Run Dry is a story of small, rural California communities and
their struggle to remain connected to the most precious
resource—water. This digital media project combines short
documentary films, personal stories, photographs, and data
visualizations about water scarcity and contamination in the
San Joaquin Valley.
Oakland’s McClymonds High School is now safe for students and
staff to return to after a months-long closure because of a
toxic chemical found in groundwater on the campus. The school
first closed in February, just weeks before classroom
instruction was halted because of COVID-19.
At a trial over fluoride regulations this summer, EPA eschewed
its own experts, hiring an outside company often deployed by
corporations to deny and downplay chemicals’ health impacts.
… Testifying for EPA in the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of California, Exponent Inc. cast doubt on
studies that underpin federal regulation of lead and mercury,
even as the agency’s own scientists said new research does
indeed warrant a review of fluoride’s neurotoxic effects.
Some neighborhoods in California and Oregon are already
witnessing benzene levels that exceed state and federal
permissible limits as evacuees return to ‘do not drink/do not
boil’ warnings. “The number of water systems that we expect to
see impacted could be the highest yet,” says Daniel Newton,
assistant deputy director of California’s Water Resources
Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water. “It is a concern.”
The Coachella Valley Water District broke ground Tuesday on a
project that will connect the Westside Elementary School in
Thermal to the water system that services much of the valley.
Westside is the only school in its district relying solely on a
well and has a history of water contamination….construction
is advancing with money from the state water board’s Safe
and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Program. [It
is the state's first recipient under the program.]
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.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year
declined to regulate perchlorate, which has been linked to
thyroid conditions. The unanimous vote from the State Water
Resources Control Board is the first step toward tightening
California’s drinking water standard, currently set at 6 parts
per billion. The chemical has been found in 27 counties
Every year, the Groundwater Resources Association of California
selects two speakers for the David Keith Todd Lectureship…
One of the speakers for the 2020 lecture series was Theresa
“Tess” Dunham, an attorney with Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP, who
spoke about groundwater quality and how the Porter-Cologne
Water Quality Control Act, the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, and the state’s recycled water policy can work
Water providers in California face myriad challenges in
sustainably providing high quality drinking water to their
customers while protecting the natural environment. In this
blog post, I explore the stresses
that surface and
groundwater quality challenges pose for California’s
retail water agencies.
Among the largest wildfires in California history, the LNU
Lightning Complex fires killed five people and destroyed nearly
1,500 structures — including whole blocks of the Berryessa
Highlands neighborhood where Kody Petrini’s home stood. Camped
out in a trailer on his in-laws’ nearby lot, the 32-year-old
father of two, along with all of his neighbors, was warned not
to drink the water or boil it because it could be contaminated
with dangerous compounds like benzene…
Mo Mohsin has been trying to bring clean drinking water to the
residents of the Cobles Corner mobile home park ever since he
bought the property back in 2003. The struggle, however, has
been all uphill. The water system that serves the rural
Stanislaus County community of 20 or so homes has violated
state drinking water standards 25 times since 2012,
Only a few minutes away from our beautiful Coachella Valley
golf courses and music festival locations, there are thousands
of people living in conditions without access to clean water or
reliable sanitation services. For these families, if something
breaks in the private water system serving their home, they go
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to overhaul
the way communities test their water for lead, a policy change
that will be pitched ahead of Election Day… But a draft of
the final rule obtained by The New York Times shows the E.P.A.
rejected top medical and scientific experts who urged the
agency to require the replacement of the country’s six million
to 10 million lead service lines…
After a wildfire ripped through central California last month,
residents in the Riverside Grove neighborhood in the Santa Cruz
Mountains discovered another danger: contaminated water
coursing through their pipes. Benzene, a chemical tied to
cancer, leukemia and anemia, was detected in the town’s
drinking water after 7 miles of plastic water piping was
torched in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire south of San
Communities like ours are called environmental justice
communities. That’s an elaborate way of saying that – among
other things – our children are suffering from asthma at
abnormally high rates because they literally don’t get clean
air to breathe. Our communities don’t all have safe drinking
water, they don’t have parks to play and exercise in and, worst
of all, they are surrounded by a high concentration of
industries that have been allowed to emit toxics for too long.
Drinking water advocates had fretted the Safe and Affordable
Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program, intended to
help struggling water systems in mostly poor, rural areas,
would fall victim to the pandemic-flattened economy. But a last
minute loan from the Underground Storage Tank Clean-Up Fund
will ensure SAFER receives its full $130 million — at least
this coming fiscal year.
The CZU Lightning Complex Fire badly damaged seven and a half
miles of water supply lines made of polyethylene, a plastic, in
northern Santa Cruz County. That triggered the San Lorenzo
Valley Water District, State Water Resources Control Board, and
Santa Cruz County Health Department to issue a Do Not Drink -
Do Not Boil water advisory for over 3,000 households in
Northern Santa Cruz County in late August.
We recommend issuing “Do Not Use” orders in the wake of major
fires to protect the public before water testing results are
available. We believe it is acceptable to use water for fire
fighting and toilet flushing, but not for purposes that involve
ingestion, skin exposure or inhalation, such as bathing or
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.
Emergency repairs are underway after a historic fire in the
Santa Cruz Mountains wreaked havoc on the San Lorenzo Valley’s
water infrastructure. The CZU August Lightning Complex fire
caused an estimated $11 million in damage to pipes, meters,
mains, tanks and other San Lorenzo Valley Water District
infrastructure and equipment, according to District Manager
A multimillion dollar water project in the heart of Northridge
is on the fast track to becoming a reality. The Aliso
Creek-Limekiln Creek Restoration Project at Vanalden Park is
aimed at reducing pollutants in city waters by treating
stormwater and urban runoff from Aliso and Limekiln creeks and
an open channel storm drain.
Drivers entering town these days pass a sign with an urgent
message: Do not drink or boil the tap water in your home. It
may not be safe. This town in the heart of the Santa Cruz
Mountains is the latest California community to grapple with
water problems because of a wildfire.
The Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday sued the
Environmental Protection Agency over its decision not to
regulate a chemical linked to fetal and infant brain damage.
The agency announced in June it would not regulate perchlorate
even though it estimated up to 620,000 people could be drinking
water with a concerning amount of the chemical.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit in Washington, seeks to overturn the Trump EPA’s
decision to allow unlimited amounts of toxic perchlorate in our
tap water. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler reached this
decision even though his agency admits that toxic perchlorate
is found in millions of Americans’ tap water…
Zone 7 Water Agency is now treating its water supply with
ozone, replacing chlorine as the main disinfecting treatment
and “enhancing quality of finished water” for customers,
officials announced on Tuesday.
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
California’s beleaguered Department of Toxic Substances
Control could at last get an overhaul under a bill heading to
the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom. … If approved, the bill would
impose a per ton waste generation fee, increase facility fees,
add an ombudsman position, and take other actions. Assembly
member Cristina Garcia (D), who authored the bill, said it
would also raise $22 million to help stabilize the department’s
Gov. Gavin Newsom, like governors before him, wants to overhaul
how water moves through the delta. He’s proposing a 30-mile
tunnel that would streamline the delivery of water from the
Sacramento River, a bid to halt the ongoing devastation of the
delta’s wetlands and wildlife while ensuring its flows continue
to provide for the rest of the state. The pressures of climate
change on water supplies have only increased the urgency to
act. And the coronavirus pandemic and months of
shelter-in-place orders haven’t slowed the planning. ….The
tunnel, as much as anything, is the very symbol of the state’s
never-ending water wars.
The San Joaquin Valley in California has the highest rates of
drinking water contamination and the highest amount of public
water systems with maximum contaminant level violations in the
state. … The most recent contamination occurred in the city
of Tulare, where local government buildings received a
boil-water notice after a test of county wells found coliform
North Marin Water District has struggled for decades with
periodic and seasonal salinity intrusion resulting from the
wells’ proximity to Tomales Bay, but the problem is especially
dire this summer as freshwater becomes scarce.
In a comment article published in Nature Sustainability, the
researchers are urging policy makers across the world to focus
on behavioural change, knowledge promotion and investment in
On Thursday, the California State Senate Appropriations
Committee defeated a bill that would reduce the amount of lead
leached from faucets and fixtures to no more than 1 microgram
of lead – five times less lead than faucets are designed to
Last year, California passed a law establishing a fund for safe
and affordable drinking water. Using money from the state’s
cap-and-trade program, it allocates up to $130 million to
solutions each year for a decade.
Twenty years ago, Erin Brockovich was released, and the brash,
unvarnished legal assistant turned activist at the heart of the
film … had the surreal experience of becoming a household
name almost overnight. “Let me be the first to tell you that
life takes an interesting turn when your name becomes a verb,”
the real Erin Brockovich writes in the introduction to her new
book, Superman’s Not Coming.
A pair of water associations are teaming up to urge the EPA to
use all its regulatory tools to safeguard drinking water as it
decides whether to allow new chemicals into U.S. commerce. The
Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA),
which represents state, tribal, and territorial water agency
officials, recently joined the Association of Metropolitan
Water Agencies, which represents publicly owned metropolitan
drinking water suppliers, to routinely flag their concerns
about new chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency.
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
Thousands of families who rent or own homes with private wells
are at risk of losing their drinking water in Madera, Fresno,
Tulare and Kings counties — and some already have. The Fresno
Bee is investigating the risks to private wells and proposed
solutions, and we need to hear your stories and your questions
to guide our reporting.
At the ACWA’s virtual conference held last week, the second
keynote speaker session featured Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the
State Water Resources Control Board, and Karla Nemeth, Director
of the Department of Water Resources. Here’s what they had to
Last week at the Lindsay City Council’s July 28 meeting, city
services and planning director Michael Camarena presented a
feasibility study. He noted that the city’s water system has
been out of compliance with the Stage 2 disinfection byproduct
rule for total trihalomethanes and five haloacetic acid maximum
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, guidance
around how to control the virus’s spread has become a steady
drumbeat: Wash your hands, wipe down surfaces, and stay home.
Implicit in these recommendations is the assumption that
households have safe and clean running water and indoor
The Trump Administration Monday announced that the United
States Department of Agriculture is investing $462 million to
modernize critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure
across rural America.
The state is peppered with failing small water systems, many
serving low-income communities without the resources to repair
them. … That’s where the new Safe and Affordable Funding for
Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program comes in.
Both the Tubbs and Camp fires destroyed fire hydrants, water
pipes and meter boxes. Water leaks and ruptured hydrants were
common. … After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed
widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence
suggests that the toxic chemicals originated from a combination
of burning vegetation, structures and plastic materials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule
to reduce lead in plumbing materials used in public water
systems, homes, schools and other facilities. This action marks
a significant milestone in implementing the Trump
Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead
Exposures and Associated Health Impacts.
A compilation of studies conducted between 1946 and 2018 show
that areas with high concentrations of lithium in public
drinking water had “correspondingly lower suicide rates,”
according to a news release. … The study was published Monday
in The British Journal of Psychiatry.
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
At a meeting this month where the State Water Resources Control
Board adopted its first spending plan for what was supposed to
be a $130 million-a-year investment for the next decade,
Chairman Joaquin Esquivel acknowledged that the economic
downturn could set California back.
Black and Latino Americans are twice as likely as White
Americans to live without running water. Take East Orosi, a
mostly Latino community surrounded by the fertile orchards of
California’s Central Valley. To look around you’d think that
water is pretty plentiful … and it is, for big agriculture. But
in a neighborhood where most of those who work those fields
live, there’s no central water main.
Central Valley neighborhoods are a step closer to new money to
fix broken water systems and access clean, safe drinking water
— if the White House and Congress agree on an infrastructure
package currently moving through the U.S. House of
Water suppliers in California currently must test for
perchlorate in drinking water down to 4 parts per billion. The
State Water Resources Control Board said it plans to cut that
level to 2 parts per billion and then again down to 1 part per
billion in 2024.
The California State Water Resources Control Board (Board) has
adopted a definition for “microplastics” that will be used in
testing of drinking water… While this development is
currently focused on the testing of drinking water in
California, the Board and others expect that it will form the
basis of future efforts to quantify and address microplastics
in the environment.
Safe water is a human right. Yet, in 2020, the United States
remains divided between those with the privilege of having
clean, running tap water and those who don’t. As we reckon with
systemic racism, our fight for safe and affordable water cannot
be disentangled from the fight for justice.
California stands on the cusp of getting critical SB 200 funds
flowing through communities that have waited too long for water
justice and are also among those hit hardest by COVID-19 and
the resulting economic loss and strain. Last week, the State
Water Board adopted its implementation plan for the fund, also
called the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and
Resilience (SAFER) program.
Federal regulators have moved to delay assessment and action on
chemicals that could contaminate drinking water. Richard Luthy
explains how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
individual states approach waterborne threats.
Efforts to ensure safe drinking water for children need further
support to reach their intended audience, according to an
analysis of California’s mandate requiring child care
facilities to test their water for lead, known as AB 2370.
To begin, what is arsenic? It is one of the basic chemical
elements found in the periodic table that shows its
relationship to other elements. Arsenic is dissolved from rocks
by water in areas that have groundwater pools. If you have
significant levels of arsenic in your water, it can cause
cancer, heart disease, diarrhea and affect your skin.
The question of whether and how much to regulate these
persistent chemicals in drinking water has spanned the
administrations of US presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama,
and Donald J. Trump. “This is a multi-administration failure to
take action on PFOA and PFOS and on the broader class of PFAS
chemicals that may pose health effects,” says Melanie Benesh,
legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group…
A total of 352 facilities, including fossil fuel companies,
water treatment plants and schools, made use of the EPA’s
relaxation of Clean Water Act requirements, according to a list
the agency shared with The Hill. … Environmentalists are
raising alarms over the number of facilities that aren’t
monitoring their pollution levels, saying the damage could last
well beyond the Aug. 31 expiration date of the temporary
American children whose homes rely on private wells for
drinking water are 25% more likely to have high lead levels in
their blood than those with access to regulated community water
services, according to new research.
An ambitious spending plan to shore up hundreds of failing and
“at risk” California water systems won approval Tuesday from a
key state regulatory agency. In a unanimous vote, the State
Water Resources Control Board authorized a plan to spend up to
$130 million in fiscal year 2020-2021 through the newly created
Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed massive health and economic
burdens on communities around the world, and no sector of
society is going untouched, including the vitally important
water sector. The full extent of impacts of the coronavirus
pandemic on the water sector are still emerging, but one area
that has come to the fore is the effect on municipal water
Signing off on a historic deal with its wealthiest — and
thirstiest — neighbor, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-0
to ship a supply of the city’s drinking water to Montecito
every year for the next 50 years, rain or shine.
A vote Monday was the final approval for a Tuolumne River
treatment plant serving Turlock and Ceres. The $202 million
project, discussed off and on since the 1980s, will reduce the
cities’ dependence on groundwater. Both have already approved
the sizable rate increases that will cover most of the cost.
The $202 billion budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom Monday
evening includes the $7.3 million promised to the Paradise
Irrigation District to help sustain it following the
devastating Camp Fire. The funding is considered critical to
providing clean water to residents for rebuilding efforts. The
money was not included in the Governor’s May revise budget
proposal but was included in the final spending
Tri-Valley residents might be happy to know the quality of
their drinking water met, and often exceeded, all state and
federal standards last year, according to the 2019 Annual
Consumer Confidence Report for the Zone 7 Water Agency.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law key provisions of a
new state budget, a spending plan that seeks to erase a
historic deficit while preserving service levels for schools,
healthcare and social services. … Elsewhere, the budget adds
four more years of additional CalFresh benefits for those who
live in communities without reliable access to safe drinking
The California Strategic Growth Council selected Stockton
alongside the cities of Oakland and Riverside to be a part of
the Transformative Climate Communities Program… The grant
will provide these neighborhoods with access to clean water,
fresh fruits and vegetables and clean air to breathe, Mayor
Michael Tubbs said.
The City of Dos Palos is shutting down water for its residents
for at least three days to treat after its water treatment
plant became clogged with algae. The city says water is
currently being used faster than it can be treated and sent
out, so residents should prepare for water to stop flowing.
After years of planning, McCloud’s Lower Elk Spring house
replacement project will get underway soon as the Department of
Water Resources has selected this project for the draft
recommended funding list. The current wooden structure with
corrugated roof will be replaced with a concrete vault to
insure protection from erosion and habitat contamination.
The report, recently released by the city, shows minimal, or
“zero,” levels of cancer-causing chemicals and dissolved solids
that were present as little as four years ago when the city
relied on well water. Today the city obtains its water from the
Sacramento River after which it is treated and delivered to
homes and businesses.
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.
Thirty-four years ago, Ronnie Levin’s research on lead in
drinking water sounded the alarm for many Americans about risks
lurking in their tap water. As the Trump administration propels
forward a new rule, Levin is still fighting to make sure
communities, especially the most vulnerable, have safe drinking
water. … What’s at stake, she says, is the health of some of
the most vulnerable communities in the nation.
The park’s 1,900 residents have been without a permanent
drinking water source for months, after the EPA announced last
summer that the park’s well water contained nearly 10 times the
permissible level of arsenic, a toxic metal.
As the world continues to grapple with the most devastating
public health crises in modern history, the San Joaquin Valley
has been hit particularly hard, resulting in mass disarray.
Small rural regions and underserved communities are now
experiencing threefold the challenges that existed prior to the
For the first time in five years, Seville residents can safely
drink and cook with the water that flows from their taps. The
small agricultural community of about 500 nestled at the scenic
base of the Sierra Nevada has been ground zero for Tulare
County’s water crisis for more than a decade.
After nearly six years of work by Castulo Estrada, the rest of
the Coachella Valley Water District board and Assemblyman
Eduardo Garcia, the water district announced in early May that
the State Water Resources Control Board had approved two
construction grants, totaling about $3.3 million. The funds
will be used to complete three projects that will bring safe,
reliable water service and fire protection to two disadvantaged
communities and one elementary school in the eastern Coachella
If you have a small, drinking water system in the Central
Valley that’s full of nitrates, and there are plenty, a company
has some bugs to sell you. Specifically, a company called
Microvi is looking for a demonstration project in the valley to
show that its “biological denitrification” process is feasible
for small systems.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the next step to
implement an important per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
(PFAS) requirement of the National Defense Authorization Act
(NDAA). The NDAA added 172 PFAS to the list of chemicals
required to be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory and
established a 100-pound reporting threshold for these
When the proposal for the Fallbrook Public Utility District and
the Rainbow Municipal Water District to detach from the San
Diego County Water Authority and annex to the Eastern Municipal
Water District is heard by San Diego County’s Local Agency
Formation Commission, a public vote will follow any LAFCO board
Rates will be reduced by 35 percent for sewer bills, 30 percent
for Hetch Hetchy public power utility bills, and 15 percent for
water bills for those who have a SFPUC residential account
under their name, have experienced income loss due to COVID-19
or the resulting shelter-in-place order, and a maximum income
under 200 percent of the area median income.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of
Representatives released the HEROES Act, the latest
proposed relief package to address the COVID-19 pandemic… The
proposal includes $1.5 billion in funding for water ratepayer
assistance to help struggling households pay their water and
sewer service bills. Also included in the legislation is $375
billion to be distributed to municipalities to cover revenue
shortfalls as a result of the pandemic, which may help
alleviate the strain on some clean water agencies.
The decision by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA,
appears to defy a court order that required the agency to
establish a safe drinking-water standard for perchlorate by the
end of June…[S]tates like California and Massachusetts
regulated the chemical in the absence of federal action.
The guidelines, part of WQA’s coronavirus resources, suggest
actions water treatment professionals can take as part of an
overall recommissioning plan for commercial, industrial,
manufacturing or retail businesses shut down during the
COVID-19 pandemic. The document also can be used as a resource
by restaurant and coffee shop owners, small businesses and
retail establishments, and even homeowners.
A grant of up to $2 million will allow Lomita to install a
filtration system that removes a potentially carcinogenic
chemical from its drinking water, allowing the community to
resume using groundwater instead of more expensive imported
supplies. The small city had taken its sole well offline last
year and drained its 5 million gallon reservoir after the
levels of benzene discovered in its groundwater exceeded state
drinking water standards.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to address lead
in water isn’t as aggressive as it could be, the agency’s
independent Science Advisory Board, as well as outside groups,
said Monday. … In its latest report, the board came out
against the proposed trigger level, saying it “adds unnecessary
complexity resulting from having to make lead management
decisions” while not enacting stricter limits that recognize
there is no safe level of lead.
Cal Water Quality Manager, Loni Lind says water that has been
sitting in building pipes can damage the water and bring
bacteria. To properly flush start from running the faucet
closest to the water meter and move outward to the farthest
In a pandemic when hand-washing could be a matter of life or
death, everyone must have access to clean water as a public
health issue and a basic human right. But what if you can’t
afford your water bill?
According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Water Utility Residential
Customer Satisfaction Study released today, 25 percent of
Americans say they never drink their tap water, setting the
stage for a serious set of customer satisfaction challenges on
the part of regional water utilities.
Despite the incomplete data, based on the examples gathered
below from several states and cities, all signs point to
millions of people nationwide at immediate risk of shutoff or
already shutoff. The numbers are certain to grow as the
economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 continues.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works gathered
the last few comments on Friday on its plans to move two
mammoth water infrastructure packages this year. … At the
same time, the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee is gearing up to introduce its own big water bill,
which should come by month’s end and be marked up over the
summer, according to a committee aide.
The State Water Resources Control Board has executed an
agreement to provide approximately $5 million in grant funds
for testing and remediation of lead in drinking water at
licensed Child Care Centers in California.
In many areas of the Central Valley and Central Coast, decades
of intensive agriculture has resulted in groundwater too
polluted to drink, and wells that have gone dry from
over-pumping. More than one million people in these regions
lack a source of clean water in their homes. This is a hardship
even in the best of times, but it puts communities at extremely
high risk during this time of crisis.
Some 1 million residents of California farmworker communities
have relied for years on bottled water because their tap water
is tainted with nitrate and other agricultural pollutants. Now,
as stores ration water to prevent hoarding during the
coronavirus crisis, these residents are relying on friends and
family, or driving many miles to bigger towns in search of
Utilities are reporting in industry surveys that they are low
primarily on the specialized N95 masks that block viruses and
other tiny particles. If the virus rampages throughout a
utility’s work force the way it has in meat-processing
facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and South Dakota, it could
jeopardize the treatment and delivery of drinking water and the
proper handling of sewage and stormwater.
Two bipartisan draft water infrastructure bills unveiled this
week by the Senate environment committee are a good start but
will need even more funding in the wake of the coronavirus
pandemic, water agencies and other groups said Wednesday.
Following efforts to increase safety measures throughout all
City departments to stop the spread of COVID-19, San Diego
Mayor Kevin Faulconer toured the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant
on Friday to observe increased safety protocols. He also
thanked City employees as they continue to deliver safe,
reliable water to over 1.4 million San Diegans.
As federal, state, and local leaders look to provide economic
relief, they must pay special attention to the support and
protection of our current infrastructure workforce.
Additionally, this moment offers an opportunity that we may not
see again anytime soon: the chance to jumpstart long-term
infrastructure careers for millions of prospective workers
The number of supporters in Congress for utility assistance in
the next Covid-19 package continues to grow. One hundred ten
Democratic members of the House and Senate sent a letter today
to congressional leaders, requesting financial aid to utilities
and the people they serve during the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican and Democratic congressional leaders were urged
Tuesday to include at least $12.5 billion in stimulus funds to
help people struggling to pay their water and sewer bills.
Congress is preparing another stimulus package that will
include billions of dollars to improve the nation’s aging water
and sewer infrastructure.
Governments at all levels are beginning to review water access
policies and inequalities that inhibit public and personal
efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. Those policies
include restoring water service to homes where water had been
disconnected, suspending new water shutoffs, and installing
public handwashing stations to serve residents who are
Dozens of residents participated in our inaugural Water
Infrastructure Bus Tour in February to experience our
facilities up close and understand the work we do to provide
safe, clean drinking water to Santa Clara County.
Today’s declaration of a local emergency grants general
manager, Craig Miller, increased flexibility to make critical
operational decisions and acquire vital financial, material,
and human resources to support business continuity. This action
ensures the essential water and wastewater (sewer) services
that Western provides remain as reliable as ever.
We have a legacy of lead in our pipes, our paint, and our soil.
These are the most significant sources of human lead exposure
and, therefore, draw most of the attention and resources
because they are costly to fix. … For that reason, EDF has
sought, as part of our larger efforts, to reduce the amount of
lead that leaches from new plumbing devices such as faucets and
California is moving closer to setting a drinking water limit
for the solvent 1,4-dioxane, which EPA has said is a likely
carcinogen. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard
Assessment announced Friday it was working to set a public
health goal for the emerging contaminant.
Here on the largest Native American reservation, one that spans
portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, politicians and
health officials are mounting a frantic effort to curb the
spread of the coronavirus. The impact could be especially
devastating, officials fear, in an extremely rural area larger
than West Virginia, with roughly 175,000 residents and only
four inpatient hospitals.
The advice is simple and universal: Washing your hands with
soap and water is one of the most effective ways to stop the
spread of the coronavirus. But for millions of people across
the country, that’s not simple at all: They lack running water
in their houses due to service shutoffs prompted by overdue
Water agencies throughout the West are changing their
operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities
and farms don’t run dry. Their responses range from extreme
measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical
workers don’t succumb to the virus.
President Trump has become the first U.S. president to declare
a health epidemic a “major disaster” in his recent decisions to
approve requests for that designation from the governors of
California, New York and Washington in their battles against
COVID-19. … Trump’s determinations could open the door for
FEMA to step into a wide range of future events including
droughts, extreme cold weather and the contamination of
Under a plea agreement with the Butte County district
attorney’s office, PG&E will pay the maximum fine of
approximately $4 million. It has agreed to fund efforts to
restore access to water for the next five years for residents
impacted by the loss of the Miocene Canal, which was destroyed
by the fire.
California residents who are not able to pay their water,
sewer, energy or communications bills during the state’s novel
coronavirus state of emergency will not be at risk of having
their services shut off, the California Public Utilities
Commission said Tuesday.
Bottled water has been disappearing from store shelves as fast
as toilet paper. And, like toilet paper, there’s no practical
reason to stockpile bottled water. “People need to stop
hoarding water,” said Damon Micalizzi of the Municipal Water
District of Orange County. “Your tap water is regulated more
strictly than any bottled water you buy.”
An employee at Silicon Valley’s largest water district has
tested positive for coronavirus, and at least eight other
employees, including CEO Norma Camacho, were in self-quarantine
as a result. … The employee is not involved with the
treatment or delivery of drinking water, and that service
continues uninterrupted, officials at the district, also known
as Valley Water, said Monday.
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency (SCV Water) has announced
that they are set to voluntarily shut down 13 additional wells
in compliance with new state PFAS regulations, officials said
Friday. The levels of PFAS found are above the state-mandated
response level, according to Kathie Martin, public information
officer for Santa Clarita Valley Water.
Those who live in the city of Los Angeles don’t need to
stockpile bottled water in the midst of growing fears about the
spread of COVID-19, city officials urged Thursday. The L.A.
Department of Water and Power reminded residents that their tap
water is safe to drink, even as the coronavirus spreads.
At the February meeting of the California Water Commission,
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot addressed the
Commission, tasking them with assessing and prioritizing the
infrastructure needs around the state and helping to determine
the state role in rehabilitating that infrastructure.
The new career prep program was created out of a partnership
between the school district and water district that is linked
to the development of East Valley Water District’s
Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant now
under construction across Sixth Street from the high school.
The State Water Resources Control Board Tuesday adopted its
2020 priorities, which include setting a maximum contaminant
level of the heavy metal, also known as chromium-6. A proposed
rule setting the limit could come in early 2021.
Paradise Irrigation District has completed sampling service
lines to all standing structures in the town for possible water
contamination and is expecting to finish repairs by the end of
spring. The completion of the testing marks a milestone in the
area’s recovery after the Camp Fire.
The Pentagon may be forced to follow new state environmental
pollution standards for a family of manmade “forever chemicals”
that may have been spilled at hundreds of military sites in the
U.S., Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers. Esper was
pressed Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing
over the military’s use of widely used firefighting foam
containing chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances, or PFAS, that never degrade.
The EPA is involved in multiple PFAS-related criminal
investigations, the agency said Wednesday, adding another knot
to an already complex legal landscape for “forever chemicals.”
The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged the probes in
a new progress report on its 2019 PFAS Action Plan.
EPA proposed its revamp of the Lead and Copper Rule last fall.
That revision addresses many elements of the regulation
then-acting Region 5 Administrator Robert Kaplan critiqued. But
it does not follow one key recommendation: that the agency
establish health-based limits on lead in drinking water.
California finds itself once again taking the lead by setting
regulatory standards stricter than the rest of the nation. At
issue is the nearly ubiquitous presence of certain PFAS
chemicals in drinking water, a problem being addressed to
varying degrees by many states and federal regulators.
There was recently a discussion in the Arcata City Council
about the proposed elimination of fluoride from water delivered
to homes. … There is a lot of scientific research about this
subject which is summarized below.
The EPA has made an initial determination that it will
eventually set legal limits for levels of two key PFAS
chemicals in drinking water, the agency announced Thursday. …
That announcement could still be months away.
Oceanside celebrated the start of construction Wednesday on a
project that could make it the first city in San Diego County
to be drinking recycled water by 2022. At least two other
cities or water districts are close behind on similar projects,
and several more agencies are considering plans to make potable
recycled water a significant portion of their supply.
California is doing more to preserve its groundwater levels
than ever before, but a new, interactive tool by a local water
advocacy group suggests it may not be enough. Last Wednesday,
Visalia-based Community Water Center … argued that California
will experience longer, more severe droughts due to climate
Marking a historic moment for the city of Oceanside and the
region, city officials and water industry leaders will break
ground on Pure Water Oceanside on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 10 a.m.
at the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility. Scheduled to be
completed before the end of 2021, Pure Water Oceanside will be
on the map as the first operating recycled water project in San
11,000 households in San Jose’s Willow Glen and Williams Road
neighborhoods received letters in the mail beginning in late
January from the San Jose Water Company warning that the wells
that provide them with drinking water tested positive for
elevated levels of per-flouro-octane sulfonic acid, known as
Though sampling indicated levels of PFOS and PFOA in a couple
of local sources of water, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water
District is currently not producing drinking water from
impacted sources. EVMWD is evaluating options to meet these new
regulations including importing water to offset local supplies
and in the long term, considering construction of treatment
systems if water sources exceed state mandated response levels.
In response to concerns about lead in the water at schools in
Cabrillo Unified School District, the district is moving
forward with a plan to get 25 filtered water bottle filling
stations installed across Cabrillo campuses.
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.
Experts and advocates on Tuesday criticized the Environmental
Protection Agency’s proposed rule to combat lead in the water
supply, calling for the agency to require that service lines
containing lead be replaced.
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
The state lowered the acceptable levels for two PFAS toxins in
drinking water on Thursday, triggering the closure of wells
throughout the California — including 33 in Orange County,
which has been particularly plagued by the so-called “forever
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.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta is proposing a far-reaching California
Green New Deal to address climate change while prioritizing
historically marginalized groups… The bill would extend the
rights of Californians to include things like access to clean
air and water; justice for institutional – including
environmental – racism; debt-free public education through
college, and affordable health care.
The White House issued a notice [Thursday] seeking input on
efforts to “reform enforcement” — a potential boon for the
energy industry. … [Thursday's] memo, which appears in the
Federal Register, states that federal enforcement has ballooned
in recent decades but protections for defendants has not.
The plan, put together with the help of Carollo Engineers,
Inc., lays out a 20-year road map of projects needed to
maintain and improve the city’s reservoirs, water tanks, wells,
underground pipes and pump stations.
Congress began the process of providing relief to the San
Joaquin Valley when it comes to the Friant-Kern Canal and clean
drinking water in rural communities when a subcommittee held a
hearing on two bills sponsored by T.J. Cox.
In preparation for the inevitable, Self-Help Enterprises …
has launched a new and innovative Emergency Services Division
that will reach and engage diverse and vulnerable populations
around natural disasters, such as drought, fire, flood and
earthquake. The program will also help families receive urgent
access to clean water, help with water well replacement and
water filtration services as needed.
The findings by the Environmental Working Group show the
group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency data, that 110 million
Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.
Fresno County contains eight of the top 50 census districts in
California with the highest numbers of kids with lead
poisoning, according to a recent article in The Fresno Bee.
This is completely unacceptable.
A $30,000 grant will bring together 20 high school students
from Allensworth and Alpaugh to learn about safe drinking
water, conduct hands-on testing of arsenic treatment, and
present findings… The students will work with a UC Berkeley
lab to test the technology, Electrochemical Arsenic
The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, located just south of
LAX, purifies water and injects it into the ground to act as a
barrier between seawater and fresh groundwater. … But the
idea is to one day recycle wastewater into drinking water and
put it right back into the system. The industry is moving
cautiously, though, given what you might call a considerable
“ick” factor for the public.
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
The Trump administration is preparing to further dismantle
environmental regulations by vastly reducing the reach of
federal protections for streams and wetlands — delivering a
major win for farmers, developers, miners and oil and gas
South Coast Water District will gear up to undertake its next
milestone for desalination: financing the project. On Thursday,
Jan. 9, after press time, General Manager Rick Shintaku
requested authorization from SCWD’s Board of Directors to enter
into an agreement with Clean Energy Capital to conduct a cost
analysis for the proposed desalination project.
House lawmakers passed a bill Friday for U.S. regulators to
designate chemicals found in cooking spray, cosmetics and other
grease-resistant products as health hazards. Known as
polyfluoroalkyl and perfluorooctanoic substances (PFAS and
PFOS), the chemicals have been found in groundwater sites
across the nation.
San Francisco city officials and employees will no longer be
sipping bottled water, but instead tap water provided by the
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission under a new pilot
program announced Thursday. The program aims to install new
reusable five-gallon containers at nine departments with
offices within City Hall, filled with tap water from the city’s
Who can deny the value of potable water to every living thing
in this city, this county, this state? Four million residential
and industrial customers in 43 cities in the Los Angeles, San
Gabriel and San Fernando Basins are dependent on multiple water
sources – groundwater pumped from below them, by aqueduct from
the Colorado River, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, Mono Lake, the
Owens Valley and recycled from wastewater treatment plants.
The majority of groundwater wells drawing water for Santa
Clarita Valley Water contain enough of a non-stick chemical,
which is a suspected carcinogen, that water officials are now
required by the state to notify the county about the find. Of
the agency’s 45 operational wells, 29 of them were found to
contain tiny amounts of of perfluorooctanoic acid and
Nobody seems to know why a rope that caused a nearly weeklong
boil-water advisory in Poway was there in the first place. The
rope had been hanging on a wall in a vault adjacent to the
clearwell drinking water reservoir and a stormwater drain. When
heavy rains on Nov. 28 and 29 caused the stormwater to surge
and back up into the vault, somehow the rope became lodged in a
swing gate allowing muddy water to leak into the reservoir…
A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water
pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally storing and transporting
hazardous waste and agreed to a $5 million fine, federal
prosecutors said. The waste was produced by filtering arsenic
out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC’s facility
in Owens Valley, authorities said.
More than 1.4 million children covered by California’s Medicaid
health care program have not received the required testing for
lead poisoning, state auditors reported Tuesday, and the two
agencies charged with administering tests and preventing future
exposure have fallen short on their responsibilities.
A piece of rope “inexplicably” became lodged in a valve
separating a 10-million gallon reservoir from a storm drain in
late November, causing a nearly week-long, costly boil-water
advisory in Poway, a report prepared by the city for the state
Climate change is already affecting water management across the
state. Small rural communities with ongoing drinking water
challenges are especially vulnerable to greater extremes
brought on by a warming climate. We talked to Jan Coppinger, a
special district administrator from Lake County, about how the
county’s small water systems have dealt with an especially
devastating string of natural disasters.
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
New data shows that rainwater in some parts of the US contains
high enough levels of potentially toxic per- and
polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to possibly affect human
health and may, if found in drinking water, in some cases be
high enough to trigger regulatory action.
The Rosamond Community Services District will replace the last
large areas of asbestos concrete water pipes in a project
slated to start early next year. On Wednesday, the Board of
Directors awarded a contract to California Compaction for $2.3
million to complete the pipe replacement project.
A provision tucked within the EPA’s proposal to overhaul the
way it regulates lead in drinking water—initially derided as
toothless—could have far-reaching consequences for public
health, municipal policies, and even real estate transactions,
water industry insiders now say. The proposal would require all
water utilities across the country to inventory the location of
all of their lead pipes and then make that information public.
As an appointee to the San Francisco Regional Water Quality
Control Board, Newsha Ajami has worked with local, state and
federal agencies to monitor and ensure water quality in areas
affected by wildfires. Ajami is director of urban water policy
at Stanford’s Water in the West program, and co-leads the Urban
Water Systems & Institutions Thrust at Re-Inventing the
Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), a National
Science Foundation engineering research center based at
Stanford. She discussed wildfire’s threat to water quality with
The Board plans to make the compiled responses publicly
available and encourage the 14,000 licensed child care centers
in the state to buy new fixtures from those on the list when
water testing indicates the fixture should be replaced.
UC Berkeley engineers have developed a mineral-coated sand that
can soak up toxic metals like lead and cadmium from water.
Along with its ability to destroy organic pollutants like
bisphenol A, this material could help cities tap into
stormwater, an abundant but underused water source.
A state inspection found 12 flaws in Poway’s drinking water
delivery system less than three months before the city’s
precautionary boil water advisory. City officials remain
adamant that the issues raised by the inspection had nothing to
do with the nearly week-long advisory that ended Dec. 6.
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would
require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing
toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to
place stronger regulations on the chemicals.
Water suppliers across the nation could be required to sample
for manmade “forever chemicals” in an attempt to gauge just how
prevalent the contaminants are in drinking supplies. … Every
five years the Environmental Protection Agency can order large
water suppliers and a sampling of smaller districts to test for
up 30 chemicals that aren’t currently regulated by the Safe
Drinking Water Act.
The report by the Environmental Integrity Project released on
Thursday showed some 30 states have reduced funding for
pollution control programs, 16 of them by more than 20%. Forty
states, meanwhile, have cut staffing at environmental agencies,
half of them by at least 10%, the report showed.
A state official said Wednesday he intends to notify the city
of Poway that its water storage reservoir is out of compliance,
a situation he said directly contributed to last week’s storm
water overflow that has left the entire community under a
boil-water advisory and temporarily shuttered nearly 200
California authorities are addressing the problem of lead in
drinking water at public schools through a statewide program to
test pipes and upgrade plumbing, but experts warn the threat
goes well beyond schools – and nearby homes and businesses may
unknowingly be affected.
California authorities are addressing the problem of lead in
drinking water at public schools through a statewide program to
test pipes and upgrade plumbing, but experts warn the threat
goes well beyond schools – and nearby homes and businesses may
unknowingly be affected.
Cities like Huron, with a population of 6,926 and a $22,802
median household income, are often too small to expand water
access projects that could lower utility rates. While cities
like Delano are too big to qualify for rural development
projects from the federal government. But a new proposal could
soon alleviate those pains.
Rains caused storm drains to back up into Poway’s water
treatment facility, officials said. Crews are working around
the clock to clean and flush the system, which may take two to
five days before the water is declared safe. The county health
department ordered the closing of all restaurants in the city
and residents are being advised to boil their tap water before
drinking it or using it for cooking, city officials said.
Napa city leaders have advocated for detailed water monitoring
in order to safeguard a watershed area that lies largely
outside its direct control. Some 34,000 acres in rural Napa
County, as far north as Angwin, drain into Lake Hennessey, but
the city owns only 2,822 acres.
A multimillion-dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in
drinking water is facing delays because of a dispute within the
Trump administration, according to several people involved in
the study… The dispute has implications for more than half a
dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily
contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Environmental advocates say the law has compelled companies to
quietly make their products and emissions less toxic. But some
economists who are critical of government regulation argue the
law has gone too far, plastering the state with warnings so
ubiquitous that they’ve become meaningless to most consumers.
Back in 2016, California Water Service Co. took two of its
groundwater wells in Chico out of service after tests showed
they were contaminated with toxic flourinated chemicals known
as PFAS—or per- and polyfluoralkyl substances—that have been
linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. The move was
For three years, residents of the unincorporated San Bernardino
County desert town have used twice-a-month shipments of bottled
water because local wells were no longer meeting state
standards for drinking water. … That changed in September,
when work finished on a new pipeline that pulls clean water
from a well 4 miles away in Yucca Valley.
The kiosks take city tap water – which must be clean enough to
meet state and federal quality standards – run it through a
filtration system that removes chemicals such as chlorine to
improve taste, then dispense it to customers at an 8,000% to
10,000% mark-up. Vended water is cheaper than individually
sealed, store-bought bottles, but many times more expensive
than tap water.
EPA’s announcement Monday asked the public to weigh in on a
proposal to add PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI),
which would push municipalities to alert people right away if
the substance has been found in tap water. It would also
require manufacturers who use PFAS to report annually how much
of each chemical is released to the environment.
It will be two years in December that the city of Chino Hills
shut down its wells because of a new contamination level set by
the state for the chemical 1,2,3-TCP (TCP) and it could take
another three years before a filtration system can be built to
treat the chemical and put the wells back in service, according
to public works officials.