Topic: Pollution



The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

Aquafornia news Long Beach Post News

Long Beach gears up to fight upstream sewage spills that pollute its coastline

Long Beach had to close its coastline for 63 days over the last five years because of upstream sewage spills, but city staff told council members Tuesday that the total amount of economic or environmental damage caused by the recurring spills is hard to estimate. Beach closures caused by raw sewage are a perennial problem in Long Beach because the city is downstream from much of Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers carry debris and pollutants into the ocean, which can make bacteria levels in Long Beach’s water unsafe for use.

Aquafornia news Undark Magazine

What industry knew about the perils of PFAS

For decades, the chemical industry has shown a pattern of promoting its products to the public without disclosing their harms. We have now found that for chemicals known as PFAS, this industry practice has been harming our health once again. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, have been produced since the 1940s and are used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets, and waterproof clothing. Many studies have shown that PFAS persist in the environment and have contaminated drinking water, soil, and peoples’ bodies. The early producers of PFAS — 3M and DuPont — promoted them as a miracle of modern science. 

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Hydraulic oil leak into Indian Creek Reservoir

On Thursday, September 28, approximately fifteen gallons of hydraulic oil leaked into Indian Creek Reservoir and the reservoir is closed for recreational use. Indian Creek Reservoir is a freshwater reservoir in Alpine County operated by the South Tahoe Public Utility District. Fresh water is released out of the reservoir through a dam into Indian Creek. The valve on the dam was tested on Wednesday, September 27 as part of an annual dam inspection. Operational issues were noted during the inspection. On the morning of Thursday, September 28, crews were working to fix the valve on the dam by adding hydraulic oil into the lines.

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Aquafornia news Brockville Recorder & Times

Researchers find microplastics in clouds for the first time

Microplastics have been found in the deepest recesses of the ocean, atop Mount Everest, in fresh Antarctic snow, in our blood and lungs and now, for the first time, in the clouds. In a study published in Environmental Chemistry Letters, researchers in Japan found microplastics in mists that shrouded the peaks of Mount Oyama and Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain. Researchers analyzed samples collected between heights of 1,300 to 3,776 metres altitude and found nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber, ranging in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres. They hypothesized that the high-altitude microplastics could influence cloud formation and possibly modify the climate.

Aquafornia news Forbes

California may crack down on washing machines without filters—here’s why

A California bill is looking to make oceans cleaner by requiring new washing machines to filter microfibers from their emissions, a move designed to stop microfibers from falling off clothes and harming ecosystems—but the state has faced pushback from laundromats. AB 1628—which hasn’t yet been approved by the governor—would require all new residential and commercial washing machines sold on or before January 1, 2029, to include a microfiber filtration system to reduce the amount of microfibers that end up in oceans and freshwater, though older models without the filter can still be used if they were bought before the set date.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Forever chemicals at former NASA lab are leaking into LA River, say watchdogs

Two highly toxic chemicals polluting a former NASA research site are also probably contaminating the Los Angeles River and aquifer from which the region’s agricultural growers draw their water, watchdog groups and a whistleblower charge. … The Santa Susana field laboratory about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles is already notorious for its radioactive waste, but the site, which is owned by the federal government and Boeing, is also now suspected of leaching polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) “forever chemicals” into the water.

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Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Opinion: Pesticides’ uneven regulatory system violates civil rights

The state of California’s regulatory agencies, especially the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), boast that we have the toughest network of environmental laws, designed to protect public health, in the country. Yet over the decades, it has been devilishly difficult for people with negative health impacts resulting from pesticide exposures to prove it in court. … [N]either DPR nor any county ag commissioners consider the interactions and cumulative impacts of multiple pesticides over time as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A further CEQA requirement – considering less toxic alternatives to specific pesticide applications – is regularly and roundly ignored.
-Written by Woody Rehanek, a farmworker for 18 years and a special ed teacher for 18 years for Pajaro Valley USD. He is a member of SASS (Safe Ag Safe Schools) and CORA (Campaign for Organic & Regenerative Agriculture). 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: CDFW’s cannabis enforcement program targets illegal operations on public and private lands

Wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) spearheaded several enforcement investigations in August and September. From Sept. 4-8, MET officers targeted several illegal cannabis operations on rural private lands in Shasta, Tehama and Sutter counties. Officers received a tip from a hunter who stumbled on one of the trespass grow sites and reported it. As a result, MET officers eradicated more than 5,500 illegal plants, arrested four suspects, seized several firearms including one stolen handgun, dismantled several water diversions and removed thousands of pounds of trash.

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Zone 7 opens PFAS water treatment facility

The Zone 7 Water Agency recently unveiled its new state-of-the-art water treatment facility, which will use an ion exchange treatment process to remove PFAS chemicals from the Stoneridge groundwater well in Pleasanton. … Nearly 30 Tri-Valley officials, residents and Zone 7 staff members gathered for the event to celebrate the first-of-its-kind facility in Northern California. Located on Stoneridge Drive just west of Mohr Elementary School, the Ion Exchange PFAS Treatment Facility uses tanks that are filled with small ion-exchange polymers, which are designed to attract PFAS chemicals, otherwise known as forever chemicals, in the water.

Aquafornia news Lookout Local Santa Cruz

Aptos teen couldn’t find data on health of local waterways, so he invented his own award-winning tool

Jack Driscoll-Natale was learning about measuring the health of local waterways for a class at Pacific Collegiate School his sophomore year when he realized there wasn’t enough publicly available data to complete his lab work. So he decided to build his own tool that can continuously monitor water quality. Now the 17-year-old senior is racking up awards and plaudits from scientists for his invention, which can upload a continuous stream of water quality data to a publicly accessible website for the fraction of the cost of professional equipment.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Former U.S. military bases remain a toxic menace

For much of the 20th century, Fort Ord was one of the largest light infantry training bases in the country … [L]eft behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it. … The Army has set up two treatment plants at Fort Ord to remove solvents and other contaminants from groundwater. In 2021, 12,000 acres were removed from the Superfund program, reflecting progress in the cleanup, though fully cleaning up the groundwater could take another 30 years, officials said.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Fracking for oil and gas is devouring American groundwater

[T[o strike oil in America, you need water. Plenty of it. Today, the insatiable search for oil and gas has become the latest threat to the country’s endangered aquifers, a critical national resource that is already being drained at alarming rates by industrial farming and cities in search of drinking water. The amount of water consumed by the oil industry, revealed in a New York Times investigation, has soared to record levels. … And now, fracking companies are the ones scrambling for water. A 2016 Ceres report found that nearly 60 percent of the 110,000 wells fracked between 2011 and 2016 were in regions with high or extremely high water stress, including basins in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and California.

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Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey County officials to consider banning single-use plastics

Citing numerous studies indicating the breadth of environmental damage caused by single-use plastics – common in restaurant take-out products – the Monterey County Supervisors Tuesday afternoon will consider banning their use. If passed, an ordinance banning the use of single-use plastic will join a groundswell of restrictions by cities, counties and the state. The state has enacted Senate Bill 1046 set to take effect Jan. 1, 2025 that will ban all single-use plastic bags provided prior to checkout at food stores. The most common of these are the plastic bags used in produce sections. Los Angeles County has already banned single-use plastics anywhere in the unincorporated area of the county.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California’s small dry cleaners face massive bills to clean up toxic chemical

Although [California] supported dry cleaners in the transition away from PCE [perchloroethylene] through grants to buy new cleaning machines and by offering training on how to safely use other cleaning solvents or do wet cleaning with detergents, many cleaners feel they’ve been left out to dry when it comes to cleaning up the pollution often found under their businesses and neighbor’s water supplies. .. A PCE cleanup typically costs about $1 million to more than $10 million. The high costs come from the extensive mapping of groundwater and soil samples required to determine the extent of a PCE plume — which can flow for several miles in groundwater under cities — and the regular monitoring of how effective the remediation efforts are.

Aquafornia news CBS News

As California’s toxic Salton Sea shrinks, it’s raising health alarms for the surrounding community

Damien Lopez, age 4, has symptoms that many people who live near Southern California’s Salton Sea also have. “His cough gets very wheezy. I try to control him,” his mother Michelle Lopez said. … A 2019 University of Southern California study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that between 20% and 22% of children in the region have asthma-like symptoms, a little more than triple the national rate for asthma, according to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. David Lo, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside, led a university study last year that determined the Salton Sea itself is responsible for the high incidence of asthma for those who live near it. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Dry cleaning chemical PCE pollutes cities across California

Investigations over several years have found that even the “purest” groundwater is not immune to contamination from a carcinogenic chemical long used by a common business operation found in towns and cities across the state: dry cleaners. Since the 1940s, perchloroethylene, or PCE for short, has been a popular chemical employed in dry cleaning shops across the country. … [I]n dry cleaners’ common practice — before better equipment and regulations were developed — the chemical was often dumped down drains or splashed on porous floors. As a result, over the past 50 years, PCE leaked into the soil and groundwater under the handful of former South Lake Tahoe dry cleaners — and likely thousands of others in California.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Report: 2010 California Motor Vehicle Brake Friction Material Law

The Brake Pad Legislative Report, recently released by The Department of Toxic Substances Control and the State Water Resources Control Board, documents widespread compliance with the 2010 California Motor Vehicle Brake Friction Material Law (Brake Pad Law) and a subsequent reduction in aquatic pollution. The Brake Pad Law limits the amount of copper and other toxic substances allowed in brake pads in order to reduce the amount of these substances entering California’s streams, rivers, lakes, and marine environment. Copper is toxic to many aquatic organisms, and vehicle brake pads are a major source of copper pollution in urban runoff. As of 2021, more than 60 percent of brake pads on the market are copper-free, which corresponds to an estimated 28 percent decrease in copper entering urban runoff.

Aquafornia news NBC 7 - San Diego

San Diego County’s mayors push Newsom for help with border water-pollution crisis

The Tijuana River sewage emergency has reached the state level once again. All 18 mayors in San Diego County have sent another letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking for his help to address the ongoing sewage and chemical pollutants flowing into the ocean from the river. … Paloma Aguirre, the mayor of Imperial Beach, where beaches have been closed now for 650 consecutive days, said that going to the beach is one of the last free recreational things people can do, and that issue affects people living beyond the coast.

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Aquafornia news Yale E360

Road hazard: Evidence mounts on toxic pollution from tires

For two decades, researchers worked to solve a mystery in West Coast streams. Why, when it rained, were large numbers of spawning coho salmon dying? As part of an effort to find out, scientists placed fish in water that contained particles of new and old tires. The salmon died, and the researchers then began testing the hundreds of chemicals that had leached into the water. A 2020 paper revealed the cause of mortality: a chemical called 6PPD that is added to tires to prevent their cracking and degradation. When 6PPD, which occurs in tire dust, is exposed to ground-level ozone, it’s transformed into multiple other chemicals, including 6PPD-quinone, or 6PPD-q. The compound is acutely toxic to four of 11 tested fish species, including coho salmon.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California just passed these climate and environment bills

[Editor's note: Scroll to fourth section of story for water-related bills] A bill headed to Newsom’s desk would ban the use of drinking water to irrigate purely decorative grass that no one uses. Another bill approved by lawmakers would allow cities to ban the installation of artificial turf at homes, based on research showing that fake grass can result in microplastics washing into streams and the ocean. Assembly Bill 249 would tighten standards for lead testing in schools’ drinking water. In the latest chapter in San Diego County’s ongoing water drama, lawmakers approved a bill that could make it harder for local water agencies to withdraw from larger regional water authorities — but too late to stop the contentious bureaucratic divorce already underway in San Diego County due to high water costs. Assembly Bill 779 would tweak California’s work-in-progress groundwater rules to “level the playing field for all groundwater users, particularly small farmers and farmers of color,” according to three UCLA law students who helped write the bill.

Aquafornia news Grist

Deprived of Colorado River water, an oil company’s plans to mine in Utah may have dried up

The Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah is one of the richest oil shale deposits in the country. It is estimated to hold more proven reserves than all of Saudi Arabia. Enefit, an Estonian company, was the latest in a long line of firms that hoped to tap it. It’s also the latest to see such plans collapse — but perhaps not yet for good. The company has lost access to the water it would need to unearth the petroleum and relinquished a federal lease that allowed research and exploration on the land. The two moves, made late last month, appear to signal the end of Enefit’s plans to mine shale oil in the Uinta Basin.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California’s remote wilderness is getting polluted by balloons

Avid hiker Alyssa Johnston was exploring a trail in the High Sierra when something in the distance caught her eye. She approached the bright colors and realized they were Mylar balloons — and did not belong in the wilderness. Mylar balloons, which have a metallic coating and are filled with helium, have become a concern for biologists and nature lovers, disrupting the enjoyment of outdoor spaces and posing harm to wildlife. Their ability to travel long distances in the air means they are polluting extremely remote areas, although responsible balloon shops are working to educate customers on safe disposal. Johnston has pulled balloons out of lakes numerous times. Often, she said, “they’ll just disintegrate and I’m just trying to pick up all the little pieces because it’s this beautiful, pristine lake and then now you have this ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon.”  

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

What would happen if Tijuana sewage crisis is declared an emergency?

Saying this is “a pivotal moment that calls for resolute action,” all 18 mayors in San Diego County sent a letter last week to Gov. Gavin Newsom imploring him to declare a state of emergency over the decades-long sewage crisis at the border. … But what exactly would a state of emergency do? And does the sewage crisis meet the criteria? … When a state of emergency is declared, a lot of red tape is cut. For example, it could accelerate and simplify the bidding process for construction contracts and free up federal money for personnel, equipment and supplies.

Aquafornia news The Good Men Project

Reviving a famously polluted California lake

Jesus Campanero Jr. was a teenager when he noticed there was something in the water. He once found a rash all over his body after a swim in nearby Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. During summertime, an unbearable smell would waft through the air. Then, in 2017, came the headlines, after hundreds of fish washed up dead on the shore. “That’s when it really started to click in my head that there’s a real issue here,” says Campanero, now a tribal council member for the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians of California, whose ancestors have called the lake home for thousands of years. The culprit? Harmful algal blooms (HABs). 

Aquafornia news KUSI - San Diego

California Water Board holds meeting on Tijuana Sewage

For decades, Mexico has dumped millions of gallons of sewage from the Tijuana River Valley into the Pacific Ocean, without any concern for the environment. The sewage then moves north, contaminating the waters of Imperial Beach, and even Coronado. Year after year, politicians have tried and failed to stop the sewage. In September 2020, under President Donald Trump, Congress allocated $300 million to the EPA as part of Trump’s replacement for NAFTA, the US-Mexico-Canada agreement. Despite the allocation of funds, the money was halted once the Biden Administration took over, which is normal procedure. Biden Administration officials wanted to “re-study” how best to use the funding, to effectively attack the sewage problem.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Assembly OKs mandate on future California oil well cleanups

California may put oil companies on the financial hook to plug and clean aging oil fields after lawmakers approved a measure meant to prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for orphaned wells. In a year that has been relatively quiet for climate legislation, the passage of Assembly Bill 1167 on Thursday night marked a win for environmentalists and communities mainly around Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley facing methane leaks from aging oil wells that require costly cleanup. … Orphaned wells, as they’re called, risk harmful leaks of oil, polluted water and methane often near residential areas. According to the Geologic Energy Management Division, known as CalGEM, California has plugged about 1,400 wells since 1977 at a cost of $29.5 million.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

‘Salton Sea Conservancy’ bill stalls in California Legislature

Would a proposed Salton Sea Conservancy help efforts in the troubled region? Elected officials and local organizations are split, with some saying it will just add another layer of bureaucracy to already mired efforts. California Senate Bill 583, authored by state Sen. Steve Padilla, D-San Diego, and coauthored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, would create the Salton Sea Conservancy, “tasking it with coordinating management of all conservation projects in the region to restore the shrinking sea and reducing the negative health impact the Sea imposes,” according to Padilla’s office. There are currently 10 similar state conservancies under the California Natural Resources Agency, including the local Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

In our blood: how the US allowed toxic chemicals to seep into our lives

For decades, it was the secret behind the magic show of homemaking across the US. Applied to a pan, it could keep a fried egg from sticking to the surface. Soaked into a carpet, it could shrug off spills of red wine. Sprayed onto shoes and coats, it could keep the kids dry on a rainy day. But the most clandestine maneuver of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, was much less endearing: seeping into the blood and organs of hundreds of millions of people who used products containing the chemical. … In recent years, PFOA has also become the target of widespread regulatory action, news media attention and even a Hollywood movie as contaminated drinking water was discovered in hundreds of communities across the country.

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Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Why nature’s infrastructure works better than ours

On Thursday, August 10, Butte Creek turned orange. The culprit: a failed PG&E canal that caused orange sediment to flood the creek potentially creating deadly conditions for native fish currently inhabiting the watershed including threatened spring-run Chinook salmon. Salmon are a keystone species, and their health is intricately connected with the rest of the ecosystem. Native fish across California are consistently vulnerable to safe and responsible operation of hydroelectric infrastructure such as dams and canals. In some cases, basins like Butte Creek are managed by water-moving infrastructure, guiding flows from the nearby Feather River watershed to Butte Creek.  

Aquafornia news Stormwater Solutions

New study: Stormwater biofiltration increases coho salmon hatchling survival

A relatively simple, inexpensive method of filtering urban stormwater runoff dramatically boosted survival of newly hatched coho salmon in an experimental study, according to a press release from Washington State University (WSU). The findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, are consistent with previous research on adult and juvenile coho that found exposure to untreated roadway runoff that typically winds up in waterways during storms resulted in mortality of 60% or more. For the coho hatchlings in this study, mortality from runoff exposure was even higher at 87%. When the stormwater was run through a biofiltration method — essentially layers of mulch, compost, sand and gravel — nearly all the coho hatchlings survived, though many of resulting fish had smaller eyes and body sizes than a control group.

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Kaiser to pay $49 million after environmental, patient privacy violations

Kaiser, California’s largest healthcare provider, has agreed to a $49 million settlement with the State Attorney General’s Office and six district attorneys, including in Alameda County, for illegally dumping hazardous waste, medical waste, and the protected health information of more than 7,000 patients at Kaiser facilities statewide, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Friday. … [He said]: “Batteries containing toxic, corrosive chemicals could leach into the surrounding environment and pollute the soil and groundwater. Prescription medications could leach into the water table and affect our drinking water.” He added that hazardous chemicals could start a fire that pollutes the air and harms the local ecosystem. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Parks district asks for Feather River clean up volunteers

The Feather River Recreation and Parks District is inviting the public to make a difference in the community by joining in the annual Feather River Clean Up Day. … Volunteers along with staff from FRRPD and Department of Water Resources will be tasked with picking up trash and removing invasive plants along the river trail from Riverbend Park to the Feather River Nature Center and Native Plant Park. … The week prior to the event FRRPD staff and members of the Butte County Housing Navigation Center will be notifying homeless camped along the river and in the parks that the clean up will be happening and providing resources to them for relocation. The day of the event, FRRPD staff and members of the Butte County Sheriff’s Department will be removing homeless camps in the remote areas of Riverbend Park.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Lawsuit over Napa Valley landfill ends; disagreements linger

Two sides involved in a lawsuit over Clover Flat Landfill near Calistoga have different thoughts on the dismissal of the case in Napa County Superior Court. The group in October 2021 sued the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency, which oversees the privately owned landfill. It alleged a franchise agreement update between the agency and landfill operator allows the landfill to accept more waste and required environmental study. … The lawsuit is part of a larger debate over the landfill in hills framing the Napa Valley. Opponents formed the group and want to close the landfill.’s website describes the group’s concerns about “storing waste atop our community’s watershed.” “It is time to rethink this outdated practice that increases fire risk, threatens our water supply with contamination and risks degradation of our community and the Napa Valley brand,” the website says.

Aquafornia news Counter Punch

Blog: Migrating shorebirds ally with clean air activists in the Owens Valley

“The Owens Valley is nothing but a resource colony,” Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, tribal historic preservation officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, told me. … Bancroft’s office is a site of an historic struggle for historic preservation and not the only site or the only struggle against DWP in this valley. The largest, most unifying fight in the valley community has been to force DWP to reduce the amount of alkali dust from the dry Owens Lake, which, 20 years ago produced the worst air pollution in America. An unintended consequence of the campaign to make DWP comply with the state and federal Clean Air acts has been the arrival of increasing numbers of shorebirds in the reborn Owens Lake.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Submerged tugboat in San Joaquin County leaks fuel, oil into Delta waterway

A submerged tugboat in the Empire Tract area of San Joaquin County was leaking fuel and oil into the Delta waterway on Monday morning, according to the sheriff’s office. The boat was near Herman and Helen’s Marina, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office boating safety unit went to the scene trying to contain the spill. Outside agencies — including Environmental Health, Office of Emergency Services, Fish & Wildlife, Woodbridge Fire Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard Pollution Response Team — were also contacted to assist in the spill.

Aquafornia news Scientific Reports

New study: Microplastics influence on herbicides removal and biosurfactants production by a Bacillus sp. strain active against Fusarium culmorum

Chemical pesticides are produced synthetically and applied as a main method for pest removal, especially in agriculture. In 2020, pesticide consumption was 2.66 million metric tons, with the United States being the largest pesticide-consuming country worldwide with 407.8 thousand metric tons of pesticides used, and Brazil coming in second with 377.2 thousand tons consumed. From 1990 to 2010, the global consumption of pesticides increased by more than 50%. According to Soloneski et al., more than 99.9% of pesticides applied to crops worldwide become toxic residues in the environment, never reaching their specific targets. These compounds are usually toxic and persist in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Aquafornia news AZ Animals

Blog: What’s in the Salton Sea and is it safe to swim?

The Salton Sea is a highly saline body of water in California. It was once part of the Gulf of California, but the region south of the Salton Sea dried up and now it is a large lake. It is the largest lake in California. The Salton Sea, the largest lake in the state, was once a thriving body of water, but it has gone through so much that it is now drying up. A combination of runoff from nearby farms and communities, as well as its location, are to blame. Because of this catastrophe happening to the Salton Sea, it has caught the eye of various government officials, from local electeds, state legislators, and federal politicians. But the question of the hour is, what is in the Salton Sea? And is it safe to swim? 

Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: PFAS drinking water standards – state-by-state regulations

In the absence of an enforceable federal drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”), many states have started regulating PFAS compounds in drinking water. The result is a patchwork of regulations and standards of varying levels, which presents significant operational and compliance challenges to impacted industries. This client alert surveys the maximum contaminant levels (“MCLs”), as well as guidance and notification levels, for PFAS compounds – typically perfluorooctane sulfonate (“PFOS”) and perfluorooctanoic acid (”PFOA”) – in drinking water across the United States.

Aquafornia news Engineering News-Record

US is coming clean on PFAS in drinking water

Congress has allocated billions of dollars to address contamination caused by the ubiquitous class of “forever” chemicals known as PFAS—with billions also earmarked in recent legal settlements with manufacturers—but drinking water managers, construction sector experts and other stakeholders say the true cost of cleanup could be much higher. The prevalence of PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a real and growing concern. Thousands of different chemicals have been used in everything from firefighting foam and construction materials to clothing and household products, and have been detected in food sources, water supply, wildlife and human tissue—with new ones still being discovered. Some are identified as a threat to human health, even in small amounts.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

Someone is poisoning trees on a private Lake Tahoe beach

Six trees were found “poisoned” at a private beach in one of Tahoe’s most exclusive neighborhoods recently, spurring an investigation and pointing to the area’s long history of tree violations. According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the mystery began in July 2022, when Incline Village General Improvement District staff members found six other trees at Burnt Cedar Beach that smelled like fuel. The latest poisonings bring the total of poisoned trees at Burnt Cedar Beach to 12. Representatives from the Incline Village Parks and Recreation department told SFGATE that the restricted beach, which is outfitted with a pool, swimming cove and full-service bar, is only accessible to residents and their guests. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

California-led AGs okay ‘forever chemicals’ settlement but say 3M should pay more

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and four of his colleagues submitted an amicus letter late Monday night, citing shortfalls in the company 3M’s multi-billion-dollar proposed settlement with contaminated water utilities. The attorneys general said that while they are in favor of moving forward with the settlement, 3M should pay more than the $10 billion to $12 billion the firm has offered — in order to fund the massive remediation efforts public utilities will have to undertake to eliminate “forever chemicals” from their supplies. … Joining Bonta in submitting amicus letter were the attorneys general of Arizona, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 3M in a statement said it was pleased with the agreement.

Aquafornia news FishBio

Blog: Chemical cuisine – Chinook exposure to pesticides varies with preferred prey

The Central Valley of California only contains 1% of U.S. farmland, but generates 8% of the country’s agricultural output and produces a quarter of the nation’s food. Much of this astounding production comes from the 8,500 square kilometers of farmland in the Sacramento River watershed, which covers the northern portion of the Central Valley. This extensive farmland means that the watershed is exposed to a significant amount of compounds commonly used in farming, including pesticides. As water flows over the land to streams and rivers, it carries these contaminants along with it, ultimately dumping them in waterways and floodplains, where they often make their way into the food web. Consequently, juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) feeding and rearing within the watershed can be exposed to these harmful compounds.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Ninth Circuit halts gold drilling project in eastern Sierra Nevada

A federal appeals court panel Friday halted an exploratory gold drilling project in the eastern Sierra Nevada that was set to begin this week. Kore Mining Ltd. planned to drill for gold near Mammoth Lakes. The project involved 12, 600-foot deep holes on some 1,900 acres. It would have required vegetation clearing and less than a mile of temporary access roads. Four groups — Friends of the Inyo, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Watersheds Project and the Sierra Club — sued Kore Mining and the U.S. Forest Service in October 2021, arguing the drilling would impact area groundwater that feeds into the Owens River and cause the bi-state sage grouse to abandon its habitat. A federal judge in March sided with the defendants. 

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

As coal mines depleted a Navajo Nation aquifer, feds failed to flag losses, report says

Coal mining depleted areas of a critical aquifer in the Black Mesa region of the Navajo Nation, but a federal agency didn’t consider the losses environmentally damaging, researchers concluded in a new study of the aquifer in northern Arizona. The researchers detailed what they said were failures by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to hold the Peabody mining company responsible for the environmental effects of coal mining in the Black Mesa area. The findings of the study, conducted by the Institutes for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, didn’t surprise Nicole Horseherder, executive director of Tó Nizhóní Ání, a group working to protect Black Mesa water, among other things.

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Aquafornia news SF Gate

Why you should keep your car windows rolled up in parts of California

California health officials are warning of a potential increased risk of valley fever, a respiratory disease caused by fungus that grows in soil across many parts of the state. This winter’s heavy rains may have caused an increase in the growth of the Coccidioides fungus, which causes valley fever, the California Department of Public Health announced in a press release. Valley fever occurs when dust containing the fungus is inhaled, leading to respiratory symptoms that can turn severe or even fatal.  Periods of heavy rain can cause the Coccidioides fungus to become more active, according to research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley and CDPH. That means valley fever cases could spike in the coming months, as spores that grew during this year’s record rainfall dry out and become airborne in dust.

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Aquafornia news News Nation

Map: Does your drinking water contain ‘forever chemicals’?

So-called “forever chemicals” have been found in 45% of the nation’s tap water, according to a recent government study, but is your tap water affected? If you’re wondering whether or not your tap water might contain synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, nonprofit Environmental Working Group created an interactive map using official records and data from public drinking water systems to show where forever chemicals were found to be above and below the advised maximum concentration level, 4 parts per trillion (PPT). … Sample sites in the 12-65 PPT range were found in and around Grass Valley, California; Fresno, California; Los Angeles; Lakewood, Colorado; … The USGS said most PFAS exposure was found near urban areas and potential chemical sources, with higher counts in the following regions: Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard and Central/Southern/California.

Aquafornia news Investigate Midwest

Three widely used pesticides driving hundreds of endangered species toward extinction, according to EPA

Today, the bumblebee is among more than 200 endangered species whose existence is threatened by the nation’s most widely used insecticides (one classification of pesticides), according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The endangered species range from Attwater’s greater prairie chicken to the Alabama cave shrimp, from the American burying beetle to the slackwater darter. And the star cactus and four-petal pawpaw are among the 160-plus at-risk plants. The three neonicotinoids — thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid — are applied as seed coatings on some 150 million acres of crops each year, including corn, soybeans and other major crops. Neonicotinoids are a group of neurotoxic insecticides similar to nicotine and used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. 

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Can robots keep Tahoe’s beaches and water clean? 

When the July Fourth crowds cleared out from Tahoe’s beaches this year, visitors left thousands of pounds of trash behind — Zephyr Shoals alone had 8,500 pounds of rubbish. The next day, volunteers flocked to the beaches, picking up broken coolers and lawn chairs, plastic cups and aluminum cans. But more rubbish, unseen by the volunteers, hid just beneath the sand. Across Tahoe’s beaches, scraps like bottle caps, bits of Styrofoam and cigarette butts remained. … Traditional methods for rounding up litter in the water and on the lakeshores are no longer sufficient, according to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the Tahoe Basin. Enter the BEBOT and the PixieDrone, zero-emission robots designed specifically to clean sandy beaches and the surfaces of lakes.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As Biden visits Lake Tahoe, locals struggle with overtourism

Strolling on the Lake of the Sky Trail, U.S. Forest Service officer Daniel Cressy marveled at the wildlife that first attracted him to Lake Tahoe. A bald eagle nestled into the top of a Jeffrey Pine looking out over the shimmering blue of North America’s largest alpine lake, and rising in the distance was Mount Tallac, a 9,739-foot peak that he’s skied many times. Then, along the path, Cressy spotted a tree with “J&B” carved into its trunk. … That small stain of civilization epitomized the growing tension between the millions of tourists who provide economic sustenance to the High Sierra paradise and the effort to preserve the natural splendor that draws them, a clash that came into sharp focus this week with a weeklong visit from world’s most powerful tourist, President Joe Biden.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

Planning commission approves gravel pit near Colorado River

The Grand Junction Planning Commission voted 7-0 on Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit for a sand and gravel pit located near the Colorado River. The proposed gravel pit would sit on about 28 acres on C 1/2 Road, in an area zoned for community services and recreation. The area that is within 100 feet of the river will not be mined, according to a city staff report. Some of the vegetation on the site has already been cleared in anticipation of construction, Grand Junction Principal Planner Kristen Ashbeck said. The site will be mined over 10 years, Ashbeck said, with operations focusing on a small area at a time.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Does California have a plastic bag ban or what?

Does California have a ban on plastic bags? The goals of Senate Bill 270, the so-called plastic bag ban, spoke to the “three Rs” of waste reduction: Reduce the number of plastic bags Californians use, reuse the ones they receive, and recycle them once their useful life has ceased (the bags, not the Californians). The thin plastic bags that used to line every bathroom trash can and litter box in California were and are made of low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. More than 30 billion of those single-use plastic carryout bags used to be distributed across California every year. … Though plastic bags represent a fraction of plastics produced, they are a unique source of blight, according to Mark Murray, the executive director of environmental group Californians Against Waste. They blow into tree branches, clog sewer drains, wrinkle jellyfish-like in our oceans and tumble across our roads. 

Aquafornia news Holland & Knight

Blog: The rubber meets the road with California’s green chemistry law

What do nail polish, children’s foam-padded sleeping mats and tires have in common? Not much at first glance, but all have been identified as “priority products” under California’s Safer Consumer Products regulations administered by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) under the state’s Green Chemistry law. The Regulation and Its Requirements The regulation designating motor vehicle tires containing the chemical N-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-N’-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine (6PPD) as a priority product became final on July 3, 2023, making tires containing 6PPD the seventh priority product identified under the law.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news High Country News

Federal court derails proposed Utah oil railroad

Fears, concerns and legal challenges over a proposed oil train route along the Colorado River were finally addressed in federal court last week. Until then, plans for the Uinta Basin Railway project, which would ferry vast amounts of crude oil from northeast Utah eastward alongside the Colorado River, sailed through federal agencies tasked with approving large transportation projects. But then the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., successfully challenged the project’s environmental impact assessments, siding with the railway’s opponents and striking a blow against what would have been the largest petroleum corridor in the United States. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Can we fight the microplastic menace in your clothes hamper?

When you hear the word “microfiber,” you probably think of the now-ubiquitous reusable cloths used for cleaning floors, wiping up spills and polishing countertops. For environmentalists, however, that word has a much more sinister meaning. It describes the tiny threads that textiles — clothes, bedding, towels and, yes, reusable cleaning cloths — shed by the millions during each spin through the washing machine and which ultimately end up polluting the environment, particularly oceans, rivers and lakes. Since most clothing is made with synthetic materials, such as polyester and acrylic, it means that most microfibers are also microplastics.

Aquafornia news KCBS - Central Coast

SLO residents say airport contamination cleanup is moving too slowly

Toxic chemicals have been leaking into the groundwater under and around the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport for about five decades. It’s not the only airport in the state dealing with this contamination, but it is the first to address the problem with a formal plan. That’s because the contamination impacted dozens of private wells for homes and businesses. Many affected residents feel like the process is moving too slowly. … But the foam is full of harmful chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They’re often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. … Beginning in 2019, the State Water Board ordered 30 airports in California to investigate PFAS contamination. According to the board, all of them showed some level of impact. As for the SLO airport, a vast majority of the more than 70 wells in the area were contaminated.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Toxic trash: California’s aging hazardous waste sites have troubling safety records

California produces millions of tons of hazardous waste every year – toxic detritus that can leach into groundwater or blow into the air. It’s waste that can explode, spark fires, eat through metal containers, destroy ecosystems and sicken people. It’s dangerous material that we have come to rely on and ignore – the flammable liquids used to cleanse metal parts before painting, the lead and acid in old car batteries, even the shampoos that can kill fish. It all needs to go somewhere. But over the past four decades, California’s facilities to manage hazardous waste have dwindled. What’s left is a tattered system of older sites with a troubling history of safety violations and polluted soil and groundwater, a CalMatters investigation has found.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Maui water is unsafe even with filters, one of the lessons learned from fires in California

The language is stark: People in torched areas of Maui should not try to filter their own drinking water because there is no “way to make it safe,” Maui County posted on its Instagram account this week. … These warnings reflect new science and are intended to avoid the whiplash of conflicting information received by people impacted by the 2018 Camp Fire in California, who received messages from four different agencies. Until a few years ago, wildfire was only known to contaminate drinking water at the source, such as when ash runs into a river or reservoir. California’s Tubbs Fire in 2017 and the Camp Fire “are the first known wildfires where widespread drinking water chemical contamination was discovered in the water distribution network,” according to a recent study published by several researchers including Whelton with the American Water Works Association.

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.”

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 Gary Pitzer

A Study of Microplastics in San Francisco Bay Could Help Cleanup Strategies Elsewhere
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Debris from plastics and tires is showing up in Bay waters; state drafting microplastics plan for drinking water

Plastic trash and microplastics can get washed into stormwater systems that eventually empty into waterways. Blasted by sun and beaten by waves, plastic bottles and bags shed fibers and tiny flecks of microplastic debris that litter the San Francisco Bay where they can choke the marine life that inadvertently consumes it.

A collaborative effort of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, The 5 Gyre InstituteSan Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the regulated discharger community that aims to better understand the problem and assess how to manage it in the San Francisco Bay is nearing the end of a three-year study.

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 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 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 Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law Gary Pitzer

Amid ‘Green Rush’ of Legal Cannabis, California Strives to Control Adverse Effects on Water
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: State crafts water right and new rules unique to marijuana farms, but will growers accustomed to the shadows comply?

A marijuana plant from a growing operationFor decades, cannabis has been grown in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in suburban tract homes.

In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

EDITOR’S NOTE: Assessing California’s Response to Marijuana’s Impacts on Water

Jennifer BowlesAs we continue forging ahead in 2018 with our online version of Western Water after 40 years as a print magazine, we turned our attention to a topic that also got its start this year: recreational marijuana as a legal use.

State regulators, in the last few years, already had been beefing up their workforce to tackle the glut in marijuana crops and combat their impacts to water quality and supply for people, fish and farming downstream. Thus, even if these impacts were perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of Californians who approved Proposition 64 in 2016, we thought it important to see if anything new had evolved from a water perspective now that marijuana was legal.

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.

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Pesticide Contamination

Pesticides find their way into creeks, rivers and the oceans, threatening aquatic life and the safety of drinking water.

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Microplastics – plastic debris measuring less than 5 millimeters – are an increasing water quality concern.  Entering the water as industrial microbeads or as larger plastic litter that degrade into small pellets, microplastics come from a variety of consumer products.

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Contaminants exist in water supplies from both natural and manmade sources. Even those chemicals present without human intervention can be mobilized from introduction of certain pollutants from both point and nonpoint sources.  

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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.

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Point Source vs. Nonpoint Source Pollution

Point Source Pollution

Point sources release pollutants from discrete conveyances, such as a discharge pipe, and are regulated by federal and state agencies. The main point source dischargers are factories and sewage treatment plants, which release treated wastewater.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource
Published 2007

Problems with polluted stormwater and steps that can be taken to prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as “nuisance” runoff into a water resource is the focus of this publication, Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource. The 16-page booklet, funded by a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board, includes color photos and graphics, text explaining common stormwater pollutants and efforts to prevent stormwater runoff through land use/ planning/development – as well as tips for homeowners to reduce their impacts on stormwater pollution.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (20 min. DVD)

20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (60 min. DVD)

For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and California border has faced complex water management disputes. As relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp, farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists – all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water. After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the documentary here.


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.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley

Salt. In a small amount, it’s a gift from nature. But any doctor will tell you, if you take in too much salt, you’ll start to have health problems. The same negative effect is happening to land in the Central Valley. The problem scientists call “salinity” poses a growing threat to our food supply, our drinking water quality and our way of life. The problem of salt buildup and potential – but costly – solutions are highlighted in this 2008 public television documentary narrated by comedian Paul Rodriguez.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.


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.

Maps & Posters

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


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 California Wastewater
Published 2013

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to California Wastewater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the history of wastewater treatment and how wastewater is collected, conveyed, treated and disposed of today. The guide also offers case studies of different treatment plants and their treatment processes.

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Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 237 feet below sea level.

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Groundwater Pollutants

barrel half-buried in the ground, posing a threat to groundwater.

The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

Western Water Magazine

Two States, One Lake: Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue
September/October 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses some of the issues associated with the effort to preserve and restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

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

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

Mercury Rising Tackling the Legacy of the Gold Rush
May/June 2004

This issue of Western Water examines the presence of mercury in the environment and the challenge of limiting the threat posed to human health and wildlife. In addition to outlining the extent of the problem and its resistance to conventional pollution remedies, the article presents a glimpse of some possible courses of action for what promises to be a long-term problem.

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

Thirty Years of the Clean Water Act:
November/December 2002

2002 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant environmental laws in American history, the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA has had remarkable success, reversing years of neglect and outright abuse of the nation’s waters. But challenges remain as attention turns to the thorny issue of cleaning up nonpoint sources of pollution.