Posts

Opinion: New Priorities Needed for California’s Next Drought

A series of key decisions await Gov. Gavin Newsom as the state heads back into a potential drought.

So this seems like the right moment to review what happened last time: Water was prioritized for big agriculture at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, endangered species and California communities. The State Water Board, in a review of the drought of 2014-15, found operations “not sustainable.”

Project Clean Water Launches Public Outreach Campaign

On World Water Day, March 22, government agencies, nonprofits, organizations and individual citizens came together in support of clean water and healthy communities for the launch of Project Clean Water’s public outreach campaign. Project Clean Water is a county-wide initiative dedicated to protecting water quality in San Diego County. The public outreach campaign aims to raise awareness of stormwater issues and encourage behaviors that promote water quality.

World Water Day Highlights Value of Water

Billions of people don’t have clean drinking water, or anywhere sanitary to wash their hands. Half of the world’s malnutrition cases are caused by a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Flooding caused nearly $77 billion in economic losses worldwide between 2009 and 2019.

California May Regulate ‘Forever’ Chemicals in Water Before EPA

California water suppliers could face state limits on the concentration of two so-called “forever chemicals” before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets national standards. Maximum contaminant levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are on track to be in place in California in 2023, Darrin Polhemus, deputy director for drinking water programs at the State Water Resources Control Board, said during a board meeting Tuesday about agency priorities for the year.

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.

Naturalists Paige DeCino (left) and Karen Merrill survey South Lake Reservoir. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Volunteers Offer Birds Eye View at South Lake Reservoir

For decades, it was a source of drinking water for the San Marcos area. Today, the South Lake Reservoir has new life as a local wildlife habitat.

South Lake was built with an earthen dam and provided drinking water to the Lake San Marcos area, most of downtown San Marcos, and the Coronado Hills area. Updates to potable water treatment had detrimental effects on the lake ecology, so the Vallecitos Water District stopped using the lake as a drinking water source in 1984, although it remained an emergency water supply for another decade.

South Lake Reservoir is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life, waterfowl, quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

South Lake Reservoir is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life, waterfowl, quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Now, South Lake provides a thriving ecosystem within and around the facility. The lake is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life. Waterfowl such as coots, gallinules, grebes, various species of ducks, and cormorants frequent the lake throughout the year. The property is filled with quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes.

Volunteers help identify habitat and wildlife at South Lake

Vallecitos Water District staff recently surveyed the area to look for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife, and to catalog plant and animal species.

Certified California naturalists Paige DeCino and Karen Merrill from Preserve Calavera assisted Vallecitos public information representative Alicia Yerman, who is also a certified naturalist. The team spent three days exploring the lake and the 1.4-mile trail. Merrill and DeCino host the volunteer UC Naturalist certification program. The program is currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wildlife cameras at South Lake Reservoir captured this visiting bobcat at night. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Wildlife cameras at South Lake Reservoir captured this visiting bobcat at night. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Two wildlife cameras were set up at South Lake to capture wildlife activity over a two-week period. Lisa Urabe, a University of California trained Master Gardener and Vallecitos public information representative, asked the Buena Vista Audubon Society to conduct a bird survey. The BVAS volunteers identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showcasing some of the species.

BVAS volunteers were enthusiastic about surveying the birds in an area set aside as wildlife habitat. With increased habitat fragmentation, BVAS hopes the area will remain primarily an area for wildlife.

Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteers including Karen Merrill andd Paig DeCino identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showcasing some of the species seen. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteers including Karen Merrill andd Paige DeCino identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showing some of species. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“What you have at South Lake is a gem of the healthy functioning habitat— flora, fauna, and it is just a complete picture of what we hope our open spaces and natural lands to be,” said Karen Merrill. “It is something we should treasure now and into the future. It is one of a kind here on coastal San Diego County.”

Vallecitos employees take pride in the lake and its surrounding ecosystem and strive to keep the habitat intact for generations to come.

Vallecitos Water District staff including maintenance operator Marcelino Sanchez help maintain the lake and habitat. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District staff, including water distribution operator Marcelino Sanchez, help maintain the lake and habitat. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Firefighting helicopters can pull water from the lake

In addition to its value as local wildlife habitat, South Lake is available for fire suppression. Firefighting helicopters can pull water from the lake during wildfire events. The lake may be used as part of the City of San Marcos’ park system in the future.

Water quality within South Lake is monitored daily by water distribution operators, and the condition of the dam’s integrity is recorded weekly. Recently, an environmentally-sound ultrasonic technology made by LG Sonic was placed on the lake to reduce algae blooms and to improve water quality.

Biden Delays Trump Changes to Lead and Copper Drinking Water Rule

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it is delaying the implementation of a Trump administration update to a rule governing lead and copper in drinking water. The rule in question is expected to quicken the speed at which cities need to notify people who may have been exposed to lead but gives utilities a longer timeline to replace lead-tainted service lines. A new statement from the Environmental Protection Agency said that it is extending the date that the rule becomes effective, delaying it until at least June 17. It was originally expected to go into effect next week.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Challenges a President Trump-era Rule Weakening of Crucial Requirements that Protect Public from Lead in Drinking Water

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday joined a lawsuit challenging a Trump-era rule revising nationwide standards for controlling and remediating lead in drinking water. While the final rule includes certain necessary updates to the existing standard, these changes are overshadowed by the unlawful weakening of critical requirements and the rule’s failure to protect the public from lead in drinking water to the maximum extent feasible, as required by law. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) update to the Lead and Copper Rule is arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act’s prohibition on the weakening of existing drinking water standards.

‘It’s a Toxic Blend’: Where the Kids are Warned Not to Swallow the Bath Water

An invisible line splits the rural road of Avenue 416 in California’s Tulare county, at the point where the nut trees stretch east toward the towering Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. On one side of the line, residents have clean water. On the other side, they do not. On the other side lies East Orosi, an unincorporated community of about 700 where children grow up learning to never open their eyes or mouths while they shower.

California Must Face Water Challenge in Federal Court

The Department of Justice can proceed with its claims that California violated state law when it changed its water quality control plan for the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta system in federal court, the Ninth Circuit ruled.