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
Algal blooms are sudden overgrowths
of algae. Their occurrence is increasing in California’s
rivers, creeks and lakes and along the coast, threatening the
lives of people, pets and fisheries.
Only a few types of algae can produce poisons, but even nontoxic
blooms hurt the environment and local economies. When masses
of algae die, the decaying can deplete oxygen in the water to the
point of causing devastating fish kills.
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.
Stretching 450 miles long and up to
50 miles wide, the Sierra Nevada makes up more than a quarter of
California’s land area and forms its largest watersheds,
providing more than half of the state’s developed water supply to
residents, agriculture and other businesses.*
The California Environmental Quality
Act, commonly known as CEQA, is foundational to the state’s
environmental protection efforts. The law requires proposed
developments with the potential for “significant” impacts on the
physical environment to undergo an environmental review.
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.