Topic: Wastewater



Water containing wastes – aka wastewater – from residential, commercial and industrial processes requires treatment to remove pollutants prior to discharge. After treatment, the water is suitable for nonconsumption (nonpotable) and even potable use.

In California, water recycling is a critical component of the state’s efforts to use water supplies more efficiently. The state presently recycling about 669,000 acre-feet of water per year and has the potential to reuse an additional two million acre-feet per year. 

Non-potable uses include:

  • landscape and crop irrigation
  • stream and wetlands enhancement
  • industrial processes
  • recreational lakes, fountains and decorative ponds
  •  toilet flushing and gray water applications
  •  as a barrier to protect groundwater supplies from seawater intrusion
  • wetland habitat creation, restoration, and maintenance
  • groundwater recharge
Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

Napa Valley landfill faces $619,400 Water Board fine

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

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Blog: Reuse can affect water quality in unintended ways, study finds

As they seek to reduce their reliance on imported water supplies, the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and other local governments in the area are looking to increase the extent to which they engage in water reuse, a proven tactic for extending existing supplies in water-stressed regions. As a means of improving water quality, some local agencies also plan to divert dry weather urban runoff from storm sewers to best management practices, such as detention ponds, infiltration basins, or rain gardens, or treatment facilities. Significant increases in reuse and dry weather diversions would decrease the volume of treated effluent and untreated runoff entering the heavily managed LA River, raising questions about potential effects on water quantity and quality.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

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

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

Aquafornia news Financial Times

Investors demand end to ‘forever’ chemicals

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

Aquafornia news ProPublica

The uranium industry continues to poison U.S. groundwater

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

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: S.F. Bay can become a healthy body of water. But it’s going to take work

It was major news in August when a hazardous algae bloom turned San Francisco Bay water a murky brown color and killed a reported 10,000 yellowfin goby, hundreds of striped bass and white sturgeon, and a small number of endangered green sturgeon. That kind of attention may seem understandable today, but just a couple of generations ago, it’s likely barely anyone would have noticed. Why? Because fish die-offs used to be far more common. During the 1960s and early 1970s, huge fish die-offs were reported in San Francisco Bay almost every year, with over 100,000 fish dying in 1965 alone. Our bay had become a dumping ground for minimally treated sewage, industrial wastewater, polluted runoff and solid waste — unfit for aquatic life and unsafe for swimming.
-Written by Andrew Gunther and Alexis Strauss Hacker, members of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board; and Jay Davis, a senior scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Regulator authorizes Cal Am to purchase future water supply

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

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

‘It’s been a fight for our homes’: The ongoing saga to fix San Francisco’s sewers

Months before this fall’s rains began, Victoria Sanchez stood out in front of her home on Cayuga Avenue in San Francisco’s Mission Terrace neighborhood. Her block appeared ordinary on that July day: rows of colorful Mediterranean-style homes stretched wall-to-wall as the 44 Muni bus rumbled past the corner. The scene was typical of many neighborhoods across San Francisco with one distinct difference. Along the sidewalks and driveways of Cayuga Avenue lay rows of sandbags, a reminder of the destructive floods of sewage and stormwater that the rainy season can bring — inundations that have ravaged the neighborhood for decades. Sanchez walked her street with an album full of photographs and news clippings as she retold stories of the floods.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

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

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

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Mayor Serge Dedina, a leading voice for the South Bay, returns to his environmental activism

“The sewage is killing us.” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina did not mince words in 2017 after yet another spill from Tijuana’s broken wastewater system contaminated local beaches. He also did not waste time. Dedina pushed for answers from U.S. and Mexico officials, and got none that were satisfying. So he sued the federal government in 2018 and was later joined in the lawsuit by Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego. … Imperial Beach has long been a beach town beset by water contamination due to sewage spilling from Mexico. The battle for clean water has sometimes turned neighbor against neighbor, such as when Imperial Beach officials criticized their more affluent neighbor Coronado for not joining the 2018 lawsuit. 

Aquafornia news Politico

The next abortion fight could be over wastewater regulation

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

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Napa Valley prepares for future drought

Napa County’s drought-easing ideas include using highly treated wastewater for drinking, having communities with extra water help out those in need, and tapping into the planned Sites Reservoir in Colusa County. There are 22 proposals in all within the recently released Napa Valley Drought Contingency Plan. Those three rose to the top for further exploration. The plan, done for local agencies along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, might not help much with the current drought, should this winter be dry. Most of the ideas would take time to become reality. … One idea is to turn wastewater from the Napa Sanitation District and the city of American Canyon into drinking water. NapaSan and American Canyon already clean up wastewater to a degree that it can be used for irrigation. 

Aquafornia news Palo Alto Weekly

Palo Alto partners with Mountain View, other Peninsula cities in planning colossal upgrade to wastewater plant

Seeking to modernize aged equipment and cut down on the nitrogen that flows into the San Francisco Bay, Palo Alto and its partners are embarking on an ambitious makeover of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, a project that will cost $193 million and take about five years to complete. The City Council is preparing to approve next month a $161 million contract with Anderson Pacific Engineering Construction to upgrade the wastewater treatment system at the regional plant on Embarcadero Road, near the Baylands. … A key goal of the upgrade is to reduce this outflow of nitrogen, which causes algae to bloom in the bay, [plant manager] Jamie Allen said. Over the summer, the a red algae bloom across the region killed fish throughout the area.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

News release: ASU tapped to lead statewide water initiative

Arizona State University and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Nov. 16 that the university will lead a multi-year Arizona Water Innovation Initiative to provide immediate, actionable and evidence-based solutions to ensure that Arizona will continue to thrive with a secure future water supply, according to a news release.  Ducey has committed resources and has asked ASU to work with industrial, municipal, agricultural, tribal and international partners to rapidly accelerate and deploy new approaches and technology for water conversation, augmentation, desalination, efficiency, infrastructure, and reuse.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Sacramento gas station fuel leak leads to contaminated soil, groundwater

Sacramento County officials on Friday said that two fuel tanks at a Sacramento gas station have leaked gasoline into soil and groundwater, though the risk to the general public is “very low.” The county said the leak happened with two underground fuel tanks at Bonfare Market and Gas Station, which is located at 2600 Rio Linda Boulevard. A third underground tank was not found to be faulty. The tanks have since been emptied and are offline, the county said. The issues stem from an initial report of a leak in February 2022, county spokesperson Samantha Mott said. One tank was immediately emptied and put out of service and an initial assessment did not reveal groundwater contamination. Later, an investigation as part of a clean-up plan found that gasoline contamination had migrated, exposing groundwater to contamination.

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Supervisors to consider Middletown sewer rates setting analysis

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

Aquafornia news Merced County Times

Water at center of dispute over Planada dairy expansion 

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

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

The befouling of Point Reyes National Seashore

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

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Microplastics in anchovies, seabirds, coastal waters, study finds

More than half of anchovies and all of the seabirds that feed on them were found to have microplastic particles in their digestive tracts, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The researchers tested 24 anchovy and 19 common murres for microplastic particles and found particles of at least 5 millimeters in 58 percent of the fish and all of the birds. The researchers also analyzed seawater samples from Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, finding a microplastic concentration of about 2 microparticles per 1,000 liters.

Aquafornia news Santa Monica Daily Press

Next generation water project comes online Thursday

Santa Monica has found itself on the cutting edge of modern water infrastructure in California, and the latest example of that innovation is SWIP, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP), four years in the making, that is set to open with a community celebration on Thursday morning, Nov. 17. The project features some key innovations: a massive, 1.5-million gallon stormwater harvesting tank that stores water prior to treatment (meaning the city is far less limited in the amount of water it can process during storm events); can simultaneously treat stormwater runoff and wastewater generated in Santa Monica; is enabled to provide water for irrigation, dual-piped buildings and groundwater replenishment; and is poised to convert to potable water supply if and when state regulations permit.

Aquafornia news

New research: Treated wastewater can be more dependable and less toxic than common tap water sources

Recycled wastewater is not only as safe to drink as conventional potable water, it may even be less toxic than many sources of water we already drink daily, Stanford University engineers have discovered. … The engineers found that, after treatment, potable reuse water is cleaner than conventional drinking water sourced from pristine-looking rivers. In most rivers, someone upstream is dumping in their wastewater with much less treatment than occurs in potable reuse systems. Conventional wastewater treatment plants just aren’t equipped to deep clean. This leaves many organic contaminants, such as chemicals from shampoos and medicines, floating down river and straight into a drinking water plant.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

LA suit over Monsanto PCB water contamination clears first legal hurdle

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

Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

Southern California beaches under high bacteria warning after heavy rainfall

Beaches across Southern California have been placed under a high bacteria and high surf warning after heavy rainstorms covered the southland on Tuesday. The public is being advised to stay out of the water across all Los Angeles County beaches due to possible heightened levels of bacteria caused by “storm drainage, chemicals, debris, trash, and other public health hazards,” said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The advisory for all L.A. County beaches will last until Thursday at 3 p.m. People who enter the ocean water during this period could become ill, officials warned.  The bacteria and debris typically seep from nearby city streets and mountain areas, likely contaminating ocean waters around discharging storm drains, creeks and rivers after rainstorms, officials said.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: White sturgeon – Is an ancient survivor facing extinction in California?

In California, sturgeon populations have persisted through periods of extreme overfishing, sedimentation and mercury contamination from hydraulic mining, species invasions, and alteration of rivers by dams and levees (Zeug et al. 2014, Gunderson et al. 2017, Blackburn et al. 2019). … Suddenly, the future of these ancient fish does not seem so secure. Between late August and early September, 2022, hundreds of sturgeon perished in the San Francisco Estuary. According to Jim Hobbs, program manager for the Interagency Ecological Program at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Bay Delta office, “the white sturgeon carcass count total will be over 400 and the total for green was 15. ”

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

California county can sue prison over Clean Water Act violations

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

Aquafornia news Nature Sustainability

New research: Toxicological assessment of potable reuse and conventional drinking waters

Potable reuse, the process of treating wastewater to drinkable standards, offers a reliable and sustainable solution to cities and regions facing shortages of clean water. However, implementation is hindered by perceptions of poor water quality and potential health threats. Herein, we compare water samples from potable reuse systems with conventional drinking waters based on the analysis of Chinese hamster ovary cell cytotoxicity contributed by disinfection by-products (DBPs) and sewage-derived anthropogenic contaminants. In all cases, the cytotoxicity of potable reuse waters is lower than that of drinking waters derived from surface waters.

As Drought Shrinks the Colorado River, A SoCal Giant Seeks Help from River Partners to Fortify its Local Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Metropolitan Water District's wastewater recycling project draws support from Arizona and Nevada, which hope to gain a share of Metropolitan's river supply

Metropolitan Water District's advanced water treatment demonstration plant in Carson. Momentum is building for a unique interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern California homes and business into relief for the stressed Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water agencies.  

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

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

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

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Can Providing Bathrooms to Homeless Protect California’s Water Quality?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: The connection between homelessness and water is gaining attention under California human right to water law and water quality concerns

A homeless camp set up along the Sacramento River near downtown Sacramento. Each day, people living on the streets and camping along waterways across California face the same struggle – finding clean drinking water and a place to wash and go to the bathroom.

Some find friendly businesses willing to help, or public restrooms and drinking water fountains. Yet for many homeless people, accessing the water and sanitation that most people take for granted remains a daily struggle.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater Gary Pitzer

As Californians Save More Water, Their Sewers Get Less and That’s a Problem
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Lower flows damage equipment, concentrate waste and stink up neighborhoods; should water conservation focus shift outdoors?

Corrosion is evident in this wastewater pipe from Los Angeles County.Californians have been doing an exceptional job reducing their indoor water use, helping the state survive the most recent drought when water districts were required to meet conservation targets. With more droughts inevitable, Californians are likely to face even greater calls to save water in the future.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

‘Mission-Oriented’ Colorado River Veteran Takes the Helm as the US Commissioner of IBWC
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Jayne Harkins’ duties include collaboration with Mexico on Colorado River supply, water quality issues

Jayne Harkins, the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission.For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.

Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.

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.

Aquapedia background

Septic Systems

In rural areas with widely dispersed houses, reliance upon a centralized sewer system is not practical compared to individual wastewater treatment methods. These on-site management facilities – or septic systems – are more commonplace given their simpler structure, efficiency and easy maintenance.

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

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform Bacteria as Indices

Directly detecting harmful pathogens in water can be expensive, unreliable and incredibly complicated. Fortunately, certain organisms are known to consistently coexist with these harmful microbes which are substantially easier to detect and culture: coliform bacteria. These generally non-toxic organisms are frequently used as “indicator species,” or organisms whose presence demonstrates a particular feature of its surrounding environment.

Aquapedia background

Biochemical Oxygen Demand

The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of water determines the impact of decaying matter on species in a specific ecosystem. Sampling for BOD tests how much oxygen is needed by bacteria to break down the organic matter.

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.


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.


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.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.


Layperson’s Guide to California Wastewater
Published 2013

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to California Wastewater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the history of wastewater treatment and how wastewater is collected, conveyed, treated and disposed of today. The guide also offers case studies of different treatment plants and their treatment processes.


Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater

Wastewater Treatment Process in California

Wastewater management in California centers on the collection, conveyance, treatment, reuse and disposal of wastewater. This process is conducted largely by public agencies, though there are also private systems in places where a publicly owned treatment plant is not feasible.

In California, wastewater treatment takes place through 100,000 miles of sanitary sewer lines and at more than 900 wastewater treatment plants that manage the roughly 4 billion gallons of wastewater generated in the state each day.

Western Water Magazine

A Drought-Proof Supply: The Promise of Recycled Water
July/August 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines recycled water – its use, the ongoing issues and the prospects it holds for extending water supplies.