Topic: Stormwater



Stormwater runoff has emerged as a primary water quality issue. In urban areas, after long dry periods rainwater runoff can contain accumulations of pollutants. Stormwater does not go into the sewer. Instead, pollutants can be flushed into waterways with detrimental effects on the environment and water quality.

In response, water quality regulators use a range of programs to reduce stormwater pollution including limiting the amount of excess runoff and in some cases recapturing freshwater as well.

Typical stormwater runoff pollutants include:

  • Fertilizer
  • Pesticides/Herbicides
  • Heavy Metals
  • Oil and grease
  • Bacteria/viruses
  • Sediment
  • Construction Waste
  • Trash
Aquafornia news Chemical & Engineering News

US EPA seeks to protect salmon from 4 pesticides

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

Aquafornia news Planetizen News

Blog: A new paradigm for stormwater management

A program that installed green infrastructure in Los Angeles alleyways got its first real test last month as massive storms pummeled the region, bringing rain that overwhelmed much of Southern California’s stormwater infrastructure. As Alissa Walker writes in Curbed, thanks to the “green alleys” installed as part of a 2015 project in South Los Angeles, “the resulting stormwater had more opportunities to sink back into the earth: filtering through a row of permeable pavers, directing to pocket planters where creeping fig vines twirl up garage walls, or vanishing into grates labeled ‘drains to groundwater.’”

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California storms recovery difficult for those in hardest hit areas

Moldering houses, sodden with rainwater. Muddy back roads awaiting bulldozers to clear away debris. Families without flood insurance wondering how they will afford to repair their wrecked homes and replace belongings. This is the reality for many low-income and working-class residents in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, the bull’s-eye of a series of historic atmospheric river storms that began on Dec. 26 and lasted through Jan. 18. The storms dumped as much as 3 feet of water in parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains, flooding homes, blocking critical access roads and trapping communities. Across the state, at least 21 people died in the deluges. The floodwaters have receded, but one month later, residents are still struggling to move forward with scant resources while navigating bureaucratic labyrinths to procure promised federal aid.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

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

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

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Aquafornia news Patch - San Diego

San Diego can expect more water after recent rains

Recent rains could mean a more flexible water budget for San Diego as state authorities announced increased water deliveries throughout California. The state will allocate additional water deliveries to some 29 public water agencies, delivering 30 percent of requested water supplies after initially projecting only five percent delivery. The areas receiving additional water allocations include the Bay Area, central coast, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, according to Maggie Macias, a representative of the California Department of Water Resources.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Lake Oroville one of many utilized for catching storm water

The California Department of Water Resources, in light of recent storms, is utilizing its lakes and reservoirs throughout California to capture stormwater. This recently led to the department’s announcement that the State Water Project will likely be allocating 30% of DWR-managed water to go toward communities that use these surface water resources. DWR spokesperson Raquel Borrayo said managing the stormwater capture means monitoring inflow and outflow to the lake to avoid flooding.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Why sewage flooded the Bay

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

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Aquafornia news NBC 7 - San Diego

South Bay residents continue to benefit from recent rainstorms

The rain in December and January is still paying off for 200,000 South Bay residents. The Sweetwater Authority, which provides water to customers in Western Chula Vista, Bonita, and National City, just opened a massive valve in the Loveland Dam Thursday to send water to the Sweetwater Reservoir for the second time in two months. “We might be able to capture approximately 1.1 billion gallons of water,” explained Erick Del Bosque, Sweetwater Authority’s Director of Engineering and Operations. Del Bosque said that much water will save customers roughly $5 million. The Loveland Reservoir is only filled with rainwater and water runoff. Sweetwater Authority opened the valve in Loveland Dam in November for more than two weeks to send water to the Sweetwater Reservoir because it was running dangerously low, at only 14% capacity.

Aquafornia news WIRED

How sensor-dangling helicopters can help beat the water crisis

After weeks of near-constant rain and flooding, California is finally drying out—but hopefully not getting too dry, because the state needs all the rain it can get to pull itself out of a historic drought. This is California at its most frenetic and contradictory: Climate change is making both dry spells and rainstorms more intense, ping-ponging the state’s water systems between critical shortages and canal-topping deluges.  A simultaneous solution to both extremes is right beneath Californians’ feet: aquifers, which are made up of underground layers of porous rock or sediments, like gravel and sand, that fill with rainwater soaking through the soil above. … In paleo valleys, those coarser sediments are topped with perhaps just a few feet of soil, so they readily channel water into the aquifer system—this is where you’d want to refill.

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Aquafornia news Colusa Sun-Herald

New analysis projects capabilities of Sites Reservoir during heavy river flows

The Sites Project Authority released findings from a new analysis that projected Sites Reservoir could have diverted and captured 120,000 acre-feet of water in just two weeks if the reservoir had been operational from Jan. 3 through Jan. 15 and would continue to capture water over the next few weeks as flows continue to run high. … The project, which has been in the works for more than 60 years, hopes to turn the Sites Valley, located 10 miles west of Maxwell where Colusa and Glenn counties meet, into a state-of-the-art off-stream water storage facility that captures and stores stormwater flows in the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – for release in dry and critical years for environmental use and for communities, farms and businesses statewide to utilize when needed.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

These Bay Area regions didn’t flood in California’s storms, here’s why

When San Francisco’s new Southeast Community Center opened in October, the three acres of parkland included an expansive landscaped bioswale that, in theory, would handle the water running off even the most extensive storm. Less than a month later, the theory was put to the test — and it passed with flying colors. … The amount of runoff from the overall site was 45% below what it would have been before the project converted a former office site; on New Year’s eve, water cascaded through the site and filled the retention basin, but it never surged over its banks.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Uncaptured water isn’t all wasted in California

A gazillion gallons of stormwater have been rampaging down rivers into the sea. But that uncaptured bounty hasn’t been “wasted.” “Wasted water” being dumped in the ocean is an old cliché that resurfaces whenever there’s a big storm in this weather-eccentric state — or during the inevitable dry periods when crops are thirsty and homeowners are told to shut off their lawn sprinklers. But “wasted water” is a myth. Uncaptured runoff flowing to the sea flushes pollutants out of rivers and bays, helping to cleanse water for local domestic use. It also saves many kinds of fish, including salmon, not only for recreationists but for the coastal fishing industry. And it deposits sand on beaches.
-Written by LA Times columnist George Skelton.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Car tire dust is killing salmon every time it rains

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

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Aquafornia news Orange County Register

As the state’s budget work gets underway, recent weather puts spotlight on water infrastructure

As work gets underway on the state budget, the recent weather events in California — which left more than a dozen people dead and caused tens of thousands to evacuate their homes — have put a spotlight on the state of water infrastructure. In the new budget proposal he recently announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $202 million to go toward flood protection. The investments will be divided between urban flood risk reduction, delta levees and Central Valley flood protection, according to the plan. … The governor’s proposal isn’t the final product. Legislators will hold hearings and work through the proposal. Newsom’s office will release a revised plan based on the latest economic forecast in May, and the legislature has until June 15 to pass the budget.

Aquafornia news Sierra Club

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

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

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: L.A. doesn’t need a water czar to solve its water woes. It’s already on it

The recent onslaught of storms and the backdrop of relentless drought might make Los Angeles residents wish we had an old-school water czar to tap distant rivers. But the days of having William Mulholland single-mindedly create a system to quench Los Angeles’ perpetual thirst are long gone. … Still, as Los Angeles residents watched the winter storms drench the region with billions of gallons of water — most of which rushed, unused, to the Pacific — it’s natural to wonder why our water systems don’t capture that water to use when we need it. … Adopted by voters in 2018 as Los Angeles County Measure W, the program is building a network of small, local rainwater- and runoff-retention projects, anchored by several larger catch basins that together will increase by at least a third the amount of water that seeps into groundwater basins. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Environmental rules stoke anger as California lets precious stormwater wash out to sea

Environmental rules designed to protect imperiled fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have ignited anger among a group of bipartisan lawmakers, who say too much of California’s stormwater is being washed out to sea instead of being pumped to reservoirs and aqueducts. In a series of strongly worded letters, nearly a dozen legislators — many from drought-starved agriculture regions of the Central Valley —have implored state and federal officials to relax environmental pumping restrictions that are limiting the amount of water captured from the delta. … Since the beginning of January, a series of atmospheric rivers has disgorged trillions of gallons of much-needed moisture across drought-stricken California, but only a small fraction of that water has so far made it into storage. 

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Saved by a rainy day? Californians ‘harvest’ water during historic storms

When Kitty Bolte looked at her yard at the start of California’s powerful winter storms, she saw more than half a foot of standing water behind her house. At first Bolte, a horticulturalist by trade, contemplated pumping it out onto the street. But with the historic rains coming in the midst of a historic drought, that seemed oddly wasteful. So instead, she and her boyfriend decided to save it. They found a neighbor selling IBC totes – large 330-gallon plastic containers surrounded by wire – on Craigslist, and filled them up using an inexpensive Home Depot pump. They also dragged some spare garbage cans outside to sit under the downpour, gathering 800 gallons in all. … One inch of rain on a 1,000 sq ft roof can result in 600 gallons of water – enough to water a 4 by 8 ft food garden for 30 weeks. In her cisterns, Dougherty collects much more – 2,000 gallons at a time that are stored in large plastic vessels that can be closed off.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State laws hamper flood flow storage but one San Joaquin Valley water district cut through the red tape. Can others follow?

It seems like such a no brainer: Grab the floodwater inundating California right now and shove it into our dried up aquifers for later use. But water plus California never equals simple. Yes, farmers and water districts can, legally, grab water from the state’s overflowing rivers, park it on their land and it will recharge the groundwater. But if those farmers and districts want to claim any kind of ownership over that water later, they can’t. Not without a permit. And permits are costly, time consuming and overly complicated, according to critics. Farmers and districts in some areas are taking flood water independently in order to relieve problems for people downstream.  But there just isn’t a large-scale, systematic way for water agencies and farmers to absorb the current deluge and store it for future use, mostly because of regulatory hurdles, critics say.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

State Republican leaders call for more water storage amid record rainfall

A group of Assembly Republican lawmakers gathered on a levee on the American River in Sacramento to call out the state’s Democratic leadership for failing to invest in water infrastructure to aid with flooding and water storage. Around 22 trillion gallons of rain will fall in California according to estimates. However, state Assembly Republicans blame the lack of infrastructure as the root cause for why most of the water will go uncaptured. … In 2014, voters supported a water bond that authorized billions of dollars to go toward state water supply infrastructure and water storage projects. Since then, no new reservoir or other water project has been built. 

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

How does California store all the rainwater from the storms?

Why Guy is getting many questions about why we can’t store all the rainwater we’re getting. California is still officially in a drought and we need water for drinking and agriculture and other basic needs. Even though it’s been dumping rain like watery gold, we can’t seem to store it all. We have reservoirs and dams that do much of the water storage, but most of the rain we’ve been getting is flowing into the Pacific Ocean. It’s wasted. The rain is also falling so quickly that we can’t store it and what we want to do with it is get it out of here to clear our roadways and landscapes as soon as possible. The best-case scenario is that we get a ton of snow in the high Sierra that naturally melts as the weather warms and disperses the water in doses to a thirsty state.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

How bad was California’s ‘Great Flood’ of 1862? It was a torrent of horrors

The Great Flood of 1862, seemingly lost in time, is the answer to the question: What was the most destructive flood in California history? Even as flood waters rise throughout the state in January 2023 and President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on Monday, the event has created only a fraction of the impact of the 19th century deluge. News reports from the time describe a surreal scene: Entire towns were destroyed, and farmland and plains turned into lakes as far as the eye could see. Almost everyone in the state was impacted by the flood, from victims who lost their homes to state employees who, in the chaos and confusion, didn’t get paid for more than a year. … San Francisco began flooding in December 1861, when steady rains drenched the city. The first week of January dumped 12 more inches of rain in S.F., and one local newspaper made Biblical comparisons.

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Aquafornia news LAist

Willowbrook Park, fed by rainwater, is an example of LA’s stormwater treatment future

The prevailing goal in Southern California has been to get water that falls from the sky away from our roads and buildings as quickly as possible. Much of the rain washes out to the ocean — often carrying trash and other pollutants. The L.A. Times reported up to 10 billion gallons poured into the Los Angeles Basin in recent storms and only about 20% will be captured. L.A. County has plans to double the amount of rainwater currently captured every year and use it to provide nearly two-thirds of the county’s drinking water. Voters approved a new property tax in 2018 meant to raise up to $300 million a year to fund the capture and treatment of stormwater.

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Aquafornia news Lexology

Blog: California institutes new microplastics regulations

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

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

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

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

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

How stormwater technology could help California’s rain ease drought

California could get 22 trillion gallons of rain in the coming days. But what does that mean for the state’s drought? In a perennial problem that even when California does get rain, much of it runs off into the ocean or is otherwise uncollected. But there’s new storm water technology that could help change that, scientists say, as the decades-old discipline shifts to help water managers collect rainwater, purify it and store it for times of drought. Much of the new technology is often referred to as “green infrastructure,” … To learn more, The Washington Post talked with Andrew Fisher, a professor of hydrogeology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and David Feldman, the director of the University of California Irvine’s water institute.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Why we can — and cannot — collect rainwater in places like California

A bomb cyclone hit California this week, knocking out power, downing trees, dumping massive amounts of water. Now, that last one, massive amounts of water – it’s interesting because all that rain is hitting in a state that has been stricken with drought. Some California residents are watching this precious resource wash away and wondering, why can’t we save the water for later, for times when we desperately need it? Well, Andrew Fisher, hydrogeologist and professor at UC Santa Cruz, attempted to answer that question in an op-ed for The LA Times. And we have brought him here to try to answer it for us. Professor Fisher, welcome.

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Aquafornia news Lost Coast Outpost

A major sewage spill is happening in Rio Dell as stormwater flows into quake-damaged collection pipes

The City of Rio Dell is experiencing an ongoing hazardous materials spill as heavy rainfall infiltrates outdated sewer pipes that were damaged during the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck on December 20. An estimated 140,000 gallons rain-diluted wastewater has spilled out of a manhole cover at the end of Painter Street, near the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and the spill is continuing at a rate of about 50 gallons per minute, according to Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: California storm: ‘Widespread significant flooding’ possible by Tuesday

In a special message about California weather, the National Weather Service said that another atmospheric river would arrive in Northern California Friday night and bring the “threat of heavy rain (and) flooding on Saturday, along with 1-2 feet of snow and “dangerous” mountain travel conditions. But that’s just a warm-up: A “stronger” atmospheric river is expected to arrive Monday and persist into Tuesday, bring more precipitation and gusty winds.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. lets rain flow into the Pacific Ocean, wasting a vital resource. Can we do better?

The Los Angeles River roared to life this week as a series of powerful storms moved through the Southland. In Long Beach, 3 feet of water shut down the 710 Freeway in both directions, while flooding in the San Fernando Valley forced the closure of the Sepulveda Basin. It was by all accounts a washout, but despite heaps of water pouring into the area, drought-weary Los Angeles won’t be able to save even half of it. The region’s system of engineered waterways is designed to whisk L.A.’s stormwater out to sea — a strategy intended to reduce flooding that nonetheless sacrifices countless precious gallons.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

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

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

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - San Diego

San Diego weather: Gusty wind, rain lead to flooded streets, debris, polluted water

Just days after rain left the city with flooding waters and streets covered in debris, runoff is also leading to unsafe swimming conditions along our coast. Right now, there are currently four beach closures in our region: Imperial Beach Shoreline, Tijuana Slough Shoreline, Silver Strand Shoreline, and Coronado Shoreline. The San Diego Department of Environmental Health and Quality warning beachgoers to stay away until further testing. Along the Coronado shoreline water contact warning signs line the sand, alerting beachgoers to steer clear. … Ringing in the new year with moderate rain and gusty winds has led to these south swell conditions and urban runoff across the U.S. Mexico border raising bacteria levels in ocean and bay water here at home.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.

And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.

Headwaters Tour 2018

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality.

Headwaters tour participants on a hike in the Sierra Nevada.

We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state. 

GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Headwaters Tour 2019
Field Trip - June 27-28

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

Aquapedia background


Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

Aquapedia background


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

Aquapedia background

Point Source vs. Nonpoint Source Pollution

Point Source Pollution

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


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource
Published 2007

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

2014 Santa Ana River Watershed Conference

The 6th Annual Santa Ana River Watershed conference was held October 14, 2014 at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside.

The event was convened by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and coordinated by the Water Education Foundation.

What is One Water One Watershed (OWOW)?

OWOW is an innovative Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) planning process being developed within the Santa Ana River Watershed.


Colorado River Facts Slide Card

This card includes information about the Colorado River, who uses the river, how the river’s water is divided and other pertinent facts about this vital resource for the Southwest. Beautifully illustrated with color photographs.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


Restoring a River: Voices of the San Joaquin

This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an overview of the geography and history of the river, historical and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was agreed to.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Aquapedia background


For all the benefits of precipitation, stormwater also brings with it many challenges.

In urban areas, after long dry periods rainwater runoff can contain heavy accumulations of pollutants that have built up over time. For example, a rainbow like shine on a roadway puddle can indicate the presence of oil or gasoline. Stormwater does not go into the sewer. Instead, pollutants can be flushed into waterways with detrimental effects on the environment and water quality.

Aquapedia background Lakes

Lake Tahoe

World-renowned for its crystal clear, azure water, Lake Tahoe straddles the Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles wide and hemmed in by Sierra Nevada peaks.

At 1,645 feet deep, Tahoe is the second-deepest lake in the United States and the 10th deepest in the world. The iconic lake sits 6,225 feet above sea level.

Western Water Magazine

Levees and Flood Protection: A Shared Responsibility
May/June 2012

This printed issue of Western Water discusses several flood-related issues, including the proposed Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the FEMA remapping process and the dispute between the state and the Corps regarding the levee vegetation policy.

Western Water Magazine

Mimicking the Natural Landscape: Low Impact Development and Stormwater Capture
September/October 2011

This printed issue of Western Water discusses low impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging interest that are viewed as important components of California’s future water supply and management scenario.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Mimicking the Natural Landscape: LID and Stormwater Capture
September/October 2011

Growth may have slowed in California, but advocates of low impact development (LID) say the pause is no reason to lose sight of the importance of innovative, low-tech management of stormwater via incor­porating LID aspects into new projects and redevelopment.

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

Smart Water Use: Stretching the Urban Supply
May/June 2005

This issue of Western Water examines the continuing practice of smart water use in the urban sector and its many facets, from improved consumer appliances to improved agency planning to the improvements in water recycling and desalination. Many in the water community say conserving water is not merely a response to drought conditions, but a permanent ethic in an era in which every drop of water is a valuable commodity not to be wasted.