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 The Press

Antioch to get new desalination plant

Antioch is investing in its water supply future. A new $110 million desalination plant is being built in Antioch. With construction underway at an existing water treatment facility, the new desalination plant will service the needs of Antioch’s population of more than 115,000 people, as well as help to improve its water supply reliability, city officials say. … The primary reason for the need for the desalination plant is due to increased salinity in the water supply. The city of Antioch derives much of its water source from the San Joaquin River …

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Harmful algae detected in Tahoe Keys; Signs posted reflect various threat levels

The presence of harmful algal blooms in the Tahoe Keys Lagoon has been detected and officials are asking people to stay out of the water within a specific area. The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board on Friday announced that tests confirmed the presence of harmful algae and have posted signs in certain areas to coincide with potential health risks present. Lahontan said it regularly monitors the lagoon at multiple locations and these multiple advisories exist due to the varying levels of toxin detections. The latest results from the HAB sampling indicate the highest levels have been detected at the corner of Venice and Alpine Drive, resulting in a danger advisory.

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Aquafornia news KTVU 2 - Los Angeles

Tribe, environmentalists oppose mining project in Santa Clara County

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is calling on Santa Clara County to stop a project they say will destroy hundreds of acres of sacred land. A private company wants to build a sand and gravel mining plant there and will need the county’s approval to do it. It’s not just the tribe that’s against this project. The tribe has the support of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, the ACLU and environmental groups like Green Foothills. They all say the risks far outweigh the benefits and once the damage is done, there’s no turning back. … [E]nvironmentalists also say digging pits hundreds of feet into the soil will have devastating effects on the groundwater table and interrupt the migration patterns of animals that live there.  

Aquafornia news Legal Planet

Blog: U.C. Davis Law School to host “Clean Water Act at 50″ conference

On Friday, October 7th, the California Environmental Law & Policy Center at U.C. Davis School of Law will convene a major, day-long conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.  The event will assess the progress the U.S. has made over the past half-century in abating water pollution; focus on some of the law’s most contentious, current features; and predict how the Act will likely–and should–evolve in the decades to come.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Mosquito Fire: CA blaze 60% contained as rainy weather ends

Firefighters have made substantial progress this week in containing the Mosquito Fire, as a storm system brought several inches of rain to the Northern California foothills and allowed the last remaining mandatory evacuation orders in Placer and El Dorado counties to be lifted. … The National Weather Service earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday, issued a flash flood watch for the Mosquito Fire zone, advising that thunderstorms could cause dangerous debris flows. Fortunately, the advisory expired with no significant flooding reported. The Mosquito Fire, California’s largest wildfire of 2022, destroyed 78 structures and damaged 13 others, mostly homes in the Michigan Bluff and Volcanoville communities. Cal Fire says its damage assessment is complete.

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Aquafornia news Beyond Pesticides

Blog: Neonicotinoid insecticides keep poisoning California waterways, threatening aquatic ecosystems

According to a September 15 Environment California press release, California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) data confirm more bad news on neonicotinoid (neonic) contamination: nearly all urban waterways in three counties show the presence of the neonic imidacloprid at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) chronic benchmark for harm to aquatic ecosystems; in five other counties, well over half showed its presence at similar levels. Neonic use is strongly correlated with die-offs and other harms to a variety of bees and pollinators, and to other beneficial organisms.

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Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Klamath River salmon facing increased mortality in post-fire conditions

The Six Rivers National Forest Fisheries Program has partnered with the Klamath Basin Fish Health Assessment Team to monitor water quality and fish health conditions in the Klamath River. This is in response to increased mortality and disease rates among the chinook and steelhead salmon populations in the river. According to officials, this die-off is a result of poor fish health conditions in the Klamath River due to changes in flows, water temperature and fish density. These conditions began to change in early August due to the nearby McKinney Fire’s effect on the water.

Aquafornia news ABC30 - Fresno

Valley farmer calling on state to increase water source

The devastating drought is continuing to ravage the Central Valley and is creating more of a water crisis for farmers. Right along the edge of West Fresno County sits miles and miles of uprooted almond trees. Farmer Joe Del Bosque says he’s never seen it like this. … Del Bosque says they’ve done everything to be efficient with their water. He says every orchard and field has water-saving technology. But that’s not enough. Now, he’s calling on lawmakers to increase their water storage to be able to save more water in the future.

Aquafornia news High Country News

Salmon are nosing at the riverbanks trying to escape the Klamath River

Tribal scientists had hoped that the incoming fall run of adult chinook salmon would escape the devastating effects of August’s debris slide on the Klamath River, which killed tens of thousands of fish. But they were disappointed. The salmon, which were gathering at the estuary at the time of the debris slide, migrated upstream early to spawn and found themselves trapped in toxic waters. … What the river really needs, according to Karuk Tribal Fisheries Field Supervisor Kenneth Brink, is a good springtime flow to flush out the debris. But spring, of course, isn’t coming anytime soon. There is water behind Iron Gate, the Klamath’s lowermost dam, but toxic algal blooms have made it hazardous to salmon, too.

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Aquafornia news Edhat

Blog: EDC and Lompoc settle Clean Water Act lawsuit

The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) reached a final settlement with the City of Lompoc over ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act caused by the City’s operation of its municipal wastewater treatment facility. Evidenced by the City’s own reports, EDC discovered that the City has been discharging water contaminated with toxic pollutants for over twenty years into the San Miguelito Creek and the Santa Ynez River.  These discharges threaten public recreation opportunities and impact downstream water quality and the health of the Santa Ynez River ecosystem, which is important to snowy plovers and other shorebirds, along with endangered steelhead that travel through the River estuary to the ocean and back upstream to spawning grounds as part of their lifecycle.

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Meet the ‘flying potato’ of an alga that killed so many Bay fish this summer

At times this summer, the shores of San Francisco Bay looked like a piscine battlefront — strewn with dead white and green sturgeon, leopard sharks, striped bass, bat rays, smelt, anchovies, and other fish. It started in late July in Alameda and expanded throughout the entire Bay. By late August, some 10,000 fish had reportedly died at Oakland’s Lake Merritt alone. … The murk came from the sheer density of the culprit, which was multiplying in the millions: a miniscule organism called Heterosigma akashiwo — akashiwo means “red tide” in Japanese. 

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

Placer County prepares for water quality challenges as Mosquito Fire burns

This week’s rain has been a welcome sight for those dealing with the impacts of the Mosquito Fire. The early season moisture has helped to significantly dampen fire activity over the last several days. Estimates and measurements show that anywhere from 1 to 2.5 inches of rain has fallen over the burn region since Sunday morning. But as that rain runs down the steep canyons and into Placer County’s many waterways, ash and debris from the fire’s burn area can easily end up in the water supply system. Andy Fecko, general manager of the Placer County Water Agency, said plans to keep that water supply safe began the night the fire was first reported near Oxbow Reservoir.

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Aquafornia news The Hill

Dangerous arsenic levels may be lurking in California prison water: study

Incarcerated Californians — and those who live in neighboring rural communities — may be exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic in their drinking water, a new study has found. Arsenic concentrations in the water supply of the Kern Valley State Prison and three nearby Central Valley communities exceeded regulatory limits for months or even years at a time, according to the study, published on Wednesday in Environmental Health Perspectives. To draw their conclusions, the authors combed through 20 years of water quality data from the prison and the adjacent communities of Allensworth, McFarland and Delano, where groundwater aquifers contain unhealthy levels of naturally occurring arsenic.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Improvements eyed for San Francisco Bay in wake of devastating algae bloom

Marine scientist Dr. William Cochlan is old friends with the tiny algae blamed for the recent devastating bloom in San Francisco Bay. He and his colleagues at the Estuary and Ocean Science Center in Tiburon first identified it during an event here nearly two decades ago. … For more than a century since the Gold Rush, the Bay has been historically murkier, in part because of the heavy runoff from hydraulic mining. But for several reasons, many of them good, the Bay water is now generally clearer, allowing sunlight to reach the algae. Add to that, the increased volume of wastewater released from our treatment plants introduce more nutrients like nitrogen into the mix.

Aquafornia news KGUN 9 - Tucson

Over $32M to go into safe drinking water projects for Arizona

Funding from Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law will be used to provide more safe drinking water across the state. … Over $32,000,000 will be provided towards Arizona projects through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

As California begins monitoring microplastics in water, experts brace for health impacts

Microplastics, or the small fragments of plastics and polymers from clothing, packaging and cosmetics, are now found virtually everywhere on Earth — from the highest peaks to the depths of the ocean. At five millimeters long or less, these tiny specks are also cropping up in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Microplastics have been detected in commercially farmed shellfish and, recently, in beef and pork, with little known about how much plastic we’re ingesting — or the impacts of this material on our health or the health of the planet. That’s why this month, California took the first step in regulating microplastics in its municipal water supplies, making it the first government agency in the world to do so.

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Aquafornia news

Bringing arsenic-safe drinking water to rural California

According to the Rev. Dennis Hutson, people used to love the taste of Allensworth’s water. … Now, many residents of this historically Black community know that it is not safe to drink water from the wells in their town. Like many areas throughout California, the groundwater beneath Allensworth is tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic, a highly carcinogenic element that can seep into the water table from deposits in the soil and bedrock.

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

As dead fish pile up, the economic and environmental impact of the red tide becomes apparent

Thousands of dead fish have washed up on shores across the Bay Area in recent weeks. A red tide is killing everything from anchovies to sharks. Preventing a similar disaster may cost the region billions of dollars. In late July, Mary Spicer noticed that the water lapping around her kayak started to turn red. A few weeks later it was dark brown. … Jon Rosenfield, senior scientist with environmental group SF Baykeeper, says Heterosigma may be killing fish in two ways: It can produce a toxin that is deadly to fish, but it can also result in low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which can be deadly.

Aquafornia news NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Blog: Helping decision-makers improve water management

A new study from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Western States Water Council (WSWC) and Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. points the way to accelerating how knowledge and technology are transferred to and from public agencies and environmental organizations. … In this latest paper, the team outlines a path for how to protect environmental resources by not only offering technical solutions, but by developing strategic relationships and fostering a culture of organizational support. Two water case studies – the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) and the Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN) – are used to highlight how effective knowledge and technology transfer can be done. 

Aquafornia news KSBW - Monterey

Pesticide found in surface water in California over past decade

Contaminated water has been found in urban areas in California, including the affects to the Central Coast, according to data released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid (or neonics), a pesticide that is also linked to bee die-offs. These pesticides are shown to disrupt the nervous system of bees, other insects and songbirds causing paralysis and death. … According to the CDPR, this insecticide can remain in the soil for long periods of time and be transported by rain or irrigation systems, which leads to contamination in California’s water.

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Water treatment systems not up to snuff, auditor says

Already battered by drought, dwindling supplies and climate change, California’s water treatment systems also suffer from problems that raise the specter of long-term health issues, according to a state report. Those findings – and others – were contained in an audit  by Michael Tilden, California’s acting state auditor. The audit, released in July, focused on the State Water Resources Control Board (better known as the Water Board), which regulates the condition of water across California. Despite the State Water Board’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the legislation that protects clean state water, Tilden’s audit found that the state of clean water across California needs improvement.

Aquafornia news Daily Kos

Blog: SF Bay fish kill update – Recovery of long-lived species like sturgeon could take decades

Starting in late August of this year, the San Francisco Baykeeper and state and regional authorities began receiving increasingly frequent reports of unprecedented numbers of dead fish in the path of a massive “red tide” algae bloom on San Francisco Bay. The fish included large sturgeon, sharks, bat rays, and striped bass, as well as big quantities of smaller fish such as gobies and anchovies, in the water and along the shoreline of the bay. As a investigative reporter who has focused on fish, water, environmental justice and regulatory capture issues for 40 years, the images of the dead fish and other marine organisms were particularly devastating, since I’ve spent thousands of hours fishing on and reporting on the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

California’s algae bloom is like a ‘wildfire in the water’

Lake Merritt, in the center of Oakland, California, is a tidal estuary connected to the Pacific Ocean. It usually teems with life, both human and marine. In early September, its 3-mile shoreline was bustling with joggers. But in the sunset-blackened waters, the gleaming white corpses of thousands of decaying fish bobbed along in the gentle tide and piled up in mounds along the lagoon’s edges. In late July, an algae bloom began spreading in San Francisco Bay, which stretches 60 miles north to south.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monsanto’s Roundup, linked to cancer, is a wine controversy

One of the most hotly debated issues in California wine these days involves a chemical that can be found in every Home Depot in America: Roundup. Monsanto’s high-profile herbicide is the go-to method of weed control for many California vineyards. … But Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is probably a carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization. … That revelation has spurred a new outcry in the California wine industry. Some winegrowers who farm according to organic, biodynamic or regenerative protocols — which prohibit the use of glyphosate and other synthetic chemicals — are speaking out against Roundup with renewed fervor, calling for an end to its use in vineyards.

Aquafornia news Politico

‘Forever chemicals’ are everywhere. The battle over who pays to clean them up is just getting started.

State and local governments across the country are suing manufacturers of toxic chemicals that are contaminating much of the nation’s drinking water, aiming to shield water customers and taxpayers from the massive cost of cleaning them up. These pervasive “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, are linked to a variety of health hazards, including cancer. Now, as state lawmakers and federal regulators get serious about removing them, scores of governments and water suppliers are in pitched court battles over who is on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage — the companies that created the chemicals or the customers who are drinking them. … In Orange County, Calif., water managers found PFAS in dozens of wells that draw from a vast groundwater basin that supplies 2.5 million people.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Regional San recognized again as utility of the future today

For a third time, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) has been recognized as a Utility of the Future Today by a partnership of water sector organizations. The Utility of the Future Today Recognition Program was launched in 2016 by a partnership of water sector organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Research Foundation, and the WateReuse Association. Input was also provided from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the program is to guide utilities of all sizes toward smarter, more efficient operations and resource recovery.

Aquafornia news Times of San Diego

Opinion: California’s water threatened by overuse of unregulated pesticides and herbicides

The water scarcity California has been experiencing over the last two decades is the result of the worst drought to hit the American Southwest in the past 1,200 years. … [I]ssues regarding water quality arise due to the state’s high use of pesticides in agriculture, with several Environmental Protection Agency-reapproved toxic herbicides not being regulated by state legislation. From 2004 to 2015, over 2 billion pounds of pesticides have been used in California, with the most recent numbers indicating an annual use of 209 million pounds. Though it represents only 2-3% of total U.S. cropland, the Golden State uses up to 20% of all pesticides employed in the U.S.
-Written by Stan Gottfredson, CEO of Atraxia Law, a San Diego-based firm that helps agricultural workers and their families affected by paraquat exposure compile the necessary information to support their Parkinson’s disease injury claims against liable manufacturers. 

Aquafornia news Science

At the Great Salt Lake, record salinity and low water imperils millions of birds

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is smaller and saltier than at any time in recorded history. In July, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the world’s third-largest saline lake had dropped to the lowest level ever documented. And last week researchers measured the highest salt concentrations ever seen in the lake’s southern arm, a key bird habitat. Salinity has climbed to 18%, exceeding a threshold at which essential microorganisms begin to die. The trends, driven by drought and water diversion, have scientists warning that a critical feeding ground for millions of migrating birds is at risk of collapse.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Plan to regulate water pollution from grazing gets OK from California Coastal Commission

With water contamination at Point Reyes National Seashore at dangerous levels, the California Coastal Commission gave the green light Thursday to a strategy to regulate private ranchers and require them to stop practices that increase fecal pollution from cattle. The commission spent hours Thursday debating a second version of a water-quality strategy from the National Park Service, to address chronic water pollution caused by private ranching in the only national seashore on the West Coast.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

5,000-gallon sewage spill closes RAT Beach near Torrance

A secluded stretch of beach near Torrance and Rancho Palos Verdes was closed Wednesday morning after 5,000 gallons of sewage spilled into nearby Malaga Creek, officials said. Lifeguards with the Los Angeles County Fire Department walked along RAT Beach, just south of Torrance Beach, warning people to stay out of the water, said Kealiinohopono Barnes, a spokesperson for the department. … The spill occurred sometime Tuesday evening when a main sewer line in Rancho Palos Verdes became backed up, possibly because of tree roots, said Liz Odenhal, spokesperson for L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California approves microplastics testing of water sources

California water regulators [Wednesday] approved the world’s first requirements for testing microplastics in drinking water sources — a key step towards regulating tiny fragments that are ubiquitous in the environment. After years of research involving more than two-dozen laboratories, the State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved a policy handbook for testing water supplies for microplastics over four years. Under the plan approved [Wednesday], up to 30 of the state’s largest water providers will be ordered to start quarterly testing for two years, beginning in the fall of 2023. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Poop and pee fueled the huge algae bloom in San Francisco Bay. Fixing the problem could cost $14 billion

After an unprecedented harmful algae bloom first turned San Francisco Bay a murky brown color and then littered its shores with dead fish, many people assumed it was yet another climate disaster to add to the list, along with extreme drought, wildfires and heat waves. While scientists suspect climate change played a role in triggering the bloom, what fueled it is not a mystery. Algae blooms need food to grow, and this one had plenty: nutrients originating in wastewater that the region’s 37 sewage plants pump into the bay. In other words — we wouldn’t have this problem without the poop and pee of the Bay Area’s 8 million residents.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California set to become first in nation to test drinking water for microplastics

Microplastic is everywhere. The tiny particles that shed from clothing, food packaging and tires are in the air, the soil, the ocean and, almost certainly, your drinking water. This week, California is poised to become the first place in the nation, and perhaps the world, to begin requiring water agencies to test for the contaminant. State water regulators, after years of working with more than 20 labs in seven nations to pioneer a means of monitoring microplastics, are scheduled to adopt a testing and reporting requirement Wednesday.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

US lithium rush bogs down in environmental fight in Nevada

As the price of the metal — a critical battery component — soars, tribal members, ranchers and activists in Nevada want to block a mine some see as an “environmental nightmare.”

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Point Reyes water quality tests find high bacteria levels

New water quality tests conducted at several waterways in the Point Reyes National Seashore found unsafe levels of fecal bacteria, including up to 170 times the state health standard for E. coli at one site. The tests were performed by Douglas Lovell of the Streamborn environmental engineering firm in Berkeley. Environmental organizations that raised funds to hire Lovell said the test results are the latest proof that the National Park Service is not efficiently addressing water pollution caused by private cattle and dairy ranches that lease land from the park. 

Aquafornia news Newsweek

Dangerous algal blooms crop up across California killing thousands of fish

Toxic algae that can make people sick have been found in popular swimming and fishing spots all around California. Indian Creek Reservoir, 30 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe, is one such location where harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been confirmed. The California Water Quality Monitoring Council has also detected a red tide HAB in San Francisco Bay, as well as “dangerous” levels of algal toxins in Clear Lake, Lake Crowley, and Bridgeport reservoir.

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Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Potentially devastating loss of sturgeon may provide insight to ancient fish

A toxic algae bloom known as “red tide” is likely the cause of fish and other sea animals dying and washing up on shores around the Bay Area – including the shores of San Pablo Bay on the west side of Mare Island. Dozens, if not hundreds of sturgeon have washed up in recent days, as well as a handful of bass. The losses among the sturgeon population have been great enough from this red tide event that state Fish and Wildlife Service officials are reportedly considering shutting down the sturgeon fishery to fishing.

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Aquafornia news Downey Brand LLP

Blog: U.S. EPA pushing ahead to designate PFOA and PFOS as superfund hazardous substances

Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) moved forward to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) (including their salts and structural isomers) as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (otherwise known as “Superfund”).  EPA released a pre-publication version of a proposed rulemaking that officially begins U.S. EPA’s efforts to regulate and address per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.  

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Oceanside spending $7 million to improve downtown storm drainage

Oceanside is preparing to launch a $7 million upgrade of its downtown storm drain system to prevent seasonal flooding, but the California Coastal Commission has raised concerns about the plan. City officials met with the Coastal Commission staff Aug. 24 to discuss a possible 90-day extension of the city’s application for a coastal development permit needed for the project. The three-month delay should give the city enough time to resolve issues the commission has raised about what’s called the storm drain system’s “outfall,” where the water empties onto the beach at Surfrider Way, said Jonathan Smith, the project manager for the city, on Monday.

Aquafornia news New York Times

Toxic red tide kills ‘uncountable’ numbers of fish in the Bay Area

A harmful algal bloom known as a red tide is killing off “uncountable” numbers of fish in the San Francisco Bay Area, with residents reporting rust-colored waters, and piles of stinking fish corpses washing ashore. The fish, first reported dead along the San Mateo County shoreline last Tuesday, are most likely being asphyxiated as a result of the algae, said Jon Rosenfield, a senior scientist with San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental group that is tracking the fish kill. … While such algal blooms are not uncommon, the scope and deadliness of the one in the Bay Area is concerning, Dr. Rosenfield said. Even the hardiest of fish, like the sturgeon, an ancient creature, are dying, he said. Bat rays, striped bass, yellowfin gobies and even sharks are washing ashore dead.

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Aquafornia news South Tahoe Now

Reopening of parts of the Tahoe Keys delayed due to herbicide level

The three-year-long Control Methods Test (CMT) began this summer in the Tahoe Keys. The projected mid-July reopening date of closed waterways has come and gone and it may be several more weeks until boaters, paddlers, swimmers, and pets can access those closed areas. The reason for the delay is the need for the double turbidity curtains to stay in place for waterways treated with herbicides. Per their permit with Lahontan Water Board, the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association (TKPOA) and those hired to do the tests cannot remove the curtains until all herbicide residues from Triclopyr get below 1 part per billion. It is currently hovering around 3 parts per billion according to the TKPOA interim General Manager Mark Madison.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Q & A: How much longer will the Bay Area’s fish kill last, and what’s the culprit?

One of the Bay Area’s largest algae blooms in recent memory could intensify with the arrival later this week of the longest, most intense heat wave of the year — creating pitch-perfect conditions for the toxic algae to potentially kill even more fish across the San Francisco Bay, experts and water regulators said Monday. The bloom — which is a chief suspect in the killing of thousands of fish across the San Francisco Bay over the last several days — appears to be affecting everything from tiny yellowfin goby to sharks, bat rays and possibly even green sturgeon, an already threatened species.

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Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: EPA releases proposed rule designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the pre-publication of the long-awaited Proposed Rule designating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.” The White House Office of Management and Budget found the proposed rule to be economically significant. This designation means the rule is expected to annually cost $100 million or more, and requires the EPA to conduct a Regulatory Impact Analysis.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Examiner

Carbon farming tackles California’s belching bovines

When it comes to climate change, cows have taken a reputational hit. These belching bovines have been villainized for releasing methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 25 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. But now, a growing number of Bay Area farmers are working to repolish the image of the humble dairy cow, recasting their role from gaseous emitters to carbon-capturing machines and powering farmers’ ability to fight the impacts of climate change. Chief among them is Albert Straus, founder and owner of Straus Family Creamery and Dairy in Marshall, an unincorporated town on the northeast shore of Tomales Bay.

Aquafornia news

New research: ‘Forever chemicals’ destroyed by simple new method

PFAS, a group of manufactured chemicals commonly used since the 1940s, are called “forever chemicals” for a reason. Bacteria can’t eat them; fire can’t incinerate them; and water can’t dilute them. And, if these toxic chemicals are buried, they leach into surrounding soil, becoming a persistent problem for generations to come. Now, Northwestern University chemists have done the seemingly impossible. Using low temperatures and inexpensive, common reagents, the research team developed a process that causes two major classes of PFAS compounds to fall apart, leaving behind only benign end products.

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Aquafornia news Good Men Project

California tribes call out degradation of Clear Lake

Seven years ago, after the fish died, Sarah Ryan decided she couldn’t wait any longer for help. California at the time was in the depths of its worst drought in the last millennium and its ecosystems were gasping. For Ryan, the fish kill in Clear Lake, the state’s second largest and the centerpiece of Lake County, was the last straw. Ryan is the environmental director for Big Valley Rancheria, a territory of the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians that sits on the ancient lake’s western shore. She and others raised alarms for several years about increasingly dire blooms of toxic cyanobacteria.

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Rewilding of former golf course to benefit endangered salmon, other species

Golf courses are highly managed landscapes, requiring constant human intervention to maintain them in the form desired by their users. But what would it take to convert a golf course into a more natural state, one that is resilient to climate change, benefits protected aquatic species, and meets the needs of the human community of which it is a part? A former golf course in Northern California’s Marin County is undergoing just such a conversion, and the process is expected to result in the restoration of critical habitat for imperiled fish species while also providing a key link between multiple existing preservation areas. Intensive hydrologic work will underpin these efforts.

Aquafornia news ABC7 - San Francisco

Harmful algae called ‘Heterosigma akashiwo’ spreading across San Francisco Bay, turning water brown

Looking out across the San Francisco Bay, you might notice it’s looking a little murky. Experts say the reason is a potentially harmful algae bloom that’s spreading in waters throughout the Bay Area. It’s called Heterosigma akashiwo and it’s what’s currently causing the water in the bay to look so dirty and brown. … Scientists at San Francisco Baykeeper, including [Ian] Wren and field investigator Aundi Mevoli, are studying the algae closely. They’ve been taking water samples from different parts of the bay and sending them to a lab in Richmond to be analyzed. He said they have seen the algae around San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond. It’s also been reported in other areas, including Lake Merritt.

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Aquafornia news Bay City News Service

State leaders discuss Lake Tahoe’s future amid worsening climate conditions

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, made an appearance in Nevada on Tuesday to join this year’s Lake Tahoe Summit — an annual discussion among state, federal and environmental leaders on how to better the Lake Tahoe Basin. Hosted by U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, this year’s conference revolved around the prompt “Protecting Lake Tahoe’s Future” — noting both the accomplishments made over the years, and how to move forward as climate change continues to bring about new or intensified challenges to the community. Many leaders mentioned water quality, forest management and wildfires as talking points.

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Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Algal blooms: When good algae go bad

Summers in the Bay Area are an invitation to water. Kayaks floating along the shoreline at Big Break, vacationers lounging at Niles Beach, adventurers tubing the Russian River, and fishers hanging lines off the pier at Lake Temescal. As the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit put it “In the summertime, when the weather is fine, We go fishing or go swimming in the sea.” But all of these recreational spots have had advisories for harmful algal blooms (HABs) or toxic algal mats in July this year. HABs are increasing in incidence, duration, and toxicity statewide and so are their health impacts on humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Many reservoirs that store drinking water have also been impacted.

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 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.

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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.

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.

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Point Source vs. Nonpoint Source Pollution

Point Source Pollution

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


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

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

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


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

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


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

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


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource
Published 2007

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


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

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


Two Sides of a River (60-minute DVD)

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


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


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

Aquapedia background

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.

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

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

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to California Wastewater

Wastewater Treatment Process in California

Wastewater management in California centers on the collection, conveyance, treatment, reuse and disposal of wastewater. This process is conducted largely by public agencies, though there are also private systems in places where a publicly owned treatment plant is not feasible.

In California, wastewater treatment takes place through 100,000 miles of sanitary sewer lines and at more than 900 wastewater treatment plants that manage the roughly 4 billion gallons of wastewater generated in the state each day.

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.

Aquapedia background

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.