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.
A major barrier to using urban stormwater is that it’s dirty.
Rain starts picking up contaminants the moment it hits
rooftops, streets, and other hard surfaces, as well as
landscapes laden with fertilizer and herbicides. … New
research shows that a cost-effective, low-tech approach can go
a long way toward cleaning up urban stormwater.
After a years-long drought and a major wildfire, rainstorms
brought a lot of ash and debris downstream over the past year
or so. … Now, Casitas officials hope to clear a
9-foot-high pile of silt, sand and gravel before the next
rainy season. Plans call for starting work in September, but as
of this week, the district had yet to receive permits required
by regional, state and federal agencies.
The California Coastal Commission has encouraged cities to
include a strategy called “managed retreat” in plans to prepare
for sea level rise. But the commission may be retreating from
that position. Del Mar is a prime example of a city where an
entire neighborhood is threatened by rising seas.
Rhys Vineyards LLC, based on the California Central Coast but
with vines in Mendocino County’s prime pinot noir region of
Anderson Valley, has agreed to pay $3.76 million to settle
enforcement actions brought by state wildlife and water
regulators for unpermitted diversion of rainwater runoff on
property of a planned small vineyard in a northern part of the
Native seaweed has the potential to be cultivated in California
coastal waters and used to alleviate the effects of local ocean
acidification, according to a new study funded by NOAA’s
California Sea Grant.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
State water officials ordered an investigation this week into
the elusive source of contamination in Richardson Bay, where
water samples collected near Tiburon beaches have shown high
bacteria levels for more than two months.
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.
Today, Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) along with Reps. Susan Davis
(CA-53), Scott Peters (CA-52), and Mike Levin (CA-49), hosted a
press conference to announce the introduction of their Tijuana
River Valley Pollution Solution bill package. The combined
legislation would further support mitigation efforts in the
Fifty feet below the platform of the Powell Street BART Station
sits the starting point for one of the largest water recycling
projects in San Francisco — one that’s transforming dirty
groundwater into clean steam heat for hundreds of downtown
buildings. In the process, it’s saving tens of millions of
gallons of drinking water annually.
Visitors are being encouraged to stay out of the water at
Mission Bay due to high bacteria levels. On July 17, the San
Diego County Department of Environmental Health issued an alert
for the Bonita Cove part of the Bay that stated: “Bacteria
levels may exceed health standards. Avoid water contact in the
advisory area.” In addition to Bonita Cove, visitors are being
told to not enter the water at Leisure Lagoon.
Crews are digging and removing 66,000 yards of dirt to make
room for an underground vault. It will be used to catch
rainwater during a storm in order to alleviate flooding around
the park. Behind the fence, crews are hauling away dirt.
Workers will eventually put the 6 million-gallon water vault 22
People who fish for carp have a love for them, as I learned
when I joined my guides at the middle of the river in Long
Beach. Lauren Mollica, a former pro skateboarder who now works
primarily as a carpenter, has been fishing the L.A. River for
about a year, and she waxes rhapsodic about the scent freshly
caught carp leaves on one’s hands.
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
To find out what’s in Southern California’s oceans, Spectrum
News 1 went below the streets of Los Angeles into a storm drain
to track the flow of water. We’re diving into a question
scientists are facing: what is in L.A.’s water?
The experiment to super-energize water recharging efforts at
Fresno’s Leaky Acres appears to be working. … Tommy Esqueda,
then the director of Public Utilities, described the system to
me as “putting ‘unique’ straws in the ground. The depth and
spacing of these ‘straws’ are designed to maximize groundwater
Oscar Meinzer (1942) credits Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with
having advocated the infiltration theory slightly before
Palissy’s time, basing his theories on observations made when
he was in charge of canals in the Milan area. … Such a
scenario might explain why California DWR staff and like-minded
academics and nonprofits have all jumped on the bandwagon of
managed aquifer recharge.
Plans to capture stormwater runoff by installing rubber dams at
San Juan Creek will move forward… SMWD is working with the
city of San Juan Capistrano and South Coast Water District for
the first phase of the project, which, when completed, is
expected to provide 5.6 billion gallons of reliable drinking
water each year.
The polling firm FM3 Research found that a plurality of
California voters surveyed (27 percent) said climate change is
behind state wildfires. Another 17 percent of voters believe
that human error is the leading cause of wildfires, 12 percent
believe it’s forest mismanagement and 11 percent believe it’s
Dan Efseaff, the parks and recreation director for the
devastated town of Paradise, Calif., looks out over Little
Feather River Canyon in Butte County. The Camp Fire raced up
this canyon like a blowtorch in a paper funnel on its way to
Paradise, incinerating most everything in its path, including
scores of homes. Efseaff is floating an idea that some may
think radical: paying people not to rebuild in this slice of
Slurries of mud increasingly threaten the water we drink. This
rush of sediment, known as “debris flow,” is a type of erosion
where mud and boulders in steep catchments suddenly tumble down
the stream channel, often traveling at speeds of several meters
per second. … Last year, California saw mudslides that
destroyed more than 100 homes and killed 21 people.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
In retrospect, it’s clear: We’ve misunderstood how rivers work.
They don’t follow wishful parameters of the Army Corps of
Engineers’ 100-year flood guidelines, or the routes we’ve
penciled in between levees, or even the climatic expectations
of the past. A national program that presumes we can
choreograph today the floods of tomorrow is fundamentally
flawed. It’s time to recognize that the rivers will have their
way. Therefore we need to get out of the way.
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.
By late spring, the Pacific jet stream is typically rushing
over the Northwest, but this year its trajectory never shifted
to the north and remains over California, hurling storms from
the Pacific Ocean onshore. Jon Gottschalck, chief of the
operational prediction branch at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, says the reason for the jet
stream’s wayward activity are complicated, but he and his
colleagues at NOAA think El Niño is definitely at play.
Residents whose homes were flooded will not be eligible for
financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency
because state officials determined the amount of damage was
insufficient to qualify.
A new bill introduced by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson …
would effectively ban traditional cigarettes through its
prohibition on the sale of tobacco products that have
single-use filters. … Cigarette butts constitute about a
third of all the trash found on California’s beaches
Two days of above-average spring rainfall in the North Bay have
forced Sonoma County officials to begin deflating the seasonal
dam across the Russian River, an about-face that comes less
than a week after the rubber dam was fully inflated to serve
the region’s drinking water system.
The agency charged with monitoring water quality standards
throughout the Greater Los Angeles region found that local
cities have committed more than 2,000 water quality violations
within a five-year period, but the violators suffered little if
Napa County’s latest watershed symposium came at a time when
tensions are high over how to protect trees and reservoirs in
the area’s mountains. Close to 200 people from various
backgrounds came to Copia on Thursday for an A-to-Z look at
what’s happening in the watersheds. Scientists, elected
officials, wine industry members and citizen activists all
A new category of El Niño has become far more prevalent in the
last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries.
Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become
more intense. This new finding will arguably alter our
understanding of the El Niño phenomenon. Changes to El Niño
will influence patterns of precipitation and temperature
extremes in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Reforestation will improve watershed conditions by restoring
severely burned areas to forested conditions, reducing
sedimentation and turbidity, and improving water quality for
downstream users. It will also improve habitat by providing
stabilization that reduces erosion of stream banks and meadows.
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
Snowpack in every part of Colorado’s high country is sporting
layers of dust, according to a new statewide survey of the
state’s winter accumulation. … Dust is darker than snow. Just
like a black T-shirt on a sunny day, it absorbs more sunlight,
causing what’s underneath it to heat up more rapidly.
While the state agency responsible for policing Los Angeles
County’s polluted urban and stormwater runoff boasts
significant progress in its monumental task, a National
Resources Defense Council report this week criticizes the
water-quality panel for lackluster enforcement.
Every day, an estimated 100 million gallons of runoff
contaminated with various pollutants flows through L.A.’s
massive storm drain system to foul our rivers, creeks and,
ultimately, our coastal waters. … Today, NRDC urged the
Newsom Administration to encourage the Los Angeles Regional
Water Quality Control Board to address this serious public and
environmental health threat.
A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based
congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal
agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the
Tijuana River … Local and state officials as well as
environmental activists have decried the condition of the
Tijuana River for years, which regularly causes beach closures
along the county’s coastline, particularly after heavy rain.
Tracy Hall says she’s lucky to have friendly neighbors who
allow her to live in an RV on their property while water laps
at a temporary barrier on the edge of her property. But Hall
and others are tired of the disruption to their lives that
started more than two years ago when the formerly dry lake in
Lemmon Valley filled with stormwater runoff and urban effluent.
The development of the Arcata Marsh as an integral part of
wastewater treatment in Arcata was the primary focus of two
professors at Humboldt State University, George Allen and
Robert Gearheart, who developed a process that uses what was a
former salt marsh as a means to treat sewage that is then
discharged into Humboldt Bay. On May 7, Gearheart … will be
honored by the Environmental Law Institute at its annual awards
dinner in Washington, D.C.
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.
In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the
state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount
of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft … has
ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s
Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above
them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know
where this type of remedy will be most effective.
The February storms that swelled the Russian River to its
highest level in more than two decades did $23 million in
damage to Sonoma County roads, including more than 100
landslides and slipouts, leaving county crews and contractors
with a Herculean repair job that will take months to complete.
Frustration was evident, whether it was from a flooded
homeowner or a government agency trying to explain its
processes during Wednesday’s “listening session” regarding
flooding in north Chico. … Despite the anger, there seemed to
be some progress, whether it was the cleaning of Rock Creek
west of Highway 99 by the Rock Creek Reclamation District, or
more property owners funding efforts themselves. Lucero
suggested that property owners could pay more into the existing
county service areas set up for drainage maintenance.
The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage to more
than 5 million households and small businesses across the
United States, including more than 229,000 in California. The
program has been hard hit by payouts from major flood disasters
in recent years and is heavily in debt. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), which houses the program, has
recently announced significant changes. We talked to Carolyn
Kousky, a flood insurance expert at the Wharton Risk Center at
the University of Pennsylvania … about the program.
Oakwood Lakes Water District that serves a gated community and
a mobile home park just outside of the southwest Manteca city
limits needs to expand and upgrade its wastewater treatment
plant. Manteca needs to find a way to send storm water from a
large swath of southwest Manteca to the San Joaquin River. The
two needs have led to a proposed agreement between the water
district and the city …
Prior to the installation of the system, the rain garden was
hardpan dirt, allowing all the rainwater—contaminated and
polluted with oil, gas, sediment, cigarette butts and plastic
wrappers—to drain directly into Orrs Creek and the Russian
River. The new garden is 3- to 5-feet deep and composed of
carefully constructed layers of soil and rock, allowing the
water to be cleaned mechanically and biologically filtering the
The latest declaration will provide aid to local governments
from the state’s Office of Emergency Services and directs
Caltrans to request federal assistance. In addition to Santa
Cruz County, the declaration will affect Butte, Colusa, Del
Norte, Mariposa, Napa, Solano and Tuolumne counties.
Residents in north Chico say they have never seen flooding like
the deluge that came their way this year, and they want to know
how to stop it. Storm water from Rock Creek and Keefer Slough
surged into their backyards, front yards, and in some cases
into their homes. It crept into orchards and overtook Highway
99, north of Chico and continued westward.
Chris Orrock of the California Department of Water Resources
joins the podcast to chat with John Howard and Tim Foster about
what this wealth of snow means for California’s water reserves
and flood dangers, and the implications for wildfires later in
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the
public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who
may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water
Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with
the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April
15, there’s no time to lose.
Hermosa Beach City Council has scrapped a large stormwater
infiltration project slated for the southern end of city’s
greenbelt, after more than a year of opposition from residents.
City officials will look for a new home for the project, meant
to ultimately reduce bacteria in the Santa Monica Bay, but
could potentially forfeit nearly $3.1 million in grant funding
from the State Water Resources Board.
On Saturday officials held a grand opening ceremony for the
$44-million Albion Riverside Park — the city’s newest
greenspace. The triangular six-acre site next to the L.A. River
at Spring Street includes playing fields, walking trails,
restrooms, playgrounds, parking and an outdoor fitness center.
But the park will also do double-duty as a giant filter to
clean storm drain water before it flows in the adjacent L.A.
Water may cascade down Oroville Dam’s rebuilt spillway next
week for the first time since a massive crater formed in its
nearly half-mile long surface two years ago — a major milestone
in the saga that triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people and
a $1.1 billion repair job to the country’s tallest dam. A storm
forecast to hit this week is expected to fill Lake Oroville to
the point that state dam operators might need to open the
The town of roughly 1,000 people is located in the north-east
part of the county and surrounded by active waterways. It has
flooded multiple times in the past. Goals of the study included
reducing the risk of flooding while enhancing habitat
restoration and providing safe access to the river, according
to Sabatini’s presentation.
In places like Oakland, flooding will occur not just at the
shoreline, but inland in areas once considered safe from sea
level rise, including the Oakland Coliseum and Jones Avenue,
where [UC Berkeley professor Kristina] Hill and her students
now stood, more than a mile from San Leandro Bay. In fact, she
added, rising groundwater menaces nearly the entire band of
low-lying land around San Francisco Bay, as well as many other
coastal parts of the U.S.
By allocating $1 million last week toward a creek restoration
project set to rejuvenate threatened and endangered species and
reduce flooding in Pescadero, county officials locked in
funding needed to begin a dredging effort experts expect will
give the Butano Creek a chance to reset.
But the river remains an unpredictable force, one that could
give rise to even more destructive floods in an era of
increasingly extreme weather, experts say. … County
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins has her sights on the opportunities to
tame floodwaters in the river’s middle reaches, starting near
Windsor and upstream, where it broadens and meanders more
freely in a floodplain less constricted by roads and other
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.)
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
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.
Since the rainy season began in earnest in January, County
Flood Control has been operating almost constantly to keep its
debris basins clear and ready for the next onslaught. Much of
the accumulating debris is due to 2017’s Thomas Fire, which
burned more than 280,000 acres in the back- and front-country
behind Montecito, Carpinteria, and the western part of Ventura
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s
because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints
on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need
in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local
Many no longer recall the Great Midwest Flood despite its
record-breaking precipitation, flooding and $13 billion price
tag. Sure, 1993 seems like a long time ago, but I believe the
reason the flood has left most people’s memory is because, over
the last 25 years, the nation has experienced one devastating,
record-breaking flood after another. Our memories are diluted
by the frequency of such events.
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm is expected to pummel
Northern California starting Tuesday night and deliver heavy
rain, gusty winds, downed trees, power outages and rough
driving conditions Wednesday and Thursday. … The storm
should bring up to 5 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada,
forecasters said. The National Weather Service announced
flash-flood and high-wind warnings for the Bay Area, along with
Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Anyone who has been on Balboa Island during a hard rain knows
the streets can flood. The city of Newport Beach is
considering replacing the island’s 1930s-era drainage system
with several automated below-ground pumps. That would save on
labor and costs associated with manually opening the tide gates
at the end of streets and sending out portable pumps and
slicker-clad city workers to dump excess storm water into the
Early last year, construction started on a $90 million project
to build seven miles of setback levees and floodplains to
protect Hamilton City from floods on the Sacramento River. …
The new barriers are much farther from the riverbanks—as far as
a mile away in places. In some respects, the concept is
absurdly simple: During heavy rains or spring snowmelt, rivers
need room to expand; moving levees back from riverbanks
provides it. Setback levees not only reduce the need for newer
and larger dams and levees, but also restore the natural
For decades, the New River has flowed north across the
U.S.-Mexico border carrying toxic pollution and the stench of
sewage. Now lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are pursuing
legislation and funding to combat the problems. “I feel very
optimistic that we’re going to be able to get some things done
on the New River issue,” said Assemblymember Eduardo
State water quality officials cautioned the public not to drink
or cook with untreated surface water from streams throughout
the Camp Fire burn area after bacteria and other contaminants
were detected in water samples. … Laboratory analyses of
surface water samples found concentrations of bacteria
(E.Coli), aluminum, antimony and some polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs) that exceeded water quality standards for
Another Pacific storm was set to hit California on Wednesday,
bringing a threat of mudslides to the site of the deadliest
wildfire in state history and a rare blizzard warning in the
Sierra Nevada. An evacuation warning was in place into Thursday
morning for Pulga, a canyon community in Northern California.
Its neighbor, the town of Paradise, was virtually incinerated
two months ago by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and
destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit
Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive
design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently,
the city partially relies on imported water to meet its
water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major
step toward water independence, supporting existing programs
designed to create a sustainable water supply
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has spent
five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
guidelines. Several changes to the Guidelines address two
hot button topics: global climate change and statewide
affordable housing shortages. Many of the changes will
significantly alter the application of CEQA to future projects.
A storm will slide into Southern California with soaking rain
by the weekend, putting burn-scar areas at a renewed risk for
life-threatening flooding and mudslides. People living
near or downhill of the Creek, La Tuna, Thomas, Woolsey and
Whittier burn areas should make sure they stay up to date on
the latest forecast and heed all evacuation issues that are
ordered by local officials.
The tenth annual performance report evaluates what the
state water boards do and how the environment is responding to
its actions. The report presents numerous performance
measures for specific outputs and outcomes.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better,
largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in
November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel
tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce
pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the
Montgomery is known for fostering collaborative relationships
among stakeholders and as a leader in protecting and restoring
water quality within California and throughout the Southwest
and the Pacific Islands. He is currently serving as the
Assistant Director of the Water Division in the US
Environmental Protection Agency (Region 9).
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to
provide interested parties the opportunity to present data,
views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes
affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
Cross-border water pollution between Tijuana and South San
Diego is not new, but in recent years, the problem has grown
worse. The reasons are complicated: There is Tijuana’s
topography, with its steep hillsides and canyons that drain
towards the border; the factories that get away with illegal
dumping; the city’s rapid population growth, aging wastewater
infrastructure and inadequate garbage collection. In the U.S.,
funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have
prevented improvements to the Borderlands’ sewage system.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has agreed to protect San
Francisco and Humboldt bays from runoff of dangerous chemicals
on utility poles in a settlement with an environmental group.
… The suit said oil and wood waste from poles stored at the
yards washed into the bays, damaging the environment and
endangering human health and wildlife.
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.
Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to place a
property tax before voters in November to raise money for
projects to capture and clean storm water. The measure would
allow the county to levy a tax of 2.5 cents per square foot of
“impermeable space” on private property.
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.
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.
As 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.
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.
Taxpayers may not realize it, but they foot the bill as their
city or county complies with new state regulations to improve
the health of local streams and waterways. Nicole Beck, 49, a
UC Santa Cruz alum with a doctorate in aquatic chemistry, is
marrying science and software to help city and county staff get
information to make better decisions on where to focus their
In a highly anticipated report, a panel chartered by Congress
to advise public agencies on effective governance recommends
that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revise how it
appraises financial burdens when communities are required to
upgrade water and sewer systems.
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.
The thousands of miles of concrete channels diverting street
water from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers represent the
last major water project in Los Angeles County, built almost
100 years ago. On Thursday, Dave Sorem, owner and vice
president of Mike Bubalo Construction Co., showed off the first
of a second wave of street-water projects that elevate what is
essentially water pollution into a drinkable water source.
Precipitation carrying tainted water through the Tijuana River
into the Pacific Ocean triggered beach closures Tuesday evening
from the international border to Seacoast Drive in Imperial
Beach. … The pollution from stormwater runoff adds to
spills from aging pipes and potentially hazardous discharges
from the deteriorating San Antonio de Los Buenos sewage
treatment plant in Punta Bandera, located about six miles south
of the border.
It’s been thought for decades that stormwater runoff is the
major source of bacterial pollution in the county’s rivers,
bays and beaches — triggering swimming advisories up and down
the region’s shoreline for 72 hours after it rains. However,
the greatest source of dangerous pathogens flowing from these
urban waterways into the ocean may actually be coming from
Bioswale projects on medians and other surfaces along a handful
of the east San Fernando Valley’s major roadways could be
pulling double-duty soon to help conserve rainwater, while
adding more greenery, thanks in part to a $4 million grant from
the state’s coastal and waterway conservancy.
Despite spending millions of dollars over the years on garbage
cleanup, Oakland has the Bay Area’s worst record for limiting
the rubbish that pollutes creeks, lakes and the bay, according
to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The flow of waste violates mandates set by the board to reduce
storm drain litter this year by 70 percent compared with 2009,
a goal that Oakland is far from meeting.
Looking to tap property owners, the Los Angeles County Board of
Supervisors Tuesday approved moving forward with a plan to
consider a parcel tax to help fund an ambitious stormwater
capturing system to bolster local drinking water supplies.
… The county and its 85 cities are required to develop
programs to build stormwater capture and clean-up projects as
part of Federal Clean Water Act compliance.
During one of this winter’s frequent storms, sheets of
rainwater spilled from roofs, washed across sidewalks and down
gutters into a sprawling network of underground storm drains
that empty into the Los Angeles River channel.
Water Education for Latino Leaders is convening a statewide
educational water conference in Sacramento for California local
Local elected officials can make a difference for all
Californians by taking the necessary steps to understand the
dynamic of California water to assure adequate clean water for
our communities, protect our natural resources and our local
economies. WELL’s hope is to facilitate understanding towards
comprehensive long-term water policies that will sustain
California’s economy and quality of life.
The Water Education Foundation is an organizing partner.
California has nearly one quarter of the nation’s homeless
people – the most of any state by far – and thousands of them
live in the Bay Area. … Under a new resolution by the San
Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, trash from
homeless encampments now falls under the stormwater permit that
requires Bay Area cities and counties to get storm drains
virtually trash-free by 2022.
Newly passed bills in California are helping turn attention to
green infrastructure projects that can help cities take
advantage of stormwater to replenish groundwater, increase
water supply and decrease water pollution.
Under the $29-million expansion plan launched Monday, officials
said the groundwater recharge facility will double in
capacity by 2018, helping ween Angelenos off increasingly
expensive and unreliable imported water.
Another Memorial Day came and went this year, but the marina at
Meeks Bay Resort didn’t open for a third straight season — this
time due to a high concentration of pollutants, an issue that
apparently has been a concern for more than a decade.
Of the roughly 300,000 acres in the city of Los Angeles, more
than 2,000 are alleyways that cut through city blocks. And
because they’re mostly paved, they do little to capture one of
the city’s most prized resources: water.
With this year’s storms helping to refill the Sacramento
region’s lakes and reservoirs, local water district officials
and state regulators are diverting and percolating stormwater
from Cache Creek into the Yolo County canal system to recharge
groundwater supplies used by local farmers, city residents and
Settling a major lawsuit from environmentalists, San Jose city
officials on Tuesday agreed to spend more than $100 million
over the next decade and beyond to reduce tons of trash that
flows into creeks and San Francisco Bay, repair miles of
leaking underground sewage pipes and clean stormwater
contaminated with harmful bacteria.
For nearly four years, cities in Los Angeles County have voiced
complaints that permits required to rid toxic chemicals and
bacteria from storm water imposed staggering costs that could
bankrupt smaller cities. On Tuesday, two state senators from
Sacramento heard their cries.
Stormwater is starting to get some serious attention in
California, as the state’s drought enters a fifth year. … In
Walnut Creek, behind a ranch-style home, landscape designer
Ryan Kelsey is helping people do that—at least in the short
term, and on their own properties.
[Eric] Batman reveled in El Niño’s long-overdue rumbling. His
job, as senior civil engineer for the [Los Angeles] county
Department of Public Works, is to keep as much rain as possible
from escaping to the ocean.
After a year in which Californians cut water use by 25 percent,
storm water has become the next front in what amounts to a
fundamental restructuring of Southern California’s relationship
with its intricate water network.
A long arm across Rainbow Harbor prevented piles of detritus
from landing on local shores and floating into the sea earlier
this month, when heavy rains soaked the region and sent tons of
trash and debris downstream from cities along the Los Angeles
River and into Long Beach.
In an effort to restore California’s desperately depleted
ancient aquifers, scientists are testing an approach that
seizes surplus winter rain and delivers it to where it’s most
useful: idle farms and fields.
The State Water Resources Control Board approved a broad plan
Wednesday for capturing more rain. The regulator is launching a
road show this month to explain how it will dole out $200
million for projects to collect rain, part of a $7.5-billion
water bond voters approved in November 2014.
At a meeting that lasted all day, the San Diego Regional Water
Quality Control Board adopted a new program focused on
incentivizing jurisdictions to create innovative plans for
cleaning up local watersheds.
Among the devastating effects of the low pressure storm system
that pummeled South Carolina over the weekend was the heavy
damage the record-breaking rains caused to water transport and
treatment infrastructure, and the release of a tide of
By some estimates, hanging onto more stormwater—as opposed to
just cleaning it so it doesn’t wash pollutants into rivers,
aquifers and the ocean—could supply a city such as Los Angeles
with a third to half of the water it needs annually – and
reduce demand for water from up here.
You might have seen them around new buildings and roadways:
little basins and ditches, planted with various small growing
things. They’re designed to stop crud from washing into the
gutters and down the storm drains.
It may not rain much in Los Angeles County, but when it does, a
single storm can send up to 10 billion gallons of water surging
into a vast network of storm channels with a single
destination: the Pacific Ocean.
Amid a worsening drought, California water officials adopted
new rules Tuesday aimed at capturing and reusing huge amounts
of stormwater that have until now flowed down sewers and
concrete rivers into the sea.
California is at a critical moment in deciding how we’ll deal
with stormwater in Los Angeles … and beyond. Next Tuesday,
June 16, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board)
will consider whether or not it will uphold the current
stormwater permit for Los Angeles County, which was last
renewed in 2012.
Millions of gallons of polluted stormwater runoff from Los
Angeles International Airport will be treated and cleaned
before washing into the Pacific Ocean or working its way into
L.A.’s groundwater basin, according to an agreement signed
Thursday by city and airport officials.
The region’s creeks and rivers had unhealthy levels of
pollutants last year, the environmental group San Diego
Coastkeeper said in a report Wednesday. … To analyze water
quality, the organization took 3,301 measurements from nine of
the 11 watersheds in the county.
When water hits pavement and blacktop, the water is whisked
away to storm drains and does not soak into the soil. Also,
these quick flows contribute to pollution in rivers and
streams, the State Water Board explains in a series of seven
short videos …
Billions of gallons of water have fallen on Los Angeles County
since last week. And much of that kept right on going —
out into storm drains, lost to the sea. Couldn’t we actually
use that water? Yes, and we do.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina
McCarthy today [Dec. 16] joined U.S. Department of Agriculture
Secretary (USDA) Tom Vilsack, Mike Boots of the White House
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Commonwealth of
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a private investor and an
Appomattox, VA, farmer to recognize an innovative, market-based
nutrient trading program run by Virginia to improve the water
quality of Chesapeake Bay.
A day after heavy rains opened up a massive sinkhole in San
Francisco’s Richmond District, the city on Thursday continued
with efforts to repair the 20-by-20-foot crater, while
revealing it was caused by water flowing from a broken storm
Public health officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are
asking surfers and swimmers to stay out of the ocean because of
the bacteria, debris and trash that washed into the water from
this week’s storms.
A broad coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
including The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and The
Conservation Fund has pledged to support the Urban Waters
Federal Partnership as it works to restore waterways and
revitalize communities across the country. … Many urban
waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from
city streets, and contamination from abandoned industrial
Hours of downpours brought California some relief from a
devastating drought and produced few of the problems such as
flooding and mudslides that the long-awaited storm had
threatened – at least so far.
When TreePeople’s Andy Lipkis returned from Australia last
week, he couldn’t get out of his head the response people had
when he told them most of the rain that falls in Los Angeles
escapes to the sea.
Just hours into the experiment, the prognosis was grim for
salmon that had been submerged in rain runoff collected from
one of Seattle’s busiest highways. … The research being
conducted by scientists with NOAA, Washington State University
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife offers a promising solution to
stormwater pollution, a major problem for Puget Sound and other
streams and lakes in the nation.
These out-of-state interlopers are pouring millions of dollars
into the effort to undo what the Governor and Legislature have
just accomplished to reduce the plastic bags littering our
neighborhoods, clogging our waterways and polluting our beaches
and oceans and harm wildlife.
Construction is under way on a 26-home sustainable community in
San Luis Obispo. … The site has been built with local water
issues in mind as well: There will be an on-site storm water
management and “rain-store” retention system …
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This 15-minute video explains in an easy-to-understand manner the
importance of groundwater, defines technical terms, describes
sources of groundwater contamination and outlines steps
communities can take to protect underground aquifers. Includes
extensive computer graphics that illustrate these groundwater
concepts. The short running times makes it ideal for
presentations and community group meetings. Available on VHS and
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
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.
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
“[Lara] Meeker, who heads the environmental group’s DrainWatch
program, is overseeing a special corps of volunteers called Storm
Water Assessment Teams — or SWAT — who fan out across the region
to collect water samples in an effort to force polluters to clean
From the California Department of Water Resources (DWR):
“To preserve agriculture, flood protection and wildlife habitat,
the Knaggs Ranch project completed this month will help determine
if floodplains doing double duty growing rice and other crops can
also be used as nurseries for salmon.”
“There’s no easy fix for the National Flood Insurance Program,
now drowning in a $24 billion sea of red ink.
“But experts and advocates say Congress does have some options
that could make the troubled program financially stable, more
affordable and more effective at motivating change in
communities built too close to the water.”
“Earlier this month, Congress sought to ease their fears of
sky-high premiums by rolling back a 2012 reform ending the
government’s costly practice of offering subsidized insurance for
older homes and businesses in flood zones. The president signed
the bill Friday.”
“As California’s historic drought worsens by the day, Silicon
Valley’s main water provider faces a difficult choice: Risk
catastrophic flooding if a major earthquake strikes its largest
dam — or drain billions of gallons of water from the reservoir
behind it to make repairs.”
“A $600,000 consultant will conduct geotechnical studies and
preliminary design work for expansion of Phoenix Lake into both a
reservoir and runoff retention basin as part of ambitious plans
to control flooding in the Ross Valley.”
“President Barack Obama is set to sign into law a bipartisan
bill relieving homeowners living in flood-prone neighborhoods
from big increases in their insurance bills.
“The legislation, which cleared Congress on Thursday, reverses
much of a 2012 overhaul of the government’s much-criticized
flood insurance program after angry homeowners facing sharp
premium hikes protested.”
“The Senate voted 72 to 22 Thursday to pass a flood insurance
bill that will roll back sharp premium increases to homeowners
that were implemented as part of a federal overhaul of the flood
From the Stockton Record’s Alex Breitler Environment blog:
“California is failing to provide adequate funding for small
rural drinking-water systems, flood protection projects, and
stormwater and wastewater services, the PPIC concludes in its
latest study, released tonight [March 12].”
“An innovative project installed by the city to cleanse storm
water naturally before it reaches San Francisco Bay is serving as
an inspiration for a similar, but larger project planned for El
Cerrito and six other East Bay cities.”
“Two things became clear halfway through a Regional Water Board
meeting in Salinas Thursday morning: Everybody wants to
cooperate but factions often have differing and passionate
views on how to clear the Salinas River channel to prevent
“Presentations by the Regional Quality Control Board staff, The
Nature Conservancy and a coalition of farmers and farming
interests all complemented each other in seeking
collaboratively to find ways to address flood protection along
the 94-mile stretch of river while providing safe habitat for
“Over a period of several decades, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers encased the Los Angeles River in concrete to protect
the region against the kind of flooding that had surprised and
damaged the city in the 1930s — but also, crucially, to withstand
the rare but even more torrential floods that were known to sweep
across the basin every generation or so.”
“House Republican leaders have cleared the way for a floor vote
on a bill that would roll back portions of a 2012 overhaul of the
federal flood insurance program, offering hundreds of thousands
of property owners relief from sharp premium hikes.”
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.
“The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to delay steep
increases in homeowners’ federal flood insurance premiums, which
were put in place less than two years ago to stabilize the
federal flood insurance program.”