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 San Diego Union-Tribune

Lawsuit: Feds continue violating Clean Water Act for failing to control border sewage crisis

The International Boundary and Water Commission is again being sued over water-quality permit violations that have led to rampant sewage polluting San Diego County’s southernmost shoreline. The San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. arm of the IBWC and its contractor Veolia Water North America-West, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Blog: Water pollution is fueling ocean acidification. Environmentalists urge California to act

As the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities continue to increase the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the ocean is absorbing a large portion of the CO2, which is making seawater more acidic. … And here’s one important fact about ocean acidification: It’s not happening at the same rate everywhere. The California coast is one of the regions of the world where ocean acidification is occurring the fastest. … In particular, effluent discharged from coastal sewage treatment plants, which has high nitrogen levels from human waste, has been shown to significantly contribute to ocean acidification off the Southern California coast.

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Aquafornia news Caltrans

News release: Caltrans to construct trash capture device near Tuolumne River in Modesto

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) begins construction this month to install a trash capture device along northbound State Route 99, preventing trash in storm water runoff from entering the Tuolumne River at Zeff Road. The trash capture system will be located at the inlet of two existing culverts on the southeast side of SR-99 and the Tuolumne River, a location identified as a significant trash generating area. The project will help the department achieve zero trash from stormwater discharge into the lower reaches of the Tuolumne River. It is consistent with the Caltrans’ Statewide Trash Implementation plan and in compliance with the State Water Resource Control Board water quality objectives for trash pollutants. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Groups seek to ban large-scale animal farming in Sonoma County

Think “Sonoma County farm,” and most people will conjure an image of docile cows chewing cud or chickens scratching the dirt, idly whiling away their days among the grassy, green hills of this mostly rural, coastal Northern California county. But animal rights activists say all is not right in this region known for its wine and farm-to-fork sensibilities. They say there are two dozen large, concentrated animal farming operations — which collectively house almost 3 million animals — befouling watersheds and torturing livestock and poultry in confined lots and cages. And in an effort to stop it, they’ve collected more than 37,000 signatures from Sonoma County residents to put an end to it — forcing the county Board of Supervisors to either enact or match the ordinance themselves, or have it kicked over to the November ballot.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

Commentary: Environment report: US steps up watchdog role over Tijuana sewage system

Years ago, in a moment of despair over the utter dead-end that solving the Tijuana River sewage crisis seemed to be, I asked U.S. officials why we don’t just cross the border and start fixing broken pipes in Mexico. Nations can’t just cross each other’s borders like that, MacKenzie, the kindly federal official told me. At least, they shouldn’t. It would be a rude mistake. Mexico could consider such federal intrusion without permission as an act of war. But President Joe Biden’s pick to rein in cross-border sewage spills has found a way to leverage her relationships with Mexico to encourage more collaborative U.S. involvement. Maria-Elena Giner announced to reporters during a press conference last week that the International Boundary and Water Commission (the binational agency that deals with cross-border water issues) will start monthly inspections of a key sewage pump and trash shredder in Tijuana that feeds wastewater into San Diego for treatment.
-Written by MacKenzie Elmer, Voice of San Diego reporter. 

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water district digs into recycled water costs

It doesn’t look like wastewater will be turned into tap water in Marin County any time soon. California regulators approved new rules in December allowing water agencies to purify wastewater and put it back into the pipes that carry drinking water to homes, schools and businesses. Officials at the Marin Municipal Water District said potential projects come with a high cost and lots of complexities. “Where we stand is we look forward to continuing to monitor the regulations and larger agencies,” said Lucy Croy, water quality manager. With that said, members of the district board said they are interested in pursuing expansion of its purple pipe system that delivers recycled water for such purposes as irrigation, toilet flushing and industrial cooling.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Novato, county scrap with state over fecal pollution

Marin County and Novato are disputing a state water board’s contention that they are doing too little to prevent the discharge of fecal bacteria into the Petaluma River. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Board notified both the county and Novato in January that they are out of compliance with a program that it adopted in 2019 to reduce the level of fecal bacteria in the river. Both jurisdictions, however, contend that they are not required to comply with the program because the scheme has not yet been incorporated into their municipal storm sewer system permits, which are issued by the State Water Resources Control Board. 

Aquafornia news SF Gate

‘Avoid water contact’ at all LA County beaches, officials warn

After another spate of late-spring rain, Los Angeles County public health officials are warning people to stay out of the water until at least Wednesday. The Department of Public Health issued an ocean water quality rain advisory for all Los Angeles County beaches due to the stormy weather. … The warning stretches the entire LA coastline.

Aquafornia news Turlock Journal

Duarte brings Turlock $2.2 million for sewer, drainage projects

Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson) was in Turlock, as well as other Central Valley communities, on Monday to deliver Community Project Funding checks — as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 — that totaled about $11 million. Turlock received $1.2 million for its Golden State Boulevard sewer-extension project, and $1 million for the city’s stormwater infrastructure project. … Turlock’s Golden State sewer-extension project focuses on extending an 18-inch diameter sewer main near Taylor Road. The extension, according to the city, will provide utility services to an unserved area of Stanislaus County currently on wells and septic tanks. The other project — the Positive Drainage Project — involves replacement and upsizing of 1,120 feet of pipe in the city to create a positive drainage system that would increase flood capacity and alleviate flooding concerns.

Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

Imperial Beach meeting on cross-border contamination

A special workshop on the binational sewage crisis was held Wednesday in Imperial Beach. The meeting featured a panel of experts from various government agencies and academic institutions. Dozens of concerned residents gathered at the special council workshop addressing the ongoing sewage crisis. They heard from the International Boundary and Water Commission shed light on cross-border sewage flows. … Scripps Institution of Oceanography offered valuable insights into the environmental impact of sewage contamination, while SDSU School of Public Health discussed risks associated with chemical and biological pollutants in water, air, and soil.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Billions needed to fund upgrades to meet anticipated wastewater regulations

At least $11 billion would be needed to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities across the Bay Area if regulators impose anticipated stricter environmental rules, according to a regional water board that seeks to protect the San Francisco Bay. The upgrades at dozens of sewage treatment plants, needed to prevent toxic algae blooms and protect fish, would cost an average of $4,000 per household, and consumers may end up funding the improvements. The key culprit? Nitrogen found in urine and fecal matter, which feeds the growth of algae. 

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Aquafornia news CBS 8 - San Diego

More San Diego customers dealing with water bill problems

CBS 8 is Working for You to get to the bottom of water billing problems in the City of San Diego. It’s been four months since Mission Hills homeowner Ken Perilli received a notice in the mail that his water bills were being withheld, pending an investigation by the city of San Diego into “abnormal water use.” “The first reaction is to panic that you have a leak under a slab, and that you’re going to be facing an expensive plumbing repair bill,” said Perilli. He called a plumber and checked for water leaks, but nothing seemed abnormal. “I investigated the abnormal reading. And you can see that there is dirt in front of the meter. So, the abnormal reading is that there was no reading taken, I believe,” said Perilli. On the social media site Next Door, Perilli said he found dozens of similar complaints by neighbors.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

After massive sewage spill, feds order fixes at L.A. water plant to improve resilience

Years after a massive spill at a Los Angeles water treatment facility dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Pacific, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have ordered several improvements at the plant to help prevent another such disaster, even when facing more intense storms from a changing climate. The administrative order of consent, issued this month, requires the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey to make significant fixes to its operations and infrastructure, including improving monitoring systems and overflow channels, after the federal agency’s review of the 2021 spill. The agreement, between the EPA and the Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment division, mandates the updates be implemented by the end of 2025, though some are required to be completed as soon as within 30 days, according to the order.

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Aquafornia news Wine Business

Are wineries complying with California’s new winery wastewater order? The answer: Yes and No

California wineries appear to be complying with the Water Board’s statewide Winery General Order’s winery wastewater requirements, but the pace is slow, state statistics reveal. And many are not in the compliance reporting pipeline at all, data shows. (An overview page is provided here.) The order was passed, the water boards said, for two major reasons. One was because, “Winemakers requested the order to address the statewide inconsistencies in permitting.” This request was from large wineries that operate numerous facilities throughout the state. (Smaller wineries opposed this in the public hearings.) … As of Feb. 20, 2024, 201 wineries had begun the process of filing, leaving a gap of 1,449 wineries (the difference between 1,650 and 201, based on the initial estimates). 

Aquafornia news AP News

Chevron agrees to pay more than $13 million in fines for California oil spills

Chevron has agreed to pay more than $13 million in fines for dozens of past oil spills in California. The California-based energy giant agreed to pay a $5.6 million fine associated with a 2019 oil spill in Kern County. The company has already paid to clean up that spill. This money will instead go toward the state Department of Conservation’s work of plugging old and orphaned wells. The department said it was the largest fine ever assessed in its history. … The 2019 oil spill dumped at least 800,000 gallons (3 million litres) of oil and water into a canyon in Kern County, the home of the state’s oil industry. Also, Chevron agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine for more than 70 smaller spills between 2018 and 2023. 

Aquafornia news 10 News - San Diego

Treatment facility to provide 30% of the drinkable water in East County

In the near future, recycled wastewater could account for 30% of the drinkable water in the East county. The water would go through several purification steps at a new facility being built in Santee. More than 10 years and $950 million after the project began, the East County Advanced Water purification is just a few years away from opening. The facility will provide water to East County in a sustainable way. Before, much of the water used in East County homes was released back into the ocean. By the end of 2026, 11.5 million gallons of purified water will be treated and released daily.

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Aquafornia news The Almanac and Bay City News

The fight to rid the bay of red algae may cost $11B

Ten years. That’s how much time the Bay Area’s 37 wastewater treatment plants will have to reduce fertilizer and sewage in their water by 40%. The estimated price tag for the facility upgrades is $11 billion. The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board plans to adopt the change as part of its new discharge permit requirement beginning June 12. Previous permits did not require reductions …The regulatory change follows a damaging algae bloom in 2022 and 2023. A brown algae species called Heterosigma akashiwo, which feeds off the nitrogen in wastewater, infected the Bay and damaged aquatic ecosystems.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

SF allegedly dumps big amounts of sewage into creek during storms

When heavy rain overwhelms wastewater treatment plants in San Francisco, causing stormwater to overflow onto streets and into the bay, sewage is an unfortunate part of the mix.  After heavy rain, the largest recipient of the potent brew of stormwater and sewage in the city is Mission Creek — a channel to the bay that is home to houseboats, walking trails and a kayak launch. At Mission Creek, Islais Creek, another channel at India Basin, and a few locations in between, the city discharges 1.2 billion gallons of “combined sewer discharges” in a typical year, according to the environmental group S.F. Baykeeper, which has notified the city it intends to sue over how such discharges impact the environment. A large portion of the combined sewer overflows — which SFPUC said are composed of 94% treated stormwater and 6% treated wastewater — is making its way without basic treatment into the bay during storms, according to S.F. Baykeeper. 

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - San Diego

California State Senator Steve Padilla announces new bills to rein in companies contributing to South Bay sewage

A pair of new state bills are looking to crack down on some of the polluters fueling the cross-border sewage crisis that has hobbled access to San Diego County’s southernmost beaches for decades. Senate Bill 1178 and Senate Bill 1208, introduced on Monday by State Sen. Steve Padilla, add regulations to water discharges for large corporations, as well as prevent water authorities from issuing additional permits for waste releases into areas in the Tijuana River system.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As water rates soar, legislators seek funding for assistance

In California and across the country, household water rates have been rising as utilities invest to upgrade aging infrastructure, secure future supplies and meet treatment standards for clean drinking water. As monthly water bills continue to increase, growing numbers of customers have been struggling to pay. New federal legislation would establish a water assistance program to help low-income families pay their bills and prevent shutoffs of water service. The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, would make permanent a federal program that Congress authorized in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provided more than $1 billion in assistance, but it’s expiring.

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Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe

Arizona’s drought turns 30 this year. ‘Toilet to tap’ may be one way to help ease the water crisis

People born in 1994 will be turning 30 this year — and so will the drought in Arizona. Groundwater is the primary source of water for the state, along with allotments from the Colorado River. But due to a population that has nearly doubled since the drought began in 1994, groundwater is drying up. In response, Gov. Katie Hobbs put a moratorium on new housing developments last year unless developers can prove they have safe access to non-groundwater sources for 100 years before they can begin construction. Along with efforts to encourage home water use reduction, another solution being considered is a bit greener: direct potable reuse (DPR), known colloquially as “toilet to tap.” But the issue is far more complex than a catchy tagline.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Nutrients from wastewater treatment plants may threaten coastal marine life―should California regulate them?

The State Water Resources Control Board is exploring regulating nutrients emitted from Southern California wastewater treatment plants into the ocean. The controversial move is prompted by concerns that these discharges may accelerate acidification and oxygen loss in the region’s coastal waters, harming nearshore marine life. The wastewater treatment industry says this nutrient regulation is premature. Environmentalists say it’s overdue. … Wastewater effluent from 23 million people is piped offshore in Southern California. The resulting acidity boost could be enough to start dissolving the shells of crabs and small snails called pteropods, which swim near the ocean surface and are a favorite food of many fish and whales. And the resulting oxygen depletion could deprive anchovies, which many commercial fish eat, of their habitat.

Aquafornia news Vallejo Times Herald Online

Thompson secures $2.3 million for water projects in government funding agreement

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson announced on Tuesday that funding of $2.3 million for three Solano County projects will be considered by Congress later this week. Thompson secured nearly $15 million for projects for his district, California’s Fourth. … The projects in Solano County are: $959,752 for the Rio Vista Wastewater Plant Consolidation and Reclaimed Water Project. The Rio Vista Wastewater Plant Consolidation and Reclaimed Water Project supports the Clean Water Act standards by aiming to eliminate the direct discharge of water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, recharges the aquifer on which Rio Vista City relies for drinking water, and mitigates drought issues by providing a reusable water source.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Club Angeles Chapter

Blog: San Diego has a cross border sewage problem

For decades, raw sewage from Tijuana, Mexico has, and continues, to flow across the border into San Diego, California.  This discharge flows into the Tijuana River Valley, and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean.  This pollution has negatively impacted the Tijuana River Valley and the Tijuana River Estuary, one of the last remaining estuaries in California, and the beaches.  Unhealthy concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria has forced the County of San Diego to close 10 miles of beach access from the US-Mexico Border all the way to the beaches of Coronado.   At the urging of Congressman Scott Peters, the San Diego State University School of Public Health issued a white paper which details the public health risks posed by the transborder flow of sewage.

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 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.

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

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.