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 Western Farm Press

Court sides with farmers in water cases

A California appeals court has upheld waste discharge requirements within the eastern San Joaquin River watershed that growers say are reasonable, rebuffing challenges from environmentalists. In its March 17 decision, the Third District Court of Appeal rejected all arguments brought by environmental groups and sided with the California State Water Resources Control Board, the California Farm Bureau and others related to the Central Valley’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. The court addressed three cases brought by environmental plaintiffs against the water board.

Aquafornia news Stormwater Solutions

Study confirms nitrate can release uranium into groundwater

New research experimentally confirms that nitrate can help transport naturally occurring uranium from the underground to groundwater, according to a press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The new research backs a 2015 study led by Karrie Weber of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The 2015 showed that aquifers contaminated with high levels of nitrate — including the High Plains Aquifer residing beneath Nebraska — also contain uranium concentrations far exceeding a threshold set by the U.S. EPA. Uranium concentrations above that EPA threshold have been shown to cause kidney damage in humans, especially when regularly consumed via drinking water.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

San Francisco company Epic Cleantec is advancing water recycling technologies in downtown buildings and beer

Looking out from a downtown San Francisco rooftop, Epic Cleantec co-founder and CEO Aaron Tartakovsky says you can actually see the future of recycled water. “This is not theoretical, it’s happening right now. It’s happening here, it’s happening in the Chorus building, where we’re going to be operating that system. And it’s happening in a third building over here,” says Tartakovsky, pointing a short distance away. Epic Cleantec is harnessing the used wastewater from high-rise buildings, and giving it a second life, with a dizzying array of technologies. … At the heart of the system lies a control center that monitors everything from the amount of energy being saved to the amount of wastewater being recovered. Ryan Pully is the director of water reuse operations.

Aquafornia news Decanter

California’s ban on pesticides by 2050 sees the state’s wineries embracing ‘slow wine’

While environmentally-conscious wine producers like Shannon are making a difference in California, so is the state which recently announced its long-range commitment to promoting ecosystem resilience. The sustainable pest management roadmap for California was released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It charts a course for California’s elimination of high-risk pesticides by 2050. Yet, wine producers like Sam Coturri of Enterprise Vineyards in Sonoma County, whose family oversees 35 estate vineyards, and produces their own label, Winery Sixteen 600, have been farming organically since 1979.

Aquafornia news Bay Area News Group

Cottage cheese injections and electric shocks: Emeryville attempts to reclaim toxic soil

Emeryville is still digging itself out from under its industrial past. For years, the city has cleaned up vast swaths of land contaminated by the scores of commercial warehouses that used to dominate the East Bay shoreline community. By the early 2000s, Emeryville earned a reputation as “one of the foulest industrial wastelands in the Bay Area,” according to one news outlet, which said the soil was “so toxic that anyone treading it had to wear a moon suit.” ….This week, city officials kicked off the complex task of cleaning up roughly 78,000 square-feet of contaminated soil on another city-owned property just across the railroad tracks from the popular Bay Street Emeryville shopping center — which was also excavated before construction.

Aquafornia news California Agriculture News Today

Study offers insights on reducing nitrate contamination from groundwater recharge

With California enduring record-breaking rain and snow and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently easing restrictions on groundwater recharge, interest in “managed aquifer recharge” has never been higher. This process – by which floodwater is routed to sites such as farm fields so that it percolates into the aquifer – holds great promise as a tool to replenish depleted groundwater stores across the state. But one concern, in the agricultural context, is how recharge might push nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater supply. Consumption of well water contaminated with nitrates has been linked to increased risk of cancers, birth defects and other health impacts.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Tribal nations’ lasting victory in the Mojave Desert (A lasting victory)

The protest encampment was easily visible from Highway 40 going West from Needles, California — a cluster of olive-green Army tents that stood out from the low-lying creosote bushes and sagebrush that cover the expanse of Ward Valley. At its height, the camp held two kitchens (one vegetarian, one not), a security detail, bathroom facilities and a few hundred people — a coalition of five tribal nations, anti-nuclear activists, veterans, environmentalists and American Indian Movement supporters. They were there to resist a public-lands trade between the federal government and the state of California that would allow U.S. Ecology, a waste disposal company, to build a 1,000-acre, unlined nuclear waste dump that threatened both desert tortoises and groundwater.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Sewage spill closes Doheny State Beach in Orange County

Health officials have closed access to parts of Doheny State Beach after roughly 4,000 gallons of sewage spilled onto the beach in Dana Point on Wednesday. The spill came from a main city sewer line in San Juan Capistrano, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The closure extends 3,000 feet around the spill site at the mouth of San Juan Creek at the beach in Dana Point, according to officials. The area will remain closed to swimming, surfing and diving until follow-up tests show the water meets acceptable standards. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley’s office is monitoring the situation and asked the community to stay clear of the area. After the recent rainfall, landslides closed a section of Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point and an area behind four apartment buildings in San Clemente, Foley said in a written statement.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Cal Am says it intends to sign water purchase agreement

After more than a year of wrangling, California American Water Co. has agreed in principle to sign an agreement to purchase water from a major expansion of a Monterey Peninsula water recycling project that when completed will provide for thousands of acre-feet of additional water. Evan Jacobs, external affairs manager for Cal Am, confirmed Thursday that what was agreed upon was a filing made by the state Public Advocates Office that gave Cal Am a portion of what it wanted. The filing still must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, but it’s the first time all sides have agreed in principle since September of 2021. The Public Advocates Office helps to ensure Californians are represented at the CPUC by recommending solutions and alternatives in utility customers’ best interests.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Isleton’s wastewater ponds overflow into nearby rivers

Isleton, located along the Delta in the southernmost part of Sacramento County, is a city of about roughly 800 people and is surrounded by bodies of water. And on Wednesday, city officials said wastewater ponds have spilled into those nearby waterways. Those waterways include the Mokelumne, San Joaquin, and Sacramento rivers. City Manager Chuck Bergson said Isleton has nine ponds that can hold about 60 million gallons of wastewater in total, but recent heavy rainfalls, as well as pipes damaged during the January storms, have filled up all of the ponds to the point where about 2 to 3 million gallons of wastewater have overflowed.

Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: California’s agriculture has outstanding economic performance, but at what cost?

The San Joaquin Valley in California (southern Central Valley) is the most profitable agricultural region in the United States by far with a revenue of $37.1 billion in 2020. The San Joaquin Valley itself generates more agricultural revenue than any other state, and more than countries like Canada, Germany, or Peru. Other agricultural regions of California are also very profitable, such as the Sacramento Valley (northern Central Valley), the Salinas Valley, and the Imperial Valley. However, this economic profit has a steep health and environmental toll, and that toll is paid for by the residents of rural communities in California. The three regions with the worst air quality (by year-round particle pollution) in the United States are in the San Joaquin Valley, corresponding to five of its eight counties.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KTLA - Los Angeles

EPA looking to shut down cesspools at Southern California mobile home park

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against the operator of a mobile home park in Acton, alleging that the park is using two large unlawful cesspools to collect untreated raw sewage. The complaint identifies Eric Hauck as the operator of Cactus Creek Mobile Home Park in Acton. He’s also identified as a trustee of Acton Holding Trust. The EPA alleges that Hauck has two illegal cesspools on the property, despite large capacity cesspools being banned by the environmental agency more than 15 years ago. Cesspools, according to the EPA, collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground. The practice of using cesspools can lead to disease-causing pathogens to be introduced to local water sources, including groundwater, lakes, streams and oceans.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

EPA proposes stricter limits on coal plant water pollution

The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed tighter limits on wastewater pollution from coal-burning power plants that has contaminated streams, lakes and underground aquifers across the nation. Under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency sets pollution standards to limit wastewater discharge from the power industry and other businesses. The Trump administration rolled back pollution standards so utilities could use cheaper technologies and take longer to comply with guidelines for cleaning coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and selenium from plant wastewater before dumping it into waterways. The Biden administration’s proposal for stricter standards at coal-burning plants also encourages the plants to retire or switch to other fuels such as natural gas by 2028.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Progress continues in groundwater cleanup from downtown dry cleaner contamination

The state Regional Water Quality Control Board on Wednesday will receive an update on a 2017 mitigation case involving what were three downtown cleaners. The businesses at the time were One Hour Cleaner, which was located at 710 Madison St., Fairfield Cleaners, 625 Jackson St., which is now home to the Republican Party headquarters, and Gillespie Cleaners at 622-630 Jackson St., the state reported. One other business that was not responsible for any contamination, but was affected, is Fairfield Safe & Lock, which is still doing business at 811 Missouri St. … The report states that the Tetrachloroethene – or PCE – plume that was discharged into the groundwater has been reduced by more than 90% since the mitigation plan was approved in September 2017.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Raw sewage continues to flow from Tijuana into San Diego County

Some 22 billion gallons of raw sewage have flowed from Mexico into San Diego County since the end of December, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) reported on Wednesday. … Acknowledging that sewage flows have dropped to 106 million gallons per day and continue to decrease, the agency noted that two wastewater collectors are out of service due to excessive sediment buildup. Last Thursday, flows reached 800 million gallons per day, according to the IBWC. The wastewater influx is the result of an extended bout of winter weather, which has made a chronic cross-border sewage situation worse over the past few months.

Aquafornia news Fox 5 - San Diego

Recent storms sent 7 billion gallons of raw sewage from Mexico into U.S.

Imperial Beach’s new mayor, Paloma Aguirre, is dealing with an old problem in her city: beach closures forced by raw sewage from Mexico. A recent string of powerful storms in the region has forced lots of raw sewage, trash, tires and other debris across the southern border into California. “Because of the nature of our watershed, there’s an incredible amount of flow coming from across the border with trash, tires and sewage polluting not just our recreational valley but also the beaches,” Aguirre said. Imperial Beach, the first coastal city north of the U.S.-Mexico border, is covered in signs warning people to keep out of the water.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: Cal Am is conspicuously absent as Pure Water Monterey celebrates a milestone

Sara Rubin here, looking at a glass of water on my desk and appreciating all of the technology and infrastructure and people behind the scenes who worked to bring me that water. Specifically, I am thinking about Pure Water Monterey, a high-tech water recycling system at Monterey One Water in Marina, that uses a four-step process to treat wastewater—the same stuff that goes out the drains of our showers and gets flushed down our toilets. The four-step process includes ozone pre-treatment, membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and oxidation with UV light and hydrogen peroxide. Like I said—to all of you working to build this stuff and get me my glass of water, thank you.
-Written by Sara Rubin, editor of the Monterey County Weekly.

Aquafornia news Somach Law

Blog: California Court of Appeal holds that State Water Board was not required to investigate whether permitted wastewater discharges amounted to waste and unreasonable use

On February 27, 2023, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District (Court of Appeal) affirmed in part and reversed in part the Los Angeles Superior Court’s decision in Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board, et al., Case No. BS171009. Somach Simmons & Dunn filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, Association of California Water Agencies, and WateReuse Association informing the Court of Appeal of the unintended consequences of the rule issued by the trial court, which found that California Constitution Article X, section 2 imposed a duty on the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to prevent the waste of permitted wastewater discharges.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Garamendi’s bill would extend water treatment facility permits

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Richmond, on Monday reintroduced his bipartisan legislation (H.R.1181) to reform permitting for local wastewater treatment and water recycling projects, with U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, as the original co-sponsor. Garamendi’s legislation (H.R.1181) would extend the maximum term for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued under the federal Clean Water Act from five years to 10 to better reflect the project construction schedules for public agencies. In October 2019, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed Garamendi’s legislation. His reintroduced legislation awaits action by that same committee.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Tijuana River sewage may be contaminating air along Southern California coast: study

Chronic coastal contamination from the Tijuana River can end up in the atmosphere as “sea spray aerosol” — spreading far beyond the San Diego County beaches where it has long polluted the water, a new study has found. For decades, storms occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border have been diverting sewage through the Tijuana River and into the ocean in south Imperial Beach, according to a study published on Thursday in Environmental Science & Technology. But researchers have now determined that sewage-polluted coastal waters can transfer to the atmosphere as aerosol — generated “by breaking waves and bursting bubbles.” And while the level of threat to human health remains uncertain, this so-called “sea spray aerosol” contains bacteria, viruses and chemical compounds.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Pollutants were released into Guadalupe River, Coyote Creek from construction firm, lawsuit claims

A well-known Bay Area construction materials firm has unleashed harmful pollutants into Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek, threatening sensitive species of fish, frogs and salamanders, a newly filed lawsuit alleges. The Santa Clara County District Attorney claims that Graniterock, an over-century-old Watsonville-based corporation, has discharged stormwater from two of its San Jose facilities that contain above-level pH values, cement, sand, concrete, chemical additives and other heavy metals. Those pollutants have endangered steelhead trout, the California Tiger Salamander and the California Red Legged frog — animals that live in and around the South Bay waterways, the suit alleges. The complaint does not specify when or how much of the pollutants were apparently found discharged into the waterways.

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Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Yountville discovers recycled water line break under Napa River, responds with $1 million emergency repair

A break in Yountville’s recycled-water main serving the Vintner’s Golf Club and various vineyard ponds east and west of the Napa River has led to an emergency $1 million repair project, approved by the Town Council last week. The main in question is a 6-inch PVC pipe, first installed in 1977, that runs across the floor of the Napa Valley from the Yountville wastewater treatment plant west of Highway 29. It reaches as far as the Clos du Val Winery pond past the Silverado Trail, to the east, Yountville’s public works director John Ferons said at the council meeting. As such, the water line also runs below the Napa River, which is where the leak was discovered about two weeks ago. Yountville town staff discovered the leak at noon Feb. 15 because a low-flow alarm went off, and workers shut off the pumps to investigate the pipes, according to a staff report.

Aquafornia news

Wastewater sector emits nearly twice as much methane as previously thought

Municipal wastewater treatment plants emit nearly double the amount of methane into the atmosphere than scientists previously believed, according to new research from Princeton University. And since methane warms the planet over 80 times more powerfully than carbon dioxide over 20 years, that could be a big problem. … Zondlo led one of two new studies on the subject, both reported in papers published in Environmental Science & Technology. One study performed on-the-ground methane emissions measurements at 63 wastewater treatment plants in the United States; the other used machine learning methods to analyze published literature data from methane monitoring studies of various wastewater collection and treatment processes around the globe.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California ducks demand to review local wastewater discharge permits

The California State Water Resources Control Board can’t be forced to evaluate the “reasonableness” of locally issued permits to discharge treated wastewater, a state appeals court ruled, because state law doesn’t impose this obligation on the agency. The Los Angeles-based Second Appellate District on Monday overturned a trial judge’s order for the agency to evaluate the reasonableness of the permits that were renewed in 2017 by its regional board in LA, allowing four treatment plants to discharge millions of gallons of treated wastewater in the LA River and the Pacific Ocean every day. LA Waterkeeper, an environmental watchdog, had challenged the permits arguing the regional board and the state board should have considered better uses of the water, such as recycling, rather than dumping it in the ocean.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Hill

Wintry weather could worsen California’s sewage influx from Tijuana

Wet winter weather is exacerbating an already stinky situation for San Diego County, where a slurry of sewage has been seeping across the southern border for the past two weeks. … The sewage influx is the result of a pipeline rupture across the border in Tijuana that began on Feb. 10, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), a U.S.-Mexican entity that oversees shared water resources. …  Water infrastructure worldwide always has a certain number of cracks and holes — meaning that rainfall can easily infiltrate these systems, Davani explained. So when an inordinate amount of sewage is already polluting a populous shoreline, a winter downpour is bound to make things messier.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Morro Bay wastewater treatment goes online ahead of deadline

Morro Bay officials celebrated the start of operation for the city’s $160 million wastewater treatment facility — months ahead of a state-imposed deadline — on a chilly, rainy Thursday morning. The Morro Bay Water Resources Center is the largest municipal project in the city’s history, Scott Collins, Morro Bay’s outgoing city manager, said at Thursday’s ceremony. Located at 555 South Bay Blvd. south of town, the new sewage treatment facility will use “scientifically proven, advanced purification processes,” including reverse osmosis and ultraviolet advanced oxidation, according to a news release. The plant processes an average of 1 million gallons of wastewater a day, but can process up to 8.14 million gallons per day during storm events, according to engineer Erick Bevington.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: CEMEX wants to keep mining San Joaquin River near Fresno. Why wasn’t public informed?

A multinational building materials company is trying to pull a fast one on Fresno County residents — and county officials are helping.  Remember CEMEX’s proposal to continue gravel mining along the San Joaquin River north of Fresno for another century? By using even more environmentally damaging methods than those currently employed?  Things have been quiet on that front since 2020 when CEMEX’s impertinent scheme came to light and I expressed my initial outrage.  Sure enough, the gears of destruction are moving once again.
-Written by columnist Marek Warszawski. 

Aquafornia news

Using biochar to remove antibiotics from wastewater

To feed the world’s growing population, farmers need to grow a lot of crops. Crops need water to grow and thrive, and the water used to irrigate crops makes up an estimated 70% of global freshwater use. But many areas across the world are plagued by water shortages. That can make it challenging for farmers to get enough water to grow crops. Researchers are exploring alternative water sources that can sustainably meet current and future irrigation needs. … [A] new study … shows local plant material or food waste could be used to remove antibiotics from municipal wastewater. The researchers used biochar, a charcoal-like substance, which is created by heating organic materials at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. 

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Fracking wastewater causes lasting harm to key freshwater species

Extracting fossil fuels from underground reservoirs requires so much water a Chevron scientist once referred to its operations in California’s Kern River Oilfield “as a water company that skims oil.” Fracking operations use roughly 1.5 million to 16 million gallons per well to release oil and gas from shale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All that water returns to the surface as wastewater called flowback and produced water, or PFW, contaminated by a complex jumble of hazardous substances in fluids injected to enhance production, salts, metals and other harmful elements once sequestered deep underground, along with their toxic breakdown products. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Tijuana sewage gushes through border canyon in San Diego after recent pipe break

Millions of gallons of raw sewage from Mexico are gushing into San Diego through two canyons along the border, according to federal officials. The spill is coming from at least two pump stations that were forced to shut down after a construction crew last week inadvertently ruptured a major pipeline south of Tijuana.  Shorelines as far north as the Silver Strand were closed due to sewage contamination as of Wednesday, with the rest of the region’s coastline under the standard 72-hour rain advisory. South Bay beaches have been repeatedly shuttered as the result of winter storms that washed polluted flows through the Tijuana River watershed.

Aquafornia news Envirotech Online

Blog: How do we monitor the pollutants produced by desalination?

Monitoring the pollutants that result from desalination is critical for ensuring that the process is carried out in an environmentally sustainable manner. There are several instruments that are commonly used to monitor pollutants in the marine environment, including chemical sensors, optical sensors, and biological indicators.  Chemical sensors are used to measure the concentration of various pollutants in the water, including heavy metals, organic matter, and pathogens. These sensors can be deployed in real-time, providing continuous monitoring of water quality, and can be used to detect changes in water quality over time. Some chemical sensors are also capable of measuring multiple parameters simultaneously, which can help to provide a more comprehensive picture of water quality. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Water Map

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

Dear Western Water reader, 

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

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

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater Gary Pitzer

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

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

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

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

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

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

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Aquapedia background

Septic Systems

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

Aquapedia background


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

Aquapedia background

Coliform Bacteria

Coliform Bacteria as Indices

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

Aquapedia background

Biochemical Oxygen Demand

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

Aquapedia background

Point Source vs. Nonpoint Source Pollution

Point Source Pollution

Point sources release pollutants from discrete conveyances, such as a discharge pipe, and are regulated by federal and state agencies. The main point source dischargers are factories and sewage treatment plants, which release treated wastewater.


Restoring a River: Voices of the San Joaquin

This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an overview of the geography and history of the river, historical and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was agreed to.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

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


Layperson’s Guide to California Wastewater
Published 2013

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

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.