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 Chemical & Engineering News

US EPA seeks to protect salmon from 4 pesticides

The US Environmental Protection Agency has put restrictions on four pesticides to save endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead species from extinction. The new mitigation measures, announced Feb. 1, aim to protect 28 salmon species in Washington, Oregon, and California from pesticide runoff and spray drift. The four targeted pesticides are three herbicides—bromoxynil, prometryn, and metolachlor—and the soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene. The EPA put the measures in place after the National Marine Fisheries Service found in 2021 that such restrictions are needed to protect endangered and threatened salmon species. The measures require no-spray vegetative buffers between waters where salmon live and agricultural fields. They also require retention ponds and vegetated drainage ditches. All of these measures are intended to capture pesticides that otherwise could seep into the water.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California forking out $34 million to clean up New and Tijuana rivers

The State Water Resources Control Board will spend $34 million for six projects to improve the water quality of the New River and the Tijuana River along the U.S.-Mexico border. The New River starts south of the city of Mexicali, and runs through Calexico on the U.S. side of the border and through Imperial County to the Salton Sea. The Tijuana River runs from Baja California into San Diego. Both rivers are heavily polluted by sewage, trash, industrial and agricultural waste, and other sediment and pollutants.

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

EPA waste ban blocks Pebble Mine project in Alaska

The Biden administration on Tuesday moved to protect one of the world’s most valuable wild salmon fisheries, at Bristol Bay in Alaska, by effectively blocking the development of a gold and copper mine there. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final determination under the Clean Water Act that bans the disposal of mine waste in part of the bay’s watershed, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Streams in the watershed are crucial breeding grounds for salmon, but the area also contains deposits of precious-metal ores thought to be worth several hundred billion dollars. A two-decades old proposal to mine those ores, called the Pebble project, has been supported by some Alaskan lawmakers and Native groups for the economic benefits it would bring, but opposed by others, including tribes around the bay and environmentalists who say it would do irreparable harm to the salmon population.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Why sewage flooded the Bay

An estimated 62 million gallons of sewage — or about 94 Olympic-sized swimming pools — spilled into the San Francisco Bay during the storms in late December and January.  Those storms are now behind us, and officials say the water is now safe. But now is actually the perfect time to unpack what went wrong with our sewage system, and how we can better prepare our infrastructure for the next big storm.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

New study catalogs water pollutants released by Bay Area oil refineries

Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond is among the U.S. petroleum producers that most regularly exceed limits aimed at keeping pollution out of local waterways, according to a nonprofit that ranked it eighth worst out of 81 oil refineries on that point after studying Environmental Protection Agency reports. From 2019 through 2021, the EPA recorded 27 instances when the Richmond facility reported dumping unpermitted amounts of regulated substances into San Pablo Bay, researchers with national nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project found. None of those violations resulted in official enforcement actions or financial penalties, the group said.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Chevron El Segundo among worst water-polluting refineries

A study of oil refineries nationwide ranked the Chevron El Segundo facility on Santa Monica Bay as the largest water polluter for nitrogen and selenium in 2021, compared to 80 other oil operations. The pollutants, which are byproducts of the oil refining process, are legally discharged into the Pacific Ocean. Authors of the report, as well as conservationists, are calling on federal environmental officials to revise and tighten regulations that permit such discharges into water bodies, saying they have the power to do so but choose not to act. … In an email to The Times, the oil company said it directly treats all of the facility’s process wastewater and storm water runoff “under a rigorous discharge permit … 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Untreated sewage closes three beaches in Los Angeles County

The release of 64,000 gallons of untreated sewage prompted the closures of several Los Angeles County beaches Wednesday, public health officials said. A blocked main line led to the sewage entering the storm drain system near Admiralty and Palawan ways in Marina del Rey, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a news release. The blockage was cleared by Wednesday afternoon, but Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Venice City Beach and Dockweiler State Beach were ordered closed. … The closures will remain in effect until bacterial levels in daily water testing meet health standards, the department said.

Aquafornia news AP News

EPA considers tougher regulation of livestock farm pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will study whether to toughen regulation of large livestock farms that release manure and other pollutants into waterways. EPA has not revised its rules dealing with the nation’s largest animal operations — which hold thousands of hogs, chickens and cattle — since 2008. The agency said in 2021 it planned no changes but announced Friday it had reconsidered in response to an environmental group’s lawsuit. While not committing to stronger requirements, EPA acknowledged needing more recent data about the extent of the problem — and affordable methods to limit it.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California dumps toxic waste in states with weaker laws

In September 2020, workers in Brawley near the Mexico border began loading dump trucks with soil from the site of an old pesticide company. As an excavator carefully placed the Imperial County waste into the vehicles, a worker sprayed the pile with a hose, state records show. … Shipping documents indicate the soil was contaminated with DDT, an insecticide the federal Environmental Protection Agency banned decades ago and that research has linked to premature births, cancer and environmental harms. The Brawley dirt was so toxic to California, state regulation labeled it a hazardous waste. That meant it would need to go to a disposal facility specially designed to handle dangerous material – a site with more precautions than a regular landfill to make sure the contaminants couldn’t leach into groundwater or pollute the air. At least, that would have been the requirement if the waste stayed in California. But it didn’t.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Oil wells guzzle precious California water. Next door, residents can’t use the tap

Towering refineries and rusty pumpjacks greet visitors driving along the highways of Kern county, California. Oil wells sit in the middle of fields of grapevines and almond trees. The air is heavy with dust and the scent of petroleum.  The energy fields here are some of the most productive in the US, generating billions of barrels of oil annually and more than two-thirds of the state’s natural gas. And in a drought-stricken state, they’re also some of the thirstiest, consuming vast quantities of fresh water to extract stubborn oil.  But in the industry’s shadow, nearby communities can’t drink from the tap. One of those communities is Fuller Acres, a largely Latino town in Kern county where residents must drive to the nearest town to buy safe water. 

Aquafornia news Forbes

Car tire dust is killing salmon every time it rains

The atmospheric river that fueled a string of heavy downpours in California this month brought much-needed water to the parched Golden State. But those billions of gallons of rain also swept a form of pollution off roads into streams, rivers and the Pacific Ocean that’s of rising concern to scientists, environmentalists and regulators: particle dust created by car tires. A growing body of research indicates that in addition to being a major source of microplastic pollution, the chemical 6PPD, an additive that’s used to keep tires from wearing out, reacts with ozone in the atmosphere to form a toxic new substance scientists call 6PPD-Quinone. It’s killing coho salmon and likely harms other types of fish, which exhibit symptoms resembling suffocation.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Club

Blog: More cars on the road, clean or not, means more microplastics

When Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all new car sales in California would be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, many activists celebrated the move. … But there was a word few people mentioned in response to the news: microplastics. One of the potential unintended consequences of the transition to electric vehicles could be more microplastics. When rubber meets road, tires shed small synthetic polymers less than five millimeters in diameter. … “​​We ended up estimating that stormwater was discharging about seven trillion [microplastics] into the [San Francisco] Bay annually,” said Rebecca Sutton, a senior researcher at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI). Half of those particles come from tires. … These tire particles are already in the air we breathe as well as the San Francisco Bay and the groundwater that empties into it. 

Aquafornia news Grist

How pesticides intensify global warming

A new study shows that pesticides are a key contributor to climate change, from their manufacturing, transportation, and application, all the way to their degradation and disposal. … According to [the Pesticide Action Network of North America], the pesticide-climate change connection is a loop: Pesticides add emissions to the atmosphere that accelerate climate change, warming climates stress agricultural systems and increase the number of pests and insects, requiring more pesticides. …  California uses nearly 20% of the pesticides applied annually across the United States. The state grows fewer commodity crops than other regions, but supplies a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Tackling “forever chemicals” in the water supply

Much has been made of two drinking water pollutants recently: PFAS and microplastics. We spoke with Jason Dadakis, executive director of water quality and technical resources with the Orange County Water District, to find out how worried we should be. What are PFAS and microplastics, why are they in our water supply, and why should we care? “PFAS” is an acronym for a large family of manmade chemicals that all feature the carbon-fluorine bond, one of the strongest bonds in nature. They resist degradation in the environment, which is where they get their nickname “forever chemicals.”

Aquafornia news Treatment Plant Operator

New research: Researchers use egg whites to remove microplastics from water

Researchers at Princeton Engineering have found a way to turn your breakfast food into a new material that can cheaply remove salt and microplastics from seawater. The researchers used egg whites to create an aerogel, a lightweight and porous material that can be used in many types of applications, including water filtration, energy storage, and sound and thermal insulation. Craig Arnold, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and vice dean of innovation at Princeton, works with his lab to create new materials, including aerogels, for engineering applications.

Aquafornia news CBS News

Eating one fish from U.S. lakes or rivers likened to drinking month’s worth of contaminated water

Eating one freshwater fish caught in a river or lake in the United States is the equivalent of drinking a month’s worth of water contaminated with toxic “forever chemicals,” new research said on Tuesday. The invisible chemicals, called PFAS, were first developed in the 1940s to resist water and heat and are now used in items such as non-stick pans, textiles, fire suppression foams and food packaging. But the indestructibility of PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, means the pollutants have built up over time in the air, soil, lakes, rivers, food, drinking water and even our bodies. There have been growing calls for stricter regulation for PFAS, which have been linked to a range of serious health issues including liver damage, high cholesterol, reduced immune responses and several kinds of cancer.

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Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

2,000 gallons of gas estimated to have reached river after crash

Some 2,000 gallons of gasoline are estimated to have reached the Colorado River after an accident in Glenwood Canyon Tuesday resulted in fuel spilling from a tanker. Kaitlyn Beekman, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division, said in an email Wednesday that the estimated volume of gas that made it to the river came from the Colorado State Patrol’s on-scene responders, with whom CDPHE has coordinated. … She said that upon learning of the spill, her department immediately began contacting downstream water systems to alert them.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

New study finds rising groundwater is a major Bay Area flooding risk

As recent storms have shown just how vulnerable the Bay Area is to flooding, a new study finds that rising groundwater is a crucial contributor to the region’s flooding challenges. The study’s goal in four counties — Alameda, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo — is huge. “It’s to make the Bay Area the most climate-resilient coastal region in the world,” said Adrian Covert, senior vice president of the Bay Area Council, a business association that helped fund the research. In partnership with local climate scientists at Pathways Climate Institute, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, UC Berkeley, regional agencies and the counties, the study took existing groundwater levels and imagined how they would push up around the lip of the bay as seas rise. The authors also created maps to provide a high-level overview of this challenge.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

New sea level rise maps show hidden flood risk in Bay Area

Amid dramatic ocean swells and drenching atmospheric rivers, a new report lays bare a hidden aspect of sea level rise that has been exacerbating flooding in the Bay Area. The report, which was released Tuesday, maps areas that could flood from groundwater hovering just a few feet, or even inches below ground. This layer of water gets pushed upward as denser water from the ocean moves inland from rising tides. On its way up, even before the water breaks the surface, it can seep into the cracks of basements, infiltrate plumbing, or, even more insidiously, re-mobilize toxic chemicals buried underground. Communities that consider themselves “safe” from sea level rise might need to think otherwise, said Kris May, a lead author of the report and founder of Pathways Climate Institute, a research-based consulting firm in San Francisco that helps cities adapt to climate change.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Bills to regulate toxic ‘forever chemicals’ died in Congress – with Republican help

All legislation aimed at regulating toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” died in the Democratic-controlled US Congress last session as companies flexed their lobbying muscle and bills did not gain enough Republican support to overcome a Senate filibuster. … PFAS are a class of about 12,000 compounds used to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and they have been linked to cancer, high cholesterol, liver disease, kidney disease, fetal complications and other serious health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency this year found that virtually no level of exposure to two types of PFAS compounds in drinking water is safe, and public health advocates say the entire chemical class is toxic and dangerous.

Aquafornia news Scientific Reports

New research: Nitrate contamination in drinking water and adverse reproductive and birth outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Exposure to low levels of nitrate in drinking water may have adverse reproductive effects. We reviewed evidence about the association between nitrate in drinking water and adverse reproductive outcomes published to November 2022. … Nitrogen is very important for plant nutrition and growth, being incorporated by plants into amino acid synthesis, and is therefore commonly used in inorganic fertilizers. However, because nitrate is highly water soluble, it leaches through soils and into groundwater very easily, particularly after heavy rainfall. … The increasing use of artificial fertilizers, the disposal of wastes, particularly from animal farming, and changes in land use have become significant contributors to the progressive increase in nitrate levels in groundwater supplies.

Aquafornia news Lexology

Blog: California institutes new microplastics regulations

On September 7, California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approved initial requirements for testing microplastics in drinking water, becoming the first government in the world seeking to establish health-based guidelines for acceptable levels of microplastics in drinking water. … Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, less than five millimeters in length, that occur in the environment because of plastic production from a wide range of manufactured products. … The SWRCB’s implementation of Senate Bill 1422, will now require select public water systems to monitor for microplastics over a four year period—a daunting task as there is no EPA-approved method to identify the many types of microplastics in drinking water, and no standardized water treatment method for removing microplastics from the public water supply. 

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Hundreds of deserted oil and gas wells in Southern California could soon get plugged

One apparently is hiding under the driveway of a million-dollar home in Placentia. Another lurks beneath a parking lot at Ontario International Airport. And another is under a commercial building in Culver City — much to the surprise of the upscale window company doing business there. Thanks to its once expansive, 150-year-old oil and gas industry, Southern California has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of so-called “orphan wells,” or wells that companies abandoned without first plugging them up for safety. The state has documented nearly 2,000 orphan wells in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties alone, while estimating that thousands more could be paved over, unrecorded, and waiting to be rediscovered.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: California is leading the nation on cutting plastic trash. But it still needs to do more

Last year was a good one for trash. Or, rather, for the prospects of reducing it. For the last several years, lawmakers have passed new laws aimed at curbing plastic, from the 2014 ban on single-use plastic grocery bags to restrictions on use of plastic straws. But in 2022, they went big and broad, enacting Senate Bill 54, a revolutionary law that will start phasing out all varieties of single-use plastic in 2025 — basically everything on the shelves of grocery and other retail stores — through escalating composting and recycling requirements on consumer products packaging. Most importantly, the law puts the onus on the producers of the packaging to figure out how to make it happen rather than on consumers or state and local governments.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Storm is an ‘extreme test’ of waste capture system protecting the Pacific from L.A. runoff

The atmospheric river storm hitting California this week presents a test for an experimental waste-capturing system that’s intended to keep plastic bottles, diapers and other trash from flowing into the Pacific. It has even captured a couch. The solar-powered system, designed to work mostly autonomously, was introduced in October at the mouth of Ballona Creek near Playa del Rey.

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

Western Water 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.

Aquapedia background

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.

Aquapedia background California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater

Groundwater Pollutants

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

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

Pervasive and Persistent: Constituents of Growing Concern
January/February 2011

This printed issue of Western Water, based on presentations at the November 3-4, 2010 Water Quality Conference in Ontario, Calif., looks at constituents of emerging concerns (CECs) – what is known, what is yet to be determined and the potential regulatory impacts on drinking water quality.

Western Water Magazine

From Source to Tap: Protecting California’s Drinking Water
November/December 2006

This issue of Western Water looks at some of the issues facing drinking water providers, such as compliance with increasingly stringent treatment requirements, the need to improve source water quality and the mission of continually informing consumers about the quality of water they receive.

Western Water Magazine

Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products: An Rx for Water Quality Problems?
July/August 2004

This issue of Western Water examines PPCPs – what they are, where they come from and whether the potential exists for them to become a water quality problem. With the continued emphasis on water quality and the fact that many water systems in the West are characterized by flows dominated by effluent contributions, PPCPs seem likely to capture interest for the foreseeable future.

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

Confronting a Legacy of Contamination: Perchlorate
May/June 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the problem of perchlorate contamination and its ramifications on all facets of water delivery, from the extensive cleanup costs to the search for alternative water supplies. In addition to discussing the threat posed by high levels of perchlorate in drinking water, the article presents examples of areas hard hit by contamination and analyzes the potential impacts of forthcoming drinking water standards for perchlorate.

Western Water Magazine

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

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