California has pioneered some of the
toughest state environmental legislation to address environmental
issues. For example, laws focused attention on “instream uses” of
water to benefit fish and wildlife, recreation, water quality and
aesthetics. Among water-related issues, in general, are
climate change, toxic waste disposal, pollution and loss of
wildlife and habitat.
Also, the California Legislature was the first in the country to
protect rare plants and animals through passage of the California
Endangered Species Act in 1970.
Tiny 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
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
“Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” is an
aphorism attributed, albeit erroneously, to Mark Twain.
Whatever its source, it accurately describes California’s
decades-long conflicts over this existential liquid. From
19th-century battles between farmers and hydraulic gold miners
over debris polluting rivers to 21st-century political duels
over spawning salmon, Californians have squabbled incessantly
over how water should be captured, allocated, conveyed and
priced. The battles are growing more intense as climate change
widens the gap between supply and demand. Thus, the search for
a grand compromise that would satisfy the three major water
interest blocs — farmers, municipal users and advocates for
fish and other wildlife — has become increasingly
difficult. -Written by columnist Dan Walters.
Algal blooms in rivers, creeks and
lakes are an increasing
occurrence in California, threatening human health and safety as
well as pets. Blue-green algal blooms (cyanobacteria) occur in
California during the summer months because hot temperatures
combined with low water levels stimulate growth. If there are
excess nutrients present in their environment, especially
nitrogen and phosphorus, algae populations grow at accelerated
rates, creating algal blooms.
Excess salinity poses a growing
threat to food production, drinking water quality and public
health. Salts increase the cost of urban drinking water and
wastewater treatment, which are paid for by residents and
businesses. Increasing salinity is likely the largest long-term
chronic water quality impairment to surface and groundwater in California’s Central
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an
overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada.
It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history
of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las
Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and
today’s water supply challenges.
This issue of Western Water examines that process. Much
of the information is drawn from discussions that occurred at the
November 2005 Selenium Summit sponsored by the Foundation and the
California Department of Water Resources. At that summit, a
variety of experts presented findings and the latest activities
from areas where selenium is of primary interest.