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 E&E News

PFAS pose ‘watershed’ moment for Superfund liability

The Biden administration’s ambitions to crack down on “forever chemicals” — touted as an administration priority — are facing headwinds from key industries that say they could be unfairly punished and held liable for contamination they did not create. Members of the water and waste sectors are ramping up pressure on Congress and EPA to shield them from an upcoming proposal as the agency makes progress on addressing PFAS contamination. 

Aquafornia news Wild Rivers Outpost

Tar is still leaking into the Smith River after last month’s suspected DUI crash, officials confirm

Gobs of oily tar continue to slip past containment booms and drain into the Smith River, nearly a month after an overturned trailer spilled 2,000 gallons of the hot asphalt binder onto U.S. 199 between Hiouchi and Gasquet. Spokesperson Eric Laughlin with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response confirmed with the Outpost that the toxic goop is actively leaking into the Smith River, and that the agency received new reports of the material traveling downstream on Friday.

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California moves to curb harmful tire pollutant collecting in Bay, threatening wildlife

If you think about the pollution your car causes, chances are you’re not thinking about the tires. And probably even less about a faraway creek, where a Coho Salmon is dying. But researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere … say as the rubber wears away from car tires during everyday driving, it spreads tiny micro particles, including a destructive chemical called 6PPD. … Now, with information gathered in part by the [San Francisco Estuary] Institute, the State of California is stepping in, laying the groundwork for potential regulations to curb the toxic tire pollution.

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Aquafornia news Orange County Water District

News release: The first of four PFAS treatment facilities in Garden Grove begins operation

The Orange County Water District and the City of Garden Grove began operating one of four treatment plants being constructed in Garden Grove to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from local well water. PFAS are a group of thousands of manmade, heat-resistant chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and are commonly used in consumer products to repel water, grease and oil. Due to their prolonged use, PFAS are being detected in water sources throughout the United States, including the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which supplies 77% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. 

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: The reservoirs under our feet

When you picture water storage, a water tower on slanted stilts imposed upon a blue sky or a concrete reservoir piping water to the city might come to mind. The issue of water storage has become a high priority as regions such as California experience severe multi-year drought and are impacted by overextraction from aquifers. … The most climate resilient and long-term strategies to address water shortage lie at our feet, in the meadows that anchor our rivers headwaters and floodplains that extend across the broad lower river valleys.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

UC Davis creates AI model to predict leptospirosis in dogs

Veterinarians and researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a new way to detect leptospirosis, a life-threatening bacterial disease, in dogs using artificial intelligence. Leptospirosis is caused by the Leptospira bacteria, according to American Veterinary Medical Association, and it is typically found in soil and water. … Infections stem from urine-contaminated soil, food, bedding or from an animal bite. Dogs can be exposed to the bacteria from drinking water in rivers, lakes and streams, or being in contact with infected wildlife, farm animals, rodents and other dogs.

Aquafornia news UC Riverside

New research: Microbes can degrade the toughest PFAS

Engineers at UC Riverside are the first to report selective breakdown of a particularly stubborn class of PFAS called fluorinated carboxylic acids (FCAs) by common microorganisms. Under anaerobic conditions, a carbon-carbon double bond is crucial for the shattering the ultra-strong carbon-fluorine bond by microbial communities. While breaking the carbon-carbon bond does not completely degrade the molecule, the resulting products could be relayed to other microorganisms for defluorination under in aerobic conditions.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

News release: San Francisco Bay Water Board names Eileen White as new executive officer

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board announced the appointment of Eileen White as its executive officer, succeeding Michael Montgomery. Her first day is July 11. White most recently served as director of East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Wastewater Department, where she recently led the development of EBMUD’s Integrated Master Plan for its main wastewater treatment plant, along with EBMUD’s Climate Action Plan, to guide operations, investments and priorities for decades to come. White managed a workforce of 280 people.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Companies face billions in damages as PFAS lawsuits flood courts

For years, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing over health and environmental damage from so called forever chemicals, known collectively as PFAS, focused on one set of deep pockets—E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. But over the past two years, there’s been a seismic shift in the legal landscape as awareness of PFAS has expanded. Corporations including 3M Co., Chemguard Inc., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., National Foam Inc., and Dynax Corp. are now being sued at roughly the same rate as DuPont, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of more than 6,400 PFAS-related lawsuits filed in federal courts between July 2005 and March 2022. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Plastics industry targets Democrats to head off restrictions

In the current legislative session, lawmakers are working on a bill designed to reduce plastic waste. If they are unable to draft legislation by June 30, the issue will go straight to voters as a ballot measure. The initiative, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, would require all single-use plastic packaging and food ware used in California to be recyclable, reusable, refillable or compostable by 2030. … Over the last year, research has shown the presence of these particles in human blood, healthy lung tissue and meconium — the first bowel movement of a newborn. They are also found in marine organisms, ocean water, air and soil.

Aquafornia news Brentwood Press

Testing to reduce blue green algae in Willow Lake at Discovery Bay to begin

Discovery Bay’s Willow Lake will be sealed off from water flow next week for an experiment to reduce the number of blue green algal blooms. The experiment is being conducted and monitored by two separate companies and will last approximately three months. The lake will still be available for residents to use, officials said. Dave Caron, owner of Aquatic EcoTechnologies, conducted tests in Discovery Bay waters in 2020 and found peroxide to be effective in reducing blooms, but not harming other plant or animal life in the water. 

Aquafornia news Valley Voice

Water contamination in Exeter critical but fixable

Last week, an official and dire-sounding warning about high nitrate levels in the city of Exeter’s water supply began appearing on social media sites, and with them came comments rife with speculation, fearful reactions and visions of impending doom. The water situation in the midsize foothill town, however, is not as dangerous or widespread as some of those who stumble across the notice without context imagine it is. … The reality, says Exeter’s Director of Public Works Daymon Qualls, is Exeter’s water remains safe for most consumers. It should not be consumed by infants and pregnant women until the nitrate levels drop, probably in the autumn when the dry season ends. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California drought: How CA coastal communities are working to conserve, combat saltwater intrusion

For Executive Pastor Mark Spurlock, expanding classroom space at the Twin Lakes Christian School in Aptos has been addition by subtraction. At least when it comes to saving water. Following development offset rules outlined by the Soquel Creek Water District, the school engineered water-saving solutions to offset the new space they were building including replacing lawn areas with a drought-friendly plaza that catches and diverts water routed from nearby rooftops. … To better understand seawater intrusion, Duncan says the layman can think of the Santa Cruz area’s aquifer as a giant bathtub with mountain watershed on one side, and ocean on the other.

Aquafornia news Water Technology

Researchers design process to extract ammonia and fertilizer from industrial wastewater

A dash of ruthenium atoms on a mesh of copper nanowires could be one step toward a revolution in the global ammonia industry that also helps the environment. Collaborators at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, Arizona State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed the high-performance catalyst that can, with near 100% efficiency, pull ammonia and solid ammonia — aka fertilizer — from low levels of nitrates that are widespread in industrial wastewater and polluted groundwater.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Alarming research on pesticide warrants curbs on its use

Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide, widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are paying closer attention …
-Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Aquafornia news AP News

No sea serpents, mobsters but Tahoe trash divers strike gold

In addition to removing 25,000 pounds (11,339 kilograms) of underwater litter [from Lake Tahoe] since last May, divers and volunteers have been meticulously sorting and logging the types and GPS locations of the waste. The dozens of dives that concluded this week were part of a first-of-its-kind effort to learn more about the source and potential harm caused by plastics and other pollutants in the storied alpine lake on the California-Nevada line.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Are there sea lions by the Tower Bridge in Sacramento CA?

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks. That honking blob that looked like a sea lion near Tower Bridge — it probably was one. Sightings of the marine animals often make their rounds on Sacramento social media, and can send the average user down a rabbit hole (if you’re new, or younger than, say, 35 you may also be excited to learn about Humphrey, the vagabond humpback whale). But why are these creatures — who typically spend their time on the coast — appearing so far from the ocean? The answer’s rather simple: They’re are more of them, and they’re hungry.

Aquafornia news KUOW - Seattle

Seattle fish research could shake up global tire industry

Research in Seattle-area creeks has discovered tire bits shedding lethal amounts of a little-known, salmon-killing chemical called 6PPD-quinone. … In December 2020, 27 coauthors published an article in the journal Science identifying 6PPD-quinone as the coho killer. Within weeks, the U.S Tire Manufacturers Association asked California officials to treat tires with 6PPD as a priority under the state’s toxic-chemical laws. Coho salmon is an endangered species in California. The California rule, once finalized, would give manufacturers of tires sold there 180 days to assess any known or potential alternatives to 6PPD in tire rubber.

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Cleanup complete: Nonprofit removes over 25,000 pounds of trash from Lake Tahoe

Nearly one year ago, a nonprofit launched an unprecedented effort to remove trash from Lake Tahoe’s entire 72-mile-long shoreline. On Tuesday, it completed its mission. Clean Up the Lake ended up removing 24,797 pieces of litter weighing a combined 25,281 pounds from the treasured alpine lake on the California-Nevada border. Since the 72-mile cleanup effort kicked off on May 14, 2021, Clean Up the Lake’s team of staff and volunteers spent dozens of days pulling everything from beer cans and beach towels to engagement rings and a cordless house phone from the water near shore.

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Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

State lawmakers target trash in Tijuana River valley

A handful of state lawmakers gathered last week on the side of the Tijuana River Estuary that’s not visibly clogged by plastics and tires spilling from Mexico down canyon gullies or down the river itself to ask the governor for money to, well, stop trash from spilling over the border.  Southern California lawmakers hope Gov. Gavin Newsom will put $100 million in next year’s budget to be split equally between the Tijuana River and the Mexicali-to-Salton-Sea-flowing New River, both sewage-plagued water bodies.

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Aquafornia news San Bernardino Sun

Devore residents battling water company over multimillion-dollar tank on board member’s land

The rural hillside community of Devore has erupted in a dispute pitting a tiny local water company against a group of residents opposed to construction of a potential $7 million reservoir on a board member’s property. At issue with some residents is a 99-year land lease agreement, ratified in July 2021, between the Devore Water Co. and Doug Claflin, a member of the company’s board of directors. It would allow the water company to build a 610,000-gallon water tank on Claflin’s property to treat nitrate-contaminated water by blending it with clean water to reduce nitrate levels. 

Aquafornia news Law Street Media

Blog: Orange County Coastkeeper sues owner of metal finishing facility under Clean Water Act

On Thursday, the Orange County Coastkeeper filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Hixson Metal Finishing, FPC Management, LLC and Reid Washbon alleging violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Clean Water Act.  According to the complaint, the Orange County Coastkeeper is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection and defense of the environment, wildlife and natural resources of Orange County. 

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Will massive Western wildfires leave more or less water in rivers?

In a state where every drop of water matters, Sears and another grad student, Mikaela Richardson, are out collecting data that will help answer an important question that’s gaining more attention from the scientific community: If massive wildfires continue to spread across the West, particularly at higher altitudes where snowpack is more plentiful and critical, what effect will that have on the region’s water supply?

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

California voters in November likely will decide on plastics – again

California’s inability to meet its long-stated goal of cutting solid waste by 75 percent by 2020 has prompted environmentalists to craft a ballot initiative targeting single-use plastic products – including a sharp limit on their production. The initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot marks the second time in six years that California voters have decided on plastics use. … The latest initiative, the California Recycling and Plastic Reduction Act, would require all single-use plastic packaging and foodware to be recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Are there microplastics in the Napa River? According to experts, probably

Plastic seems to be everywhere nowadays, and based on existing research on the greater San Francisco Bay, it is highly likely that the Napa River and its watershed are filled with it, too. … The most recent of [activist Chris] Malan and ICARE’s missions is the Napa Watershed Microplastic Project, although the group has historically conducted steelhead studies, helped restore Suscol Creek and the like. An educational endeavor with the hopes of teaching the public about microplastics, this new project came about when ICARE members started to notice an uptick in the amount of plastic in and around the Napa River.

Aquafornia news Water News Network

Water authority awarded patent for pipeline inspection tool

The San Diego County Water Authority has been granted its first ever utility patent for a device that inspects interior sections of water pipelines that are inaccessible or not safe to inspect without expensive specialized gear and training. Water Authority Operations and Maintenance Manager Martin Coghill invented the tool to save time, reduce costs and improve safety during ongoing aqueduct inspections. The Water Authority’s industry-leading Asset Management Program includes a proactive search for pipeline weaknesses that can be addressed before they become large and costly problems.

Aquafornia news City News Service

San Diego wins appeal in State lead testing mandate case

The city of San Diego has won an appeal in its suit challenging a state mandate that required local water districts to pay for mandatory lead testing at schools, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office said Wednesday. The ruling issued Friday finds that either the state’s Commission on State Mandates must reimburse San Diego for water testing or the city can impose fees, charges or assessments to cover testing costs.

Aquafornia news City News Service

LA votes to phase out single-use plastics at city facilities

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to begin the process to phase out single-use plastics at city facilities and city-sponsored events, as well as to take steps toward a potential citywide ban on polystyrene products such as Styrofoam. … Wednesday’s motion instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic at city facilities and at events on city property. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

New LA reservoir ultraviolet disinfection plant opens in Granada Hills

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman John Lee visited the newly-completed Los Angeles Reservoir Ultraviolet Disinfection Plant in Granada Hills on Monday, May 2, which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said will treat up to 650 million gallons of water each day, more than enough to fill the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum twice. The new plant will be the last stop in a complex water treatment processes. It is the second ultraviolet facility in the network…

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Trash from bottom of Lake Tahoe will be turned into sculpture to ‘inspire greater environmental stewardship’

Trash collected from the bottom of Lake Tahoe will be turned into art. The Tahoe Fund is commissioning artists to create a sculpture in Tahoe City by using some of the recovered items found during a year-long scuba cleanup of the lake performed by the Clean Up The Lake team.

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Aquafornia news CBS 8 San Diego

San Diego County unveiling new water testing technology

San Diego County officials Wednesday will introduce a new water-testing technology they will begin using the very next day to provide same-day public warnings of poor coastal water quality that causes illness.  San Diego leaders say the results will be more accurate and posted within hours instead of the next day, reducing the time the public could be at risk if water is contaminated.

Aquafornia news E&E News

‘Enough is enough’: Calif. targets Big Oil over plastics

In a first-of-its-kind legal action, California is interrogating the role of fossil fuel and chemical giants in driving the plastics pollution crisis and deceiving consumers about recycling. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said yesterday that the state is investigating Exxon Mobil Corp. and other companies for “their role in causing and exacerbating” plastics contamination. … “In California and across the globe, we are seeing the catastrophic results of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign of deception. Plastic pollution is seeping into our waterways, poisoning our environment, and blighting our landscapes,” said Bonta, a Democrat, in a statement.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

California attorney general subpoenas ExxonMobil, opens major investigation into plastic pollution

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday announced a major investigation into companies that manufacture plastics, the first of its kind in the nation, saying that for 50 years they have been engaged in potentially illegal business practices by misleadingly claiming that plastics products are recyclable, when most are not. Bonta said he issued subpoenas to ExxonMobil, with other companies likely to follow, and said society’s growing plastics pollution problem — particularly in oceans, which are littered by trillions of tiny pieces of plastic — is something they are legally liable for and should be ordered to address.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Truck driver dumped 2,000 gallons of ‘asphalt binder’ in California forest, CHP says

A truck driver who law enforcement believes was driving under the influence dumped 2,000 gallons of “hot asphalt binder” in a California forest this week. … Officials from Six Rivers National Forest said the trailer contained 2,000 gallons of “hot asphalt binder,” which began seeping into the Smith River. … A quick response by forest workers, Caltrans, Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services and other agencies minimized the spread of the chemicals. They believe there are no impacts to water quality.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Government spending on stormwater management in California

Stormwater infrastructure in cities is highly visible and serves to mitigate flooding and reduce pollution that reaches local waterbodies. Being so visible, it might be reasonable to assume that stormwater is adequately funded both in infrastructure and water quality management. Yet, stormwater infrastructure and water quality improvement are notoriously difficult to fund.

Aquafornia news Stateline

Climate change is pushing toxic chemicals into drinking wells

Drought can increase the concentration of pathogens and other contaminants in well water. And fires can damage the well equipment and piping, leaching toxic chemicals into drinking water and forcing property owners to consider costly repairs, upgrades and filtering systems even as they rebuild their homes and businesses. Beyond the West, heavier rains and floods threaten well water quality, too.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Neighbors complain about putrid odor in the Cañón de la Pedrera neighborhood of Tijuana

Residents in the Cañón de la Pedrera neighborhood of Tijuana about six miles south of the border are complaining about a putrid odor that is so strong some days it has made a few neighbors feel ill. … The smell has lasted for weeks and seems to be coming from a nearby concrete channel where some residents appear to have built their own makeshift drainage system to dump their waste water into. … That water flows down the river and eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean.

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Aquafornia news Business Wire

Responsible Flushing Alliance publishes new infographic educating the public on the strangest items found in California catch basins

Today, the Responsible Flushing Alliance (RFA) published a new infographic highlighting some of the strangest objects that have been pulled out of municipal wastewater treatment catch basins in three California areas. … Consumers are urged to look for the “Do Not Flush” symbol on the packaging of wipes that are not intended by the manufacturer to be flushable. This includes baby wipes, household cleaning wipes, makeup removal wipes, and other wipes made with plastic materials that do not disperse in water.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

UC Davis research details microplastics in ocean food chain

Germs are hitching rides around the world’s waterways on the tiniest of rafts — microscopic plastic fibers from human clothing and fishing nets — and contaminate the shellfish that consume them, according to research published Tuesday by scientists at the University of California, Davis. These researchers hope to see further study on how the pathogens in these contaminated fish affect the humans and other animals eating them.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Researchers look at how biofilters can protect waterways

Onja Davidson Raoelison, a doctoral candidate in environmental engineering at UCLA, has been working to keep waterways safe. Her research and studies focus on green infrastructure and how wildfires impact water systems…. Raoelison has been looking at how biofilters can protect water from debris and toxic pollutants such as heavy metals.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

National City resident tested their tap’s yellowed water, here’s what it said

National City resident Ramel Wallace wanted to know what was in the apple juice-colored water that poured from his tap earlier this month, so he tested it and sent me the results. While a water quality test purchased from Walmart is not as detailed as one taken by a hydrologic specialist at a lab, Wallace’s tests didn’t seem to show anything out of the ordinary, said Justin Brazil, Sweetwater’s director of water quality, after hearing the results read to him by a reporter. 

Aquafornia news KTAR Phoenix

Groundwater pollution may be an overlooked aspect of Arizona water issues

You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers, which are porous rock that contain or transport water. About 40% of the state’s water supply is underground, with that number likely to increase due to reductions in available water from the Colorado River. An ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource got contaminated.

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California drought: First-of-its-kind project prepares South San Francisco park for drier times CA’s continued drought

You could say that Orange Memorial Park in South San Francisco is about to turn deep green. … [Colma Creek is] an historic, natural waterway that was heavily cemented for flood control in the early days of the area’s development. For decades, the creek has carried runoff from the surrounding watershed straight into San Francisco Bay, along with a significant amount of trash. But that’s about to change.

Aquafornia news University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Analysis: The Salton Sea – An introduction to an evolving system and the role of science

The Salton Sea, located in Southern California, is a saline terminal lake that has had many identities over the past century or so. Since its reincarnation in 1905 due to lower Colorado River flooding that partially refilled the Salton Sink, it has been California’s largest lake by surface area, covering approximately 350 square miles…. Yet with nearly 90% of its inflow comprised of agricultural drainage waters from the approximately 500,000 acres of irrigated farmland in the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), and exposure to an extremely arid climate that results in excessive evaporation … the Sea’s natural attractions have faded as the lake has become more polluted and nearly twice as saline as the ocean….

Aquafornia news UC Davis

New research: Pathogens can hitch a ride on plastic to reach the sea

Microplastics are a pathway for pathogens on land to reach the ocean, with likely consequences for human and wildlife health, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. The study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, is the first to connect microplastics in the ocean with land-based pathogens. It found that microplastics can make it easier for disease-causing pathogens to concentrate in plastic-contaminated areas of the ocean.

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Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: White House Council on Environmental Quality finalizes first phase of NEPA regulation revisions

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has reversed three key Trump administration changes that govern how federal agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The rule, published on April 20, 2022, finalizes what the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) called “Phase One” of their effort to review and revise the Trump administration’s July 2020 overhaul of the NEPA regulations, and follows a proposed rule that CEQ issued for public comments last fall.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: The Putah Creek fish kill: Learning from a local disaster

In November 2021, salmon entering Putah Creek were part of a large fish kill in the lower creek. The event took everyone familiar with the creek by surprise and prevented successful migration of the creek’s fall salmon. Only 4 or 5 adult Chinook salmon made it upstream to suitable spawning habitat. The result was particularly tragic as it followed on the heels of the restoration of a salmon run in the creek, as well as habitat for other fishes.

Aquafornia news Eos

Uranium detected in Latinx communities’ water systems

Unsafe uranium levels have been detected in more than 14,000 community water systems across the United States, and 63% of water records reported at least a trace amount of the contaminant, according to a new nationwide analysis. Concentrations of uranium, along with arsenic, barium, chromium, and selenium, were the highest in community water systems that serve semiurban Latinx communities.

Aquafornia news San Diego State University

Newsletter: Navigating the San Diego River’s past and its future

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the San Diego River has long been listed as an impaired water body, but SDSU researchers are working to fix it. … In another study, SDSU environmental engineer Natalie Mladenov and her team found that high levels of bacteria correlate with the presence of caffeine and sucralose, found only in human waste. 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Pure Water Monterey source water questioned by businesses

A group of business interests that have been historic cheerleaders for a Monterey Peninsula desalination project has written a letter to officials at Pure Water Monterey, the provider of potable recycled water along the Monterey Peninsula, questioning the adequacy of source water for it and a planned expansion of the project, questions Pure Water Monterey says it has already answered. The Pure Water Monterey project is key to helping solve the Peninsula’s chronic water shortages as state regulators have significantly scaled back the amount of water that can be pumped from the Carmel River.

Aquafornia news Craft Beer & Brewing

Water chemistry for brewers: How climate change is interfering with your most important ingredient

Brewers from Colorado to Wyoming to California are watching nervously as [drought] grows more acute. … [Mitch] Steele, who spent a decade as brewmaster at Stone Brewing outside San Diego, says most of Southern California’s water blends Colorado River water with Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack transferred via the California Aqueduct. Extreme drought conditions in California results in suppliers upping the blend percentage from the Colorado River, which picks up a large quantity of minerals as it travels the long distance.

Aquafornia news Slate

Emeryville, California, and the challenge of cleaning up poisoned land

In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco, sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory. The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the latter.

Aquafornia news Downey Brand LLP

Blog: California steps up its investigations and permitting of PFAS

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) recently updated the regulated community and the public on the Board’s statewide investigation to study and sample potential sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  The State Water Board’s investigation is aimed at public agencies involved in drinking water and wastewater treatment, as well as private entities involved in manufacturing or other industries where PFAS may have been used in various products and/or processes.

Aquafornia news Brownstein

Blog: Here today, gone tomorrow? Supreme Court uses emergency docket to weigh-in on section 401 program

Entities seeking federal authorization for infrastructure projects that may impact waters of the United States must obtain a Section 401 certification under the Trump administration’s narrowed Section 401 certification rule—for now. On April 6, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Trump administration’s Section 401 certification rule will stay in place while further litigation proceeds, potentially signaling how the court may view the underlying merits of the case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

East Coachella Valley mobile home parks: arsenic water, sewage pits

Arellano Mobile Home Park … is one of seven east Coachella Valley trailer parks where since November EPA inspectors have found water containing arsenic levels above federal legal limits — even from a faucet equipped with a filter — and thousands of times above state public health guidelines. Low-income residents at the small park and others like it told The Desert Sun they’ve long endured foul-smelling water and have had to buy gallons of clean water for years to try to stay safe. 

Aquafornia news Food & Water Watch

Blog: Ventura County farmers urge passage of measures A and B to protect water resources

Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura County farming community joined advocates and water experts to urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was approved in 1928. 

Aquafornia news Water Finance & Management

California school district files lawsuit over contaminated drinking water

SL Environmental Law Group recently announced that its client, Ballico-Cressey School District in Ballico, California, has filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical and Shell Oil, sellers of pesticides that contained the chemical 1,2,3 trichloropropane, known as “TCP.” The lawsuit claims that these products have contaminated a well that the district uses to supply drinking water at Cressey School, where special drinking fountains have been installed to remove TCP from the water so it is safe to drink. 

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Sisolak praises Clean Up The Lake for trash collection efforts at Tahoe

As Clean Up The Lake nears completion of their 72-mile project, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak joined the crew on Monday to thank them for their progress thus far. On Monday, April 11, Sisolak joined officials from the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with staff and volunteers from CUTL and project sponsors Tahoe Fund and Tahoe Blue Vodka, at Nevada’s Sand Harbor State Park to celebrate the historic initiative to remove underwater trash and debris from nearshore areas across the entire Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Related article: 

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 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
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 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 Douglas E. Beeman 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 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
Aquapedia background


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

Algal Blooms

Algal blooms in rivers, creeks and lakes are an increasing occurrence in California, threatening human health and safety as well as pets. Blue-green algal blooms (cyanobacteria) occur in California during the summer months because hot temperatures combined with low water levels stimulate growth. If there are excess nutrients present in their environment, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, algae populations grow at accelerated rates, creating algal blooms.

Aquapedia background

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.

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.


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

Salton Sea

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.

The most recent version of the Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes and flooded the seabed for two years, creating California’s largest inland body of water. The Salton Sea, which is saltier than the Pacific Ocean, includes 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe

Aquapedia background Lakes

Lake Tahoe

World-renowned for its crystal clear, azure water, Lake Tahoe straddles the Nevada-California border, stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles wide and hemmed in by Sierra Nevada peaks.

At 1,645 feet deep, Tahoe is the second-deepest lake in the United States and the 10th deepest in the world. The iconic lake sits 6,225 feet above sea level.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Aquapedia background

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.]

Aquapedia background

Water Quality

A water treatment plant

People, farmers, industry and the environment in California depend on clean water to survive.

Surface waters, however, are threatened by a host of pollutants, such as bacteria, trash and agricultural runoff. Groundwater in California also can be contaminated by nitrates and industrial chemicals that seep from the land above. [See also How is Drinking Water Treated?]

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.

Aquapedia background

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.

Aquapedia background

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.