Topic: Water Quality

Overview

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 U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico

News release: U.S. – Mexico binational meeting on transborder water pollution

The U.S. and Mexican governments met today in Tijuana to discuss transboundary water pollution challenges along the shared border. … Recognizing the critical importance of addressing water pollution for the benefit of citizens on both sides of the border, the U.S. and Mexican delegations reviewed the important progress made toward reducing pollution levels. Mexico highlighted their $46 million dollars of investment by local, state, and federal authorities completed between 2019 to 2021 in water sanitation projects for the Tijuana River …

Aquafornia news Colusa Sun Herald

Clear Lake to receive funding for Source Water Protection planning

To help agricultural producers improve water quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $1.6 million in funding through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) for three projects in high priority watersheds in California. … The Clear Lake project has been selected for funding as a new Source Water Protection planning watershed, targeting conservation efforts through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), according to the release.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Pico Water District receives PFAS water treatment grants

An agreement with the California Water Replenishment District (WRD) to cover the construction costs of new treatment facilities will result in improved water quality and millions of dollars in savings for Pico Water District customers. Under the terms of the agreement, WRD will provide nearly $4.3 million in reimbursements for equipment to remove per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detected in the groundwater supply. Scientific studies indicate that exposure to PFAS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects.

Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

San Rafael sewage spill dumps 75K gallons

About 75,000 gallons of sewage spilled in San Rafael’s Montecito and Happy Valley neighborhoods after a pipe backed up, officials said Monday. The spill happened last week off Highland Avenue above San Rafael High School. It is the latest sewage spill believed to be linked to the atmospheric river storm that battered the Bay Area on Oct. 24, according to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. 

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Private water company’s woes leave Santa Cruz mountain community high and dry

A private water company in the Santa Cruz Mountains that residents are concerned has exposed them to unsafe drinking water in the last year has been fined $21,000 by the California State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water. … For the last year, nearly 500 of Big Basin Water Company’s customers have dealt with repeated water outages and boil advisories. During an outage, outside contaminants can make their way into a water system and boil advisories are typically issued until the utility company’s tests show the water is safe to drink again.

Aquafornia news Gold Country Media

‘A Golden Spike moment’: PCWA pays homage to forefathers as pipeline project is completed

The Placer County Water Agency entertained dozens of guests Nov. 4 for tours of its Ophir Pump Station and, a short drive away, the Foothill Water Treatment Plant in Newcastle. There were pastries and beverages at the Ophir Station and gift bags at Foothill. Presentations were made, pictures taken, questions asked and speeches given – all with beaming smiles, and reason to celebrate. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

TV report: Vegas-area sewage spilled into creek to Lake Mead

A big southern Nevada sewage pumping facility failed last year, spewing an estimated 500,000 gallons of wastewater and leaking into a creek that leads toward the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River, a television station investigation found. Officials want to spend $40 million to rehabilitate the Clark County Water Reclamation District wastewater lift station, where the January 2020 spill was blamed on a corroded underground pipe, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Santa Cruz mountain community struggles with unreliable, unsafe water service

In Boulder Creek, a small community nestled deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, frustration over an unreliable water supply is growing. … For the past year, nearly 500 residents in Boulder Creek under the privately-owned Big Basin Water Company have dealt with repeated water outages because of an aging and deteriorating water system. The residents said they also deal with delays in being notified they must boil their water when service resumes, according to the Parks and Apostol. Sometimes, they say, they don’t get a “no boil advisory” notification for more than 24 hours.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Lake Tahoe water clarity in good condition after Caldor Fire

Lake Tahoe’s water quality and clarity are in good condition following this summer’s devastating Caldor Fire, new research showed. According to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, citizen volunteers from its Pipe Keepers program collected stormwater samples during an atmospheric river storm on Oct. 24. The samples came from 25 sites on Tahoe’s south shore, including 16 storm water pipes and eight stream sites that drain the areas burned by the Caldor Fire. 

Aquafornia news Patch, Pasadena

Pasadena sues Caltech over polluted groundwater

Pasadena City officials are suing Caltech over allegations that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which the university runs, contaminated the local groundwater supply through its rocket research, Pasadena Now reported. A test of the city’s groundwater found it contained toxic chemicals, including perchlorate and carbon tetrachloride, according to the magazine. High levels of perchlorate could lead to both thyroid and lung issues, while carbon tetrachloride is considered a possible carcinogenic to humans.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Law Street Media

Los Angeles Waterkeeper sues senior Aerospace SSP over Clean Water Act

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Waterkeeper filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Senior Operations LLC for violating the Clean Water Act and California’s Storm Water Permit. In the complaint, the plaintiff states it is a California non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection and defense of the environment, wildlife and natural resources of Los Angeles’ surface waters. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Opinion: California must do more to keep lead out of drinking water

Benton Harbor, Mich., recently became the latest community where persistent lead contamination in drinking water drew national attention. Media attention to this problem is good, but when it’s in another community or neighborhood, too many of us simply shrug. The truth, however, is that such contamination is much more widespread than the few pockets the public hears about. It’s a serious problem here in California.

-Written by Jenn Engstrom, director of California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG); and Susan Little, senior advocate for the California Government Affairs Environmental Working Group.

Aquafornia news The Recorder

Blog: Industrial machinery company accused of discharging metal-polluted water into Los Angeles River

Flowserve US Inc., a provider of industrial pumps, seals and valves, was hit with an environmental lawsuit Monday in California Central District Court. The complaint, filed by California Coastkeeper on behalf of Los Angeles Waterkeeper, accuses the defendant of discharging metal-polluted water into the Los Angeles River without authorization in violation of the Clean Water Act. Counsel have not yet appeared for the defendant. The case is 2:21-cv-08950, Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. Flowserve US, Inc.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Infrastructure week is finally here. What California will get

Washington has become known as the town where nothing gets done. But Congress on Nov. 5 approved a bipartisan $1.2-trillion infrastructure bill … California is expected to get $3.5 billion over the next five years to eliminate lead pipes and take other steps to improve the quality of drinking water. The effort would help clean up PFAS, the “forever chemicals” that reside indefinitely and accumulate in the human body, according to the White House…. Biden is scheduled to sign the bill Monday during a ceremony at the White House.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Settlement has PacBell removing lead cables from Lake Tahoe

AT&T-owned Pacific Bell will remove two large, defunct telephone cables from the bottom of Lake Tahoe, following an agreement reached in federal court in response to a California environmental nonprofit’s legal complaint. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed a complaint this January against Pacific Bell Telephone Co., arguing that the presence of PacBell submarine telephone lines on the west side of Lake Tahoe violates federal and state environmental rules.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Tiny Sacramento water district ripped for ‘safety dangers’

An obscure north Sacramento water district has been accused by a grand jury of neglecting millions of dollars in overdue repairs, failing to inform customers quickly about chemical contamination, operating largely in secret and even ignoring a directive by the county’s top prosecutor on the proper procedures for awarding an engineering contract. Del Paso Manor Water District is the subject of a blistering report this week by the Sacramento County Grand Jury, which said the tiny agency is “flooded with public safety dangers.”

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Los Angeles region works to decrease runoff pollution

Waterways within the densely populated, heavily developed Los Angeles metropolitan area often suffer from multiple water quality impairments, particularly as a result of dry weather runoff. At the same time, the Los Angeles region relies heavily on imported water sources, in some cases from hundreds of miles away. In a bid to address these problems, on at least a small scale, the city of Los Angeles and several local partners have teamed up on a novel approach.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Reuters

California agency sues 3M, others over groundwater contamination

California’s largest groundwater agency has sued 3M Co, Corteva Inc, the Chemours Co and other manufacturers and sellers of industrial and consumer products over claims they contain a toxic chemical that polluted drinking water in Los Angeles. The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD), which oversees drinking water supplied to 43 cities in Los Angeles County, alleges in a complaint made public Tuesday that the companies knew products ranging from firefighting foam to textiles and non-stick cookware would pollute groundwater …

Aquafornia news ABC7 - Los Angeles

How safe is LA’s water? Environmental group says legal limits still pose health risks

You turn on the tap and expect clean water. But what exactly is in that water? Analysts at EWG, a nonprofit environmental group, found a number of chemicals that are known to cause cancer. … EWG has a new tap-water database. Analysis of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water found the level of arsenic 430 times its own EWG recommendation. It also found chromium at 29 times recommended levels, and acids from disinfectants at 184 times.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Around Kings County: Jackson Ranch wants to help Kettleman City

The statewide drought has put small communities in a bind when it comes to water. Kettleman City may easily be the poster child. Benzine and arsenic in the water wells in this I-5 town led to state and federal help to build an $11 million water treatment plant in 2020 so the town could finally get clean water from the California Aqueduct that runs right through town.

Aquafornia news Albany (NY) Times Union

‘Green Amendment’ added to New York state Constitution

State voters broadly approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing New Yorkers the right to “clean air and water and a healthful environment”  …. While it mirrors legislation adopted by Pennsylvania and a handful of other states, its New York roots are in the Capital Region: Following the crisis over toxic contamination in Hoosick Falls, residents and advocacy groups statewide demanded a constitutional right to clean water.

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: Tide to table profiles – Hog Island Oyster Co.

In California’s Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Co. uses marine biology to sustainably farm shellfish. It’s a zero-input crop that is helping to restore the water quality of the bay. The company founders are both marine biologists who focus on growing oysters in a manner that enhances the health of the ecosystem. Existing infrastructure is used when possible—many buildings from the 1860s and 1870s have been restored and incorporated into the farm. 

Aquafornia news Santa Cruz Sentinel

Frustrations mount over drinking water reliability in Boulder Creek: ‘We are at the breaking point’

More than a year after the historic fire was put out — and some residents were able to return home – much of the Boulder Creek region is still without reliable drinking water. The CZU Complex destroyed most of the Big Basin Water Company’s pipelines and tanks, along with its only surface water treatment plant. The fire also burned down the water purveyor’s office, and with it all of its records. It meant residents had to boil water months after the blaze. And more recently that’s become routine once again.

Related article:

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: Wildfire and impacts to water

The impacts of California’s ongoing dry and warm years were seen this year with a historic wildfire season. Correspondingly, the risk of wildfire damage to water infrastructure is increasing, including risks of secondary impacts from burned area sediment entering waterbodies and affecting water treatment plant operations.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

SLO County water utility sues companies over contamination

The Atascadero Mutual Water Company is suing three prominent companies after chemicals linked to cancer and other health conditions were found in wells that supply drinking water to the city. The water utility’s product liability lawsuit, filed Oct. 15 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, aims to recover damages from 3M Co., DuPont and Chemours Co., which use the chemicals. Known as “forever chemicals,” perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are used in manufacturing and have appeared in products such as Teflon cookware, firefighting foam, cosmetics and water- and stain-resistant products since the 1940s … 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A California town refused to help its neighbors with water. So the state stepped in

Exeter, less than a mile away … has refused to connect Tooleville to its water system. The engineering is simple: 0.7 miles of pipe. The human risk of not doing it is high. Tooleville water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium (chrom-6), and sometimes nitrates linked to agriculture and bacteria….Among a slew of water bills signed in September was one inspired largely by Tooleville’s struggle. Called the “proactive water solutions bill,” SB 403 gives the state the power to mandate and fund consolidation when there is an at-risk water system.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Big storm leaves San Francisco Bay waters strewn with debris

The big storm brought a lot of much-needed moisture to the Bay Area, but it also brought a lot of stuff into the San Francisco Bay that doesn’t belong in the bay. … [Sajel Choksi-Chugh, the executive director for San Francisco Baykeeper] and her team scooped up visible trash and debris from the bay on Wednesday. This is something that typically happens after a big storm, according to Choksi-Chugh.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Biden admin to uproot Trump ‘critical habitat’ policies

The Biden administration today moved to rescind Trump administration policies that crimped the designation of critical habitat to protect threatened or endangered species. In a pair of long-anticipated moves, the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries proposed getting rid of a Trump-era definition of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. FWS is also proposing to end a policy that made it easier to exclude territory. Taken together, the two proposed rule changes could significantly alter the much-litigated ESA landscape and, supporters say, enhance conservation and recovery of vulnerable animals or plants.

Aquafornia news Estuary News Magazine

Habitat tramplers run amuck – cows versus creeks

[A] suite of federal, state, and local laws ostensibly protect California’s watersheds from pollution, and volumes of codes are dedicated specifically to safeguarding streams and rivers from cattle. Yet through a variety of loopholes and exemptions, and possibly agency languor, roaming cows have access to many of the state’s waterways. Here, the animals denude riverbanks, eliminate riparian habitat, and degrade water quality. High concentrations of manure-born bacteria are known to flow from Marin County cattle ranches into the waters surrounding Point Reyes.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

As need to test water for microplastics grows, California finds way

Wherever you get your drinking water, there’s a good chance it contains some amount of tiny plastic pieces. There aren’t a lot of rules or regulations around this particular pollutant because it is considered an emerging contaminant, but that is changing. Scott Coffin, a research scientist who works for the State Water Resources Control Board, is proud of a recent accomplishment: an official, streamlined process to monitor microplastics in drinking water.

Aquafornia news Estuary News Magazine

Tracking natural nitrogen removal

Nitrogen inputs to the San Francisco Bay are among the highest of estuaries worldwide, yet so far have not caused harmful impacts like extreme algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and fish kills. But resistance to this nutrient may not last. Ever since the Gold Rush, excess sediment from pulverized rock has been pouring into the Bay, clouding the water and keeping algae in check by blocking sunlight. 

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Blog: California water district moves ahead with PFAS treatment systems

Beginning in 2019, multiple retail water providers in Orange County, California, elected to shut down several dozen groundwater wells because they were found to contain low levels of a class of contaminants known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. In a region that depends heavily on groundwater for its water supplies, the closures have proved expensive… Following an extensive study of various methods of removing PFAS from drinking water, the Orange County Water District recently began operations at the first of more than 30 planned PFAS treatment facilities.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Grist

Study: Toxic fracking waste is leaking into California groundwater

Between the late 1950s and 2008, Chevron disposed [fracking wastewater] produced in Lost Hills in eight cavernous impoundments at its Section 29 facility. Euphemistically called “ponds,” the impoundments have a combined surface area of 26 acres and do not have synthetic liners to prevent leaking. That meant that over time, salts and chemicals in the wastewater could leak into the ground and nearby water sources like the California Aqueduct, a network of canals that delivers water to farms in the Central Valley and cities like Los Angeles. And that’s exactly what happened, according to new research … 

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 Layperson's Guide to California Water 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.

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 Jennifer 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.

Tour

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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Runoff

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.

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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.

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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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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

$25.00

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

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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

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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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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. 

Video

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.

Video

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.

Product

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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

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

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

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2015

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.

Publication

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

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?]

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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.