Topic: Stormwater

Overview

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 ABC7 San Francisco

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

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

Related article: 

Aquafornia news California Lutheran University

New research: Microfiber pollution

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

Aquafornia news San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

News release: San Francisco Bay Water Board names Eileen White as new executive officer

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board announced the appointment of Eileen White as its executive officer, succeeding Michael Montgomery. Her first day is July 11. White most recently served as director of East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Wastewater Department, where she recently led the development of EBMUD’s Integrated Master Plan for its main wastewater treatment plant, along with EBMUD’s Climate Action Plan, to guide operations, investments and priorities for decades to come. White managed a workforce of 280 people.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Plastics industry targets Democrats to head off restrictions

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

Aquafornia news KneeDeep Times

Cruising the San Pablo SPINE — a green streets test lab

From tattoo parlors to senior housing, and ethnic-food vendors to world-famous record shops, it’s been said that if you can’t find what you’re looking for on San Pablo Avenue, then it doesn’t exist.  And now, the busy thoroughfare, which runs north-south through the heart of the East Bay, is also a testbed for a distributed network of rain gardens. The project, known as the San Pablo Avenue Green Stormwater “SPINE”, began nearly ten years ago (the caps are used for emphasis, not as an acronym). In the fall of 2012, the U.S. EPA issued a $307,000 portion of a larger green-infrastructure grant for the design of seven garden sites in seven different cities.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

San Anselmo approves water conservation upgrades at park

San Anselmo has approved a plan to renovate the playing fields at Memorial Park with phased-in water conservation upgrades. After being presented with three project options Tuesday, the Town Council voted 4-1 to combine elements of two alternatives, but to do the work in stages. The project calls for new grass and an upgraded irrigation and drainage system to be installed as soon as possible. A stormwater and grey water harvesting system and a 100,000-gallon underground water storage tank will be added later.

Aquafornia news KUOW - Seattle

Seattle fish research could shake up global tire industry

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

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

State lawmakers target trash in Tijuana River valley

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

Related article:

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Federal money to help Sacramento update water, sewage system

Aging subterranean infrastructure in Sacramento will get a boost from $3.5 million in federal funding that will pay for future underground reservoirs to harden parts of the combined storm and sewage system within the city’s core. The funding was celebrated Friday during a news conference in Land Park to outline the project with Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and city leaders including County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy and City Councilman Rick Jennings. 

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Opinion: State stormwater permit would stall housing, infrastructure

Gov. Gavin Newsom has boldly promoted the goal of building more than 3 million new homes by 2025 to address the significant supply/demand imbalance and bring down the cost of housing. … In spite of this, an excessive new proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board … will further stall new housing production, as well as the development of public infrastructure and economic development projects throughout California. The proposal will require unachievable standards for water quality compared to alternative enhanced and achievable approaches.
-Written by Joseph Cruz, executive director for the California State Council of Laborers; and Richard J. Lambros, the managing director for Southern California Leadership Council.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Government spending on stormwater management in California

Stormwater infrastructure in cities is highly visible and serves to mitigate flooding and reduce pollution that reaches local waterbodies. Being so visible, it might be reasonable to assume that stormwater is adequately funded both in infrastructure and water quality management. Yet, stormwater infrastructure and water quality improvement are notoriously difficult to fund.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

UC Davis research details microplastics in ocean food chain

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

Related article: 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

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

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

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: The Putah Creek fish kill: Learning from a local disaster

In November 2021, salmon entering Putah Creek were part of a large fish kill in the lower creek. The event took everyone familiar with the creek by surprise and prevented successful migration of the creek’s fall salmon. Only 4 or 5 adult Chinook salmon made it upstream to suitable spawning habitat. The result was particularly tragic as it followed on the heels of the restoration of a salmon run in the creek, as well as habitat for other fishes.

Aquafornia news Christian Science Monitor

Microplastics: Citizen scientists on the hunt for nurdles

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

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. 

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Runoff

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.

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Microplastics

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

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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.

Publication

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.

Product

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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. 

Video

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.

Product

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

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Stormwater

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.