Toxic Algae Outbreak Prompts Advisory at Salton Sea

The California State Water Resources Control Board Friday urged people and their pets to avoid the water in the Salton Sea due to a toxic algae outbreak.

Officials said that patches of toxic cyanobacteria have been discovered at numerous sites in the sea, and a dog recently died after swimming in the water.

White House, Congress Accelerate Push to Fix Widespread PFAS Pollution

The Biden administration and Congress are stepping up efforts to control the release and cleanup of poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in drinking water sources and elsewhere, joining states that have expanded scrutiny of the chemicals, which are used widely in manufacturing and are extremely persistent in the environment.

Watershed areas such as the land around the El Capitan Reservoir was assessed in the 2020 Watershed Survey by the City of San Diego. Photo: City of San Diego

Watershed Survey Helps Maintain San Diego Regional Water Quality

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department conducts regular surveys of its watersheds to monitor and maintain high water quality within those watersheds.

The City recently released its 2020 Watershed Sanitary Survey. Conducted and issued every five years since 1996 as required by California law, the report identifies actual or potential causes of local source water contamination that might adversely affect the quality and treatability of City of San Diego water.

The updated information is used as a basis for future watershed management and planning efforts. City of San Diego tap water meets all state and federal drinking water health standards, the primary standards for treating and monitoring water.

“Development and other activities in our watersheds can have a profound influence on the quality of our water,” said Shauna Lorance, director of the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. “The Watershed Sanitary Survey is important for identifying potential negative impacts and ways to better protect our watersheds.”

Watershed protection critical to safe, reliable water supply

Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity like grazing cattle at this area near the Sutherland Reservoir, is part of the watershed. Photo: City of San Diego

Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity like grazing cattle at this area near the Sutherland Reservoir, is part of the watershed. Photo: City of San Diego

A watershed is an area of land that drains water into a specific body of water. Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity, is part of the watershed. Many places San Diego County residents live, work, and play in are watershed areas.

There are 11 westward draining watersheds in San Diego County.  Six are within the City of San Diego: San Dieguito River, Los Peñasquitos, Mission Bay and La Jolla, San Diego Bay, San Diego River, and Tijuana River.

The City of San Diego’s nine water supply reservoirs have a combined capacity of over 550,000 acre-feet and more than 900 square miles of watershed lands tributary to these reservoirs. Local runoff from watersheds captured in City reservoirs accounted for about 11% of total drinking water production from 2015-2020.

Six of San Diego County's watershed regions lie within the City of San Diego boundaries. Map: City of San Diego

Six of San Diego County’s watershed regions lie within the City of San Diego boundaries. Map: City of San Diego

Reservoirs are critical components of the regional water supply system, as water is supplied to nearly two million people in the City of San Diego and neighboring communities. Protecting these water sources is vital to providing healthy and safe drinking water. The public can assist in preventing watershed damage through source reduction and preventing stormwater runoff.

The 2020 survey noted these changes since the 2015 Watershed Sanitary Survey:

  • Total area of residential and commercial development in the watersheds increased slightly by about 2%.
  • A total of 412 new construction permits were recorded for onsite wastewater treatment systems located within the watersheds.
  • The number of fires occurring in the watersheds increased by about 8%.
  • Leaking underground storage sites decreased by 53%.
  • Sanitary sewer overflows increased by 36%.

The survey offers recommendations including continuing and expanding public awareness programs to help protect watershed, and implementing projects and programs to improve land management and water quality of source waters. All recommendations will be used for future watershed management and planning efforts.

The full 2020 Watershed Sanitary Survey, as well as past surveys, is available on the City’s website.

Editors Note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies working collaboratively with the Water Authority to increase the value, reliability, and safety of water for ratepayers in San Diego County.

Premature or Precautionary? California is First to Tackle Microplastics in Drinking Water

California is poised to issue the world’s first guidelines for microplastics in drinking water despite no data on how plentiful they are in the state, no scientific agreement on how to test water for them and little research on their health risks.

The pieces of plastic — smaller than an ant, some so tiny they can be seen only with a microscope — have contaminated wildlife and human bodies through their food, air and water.

New River: Imperial County Looks at Options to Force Action

Imperial County officials are considering suing the federal government over continued inaction at the polluted New River.

Members of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors during their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23, discussed potentially suing the United States government or sending a strongly worded “demand” letter to federal officials to try to sway them to take action on building a wastewater treatment facility on the border to help clean the filthy waterway.

Salton Sea: Congressmen Ruiz and Vargas Reintroduce Bill to Address New River Pollution

U.S. Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego reintroduced a bill this week that is aimed at cleaning up the New River, a highly polluted waterway originating near Mexicali, Mexico that flows north, emptying into the Salton Sea. The bill, HR491, would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create an organization to be called the California New River Restoration Program, which would coordinate funding and cleanup projects.

Why the American West is Fighting for Water Protection

Since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, the assumption has been that all waterways are protected from pollution — meaning that rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are, by law, shielded from industrial and agricultural waste through a strict permitting process via the federal government.

Climate Change Measures Top California Environmentalists’ 2021 State Priorities

California is helping lead the charge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but more needs to be done as climate change remains the state’s top environmental issue in 2021 issue, according to top environmental lobbyists in Sacramento. Other issues on their agenda include plastic pollution, recycling, wildlife protections, and greater repair and reuse of appliances and electronic products before they are discarded.

Plastic Pipes are Polluting Drinking Water Systems After Wildfires – It’s a Risk in Urban Fires, Too

When wildfires swept through the hills near Santa Cruz, California, in 2020, they released toxic chemicals into the water supplies of at least two communities. One sample found benzene, a carcinogen, at 40 times the state’s drinking water standard.

Our testing has now confirmed a source of these chemicals, and it’s clear that wildfires aren’t the only blazes that put drinking water systems at risk.

Newsom Taps New Head of Powerful California Air Board

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped a veteran regulator Wednesday as the next chair of the powerful Air Resources Board, which implements the state’s ambitious climate change goals.