WESTERN WATER-Testing at the Source: California Readies a Groundbreaking Hunt to Check for Microplastics in Drinking Water
Read our Western Water Notebook, Water Word of the Day and Five Don't-Miss Water Reads from Across the West
Dear Western Water readers:
Tiny pieces of plastic waste shed from food wrappers, grocery bags, clothing, cigarette butts, tires and paint are invading the environment and every facet of daily life. Researchers know the plastic particles have even made it into municipal water supplies, but very little data exists about the scope of microplastic contamination in drinking water.
After years of planning, California late this year is embarking on a first-of-its-kind data-gathering mission to illuminate how prevalent microplastics are in the state’s largest drinking water sources and help regulators determine whether they are a public health threat.
Major water agencies tapped for the first round of testing already are gathering resources, figuring out how to take samples and readying public messaging strategies in case microplastics turn up in streams and reservoirs.
The latest Western Water article explores California’s groundbreaking program that could lead to the world’s first standard for microplastics in drinking water. Read full story here.
Water Around the West
Five don’t-miss articles from California and across the West:
Earth is warming up. So why is California having a record-breaking winter?: Jack Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle talks with scientists to connect the dots on how California’s chilly — and wet — winter is tied to climate change.
Mapping California’s ‘Zombie’ Forests: The New York Times’ Elena Shao details a new Stanford University study showing that young ponderosa pines and Douglas Firs are struggling to adapt to warmer temperatures across the Sierra Nevada’s slopes.
How a ‘cold shock’ of water from Lake Powell could thwart invasive Grand Canyon bass: The federal government is plotting emergency actions to keep predatory smallmouth bass from encroaching deeper into the Colorado River and preying on humpback chub and other native fishes, writes the Arizona Republic’s Brandon Loomis
Supreme Court case could reshape indigenous water rights in the Southwest: Writing for Civil Eats, Virginia Gewin highlights a closely watched tribal water rights case that goes before the Supreme Court next week.
Arsenic risk found in private wells in parts of the West: A new study revealed tens of thousands of private drinking water wells across California, Nevada and Utah likely contain unhealthy amounts of arsenic, reports Colton Lochhead for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Water Word of the Day
The increasing prevalence of tiny plastic particles called microplastics in our environment is becoming a global concern. The particles, which have been found on the ocean floor, Antarctic ice shelves and in municipal wastewater, are highly mobile, distributing easily and widely throughout surface waters and sediments. To slow the spread, the federal government and a variety of states like California have enacted laws regulating the use of microbeads and microplastics. You can read more about microplastics and other water-related issues in Aquapedia, our free online water encyclopedia.
At the Foundation
Registration is now open for two of our spring water tours — the Central Valley Tour, April 26-28, and our popular Bay-Delta Tour, May 17-19. The Central Valley Tour focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, which is facing challenges after years of drought, dwindling water supplies, decreasing water quality and farmland conversion for urban growth. The Bay-Delta Tour traverses the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. Check our Water Tours page to learn more about each tour and find out where else we’re going in 2023.
Perhaps no resource is as vital to California’s way of life as water. Due to the state’s increasingly unpredictable climate, long-range planning and conservation of water supplies is critical to making it through droughts, which are becoming longer and more intense. Conversely, as this winter has shown, the rivers that bring prosperity to California also can bring destruction when they fill with rainfall or snowmelt and burst over their banks. Check out the 10th edition of our Layperson’s Guide to California Water for a breakdown of the state’s water use and development history.