Topic: Water Quality


Water Quality

Water quality in California is regulated by several state agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and its nine regional boards, which enforce clean water laws and the Department of Public Health.

Water quality concerns are also often involved in disputes over water rights, particularly in situations involving endangered species or habitat.

The State Water Board administers the Clean Water Grant Program that funds construction of wastewater treatment facilities. The State Water Board also issues general permits for municipalities and construction sites that try to prevent contaminants from those sources from entering municipal storm sewers.

Drinking water standards and regulations are developed by federal and state agencies to protect public health. In California, the Department of Public Health administers the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates drinking water quality in the United States.

Aquafornia news Forbes

California may crack down on washing machines without filters—here’s why

A California bill is looking to make oceans cleaner by requiring new washing machines to filter microfibers from their emissions, a move designed to stop microfibers from falling off clothes and harming ecosystems—but the state has faced pushback from laundromats. AB 1628—which hasn’t yet been approved by the governor—would require all new residential and commercial washing machines sold on or before January 1, 2029, to include a microfiber filtration system to reduce the amount of microfibers that end up in oceans and freshwater, though older models without the filter can still be used if they were bought before the set date.

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Zone 7 opens PFAS water treatment facility

The Zone 7 Water Agency recently unveiled its new state-of-the-art water treatment facility, which will use an ion exchange treatment process to remove PFAS chemicals from the Stoneridge groundwater well in Pleasanton. … Nearly 30 Tri-Valley officials, residents and Zone 7 staff members gathered for the event to celebrate the first-of-its-kind facility in Northern California. Located on Stoneridge Drive just west of Mohr Elementary School, the Ion Exchange PFAS Treatment Facility uses tanks that are filled with small ion-exchange polymers, which are designed to attract PFAS chemicals, otherwise known as forever chemicals, in the water.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: Castaic Lake algal bloom at danger advisory

Today, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) urges people to avoid physical contact with water at Castaic Lake in Los Angeles County until further notice due to the presence of blue-green algae. People should also avoid eating fish or shellfish from the lake. This week’s lab results show an increase in toxin levels. A danger advisory was put in place today, and remains in effect for the entire Castaic Lake, except Castaic Lagoon, until further notice. It is advised for people and pets to stay out of the water and avoid contact with algal scum in the water or on shore. Boating is allowed, but water-contact recreation and sporting activities are not considered safe due to potential adverse health effects. For latest conditions and danger advisory information, go to Harmful Algal Bloom website.

Aquafornia news Lookout Local Santa Cruz

Aptos teen couldn’t find data on health of local waterways, so he invented his own award-winning tool

Jack Driscoll-Natale was learning about measuring the health of local waterways for a class at Pacific Collegiate School his sophomore year when he realized there wasn’t enough publicly available data to complete his lab work. So he decided to build his own tool that can continuously monitor water quality. Now the 17-year-old senior is racking up awards and plaudits from scientists for his invention, which can upload a continuous stream of water quality data to a publicly accessible website for the fraction of the cost of professional equipment.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Mosquitoes thriving in California after big storms and blistering heat

Potent winter storms, summer heat, and tropical storm Hilary have bred a surge of invasive, day-biting Aedes mosquitoes in California, spawning in some regions the first reported human cases of West Nile virus in years. The statewide rise has brought 153 West Nile reports so far, more than double last year’s, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

Aquafornia news Loma Linda University

New study: Researchers find contaminated water in fast-food soda fountains

Loma Linda University (LLU) researchers found microbial contamination in common sources of drinking water in the Eastern Coachella Valley, including soda fountains at fast-food restaurants. Their findings revealed that 41% of the water samples researchers collected from these soda fountains contained total coliforms, an indicator of water contamination. Molecular analysis of the water samples revealed traces of genetic material found in bacteria, including Salmonella spp (Salmonella), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Given these findings, study authors advise soda fountain owners to regularly clean and flush the dispensers as a way to prevent water contamination.

Aquafornia news Fast Company

The twisted story of how bottled water took over the world

How did the nascent bottled water industry make a market for a product that for much of the past century was largely viewed as an unnecessary or wasteful luxury good? In just four decades, this commodity has transformed into a ubiquitous consumer object that is now the primary, and sometimes sole, source of drinking water for billions of people globally. The story of bottled water’s resurgence in places with abundant, clean tap water revolves around the question of why people have increasingly come to distrust their tap water, and how the expanding bottled water industry has fueled and taken advantage of this phenomenon.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Dry cleaning chemical PCE pollutes cities across California

Investigations over several years have found that even the “purest” groundwater is not immune to contamination from a carcinogenic chemical long used by a common business operation found in towns and cities across the state: dry cleaners. Since the 1940s, perchloroethylene, or PCE for short, has been a popular chemical employed in dry cleaning shops across the country. … [I]n dry cleaners’ common practice — before better equipment and regulations were developed — the chemical was often dumped down drains or splashed on porous floors. As a result, over the past 50 years, PCE leaked into the soil and groundwater under the handful of former South Lake Tahoe dry cleaners — and likely thousands of others in California.

Aquafornia news Vallejo Times-Herald

Senator Dodd recognizes Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week

In appreciation of the critical role the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta plays in California’s economy and environment, Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, is recognizing the last week of September as Delta Week. “The Delta is a cherished watershed and the very lifeblood of California’s water system,” Dodd said in a news release. … Dodd’s Senate Concurrent Resolution 119 established Delta Week, which this year kicks off Sunday. As part of the annual tradition, it will be preceded on Saturday by Coastal Cleanup Day, which offers Californians a chance to participate in local waterway cleanup events.

Aquafornia news NBC 7 - San Diego

San Diego County’s mayors push Newsom for help with border water-pollution crisis

The Tijuana River sewage emergency has reached the state level once again. All 18 mayors in San Diego County have sent another letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking for his help to address the ongoing sewage and chemical pollutants flowing into the ocean from the river. … Paloma Aguirre, the mayor of Imperial Beach, where beaches have been closed now for 650 consecutive days, said that going to the beach is one of the last free recreational things people can do, and that issue affects people living beyond the coast.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Why California rivers saw fewer harmful algal blooms this year

Outbreaks of harmful algal blooms have wreaked havoc on California river ecosystems for years. The toxic algae — a neon green layer of muck that floats atop water — thrives in warm, stagnant conditions brought on by drought.  Presence of this algae can make life difficult for other plants and fish in the river, and even cause concerns for humans that accidentally ingest or possibly breathe the area around it. But this year was different. Faster, colder river waters led to fewer outbreaks of the harmful algae throughout the state. 

Aquafornia news The Good Men Project

Reviving a famously polluted California lake

Jesus Campanero Jr. was a teenager when he noticed there was something in the water. He once found a rash all over his body after a swim in nearby Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. During summertime, an unbearable smell would waft through the air. Then, in 2017, came the headlines, after hundreds of fish washed up dead on the shore. “That’s when it really started to click in my head that there’s a real issue here,” says Campanero, now a tribal council member for the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians of California, whose ancestors have called the lake home for thousands of years. The culprit? Harmful algal blooms (HABs). 

Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

NASA scientists use new tool to track harmful algal blooms across the world, including SoCal

It was the largest algal bloom on record and it took place in June off the California coast. The planktonic algae made the water look green while producing a toxin. Seals, sea lions and dolphins eat fish that have eaten these algae, therefore hundreds died as a result. … Using satellite data, Gierach and other scientists created new ways to study the changes in the ocean. … Satellites can even measure color and temperature changes. A lot of the increase in algal bloom is caused by what we dump into the ocean, runoff, fertilizer and climate change.

Aquafornia news ABC30 - Fresno

Experts encourage boosters as COVID-19 detected in Madera County’s waste water

Medical experts in Central California are testing wastewater and have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health encouraged all California residents to vaccinate. Pharmacy retailer CVS also announced its plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots in its stores. Madera County Public Health Officer Simon Paul says it’s important to stay vigilant.

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Water options improve as treatment plant goes online in El Rio

Iron be gone. Manganese, away. A $14.2 million groundwater treatment facility that scrubs iron and manganese from supplies at a wellfield in El Rio has switched on. The plant will improve drinking supplies for thousands of Ventura County residents, including families living at Naval Base Ventura County. On Wednesday morning, officials and dignitaries celebrated the United Water Conservation District project at its El Rio facility at 3561 N. Rose Ave., north of Oxnard. … Wednesday’s gathering marked completion of the plant’s first phase after construction started around February 2022. The facility treats supplies pumped from deep wells. The first phase will treat up to 3,500 gallons of groundwater per minute. Future phases can expand capacity to about 8,250 gallons per minute.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Sick and dead birds at California’s Tulare Lake a wildlife disaster

Scientists and veterinarians are racing to prevent a wildlife disaster from getting worse in Tulare Lake, where hundreds of birds are dying from avian botulism in its stagnant waters.  The lake that reemerged in the San Joaquin Valley during winter flooding, which was partly brought on by snowmelt, after decades of dormancy has become a warm and stagnant breeding ground for toxins that cause paralysis and death. It’s common for avian botulism to strike water fowl when temperatures rise in summer and fall. But in 1983, the last time Tulare Lake emerged to such a large size after winter flooding, the disease killed more than 30,000 birds.

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Why nature’s infrastructure works better than ours

On Thursday, August 10, Butte Creek turned orange. The culprit: a failed PG&E canal that caused orange sediment to flood the creek potentially creating deadly conditions for native fish currently inhabiting the watershed including threatened spring-run Chinook salmon. Salmon are a keystone species, and their health is intricately connected with the rest of the ecosystem. Native fish across California are consistently vulnerable to safe and responsible operation of hydroelectric infrastructure such as dams and canals. In some cases, basins like Butte Creek are managed by water-moving infrastructure, guiding flows from the nearby Feather River watershed to Butte Creek.  

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun

The wrong kind of blooms: Climate change, invasive clams are fueling algae growth on Lake Tahoe

While out enjoying an afternoon on one of Lake Tahoe’s sandy beaches over the past few years, you might have noticed large mats of decomposing algae washing up or floating nearby. The lake’s famed blue waters are facing another threat while the battles of climate change and invasive species wage on — and it’s all very much connected.  Nearshore algae blooms are a burgeoning ecological threat to Tahoe. Not only do they impact the experience for beachgoers, but they also degrade water quality and, in some cases, pose a threat of toxicity.  Over the last 50 years, the rate of algal growth has increased sixfold, according to U.C. Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center’s 2022 State of the Lake Report. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Fox Weather

Doctors fear deadly fungal infection outbreak after Tropical Storm Hilary, monsoon flooding in West

Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, storms from Jova and flooding from monsoon moisture have doctors on high alert in the Desert Southwest for a disease outbreak that can turn deadly if not caught. Valley fever, or Coccidioidosis, is a fungal infection. Humans and pets can get it just by inhaling dusty air. Fungus spores grow in dirt and soil and become airborne when wind, construction, digging and earthquakes disturb the soil. Wind carries the spores to noses and mouths. The spores thrive in the rain and multiply, according to notes in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. … This summer’s heat wave bakes the ground and dries out the soil. Thunderstorm winds blow the spores around.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Exploring the Yurok Tribe’s management of the Klamath River

Melodie Meyer is associate general counsel for the Yurok Tribe in Northern California—one of the few California tribes whose members still reside on a portion of their ancestral lands. The Yurok reservation borders a 44-mile stretch of the Klamath River; we asked Ms. Meyer to tell us more about efforts to protect the watershed. The Tribe’s water programs center around managing water quality—ensuring that the tributaries that drain into the Klamath are healthy and not polluted. The environmental department’s water division has staff dedicated to dealing with permitting for the water programs, as well as a water quality control plan and a water pollution control ordinance.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Scientific Reports

New study: Microplastics influence on herbicides removal and biosurfactants production by a Bacillus sp. strain active against Fusarium culmorum

Chemical pesticides are produced synthetically and applied as a main method for pest removal, especially in agriculture. In 2020, pesticide consumption was 2.66 million metric tons, with the United States being the largest pesticide-consuming country worldwide with 407.8 thousand metric tons of pesticides used, and Brazil coming in second with 377.2 thousand tons consumed. From 1990 to 2010, the global consumption of pesticides increased by more than 50%. According to Soloneski et al., more than 99.9% of pesticides applied to crops worldwide become toxic residues in the environment, never reaching their specific targets. These compounds are usually toxic and persist in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Aquafornia news AZ Animals

Blog: What’s in the Salton Sea and is it safe to swim?

The Salton Sea is a highly saline body of water in California. It was once part of the Gulf of California, but the region south of the Salton Sea dried up and now it is a large lake. It is the largest lake in California. The Salton Sea, the largest lake in the state, was once a thriving body of water, but it has gone through so much that it is now drying up. A combination of runoff from nearby farms and communities, as well as its location, are to blame. Because of this catastrophe happening to the Salton Sea, it has caught the eye of various government officials, from local electeds, state legislators, and federal politicians. But the question of the hour is, what is in the Salton Sea? And is it safe to swim? 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Feds’ discrimination claim over California salinity standards deemed premature

A federal judge agreed with California that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t claim yet that an amendment to salinity standards for parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta discriminates against the U.S. government. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Thurston in Sacramento on Wednesday dismissed the bureau’s claim under the federal constitutional intergovernmental immunity doctrine, which prohibits state or local laws that discriminate against the U.S. government, because until the amendment is implemented, it won’t be possible to evaluate whether the bureau is treated differently than similarly situated parties. … The problem, according to the federal bureau, was that the amended plan included revised, and less stringent Southern Delta salinity objectives, but it didn’t apply these less stringent objectives to Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the New Melones Dam and Reservoir on the Stanislaus River.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news KPBS Public Media

San Diego researchers work on forecasting tool for ocean pathogens

California is investing $3 million in an effort to allow researchers to predict when and where ocean waters near Imperial Beach may be contaminated. The ocean off the coast of Imperial Beach has suffered decades of contamination which includes trash, toxic chemicals and untreated sewage runoff. Last week, homes in Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, San Diego and on the Silver Strand were under a boil-water order because a test sample came back positive for E. coli contamination. The order was lifted this past weekend after additional tests found the water to be safe.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news FishBio

Blog: Chemical cuisine – Chinook exposure to pesticides varies with preferred prey

The Central Valley of California only contains 1% of U.S. farmland, but generates 8% of the country’s agricultural output and produces a quarter of the nation’s food. Much of this astounding production comes from the 8,500 square kilometers of farmland in the Sacramento River watershed, which covers the northern portion of the Central Valley. This extensive farmland means that the watershed is exposed to a significant amount of compounds commonly used in farming, including pesticides. As water flows over the land to streams and rivers, it carries these contaminants along with it, ultimately dumping them in waterways and floodplains, where they often make their way into the food web. Consequently, juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) feeding and rearing within the watershed can be exposed to these harmful compounds.

Aquafornia news KPBS Public Media

Safe to drink: Boil water advisory lifted for impacted areas in San Diego County

A boil water advisory has been lifted for multiple areas in south San Diego County after E. coli contamination was found in the drinking water. The advisory, which was put into effect Thursday for portions of Imperial Beach, Coronado Beach and customers in the San Diego neighborhoods of Nestor, Otay Mesa West and portions of Southwest Chula Vista, was lifted Saturday.

Aquafornia news News Nation

Map: Does your drinking water contain ‘forever chemicals’?

So-called “forever chemicals” have been found in 45% of the nation’s tap water, according to a recent government study, but is your tap water affected? If you’re wondering whether or not your tap water might contain synthetic chemicals known as PFAS, nonprofit Environmental Working Group created an interactive map using official records and data from public drinking water systems to show where forever chemicals were found to be above and below the advised maximum concentration level, 4 parts per trillion (PPT). … Sample sites in the 12-65 PPT range were found in and around Grass Valley, California; Fresno, California; Los Angeles; Lakewood, Colorado; … The USGS said most PFAS exposure was found near urban areas and potential chemical sources, with higher counts in the following regions: Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard and Central/Southern/California.

Aquafornia news Newsweek

California residents told to boil drinking water amid E. coli concerns

Residents in some parts of Southern California have been urged to boil drinking water amid concerns over E. coli contamination. Late on Thursday Pacific Time, local provider Californian American Water (CAW) issued an “Advisory to Boil Water” to customers in southwestern parts of San Diego County. The advisory comes after E. coli was detected in samples of drinking water, CAW said in a statement. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of healthy people and animals.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State is working to contain bird disease in flooded Tulare Lake

Avian botulism, a lethal disease for birds, has been found spreading throughout Tulare Lake. The disease is caused by bacteria that thrive in shallow, warm waters with decaying organic matter.  The bacteria that causes the disease is found naturally in wetland soil. But it doesn’t produce the toxin that causes the disease unless environmental conditions are right. As temperatures soared in the San Joaquin Valley over the past few months, Tulare Lake warmed, causing perfect conditions for the disease to spread.  Neighboring wildlife areas, such as the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, often have standing, shallow water for bird habitat.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Program that helps monitor PFAS, water quality is running out of money

A state program that helps small water systems monitor contaminants to ensure safe drinking water for Arizonans could be insolvent by 2026, the Department of Environmental Quality says. The budget crunch comes as federal regulators prepare to impose new rules about harmful “forever chemicals” in water. The Monitoring Assistance Program will not disappear but is likely to increase in cost and operate differently, the agency said. The long-term reason for the deficit in the budget is rising costs and the fact that fees for the public water systems that take part in the program have remained the same for nearly two decades, officials said. The fees fund the program.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Maui water is unsafe even with filters, one of the lessons learned from fires in California

The language is stark: People in torched areas of Maui should not try to filter their own drinking water because there is no “way to make it safe,” Maui County posted on its Instagram account this week. … These warnings reflect new science and are intended to avoid the whiplash of conflicting information received by people impacted by the 2018 Camp Fire in California, who received messages from four different agencies. Until a few years ago, wildfire was only known to contaminate drinking water at the source, such as when ash runs into a river or reservoir. California’s Tubbs Fire in 2017 and the Camp Fire “are the first known wildfires where widespread drinking water chemical contamination was discovered in the water distribution network,” according to a recent study published by several researchers including Whelton with the American Water Works Association.

Testing at the Source: California Readies a Groundbreaking Hunt to Check for Microplastics in Drinking Water
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Regulators and water systems are finalizing a first-of-its-kind pilot that will determine whether microplastics are contaminating water destined for the tap

Image shows a test jar filled with microplastic debrisTiny pieces of plastic waste shed from food wrappers, grocery bags, clothing, cigarette butts, tires and paint are invading the environment and every facet of daily life. Researchers know the plastic particles have even made it into municipal water supplies, but very little data exists about the scope of microplastic contamination in drinking water. 

After years of planning, California this year is embarking on a first-of-its-kind data-gathering mission to illuminate how prevalent microplastics are in the state’s largest drinking water sources and help regulators determine whether they are a public health threat.

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

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.”

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to some 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray

Headwaters Tour 2023
Field Trip - June 21-22 (optional whitewater rafting June 20)

On average, more than 60 percent of California’s developed water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada and the southern spur of the Cascade Range. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

This tour ventured into the Sierra to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta By Gary Pitzer

Is Ecosystem Change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Outpacing the Ability of Science to Keep Up?
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Science panel argues for a new approach to make research nimbler and more forward-looking to improve management in the ailing Delta

Floating vegetation such as water hyacinth has expanded in the Delta in recent years, choking waterways like the one in the bottom of this photo.Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.

Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.

Long Criticized For Inaction At Salton Sea, California Says It’s All-In On Effort To Preserve State’s Largest Lake
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Dust suppression, habitat are key elements in long-term plan to aid sea, whose ills have been a sore point in Colorado River management

The Salton Sea is a major nesting, wintering and stopover site for about 400 bird species. Out of sight and out of mind to most people, the Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the desert lake from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and surrounded by clouds of choking dust.

The sea’s problems stretch beyond its boundaries in Imperial and Riverside counties and threaten to undermine multistate management of the Colorado River. A 2019 Drought Contingency Plan for the Lower Colorado River Basin was briefly stalled when the Imperial Irrigation District, holding the river’s largest water allocation, balked at participating in the plan because, the district said, it ignored the problems of the Salton Sea.  

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Framework for Agreements to Aid Health of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a Starting Point With An Uncertain End
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Voluntary agreement discussions continue despite court fights, state-federal conflicts and skepticism among some water users and environmental groups

Aerial image of the Sacramento-San Joaquin DeltaVoluntary agreements in California have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state regulators.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

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 Layperson's Guide to Climate Change and Water Resources Gary PitzerDouglas E. Beeman

As Wildfires Grow More Intense, California Water Managers Are Learning To Rewrite Their Emergency Playbook
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Agencies share lessons learned as they recover from fires that destroyed facilities, contaminated supplies and devastated their customers

Debris from the Camp Fire that swept through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise  in November 2018.

By Gary Pitzer and Douglas E. Beeman

It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems and upend an agency’s finances.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Lessons From the Flames: Advice From Water Managers Who Have Lived Through Disaster

California water managers who have lived through a devastating wildfire and its aftermath have shared key lessons from their experiences.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

How Private Capital is Speeding up Sierra Nevada Forest Restoration in a Way that Benefits Water
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: A bond fund that fronts the money is expediting a headwaters restoration project to improve forest health, water quality and supply

District Ranger Lon Henderson with Tahoe National Forest points toward an overgrown section of forest within the Blue Forest project area. The majestic beauty of the Sierra Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation. Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris, it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.

Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous, stream-choking mudflows. 

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 California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water Gary Pitzer

California Officials Draft a $600M Plan To Help Low-Income Households Absorb Rising Water Bills
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report proposes new taxes on personal and business income or fees on bottled water and booze to fund rate relief program

Filling a glass with clean water from the kitchen tap.Low-income Californians can get help with their phone bills, their natural gas bills and their electric bills. But there’s only limited help available when it comes to water bills.

That could change if the recommendations of a new report are implemented into law. Drafted by the State Water Resources Control Board, the report outlines the possible components of a program to assist low-income households facing rising water bills.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Headwaters Tour 2018

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality.

Headwaters tour participants on a hike in the Sierra Nevada.

We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts downstream and throughout the state. 

GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law Gary Pitzer

Amid ‘Green Rush’ of Legal Cannabis, California Strives to Control Adverse Effects on Water
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: State crafts water right and new rules unique to marijuana farms, but will growers accustomed to the shadows comply?

A marijuana plant from a growing operationFor decades, cannabis has been grown in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in suburban tract homes.

In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.

Western Water Jenn Bowles Jennifer Bowles

EDITOR’S NOTE: Assessing California’s Response to Marijuana’s Impacts on Water

Jennifer BowlesAs we continue forging ahead in 2018 with our online version of Western Water after 40 years as a print magazine, we turned our attention to a topic that also got its start this year: recreational marijuana as a legal use.

State regulators, in the last few years, already had been beefing up their workforce to tackle the glut in marijuana crops and combat their impacts to water quality and supply for people, fish and farming downstream. Thus, even if these impacts were perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of Californians who approved Proposition 64 in 2016, we thought it important to see if anything new had evolved from a water perspective now that marijuana was legal.


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management Gary Pitzer

Researchers Aim to Give Homeless a Voice in Southern California Watershed
NOTEBOOK: Assessment of homeless water challenges part of UC Irvine study of community water needs

Homeless encampment near Angel StadiumA new study could help water agencies find solutions to the vexing challenges the homeless face in gaining access to clean water for drinking and sanitation.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) in Southern California has embarked on a comprehensive and collaborative effort aimed at assessing strengths and needs as it relates to water services for people (including the homeless) within its 2,840 square-mile area that extends from the San Bernardino Mountains to the Orange County coast.

Headwaters Tour 2019
Field Trip - June 27-28

Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests, which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought, wildfires and widespread tree mortality. 

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Algal Blooms

Aerial photo of algal blooms in O'Neill Forebay in Merced County.y

Algal blooms are sudden overgrowths of algae. Their occurrence is increasing in California’s rivers, creeks and lakes and along the coast, threatening the lives of people, pets and fisheries.

Only a few types of algae can produce poisons, but even nontoxic blooms hurt the environment and local economies. When masses of algae die, the decaying can deplete oxygen in the water to the point of causing devastating fish kills.

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Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.

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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.


Looking to the Source: Watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
Published 2011

This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.

The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource
Published 2007

Problems with polluted stormwater and steps that can be taken to prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as “nuisance” runoff into a water resource is the focus of this publication, Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource. The 16-page booklet, funded by a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board, includes color photos and graphics, text explaining common stormwater pollutants and efforts to prevent stormwater runoff through land use/ planning/development – as well as tips for homeowners to reduce their impacts on stormwater pollution.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.


Two Sides of a River (60-minute DVD)

California’s little-known New River has been called one of North America’s most polluted. A closer look reveals the New River is full of ironic twists: its pollution has long defied cleanup, yet even in its degraded condition, the river is important to the border economies of Mexicali and the Imperial Valley and a lifeline that helps sustain the fragile Salton Sea ecosystem. Now, after decades of inertia on its pollution problems, the New River has emerged as an important test of binational cooperation on border water issues. These issues were profiled in the 2004 PBS documentary Two Sides of a River.


Two Sides of a River (60-minute DVD Spanish)


Spanish version of the 60-minute 2004 PBS documentary Two Sides of a River. DVD

Aquapedia background California Water Map


Sacramento River Basin

A watershed is the land area that drains snowmelt and rain into a network of lakes, streams, rivers and other waterways. It typically is identified by the largest draining watercourse within the system. In California, for example, the Sacramento River Basin is the state’s largest watershed.

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Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 237 feet below sea level.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s most beautiful yet vulnerable lakes. Renowned for its remarkable clarity, Tahoe straddles the Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles wide in a granitic bowl high in the Sierra Nevada.

Tahoe sits 6,225 feet above sea level. Its deepest point is 1,645 feet, making it the second-deepest lake in the nation, after Oregon’s Crater Lake, and the tenth deepest in the world.

Western Water Magazine

TMDLs: A Tool for Better Water Quality?
May/June 2001

The continued effort to improve water quality and reduce nonpoint source pollution will hinge largely on a little-known pollution control strategy known as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), which describe the amount of a particular pollutant that a water body can absorb on a daily basis while remaining safe for wildlife and people. While by no means a comprehensive explanation of all the factors surrounding this complex subject, this issue of Western Water provides a snapshot of TMDLs and what they mean for water quality, supply and reliability.

Western Water Magazine

Thirty Years of the Clean Water Act:
November/December 2002

2002 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant environmental laws in American history, the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA has had remarkable success, reversing years of neglect and outright abuse of the nation’s waters. But challenges remain as attention turns to the thorny issue of cleaning up nonpoint sources of pollution.

Western Water Magazine

Confronting a Legacy of Contamination: Perchlorate
May/June 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the problem of perchlorate contamination and its ramifications on all facets of water delivery, from the extensive cleanup costs to the search for alternative water supplies. In addition to discussing the threat posed by high levels of perchlorate in drinking water, the article presents examples of areas hard hit by contamination and analyzes the potential impacts of forthcoming drinking water standards for perchlorate.

Western Water Magazine

Mercury Rising Tackling the Legacy of the Gold Rush
May/June 2004

This issue of Western Water examines the presence of mercury in the environment and the challenge of limiting the threat posed to human health and wildlife. In addition to outlining the extent of the problem and its resistance to conventional pollution remedies, the article presents a glimpse of some possible courses of action for what promises to be a long-term problem.

Western Water Magazine

Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products: An Rx for Water Quality Problems?
July/August 2004

This issue of Western Water examines PPCPs – what they are, where they come from and whether the potential exists for them to become a water quality problem. With the continued emphasis on water quality and the fact that many water systems in the West are characterized by flows dominated by effluent contributions, PPCPs seem likely to capture interest for the foreseeable future.

Western Water Magazine

Remnants of the Past: Management Challenges of Terminal Lakes
January/February 2005

This issue of Western Water examines the challenges facing state, federal and tribal officials and other stakeholders as they work to manage terminal lakes. It includes background information on the formation of these lakes, and overviews of the water quality, habitat and political issues surrounding these distinctive bodies of water. Much of the information in this article originated at the September 2004 StateManagement Issues at Terminal Water Bodies/Closed Basins conference.

Western Water Magazine

Unlocking the Mysteries of Selenium
March/April 2006

This issue of Western Water examines that process. Much of the information is drawn from discussions that occurred at the November 2005 Selenium Summit sponsored by the Foundation and the California Department of Water Resources. At that summit, a variety of experts presented findings and the latest activities from areas where selenium is of primary interest.

Western Water Magazine

From Source to Tap: Protecting California’s Drinking Water
November/December 2006

This issue of Western Water looks at some of the issues facing drinking water providers, such as compliance with increasingly stringent treatment requirements, the need to improve source water quality and the mission of continually informing consumers about the quality of water they receive.

Western Water Magazine

Salt of the Earth: Can the Central Valley Solve its Salinity Problem?
July/August 2007

This Western Water looks at proposed new measures to deal with the century-old problem of salinity with a special focus on San Joaquin Valley farms and cities.

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.

Western Water Magazine

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Russian and the Santa Ana
May/June 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring the vestiges of the native past.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

Pervasive and Persistent: Constituents of Growing Concern
January/February 2011

This printed issue of Western Water, based on presentations at the November 3-4, 2010 Water Quality Conference in Ontario, Calif., looks at constituents of emerging concerns (CECs) – what is known, what is yet to be determined and the potential regulatory impacts on drinking water quality.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.

Western Water Magazine

Mimicking the Natural Landscape: Low Impact Development and Stormwater Capture
September/October 2011

This printed issue of Western Water discusses low impact development and stormwater capture – two areas of emerging interest that are viewed as important components of California’s future water supply and management scenario.

Western Water Magazine

How Much Water Does the Delta Need?
July/August 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they might be provided.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Meeting the Co-equal Goals? The Bay Delta Conservation Plan
May/June 2013

This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying California’s long-term water supply reliability.

Western Water Magazine

Two States, One Lake: Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue
September/October 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses some of the issues associated with the effort to preserve and restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

Western Water Magazine

Managing the Colorado River
November/December 1999

Drawn from a special stakeholder symposium held in September 1999 in Keystone, Colorado, this issue explores how we got to where we are today on the Colorado River; an era in which the traditional water development of the past has given way to a more collaborative approach that tries to protect the environment while stretching available water supplies.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (20 min. DVD)

20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.


The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages (60 min. DVD)

For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and California border has faced complex water management disputes. As relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp, farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists – all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water. After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the documentary here.


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.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.


Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Maps & Posters

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.

Maps & Posters

Truckee River Basin Map
Published 2005

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues. 

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.

Maps & Posters

Unwelcome Visitors

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explains how non-native invasive animals can alter the natural ecosystem, leading to the demise of native animals. “Unwelcome Visitors” features photos and information on four such species – including the zerbra mussel – and explains the environmental and economic threats posed by these species.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.


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 Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Publication California Groundwater Map

Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.

Publication Colorado River Basin Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River
Updated 2018

Cover page for the Layperson's Guide to the Colorado River .

The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.

Publication California Water Map

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


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.

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Water Treatment

Finding and maintaining a clean water supply for drinking and other uses has been a constant challenge throughout human history.

Today, significant technological developments in water treatment, including monitoring and assessment, help ensure a drinking water supply of high quality in California and the West.

The source of water and its initial condition prior to being treated usually determines the water treatment process. [See also Water Recycling.]

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Water Quality

A water treatment plant

California’s 40 million residents, the farmers who produce $50 billion a year in agricultural commodities, the industry that helps power the fifth-largest economy in the world and the plants, fish and wildlife that are a vital part of the state’s environment all depend on clean water to survive.

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.

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Regional Water Quality Control Boards in California

There are nine regional water quality control boards statewide.

The nine Regional Boards are semi-autonomous and are comprised of seven part-time Board members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Regional boundaries are based on watersheds and water quality requirements are based on the unique differences in climate, topography, geology and hydrology for each watershed. Each Regional Board makes critical water quality decisions for its region, including setting standards, issuing waste discharge requirements, determining compliance with those requirements, and taking appropriate enforcement actions.

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Safe Drinking Water Act

Safe Drinking Water Act

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for drinking water quality in the United States.

Launched in 1974 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act oversees states, communities, and water suppliers who implement the drinking water standards at the local level.

The act’s regulations apply to every public water system in the United States but do not include private wells serving less than 25 people.

According to the EPA, there are more than 160,000 public water systems in the United States.

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California Gold Rush and Today’s Water

More than 100 years ago, California’s Gold Rush left a toxic legacy that continues to cause problems in Northern California watersheds.

The discovery of gold in John Sutter’s millrace at Coloma in the 1840s drew people from around the globe.

Over the course of decades, intense efforts were focused on washing and prying gold from the hills of the Sierra Nevada.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

California boasts some of the finest quality drinking water on the planet. Every day, people turn on their tap and receive clean, safe water with nary a thought. But the water people take for granted isn’t so reliable for residents of small water systems and many disadvantaged communities (DACs) in rural agricultural areas.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

It may surprise some people to know that California is the fourth largest producer of crude oil in the United States and has a long history of oil exploration. Since the 1860s, wells in Kern County and Southern California have been tapped for more than 500,000 barrels of oil each day.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an important and controversial part of California’s water supply picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Pervasive and Persistent: Constituents of Growing Concern
January/February 2011

Is the water consumed by people everyday safe to drink or should there be concern about unregulated contaminants, many of which are the remnants of commonly used pharmaceutical and personal care products?

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt SudmanSue McClurg

From Source to Tap: Protecting California’s Drinking Water
Nov/Dec 2006

For most people in the United States, clean, safe drinking water is a given – a part of daily life that is assumed to be a constant, readily accessible commodity. Underpinning that fact are the vast, mostly unheralded efforts of the many people throughout the country who work everyday to take the raw source water from the environment and turn it into the safe drinking water that makes life possible.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Unlocking the Mysteries of Selenium
Mar/Apr 2006

There may be no other substance in nature as vexing as selenium. The naturally occurring trace element gained notoriety more than 20 years ago as it wreaked havoc among birds at the Kesterson Reservoir in California’s Central Valley. The discovery of dead and deformed birds sparked a widespread investigation that revealed the pervasiveness of selenium throughout much of the West; woven into the soil and rock of the landscape.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products
Jul/Aug 2004

Most people take for granted the quality of their drinking water and for good reason. Coinciding with America’s rapid urbanization last century was the development of an extensive infrastructure for the storage, treatment and delivery of water for generations to come. The improvement in the quality of water provided by water agencies has been so phenomenal that some of the best tasting water in the world comes not from a plastic bottle, but from the tap.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Confronting a Legacy of Contamination: Perchlorate
May/Jun 2003

There’s danger lurking underground. The threat cannot be seen, heard or felt immediately, but there it resides – in shallow pockets of groundwater and deep, cold subterranean aquifers situated hundreds of feet below the surface. The danger manifests itself through the most vital human activity next to breathing, the consumption of water. Experts know there is no such thing as pure water. Microscopic bits of a host of elements that surround us are present in the water we drink. They exist at levels that are harmless, and in fact some of the constituents found in tap water are beneficial to human health.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Thirty Years of the Clean Water Act
Nov/Dec 2002

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant environmental laws in American history, the Clean Water Act (CWA). The law that emerged from the consensus and compromise that characterizes the legislative process has had remarkable success, reversing years of neglect and outright abuse of the nation’s waters.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

TMDLs: A Tool for Better Water Quality?
May/Jun 2001

The arrival of each storm brings more than rain and snow to thirsty California. From the coastal redwoods to the streets of Los Angeles, water flowing from hillsides and paved surfaces carries with it a host of pollutants that befoul tributaries, streams and rivers. The toll on the environment is measured in closed beaches, reduced fish populations and, in some cases, a lower quality of available water for human use. The sources of pollution are sometimes easy to control with existing technology. But in other cases, the ubiquitous nature of contaminants has left regulators in a quandary over how to solve the problem.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Drinking Water Challenges: A Roundtable Discussion
Jan/Feb 2001

Drinking water is the ultimate recycled resource. It is recycled over years, centuries and millenniums. The water we use today is the same supply with which civilization began. The water that once coursed down the Ganges River or splashed into Julius Caesar’s bathing pool may end up running from the tap in your home.

Western Water Excerpt

The Challenge of MTBE: Clean Air vs. Clean Water?
Jul/Aug 1998

Clean air vs. clean water sums up the controversy surrounding the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), an oxygenate designed to help fuel burn cleaner, reducing tailpipe emissions. Since 1996, the year it was first used statewide on a year-round basis, MTBE has reduced smog from motor vehicles by 15 percent, according to air quality officials. It’s as if 3.5 million cars have disappeared from the roads – no small feat in the automobile – dependent Golden State.