposal had not yet made it through the state Assembly or moved into the state Senate. Both houses would need to pass the proposal by June 27 in order to get it on voter ballots this fall. … The [Chamber of Commerce] said compliance costs could lead to economic impacts for businesses, communities and local governments. …”

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Madera sinkhole swallows trailer. 2nd hole in two weeks

A sinkhole opened in the roadway in Madera on Monday, causing a trailer of fertilizer to fall into the hole, according to the California Highway Patrol. A truck driver suffered minor injuries in the crash about 10:25 a.m. on Avenue 13 west of Granada Drive, and the street was expected to be closed for weeks as piping below ground was damaged, according to the CHP and city officials. The city of Madera also asked its residents to reduce water use to aid workers trying to fix the pipe, which does not carry drinking water, officials said on social media. “This is NOT a drinking water issue; drinking water remains safe and unaffected,” the city said on the Madera police Facebook page. “However, to assist in the repair efforts and prevent further complications, which could result in sewage backup, we ask that you please refrain from non-essential water use.”

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Bakersfield, Cal Water lift 5-day-old water advisory

The city of Bakersfield and California Water Service Co. on Sunday lifted the do-not-drink, do-not-use advisory issued Tuesday to 42 commercial customers south of Lake Truxtun after an oil company reportedly allowed pressurized natural gas and crude oil into the municipal water system.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Mitigating PFAS is going to be expensive – very expensive. Water systems can seek funds from the companies responsible

Now that the EPA has finalized the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standards to protect communities from six widespread PFAS compounds, public water systems will be facing significant implications. According to the new National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, initial monitoring for these PFAS must be completed by 2027 (and followed by ongoing monitoring), and by 2029, systems must mitigate these PFAS if drinking water levels exceed the federal maximum contaminant levels (MCLs).

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Napa Valley has lush vineyards and wineries – and a pollution problem

Famous for its lush vineyards and cherished local wineries, Napa Valley is where people go to escape their problems. … What the more than 3 million annual tourists don’t see, however, is that California’s wine country has a brewing problem – one that has spurred multiple ongoing government investigations and created deep divisions. Some residents and business owners fear it poses a risk to the region’s reputation and environment. At the heart of the fear is the decades-old Clover Flat Landfill (CFL), perched on the northern edge of the valley atop the edge of a rugged mountain range. Two streams run adjacent to the landfill as tributaries to the Napa River. 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Trillions of gallons leak from aging drinking water systems, further stressing shrinking US cities

Water bubbles up in streets, pooling in neighborhoods for weeks or months. Homes burn to the ground if firefighters can’t draw enough water from hydrants. Utility crews struggle to fix broken pipes while water flows through shut-off valves that don’t work. … Across the U.S., trillions of gallons of drinking water are lost every year, especially from decrepit systems in communities struggling with significant population loss and industrial decline that leave behind poorer residents, vacant neighborhoods and too-large water systems that are difficult to maintain.

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Aquafornia news The Arizona Republic

Commentary: Water regulation in Arizona has now devolved into a game of chicken

Water regulation in Arizona has devolved into a game of chicken. The governor and farmers are rivals revving their engines, hoping their opponent will flinch first. Caught in the middle is Gila Bend, a groundwater basin south of Buckeye, where the state could decide to impose its most stringent form of regulation, whether folks like it or not. Both sides are using Gila Bend as a bargaining chip to win support for competing legislative proposals. But to what end?
- Written by Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic digital opinions editor 

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Aquafornia news JFleck at Inkstain

Blog: Senate hearing Thursday on tribal access to clean water: it takes more than just a pile of money

The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding an important hearing Thursday on S. 2385, a bill to refine the tools needed to help Tribal communities gain access to something that most non-Indian communities in the western United States have long taken for granted: federally subsidized systems to deliver safe, clean drinking water to our homes. … This is the sort of bill (there’s a companion on the House side) that makes a huge amount of sense, but could easily get sidetracked in the chaos of Congress. The ideal path is for the crucial vetting to happen in a process such as Thursday’s hearing, and then to attach it to one of those omnibus things that Congress uses these days to get non-controversial stuff done. Clean water for Native communities should pretty clearly be non-controversial.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As climate hazards converge, health risks rise in California

State health officials know that extreme heat can cost lives and send people to the hospital, just like wildfire smoke. Now, new research finds that when people are exposed to both hazards simultaneously — as is increasingly the case in California — heart and respiratory crises outpace the expected sum of hospitalizations compared to when the conditions occur separately. … The study joins a growing body of research about the intersection of different climate risks. Last month, California-based think-tank the Pacific Institute published a report about how converging hazards — including wildfires, drought, flooding, sea level rise and intensifying storms — are harming access to drinking water and sanitation in California and other parts of the world. The deadly 2018 Camp fire in Butte County impacted an estimated 2,438 private wells, the report said.

Colorado River Shortages Drive Major Advances in Recycled Sewage Water Use
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Phoenix, Southern California betting on purified sewage to fill drinking water needs

After more than two decades of drought, water utilities serving the largest urban regions in the arid Southwest are embracing a drought-proof source of drinking water long considered a supply of last resort: purified sewage.

Water supplies have tightened to the point that Phoenix and the water supplier for 19 million Southern California residents are racing to adopt an expensive technology called “direct potable reuse” or “advanced purification” to reduce their reliance on imported water from the dwindling Colorado River.

Aquafornia news Fresnoland

Most of state’s unsafe water systems in California’s Central Valley

… A state audit from the California Water Resources Control Board released last year found that over 920,000 residents faced an increased risk of illness–including cancer, liver and kidney problems–due to consuming unsafe drinking water. A majority of these unsafe water systems are in the Central Valley. The matter has prompted community leaders to mobilize residents around water quality as politicians confront imperfect solutions for the region’s supply. Advocates point out that impacted areas, including those in Tulare County, tend to be majority Latino with low median incomes. … This year’s extreme weather has only worsened the valley’s problems. The storms that hit California at the start of this year caused stormwater tainted with farm industry fertilizer, manure and nitrates to flow into valley aquifers. 

Testing at the Source: California Readies a Groundbreaking Hunt to Check for Microplastics in Drinking Water
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Regulators and water systems are finalizing a first-of-its-kind pilot that will determine whether microplastics are contaminating water destined for the tap

Image shows a test jar filled with microplastic debrisTiny pieces of plastic waste shed from food wrappers, grocery bags, clothing, cigarette butts, tires and paint are invading the environment and every facet of daily life. Researchers know the plastic particles have even made it into municipal water supplies, but very little data exists about the scope of microplastic contamination in drinking water. 

After years of planning, California this year is embarking on a first-of-its-kind data-gathering mission to illuminate how prevalent microplastics are in the state’s largest drinking water sources and help regulators determine whether they are a public health threat.

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Meet the Veteran Insider Who’s Shepherding Gov. Newsom’s Plan to Bring Climate Resilience to California Water
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Former journalist Nancy Vogel explains how the draft California Water Resilience Portfolio came together and why it’s expected to guide future state decisions

Nancy Vogel, director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program, highlights key points in the draft Water Resilience Portfolio last month for the Water Education Foundation's 2020 Water Leaders class. Shortly after taking office in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom called on state agencies to deliver a Water Resilience Portfolio to meet California’s urgent challenges — unsafe drinking water, flood and drought risks from a changing climate, severely depleted groundwater aquifers and native fish populations threatened with extinction.

Within days, he appointed Nancy Vogel, a former journalist and veteran water communicator, as director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program to help shepherd the monumental task of compiling all the information necessary for the portfolio. The three state agencies tasked with preparing the document delivered the draft Water Resilience Portfolio Jan. 3. The document, which Vogel said will help guide policy and investment decisions related to water resilience, is nearing the end of its comment period, which goes through Friday, Feb. 7.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources Gary PitzerDouglas E. Beeman

As Wildfires Grow More Intense, California Water Managers Are Learning To Rewrite Their Emergency Playbook
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Agencies share lessons learned as they recover from fires that destroyed facilities, contaminated supplies and devastated their customers

Debris from the Camp Fire that swept through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise  in November 2018.

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems and upend an agency’s finances.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Can Providing Bathrooms to Homeless Protect California’s Water Quality?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: The connection between homelessness and water is gaining attention under California human right to water law and water quality concerns

A homeless camp set up along the Sacramento River near downtown Sacramento. Each day, people living on the streets and camping along waterways across California face the same struggle – finding clean drinking water and a place to wash and go to the bathroom.

Some find friendly businesses willing to help, or public restrooms and drinking water fountains. Yet for many homeless people, accessing the water and sanitation that most people take for granted remains a daily struggle.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater Gary Pitzer

As Californians Save More Water, Their Sewers Get Less and That’s a Problem
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Lower flows damage equipment, concentrate waste and stink up neighborhoods; should water conservation focus shift outdoors?

Corrosion is evident in this wastewater pipe from Los Angeles County.Californians have been doing an exceptional job reducing their indoor water use, helping the state survive the most recent drought when water districts were required to meet conservation targets. With more droughts inevitable, Californians are likely to face even greater calls to save water in the future.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Gary Pitzer

California Officials Draft a $600M Plan To Help Low-Income Households Absorb Rising Water Bills
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report proposes new taxes on personal and business income or fees on bottled water and booze to fund rate relief program

Filling a glass with clean water from the kitchen tap.Low-income Californians can get help with their phone bills, their natural gas bills and their electric bills. But there’s only limited help available when it comes to water bills.

That could change if the recommendations of a new report are implemented into law. Drafted by the State Water Resources Control Board, the report outlines the possible components of a program to assist low-income households facing rising water bills.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.

An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

One Year In, A New State Policymaker Assesses the Salton Sea, Federal Relations and California’s Thorny Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: State Water Board member Joaquin Esquivel

State Water Resources Control Board member E. Joaquin EsquivelJoaquin Esquivel learned that life is what happens when you make plans. Esquivel, who holds the public member slot at the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento, had just closed purchase on a house in Washington D.C. with his partner when he was tapped by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago to fill the Board vacancy.

Esquivel, 35, had spent a decade in Washington, first in several capacities with then Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and then as assistant secretary for federal water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. As a member of the State Water Board, he shares with four other members the difficult task of ensuring balance to all the uses of California’s water. 

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management Gary Pitzer

Researchers Aim to Give Homeless a Voice in Southern California Watershed
NOTEBOOK: Assessment of homeless water challenges part of UC Irvine study of community water needs

Homeless encampment near Angel StadiumA new study could help water agencies find solutions to the vexing challenges the homeless face in gaining access to clean water for drinking and sanitation.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) in Southern California has embarked on a comprehensive and collaborative effort aimed at assessing strengths and needs as it relates to water services for people (including the homeless) within its 2,840 square-mile area that extends from the San Bernardino Mountains to the Orange County coast.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Millions of Dollars Needed to Help Low-Income Ratepayers with Water Bills, State Water Board Told
Five million Californians have affordability issues

A statewide program that began under a 2015 law to help low-income people with their water bills would cost about $600 million annually, a public policy expert told the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) at a meeting last week.

Aquapedia background

Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.

Aquapedia background

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform Bacteria as Indices

Directly detecting harmful pathogens in water can be expensive, unreliable and incredibly complicated. Fortunately, certain organisms are known to consistently coexist with these harmful microbes which are substantially easier to detect and culture: coliform bacteria. These generally non-toxic organisms are frequently used as “indicator species,” or organisms whose presence demonstrates a particular feature of its surrounding environment.


Colorado River Facts Slide Card

This card includes information about the Colorado River, who uses the river, how the river’s water is divided and other pertinent facts about this vital resource for the Southwest. Beautifully illustrated with color photographs.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Protecting Drinking Water on Tribal Lands

This 30-minute DVD explains the importance of developing a source water assessment program (SWAP) for tribal lands and by profiling three tribes that have created SWAPs. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the video complements the Foundation’s 109-page workbook, Protecting Drinking Water: A Workbook for Tribes, which includes a step-by-step work plan for Tribes interested in developing a protection plan for their drinking water.

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36-inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes the Lahontan Dam and reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.

Maps & Posters

Truckee River Basin Map
Published 2005

This beautiful 24×36-inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues. 

Maps & Posters

Nevada Water Map
Published 2004

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Publication California Groundwater Map

Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.

Publication California Water Map

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

Aquapedia background

Water Treatment

Finding and maintaining a clean water supply for drinking and other uses has been a constant challenge throughout human history.

Today, significant technological developments in water treatment, including monitoring and assessment, help ensure a drinking water supply of high quality in California and the West.

The source of water and its initial condition prior to being treated usually determines the water treatment process. [See also Water Recycling.]

Aquapedia background

Surface Water Treatment

A tremendous amount of time and technology is expended to make surface water safe to drink. Surface water undergoes many processes before it reaches a consumer’s tap.

Aquapedia background

Safe Drinking Water Act

Safe Drinking Water Act

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for drinking water quality in the United States.

Launched in 1974 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act oversees states, communities, and water suppliers who implement the drinking water standards at the local level.

The act’s regulations apply to every public water system in the United States but do not include private wells serving less than 25 people.

According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water systems in the United States.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.

Western Water Magazine

Pervasive and Persistent: Constituents of Growing Concern
January/February 2011

This printed issue of Western Water, based on presentations at the November 3-4, 2010 Water Quality Conference in Ontario, Calif., looks at constituents of emerging concerns (CECs) – what is known, what is yet to be determined and the potential regulatory impacts on drinking water quality.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

Small Water Systems, Big Challenges
May/June 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines the challenges facing small water systems, including drought preparedness, limited operating expenses and the hurdles of complying with costlier regulations. Much of the article is based on presentations at the November 2007 Small Systems Conference sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and the California Department of Water Resources.

Western Water Magazine

From Source to Tap: Protecting California’s Drinking Water
November/December 2006

This issue of Western Water looks at some of the issues facing drinking water providers, such as compliance with increasingly stringent treatment requirements, the need to improve source water quality and the mission of continually informing consumers about the quality of water they receive.

Western Water Magazine

Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products: An Rx for Water Quality Problems?
July/August 2004

This issue of Western Water examines PPCPs – what they are, where they come from and whether the potential exists for them to become a water quality problem. With the continued emphasis on water quality and the fact that many water systems in the West are characterized by flows dominated by effluent contributions, PPCPs seem likely to capture interest for the foreseeable future.

Western Water Magazine

Confronting a Legacy of Contamination: Perchlorate
May/June 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the problem of perchlorate contamination and its ramifications on all facets of water delivery, from the extensive cleanup costs to the search for alternative water supplies. In addition to discussing the threat posed by high levels of perchlorate in drinking water, the article presents examples of areas hard hit by contamination and analyzes the potential impacts of forthcoming drinking water standards for perchlorate.

Western Water Magazine

Managing the Colorado River
November/December 1999

Drawn from a special stakeholder symposium held in September 1999 in Keystone, Colorado, this issue explores how we got to where we are today on the Colorado River; an era in which the traditional water development of the past has given way to a more collaborative approach that tries to protect the environment while stretching available water supplies.