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 E&E News

PFAS pose ‘watershed’ moment for Superfund liability

The Biden administration’s ambitions to crack down on “forever chemicals” — touted as an administration priority — are facing headwinds from key industries that say they could be unfairly punished and held liable for contamination they did not create. Members of the water and waste sectors are ramping up pressure on Congress and EPA to shield them from an upcoming proposal as the agency makes progress on addressing PFAS contamination. 

Aquafornia news Wild Rivers Outpost

Tar is still leaking into the Smith River after last month’s suspected DUI crash, officials confirm

Gobs of oily tar continue to slip past containment booms and drain into the Smith River, nearly a month after an overturned trailer spilled 2,000 gallons of the hot asphalt binder onto U.S. 199 between Hiouchi and Gasquet. Spokesperson Eric Laughlin with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response confirmed with the Outpost that the toxic goop is actively leaking into the Smith River, and that the agency received new reports of the material traveling downstream on Friday.

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California moves to curb harmful tire pollutant collecting in Bay, threatening wildlife

If you think about the pollution your car causes, chances are you’re not thinking about the tires. And probably even less about a faraway creek, where a Coho Salmon is dying. But researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere … say as the rubber wears away from car tires during everyday driving, it spreads tiny micro particles, including a destructive chemical called 6PPD. … Now, with information gathered in part by the [San Francisco Estuary] Institute, the State of California is stepping in, laying the groundwork for potential regulations to curb the toxic tire pollution.

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Aquafornia news KNAU Arizona Public Radio

Failing septic systems on Navajo Nation an increasing concern

Navajo Nation leaders say failing septic and solid waste systems are becoming an increasing concern in many areas of the reservation. One tribal lawmaker has gathered nearly 170 accounts from residents of Blue Gap, Many Farms and other chapters about deficient sanitation facilities in homes. Officials say it’s a serious environmental contamination issue that threatens land and water and creates significant health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Methane leaks near Bakersfield homes renew concerns about idle oil wells

Environmentalists advocating new state restrictions on oil and gas drilling have seized upon confirmation last week that two idle wells were leaking methane near a residential area in northeast Bakersfield decades after they were improperly abandoned. Details remained sketchy Monday, including how much gas the wells were emitting and for how long. … Late last month, California officials outlined plans for doing more to cap the state’s orphan oil and gas wells using $25 million in federal money they said will help them prioritize work in populated areas most vulnerable to methane leaks and groundwater contamination.

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Aquafornia news California Lutheran University

New research: Microfiber pollution

Bits of your pants, shirts, socks and fleece jackets are polluting local waters. Cal Lutheran biology students have discovered this disturbing fashion dilemma as part of a scientific research project. For the past four years, CLU biology professor Andrea Huvard, PhD, has guided dozens of students in a long-term research project: They are studying the presence of microfibers in the ocean, sediments and marine animals around Southern California.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Companies face billions in damages as PFAS lawsuits flood courts

For years, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing over health and environmental damage from so called forever chemicals, known collectively as PFAS, focused on one set of deep pockets—E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. But over the past two years, there’s been a seismic shift in the legal landscape as awareness of PFAS has expanded. Corporations including 3M Co., Chemguard Inc., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., National Foam Inc., and Dynax Corp. are now being sued at roughly the same rate as DuPont, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of more than 6,400 PFAS-related lawsuits filed in federal courts between July 2005 and March 2022. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Plastics industry targets Democrats to head off restrictions

In the current legislative session, lawmakers are working on a bill designed to reduce plastic waste. If they are unable to draft legislation by June 30, the issue will go straight to voters as a ballot measure. The initiative, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, would require all single-use plastic packaging and food ware used in California to be recyclable, reusable, refillable or compostable by 2030. … Over the last year, research has shown the presence of these particles in human blood, healthy lung tissue and meconium — the first bowel movement of a newborn. They are also found in marine organisms, ocean water, air and soil.

Aquafornia news CBS 8-San Diego

San Diego files lawsuit over toxic PFAS chemicals in water

The City of San Diego is suing more than 20 companies over decades-long water contamination from toxic chemical called PFAS. The lawsuit claims manufacturers like 3M, DuPont, and Raytheon made firefighting foam that contained PFAS and alleges the companies concealed “knowledge about the grave environmental and human health dangers of these compounds.”

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Study finds mysterious DDT chemicals in California condors

In a sophisticated chemical analysis published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology, the team found that DDT-related chemicals were seven times more abundant in coastal condors than condors that fed farther inland. Looking at the birds’ coastal food sources, researchers found that dolphin and sea lion carcasses that washed ashore in Southern California were also seven times more contaminated with DDT than the marine mammals they analyzed along the Gulf of California in Mexico.

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Aquafornia news Water Technology

Researchers design process to extract ammonia and fertilizer from industrial wastewater

A dash of ruthenium atoms on a mesh of copper nanowires could be one step toward a revolution in the global ammonia industry that also helps the environment. Collaborators at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, Arizona State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed the high-performance catalyst that can, with near 100% efficiency, pull ammonia and solid ammonia — aka fertilizer — from low levels of nitrates that are widespread in industrial wastewater and polluted groundwater.

Aquafornia news USA Today

New studies highlight health risks of modern chemicals and pollution

Tuesday, a study published in the journal The Lancet expanded on pollution concerns globally, revealing that air and water pollution causes 1 in 6 deaths worldwide. At more than 9 million deaths per year, such pollution kills more people than malnutrition, roadway injuries and drug and alcohol use combined, the study found. … Though the changing climate is often viewed as the most pressing global environmental threat, researchers warned that on-the-ground pollution poses ecological and humanitarian catastrophes of its own. 

Aquafornia news Santa Barbara News-Press

$230 million settlement reached in 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill lawsuit

A settlement has finally been reached in the seven year-lawsuit regarding the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill. Plains All American Pipeline has agreed to pay $230 million to fishers, fish processors and shoreline property residents who are members of two classes in a class-action lawsuit filed against the company.  The lawsuit was filed after a corroded pipeline spilled an estimated 15,000 barrels of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean in 2015. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Alarming research on pesticide warrants curbs on its use

Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide, widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are paying closer attention …
-Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Aquafornia news Press Telegram

8.5 million gallon Carson sewage spill caused by corroded pipe, sewer cover, report says

Five months after 8.5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled from a ruptured mainline in Carson, an independent engineer’s report has pinpointed its cause and offered practical advice for the county agency responsible. … The rupture was primarily caused, the report said, by corrosion of both a 48-inch diameter, 1960s-era concrete pipe and a sewer cover at the intersection of 212th Street and South Lynton Avenue. … Another contributing factor in the failure, the report said, was a rain event on Dec. 30. 

Aquafornia news AP News

No sea serpents, mobsters but Tahoe trash divers strike gold

In addition to removing 25,000 pounds (11,339 kilograms) of underwater litter [from Lake Tahoe] since last May, divers and volunteers have been meticulously sorting and logging the types and GPS locations of the waste. The dozens of dives that concluded this week were part of a first-of-its-kind effort to learn more about the source and potential harm caused by plastics and other pollutants in the storied alpine lake on the California-Nevada line.

Aquafornia news KUOW - Seattle

Seattle fish research could shake up global tire industry

Research in Seattle-area creeks has discovered tire bits shedding lethal amounts of a little-known, salmon-killing chemical called 6PPD-quinone. … In December 2020, 27 coauthors published an article in the journal Science identifying 6PPD-quinone as the coho killer. Within weeks, the U.S Tire Manufacturers Association asked California officials to treat tires with 6PPD as a priority under the state’s toxic-chemical laws. Coho salmon is an endangered species in California. The California rule, once finalized, would give manufacturers of tires sold there 180 days to assess any known or potential alternatives to 6PPD in tire rubber.

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Cleanup complete: Nonprofit removes over 25,000 pounds of trash from Lake Tahoe

Nearly one year ago, a nonprofit launched an unprecedented effort to remove trash from Lake Tahoe’s entire 72-mile-long shoreline. On Tuesday, it completed its mission. Clean Up the Lake ended up removing 24,797 pieces of litter weighing a combined 25,281 pounds from the treasured alpine lake on the California-Nevada border. Since the 72-mile cleanup effort kicked off on May 14, 2021, Clean Up the Lake’s team of staff and volunteers spent dozens of days pulling everything from beer cans and beach towels to engagement rings and a cordless house phone from the water near shore.

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Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

State lawmakers target trash in Tijuana River valley

A handful of state lawmakers gathered last week on the side of the Tijuana River Estuary that’s not visibly clogged by plastics and tires spilling from Mexico down canyon gullies or down the river itself to ask the governor for money to, well, stop trash from spilling over the border.  Southern California lawmakers hope Gov. Gavin Newsom will put $100 million in next year’s budget to be split equally between the Tijuana River and the Mexicali-to-Salton-Sea-flowing New River, both sewage-plagued water bodies.

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: Salton Sea restoration must not worsen climate change

If we’re not careful, the well-intentioned effort to restore the Salton Sea could have serious adverse consequences: large emissions of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. A recent report by Jenny Ross, an attorney and writer working on a long-term research project about the Salton Sea, warns that many of the proposed long-range restoration plans will cause large emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Studies of other drying lakes around the world have found these atmosphere-warming gasses come from large deposits of carbon-rich organic matter …
-Written by Chuck Parker and Feliz Nunez, members of the Salton Sea Coalition.

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Aquafornia news Law Street Media

Blog: Orange County Coastkeeper sues owner of metal finishing facility under Clean Water Act

On Thursday, the Orange County Coastkeeper filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Hixson Metal Finishing, FPC Management, LLC and Reid Washbon alleging violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Clean Water Act.  According to the complaint, the Orange County Coastkeeper is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection and defense of the environment, wildlife and natural resources of Orange County. 

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

California voters in November likely will decide on plastics – again

California’s inability to meet its long-stated goal of cutting solid waste by 75 percent by 2020 has prompted environmentalists to craft a ballot initiative targeting single-use plastic products – including a sharp limit on their production. The initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot marks the second time in six years that California voters have decided on plastics use. … The latest initiative, the California Recycling and Plastic Reduction Act, would require all single-use plastic packaging and foodware to be recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030.

Aquafornia news City News Service

LA votes to phase out single-use plastics at city facilities

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to begin the process to phase out single-use plastics at city facilities and city-sponsored events, as well as to take steps toward a potential citywide ban on polystyrene products such as Styrofoam. … Wednesday’s motion instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic at city facilities and at events on city property. 

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Trash from bottom of Lake Tahoe will be turned into sculpture to ‘inspire greater environmental stewardship’

Trash collected from the bottom of Lake Tahoe will be turned into art. The Tahoe Fund is commissioning artists to create a sculpture in Tahoe City by using some of the recovered items found during a year-long scuba cleanup of the lake performed by the Clean Up The Lake team.

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Aquafornia news CBS 8 San Diego

San Diego County unveiling new water testing technology

San Diego County officials Wednesday will introduce a new water-testing technology they will begin using the very next day to provide same-day public warnings of poor coastal water quality that causes illness.  San Diego leaders say the results will be more accurate and posted within hours instead of the next day, reducing the time the public could be at risk if water is contaminated.

Aquafornia news E&E News

‘Enough is enough’: Calif. targets Big Oil over plastics

In a first-of-its-kind legal action, California is interrogating the role of fossil fuel and chemical giants in driving the plastics pollution crisis and deceiving consumers about recycling. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said yesterday that the state is investigating Exxon Mobil Corp. and other companies for “their role in causing and exacerbating” plastics contamination. … “In California and across the globe, we are seeing the catastrophic results of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign of deception. Plastic pollution is seeping into our waterways, poisoning our environment, and blighting our landscapes,” said Bonta, a Democrat, in a statement.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California attorney general subpoenas ExxonMobil, opens major investigation into plastic pollution

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday announced a major investigation into companies that manufacture plastics, the first of its kind in the nation, saying that for 50 years they have been engaged in potentially illegal business practices by misleadingly claiming that plastics products are recyclable, when most are not. Bonta said he issued subpoenas to ExxonMobil, with other companies likely to follow, and said society’s growing plastics pollution problem — particularly in oceans, which are littered by trillions of tiny pieces of plastic — is something they are legally liable for and should be ordered to address.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Truck driver dumped 2,000 gallons of ‘asphalt binder’ in California forest, CHP says

A truck driver who law enforcement believes was driving under the influence dumped 2,000 gallons of “hot asphalt binder” in a California forest this week. … Officials from Six Rivers National Forest said the trailer contained 2,000 gallons of “hot asphalt binder,” which began seeping into the Smith River. … A quick response by forest workers, Caltrans, Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services and other agencies minimized the spread of the chemicals. They believe there are no impacts to water quality.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Neighbors complain about putrid odor in the Cañón de la Pedrera neighborhood of Tijuana

Residents in the Cañón de la Pedrera neighborhood of Tijuana about six miles south of the border are complaining about a putrid odor that is so strong some days it has made a few neighbors feel ill. … The smell has lasted for weeks and seems to be coming from a nearby concrete channel where some residents appear to have built their own makeshift drainage system to dump their waste water into. … That water flows down the river and eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean.

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Aquafornia news Business Wire

Responsible Flushing Alliance publishes new infographic educating the public on the strangest items found in California catch basins

Today, the Responsible Flushing Alliance (RFA) published a new infographic highlighting some of the strangest objects that have been pulled out of municipal wastewater treatment catch basins in three California areas. … Consumers are urged to look for the “Do Not Flush” symbol on the packaging of wipes that are not intended by the manufacturer to be flushable. This includes baby wipes, household cleaning wipes, makeup removal wipes, and other wipes made with plastic materials that do not disperse in water.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

UC Davis research details microplastics in ocean food chain

Germs are hitching rides around the world’s waterways on the tiniest of rafts — microscopic plastic fibers from human clothing and fishing nets — and contaminate the shellfish that consume them, according to research published Tuesday by scientists at the University of California, Davis. These researchers hope to see further study on how the pathogens in these contaminated fish affect the humans and other animals eating them.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

Funding will help seal thousands of abandoned oil wells in Southern California and statewide

California is home to thousands of oil and gas wells abandoned years ago and never  properly sealed — many of them sitting near homes, schools and businesses from the coast to the Inland Empire. With no legally responsible party to clean them up, environmental leaders say that 5,356 abandoned and deserted wells now sprawl across Southern California and the state, polluting drinking water and leaking methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That is about to change as the state gets millions of dollars in state and federal funding to safely seal old wells.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Researchers look at how biofilters can protect waterways

Onja Davidson Raoelison, a doctoral candidate in environmental engineering at UCLA, has been working to keep waterways safe. Her research and studies focus on green infrastructure and how wildfires impact water systems…. Raoelison has been looking at how biofilters can protect water from debris and toxic pollutants such as heavy metals.

Aquafornia news KTAR Phoenix

Groundwater pollution may be an overlooked aspect of Arizona water issues

You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers, which are porous rock that contain or transport water. About 40% of the state’s water supply is underground, with that number likely to increase due to reductions in available water from the Colorado River. An ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource got contaminated.

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California drought: First-of-its-kind project prepares South San Francisco park for drier times CA’s continued drought

You could say that Orange Memorial Park in South San Francisco is about to turn deep green. … [Colma Creek is] an historic, natural waterway that was heavily cemented for flood control in the early days of the area’s development. For decades, the creek has carried runoff from the surrounding watershed straight into San Francisco Bay, along with a significant amount of trash. But that’s about to change.

Aquafornia news University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Analysis: The Salton Sea – An introduction to an evolving system and the role of science

The Salton Sea, located in Southern California, is a saline terminal lake that has had many identities over the past century or so. Since its reincarnation in 1905 due to lower Colorado River flooding that partially refilled the Salton Sink, it has been California’s largest lake by surface area, covering approximately 350 square miles…. Yet with nearly 90% of its inflow comprised of agricultural drainage waters from the approximately 500,000 acres of irrigated farmland in the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), and exposure to an extremely arid climate that results in excessive evaporation … the Sea’s natural attractions have faded as the lake has become more polluted and nearly twice as saline as the ocean….

Aquafornia news UC Davis

New research: Pathogens can hitch a ride on plastic to reach the sea

Microplastics are a pathway for pathogens on land to reach the ocean, with likely consequences for human and wildlife health, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. The study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, is the first to connect microplastics in the ocean with land-based pathogens. It found that microplastics can make it easier for disease-causing pathogens to concentrate in plastic-contaminated areas of the ocean.

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Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: White House Council on Environmental Quality finalizes first phase of NEPA regulation revisions

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has reversed three key Trump administration changes that govern how federal agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The rule, published on April 20, 2022, finalizes what the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) called “Phase One” of their effort to review and revise the Trump administration’s July 2020 overhaul of the NEPA regulations, and follows a proposed rule that CEQ issued for public comments last fall.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

California regulators banned fracking wastewater for irrigation, but allow wastewater from oil drilling. Scientists say there’s little difference

California prohibits farmers from growing crops with chemical-laced wastewater from fracking. Yet the state still allows them to use water produced by conventional oil drilling—a chemical soup that contains many of the same toxic compounds. When rumors spread several years ago that California was growing some of the nation’s nuts, citrus and vegetables with wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, regulators said that would be illegal.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

How a California disaster inspired the first Earth Day

Happy Earth Day. As you probably know, April 22 is a day set aside for appreciating the environment and demonstrating support for laws that protect it. … But it was a massive oil spill in 1969 off the coast of Santa Barbara that ultimately served as a catalyst for Earth Day…. At the national level, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and President Richard M. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. 

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Albedo effect - Trees burned in California fires could affect snowmelt

In a California forest torched by wildfire last summer, researcher Anne Nolin examines a handful of the season’s remaining snow, now darkened by black specks from the burned trees above. Spring heat waves had already melted much of the year’s limited snowfall across California and parts of the West when Nolin visited in early April. But she and her colleague are studying another factor that might’ve made the snow vanish faster in the central Sierra Nevada — the scorched trees, which no longer provide much shade and are shedding flecks of carbon.

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Aquafornia news San Diego State University

Newsletter: Navigating the San Diego River’s past and its future

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the San Diego River has long been listed as an impaired water body, but SDSU researchers are working to fix it. … In another study, SDSU environmental engineer Natalie Mladenov and her team found that high levels of bacteria correlate with the presence of caffeine and sucralose, found only in human waste. 

Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Western wildfires bring ‘new peak to air pollution,’ new study finds

The large, intense wildfires that have scorched the Pacific Northwest in recent years are altering the seasonal pattern of air pollution and causing a surge in unhealthy air pollutants in August — as well as undermining clean air gains and posing potential health risks to millions across the continent, a new study found. The research, helmed by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and published this week in Nature Communications, pointed to a sharp increase in carbon monoxide levels during the month of August — a time when carbon monoxide levels have historically remained low.

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Aquafornia news Christian Science Monitor

Microplastics: Citizen scientists on the hunt for nurdles

This 3-mile stretch of sand and tide pools beneath a fortress of 80-foot bluffs is a California tourism poster if there ever was one. Nothing disturbs the pristine, sunny view, except – once you’re aware of them – the nurdles. But you have to look close – on-your-hands-and-knees close – to see one. And once you do, you see another and another – so many that you may not think of this, or any beach, the same way again. Mark McReynolds is trying to bring into focus these tiny preproduction plastic pellets that manufacturers melt down to mold everything from car bumpers to toothpaste caps. 

Aquafornia news Slate

Emeryville, California, and the challenge of cleaning up poisoned land

In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco, sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory. The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the latter.

Aquafornia news Eos

Endangered rivers plagued by pollution, climate change, and outdated management

A leading U.S. environmental conservation group has released its annual list of the country’s most endangered rivers. The Colorado River tops the list, but states across the nation must address polluted, dry, and unhealthy rivers, according to the list and accompanying report published today by American Rivers.

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Aquafornia news San Jose Spotlight

Silicon Valley environmentalists want Caltrans to clean up trash

Environmentalists are concerned Caltrans isn’t doing enough to keep trash from washing off its properties into the San Francisco Bay. The state transportation department has been under a cease and desist order since 2019 requiring it to reduce trash over the next seven years. The order covers more than 8,000 acres of its property in the Bay Area, including the South Bay. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the order following widespread community outrage about Caltrans failing to pick up trash polluting local waterways.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Fight brews over California measure to reduce plastic waste

[P]iles of single-use plastics that can’t easily be recycled, pollute roadsides and waterways and add to the garbage that clogs landfills. In November, Californians may get a chance to shrink that waste. An initiative designed to reduce single-use plastics and polystyrene food containers will be on the ballot, a move by environmentalists to bypass the Legislature, where such measures have repeatedly failed in the face of industry lobbying.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado River named the most endangered in the U.S. by conservation group

The Colorado River is the epicenter of the nation’s water and climate crisis, according to an annual report from the conservation group American Rivers that ranked the waterway the country’s most endangered. … More than 20 years of record-breaking climate change-driven drought has brought the river and reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead to record lows. Last month, Lake Powell dropped below a critical threshold of 3,525 feet for the first time — a number the states and federal government have worked to avoid to keep enough water in the reservoir for continued hydropower production. 

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Livermore affordable housing lawsuit headed to appeals court

Residents who sued to block an affordable housing project are appealing a court ruling that quashed their lawsuit. … The group previously denied it filed the lawsuit to delay the affordable housing project, instead claiming it was brought because of “the very real and legitimate concern that the city has failed” to properly environmentally evaluate the project, including not fully considering “concerns raised by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding the historical contamination” at the site.

Aquafornia news Food & Water Watch

Blog: Ventura County farmers urge passage of measures A and B to protect water resources

Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura County farming community joined advocates and water experts to urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was approved in 1928. 

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Sisolak praises Clean Up The Lake for trash collection efforts at Tahoe

As Clean Up The Lake nears completion of their 72-mile project, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak joined the crew on Monday to thank them for their progress thus far. On Monday, April 11, Sisolak joined officials from the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with staff and volunteers from CUTL and project sponsors Tahoe Fund and Tahoe Blue Vodka, at Nevada’s Sand Harbor State Park to celebrate the historic initiative to remove underwater trash and debris from nearshore areas across the entire Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

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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 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 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

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

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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.