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 Storm Water Solutions

Los Angeles Waterkeeper sues Senior Aerospace SSP over Clean Water Act Violations

The Los Angeles Waterkeeper filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Senior Operations LLC for violating the Clean Water Act and California’s Storm Water Permit. Senior Operations LLC is a Delaware corporation doing business as Senior Aerospace SSP in Burbank, California, reported Law Street Media.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado says Caribou Mine above Nederland is polluting water

State water quality officials have issued a cease and desist order and threatened substantial fines against owners of the Caribou gold mine above Nederland because of heavy metals leaking into drinking water sources, hammering Grand Island Resources over repeated violations.  … [T]hey ordered the owners to build a new containment and cleanup system, and threatened to impose fines of up to $54,833 per day for each of multiple violations for the toxic metals and for failing to report test results.    

Aquafornia news KBAK - Bakersfield

The deadly effects illegal marijuana grows have on water and wildlife

Illegal marijuana grows continue to show up in our national forests but removing the sites is only half the battle, according to Ryan Henson, Senior Policy Director with the California Wilderness Coalition. Henson says, “Cartels are able to get away with establishing these grows. By now, there are literally thousands of them out there, even when they are found out, mostly the marijuana is removed and not the waste.” Waste like illegal pesticides. … Those chemicals can potentially leak into the Kern river and watersheds impacting native fish species.

Aquafornia news Storm Water Solutions

EPA announces plan to address water pollution from the Tijuana River watershed

The U.S. EPA is pledging $630 million to help clean up and prevent raw sewage from flowing into the U.S. from Mexico between San Diego and Tijuana. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox announced the decision to move forward with an environmental review of a suite of water infrastructure projects that would address this transborder water pollution. … Raw sewage usually pours into the valley and out to the ocean in Imperial Beach, California, which most of it is from Tijuana’s outdated sewage and storm water infrastructure.

Aquafornia news Press Telegram

Dominguez Channel odor fix could cost up to $143 million, says LA County Public Works

Eliminating the persistent noxious odor that’s emanated from the Dominguez Channel and plagued Carson residents — and those of other communities — since early October has cost at least $54 million so far, officials say. And that number could hit $143 million if the odor isn’t entirely gone by March. That’s according to Mark Pestrella, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. His agency oversees around 483 miles of open channel and has taken responsibility for the odor, treating the water in the Dominguez Channel with a non-toxic and biodegradable odor neutralizer called Epoleon.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

New map shows 400 toxic sites that could flood in California

When Lucas Zucker talks about sea level rise in California, his first thoughts aren’t about waves crashing onto fancy homes in Orange County, nor the state’s most iconic beaches shrinking year after year. What worries him most are the three power plants looming over the Oxnard coast, and the toxic waste site that has languished there for decades. There are also two naval bases, unknown military dumps and a smog-spewing port. Just one flood could unleash a flow of industrial chemicals and overwhelm his working-class, mostly Latino community.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Bill Lane Center for the American West

Car batteries are the goal. Lithium is the quickest way to make them. Does a global good require local sacrifice in the Southwest?

[T]he push for a future free from fossil fuels is igniting a new rush to extraction: getting resources out of the ground for the batteries needed to decarbonize transportation. … The conundrum – to mine or not to mine – has roiled several rural western communities, from the outskirts of California’s Death Valley to northern Nevada and western Arizona. The arguments vary by location, but belong to a larger debate over how to balance the need to slow global warming with the need to protect endangered species, preserve groundwater and support tribal rights while maintaining heritage sites.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Scientists working to understand record of mine-related contamination in sediment below Lake Powell

The Durango Herald’s 2015 photograph was instantly recognized as a scene of environmental disaster: three kayakers paddling down the Animas River in southwest Colorado, the water below them as orange and radiant as a Creamsicle. A containment pond near Silverton, Colo., had been accidentally breached at the Gold King Mine and 3 million gallons of metal-laden sludge were released into the Animas, flowing downstream into the San Juan River.

Aquafornia news Nevada Appeal

Toxic cables to be pulled from Tahoe under settlement

AT&T’s Pac Bell subsidiary has settled a lawsuit conservationists filed under a U.S. law more typically cited in Superfund cases, agreeing to spend up to $1.5 million to remove 8 miles of toxic telephone cables that were abandoned on the bottom of Lake Tahoe decades ago. A U.S. judge in Sacramento recently signed the consent decree in the suit the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed in January. The abandoned cables — replaced with fiber optic ones in the 1980s — contain more than 65 tons of toxic lead that is polluting the lake, the lawsuit said.

Aquafornia news Newswise

News release: University of California team’s research suggests more than 400 hazardous sites in California face flooding

Unless climate change is slowed significantly, more than three feet of sea level rise (SLR) is expected in California by the end of the century, potentially flooding communities that are currently home to more than 145,000 residents. In addition to the threat to residential neighborhoods, new research suggests sea level rise will expose over 400 industrial facilities and contaminated sites in California, including power plants, refineries, and hazardous waste sites, to increased risk of flooding. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Opinion: Sacramento County’s dubious account of river pollution

Sacramento County is once again embroiled in a hypocritical trap of its own making. An environmental group is suing the region’s largest government for allegedly dumping sewer waste into local waterways — even as the county has blamed its unsheltered population for rising E. coli levels along the American River.
-Written by Robin Epley, an opinion writer for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on Sacramento County politics.

Aquafornia news U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico

News release: U.S. – Mexico binational meeting on transborder water pollution

The U.S. and Mexican governments met today in Tijuana to discuss transboundary water pollution challenges along the shared border. … Recognizing the critical importance of addressing water pollution for the benefit of citizens on both sides of the border, the U.S. and Mexican delegations reviewed the important progress made toward reducing pollution levels. Mexico highlighted their $46 million dollars of investment by local, state, and federal authorities completed between 2019 to 2021 in water sanitation projects for the Tijuana River …

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Citing climate risks, California is denying fracking permits in droves

Oil companies that blast water and chemicals into the earth to extract fossil fuels are having trouble getting new permits for their California operations even sooner than expected. Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged the state would stop issuing new permits for fracking by 2024, but California has already begun to ban the controversial oil extraction method in practice by denying permits in droves with little fanfare. … [Fracking has] long been a controversial method because of what climate activists see as unacceptable dangers, including the possibility that it can contaminate groundwater.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Court orders removal of 75 tons of abandoned phone cable from Lake Tahoe

Eight miles of abandoned telephone cable laid off the West Shore of Lake Tahoe were ordered removed under a settlement, according to a federal court decree. Pac Bell stopped using the cables in the 1980s. In a suit filed by California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the cables are leaching lead into the lake. Besides concerns over the lead in fish, the lake is a source of drinking water for residents living along its shores.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

TV report: Vegas-area sewage spilled into creek to Lake Mead

A big southern Nevada sewage pumping facility failed last year, spewing an estimated 500,000 gallons of wastewater and leaking into a creek that leads toward the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River, a television station investigation found. Officials want to spend $40 million to rehabilitate the Clark County Water Reclamation District wastewater lift station, where the January 2020 spill was blamed on a corroded underground pipe, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Lake Tahoe water clarity in good condition after Caldor Fire

Lake Tahoe’s water quality and clarity are in good condition following this summer’s devastating Caldor Fire, new research showed. According to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, citizen volunteers from its Pipe Keepers program collected stormwater samples during an atmospheric river storm on Oct. 24. The samples came from 25 sites on Tahoe’s south shore, including 16 storm water pipes and eight stream sites that drain the areas burned by the Caldor Fire. 

Aquafornia news The Recorder

Blog: Industrial machinery company accused of discharging metal-polluted water into Los Angeles River

Flowserve US Inc., a provider of industrial pumps, seals and valves, was hit with an environmental lawsuit Monday in California Central District Court. The complaint, filed by California Coastkeeper on behalf of Los Angeles Waterkeeper, accuses the defendant of discharging metal-polluted water into the Los Angeles River without authorization in violation of the Clean Water Act. Counsel have not yet appeared for the defendant. The case is 2:21-cv-08950, Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. Flowserve US, Inc.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Settlement has PacBell removing lead cables from Lake Tahoe

AT&T-owned Pacific Bell will remove two large, defunct telephone cables from the bottom of Lake Tahoe, following an agreement reached in federal court in response to a California environmental nonprofit’s legal complaint. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed a complaint this January against Pacific Bell Telephone Co., arguing that the presence of PacBell submarine telephone lines on the west side of Lake Tahoe violates federal and state environmental rules.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Los Angeles region works to decrease runoff pollution

Waterways within the densely populated, heavily developed Los Angeles metropolitan area often suffer from multiple water quality impairments, particularly as a result of dry weather runoff. At the same time, the Los Angeles region relies heavily on imported water sources, in some cases from hundreds of miles away. In a bid to address these problems, on at least a small scale, the city of Los Angeles and several local partners have teamed up on a novel approach.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Reuters

California agency sues 3M, others over groundwater contamination

California’s largest groundwater agency has sued 3M Co, Corteva Inc, the Chemours Co and other manufacturers and sellers of industrial and consumer products over claims they contain a toxic chemical that polluted drinking water in Los Angeles. The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD), which oversees drinking water supplied to 43 cities in Los Angeles County, alleges in a complaint made public Tuesday that the companies knew products ranging from firefighting foam to textiles and non-stick cookware would pollute groundwater …

Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: EPA outlines $630M vision for curbing Tijuana sewage pollution in San Diego

Top federal environmental regulators in California laid out a $630-million plan on Monday to capture and treat sewage-tainted water that routinely flows over the border from Tijuana into Imperial Beach and up the coast. The blueprint focuses largely on installing a pumping system in the Tijuana River north of the U.S.-Mexico border to suck polluted flows out of the channel before they can foul shorelines in San Diego. Trash booms would be installed directly upstream of the intake.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Vexed by dust pollution, officials around Mono Lake call on Los Angeles to cease water diversions

For those who live near the briny shores of California’s Mono Lake, October can be a dreaded month. That’s when turbulent winds scour Mono’s exposed lake bed, or “bathtub ring,” and launch clouds of fine dust that blanket homes, ranch lands and scenic trails….Now, after two years of punishing drought, Mono County conservationists, tribal leaders and air regulators have launched a campaign to raise the level of the lake. They hope to accomplish this by stopping the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power from diverting water from the lake’s feeder streams.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

PG&E fights lawsuit over century-old gas plant pollution

In a lawsuit over century-old pollution from a defunct gas plant, two lawyers urged a federal judge Wednesday to adopt their interpretations of what historic business records say about Pacific Gas and Electric’s liability for potential groundwater contamination. … [Attorney Stuart] Gross represents plaintiff Dan Clarke, a former San Francisco resident seeking a court order that would force PG&E to investigate and clean up contamination allegedly left by the Cannery gas plant, which was owned and operated by PG&E’s predecessors from 1899 to 1903.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Estuary Institute

New research: A synthesis of microplastic sources and pathways to urban runoff

What do clothes dryers and car tires have in common? Both release microplastic pollution into the environment, according to a new investigation by scientists at the San Francisco Estuary Institute.  Building on SFEI’s major finding that storm-driven runoff from cities is a major pathway for microplastics to enter California’s aquatic ecosystems, this new report synthesizes available information on sources of microplastics to urban runoff, including textile, cigarette filter, and other types of fibers; single-use plastic foodware; and vehicle tires.

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Toxins long buried may surface as groundwater rises

Water rising beneath the ground, pushed up by intruding salt water as sea levels rise, now impacts thousands of toxic waste sites throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  A six-month investigation by NBC Bay Area found that the threat from rising groundwater isn’t decades in the future but, in some cases, may be imminent. In many hot spots from the North Bay to the South Bay, UC Berkeley scientists told the Investigative Unit they’ve recorded groundwater already at or near the surface.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: Tide to table profiles – Hog Island Oyster Co.

In California’s Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Co. uses marine biology to sustainably farm shellfish. It’s a zero-input crop that is helping to restore the water quality of the bay. The company founders are both marine biologists who focus on growing oysters in a manner that enhances the health of the ecosystem. Existing infrastructure is used when possible—many buildings from the 1860s and 1870s have been restored and incorporated into the farm. 

Aquafornia news KFGO

California farm town lurches from no water to polluted water

The San Joaquin Valley farm town of Teviston has two wells. One went dry and the other is contaminated. The one functioning well failed just at the start of summer, depriving the hot and dusty hamlet of running water for weeks. … But for years, probably decades, the water coming from Teviston taps has been laced with the carcinogen 1,2,3-Trichloropropane, or 1,2,3-TCP, the legacy of pesticides.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Big storm leaves San Francisco Bay waters strewn with debris

The big storm brought a lot of much-needed moisture to the Bay Area, but it also brought a lot of stuff into the San Francisco Bay that doesn’t belong in the bay. … [Sajel Choksi-Chugh, the executive director for San Francisco Baykeeper] and her team scooped up visible trash and debris from the bay on Wednesday. This is something that typically happens after a big storm, according to Choksi-Chugh.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Biden admin to uproot Trump ‘critical habitat’ policies

The Biden administration today moved to rescind Trump administration policies that crimped the designation of critical habitat to protect threatened or endangered species. In a pair of long-anticipated moves, the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries proposed getting rid of a Trump-era definition of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. FWS is also proposing to end a policy that made it easier to exclude territory. Taken together, the two proposed rule changes could significantly alter the much-litigated ESA landscape and, supporters say, enhance conservation and recovery of vulnerable animals or plants.

Aquafornia news The Mendocino Voice

Fast-acting county workers scramble to keep toxic debris from wildfires out of Russian River during rainstorm

The 257-acre Hopkins Fire burned dozens of structures along the Russian River last month, but cleanup efforts move slower than rain. So when the National Weather Service (NWS) in Eureka forecast four to six inches of precipitation in seven days for the Ukiah valley, county personnel recognized the Hopkins burn scar as an impending environmental crisis. 

Aquafornia news Estuary News Magazine

Habitat tramplers run amuck – cows versus creeks

[A] suite of federal, state, and local laws ostensibly protect California’s watersheds from pollution, and volumes of codes are dedicated specifically to safeguarding streams and rivers from cattle. Yet through a variety of loopholes and exemptions, and possibly agency languor, roaming cows have access to many of the state’s waterways. Here, the animals denude riverbanks, eliminate riparian habitat, and degrade water quality. High concentrations of manure-born bacteria are known to flow from Marin County cattle ranches into the waters surrounding Point Reyes.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

As need to test water for microplastics grows, California finds way

Wherever you get your drinking water, there’s a good chance it contains some amount of tiny plastic pieces. There aren’t a lot of rules or regulations around this particular pollutant because it is considered an emerging contaminant, but that is changing. Scott Coffin, a research scientist who works for the State Water Resources Control Board, is proud of a recent accomplishment: an official, streamlined process to monitor microplastics in drinking water.

Aquafornia news Estuary News Magazine

Tracking natural nitrogen removal

Nitrogen inputs to the San Francisco Bay are among the highest of estuaries worldwide, yet so far have not caused harmful impacts like extreme algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and fish kills. But resistance to this nutrient may not last. Ever since the Gold Rush, excess sediment from pulverized rock has been pouring into the Bay, clouding the water and keeping algae in check by blocking sunlight. 

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Blog: California water district moves ahead with PFAS treatment systems

Beginning in 2019, multiple retail water providers in Orange County, California, elected to shut down several dozen groundwater wells because they were found to contain low levels of a class of contaminants known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. In a region that depends heavily on groundwater for its water supplies, the closures have proved expensive… Following an extensive study of various methods of removing PFAS from drinking water, the Orange County Water District recently began operations at the first of more than 30 planned PFAS treatment facilities.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Court strikes down Trump EPA water permitting rule

A federal judge on Friday struck down a Trump-era regulation that limited the ability of states and Native American tribes to regulate water pollution. For nearly half a century, EPA had largely given states and tribes the authority to review and certify Clean Water Act permits for federally approved projects like dams and pipelines that discharge pollution within their boundaries.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Grist

Study: Toxic fracking waste is leaking into California groundwater

Between the late 1950s and 2008, Chevron disposed [fracking wastewater] produced in Lost Hills in eight cavernous impoundments at its Section 29 facility. Euphemistically called “ponds,” the impoundments have a combined surface area of 26 acres and do not have synthetic liners to prevent leaking. That meant that over time, salts and chemicals in the wastewater could leak into the ground and nearby water sources like the California Aqueduct, a network of canals that delivers water to farms in the Central Valley and cities like Los Angeles. And that’s exactly what happened, according to new research … 

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Unchecked oil and gas wastewater threatens California groundwater

California has a reputation as a leader on climate and environmental policy. So it doesn’t advertise the fact that it allows the oil and gas industry to store wastewater produced during drilling and extraction in unlined pits in the ground, a practice that began in the early 1900s. Now, though, researchers have revealed the environmental costs of California’s failure to regulate how its $111 billion oil and gas industry manages the wastewater, known as produced water. 

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman 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 Douglas E. Beeman 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 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 Jennifer 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.

Aquapedia background

Pesticide Contamination

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

Aquapedia background


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.

Aquapedia background


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.  

Aquapedia background

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform Bacteria as Indices

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

Aquapedia background

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.

Aquapedia background

Salton Sea

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.

The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe

Aquapedia background

Pollutants and Groundwater

Pollutants and 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.