Topic: Regulations — California and Federal


Regulations — California and Federal

In general, regulations are rules or laws designed to control or govern conduct. Specifically, water quality regulations under the federal and state Clean Water Act “protect the public health or welfare, enhance the quality of water and serve the purposes of the Act.”

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

Napa Valley landfill faces $619,400 Water Board fine

A family-owned landfill serving Napa County is facing a $619,400 fine for allegedly polluting a nearby creek in 2019. A proposed settlement agreement, announced by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board in late November, is based on five alleged violations of Calistoga’s Clover Flat Landfill’s use permit. The problems include allowing tainted and acidic stormwater to flow into a nearby stream. The company also allegedly failed to properly stabilize erodible areas on the hillside facility and fix leaking equipment quickly. 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: New drought relief program for agricultural businesses

A coalition of agricultural associations and the Northern California Water Association have launched the CA Drought Grant Website – a portal for information on the CA Small Ag Business Drought Relief Grant Program. The site,, provides key information about the $75 million program, grant eligibility and the ability to sign up to receive instant program updates as it becomes available in the upcoming months. When applications are available, they can be accessed from the site as well.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

Blog: State Water Board adopts statewide sanitary sewer systems general order reissuance

The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted the Statewide Sanitary Sewer Systems General Order (General Order) Reissuance at its December 6, 2022 meeting. As reported in a Somach Simmons & Dunn news alert in May of 2022 (available here), the State Water Board released an Informal Staff Draft of the revised General Order in February of 2021 containing new requirements to address sanitary sewer overflows, which significantly broadened the regulatory scope of the existing General Order and raised concerns regarding the substantial commitment of time and resources required for compliance. 

Aquafornia news U.C. Riverside

News release: Salton Sea dust triggers lung inflammation

The Salton Sea, the body of water in Southern California’s Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley, is shrinking over time as the planet warms and exposing more lakebed and new sources of dust in the process. High levels of dust already plague the region, a situation likely to worsen as the sea continues to shrink due to climate change. Not surprisingly, the communities surrounding the Salton Sea have high rates of childhood asthma (20–22.4%) — much higher than the California average of 14.5%. A University of California, Riverside, mouse study, led by Dr. David Lo, a distinguished professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine, has found that dust collected at sites near the Salton Sea triggered lung neutrophil inflammation in mice. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cells that help fight infection.

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Kings County adopts groundwater export ordinance

Despite opposition from an impressive who’s-who list of water districts and agencies and the Kings County Farm Bureau, the Kings County Board of Supervisors on a 3-2 vote adopted a groundwater export ordinance that will require a permit to move groundwater out of the county. Leading the charge was Supervisor and farmer Doug Verboon, who says the passage came after 12 years of battling to adopt an ordinance here to protect local groundwater, an ordinance that most counties already have. The county’s aim is to preserve groundwater for local use, critical for both domestic, city, military and agricultural users. 

Aquafornia news ABC - Sacramento

New tunnel plan angers Delta residents

Approximately 100 concerned Delta residents gathered at a public forum in the community of Hood Tuesday to express concern with the Delta Tunnel proposal. … The proposal reduces the original two tunnel plan, proposed by former Governor Jerry Brown, to a single tunnel by the Newsom Administration and the Department of Water Resources. … The new plan calls for a 40-foot wide concrete tunnel to draw water from the Hood and Courtland areas approximately 45 miles south to Bethany Reservoir. The current estimates are that it would cost $16 billion dollars and take 13 years to complete. The tunnel would draw 3,000 cubic feet of water per second and would account for approximately 13% to 15% of the overall water supply.

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Aquafornia news News 13 - Tucson

Historic water cuts set to hit Arizona on Jan. 1

Arizona is preparing to enter for the first time into a Tier 2A shortage for the lower Colorado River basin, with cuts beginning at the start of the new year. For the state, this means a reduction of 21% of Arizona’s Colorado river supply and about 9% of the state’s total water use, according to the Central Arizona Project. Cities that use the Colorado river will see a 3% reduction while tribal supplies will be reduced by 7%. And for the users of CAP water, there will no longer be excess water and agriculture pools from the Colorado River. According to the Agriculture & Water Council of Arizona, it will have a big impact on farmers as they work out ways to operate with less water.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Despite rain, Bay Area utilities are cracking down on water waste. One is even shutting off service

Just because the rainy season has arrived doesn’t mean California’s water cops are off the job. With a fourth year of drought looming, some of the Bay Area’s biggest utilities continue to crack down on excessive outdoor watering…. One city, though, has gone as far as shutting off water service to repeat offenders. State regulators, meanwhile, are expected this week to enact a second straight year of California-wide prohibitions on outdoor water waste, continuing the ban on such actions as watering lawns to the point of creating runoff, washing a car without a shut-off nozzle on the hose and filling up decorative fountains. Violators could face $500-a-day fines.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

After years of turmoil in water district, California farmers want a friendlier face

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein weighed complex water policy decisions that stood to impact the livelihood of farmers and fish, she often dialed Tom Birmingham. On visits to Washington, the longtime head of the state’s most influential farmland water agency would meet in her office over glasses of chilled California chardonnay. Cultivating relationships with power is a hallmark of Birmingham’s 36-year career at the Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest farm water utility that serves a few hundred Central Valley families and corporations growing nearly $2 billion in nuts, fruit, and vegetables a year. Birmingham spearheaded the agency’s quest to keep water flowing as its longest serving general manager, largely through attempts to loosen environmental regulations. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Senators urge Agriculture secretary to help Western states in ’22-year mega-drought’

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is leading a letter signed by 14 other senators urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help Western states survive what they are calling a “22-year mega-drought” that is threatening farms and ranches across the West. … The letter is the latest sign of growing economic pressure posed by the changing climate and the competition for federal money to help communities across the country cope with severe weather. … The senators argue that many existing Department of Agriculture programs “do not translate well to the needs of Western agriculture” and want the department to promote projects to help basins such as Colorado River Basin, the Rio Grande Basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin and the Columbia River Basin.    

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Water and energy in California

California’s water system uses energy to pump, convey, treat, and heat water. Although agriculture uses roughly four times more water than cities, cities account for most water-related energy use. Water is also required for hydropower generation, thermoelectric power plants, and oil and gas extraction. Improving water use efficiency can reduce energy consumption; conversely, improving energy efficiency can reduce impacts on water supply and quality. … The water system uses approximately 20% of the state’s electricity and 30% of its natural gas for business and home use, according to data from 2001—accounting for more than 5% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Don’t miss this sweet holiday deal on a beautiful water book

Here’s a sweet deal for the holidays that won’t last long: Get our paperback “Water & the Shaping of California,” a treasure trove of gorgeous color photos, historic maps, water literature and famous sayings about water for just $17.50 – a 50% discount. “Water & the Shaping of California” is a beautifully designed book that discusses the engineering feats, political decisions and popular opinions that reshaped nature and society, leading to the water projects that created the California we know today. Use the discount code HOLIDAY2022 at checkout to get your 50% discount.

Aquafornia news Appeal-Democrat

Tehama County project receives Wildlife Conservation Board funding

A Tehama County project is among the Wildlife Conservation Board’s (WCB) selection of approved projects to be funded through $24.46 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 16 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife – including some endangered species, while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - Las Vegas

Anthem Country Club expected to save 30,000,000 gallons of water a year with new changes

Anthem Country Club just replaced all 18 greens and fairways. That effort is expected to save around 30,000,000 gallons of water a year. … The course has been closed since last June to make the changes and just reopened last Friday. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is requiring golf courses to reduce their water budgets by 2024 or face a significant penalty. … A water savings of 30,000,000 gallons of water per year is equivalent to filling up 600,000 50-gallon bathtubs. If Anthem Country Club saved that much water a year for 30 years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority says that would about fill up the entire Luxor pyramid.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Ranchers, greens on edge as BLM rewrites grazing rule

For the first time in almost three decades, the Bureau of Land Management is preparing a new rule to guide its management of cows and other livestock grazing on federal lands, a long divisive issue that has only grown more contentious in the West after two decades of drought. But advocates on both sides expressed skepticism that BLM’s update, which is expected to be released in draft form early next year, will include sweeping changes to the current regulations in place since 1995. That would be just fine with the livestock industry, ranchers and some local government leaders who say BLM has begun reaching out to them for input over the past several weeks. 

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Opinion: IID’s Four-way deal bad for Imperial Valley

Seems like most people are falling all over themselves celebrating the “historic” deal between the Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, the U.S. Department of Interior (Bureau of Reclamation), and the California Natural Resources Agency that will supposedly bring up to a quarter-billion dollars to the Salton Sea for restoration projects. I certainly understand the need to conserve water and help bolster the elevation at Lake Mead to try to restore some kind of balance to the Colorado River, but at what cost to the people of the Imperial Valley? The Imperial Valley is giving up 1 million acre-feet of water over four years for maybe $250 million and that just doesn’t seem like an even trade off; it feels like a bad deal – like my friends over at Comite Civico del Valle so aptly put it – “half-baked.”
-Written by John Hernandez, a Brawley resident and executive director of Our Roots Multicultural Center.

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Aquafornia news Water Wrights

Blog: Tom Birmingham; Reflections on Westlands

Fortunes are made and lost on the weather. In 1588 Spain went to attack England and a storm wiped out its armada. The loss was so devastating even with its New World holdings Spain never again arose to its former place of prominence as the greatest European power. From 1930 to 1936 a drought centered in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles caused 2.5 million people to leave the center of the country for other parts. And while bad weather can lead to major problems, what about the good weather? California is blessed with a Mediterranean climate. Hot summers, cool but not frozen winters, plenty of sunshine and good soil. And due to the foresight of others since gone, California’s fickle water supply has been harnessed for the beneficial use of us all. 

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Zone 7 to present updates on PFAS treatment, water supply, rates to Pleasanton council

Zone 7 Water Agency staff are set to update the Pleasanton City Council on Tuesday about its regional groundwater modeling and PFAS contamination, which will serve as foundational information in future council decision-making on water supply issues. City staff will also seek approval from council to keep the city’s wells 5 and 6 offline and to purchase replacement water from Zone 7 until a water supply alternatives study is completed and the council can decide what to do about the city’s long-term water supply. According to the staff report, “Zone 7 has indicated that it can provide the additional water, initially through a short-term arrangement. This cost would be funded by the Zone 7 pass-through to utility ratepayers.”

Aquafornia news Fox Business

California’s drought disaster is turning into an economic disaster: ‘It’s unprecedented’

In the early hours of a cold fall morning, thousands of birds would sit in the puddles of water in the empty rice fields just outside the Sacramento Valley. At many of those fields this year, there isn’t a single bird that can be seen. It’s because there’s no water. There are no plants. The fields are empty and bone dry. They’ve become fallowed. The streams of water that once flowed to allow the beavers and deer feed and drink are gone. The ground looks like slabs of cracked concrete. Economists and farmers warn that there could be severe environmental and economic consequences that stretch beyond these dry fields that farmers are challenged with. California is now experiencing the driest three-year period since late 1800s.

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Aquafornia news Daily Republic

State Parks fully reopens Brannan Island State Recreation Area

California State Parks has full reopened of Brannan Island State Recreation Area after moving to reduced operations earlier this year. All areas of the park will opened to the public Thursday. The public may begin booking camping reservations starting Jan. 1. Park Delta Bay will operate the state recreation area, which includes day-use areas, a boat launch ramp and campground sites. Brannan Island is a maze of waterways through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta located northeast of the San Francisco Bay in the Suisun Marsh. The park unit has countless islands and marshes with many wildlife habitats and opportunities for recreation, including boating and swimming.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State kicks off water year with anticipated 5% allocation

The state Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced Dec. 1 that it would provide 5% of contracted amounts across the board for agricultural and municipal customers in 2023. That may sound bad, but the initial allocation announced for 2022 was 0% for ag and only enough water for municipal contractors to protect health and safety. At this early stage of the water year, it’s hard to get too excited one way or another about the initial allocation, said Ted Page, Chair of the Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors. … With a La Niña winter predicted this year, the state is preparing for a fourth dry year, according to the DWR announcement reprinted below.

Aquafornia news Financial Times

Investors demand end to ‘forever’ chemicals

A coalition of asset managers is demanding the phaseout of hazardous “forever” chemicals, the latest move by institutional investors to expand their efforts to address environmental risks beyond climate change to biodiversity and human health concerns. Widely used in food packaging, cookware, clothing and carpets, forever chemicals are a group of more than 9,000 compounds that do not break down in the environment and are associated with human health problems including cancers and reproductive abnormalities. … California’s attorney-general, Rob Bonta, alleged in a lawsuit last month that 18 chemical companies knew about the dangers associated with PFAS and concealed the risks in many cases. The lawsuit claims that PFAS have leached into at least 146 public water systems, serving an estimated 16mn Californians.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Nevada toad in geothermal power fight gets endangered status

A tiny Nevada toad at the center of a legal battle over a geothermal power project has officially been declared an endangered species, after U.S. wildlife officials temporarily listed it on a rarely used emergency basis last spring. “This ruling makes final the listing of the Dixie Valley toad,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a formal rule published Friday in the Federal Register. The spectacled, quarter-sized amphibian “is currently at risk of extinction throughout its range primarily due to the approval and commencement of geothermal development,” the service said. Other threats to the toad include groundwater pumping, agriculture, climate change, disease and predation from bullfrogs. The temporary listing in April marked only the second time in 20 years the agency had taken such emergency action.

Aquafornia news ProPublica

The uranium industry continues to poison U.S. groundwater

In America’s rush to build the nuclear arsenal that won the Cold War, safety was sacrificed for speed. Uranium mills that helped fuel the weapons also dumped radioactive and toxic waste into rivers like the Cheyenne in South Dakota and the Animas in Colorado. … The U.S. government bankrolled the industry, and mining companies rushed to profit, building more than 50 mills and processing sites to refine uranium ore. But the government didn’t have a plan for the toxic byproducts of this nuclear assembly line. Some of the more than 250 million tons of toxic and radioactive detritus, known as tailings, scattered into nearby communities, some spilled into streams and some leaked into aquifers. … But the government has fallen down in addressing another lingering threat from the industry’s byproducts: widespread water pollution.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Opinion: San Diego is not protected from California’s severe water supply crisis

California’s water supply crisis has hit a tipping point, with impacts spreading far and wide, reaching local communities and critical industries, putting us once again in jeopardy. This is a pivotal moment in the state’s future – one in which bold political leadership will emerge, or future generations will suffer. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement on his new water supply plan, is encouraging that leadership is materializing, but the proof is in the pudding. The new plan, California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future, underscores the significant challenges we face as a result of a changing climate, the need to transform the current water system, and the importance of significantly investing in California water systems to secure the future of California’s water supply and reliability.
-Written by Gary Arant, General Manager at Valley Center Municipal Water District; and Kimberly Thorner, the General Manager at Olivenhain Municipal Water District.​

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Managing source water for maximum benefit in a challenging climate

In drought-prone northern California, limited water resources, private water rights allocations, and inefficient transport and use of water resources causes tension between freshwater conservation and private landownership (Garibaldi et al. 2020, Vissers 2017). In the face of a changing climate, drought curtailments will likely become more frequent, ratchetting stress on all water users (Vissers 2017). From an engineering perspective, efficiently managing water rights as arid landscapes become drier and less predictable will be essential to preservation of working landscapes and the environment. Water purchases and leases are a common tool for securing water rights for environmental purposes. California recently considered a budget proposal to allocate $1.5 billion to buy-back private agricultural water rights to mitigate drought and support ecological uses (Bork et al. 2022).

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Regulator authorizes Cal Am to purchase future water supply

A key state regulator on Thursday OK’d an agreement to have California American Water Co. buy future water from the planned Pure Water Monterey Expansion project. The agreement signals a major new water supply for the Monterey Peninsula. Mike McCullough, the director of external affairs for Monterey One Water (M1W), said the authorization defines the terms and conditions for the sale of water from the expansion project. Monterey One Water is the public wastewater agency operating the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project and which will operate the Pure Water Monterey Expansion … The three involved parties – Cal Am, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Monterey One Water reached an agreement on the language of what’s called a Water Purchase Agreement more than a year ago.

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Monday Top of the Scroll: Feds announce plan for massive cuts in Colorado River deliveries

The Bureau of Reclamation is for the first time legally signaling its intent to make major cutbacks in water deliveries from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and the Lower River Basin to protect the reservoirs that are on the edge of collapse. In online presentations last week, the bureau said it’s working through a formal process that could lead to cutting deliveries from Powell by 2 million to 3 million acre-feet annually and possibly more. That could happen if states in the Lower River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — can’t reach agreement by Jan. 31 on how to slice their take from the river, the agency said. The bureau didn’t specify when cuts would begin or how they would be divided among states, saying those questions will be answered later. But “it means that we’re looking at unprecedented reductions in supplies.” 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Business Journal

Drought, delays, not drying investor appetite for American States water

On the surface, these would appear to be challenging times for investors in San Dimas-based water utility holding company American States Water Co. Its water utility subsidiary, Golden State Water, has several systems along California’s Central Coast, one of the regions hardest hit by the ongoing drought, which in turn has forced the utility to pay more for imported water. Even more challenging is a year-long delay in Golden State Water’s rate case before the California Public Utilities Commission. The case is supposed to set water rates for this year through 2024. Yet as 2022 draws to a close, the case is still lingering before the commission, and a decision is not expected until the first quarter of next year. 

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

These Imperial Valley farmers want to pay more for their Colorado River water

Colorado River water was virtually free in the early 20th Century when pioneers dug the valley’s first canals that would later transform this desert landscape into a $2 billion agricultural industry. Imperial Valley farmers now pay about $20 an acre foot to transport Colorado River water to their fields, a price unchanged since 2011. … Farmers next door in San Diego County pay between $799 and $1,109 per acre foot. Even the Coachella Valley Water District, just north of Imperial Valley, charges farmers about $37 per acre foot, nearly twice what the Imperial Irrigation District charges its farmers…. Because water is so cheap, Imperial Irrigation District doesn’t make enough selling it to cover expenses on water revenues alone…. 

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Dried up: In California, desalination offers only partial solution to growing drought

As water in the Western U.S. becomes an increasingly rare commodity, the driest states are grasping at solutions for an even drier future — investing heavily in technologies to maximize the conservation, and creation, of the region’s most precious resource. … With more than a thousand miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, California appears to have access to a wellspring that other arid states lack. The technology to transform that unlimited sea supply into potable drinking water has existed for decades, through a process called desalination. Yet while two new desalination plants have received approvals in the past couple months, California’s coast isn’t exactly teeming with such facilities.

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Aquafornia news US Environmental Protection Agency

News release: EPA announces proposal to protect tribal reserved rights in water quality standards and best practices for tribal treaty and reserved rights

Today, during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced a proposal to revise the federal water quality standards regulations to better protect Tribal rights under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this action, EPA is working to ensure that state and federal water quality standards will protect tribal rights such as the right to fish or gather aquatic plants—that are reserved through treaties, statutes, executive orders, or other sources of federal law. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Popular California park that abruptly closed last spring reopens in Delta

One of the most popular places to boat, fish and camp in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has finally reopened after abruptly closing last spring. Brannan Island State Park, a 336-acre jut of scrubby land across the water from Antioch, shut down in April nearly overnight after its longtime concessionaire ended its month-to-month lease with the state Department of Parks and Recreation to operate the park. Brannan Island, in Isleton, reopened fully on Thursday after the department announced it had secured an agreement with a new concessionaire.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farm delegation advocates for ag in nation’s capital

As the nation learned that the midterm election led to a change in the balance of power in the next U.S. Congress, a delegation of California Farm Bureau leaders met with representatives during an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss pressing issues affecting agriculture. … Farm Bureau executives, the organization’s Leadership Farm Bureau class and county leaders were joined by the organization’s federal policy team and met face to face with lawmakers Nov. 14-17 in the nation’s capital. Discussions focused on issues including California’s ongoing drought, water, labor and trade, as well as the next federal farm bill.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Opinion: The Colorado River won’t obey our rules

The Colorado River Compact is 100 years old. A University of Arizona conference and the upcoming Colorado River Water Users Association will mark the anniversary. But there’s no reason to celebrate. Twenty-two years into a drought and with reservoirs at all-time lows, the federal government may soon intervene in the states’ management of the river. The Compact has failed. Don’t blame the river. We need a new system that manages with the river and provides all users with fair shares. In 1922, the seven Colorado Basin states used an optimistic estimate of the river’s annual flow to allocate the waters. The states chose the biggest estimate because that made it easy to agree. Everyone could pretend the river could satisfy all anticipated demands. That was the first mistake.
-Written by Karl Flessa, an Arizona resident since 1977 and an emeritus professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Friday Top of the Scroll: Drought-hit California cities to get little water from state

California water agencies that serve 27 million people will get just 5% of what they requested from the state to start 2023, water officials announced Thursday. The news of limited water comes as California concludes its driest three-year stretch on record and as water managers brace for a fourth year with below-average precipitation. But if the winter is wetter than expected, the state could boost how much supply it plans to give out — as it did last year when allocations started at 0% and ended the winter at 5%. Absent an end to the drought, water-saving measures are poised to continue, including calls for people to rip up decorative grass, limit outdoor watering, take shorter showers and run dishwashers only when full. 

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Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: California needs to be bold and enact water supply infrastructure now

As California confronts another extended drought and its impacts, it is more obvious than ever that the state has failed to address its water supply and management challenges for far too long. The immediate fallout of the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in is frightening: local residents with wells running dry; urban water rationing and critical shortages; massive fallowing of some of the nation’s most productive agricultural land and the resulting impacts on food prices; and significant uncertainty about our ability to adapt to the future. The long-term effects are even more dire. The viability of California’s $3.4 trillion economy is at stake. 
-Written by Tom Coleman, General Manager at Rowland Water District; and Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

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Aquafornia news Boise State Public Radio

BLM boosts efforts to protect wildlife corridors in drought-stricken West

The Bureau of Land Management on Nov. 15 called for its state offices to work with state wildlife agencies and tribes to preserve and improve habitat connectivity – the ability of fish and wildlife to move freely across landscapes and seasonal ranges. The agency says this guidance will translate to activities like removing unnecessary fencing and other barriers, installing signs to prevent vehicle-wildlife collisions, and pursuing landscape restoration projects. Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said this kind of work is increasingly urgent across the drought-stricken West.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State drought funding will help valley communities fix water problems faster

A handful of small valley communities will be able to move more rapidly on water projects thanks to millions in funding recently allocated by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) as part of its water resilience program. DWR awarded $86 million throughout the state. About $44 million of that will go to small communities facing water insecurity through the department’s Small Community Drought Relief Program.  The announcement of DWR’s ninth, and final, round of funding under this program comes as more than 1,400 wells have gone dry throughout the state this year, 369 of those in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the state’s dry well reporting system. The recently announced funding will help support five projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Bakersfield sued over “dewatering” of Kern River

Several public interest groups sued the City of Bakersfield Nov. 30 alleging the city has been derelict in its operation of the Kern River by diverting most of its flows to agriculture and other uses leaving a dry riverbed through the heart of town. … Even though the city operates the river per a century of agreements and judicial decrees, the lawsuit states, the city still has an obligation to study the harm those diversions may cause to the environment, fisheries and even the recreational value of a flowing river. The case hinges on a concept known as the “public trust,” under which the state holds all natural resources, including water, in trust for the most “beneficial use” for the public. That includes water covered by 100-year-old rights, which includes most of the rights to waters on the Kern.

Aquafornia news JD Supra

Blog: California passes bills banning PFAS in cosmetics and textiles

California’s Governor Newsom signed into law two bills prohibiting PFAS in cosmetics (AB 2771) and in textiles (AB 1817), respectively. The bills define PFAS broadly as “a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.” The cosmetics bill is specifically limited to intentionally-added PFAS: “Beginning January 1, 2025, no person or entity shall manufacture, sell, deliver, hold, or offer for sale in commerce any cosmetic product that contains intentionally added perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).” The textile bill, however, contains more exceptions and complexity.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Smart meter monitoring can help conserve water — but not without a fight, researchers find

The use of smart meters to enforce water restrictions could encourage widespread conservation — but not without local backlash, a new study has found.  Amid California’s ongoing drought, researchers partnered with the city of Fresno in summer 2018 to access and identify water violations via household meter data. While a resulting surge in fines brought a dramatic reduction in both water use and violations, a barrage of complaints thwarted the program’s survival, according to the study, released on Wednesday by the University of Chicago’s Energy & Environment Lab. 

Aquafornia news Sonoma County Gazette

Deep dive: How is groundwater in Sonoma County used?

It is imperative more now than ever for residents of Sonoma County to be aware of exactly how our groundwater resources are being used. Understanding how much water is being pumped will enable actual protections for our residential users that are increasingly experiencing dry wells. In addition, knowledge of groundwater pumping from wells will also ensure that the important public trust resources we all hold dear are not adversely impacted. It is time for these harmful practices to come to an end. By challenging the County to fulfill their public trust obligations in a robust and transparent way, we can begin to rectify some of these past and ongoing harms, and bring our groundwater use in line with the increasing realities of climate change. 

Aquafornia news KRON - San Francisco

State grants aim to keep small drinking water systems afloat in Bay Area

Four small Bay Area drinking water systems will receive millions of dollars as part of California’s effort to protect water deliveries as the drought drags into its fourth year. On Tuesday, the California Department of Water Resources announced $44 million in statewide Small Community Drought Relief Program grants about $6.5 million of which is earmarked for four water systems in Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties. The program is aimed at small systems with fewer than 3,000 service connections that are most likely to suffer from aging infrastructure and often rely on a single source of water. “Small communities are the most vulnerable to the impacts of our new hotter, drier climate and lack the resources to immediately deal with these challenges,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a news release.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. City Council approves contract giving hundreds of LADWP workers a pay hike

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is backing a new salary package for the Department of Water and Power that includes a significant hike in pay for hundreds of workers. The Los Angeles City Council approved the labor deal Tuesday in a vote of 11-0. Under the agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, roughly 10,000 workers will receive four “cost of living” pay increases totaling at least 10% and as much as 24% by October 2025, depending on inflation. All workers will also get a one-time cash bonus of 3% of their salary in December.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego releases water from crumbling Lake Hodges into San Dieguito River

Following recent rains, the city of San Diego started releasing water from Lake Hodges this week. The move, mandated by state safety officials, is part of ongoing maintenance at the reservoir’s deteriorating century-old dam. About 250 million gallons of water will flow into the San Dieguito River using valves in the dam, according to city officials. Residents living along the banks of the river should be aware of the situation, although officials said they don’t expect flooding.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Kings Co. wants to block selling groundwater to Southern California. Will a new measure solve the problem?

Kings County Supervisors took a crack at a long-promised push to restrict the ability of swashbuckling Kings County farming giants to sell their groundwater to far-flung southern California locales. Tuesday, the Kings County Board of Supervisors approved the Groundwater Export Ordinance, which was initially conceived to reign-in major water players in the area, including water maven John Vidovich. Instead, based on lingering commentary from local farmers, it may only create additional red tape with the lack of teeth necessary to stop outsiders from buying up water rights for the express purpose of selling the resources to Southern California water agencies.

Aquafornia news Grist

Why are water thieves so hard to catch?

It’s not easy enforcing water regulations in the West. Just ask the officials in California who have been trying for almost a decade to penalize a man who took water from the river system that feeds San Francisco and bottled it for sale to stores like Starbucks.  It sounds like a tall tale, but it’s illustrative of just how hard it is to stop scofflaws from using water the rest of the state needs during a water crisis. In 2015, at the height of a severe drought, California’s state water agency received a series of complaints about water theft on a small tributary of the Tuolumne River, the source of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir that supplies most of San Francisco’s water. G. Scott Fahey, the owner of a water bottling company called Sugar Pine Spring Water, was siphoning water from the spring and loading it on trucks, the complainants said. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Fifth of California water agencies expect drought shortages

Most of California’s urban water agencies believe they have enough supplies to last through another seven months of drought, but nearly 20% of them — including many in Southern California — say they could be facing significant shortages, according to a new state report. The California Department of Water Resource’s first annual water supply and demand assessment surveyed the state’s urban water agencies to see how they are managing tight supplies through conservation efforts and improved drought planning. … [Metropolitan Water District of Southern California] spokeswoman Rebecca Kimitch added that deteriorating conditions on the Colorado River mean the rest of Southern California could also see calls for increased conservation in the coming months.

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Aquafornia news The Santa Barbara Independent

Slippery Rock water not filling Montecito swimming pools

Rumors sometimes lead to news stories and sometimes not. In the case of Slippery Rock Ranch — TV mogul Dick Wolf’s property in the Goleta foothills — the gossip was that Montecito residents were filling their swimming pools with water from the ranch’s aquifers. While a publicist with the ranch stated last week that Slippery Rock was not selling water or filling Montecito swimming pools, the Goleta Water District confirmed that they quietly settled a long-simmering water dispute with the Law & Order creator in the sum of $10 million. In Santa Barbara Superior Court, Slippery Rock Ranch and the Goleta Water District had disputed since 2015 over possession of the rainwater sluicing off and infiltrating down under the ranch. The Water District pointed out that the ranch — 740 acres above the border of Los Padres National Forest — was in a watershed that contributed to the district’s Goleta Groundwater Basin. 

Aquafornia news Smithsonian Magazine

A century ago, this water agreement changed the West. Now, the region is in crisis

The Colorado River has long been regarded as the “lifeline of the Southwest.” It supplies water to 40 million people in seven states, 29 Native American tribes and parts of Mexico. Farmers use it to irrigate nearly 5.5 million acres of agricultural land.  One hundred years ago this month, the signing of the Colorado River Compact laid the foundation for how water from the river is used today. But the signers of the 1922 agreement had no way of knowing what the future would bring. Decades of overuse because of faulty science and population growth—along with climate change—have all reduced the river’s flow and the water levels in the nation’s largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Now, the basin is facing a crisis.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Giving Tuesday is your chance to support water education in California and the West

Today on Giving Tuesday, a global day of philanthropy, you can support impartial education and informed decision-making on water resources in California and the West by making a tax-deductible donation to the Water Education Foundation. Your support ensures that our 45-year legacy of producing in-depth news, educational workshops and accessible information on water reaches new heights in 2023.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

New report: Continued water conservation is key to enabling suppliers to meet demand

As directed by 2018 legislation, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today submitted a first report to the State Water Resources Control Board summarizing how urban water districts assess the adequacy of their supplies over the next seven months.  Broadly, the assessments show the importance of conservation by individual Californians to help suppliers meet demands through June 30, 2023. In this year’s assessments, urban water suppliers indicate that they will rely on either continued conservation or more aggressive actions to meet demand through June 30, 2023, if dry conditions persist. They report that they can ensure adequate water supplies through water-saving strategies, such as requiring customers to limit outdoor water and providing leak detection and repair services.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Surplus and shortage—California’s water balancing act

After three years of virtual events, the PPIC Water Policy Center’s annual fall conference made a welcome return to an in-person format in Sacramento on Friday, November 18. The half-day event began with a welcome from PPIC Water Policy Center assistant director Caity Peterson and a presentation by senior fellow Jeffrey Mount. “The elephant in the room is that conditions have changed,” said Mount. “We’re no longer talking about some future existential threat….we have now moved into the era of the hot drought.” Hotter droughts, he said, coupled with a thirstier atmosphere, are testing California’s water system as never before. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Is the water safe at Point Reyes beaches? Here is what we know

Looking down at the coast from a hill above the historic L Ranch at Point Reyes National Seashore, rolling swells appear on the ocean surface like blue corduroy. The peninsula that stretches south toward the horizon is almost entirely taken up by ranchland and weathered buildings. Among them, coyotes stalk gophers on the dun hillsides, red-tailed hawks perch on fence posts and a skunk waddles along the road’s asphalt margin. Those beef and dairy ranches are the focus of a recent water quality report showing high levels of fecal bacteria downstream from the cattle, and their manure, in lagoons and beaches popular with park visitors. The report, which was commissioned by an environmental group and is disputed by the ranching industry, is the latest flareup in a decades-long debate over the ranching that occupies more than one-third of the national seashore.

Aquafornia news CNBC

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: U.S. warns California cities possible water cuts in fourth dry year

Federal water managers on Monday warned California cities and industrial users receiving water from the Central Valley Project to prepare for a fourth year of drought and possibly “extremely limited water supply” during 2023. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Interior Department that oversees water resource management, said drought conditions in California have persisted despite early storms this month, and warned of looming water conservation actions. … The agency said water storage is near historic lows in the reservoirs it oversees in the state, which irrigate more than 3 million acres of land in central California and supply major urban centers in the Greater Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas. The project’s water provides supplies for approximately 2.5 million people per year.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Disconnecting water, power when poor can’t pay is cruel

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has made a radical but logical decision: The utility will no longer shut off service when low-income residents and seniors can’t pay their bills. Instead, those customers will be put on payment plans that can stretch over several years, offered incentives to help lower their water and power use and, if they qualify, be enrolled in federal programs to help households in poverty pay for utilities. It’s an important change, recognizing that water and power are essential services. It’s cruel to cut people off if they fall behind on their bills due to financial hardship.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Study: California drought causes economic losses

As California prepares for a fourth consecutive year of drought and farmland across the Golden State increasingly goes idle, growers continue to face mounting economic challenges. In a new report about the financial toll of the state’s extreme drought conditions, researchers estimated that the state’s irrigated farmland dropped by 752,000 acres, or nearly 10%, from 2019 to 2022. Fields meant to harvest rice, almonds and other crops are instead going unplanted, causing the level of fallowed land across California to surpass the prior peak seen during the state’s last drought that ran from 2012 to 2016. As a result, the researchers found, California crop revenues fell by $1.7 billion, or 4.6%, during that time …

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Lawsuit looms over tiny rare fish in drought-stricken West

Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delinquent decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week over the Fish Lake Valley tui chub near the California-Nevada line and the least chub in southwest Utah. Utah and Nevada are the driest states in the country, and the planned lawsuits are among the many fronts on which conservationists are battling water districts and the users they cater to over plans to siphon water to either maintain or expand consumption.

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Westlands boss Thomas Birmingham retiring after ‘change coalition’ elected to board

Thomas Birmingham, general manager of the massive Westlands Water District since 2000, Wednesday announced plans to step down at the end of 2022. His announcement follows the election of four new members to the Westlands Board of Directors on Nov. 8 who would give a so-called “change coalition” a solid majority of six seats on the nine-member board. The top priority for the coalition is “a change in leadership,” according to Sarah Woolf, who along with Jon Reiter helped coordinate a group of increasingly frustrated Westlands farmers to run the slate of change candidates, SJV Water reported. 

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Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Monday Top of the Scroll: Colorado River users, facing historic uncertainty, are set to meet in Las Vegas next month

As Colorado River water users prepare to meet in Las Vegas next month, the reality they face is one of growing uncertainty with few simple options left on the negotiating table. The math is well understood: There are more demands for the river than there is water coming into its reservoirs.  But cutting back at the scale necessary — and on a voluntary basis — has proven painstakingly difficult this year as top officials from across the Colorado River watershed have failed to reach a settlement. If the cuts are inevitable based on physical realities, questions remain about what form they will take. Will they be voluntary? Mandatory? Both? And how would they be enforced?

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Aquafornia news CNBC

On the job: What it takes to earn $70K as a water operator in California

The promise of job security and work-life balance drew Fernando Gonzalez to become a water operator. Now that he’s worked as one for a few years, he sees his job as much more than fining people for using too much water. On a given day, he’s patrolling neighborhoods spanning from farmland to Malibu mansions, looking for evidence that residents are wasting water. He hands out notices of leaky sprinklers or when residents run sprinklers right after a rainstorm, sure, but the most rewarding part of his job is interacting with customers about how they can save water, and why it’s so important. … Here’s how Gonzalez earns $70,000 a year, or nearly $100,000 with overtime, as a water operator in Calabasas, Calif.

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Aquafornia news KLAS - Las Vegas

Colorado River conservation gets support from cities in ‘memorandum’ outlining cuts

More cities have pledged to join Las Vegas in eliminating unnecessary grass in a cooperative effort to use less precious water from the Colorado River on lawns. A “Memorandum of Understanding” with support from municipal governments including Phoenix, San Diego and Denver, along with the water agency that supplies 19 million people in the Los Angeles area, is a sign that a more unified effort to conserve water has support. Letters in support of better conservation efforts provided a platform for governments to trumpet their success so far — but there’s much more to do, according to John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

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Aquafornia news Politico

The next abortion fight could be over wastewater regulation

Abortion opponents and their allies in elected office are seizing on an unusual strategy after suffering a wave of election defeats — using environmental laws to try to block the distribution of abortion pills. … It claims without direct evidence that trace amounts of the drug in wastewater could threaten livestock and wildlife as well as humans, citing some studies in which the drug was given directly to animals rather than ingested from groundwater, and others where drugs flushed directly down the toilet contaminated the water supply.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Appellate Court awards attorneys’ fees in 2015 curtailment case

On Friday, November 18, 2022, the Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District (Sixth District Court) reversed the Santa Clara County Superior Court’s denial of an attorneys’ fees award in favor of a group of California irrigation districts and water agencies (Districts) that successfully challenged the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) decision to issue certain water right curtailment notices during the 2015 drought. The Sixth District Court held that the Districts are entitled to attorneys’ fees incurred prosecuting the Superior Court litigation against the State Board. The full Opinion is here

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado lesser prairie chicken now a threatened species

Federal wildlife officials have declared the boom-or-bust lesser prairie chicken a threatened species in Colorado, and endangered in states to the south, a goal of a long environmental campaign but a disappointment to farmers who fear new restrictions. … Wildlife scientists and advocates say the bird is a leading indicator of healthy continuous grassland and prairies, and the species once ranged across nearly 100 million acres in the Southwest with a population possibly in the millions. It’s now limited to a range of a few million acres broken up by row crops, overgrazing and oil and gas development, with aerial surveys putting the population at 32,000 across five states. … With a threatened designation, farmers and ranchers are able to continue most land uses but face new reviews on significant changes. 

Aquafornia news Payson Roundup

Opinion: Native American tribes fight for water rights

The fierce struggle for water in a drought-stricken West continues to roil politics — and embroil a host of tribal water claims. The decades-long drought has dried up reservoirs and forced federal water cutbacks for the 40 million people in seven states who rely on the Colorado River for water. But it has also dramatically increased the stakes for the region in decades-old water claims by a host of tribes — including the Navajo and the White Mountain Apache. The Tonto Apache Tribe also has a decades-old claim to water from the Colorado River. Efforts to settle that claim with water from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir with a payment from the federal government to buy into Payson’s pipeline have been stalled for years — and missed out on a gush of federal pandemic and infrastructure aid to tribes.
-Written by contributor Peter Aleshire. 

Aquafornia news Oregon Public Broadcasting

Unchecked pollution is contaminating the salmon that Pacific Northwest tribes eat

OPB and ProPublica purchased 50 salmon from Native fishermen along the Columbia River and paid to have them tested at a certified lab for 13 metals and two classes of chemicals known to be present in the Columbia. We then showed the results to two state health departments, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials and tribal fisheries scientists. The testing showed concentrations of [mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs]… EPA documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that even with minimal data available, agency staff members have flagged the potential for exposure to chemicals in salmon caught not just in the Columbia but also Washington’s Puget Sound, British Columbia’s Skeena and Fraser rivers, and California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: The flow of California water policy – a chart

California water policy is often discussed and depicted as being impossibly complex.  In its essentials, it can be seen much more simply, as in the flow chart below.  Without extreme events (such as floods and droughts), the policy process would be simpler, but ironically less effective, and less well funded. … California’s remarkable water history shows that frequent extreme events have activated enough innovation and preparations over 170 years such that floods, droughts, and earthquakes are now much less threatening to California’s population and economy.  However, frequent failures have not yet motivated adequate preparation and management for ecosystems and rural water supplies.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Utahns are often knocked as the most wasteful water users in the U.S. Are the numbers misleading?

Utah is often ribbed and, at times, outright rebuked for the amount of water its residents use. But some of the state’s resources managers claim the data used to make comparisons across states is flawed and unfair, making Utahns’ water habits look much worse than they really are. A draft bill dropped last week during legislative interim hearings that supporters say would collect data about per-person water use that’s more comparable to other arid states in the West. … Utah typically estimates water use by totaling up the amount of water diverted, whether from surface water streams or groundwater wells, then dividing it by the population. 

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

Groundwater Authority hears plans on pipelines that will get water into Indian Wells Valley

Plans are advancing for importing water into the Indian Wells Valley. At its Nov. 9 board meeting, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority heard a presentation on three proposed pipeline paths to get that water into IWV. The presentation was given by Provost & Pritchard, a consulting group IWVGA contracted to perform this imported water pipeline alignment study. Jeff Davis–principal engineer with Provost & Pritchard–presented the study to the IWVGA board. Davis told the board that while there were many paths they investigated for the pipeline, they’ve narrowed it down to three proposed paths which each carry their own positive and negative aspects. These three paths cross different regions of IWV, and are therefore titled the West Alignment, the Central Alignment, and the East Alignment.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Coastal Commission approves Cal Am’s desal plant in Marina, but many hurdles remain.

After more than a decade in the trying, a major desalination plant to serve the Monterey Peninsula has cleared a significant hurdle—in theory, at least. In a 13-hour meeting that adjourned just after 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 17, the California Coastal Commission approved a conditional coastal development permit for California American Water, the private water utility that serves the greater Monterey Peninsula, to build a desalination project in neighboring Marina, a city whose residents are vehemently opposed to it, and who would not be served by it. One thing that was continually brought up during the meeting, and that was acknowledged in the Coastal Commission’s staff report that recommended approval (with many conditions, some potentially insurmountable), is that the project is rife with complexity, both from technical and environmental justice standpoints. … One question that remained unanswered was who would pay for the project.

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Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

Peyron testifies in front of Congress about Tule River Tribe’s water crisis

The Tule River Tribe Chairman presented his case in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, continuing the decades long effort to enact federal legislation to provide water rights for the Tule River Reservation that would address a dire need. Tule River Tribe Chairman Neil Peyron testified in front of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs concerning the proposed Tule River Tribe Reserved Water Rights Settlement Act of 2022. On September 15, California’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein introduced the Tule River Tribe Reserved Rights Settlement Act. The legislation is a product of an effort that has lasted more than 50 years made by the Tule River Tribe to obtain recognition of their federal reserved Indian water rights.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

San Joaquin Valley residents, growers vying for water in fourth year of drought

Noemi Barrera has spent four months without running water for herself and her four children, and is among many people in California living without it as wells across the state run dry.  …  Tooleville sits on a well that is now nearly unusable due to contamination from groundwater overdrilling. The state stepped in last year after the neighboring town Exeter refused to connect municipal water to the community’s residents. … Barrera grew up in the citrus-covered community but never faced this lack of running water until she brought Ruby home from the hospital and could not take a shower. And she is aware that many communities across the state’s vital Central Valley are staring down the same daily life, as their basins are depleted by unprecedented drought and ongoing groundwater pumping.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State water agency wades into lawsuit to maintain its authority over groundwater plans

A lawsuit over groundwater plans in the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley is being closely watched as it could have implications for how the state’s groundwater mandate moves forward, according to a recent briefing on the issue at the Kern Groundwater Authority. At the Nov. 16 meeting, authority attorney Valerie Kincaid explained that the lawsuit, filed in 2020, seeks to have a court invalidate six groundwater plans in the Delta-Mendota Subbasin, which runs along the western edge of the valley from west of Fresno north to west of Modesto. The Department of Water Resources filed an amicus brief in the suit, which was bought by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Kincaid explained. An amicus, or friend of the court brief, can be filed by a group that has a strong interest in a case.

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Supervisors to consider Middletown sewer rates setting analysis

The Board of Supervisors this week will consider the analysis used for proposed new rates for Middletown sewer customers. … In a discussion timed for 10:15 a.m., the board, sitting as the Lake County Sanitation District Board of Directors, will consider a proposed resolution to receive, approve and adopt the financial planning, revenue requirements and rate setting analysis for Lake County Sanitation District’s Middletown sewer system. In their report to the board, Special Districts Administrator Scott Harter and Special Districts Deputy Administrator Jesus Salmeron said that the rate structure hasn’t been adjusted since sewer rates were adopted in 1995 for the district.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: California drought – San Joaquin Valley cities not saving water

Remember a couple weeks ago when it rained half an inch in Fresno and snowed in the Sierra? Sure was nice while it lasted. But with nothing but sunny skies in the short-term forecast and La Niña ocean conditions expected once again this winter, all signs point to a fourth consecutive year of California drought. … Because the San Joaquin Valley is experiencing California’s worst drought conditions as well as our economic dependence on agriculture, those of us living here should be extra diligent about conserving water. Especially when instructed to do so by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who in July 2021 called for a 15% voluntary reduction in water use rather than impose mandatory restrictions similar to those implemented in 2015 by former Gov. Jerry Brown.
-Written by Fresno Bee columnist Marek Warszawski.

Aquafornia news Environmental Health News

Car tire chemicals are killing salmon and steelhead

Last year, a group of Washington researchers pinpointed the cause of these mass fish kills [in Pacific Northwest streams]: 6PPD, a chemical added to tires to prevent them from breaking down. When 6PPD, which has been used in tires since the 1970s according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, reacts with ozone in the atmosphere, it creates 6PPD-quinone (6PPD-q), a compound that leaches into urban stormwater and watersheds. This derivative chemical has proven difficult to identify and study and is even harder to regulate given that the chemicals in tires are proprietary and not disclosed by tire manufacturers. However, new research led by NOAA scientists found 6PPD-q harms other species in the salmonid family besides coho, including steelhead trout.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought has pushed 100-year-old Colorado River Compact to the brink

100 years ago, Wyoming signed onto a deal to divide the water that flows through the Colorado River basin among seven states. It’s based on a formula — one likely based on mistaken beliefs about the river itself — that did not award extra credit for living in the mountains where the snow piles up. Instead, the states signed a compact allocating the water where it would readily be put to work. It meant the more populated states of California, Colorado and Arizona would get the biggest shares. … But more than two decades into a punishing drought that climate scientists say will likely intensify with more warming, the system can no longer supply everything that some 40 million people in a warming and drying region desire from it, or that grocers nationwide sell from its verdant fields. 

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Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

SLO city signals interest in selling recycled water to Edna Valley

Could San Luis Obispo’s wastewater help save Edna Valley agriculture? That was the question of the night on Nov. 15 for the SLO City Council, which took a deep dive into the future of its recycled water program—including whether it wants to sell any “extra” water to Edna Valley to help neighboring farmers reduce their draw on groundwater. By a 4-1 consensus (with Councilmember Jan Marx dissenting), the City Council agreed that it’d be a good use of city resources to explore short-term sales of recycled water to the Edna Valley region.

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Aquafornia news Grist

California sues over ‘forever chemicals’

A new lawsuit from the state of California alleges that 3M, DuPont, and a host of other chemical companies caused widespread damage to public health and the natural world by producing and selling PFAS, a class of hazardous chemicals that have been linked to cancer, immune system disorders, birth defects, and other health problems. As a result of a decades-long campaign of deception, PFAS are in our waters, our clothing, our houses, and even our bodies,” California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, said in a statement. He said PFAS manufacturers knowingly violated state consumer protection and environmental laws and vowed to hold them accountable.

Aquafornia news The Claremont Courier

Opinion: Water market is playing unsustainable game of chicken

A Claremont friend of ours recently confessed, she is depressed if she sees a brown lawn, and she is depressed if she sees a green lawn. We think of our friend as reasonably well-adjusted, so lawns do seem to be the culprits here. Indeed, out for one of our walks on a Thursday evening — not a permissible sprinkler day — my wife and I see homes in our neighborhood with the sprinklers going full blast, with a steady flow of water running into the street. The L.A. Times recently interviewed Max Gomberg, who resigned as a senior manager with the California State Water Board out of his frustration over inaction in Sacramento on water. He described participants in the water market as playing a game of chicken, waiting to see who would blink first, taking us down an unsustainable path.
-Written by Stephen Marks, the Elden Smith Professor of Economics at Pomona College.

Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Sustainability, water and recapture—understanding technology, environmental, and water rights concerns of aquifer storage and recovery

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, about 51 percent of the continental United States has been experiencing drought conditions in the summer of 2022. More than 70 percent of the western U.S. faces severe drought. The Colorado River basin supply is rapidly declining, and Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at critically low levels. Because of this, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has declared a Tier 2 water shortage on the Colorado River impacting seven western states that depend on water from the river. … In the U.S., more than 40 percent of the population relies on groundwater for its drinking water. Groundwater is also used for irrigation, domestic use, public use, and industrial and mining activities.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Western US cities to remove decorative grass amid drought

A group of 30 agencies that supply water to homes and businesses throughout the western United States has pledged to rip up lots of decorative grass to help keep water in the over-tapped Colorado River. The agreement signed Tuesday by water agencies in Southern California, Phoenix and Salt Lake City and elsewhere illustrates an accelerating shift in the American West away from well-manicured grass that has long been a totem of suburban life, having taken root alongside streets, around fountains and between office park walkways. The grass-removal pledge targets turf that people don’t work on, like in front of strip malls, in street medians or at the entrance to neighborhoods. 

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

After long fight, tribal water bills get primary OK; still far from final

A trio of bills affecting water rights and infrastructure for Arizona tribes took a step closer to becoming law Wednesday, a move one official said his tribe has been waiting for since being forced onto the reservation. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, without debate, approved bills granting water rights to the Hualapai, letting the Colorado River Indian Tribes lease their water, and adding funding and extending the deadline for review of a water system for the White Mountain Apache. Tribal leaders welcomed the votes, which they called the culmination of hard-fought struggles by their tribes.

Aquafornia news

Arizona water conspiracy theories will flow, experts warn

The driest grounds California ever experienced were perfectly fertile for conspiracy theories. The state was in the midst of its worst water crisis in over 1,200 years … Fear, anger and conspiracy beliefs were flowing in California when water wasn’t. The debunked “chemtrail” conspiracy theory was searched more in the state, and the nation as a whole, during the midst of the water cuts when compared to any other time before or after, Google Trends data shows. Arizona may be headed in the same direction. Researchers who study conspiracy theories said the state is ripe for new water-based misinformation to spread as the Southwest U.S. water crisis worsens. Those researchers also said understanding three reasons behind why the beliefs spread may be the key to preventing them.

Aquafornia news Merced County Times

Water at center of dispute over Planada dairy expansion 

Some residents in Planada are calling on county officials to block a proposed expansion of a dairy. Merced County is currently in the process of deciding whether to allow the Hillcrest Dairy just north of the town to expand its herd from 8,050 cows to 9,750 cows. Some residents are saying that the expansion would make current problems with bad smells and flies worse, as well as threaten the community’s supply of groundwater. … The matter is still in the process of review, and has yet to come before the Board of Supervisors. But it will ultimately be their call as to whether or not the expansion with the dairy moves forward. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Controversial Monterey Bay desalination plant approved

The California Coastal Commission [Thursday night] approved another desalination plant, despite citing its high costs, risks to Monterey Bay’s environment and “the most significant environmental justice issues” the commission has faced in recent years.  The commission’s divided, 8-to-2 vote came after 13 hours of debate at a Salinas public hearing packed with several hundred people, plus more crammed into overflow space. Many of the 375 who signed up to speak opposed the project — some in tears. Much of the debate focused on the fairness of locating a for-profit company’s facility in the Monterey County city of Marina — which does not need the water and is home to designated disadvantaged neighborhoods. The expensive supply will flow to other communities, including the whiter, wealthy enclaves of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. 

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Editorial: California farmers’ fine for draining a river was laughable

What is the cost of defying California’s environmental laws? Less than $50. That’s all Northern California farmers will pay for blatantly draining the Shasta River in defiance of the state’s drought regulations last summer, likely killing protected salmon. The Shasta River Water Association is an irrigation district serving about 100 farmers and ranchers in Siskiyou County. Over eight days, its members drained nearly two-thirds of the river to fill livestock ponds in the area. This was the primary finding of a Bee investigation that suggests California is unable to stop farmers from draining water as they wish — no matter how much damage is done to the environment. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Friday Top of the Scroll: Tribes celebrate as biggest dam removal project in history is about to start in California

The biggest dam-removal project in history moved one step closer to reality Thursday after the federal government cleared a key regulatory hurdle that would allow demolition to begin on four hydroelectric dams along California’s border with Oregon. The decision Thursday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allows PacifiCorp, a utility company controlled by financier Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to surrender the dams’ license to a nonprofit organization backed by California and Oregon. Demolition on the Klamath River dams — three in California and one in Oregon — could begin as quickly as a few months from now.

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Aquafornia news Fronteras

Arizona’s water supply is shrinking, but its population is growing. Is it sustainable?

Maricopa County’s population has more than doubled over the past 30 years, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the country. But meanwhile, Arizona’s water supply has become more and more depleted. So as growth continues, can the state sustain even more residents? In most areas of central Arizona, a developer can’t build a new home without first proving that there’s enough water to last that property 100 years. But there are loopholes for larger lots in rural areas, like many homes in Rio Verde Foothills. And as water becomes scarcer, some worry even properties with those 100-year plans might not all be sustainable.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego approves new financing method that’s expected to generate millions for river park upgrades

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved Tuesday a new funding source to pay for upgrades to the San Diego River, which officials say could become a regional attraction with recreational amenities and riverfront dining.  The council voted to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district, which would generate money any time a parcel within half a mile of the river sees its property tax go up in the next 45 years.  Combined with a separate EIFD the county government approved in September, the river is expected to get somewhere between $380 million and $750 million for a wide variety of projects.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

DWR Awards $5 Million for Delta communities to improve flood emergency response

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced awarding $5 million in funding for seven emergency response agencies within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to increase their ability to respond to flood emergencies. This funding will help to improve the emergency response efforts for first responders and help these communities prepare for threats of flooding in the Delta, which is increasingly vulnerable to flooding from storm events and sea level rise. 

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

The befouling of Point Reyes National Seashore

It’s an October morning at Point Reyes National Seashore and I’m scooting under barbed wire fences, wary of sliding into cow pies.  My guide on this safari is Jocelyn Knight, wildlife photographer. We’re stalking a toxic waste dump hidden from public view behind a hill at “Historic E Ranch, established circa 1859” land lorded by the National Park Service. Park regulations require Seashore pastures to remain open to the public, but the dump is inside the E Ranch “core” of barns and dwellings, and the public is disallowed. … According to EHS investigators, a septic tank was installed without the required permit; its sewage level exceeded the operational limit; they could not locate a leach field. The ranch land drains into the Pacific.

Aquafornia news Patch - Venice

‘We Will Win’ actor James Cromwell against bulldozing Ballona wetlands

Oscar-nominated actor and star of “Succession” spoke in support of lawsuits aiming to stop a project that plans to bulldoze the Ballona Wetlands on Sunday. More than 200 residents of Venice, Culver City, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey attended an event held by Defend Ballona Wetlands where Cromwell spoke about his support and involvement with the organization. Cromwell said Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Ballona Institute, approached him 25 years ago asking him to visit the wetlands. When he did, Cromwell said it was moving and he knew he wanted to do whatever it took to support efforts to protect it.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

UPDATE: Regulators clear path for largest dam demolition in history

This developing story has been updated: US regulators approved a major milestone Thursday in a plan to demolish four dams on a California river and open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat that would be the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the world when it goes forward. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission vote on the lower Klamath River dams is the last major regulatory hurdle and the biggest milestone for a $500 million demolition proposal championed by Native American tribes and environmentalists for years. The project would return the lower half of California’s second-largest river to a free-flowing state for the first time in more than a century.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s first groundwater rules rub against SGMA

San Luis Obispo County has been restricting new groundwater wells in the Paso Robles subbasin for nearly a decade. Now county supervisors are hoping to tack on a carbon sequestration mandate.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. to end water and power shutoffs for low-income customers

Low-income residents, senior citizens and other eligible customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will no longer face shutoffs if they are unable to pay their utility bills, the agency announced Wednesday. Under a motion adopted unanimously by the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners, the DWP must halt the practice of water and power shutoffs as a debt collection tool for residents enrolled in its EZ-SAVE program, which offers discounts for income-qualified residents, as well as those enrolled in the Senior Citizen Lifeline Discount Program.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Facing Colorado River shortage, 30 urban suppliers pledge to target decorative grass

With the federal government calling for major cuts in water use to address the historic shortage on the Colorado River, the leaders of 30 agencies that supply cities from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California have signed an agreement committing to boost conservation, in part by pledging to target the removal of one especially thirsty mainstay of suburban landscapes: decorative grass. The water agencies, which supply Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santa Monica, Burbank, San Diego and other cities, have committed to a nonbinding list of actions, including creating a program to remove 30% of “nonfunctional” grass and replace it with “drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies.”

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Toss of Trump-era Clean Water Act rule roils Ninth Circuit panel

A Ninth Circuit panel on Tuesday heard arguments on whether federal judges can vacate a rule by the Trump-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency without finding the rule unlawful. In July 2020, the Trump administration revised the “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule,” which narrowed what issues state and tribal governments can consider when determining whether a project, particularly one discharging pollution into a waterway, complies with state water quality standards. The rule affected the permitting and relicensing process for thousands of industrial projects, including natural gas pipelines, hydroelectric plants, wastewater treatment facilities and construction sites near sensitive wetlands. 

Aquafornia news Nature

Analysis: Smarter ways with water

In just a few months this year, abnormally low water levels in rivers led China to shut down factories and to floods in one-third of Pakistan, killing around 1,500 people and grinding the country to a halt. A dried-up Rhine River threatened to tip Germany’s economy into recession, because cargo ships could not carry standard loads. And the Las Vegas strip turned into a river and flooded casinos, chasing customers away. … With mounting climate-fuelled weather disasters, social inequality, species extinctions and resource scarcity, some corporations have adopted sustainability programmes. One term in this realm is ‘circular economy’, in which practitioners aim to increase the efficiency and reuse of resources, including water — ideally making more goods (and more money) in the process.

Aquafornia news Stockton Record

Changes to sturgeon fishing regulations supported by anglers

Fishing for white sturgeon has been relatively productive on the West Delta and Suisun Bay over the past two weeks, but some anglers and prominent scientists are supporting changes in fishing regulations to preserve the prehistoric fish for the future. Hundreds of white sturgeon and some green sturgeon perished in San Francisco and San Pablo bays in late August in a massive fish kill spurred by a red tide algae bloom, but the exact number of fish killed is unknown. Captain Zack Medinas of Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures reported “very good” sturgeon fishing on his latest few trips, but ponders how long this fishery will last at current rates of harvest.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: This is a big week for water in Monterey County.

[On Thursday, Nov. 17 at 9am the Public Utilities Commission] will consider whether to grant a permit to Cal Am to build a 4.8 million-gallons per day (mgd) desalination project that would draw its source water through subsurface slant wells from under the beach in Marina, on property owned by Cemex, whose sand mine on the property has now been shut down.  One elephant in the room, which is completely omitted from the Coastal Commission’s staff report—which recommends that the commission approve the project, with conditions—is that it doesn’t address who would pay for the unused capacity of the desal plant. Right now, if Pure Water Monterey expansion is approved, there is no projected demand for more water for at least 20 years.
-Written by David Schmalz, Monterey County Weekly columnist.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Opinion: Bill would impose water tax on exported crops

Alfalfa is often the target of critics of irrigated agriculture who frequently rely upon simplistic explanations to heap scorn upon growing a forage crop in the West during times of drought. Two Democratic congressmen from Arizona — Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva — last month introduced the “Domestic Water Protection Act of 2022” (H.R. 9194), which would impose an excise tax on the sale of a “water-intensive” crop. The tax is 300% of the price for which the crop is sold and is paid by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of the crop. The bill defines water-intensive crop as a crop grown in an area experiencing prolonged drought at the time such crop is grown, and by a manufacturer, producer, or importer that is a foreign corporation or foreign government.
-Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water rules add to challenges for farmers

Already grappling with drought, lower commodity prices and higher production costs, more farmers are feeling the added pinch of groundwater regulations as local agencies implement plans that include pumping limits and new fees to balance long-term groundwater resources as required by the state. … Regulations and fees by local agencies as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, affect farmers more directly this year, including farmers in Madera County. Madera County farmer Jay Mahil said groundwater sustainability agency fees that are part of his county property tax bill are “coming at a time when growers are receiving all-time low returns on commodity prices, and farm input costs have doubled.”

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Districts agree to collaborate on Tuolumne River

Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding with the state to advance a voluntary agreement for the Tuolumne River. MID and TID, which jointly operate the Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River, joined dozens of other California water agencies in committing to collaborate with the state to finalize agreements that will provide water supply reliability to communities, while enhancing river ecosystems. Contra Costa Water District signed onto the agreement in September. … The action by the districts signals momentum towards an alternative to regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2018, as part of the first phase of the state’s Bay-Delta water quality control plan.

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Aquafornia news Nossaman

California sues alleged PFAS manufacturers for hundreds of millions of dollars

On November 10, 2022, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he had filed a lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, and sixteen other companies for their roles in manufacturing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The lawsuit seeks money damages, which could reach hundreds of millions of dollars, for damages, penalties, and restitution, as well as injunctive relief and abatement. Some consider the lawsuit the broadest of its kind brought by any state. PFAS is an umbrella term that covers dozens of types of man-made chemicals. PFAS were used for a variety of purposes, including in nonstick cookware and firefighting foam, although their usage has been phased out voluntarily by companies in the United States over the past 20-25 years.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Westlands shake-up: Reformers sweep election, oust water board’s president. Is its GM next?

A slate of candidates aiming to reform the powerful Westlands Water District swept into victory on Monday night, cementing a new board majority and likely spelling the end of the line for the district’s general manager. The four candidates – Justin Diener, Ernie Costamagna, Jeremy Hughes, and Ross Franson – captured the four available seats in preliminary results. In the process, they are primed to boot the lone incumbent running for re-election from his seat – current Westlands board president Ryan Ferguson.

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Aquafornia news Utah Public Radio

Las Vegas has strict outdoor water restrictions, with fines! Should Utah do the same?

Salvador Polanco-Gamez is a “water waste investigator” for the Las Vegas Valley Water District. It’s a government job where they are tasked with finding and enforcing violations of water waste under Nevada’s strict conservation laws. Those strict laws regulating water waste are working — southern Nevada recorded a 26% drop in water use since 2002 — and could become one possible path forward for Utah’s own efforts to save water and preserve the Great Salt Lake. Gamez and his fellow investigators are part of that water-saving success. “We look for water waste which is prohibited in southern Nevada,” he said. … Technically, any water that hits a gutter is considered “wasted.” The Southern Nevada Water Authority has mandatory restrictions on time of day, day of week and length of watering.

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

News release: Superior Court of California reaffirms the Council’s broad authority as Delta stewards

For the second time since the Delta Stewardship Council’s establishment in 2010, its regulatory authority has been upheld by California’s judicial branch, clearing the way for the Council to continue to apply its expertise and exercise its broad authority in determining how to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Delta Reform Act. On November 4, the Superior Court of California ruled in favor of the Council regarding lawsuits filed by 17 parties challenging two amendments to the Delta Plan and the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: Sustainable techniques bring concrete results: making DWR infrastructure carbon-friendly

With Governor Newsom’s recent pledge to invest $8 billion in water infrastructure, carbon-friendly concrete is increasingly in the mix in Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) infrastructure projects. This includes efforts to modernize California’s largest water delivery system, the State Water Project (SWP). … The cement industry produces about 7% of carbon emissions globally (about double the emissions from global air travel.) Over half of these emissions are from the chemical alteration of materials during production. The remaining emissions are from the burning of fossil fuels to generate the high temperatures needed to make concrete.

Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Colorado Basin tribes address a historic drought—and their water rights—head-on

To the Ute Mountain Ute, grappling with its water supply is an ongoing challenge. Despite having senior water rights dating back to 1868, when the Kit Carson Treaty created the reservation, the tribe received none of its rightful water for decades as non-Native settlers dammed rivers and diverted flows. And like many tribes across the Southwest, it still struggles to properly quantify and settle some of the water claims already validated by a long stream of court decisions. Even when tribes have been able to secure their water rights, they have often lacked the expensive infrastructure for getting it to their reservations, which means their water gets used, without payment, by non-native groups.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: The Monterey area may get a huge desalination plant. Is this the future of California’s water supply?

With California butting up against 840 miles of ocean, desalination seems an obvious solution to the state’s water woes. However, the cost, energy demands and environmental impacts have made the technology largely unworkable. Three years of drought may be changing the calculus. The latest push for desalination is on the Monterey Peninsula, where a plan for a plant, which has faced more than a decade of hurdles, is poised to win approval this week from the California Coastal Commission. The $300 million-plus proposal calls for pumping seawater from wells beneath Monterey Bay, near the city of Marina, and piping it ashore to the popular tourist region to help relieve a longtime water shortage…  the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which works with Cal Am to ensure water for the area, said the new supply could run as much as $7,000 per acre foot. 

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Gov. Cox put new water rights on hold. Will it actually help the Great Salt Lake?

Gov. Spencer Cox announced this month that all new water rights in the Great Salt Lake Basin are on pause, given the lake’s crisis situation. The move sounds big, sweeping and dramatic — it applies to the lake’s main tributaries that drain nearly 10,000 square miles in Utah. Still, it’s hard to say how much of a difference it will make for the Great Salt Lake, which has continued to shrink after hitting another record low over the summer, almost entirely due to Utah’s water diversions. The governor’s current suspension only applies to new water right applications and does not interfere with existing ones. New water rights would be the most junior with the lowest priority anyway. And in periods of drought, junior water right holders sometimes don’t get to divert any water at all.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Homes and businesses cracked as wells tapped water in SLO

The last time San Luis Obispo ran critically short of water, the city pumped heavily from wells along Los Osos Valley Road. The aquifer was so overtaxed by residents and farmers that the ground sank, resulting multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements over damaged businesses and homes. Since the 1990s, the city has adopted a series of water measures — including rebates for more efficient fixtures, upgrading the sewer plant to deliver treated water to landscaping, and building a pipeline delivering water from Lake Nacimiento…. The city is currently leading the Groundwater Enhancement Project, which it described as “an initiative to to ensure responsible use of groundwater in the San Luis Obispo Valley Groundwater Basin.”

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: San Francisco cuts deal with California water regulators to avoid severe restrictions

Three of California’s biggest water suppliers, including the city of San Francisco, have reached a deal with the state that calls for reducing their immense consumption of river water but not as much as the state had initially demanded. The compromise, announced Thursday, is the latest breakthrough in a years-long effort by state regulators to protect flows in California’s once-grand but increasingly overdrawn rivers. The toll on the waterways, where as much as 90% of the water is pumped to cities and farms, has been exacerbated by drought, leaving fabled runs of salmon and other plants and animals at risk of perishing. … But whether Thursday’s deal, known as “voluntary agreements,” will meaningfully increase river flows — and protect fish and wildlife — remains uncertain.

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Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Metropolitan Water District Vice Chair tells city committee to expect increasing reductions of water supplies

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Vice Chair Cynthia Kurtz told a City committee she predicted the implementation of more mandatory water reductions by next year as the region faces the challenges of climate change and extended drought. Kurtz knows Pasadena’s water situation well. She served as Pasadena City Manager twice, most recently stepping down as Interim City Manager in August. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the first three months of 2022 have seen record dry weather, and pushed nearly 94% of California into severe drought conditions.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Lake Mead’s water problem, summed up in a single chart

Lake Mead relies on inflow – mostly, water released from the upstream Lake Powell. Until recently, Lake Mead typically would get at least 8.23 million acre-feet of water annually from Lake Powell – enough to cover the state of Maryland in more than a foot of water. We began this year expecting to get a lower 7.48 million acre-feet release from Lake Powell. But the federal Bureau of Reclamation, for the first time, trimmed that mid-year to 7 million acre-feet because of how dangerously close Powell was to something called “minimum power pool.”
-Written by Arizona Republic columnist Joanna Allhands. 

Aquafornia news Water Sources IMPACT

The Klamath Basin is not a lost cause: compromise and controversy in one of America’s most contentious watersheds

As a society, what do we do when too little water has been promised to too many people? What should we be doing differently? In the United States, there is perhaps no better to place to turn for answers to these questions than the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Basin watershed is considered one of the most complicated areas for water governance in the United States owing to its transboundary location (the basin crosses the Oregon-California border), its history of complex litigation and persistent inter-institutional (and interpersonal) conflict, and more than 60 different groups of people who have an interest in the basin’s water allocation.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

“Drop out” from race for seat on a powerful Kern water board appears poised to win

If challenger Eric Averett maintains his lead over incumbent Phil Cerro for a seat on the powerful Kern County Water Agency board, it may prove just how effective a campaign statement can be. Averett said he tried to withdraw his name from the ballot after belatedly learning Cerro would run. But he missed the deadline to have his name removed, Averett told SJV Water in September. He vowed not to campaign – dropping out of the race in spirit – and said he would support Cerro. But when Averett filed his paperwork to run, he did one thing Cerro didn’t, he submitted a campaign statement.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sues makers of cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’

The state of California on Thursday sued the manufacturers of a class of chemicals known as “forever chemicals” that are found in a variety of consumer items including food packaging and cookware and are linked to cancer and other illnesses. The chemicals at the heart of the lawsuit are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. They are resistant to environmental degradation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and hundreds of scientific studies. They have also been found in the bloodstreams of 98% of people tested, as well as in wildlife, fish, water — including rivers, lakes and nearshore waters — and soil.

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Aquafornia news Paso Robles Daily News

Santa Margarita water systems vandalized

Monday morning, the San Luis Obispo County Service Area 23 – Santa Margarita water system operator discovered a break-in at the Santa Margarita water storage facility, according to the San Luis Obispo County Health Department. The storage facility fence was vandalized and the lock accessing one of the water storage tanks was cut providing access to the drinking water supply. Because it is unknown whether perpetrators tampered with the water, as a precautionary measure, the tank was taken out of service and is being drained. It held about 100,000 gallons of water at the time of the incident.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Scientists propose catch and release for California sturgeon

A dozen independent fish scientists are calling for urgent changes to sport fishing rules to save California’s largest freshwater fish after an unprecedented red tide this summer left hundreds of them dead in the estuary on Sacramento’s doorstep. The fish is the white sturgeon — an ancient species native to the West Coast. … But this summer’s deadly red tide has independent scientists worried about the future of this species. They’re calling on the state to change fishing rules to require anglers release any sturgeon they catch — a move that would likely be controversial for the state’s 46,000 sturgeon anglers.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Farmers drained Shasta River and get $4,000 California fine

For eight straight days this summer, farmers in far Northern California drained almost all of the water out of a river in defiance of the state’s drought regulations. The move infuriated environmentalists and salmon-dependent Native American tribes downstream. California now knows the cost of the farmers’ blatant defiance: Less than $50 per farmer. It’s the latest example of California’s lax water-use enforcement process — problems that were first exposed in a sweeping Sacramento Bee investigation published online last week.

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Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Permit to reopen Cambria’s Water Reclamation Facility remains continually delayed

It’s been more than two years since Cambria applied to turn its emergency water system into a more permanent fixture, but there’s been little progress since then. According to Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) board member Harry Farmer, the permit application was submitted to the county in July 2020. … Cambria’s water issues have been ongoing for more than a decade, but the problems with the now-proposed water reclamation facility started in 2014, after the district declared a water supply emergency. Due to a dire water shortage situation, SLO County proceeded to grant the CCSD an emergency permit to build a water supply project, bypassing the typical requirements needed to obtain an operating permit. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Solar development in the San Joaquin Valley

Hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland may come out of irrigated production in the coming decades to help balance overdrafted groundwater basins under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. At the same time, California needs to ramp up clean energy development to meet the goals of SB 100—and the valley has high solar potential. At a virtual event last week, PPIC Water Policy Center research fellow Andrew Ayres moderated a panel of experts and local stakeholders; they explored how solar development could help California meet multiple objectives while overcoming some challenges and delivering lasting benefits to the region.

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Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

The future of the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply comes before two state boards next week

Thursday, Nov. 17 is shaping up to be a momentous day for the future of the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply, as two major state boards – the California Coastal Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission – are set to weigh in on two separate projects that aim to add supply to the local portfolio. Arguably, the more weighty of the two hearings is the Coastal Commission’s, which is meeting for three days in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Salinas. In those chambers on Nov. 17, the commissioners will consider whether to grant a coastal development permit to California American Water for its proposed desalination project in Marina, which has been a lightning rod for controversy since first being proposed nearly a decade ago.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Thursday Top of the Scroll: CVWD to slash aquifer replenishment to reduce Colorado River water use

The Coachella Valley Water District’s board of directors voted Tuesday to cut back on groundwater replenishment over the next few years to reduce the district’s Colorado River water use amid historic drought conditions. Groundwater replenishment adds water to the local aquifer, which provides nearly all of the drinking water and domestic water sources in the Coachella Valley.  Earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation called for the seven states that rely on the Colorado River —  Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to use at least 15% less water next year from the drought-stricken river system, or between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet less. An acre-foot, about 326,000 gallons of water, is enough to supply about two households for a year.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Is your water or power being shut off? You have options

Every month, millions of low-income Californians struggle to pay their water and utility bills. A survey on COVID-19‘s financial effect on water systems and customers found that 12% of California households were behind on their water bills, and that statewide, customers owe $1 billion in water debt. … [State law] prohibits most water companies from shutting off your water unless your payment is overdue by 60 days. Water utilities are also required to notify you at least seven business days before a shut-off, and they must have their shut-off policy on their website. (DWP’s policies can be found on its website: Click on “Residential Customers,” then “Customer Service,” and on the lefthand side at the bottom of the page, click “Water Service Disconnection Policy.” You can download the complete policy in six languages.)

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Efforts to protect groundwater are tested by drought

Balancing the state’s groundwater supplies for a sustainable future may not be easy due to severe drought and ongoing economic challenges facing farmers. “We’ve got the lowest prices and highest production costs and the least-reliable water supply that we’ve had since I’ve been farming,” said Bill Diedrich of Firebaugh, who farms row crops and permanent crops on the west side in Madera and Fresno counties…. Diedrich, who relies on groundwater for irrigating farmland in Madera County and surface water for ground in Fresno County, said farming at this time “is very difficult.” He said the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which tasks local agencies to balance groundwater supplies in affected basins by 2040 and 2042, means farmland must come out of production.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

LA suit over Monsanto PCB water contamination clears first legal hurdle

A Los Angeles County judge on Monday advanced LA’s lawsuit against Monsanto over chemicals the city says have contaminated its water supply. Monsanto filed a demurrer — essentially a series of objections to the city’s complaint — arguing, among other things, that the city filed a public nuisance claim “for property located outside the city’s jurisdictional boundaries.” … The city sued Monsanto in March over polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a “probable” human carcinogen, and which were banned in 1979 but have nonetheless lingered in a variety of older products like paints, sealants and electrical equipment. According to LA’s complaint, and similar complaints filed by other California cities, rain causes those chemicals to seep into rivers, lakes and streams.

Aquafornia news Brownstein

Blog: Untangling water affordability – policy challenges and community impacts

From water infrastructure failures in Jackson, Mississippi, to a political and financing puzzle in California, water affordability is an emerging policy concern for an industry already facing huge challenges. Tune is as Brownstein’s Jessica Diaz speaks to industry experts Jennifer Capitolo and April Ballou about how the issue of water affordability and fragmentation is playing out among providers, the potential and pitfalls that come with federal assistance programs and the critical balance of providing affordable water without sacrificing safety or reliability. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tiny, rural Allensworth takes on climate change with help from state grant

The state awarded $300,000 to the Allensworth Progressive Association, a local nonprofit, to “implement neighborhood-level projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and the environment and expand economic opportunity for residents,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The money will be used, in part, for planning flood control and infrastructure for wastewater management. … Funding comes from the state’s Transformative Climate Communities program, which awarded $96 million to 10 disadvantaged communities throughout the state last month. The projects aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64,000 metric tons, according to the press release.

Aquafornia news Long Beach Post News

John Allen takes lead in bid for reelection to Water Replenishment District

Incumbent John Allen is leading two challengers in his quest for a third term representing Long Beach on the Water Replenishment District Board of Directors. With mail-in ballots counted, Allen had 52% of the vote, while challengers Mike Murchison has 23% and Gerrie Schipske has 25% in the race for the Area 3 board seat. The Area 3 seat represents 800,000 residents in seven cities: Long Beach, Signal Hill, San Pedro, Lakewood, Hawaiian Gardens, Artesia and Cerritos.

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Aquafornia news Civil Eats

New Mexico farmers face a choice: pray for rain or get paid not to plant

As the summer of 2022 began, 90 percent of New Mexico was in a severe drought. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history raged in the northern part of the state. Snowpack melted weeks early, leaving reservoirs throughout the Southwest running low. In late May, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the authority that manages water for agriculture in the Albuquerque Basin, announced that it would not be able to guarantee farmers any water past June. The outlook for farmers was dire. The conservation district had, over the previous two years, piloted programs to pay some farmers and landowners to stop farming and fallow their fields.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Congress members seek to open up Hetch Hetchy to water recreation

A move is afoot in Congress to increase the annual “rent” the City of San Francisco pays for the privilege of flooding Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park from $30,000 to at least $2 million. The bill by Rep. Connie Conway, who represents much of the southern San Joaquin Valley, is designed to require the City of San Francisco to not only pay fair market for renting the only land ever flooded for a reservoir in a national park, but also to force the city to comply to terms they agreed to in the 1913 Raker Act.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Legacy of dust – How Owens Valley air pollution increases L.A. water bills

Even as worsening drought and aridification force Los Angeles to end its overwhelming dependence on imported water, Angelenos may soon realize that weaning themselves off supplies from the rugged eastern Sierra Nevada doesn’t mean they will stop paying for the city’s long, complicated history there. That’s because, even if the city is able to make good on a pledge by Mayor Eric Garcetti to recycle 100% of its water by 2035 and increase its ability to capture storm water, Los Angeles will still have to pay millions of dollars to control the region’s hazardous dust pollution — an environmental consequence of L.A.’s draining of Owens Lake more than a century ago, as well as recent diversions that have lowered the level of Mono Lake farther north.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Corpus Christi sold its water to Exxon, gambling on desalination. So far, it’s losing the bet

Five years ago, when ExxonMobil came calling, city officials eagerly signed over a large portion of their water supply so the oil giant could build a $10 billion plant to make plastics out of methane gas.  A year later, they did the same for Steel Dynamics to build a rolled-steel factory.  Never mind that Corpus Christi, a mid-sized city on the semi-arid South Texas coast, had just raced through its 50-year water plan 13 years ahead of schedule. Planners believed they had a solution: large-scale seawater desalination. According to the plan in 2019, the state’s first plant needed to be running by early 2023 to safely meet industrial water demands that were scheduled to come online. But Corpus Christi never got it done.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Why a Central Valley wildlife protection needs reform

Thirty years ago, President George H.W. Bush signed an ambitious California water reform known as the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, or the CVPIA. The bill responded to a drought, crashing salmon runs, threats to Central Valley wetlands and antiquated water policies. California is again suffering from drought and low fish counts. The CVPIA’s successes and failures provide lessons to help ensure a healthy environment and more reliable water supplies. It is time to take the next steps. … Although the CVPIA funded habitat restoration, it failed to provide the river flows salmon needed. This was partly because the law applied to the federal Central Valley Project, not other diverters. 
-Written by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and former Democratic U.S. Rep. George Miller, who coauthored the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. ​

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Massive storm to lash Southern California with rain and snow

Southern California’s first significant winter storm is expected to usher in three days of rain, mountain snow and gusty winds before tapering off Wednesday. The storm that originated in the Gulf of Alaska moved into the region Monday, with the first band of rain reaching San Luis Obispo County by the afternoon before moving south the rest of the day, according to the National Weather Service. Showers are light to moderate for most of Monday. Snow could fall Tuesday at elevations of at least 7,000 feet and Wednesday at 4,000 feet. … The storm is expected to peak Tuesday before winding down Wednesday morning to scattered showers. Los Angeles County is expected to see 1 to 3 inches of rain in the lower elevations; mountains will get between 2 to 3 inches.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

California ranchers face $4,000 fine for drought violation

California’s water officials plan to impose a $4,000 fine on Siskiyou County ranchers for violating orders to cut back their water use during a weeklong standoff last summer.  State officials and the ranchers agree: A $4,000 fine isn’t much of a deterrent to prevent illegal water diversions during California’s droughts. The proposed fine would amount to about $50 per rancher.  A rural water association serving about 80 ranchers and farmers — facing mounting costs from hauling water and purchasing hay to replace dried out pasture — turned on their pumps for eight days in August to divert water from the Shasta River. State and federal officials said the pumping, which violated an emergency state order, threatened the river’s water quality and its salmon and other rare species. 

Aquafornia news LAist

Water agencies: Who’s running in the November general election and why it matters

Water in California is complicated…and governing water use is arguably even more complicated. Local water agencies are as diverse as the communities and landscapes of California. There are thousands of agencies across the state, both public and private, that provide water. They range from a system serving a single mobile home park to huge agencies serving millions of people and businesses and thousands of acres of farmland. Some water agencies’ governing boards are appointed by a county board of supervisors or city council. The five-member board that oversees the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is appointed by the L.A. mayor and serve for five-year terms, for example. Others are directly elected by voters. Those are the ones you’ll see on your ballot.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Proposed Central Valley dam likely to move forward after judge’s ruling

Both sides of a controversial proposed Central Valley dam hailed a Nov. 3 court ruling kicking back the project’s environmental documents as a success. A Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge ruled there was insufficient information about a road relocation that is part of the proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project, which would sit just above the town of Patterson in the Diablo Range on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.  More definitive information on the proposed realignment of Del Puerto Canyon Road will have to be provided in the Environmental Impact Report by project proponents, the Del Puerto Water District and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractor Authority.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County Supervisors to discuss Infrastructure Master Plan

The Butte County Board of Supervisors will be unveiling, discussing and likely approving its 2023 Infrastructure Master Plan as compiled by its Public Works Department at its meeting Tuesday. Each year the board goes through this process to determine infrastructure needs. … Presentations will be provided regarding the California drought as well as an update on activities by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

How can California boost its water supply?

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water. Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells. So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles? The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Department of the Interior

News release: Assistant Secretary Trujillo highlights Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments for drought resilience in California

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo today wrapped a visit to California where she highlighted historic investments being made through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to boost water infrastructure and tackle western drought. On Thursday, Assistant Secretary Trujillo joined state and local partners to commemorate the Water Replenishment District (WRD)’s 60 years of using recycled water for groundwater replenishment and to celebrate a $15.4 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for WRD’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program to help protect groundwater resources for 4 million people in the region. 

Aquafornia news Law360

Hoopa Valley tribe sues U.S. over California water contracts

A California tribe has renewed its lawsuit accusing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of violating its sovereignty and fishing rights in California’s Trinity River after settlement talks with the Biden Administration collapsed.

Aquafornia news Grand Junction Sentinel

Editorial: California needs to cut back water usage

The general manager of the West Slope’s Colorado River District is calling out California for its meager water conservation plan, and he is right on. Andy Mueller made his comments in a memo to his district’s board of directors and during the board’s meeting earlier this month, according to reporting by The Daily Sentinel’s Dennis Webb. This was in response to an Oct. 5 letter by officials with California water entities using Colorado River water, which proposed conserving up to an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead annually. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Supreme Court will reconsider Navajos’ claim for more water from the Colorado River

With California and the Southwest facing a historic drought, the Supreme Court agreed Friday to review a 9th Circuit Court decision that held the Navajo Nation has a right to take more water from the Colorado River. The appeals court had pointed to the 1868 treaty in which the U.S. government agreed the Navajos would have a “permanent home” on their reservation, ruling the treaty “necessarily implied rights” to an adequate amount of water to live and farm. … The 3-0 ruling did not say how much extra water the Navajos were entitled to. The sprawling reservation previously used water from the San Juan River in Utah, a tributary of the Colorado, but the 9th Circuit panel said the Navajos were entitled to bring a claim for more water from the lower part of the main river.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Plastic bags are supposed to be recyclable in California. The attorney general suspects they are not

Nearly a decade ago, a California law required manufacturers of plastic bags to make their bags recyclable. The state’s top cop says this doesn’t appear to be happening. On Wednesday, Attorney General Rob Bonta sent letters to seven plastic bag producers that supply the bulk of California’s grocery stories, demanding they provide proof that their bags can really be recycled. The move is among the strictest enforcement actions yet for a major state recycling law aimed at tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in oceans, soils and skies.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

San Francisco’s first approved onsite greywater reuse system operational

San Francisco-based water reuse technology company Epic Cleantec announced that a luxury residential building in San Francisco now hosts the city’s first approved and operational onsite greywater reuse system. The system can recycle up to 7,500 gallons of greywater per day, or 2.5 million gallons per year. The building, Fifteen Fifty, is owned by Related California, an affiliate of Related Companies. … The Fifteen Fifty installation captures, filters, and disinfects the greywater from showers, laundry, and rainwater. It then purifies the water and reuses it for toilet flushing. Greywater reuse can help reuse up to 95 percent of a building’s water use. For a state like California, grappling with an extended drought, this conservation can be key.

Aquafornia news Paso Robles Daily New

News release: City hosting public hearing on water rate increases

The City of Paso Robles is proposing to gradually phase in water rate increases over the next five years to support water system operating and maintenance expenses, fund the city’s share of debt service for the Nacimiento Water Project, and provide funding for capital improvements needed to support safe and reliable service. All city water customers are receiving notices in the mail to announce a public hearing that will be held on the proposed water rate increases on Dec. 20, at 6:30 p.m., at Paso Robles City Hall.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Former Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman to head Central Arizona Project

Former U.S. Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman will take over as general manager of the Central Arizona Project in the new year, one that promises to include pivotal interstate negotiations over conserving the Colorado River water that supplies the CAP canal. Burman led the Bureau of Reclamation during the Trump administration, a period in which the agency managing Colorado River water and dams helped broker a Drought Contingency Plan. In that plan, Arizona agreed to take less water from the system to prevent catastrophic losses later. Continued poor weather and overuse have since set off new talks about conserving more in an attempt to halt Lake Mead’s slide toward the point that the river no longer flows past it.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Tear out your lawn, get more free cash. LADWP ups rebates for customers

Los Angeles residents, now is a great time to pull out your lawn. With water supplies continuing to tighten, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday that the city’s Department of Water and Power will pay homeowners and businesses significantly more to remove their grassy turf. Approved applications will receive $5 per square foot, a 67% increase from the previous $3-per-square-foot incentive. The payment is capped at $25,000 per residential property. Removing your lawn is just half the process; in order to get the rebate, you must have an approved plan for replacing the grass with drought-tolerant plants.

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Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: DWR’s risky prediction that CA’s future will be wetter

For years, scientists and State officials have warned of the need to prepare for a hotter, drier future as a result of climate change.  Earlier this year, Governor Newsom released his water supply strategy for the State needs to adapt to a hotter, drier future with climate change, explaining that “DWR estimates a 10% reduction in water supply by 2040 … consider[ing] increased temperatures and decreased runoff due to a thirstier atmosphere, plants, and soil.” Despite these public statements, the California Department of Water Resources’ publicly available modeling predicts that by 2040, climate change will increase runoff and make California wetter.  

Aquafornia news KMPH - Fresno

Study details how devastating the drought has been on California agriculture

The latest drought in California has been costly to agriculture. Twelve-thousand people have lost their jobs and economic losses total three billion dollars. Josue Medellin-Azuara is one of four educators from U.C. Merced who sized up California’s drought on agriculture for the past two years. … California agriculture generates 50-billion dollars in revenue and employs more than 420,000 people. The 2020-21 water years account for the second driest two year period since records began in 1895. Little or no water cost growers $1.3 billion in 2021 and $1.7 billion in 2022. 752-thousand acres of farmland was fallowed and 12,000 people lost their jobs.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Foundation honors CalMatters reporter for coverage of water resources in California and the West

Rachel Becker, who covers water resource issues for the nonprofit news website CalMatters, is the first recipient of the Water Education Foundation’s Rita Schmidt Sudman Award for Excellence in Water Journalism honoring outstanding work that illuminates complicated water issues in California and the West. Foundation Executive Director Jenn Bowles announced the award Oct. 27 at the Foundation’s Water Summit in Sacramento. Joining Bowles for the presentation was her predecessor, Sudman, a former radio and television reporter who led the Foundation for nearly 35 years.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s water cops unprepared, overwhelmed in era of climate change, megadroughts

Jim Scala needed the water. So he took it. As the third devastating summer of drought dragged on, the Siskiyou County rancher knew his irrigation district could be fined up to $10,000 a day if he and his neighbors defied a state cutback order and pumped water from the Shasta River onto their lands east of Yreka. … While the Shasta River rebellion might have been the most brazen, a Sacramento Bee investigation reveals that farmers and other water users frequently ignore state drought regulations…. The Bee’s findings reveal a state regulatory system dramatically unprepared to address chronic water shortages and an ecosystem collapse.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

News release: EPA awards California $609 million in historic federal funding to improve water quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced funding to the State of California for water infrastructure improvements under the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). California has been awarded more than $609 million in capitalization grants through the State Revolving Funds (SRFs) to supplement the state’s annual base SRF funding of $144 million. The announcement was made at the Keyes Community Services District (Keyes CSD), a community water system that was recently awarded $10.4 million in SRF loan forgiveness funding, to improve drinking water quality and compliance at four groundwater wells serving several small, disadvantaged communities in the area.

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Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s smallest farmers crippled by ‘regressive’ ag order

A controversial water quality regulation is levying a disproportionate burden on California’s smallest growers, who are often low-income and non-English speakers, according to advocates. Yet, others push for an even faster adoption timeline.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

California county can sue prison over Clean Water Act violations

Amador County, Calif., has standing to sue a state prison for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants from prison labor operations into the local water supply, a federal trial court said. The Mule Creek State Prison uses inmate labor to conduct meat packing, coffee roasting and packing, and textile manufacturing operations. The CWA prohibits the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters unless the discharge complies with delineated standards. The county’s suit was consolidated with a suit by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of California previously ruled that the … 

Aquafornia news Defenders of Wildlife

Blog: Conservation groups prompt federal review of San Joaquin River Exchange Contract for first time in 54 years

Defenders of Wildlife applauded a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to request a renegotiation of a decades-old use contract for the San Joaquin River that could spark stronger protection for wildlife and drought management. Defenders and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) urged the Bureau of Reclamation to reform its water supply contract with the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority before the conclusion of the renegotiation period. On Oct. 14, the Bureau sent a letter to the Exchange Contractors, four days before the deadline, with its intent to renegotiate. Though the contract may be reviewed every five years, it has not been reviewed since 1968.  

Aquafornia news KESQ - Phoenix

Rep. Ruiz pushes to defend Salton Sea from federal cuts following calls to withhold funding

Congressman Raul Ruiz is calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to uphold its commitments to the Salton Sea, including millions in federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act. According to Ruiz’s office, the Inflation Reduction Act includes $4 billion in funding specifically for water management and conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other areas experiencing similar levels of drought. The funding includes $12.5 million to mitigate the effect of drought on Tribes. Last week, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, wrote a letter calling for the federal government to withhold money for environmental cleanup at the Salton Sea until California agrees to use less of its share of the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Denver Post

Colorado River conditions are worsening quicker than expected. Feds prepare to step in

Running out of time and options to save water along the drying Colorado River, federal officials said they’re considering whether to release less water from the country’s two largest reservoirs downstream to Arizona, California and Nevada. Without enough snow this winter, the water level at Lake Powell — the country’s second-largest reservoir — will drop below a critical level by next November, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Below that point, the Glen Canyon Dam will no longer be able to generate electricity and … no longer be able to send water downstream at all. Conditions on the Colorado River are worsening quicker than expected. … Colorado is heading into its third La Niña winter in a row, likely indicating below-average snowpack.

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Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Ripon cuts watering to once a week thru Feb. 28 due to drought

The City of Ripon’s new watering schedule went into effect on Tuesday. The winter schedule calls for a once-a-week schedule, from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28. Manteca, by contrast, still allows watering twice a week in the winter as California enters its fourth year of drought. Places within city limits with addresses ending in odd numbers may water on Sundays while those with even addresses may do so on Saturdays.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Panoche, California water theft went undetected for years

California’s water police struggle to track where water is flowing and whether someone is taking more than they’re supposed to. A criminal case unfolding in the San Joaquin Valley underscores how the federal government seems to have similar problems. Prosecutors say they uncovered a massive water theft that went on for 23 years without anyone noticing. … According to prosecutors, Falaschi engineered a brazen scheme to steal $25 million worth of water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, operator of the Central Valley Project. More specifically, Falaschi stands accused of having his underlings siphon water from the Delta-Mendota Canal, the main conduit for delivering federal water to farms along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and part of Silicon Valley. He then billed Panoche customers for this stolen water …

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Feds want authority to release less water from Lake Powell

Colorado River managers looking to protect critical infrastructure at Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam are seeking the ability to release less water from Powell next year as they work to rebalance demand on the troubled river. … The water level is low enough that another significantly dry year combined with a 7 million acre-foot release could lead to the Utah reservoir falling below a critical elevation, threatening the dam’s infrastructure and its ability to generate hydropower. … “It’s a big deal that they’re trying to figure out how they can change operations in 2023 to release less than 7 million acre-feet from Powell. That’s never been done before,” said John Berggren, a water policy analyst with Western Resource Advocates. … The notice also says the bureau will consider releasing less water to the Lower Basin out of Hoover Dam.

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Aquafornia news Law360

Green groups can restart fluoridated water risks case

A California federal judge found new scientific reports warrant proceeding with a stalled lawsuit from green groups seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the addition of fluoride to … 

Aquafornia news High Country News

Do bedrock conservation laws need a makeover? (The next chapter of environmental law)

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Congress passed a series of laws that profoundly affected Western ecosystems and human relationships to them. The Clean Air Act, designed to reduce air pollution, led the way in 1963, and in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act, sometimes called the Magna Carta of environmental protection, created a review process for federal projects. In 1972, the Clean Water Act established requirements for the restoration and maintenance of waterways, and one year later, the Endangered Species Act created protections and required recovery plans for fish, wildlife and plants deemed threatened or endangered. Conservation finally seemed to have a solid legal foundation. Six decades later, that foundation is in serious need of retrofitting.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Marcos, nearby communities restricted to watering twice a week

Outdoor irrigation in San Marcos and nearby communities will be restricted to two days a week starting Tuesday, according to the Vallecitos Water District. The agency — which also serves parts of Carlsbad, Escondido and Vista, as well as the Lake San Marcos and other unincorporated communities — had limited watering of lawns and other landscaping to three days a week from June through October. Residents can choose the days they would like to water. The restrictions don’t apply to farmers with agricultural water accounts or nurseries.

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Aquafornia news CNN

As price of water skyrockets in California, this city paid $1.1M to keep faucets running through March

Coalinga usually gets its water through an aqueduct which runs from the San Luis Reservoir, about 70 miles northwest of the city. But as the West’s megadrought pushes reservoir levels to precarious new lows, the US Bureau of Reclamation this year reduced the amount of water Coalinga could take from the reservoir by 80%, city officials told CNN. The restriction left Coalinga short about 600-acre feet of water through March 2023 … With the city on track to run out of water by mid- to late November, officials turned to the increasingly expensive open market to make up the difference. They finalized a purchase from a California public irrigation district last week. The city’s price tag for life’s most basic necessity was roughly $1.1 million dollars. … [T]he same amount of water used to cost $114,000.

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Arizona’s water future will be decided on the 2022 ballot

Voters in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties on Nov. 8 will select new board members for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which oversees how Colorado River water is delivered through the Central Arizona Project. … The Southwest is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years. On top of that, Lake Mead sits at 1,046 feet above sea level, only 150 feet above the “dead zone” – the level where the Hoover Dam doesn’t have enough water to produce electricity. Central Arizona farmers already have endured steep cuts in water deliveries, and more pain is coming. The Central Arizona Water Conservation District election features 14 candidates competing for five seats on the CAWCD board.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Opinion: Busting the myth of limitless groundwater

Facing another drought year and the reality that inadequate groundwater management is leading to a race to the bottom, on Oct. 4, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took a critical step toward sustainable water management by placing a temporary pause on issuance of new well permits. … Over the next six months, while the pause is in place, the county will develop science-based rules to govern groundwater well permits to ensure impacts of pumping on neighboring streams and downstream users are accounted for and addressed. All Sonoma County residents have a stake in improving groundwater management. This is the county’s chance to change course and ensure we are better prepared for a warmer future.
-Written by Sean Bothwell, executive director for California Coastkeeper Alliance; and Don McEnhill, executive director of Russian Riverkeeper.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press Democrat

If you’ve fallen behind on your water bills, here’s what you must do to keep the tap on

A decade ago, California became the first state to “legislatively recognize the human right to water.” Part of that right is a guarantee to keep water affordable. That’s proving to be a challenge in the Golden State as drought years and utility bills stack up. Since the beginning of 2022, the cost of water in California has shot up 40%, further straining those who’ve struggled through a pandemic and now record inflation to keep up with their service bills. Already, a 2021 survey found state households had amassed $1 billion in unpaid water bills. An estimated 12% of Californians had overdue payments —$500 on average — with the most debt disproportionately accumulated in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

Aquafornia news Eureka Times-Standard

Friends of Eel River sues Humboldt County over groundwater pumping in lower Eel River

A local environmental group is suing the county in order to get it to better regulate groundwater in the lower Eel River. Friends of the Eel River filed a civil suit against Humboldt County on Thursday in Humboldt County Superior Court “to secure protection for the public trust values at risk when groundwater pumping depletes surface flows in the Lower Eel River,” according to a release from the group. … Friends of the Eel River sent the county a letter in mid-August threatening legal action if it failed to take the public trust doctrine into account when deciding how to allocate water from the Eel River.

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Aquafornia news Idaho Capital Sun

Even as drought forces water cutbacks, climate gets short shrift in midterm election

The streaks of white on the rock ringing the nation’s largest reservoir show how far its water levels have dropped since it was last full. Lake Mead and nearby Lake Powell, which send water to 40 million people in the Southwest, are at their lowest levels since they were filled in the 1930s as part of the Hoover Dam’s construction on the Colorado River.  The lake actually overflowed in 1983 and nearly hit capacity in 1999. Now, it’s at only 26% of its capacity — and losing altitude monthly as a decades-long drought brought on by a changing climate keeps it from replenishing the supply. Yet in a crucial U.S. Senate campaign primarily being waged a short drive away that could sway control of the chamber, the candidates are barely mentioning the disappearing water levels and the drought that’s causing it.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

In southern France, drought, rising seas threaten traditions

For centuries people from across the region have observed Camarguaise bull festivities in the Rhone delta, where the Rhone river and the Mediterranean Sea meet. But now the tradition is under threat by rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts which are making water sources salty and lands infertile. At the same time, there are efforts by authorities to preserve more land, leaving less for bulls to graze. … During summers plagued by high temperatures and diminished rainfall, the sea water can reach up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the Rhone river. During a heat wave in August this year, the Raynaud family’s water pump in the Petite Rhone, an offshoot of the main river, began pumping salt water. 

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

In Nevada, a tribe and a toad halt a geothermal plant

After about a decade of grinding its way through the federal permitting process, Ormat, a geothermal company, was building a new power plant in Dixie Valley to produce renewable energy. … But soon came another legal snag. The company halted construction in August while federal agencies meet to discuss whether the project should move forward. The rugged, remote corner of Nevada’s Great Basin region found itself at the epicenter of a confrontation between some of President Biden’s, and the nation’s, most pressing priorities: renewable energy, wildlife conservation and Indigenous rights…. environmentalists and tribes are pressing the Biden administration to begin land and water protections at Dixie Valley and elsewhere. The administration’s decision could affect not just Ormat’s plans and this patch of Nevada but also projects and landscapes across the country.

Aquafornia news 8 News - Las Vegas

Government funds compete with small private ranches in southern Nevada

The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants other western water districts to conserve resources in the face of the region’s 20-year drought, saying it’s wasteful to grow certain water-intensive crops in parched desert landscapes. But records show the agency is not heeding its own advice. … The Imperial Irrigation District gets more Colorado River water than the entirety of Nevada and Arizona combined. This is why Nevada water officials have urged changes in how water from the troubled river is used. … The Great Basin Ranch, as it’s known, is owned and operated by a public agency — the Southern Nevada Water Authority. And the only crop that is grown on that land? Alfalfa. 8,600 tons of it last year alone.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: New push to shore up shrinking Colorado River could reduce water flow to California

With the nation’s two largest reservoirs continuing to decline, federal officials announced plans Friday to revise their current rules for dealing with Colorado River shortages and pursue a new agreement to achieve larger reductions in water use throughout the Southwest. The Biden administration announcement represents a renewed push to scale back water use along a river that has shrunk significantly in the face of a 23-year megadrought worsened by global warming. With water levels dropping at Lake Powell, the Interior Department said operators of Glen Canyon Dam may need to release less water, which would affect flows in the Grand Canyon and accelerate the decline of Lake Mead. 

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Aquafornia news Capital Press

Klamath ranch seeks $1.5 million from Oregon water regulators

An Oregon ranch is seeking $1.5 million from the state government, claiming water regulators have effectively seized its irrigation water supply without paying just compensation. The Sprague River Cattle Co. in Klamath County has filed a lawsuit arguing that its water rights would normally be worth $1.5 million but the “value has been entirely destroyed” by flow restrictions that render them “no longer marketable.” According to the complaint against the State of Oregon, the ranch property was originally part of the Klamath Indian Reservation, which was established in 1864, setting the priority date for the water rights.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Agriculture remains opposed to new Paso Robles basin ordinance

Local agricultural groups continue to speak out against a new proposed county ordinance regulating water use from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which will go before the SLO County Planning Commission on Oct. 28. The new ordinance, championed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, would lift a basinwide moratorium on groundwater pumping by giving all property owners up to 25 acre-feet per year of exempted water use. The current exemption is 5 acre-feet per year. After months of negotiating with county officials and dissecting its environmental impact report, SLO County farming groups remain adamantly opposed to the ordinance, claiming that it will exacerbate the basin’s overdraft and add “cumbersome” new layers of regulation on agriculture.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Change is coming to the Westlands Water District board. What will it mean for the future of the sprawling district and its controversial general manager?

The makeup of the Westlands Water District board will change this election – shifting power to a coalition of growers with a list of new actions, at the top of which appears to be ousting longtime General Manager Tom Birmingham. “There needs to be a change of leadership, that’s a foundational issue,” said Sarah Woolf, a member of a Westlands farming family, who helped organize the coalition. … Woolf applauded the district’s recharge efforts, but noted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires subbasins to bring aquifers into balance by 2040, was passed eight years ago and recharge efforts at Westlands have languished behind other districts. 

Aquafornia news Mendocino Voice

Save the Redwoods League to purchase portion of Weger Ranch,  bringing ‘cornerstone of Montgomery Woods Initiative’ within reach

Save the Redwoods League has secured an opportunity to purchase a conservation easement on Mendocino County’s 3,862-acre Weger Ranch, in a deal that would be the “cornerstone of the Montgomery Woods Initiative.”  Weger Ranch has historically been managed with timber harvest every 12 years, ensuring a “multi-aged, diverse forest structure” meant to enhance wildlife and riparian habitat while continuing to allow productivity. Save the Redwood League hopes to further cultivate those habitats with new restrictions. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego nears new deal with East County water project to avoid court fight over pump station

A San Diego committee has approved a series of agreements between the city and a planned water recycling project in East County, potentially heading off a court fight over a plant that could help hundreds of thousands of people. The documents pave the way for San Diego to hand over a pump station to the Advanced Water Purification Project, and for the construction of a pipeline so waste generated by East County can be diverted from the city. The agreements were accepted Thursday in a 4-0 vote by the San Diego City Council’s environment committee. 

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As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

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.”

A Colorado River Veteran Takes on the Top Water & Science Post at Interior Department
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tanya Trujillo brings two decades of experience on Colorado River issues as she takes on the challenges of a river basin stressed by climate change

Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science For more than 20 years, Tanya Trujillo has been immersed in the many challenges of the Colorado River, the drought-stressed lifeline for 40 million people from Denver to Los Angeles and the source of irrigation water for more than 5 million acres of winter lettuce, supermarket melons and other crops.

Trujillo has experience working in both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River, basins that split the river’s water evenly but are sometimes at odds with each other. She was a lawyer for the state of New Mexico, one of four states in the Upper Colorado River Basin, when key operating guidelines for sharing shortages on the river were negotiated in 2007. She later worked as executive director for the Colorado River Board of California, exposing her to the different perspectives and challenges facing California and the other states in the river’s Lower Basin.

Pandemic Lockdown Exposes the Vulnerability Some Californians Face Keeping Up With Water Bills
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Growing mountain of water bills spotlights affordability and hurdles to implementing a statewide assistance program

Single-family residential customers who are behind on their water bills in San Diego County's Helix Water District can get a one-time credit on their bill through a rate assistance program funded with money from surplus land sales.As California slowly emerges from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one remnant left behind by the statewide lockdown offers a sobering reminder of the economic challenges still ahead for millions of the state’s residents and the water agencies that serve them – a mountain of water debt.

Water affordability concerns, long an issue in a state where millions of people struggle to make ends meet, jumped into overdrive last year as the pandemic wrenched the economy. Jobs were lost and household finances were upended. Even with federal stimulus aid and unemployment checks, bills fell by the wayside.

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

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.