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
Non-potable uses include:
landscape and crop irrigation
stream and wetlands enhancement
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
Studies conducted in multiple countries in recent months have
detected the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in treated and
untreated wastewater, but to this date there has been no
evidence of a person contracting the virus through wastewater
or swimming areas.
The work, which begins June 29, will complete critical
improvements to the North Shore Force Main (NSFM), a
pressurized sewer pipeline that transports wastewater in
northern San Francisco to the Southeast Treatment Plant in the
Bayview, which treats 80 percent of the City’s wastewater.
The state of California, city of Imperial Beach, and the
Surfrider Foundation have agreed to a 12-month stay in
litigation over cross-border sewage flowing in from Mexico
while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focuses work on
the Tijuana River Valley.
The June 17 meeting of the Eastern Municipal Water District
included approving the purchase of groundwater monitoring
equipment for the West San Jacinto Basin, approving a
consultant contract for the final design of the Hemet Water
Filtration Plant sodium hypochlorite tank replacement, and
awarding Pacific Hydrotech Corporation a contract to replace
the booster engines at the Pat Road facility.
Local officials in Oregon, California, New York, Utah, Florida
and many other places are collecting sewage samples to test for
coronavirus, which experts say could allow for detection of
hotspots for the disease before the diagnosis of clinical
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District is
constructing the $375 million South Sacramento County
Agriculture & Habitat Lands Recycled Water Program, or the
South County Ag Program. As part of the wastewater provider’s
$2 billion treatment plant upgrade, the district will construct
new distribution pipelines to deliver recycled water from its
to irrigation systems in southern Sacramento County.
We checked in with Chad Davisson, General Manager of Ironhouse
Sanitary District in eastern Contra Costa County. He and
his team are getting wipes problems under control with
technology, monitoring, operational changes and widespread
public outreach. Then the pandemic hit, a TP shortage occurred
and the amount of trash entering their sewer system spiked to
unprecedented levels. We asked Chad how they dealt with these
The Tribe has been working with Sonoma County to develop 147
housing units as well as a resort and winery. Now that this
ongoing development can be performed on land officially held in
trust by the U.S. federal government, the Tribe is no longer
subject to local land use restrictions. As such, the Lytton
Tribe must assess all potential options to best meet future
wastewater needs. Collaboration with their Windsor neighbors as
well as an environmental assessment identified two primary
Tehama County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. A number of
cases have been identified in the Corning area, according to
city officials. … The county says a private company, Biobot
Analytics, tested samples from the Corning Wastewater Treatment
Plant each week in May to estimate the actual number of people
who might be infected.
Water pollution from Tijuana sewage runoff has once again
shuttered the Imperial Beach shoreline. The County of San Diego
Department of Environmental Health on Saturday extended north
the existing beach water-contact closure area at the Tijuana
Slough shoreline to now also include the Imperial Beach
Both United States and Mexican officials announced separate
plans Tuesday to upgrade Tijuana River wastewater facilities.
The international river has been a longtime problem for
residents of Imperial Beach and Tijuana, as sewage and trash
from the river have spilled into the Pacific Ocean for decades,
often closing beaches near the border and damaging natural
habitats along the river.
Water agencies in California typically include water recycling
in their water supply portfolios, but the ones that serve
smaller populations may not be able to implement full-blown
reuse programs all at once. The City of Paso Robles, home to
approximately 30,000 residents, shows it’s possible to build
water resilience without building an advanced purification
The County of San Diego has released a report that identifies
27 projects that could potentially reduce the flow of sewage
from Mexico into the U.S. and Tijuana River Valley each year by
as much as 91%, from 138 days to 12. The report, the Tijuana
River Valley Needs and Opportunities Assessment, identifies
strategies to manage impacts from sewage, trash, and sediment
on the U.S. side of the border.
The City of San Mateo’s Clean Water Program is progressing to
Phase 2 of the upgrade and expansion of its wastewater
treatment plant on Detroit Drive. … The wastewater treatment
plant upgrade is the largest component of the $1 billion,
decade-long Clean Water Program.
In places like the United States where testing of residents has
lagged, a central sampling point has the added appeal of
simplicity, compared to the rigors of clinical testing. Why jab
thousands of people per day with nasal swabs if sewage holds
the same answers?
On Wednesday, Special Districts received results for samples
taken on May 12, showing the presence of the virus at the
Southeast Regional and Northwest Regional Plants. Officials
said results have been significantly delayed as consultant
Biobot has become overwhelmed with hundreds of agencies and
municipalities joining their project. Results for May 19 and
May 26 samples remain pending, the county reported.
Thousands of people in Marina are being blocked from full
representation on the board of a regional water agency, a
casualty of a larger battle over the water future of the
Monterey Peninsula. The agency is Monterey One Water, and it is
responsible for treating sewage.
EPA will convene an Interagency Consultation Group comprised of
senior-level members from key U.S. federal, state, and local
agencies, as listed in the USMCA legislation. EPA will also
manage a binational technical expert consultation process to
ensure infrastructure options are informed by the best
available technical and scientific information.
While drain clogs aren’t new, most of the more than 15 cities
contacted by The Associated Press said they’ve become a more
costly and time consuming headache during the pandemic.
Home-bound Americans are seeking alternatives to bathroom
tissue because of occasional shortages, while stepping up
efforts to sanitize their dwellings and themselves.
U.S. policymakers understand quite well the impact of Mexico’s
wastewater management on American communities. What they fail
to comprehend is that the ongoing border sewage crisis is
rooted in a longer history of U.S. imperialism and private
enterprise in the San Diego-Tijuana region.
The lab aims to understand not only the current circulation of
the novel coronavirus, but also project what capacity must be
built in the future to combat a potential second wave,
according to Laurie Van De Werfhorst, a senior staff scientist
who’s worked with Dr. Patricia Holden for almost 19 years.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $196
million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)
loan to the Inland Empire Utilities Agency in San Bernardino
County, California. The loan will help finance expanded
wastewater treatment capacity to support public health and the
environment in this growing community.
The term “crisis on the border” typically refers to immigration
issues or drugs being smuggled into the country. But it has one
more meaning, as we discovered, when we went to the border in
early February: tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage that
spill every year into the Tijuana River on the Mexican side and
flow across the border right into Southern California,
polluting the land, air, and sea.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, May 28,
gave a $196.4 million loan to the Inland Empire Utilities
Agency to expand its wastewater treatment plant in Chino. …
More wastewater treatment capacity is needed as Chino and
neighboring cities served by the plant add residential and
It’s been more than a decade since discussions began about what
would happen to wastewater if the Lytton Tribe were to have
their lands west of town put into federal trust. At its May 20
meeting, the Windsor Town Council voted unanimously to move
forward to the next step, creating an agreement to have the
wastewater treated in the town’s facility.
In hundreds of cities across the USA, scientists hope
monitoring systems will provide an early warning if coronavirus
infections reemerge as communities in some states cautiously
reopen. These monitors don’t rely on testing patients or
tracing contacts. All that’s required? Human waste.
The nation’s environmental watchdog may investigate federal
enforcement of water policy in California after Democratic
lawmakers accused the Trump administration of “irregular”
interference targeting San Francisco, according to a letter
sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Technology is revolutionizing wastewater systems, which require
a lot of maintenance but are difficult to access under the
surface. Ari Goldfarb and Itai Boneh of Kando, a wastewater
solutions company, examine how technology is improving
wastewater systems and how Covid-19 is having an impact.
The council will consider a resolution approving an agreement
between the town of Windsor/Windsor Water District and the
Lytton Rancheria of California for the extension and provision
of wastewater services for residential development and
ancillary cultural, community and tribal government facilities
on the land located west of Windsor.
To provide further clarification on the virus that causes
COVID-19 infections, and concerns about how it relates to
residuals, sludge, and biosolids for water resource recovery
facilities as well as the wastewater sector at large, this
article includes a review of available data related to the
virus and surrogates as well as their potential associations
with residuals, sludge, and biosolids.
Rates will be reduced by 35 percent for sewer bills, 30 percent
for Hetch Hetchy public power utility bills, and 15 percent for
water bills for those who have a SFPUC residential account
under their name, have experienced income loss due to COVID-19
or the resulting shelter-in-place order, and a maximum income
under 200 percent of the area median income.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed spending
$300 million to address the problem of toxic sewage flowing
across the border into San Diego County, legislators announced
Tuesday. The money would be part of the United
States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act, and will be
used for the engineering, planning, design and construction of
wastewater infrastructure at the border, officials said.
As a result of compliance with conservation measures through
lower indoor water use, the amount of wastewater effluent was
reduced. This reduction means less water for recycling and
reuse — a source of water often thought of as drought-proof —
and less water for stream augmentation, with a consequence of
potentially impacting streamflow and downstream water
Scientists across the nation are examining Southern
California’s poop — maybe even yours — with the hope of more
quickly identifying COVID-19 hotspots and better preparing for
future surges. The information could also signal when
stay-at-home orders can be safely eased in specific
The latest testing of raw sewage at Lake County Special
Districts’ four treatment facilities found no presence of the
virus that causes COVID-19 at any of the plants late in April,
despite the fact that samples earlier in the month confirmed
The industry and its advocates … are backing a two-phase plan
to extend a lifeline to water utilities and customers who
cannot pay their bills during an economic crisis, and to invest
for the future. Step one in the plan is the provision of
emergency assistance to both groups. There is still a debate
about the size of an aid package for utilities and the most
efficient and effective way of helping customers. But $1.5
billion in customer assistance is a common starting point in
While wastewater surveillance has been used for years in
developing countries to detect outbreaks of polio, in the U.S.,
it has been used more recently to track opioid use within
communities. A spokesperson for the CDC confirmed that the
agency is eyeing wastewater as part of its response to the
pandemic, though it is not yet doing so.
Researchers say the virus can be detected in untreated
wastewater within days of infection and as much as two weeks
before a person grows ill enough to seek medical care — that
is, if symptoms ever materialize at all.
The Water Environment Federation has published the first of a
series of video roundtable discussions with executive leaders
from across the water sector. These discussions will discuss
how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting operations, business,
FEMA, through a joint effort with the US Environmental
Protection Agency and the California Water-Wastewater Agency
Response Network … is providing a limited supply of cloth
facemasks to California water and wastewater agencies. Although
the distribution is being handled by CalWARN, you do not need
to be a CalWARN member to request and pick up the cloth
West County Wastewater and East Bay Municipal Utility District
announced a recycled water partnership that will preserve
valuable drinking water for the region and support West County
Wastewater’s ongoing mission of environmental stewardship and
protecting public health.
South Bay leaders are once again calling for action to fix
cross border pollution. … Tuesday, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge
Dedina told FOX 5 that the Tijuana sewage system has collapsed
and is spewing about 60 million gallons of untreated sewage
each day in the river.
From Stanford to the University of Arizona, from Australia to
Paris, teams of researchers have been ramping up wastewater
analyses to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that
causes COVID-19. Initial studies show that sewage monitoring,
or “wastewater-based-epidemiology,” could not only tell us how
much the virus might actually be spreading in a community — but
also when the virus has finally gone away.
The EPA has been too busy responding to the deadly coronavirus
to work on its long-awaited proposal to manage huge volumes of
pathogen-infested sewage and stormwater during heavy rains, the
agency’s top wastewater official said Wednesday.
While most of the Earth has been singularly obsessed with an
invisible virus from a foreign land, in this California beach
town, it’s a “crisis on top of crisis’. Not only dealing with
the creepy disease we can’t see, but a river of toxic waste
from a foreign land that we can see, but chose to ignore.
A new poll by the Value of Water Campaign released today shows
that 84 percent of American voters want state and federal
leaders to invest in water infrastructure. The near-unanimous
support amid the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that voters value
water and want elected officials to prioritize investing in
infrastructure — specifically, drinking water and wastewater
The Court decision introduces the concept of a “functional
equivalent of a direct discharge” as a guideline for when a
point source discharge must obtain a permit. It cites the case
of an injection well receiving pollutant discharge that then
travels a few feet through groundwater into navigable waters as
a clear case of “functional equivalent” to direct discharge.
Most businesses across the country and certainly in the
Coachella Valley are dealing with the fallout from the
coronavirus crisis on a daily basis. Beverli Marshall, however,
believes her business might not feel the sting of the
coronavirus for months yet — ultimately, about the same amount
of time it’ll take something that shouldn’t be flushed down a
toilet or rinsed down a drain to make it through the waste
water system of Valley Sanitary in Indio.
Ten Bay Area counties, coordinated by the East Bay Municipal
Utility District, are giving samples of sewage water to
researchers at Stanford for testing. The scientists have
received samples once a week for about the past two months, and
results are expected soon.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Clean Water Act
applies to some pollutants that reach the sea and other protected
waters indirectly through groundwater. The case, County of Maui
v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, No. 18-260, concerned a wastewater
treatment plant on Maui, Hawaii, that used injection wells to
dispose of some four million gallons of treated sewage each
For the April 15th collection systems webinar, we asked
attendees if their agency is experiencing INCREASED maintenance
because of wipes? 64% of the 165 agencies represented said yes
they are experiencing O&M problems due to more wipes in the
system. … Another startling finding was 77% of 191 agencies
surveyed said they are struggling to find PPE supplies. The
most common items those agencies are looking for are face
masks, hand sanitizer and gloves.
Utilities are reporting in industry surveys that they are low
primarily on the specialized N95 masks that block viruses and
other tiny particles. If the virus rampages throughout a
utility’s work force the way it has in meat-processing
facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and South Dakota, it could
jeopardize the treatment and delivery of drinking water and the
proper handling of sewage and stormwater.
Two bipartisan draft water infrastructure bills unveiled this
week by the Senate environment committee are a good start but
will need even more funding in the wake of the coronavirus
pandemic, water agencies and other groups said Wednesday.
Results from recent testing conducted at all of the sewer
treatment plants operated by Lake County Special Districts have
revealed the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. …
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that
while SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the feces of some
patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the amount of virus released
from the body in stool, how long the virus is shed and whether
the virus in stool is infectious are not known.
Following efforts to increase safety measures throughout all
City departments to stop the spread of COVID-19, San Diego
Mayor Kevin Faulconer toured the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant
on Friday to observe increased safety protocols. He also
thanked City employees as they continue to deliver safe,
reliable water to over 1.4 million San Diegans.
As federal, state, and local leaders look to provide economic
relief, they must pay special attention to the support and
protection of our current infrastructure workforce.
Additionally, this moment offers an opportunity that we may not
see again anytime soon: the chance to jumpstart long-term
infrastructure careers for millions of prospective workers
Environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) over a March memo signaling that the agency would
not seek penalties against companies that do not monitor their
pollution during the coronavirus outbreak.
The number of supporters in Congress for utility assistance in
the next Covid-19 package continues to grow. One hundred ten
Democratic members of the House and Senate sent a letter today
to congressional leaders, requesting financial aid to utilities
and the people they serve during the coronavirus pandemic.
Two-thirds of water utilities say that changes in water demand
and customer payments during the coronavirus pandemic will
cause cash flow problems within the next two months or more.
That’s one of the takeaways from a survey of more than 500
water utilities conducted at the end of March by the American
Water Works Association
Southern California Edison, the operators of the San Onofre
Nuclear Generating Station, is still investigating what caused
the release of 7,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean last
month but it appears the culprits were a blockage in the
facility’s sewage treatment plant and a worn out pump switch.
Californians reuse treated wastewater as a water supply, to
irrigate crops, and to support freshwater ecosystems. To get
answers to questions about managing the new coronavirus in the
“sewershed,” we talked to two experts: Kara Nelson, an expert
in waterborne pathogens at UC Berkeley; and Adam Link,
executive director of the California Association of Sanitation
Napa Sanitation District is planning a $15 million project to
rehabilitate a deteriorating pipe that carries 90 percent of
local sewage to the wastewater treatment plant and has no
backup. … The half-century-old, 66-inch-diameter concrete
pipe transports raw sewage three miles from the city of Napa to
the wastewater treatment plant near the airport industrial
area. A district report calls it the “backbone” of the sewer
If you’re a Central Valley farmer and haven’t yet been hit up
by someone about reusing crummy water for irrigation — just
wait. Companies are springing up all over with the latest gizmo
they believe will take nasty, salty water, mostly from shallow
aquifers on the valley’s west side or oilfield produced water,
and make clean “new” irrigation water.
On this episode of our podcast, Parts Per Billion, we speak
with California correspondent Emily C. Dooley about some of the
strange environmental trends that have popped up in her state
and elsewhere as a result of the pandemic and its economic
In a time when many people in the world are inside their houses
to stop the spread of covid-19, it is easy to forget that good
news still exists. The Environmental Protection Agency’s
National Water Reuse Action Plan is a bit of good news. The
Plan, announced on February 27, 2020, by EPA Administration
Andrew Wheeler, prioritizes the use of recycled water.
Today’s declaration of a local emergency grants general
manager, Craig Miller, increased flexibility to make critical
operational decisions and acquire vital financial, material,
and human resources to support business continuity. This action
ensures the essential water and wastewater (sewer) services
that Western provides remain as reliable as ever.
The effluent is hauled ashore on barges, hit with a dose of
disinfectant, then deposited into a huge East Bay Municipal
Utility District sewer main called the Alameda Interceptor.
From there, the material joins the underground river of
everything else that’s been flushed down local toilets and
flows to the agency’s wastewater treatment plant at the foot of
the Bay Bridge.
In an alert to state regulators, Southern California Edison,
which operates the power station, said an unexpected surge of
wastewater led to an “upset” at the treatment plant that
morning, triggering an alarm but allowing the sewage to flow
through a 6,000-foot pipe out into the ocean before workers
could turn off the pumps.
States around the country say they won’t penalize water and
wastewater utilities for failing to meet Clean Water Act permit
requirements due to delays caused by the deadly coronavirus if
those delays are justified and documented. Delays, for example,
could be caused by utility staff who test and monitor water
quality—or lab workers who analyze it—being quarantined with
A sudden influx of water at the sewage treatment facility at
the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station early Wednesday
morning led to about 7,000 gallons of partially treated
wastewater being released about a mile into the Pacific.
Officials at Southern California Edison, the plant’s operator,
said the sewage amounted to a “non-radiological release”…
Thanks to people hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus
pandemic, some Californians have completely run out of bathroom
tissue. So what do they do when nature calls? They improvise.
And that, communities are discovering, can cause problems. Big,
stinky, overflowing problems.
Water agencies throughout the West are changing their
operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities
and farms don’t run dry. Their responses range from extreme
measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical
workers don’t succumb to the virus.
Highlighting the threat that coronavirus poses to basic public
health systems around California and the nation, a worker at
San Jose’s wastewater treatment plant — a facility that treats
the sewage from 1.5 million people in San Jose and seven other
cities — has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is a
janitor working as part of a contract company.
Many are then tossing the disinfectant wipes, paper towels and
other paper products they used into the toilet. The result has
been a coast-to-coast surge in backed-up sewer lines and
overflowing toilets, according to plumbers and public
officials, who have pleaded with Americans to spare the
nation’s pipes from further strain.
As the state grapples with the ripple effects of the
coronavirus outbreak, California’s Water Board says residents
should not flush disinfecting wipes or paper towels, or risk
dealing with backed-up plumbing and sewers.
The Water and Wastewater Pathway at Indian Springs High School
is strategically located near East Valley Water District’s new
state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility. The Sterling
Natural Resource Center (SNRC) will provide a sustainable new
water supply to boost the region’s water independence.
California residents who are not able to pay their water,
sewer, energy or communications bills during the state’s novel
coronavirus state of emergency will not be at risk of having
their services shut off, the California Public Utilities
Commission said Tuesday.
Wipes and paper towels do not break down like toilet paper does
in water. They are stronger, and many wipes include plastics
and materials like nylon. That means bad news for sewer
systems, some of which already are experiencing problems during
the coronavirus crisis.
Innocent consumer substitutions due to shortages caused by
fears about the spread of coronovirus could create serious
consequences which are critical to society and life, according
to leading supply chain academic Prof Richard Wilding. The
warning comes amid panic buying sweeping UK supermarkets…
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
recently released guidance for wastewater workers, reporting
that coronaviruses are vulnerable to the same disinfection
techniques used currently in the health care sector.
In a part of the country where freshwater supplies are often
scarce, the Olivenhain (California) Municipal Water District is
doing its part. The 4S Ranch Water Reclamation Facility
recycles some 1 million gallons of high-quality effluent each
day for irrigation and shares even more with neighboring
Beaches were closed on Tuesday from the Mexico border to
Coronado as rain flushed sewage-contaminated runoff from
Tijuana into the San Diego region. “Things have gotten worse
than ever,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.
The City of Morro Bay is getting a $62 million loan from the
Environmental Protection Agency to replace its aging wastewater
treatment plant. The new facility will be located near the
intersection of South Bay Blvd. and Highway 1.
The new career prep program was created out of a partnership
between the school district and water district that is linked
to the development of East Valley Water District’s
Sterling Natural Resource Center water recycling plant now
under construction across Sixth Street from the high school.
An environmental watchdog group has filed lawsuits against the
cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale alleging that the cities’
aging sewer systems are leaking bacteria from human feces into
stormwater drainage systems, contaminating local creeks and
ultimately the Bay.
The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board issued an
investigative order in February that requires more monitoring
of sewage-tainted cross-border flows. The order requires the
International Boundary and Water Commission to monitor more
than a dozen locations over an 18-month period.
A handful of protesters marched outside the Mexican Consulate
in Little Italy, protesting cross border sewage flows. They
want Mexico to do more to fix the problem. Polluted water has
routinely flowed from Mexico into the United States since
December. “We feel like we’re not getting heard,” said Mitch
McKay, president of Citizens for Coastal Conservancy.
A sewage spill that occurred a day before Thanksgiving last
year prompted the Laguna Beach City Council to move forward
with a one-time sewer rate increase Tuesday that will account
for the financial fallout. Pending the result of a protest vote
by ratepayers, the 10% increase ups bills for single-family
homes to $800 annually, or $66.67 per month. The hike could
take effect as early as July 1.
Officials in the city of Tehachapi approved new water and sewer
fees — in case new housing developments start moving in — to
support the construction of infrastructure that can’t quite
support projected growth in the next 10 years.
The town of Fairfield is moving forward with a project to
better protect its wastewater treatment plant from large storms
and sea level rise. According to a press release from First
Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, the project will cost a total of
$7.4 million but $3.33 million will be funded through a grant
from the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Developments’ (US HUD) Community Development Block Grant -
Reportedly a number of Mariposa County residents don’t believe
the Mariposa Public Utility District’s (MPUD) decades-old
sewage management system could provide service to potential new
motels or hotels and multi-family housing units. … In fact,
upon completion of the current retrofit and upgrade, MPUD
officials say the wastewater treatment facility could easily
handle three times as much capacity as it now processes.
City staff recommends Pleasanton sign on to a potentially $1
million task order with three other Tri-Valley public water
agencies for preliminary studies and community outreach … to
explore the possibility of supplementing the local water supply
with recycled water treated for drinking purposes, better known
as potable reuse water.
A Bay Area environmental group has sued the cities of Sunnyvale
and Mountain View, saying they are in violation of the federal
Clean Water Act for discharging raw sewage and polluted storm
water into creeks, sending bacteria pollution to levels more
than 50 times legal limits.
This week the California Regional Water Quality Control Board
and the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District agreed to the
financial settlement over one of the district’s largest sewage
spills in recent memory.
With the backing of an unusual mix of local Democrats,
Republicans, Border Patrol agents and environmental groups,
House Democrats leveraged their support for the trade bill —
one of Trump’s highest priorities — to secure the
administration’s rare backing for an environmental project.
Each group played a part.
Vast amounts of valuable energy, agricultural nutrients, and
water could potentially be recovered from the world’s
fast-rising volume of municipal wastewater, according to a new
study by UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water,
Environment and Health.
Borrego Solar is under contract to build … a 5 megawatt solar
facility at Manteca’s municipal wastewater treatment plant.
Interim City Manager Miranda Ludlow has indicated Manteca is in
talks with a number of firms to hammer out a solar power
Two Italian-style restaurants have drawn generations of diners
to Occidental while serving pasta, pizza and soup — in recent
years under the burden of the steepest sewage treatment rates
in Sonoma County and among the highest in California. … There
could be some help coming from Graton, about 6 miles to the
east with an underutilized wastewater plant… But there’s a
Water-related projects topped the list of infrastructure
priorities for mayors, according to the 2019 Menino Survey of
Mayors released this month. Why it matters: The survey revealed
urgency around investments in water, wastewater and stormwater
facilities, with mayors 10 percentage points more likely to
focus on that issue than four years ago.
Fracta combines artificial intelligence with machine learning
and measures everything from soil quality to population density
of an area, along with historical information on when pipes
were installed and what they are made of. The startup says it
has already won contracts in 23 states, including cities such
as San Francisco and Oakland, which have faced water shortages.
A new law in California took effect Jan. 1 and requires
industrial business owners applying to a city or county for a
new or renewed business license to demonstrate enrollment in a
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System stormwater
permit, if it’s required. … Failure to comply will result in
delay or denial of a business license, effectively prohibiting
the business from starting its operations.
One of the things that we humans have struggled with for
centuries, and some countries continue to do so, is how to
dispose of sewage and wastewater. People whose sewage is
treated in Arcata have a big advantage that has been copied
many thousands of times across the world. The Arcata wastewater
treatment center and the marsh are the result of science and
engineering that is currently under review.
The Environmental Protection Agency has made it easier for
cities to keep dumping raw sewage into rivers by letting them
delay or otherwise change federally imposed fixes to their
sewer systems, according to interviews with local officials,
water utilities and their lobbyists.
For decades, California’s coastal aquifers have been plagued by
invading seawater, turning pristine wells into salty ruins. But
the state’s coastal water agencies now plan to get more
aggressive in holding back the invasion by injecting millions
of gallons of treated sewage and other purified wastewater deep
The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, located just south of
LAX, purifies water and injects it into the ground to act as a
barrier between seawater and fresh groundwater. … But the
idea is to one day recycle wastewater into drinking water and
put it right back into the system. The industry is moving
cautiously, though, given what you might call a considerable
“ick” factor for the public.
On Jan. 11 homeowners, administrators and local officials broke
ground on the sewer project for the Larkfield neighborhoods,
which had been leveled by the 2017 fires. The project has been
a source of conversation and negotiation, as the homes had
previously been on individual septic systems.
An explosion rocked a portion of a Corona wastewater treatment
facility Friday but no injuries or chemical releases were
reported, city officials said in a news release. The cause of
the explosion is under investigation by the Corona Fire
Department and the Department of Water and Power.
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
The increasing spills that have polluted the Tijuana River Valley
and ocean off Imperial Beach have resulted in frustration and
anger in recent years, but also triggered broad political
collaboration at the local, state and federal level that has put
the region on the brink of real action.
Nobody seems to know why a rope that caused a nearly weeklong
boil-water advisory in Poway was there in the first place. The
rope had been hanging on a wall in a vault adjacent to the
clearwell drinking water reservoir and a stormwater drain. When
heavy rains on Nov. 28 and 29 caused the stormwater to surge
and back up into the vault, somehow the rope became lodged in a
swing gate allowing muddy water to leak into the reservoir…
A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water
pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally storing and transporting
hazardous waste and agreed to a $5 million fine, federal
prosecutors said. The waste was produced by filtering arsenic
out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC’s facility
in Owens Valley, authorities said.
A piece of rope “inexplicably” became lodged in a valve
separating a 10-million gallon reservoir from a storm drain in
late November, causing a nearly week-long, costly boil-water
advisory in Poway, a report prepared by the city for the state
Evaporation ponds, which are commonly used in many industries
to manage wastewater, can span acres, occupying a large
footprint and often posing risks to birds and other wildlife.
… Now researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated a way to double
the rate of evaporation by using solar energy and taking
advantage of water’s inherent properties.
Nearly two months after the Kincade fire was fully contained in
northeastern Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is struggling with an
after-effect of the massive blaze: its wastewater disposal
pipeline at The Geysers was disabled for six weeks, backing up
the Sebastopol-area plant with about 400 million gallons of
San Francisco officials were quick to dispute Trump’s claims.
But some of California’s most prized rivers, beaches and
streams are indeed contaminated with levels of fecal bacteria
that exceed state limits, threatening kayakers, swimmers — and
the state’s reputation as a bastion of environmental
The company, Watsonville-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., was
accused of polluting a South Bay creek with manure for years,
despite orders and warnings dating back to the 1980s. The
judgment, the largest for a water pollution lawsuit in county
history, will be used in part to restore the damaged Fisher
Passing the new North American free trade agreement would mean
millions of dollars to help upgrade sewage infrastructure on
the border, say the agreement’s backers. But an environmental
group and a local organization on the U.S.-Mexico border say
it’s not enough.
During its 10 years, the Ellis Wastewater Treatment Facility
has reshaped itself to take in waste produced by a rapidly
changing city, factoring in an increased population and new
industries like large-scale beer production. Recently-completed
projects costing roughly $9 million have changed the face of
the wastewater facility by expanding treatment capacity,
tackling hard-to-process industry waste and building a system
that will provide biofuel to city vehicles.
The new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement reached
Tuesday commits the federal government to provide $300 million
for the Border Water Infrastructure Program to address
pollution on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the Tijuana
River Valley region, where millions of gallons of raw sewage,
heavy metals and other contaminants regularly flow from Tijuana
to San Diego.
The city mailed notices to Simi Valley property owners (not
renters) proposing raising sewer rates about 40% over the next
five years to pay for much-needed upgrades to the city’s sewer
system. The sewer treatment plant and many of the underground
pipes are nearly 50 years old. The plant must be upgraded and
many sections of pipe replaced.
Elected leaders from across South Bay San Diego announced
Tuesday a joint effort aimed at pressuring the federal
government to support a long-term fix to the sewage pollution
that routinely flows over the border from Tijuana, fouling
beaches as far north as Coronado.
Frogs are delaying another wastewater treatment facility
project, this time at the South San Luis Obispo County
Sanitation District in Oceano. The South SLO County Sanitation
District members are working to upgrade the nearly 50 year old
facility, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is
concerned construction could impact the California red-legged
frog, a species on the verge of being endangered.
Authorities have reopened about six miles of Orange County
ocean and bay water areas closed by a 1.4-million-gallon sewage
spill. … The estimated amount of the spill was revised down
from 4 million gallons. The city of Laguna Beach said
wastewater began leaking Wednesday afternoon from a broken
valve on a 24-inch city sewage pipe near Aliso and Wood Canyons
Through a variety of panel discussions, presentations and a
showcase of student research, the Re:Border conference is
exploring how San Diego State University and its regional
partners can contribute to innovative solutions for
water-related challenges in the transborder region.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
A group of California Democrats on Monday pressed the EPA’s
internal watchdog to investigate whether the agency has
retaliated against their state for political reasons, including
by threatening to withhold federal funds for multiple
The Environmental Protection Agency fanned the flames of an
ongoing dispute with San Francisco on Thursday, reaffirming its
stance that the city’s water agency improperly discharges
wastewater into the ocean. In a letter to the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, EPA officials reiterated their
assessment that the city was out of step with its wastewater
discharge permit, which regulates water quality standards.
A $32.6 million addition to a water treatment facility rising
out of the ground under giant cranes will turn waste into
electricity, and provide education, jobs and more to an
underserved community, according to the East Valley Water
District. A co-digester added to the Sterling Natural Resource
Center project will turn sewage and food waste into three
megawatts of power per year, enough to power about 1,950
Thousands of gallons of partially treated wastewater was
released from California Men’s Colony into Chorro Creek
Thursday morning, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health
department said… Approximately 33,000 gallons of wastewater
were released from the prison north of San Luis Obispo…
The treatment plant isn’t only at risk from rising sea levels
… but also from rising groundwater and tectonic forces
causing the land to sink, according to the 2018 assessment
compiled by local sea level rise expert Alderon Laird. Laird
has said to expect .9 feet of sea level rising by 2030, 1.9
feet by 2050 and 3.2 feet by 2070. … Arcata city officials
are discussing moving the treatment … but that’s too
expensive to do right now.
The board charged with overseeing the water quality in much of
the San Francisco Bay Area unanimously approved a plan
requiring local businesses, residents and government agencies
to reduce the amount of fecal bacteria they put into the
Petaluma River watershed, including San Antonio Creek.
Ponds at wastewater treatment plants are like magnets for birds
and bird-watchers, especially those along the migration flyway
in California’s Central Valley area. Among them is the Clear
Creek plant in Redding, along the Sacramento River, which
serves as its receiving stream.
Although still relegated largely to populated areas in such
water-challenged states as California, Arizona, Texas, and
Florida, water reuse is gaining ground in other areas. At the
same time, the focus of water reuse increasingly is shifting to
On September 10, 2019, at the 34th Annual WateReuse Symposium
in San Diego, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a
draft National Water Reuse Action Plan for public
comment—containing 46 proposed actions, to be accomplished by a
mix of federal, state, private, local and private stakeholders,
in order to promote 10 strategic objectives.
Orange County’s wastewater recycling program, a pioneering idea
that’s already touted as the largest of its type in the world,
is about to get bigger. Big enough, in fact, to serve the tap
water needs of about 1 million residents, according to the
Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation
How do we mitigate the “yuck factor” that many people have
about reclaimed water use, when it’s been proven safe and
effective elsewhere? These concerns were discussed at
GreenerBuilder 2019, USGBC’s conference in the Pacific region,
hosted in San Francisco, where industry experts from across the
state led a panel discussion on tactics to improve onsite water
The revamped and expanded plant is expected to be operational
in spring 2021 and will do so with a new name — The Rosamond
CSD Water Reclamation Plant — to better describe its ultimate
purpose. In addition to handling the community’s wastewater
disposal, the plant will recharge the underlying groundwater
basin, providing additional groundwater for the District to
Winding westward along Marin County’s northern border, San
Antonio Creek encompasses about 20 percent of the Petaluma
River watershed. While the state has continuously designated
the main stem of the Petaluma River a contaminated water body
due to excessive levels of bacteria tied to fecal matter since
1975, San Antonio Creek, a tributary to the river, has gone
unaffected by the river’s bacteria problem. Until now.
A species of frog made famous by a Mark Twain short story has
delayed construction on Morro Bay’s new sewer plant, even
though the protected amphibian hasn’t been spotted anywhere on
the site in years.
Supreme Court justices, both conservative and liberal, appeared
skeptical Wednesday of a Trump administration argument that the
federal Clean Water Act should not apply to sewage plant
wastewater that flows into the ground and eventually seeps into
federally protected waters, such as rivers or oceans. The case
from Hawaii has emerged as a major test of the federal
anti-pollution law’s scope …
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
Jaime Bonilla was sworn into office Friday as governor of
California’s neighboring Mexican state. … In his first major
speech since taking office, Governor Bonilla promised to
address poverty, public safety issues and end cross-border
sewage flows within six months. Bonilla, a dual U.S.-Mexico
citizen, formerly served as an elected member of the Otay Water
District in Chula Vista.
The City of Paso Robles recently celebrated the completion of
one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in
the city’s history, new Tertiary Treatment Facilities at the
City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.
A team led by USC Viterbi’s Adam Smith has found that purified
water returned to Southern California aquifers often becomes
contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a realization
that could have major implications on the global water supply.
Nationwide, more than a dozen utilities have started developing
renewable natural gas production through partnerships with
farmers, wastewater treatment plants and landfill operators,
while nine have proposed price premiums for customers who
choose it as a fuel, according to the American Gas Association.
The California Coastal Commission last week approved a project
proposed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation
to replace and reline about 6,500 feet of sewer line within
Doheny State Beach.
Solano County has filed requests for water and sewer hookups at
the Brown Street location of the proposed Tiny Shelter homeless
pilot project – services that will cost the county thousands of
dollars to reconnect the property to Vacaville’s main lines.
The Trump Administration’s EPA takeover, with its race to the
bottom rollbacks of the environmental and public health
protections that Americans have relied upon for decades, is
low; so low that even some of the industries the Administration
seeks to support are pushing back. But what the Trump
Administration has been up to lately in California–
weaponizing the Clean Water Act to serve a political
vendetta…well, can it get any lower than that?
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
Morro Bay pushed through discussions about 17 possible
locations before it finally pinned down the South Bay Boulevard
and Highway 1 site for its water reclamation facility. But the
location is unacceptable to a group of residents who are
petitioning the city’s decision to purchase the site of the
The Ventura City Council approved a $200 million-plus plan
Monday that will give the city more drinking water and greatly
reduce the treated wastewater its sewer plant releases into the
Santa Clara River estuary. The big-ticket item in the city’s
plan is a new plant that will take wastewater that once went
into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards…
Working to “Make Every Source a Resource” and striving toward a
more sustainable future, East Valley Water District Board of
Directors approved the addition of state-of-the-art co-digester
technology at the Sterling Natural Resource Center during the
Sept. 11 board meeting.
On Tuesday, city officials broke ground on a project to
modernize Stockton’s wastewater treatment facility in order to
meet stricter federal and statewide regulations and potentially
foster business and residential growth.
As CO2 levels rise more rapidly than predicted, we need to
re-assess infrastructure needs, from sewage plants and roads
located along the coasts as the sea level rises, to our water
supply and delivery system. “Infrastructure” might sound like a
boring word, but it won’t be so boring to any of us if water
doesn’t come out of the tap or untreated sewage is spilled into
The Senate approved almost $20 million in funding to address
sewage flows along the border. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who
secured language in three different appropriations bills for
the 2020 fiscal year, called the spills that send millions of
gallons of raw sewage from Tijuana to San Diego,
California’s senators have asked the Environmental Protection
Agency’s watchdog to investigate whether the agency abused its
enforcement powers when it accused San Francisco of improperly
dumping waste into the ocean.
The United States-Mexico border region is enduring the latest
in a series of massive cross-border sewage tainted spills.
Federal officials in charge of monitoring the trans-border
sewage situation on the U.S. side of the border said nearly 8
million gallons of tainted water flowed across the border in
the Tijuana River channel.
Water board members voiced concern at the last meeting over
what to do if state officials lower the threshold for PFAS
contamination to such a level that the wells would have to be
shut down. The board decided not to wait for such an
announcement and agreed to get the necessary water treatment
equipment up and running as soon as possible.
Bright pink “whiskers” have popped up in Riverside Park
recently, likely left by people performing a topography survey
in the beginning stages of a grant-funded project to restore
habitat in the largely undeveloped park that used to be home to
the city’s sewage treatment plant.
The cluster of streets, home to 166 single-family residences
before the subdivision was leveled by the Tubbs fire … was
built originally like a rural development: with homes relying
on septic systems instead of sewers. That’s set to change
starting next year, when work begins on a municipal-style sewer
system proponents say will provide peace of mind for
homeowners, ease environmental concerns, open up parcels to
further development and potentially increase property values.
The project, called the Upper Salinas River Basin Conjunctive
Use Project, captures existing wastewater flows generated
within the eastside of the District and will return these flows
back to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. The
wastewater undergoes treatment and is then discharged into the
river alluvium that contains the Salinas River underflow
providing subsequent conveyance to district wells…
There are numerous agencies involved in water quality issues
that are focused on the San Francisco Bay and the Delta. In
this brown bag seminar, Stephanie Fong, Interagency Ecological
Program Coordinator Chair, California Department of Fish and
Wildlife, discussed the technical, geographical, and political
boundaries that separate water quality monitoring in the Bay
and the Delta.
The California Water Boards sent at least 270 letters to
farmers in the Emerald Triangle, warning them to come into
compliance with regulations or face possible fines and even the
loss of their cultivation licenses.
Laguna Beach residents who described the beige water treatment
tower on Laguna Canyon Road as part of the city’s folklore and
identity called on the City Council on Tuesday night to restore
and renovate the building, possibly for use by small
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.
Elected leaders from around the San Diego region met with the
Trump administration on Tuesday to ask for help stopping the
sewage-tainted water that regularly flows in the Tijuana River
across the border with Mexico. Specifically, regional leaders
tried to persuade federal authorities to fund a more than
$400-million plan to capture and treat the pollution…
An influx of Bay Area visitors to Sonoma County’s bucolic
riverlands has spiked in recent years, bringing with it a
problem typically reserved for the privacy of one’s own home.
People are pooping in public.
Claims by President Donald Trump on Wednesday that discarded
drug needles in San Francisco are making their way through the
city’s sewage system and into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific
Ocean were widely blasted the following day by experts who say
he has no idea what he’s talking about.
From New York City to coastal California, a poison-producing
living slime is overtaking waterways and shorelines, killing
pets, ravaging tourism markets and making its way into local
drinking water. So far this year, algae has been implicated in
dog deaths and illness in California, Georgia, North Carolina
A new article on UC Davis’s California Water Blog shines a
light on just how complicated water governance can be and why
it matters… For more, listen to this interview with Kristin
Dobbin, one of the article’s co-authors and a UC Davis Ph.D.
student studying regional water management and drinking water
disparities in California.
“There’s tremendous pollution being put into the ocean because
they’re going through what’s called the storm sewer that’s for
rainwater,” Trump said. “And we have tremendous things that we
don’t have to discuss pouring into the ocean. You know there
are needles, there are other things.”
The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a de-facto
moratorium on hydraulic fracturing while it studies permitting
procedures for the politically controversial oil
well-completion technique better known as fracking.
Efforts to increase recycled water use in California got a
significant boost this week with the State Water Board’s
issuance of an order authorizing the Sacramento Regional County
Sanitation District’s program to deliver an average of 45
million gallons per day of recycled water from the Sacramento
Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant …
Tiscornia Beach, an area on the lower American River frequented
by summer visitors, tested 7.5 times higher than the safety
threshold on Tuesday, according to data from the county and the
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Samples of
river water taken two weeks earlier at nearby Discovery Park
tested almost 5.5 times higher than the safety threshold.
A Sacramento Bee investigation found high levels of E. coli
bacteria — a sign of fecal contamination — along the lower
stretch of the American, where homeless camps line the banks,
residents walk their dogs, and where thousands of swimmers dip
into the water to escape Sacramento’s summer heat.
Residential graywater offers up a huge potential for our city
to offset potable water use. When the next drought rolls
around, and it will, we could be sitting pretty with healthy
trees and landscapes using less water from the Sierra than we
The blue ocean has turned a rusty red in Manhattan Beach — but
what is causing this change in color? The red tide, as it’s
called, is from an algal bloom, according to Valerie Hill,
administrative and development director at the Roundhouse
Aquarium off the Manhattan Beach Pier.
When the next drought rolls around, and it will, we could be
sitting pretty with healthy trees and landscapes using less
water from the Sierra than we do now. How could we accomplish
this? The answer is graywater, defined in California as the
discharge from laundry wash water, showers, and bathroom sinks.
The city of Ukiah made its first delivery of recycled water
through its extensive Purple Pipe system this week, putting
about 2 million gallons of water reclaimed from local sinks,
showers and toilets into an irrigation pond just south of the
Ukiah Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant.
To end a labor dispute that’s halted work on one of the largest
and most important water projects in San Diego history,
Assemblyman Todd Gloria rolled out a bill Friday to require
union-friendly terms for work on the project.
There’s a lot of confusion and concern about what will happen
once the city of Ventura no longer discharges millions of
gallons of water into the Santa Clara River Estuary. … To
help residents get a better understanding of how Ventura’s
wastewater operations work, and to help answer those questions,
city officials opened up its facility to the public last week.
The only bi-national financial institution dedicated to funding
environmental infrastructure projects along the border unveiled
six possible solutions to slowing down the cross-border sewage
spills that routinely shut down southern San Diego’s beaches.
A high-profile series of dog deaths has awakened the public to
the growing problem of toxic algal blooms, spurred by rising
temperatures and pollution. The blooms are emerging as a
national, not just regional, concern, according to preliminary
data reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
What Public Works Director Mark Houghton touts as “Manteca’s
own refinery” is now converting methane gas generated at the
wastewater treatment plant along with food waste to produce
compressed liquefied gas. And in doing so, Manteca is well on
its way to effectively wiping out all CO2 impacts the
wastewater treatment process creates and then some.