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Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Even with his eyes closed, Doug Martin can recognize the sound of every tractor on his Hanford ranch. There’s the big silver work horse, and the 40-year-old Oliver that can still run his backup generator, but the one he looks at with love is a tiny green thing from 1958. “The first time I plowed ground with it, I was seven years old,” he says, recalling how he mishandled the plow and feared he had ruined the fields. He hadn’t; his father simply re-plowed them. “This little tractor did a lot,” he says, laughing.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Dennis Hutson’s rows of alfalfa, melons, okra and black-eyed peas are an oasis of green in the dry terrain of Allensworth, an unincorporated community in rural Tulare County. Hutson, currently cultivating on 60 acres, has a vision for many more fields bustling with jobs. “This community will forever be impoverished and viewed by the county as a hamlet,” he says, “unless something happens that can create an economic base. That's what I'm trying to do.”

Flickr User Michael Patrick, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Later this week, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on a long-anticipated plan to reduce some of the pollutants flowing into Central Valley water. However, not everyone agrees on the details.

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

We in California are depleting our groundwater aquifers faster than we can replenish them. Over the last few decades in the San Joaquin Valley, that deficit has averaged close to two million acre-feet per year, a total that was exacerbated by drought conditions that may become more common as the climate continues to change.

To help reduce this deficit, state lawmakers and Governor Brown in 2014 passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which aims to overhaul the way growers, cities and other water users manage the resource.

When it comes to the 2020 census, why are some San Joaquin Valley communities among the country’s hardest to count? We explore what some advocates are doing to reach those who may have never been counted before.

Volunteers also share how they’re working to improve the quality of life for the 2,600 foster kids in Fresno and Madera Counties.

Plus, we speak with doctors trying to improve health care for the LGBTQ+ community, and we hear from a panel of water leaders about the latest in a statewide attempt to better manage groundwater.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Two Fresno City Councilmembers made an atypical move at a press conference today by throwing in their support for a clean water drinking fund—as long as it doesn’t involve a tax.

At Gaston Middle School in South Fresno, community members and advocates met to urge lawmakers to support the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, a pot of money the legislature is considering creating in order to provide drinking water cleanup in disadvantaged communities.

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

In June of this year, the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications published a research article linking over-pumping of the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater to rising concentrations of arsenic. The research caught the attention of water leaders from across the state, and on Thursday, October 11, many will be gathering at Fresno State for a symposium to discuss the problem of arsenic in groundwater and workshop solutions to it.

Marc Benjamin

If you’ve been to Disneyland, Cambria, many parts of Los Angeles, then you most likely had a swig of highly treated recycled water. Recycled water meaning, yes, it was once in a sewage treatment plant.


For many years this recycled water has helped Orange County meet the needs of its growing population and reduce the toll on its declining aquifers. Soon, the same kind of water may be coming to Clovis and Fresno’s drinking water.
 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno has long relied on groundwater to meet its needs, but a new surface water treatment plant is slated to begin operating this summer. While the city faced complications with their last treatment plant, they’re hoping the lessons learned help solve problems before they start.

Fresno’s new Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant is huge, and built to do one thing: Treat water from the Kings River, and send it out to Fresno residents.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Oil companies in California produce more water than oil. In the San Joaquin Valley that also has created a problem: what to do with all of that unwanted water? In most cases that wastewater is injected back into the ground, deep below the aquifer. But in some cases, injections may have contaminated federally protected aquifers that could be clean enough for drinking water.

PPIC

Despite a rain and snowfall year that is among the wettest in memory, Central California's water supply and quality problems are not going away anytime soon. A new report from the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California looks at those issues and offers a variety of management solutions.

John Chacon / CA Department of Water Resources

The Fresno city council on Thursday approved a plan that could be the first step in clearing a harmful chemical out of the city’s drinking water.

The plan will authorize a feasibility analysis on removing the chemical 1,2,3-TCP from city water. 1,2,3-TCP is a known carcinogen that was used decades ago as an industrial solvent and pesticide additive. It’s been detected in 45 of the city’s 270 wells.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A report released this week argues the consequences of the drought have been more pronounced in some communities than others.

The analysis from the Pacific Institute and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water says water shortages, hikes in water rates and fishery declines have been concentrated in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Additionally, Laura Feinstein with the Pacific Institute says those effects extend beyond the central valley, even to typically wet areas on the North Coast and Central Coast.

Governor Brown’s latest budget proposal has some new language related to clean drinking water.

 

The proposal acknowledges that many of California’s disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain safe drinking water systems, but it stops short of any additional funding to fix the problem.

Jonathan Nelson with the advocacy group Community Water Center says this acknowledgement may seem modest now, but it could lead to bigger things.

Study: Water Windfall Beneath California's Central Valley

Jun 28, 2016
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study finds California’s Central Valley has three times more water beneath it than previously estimated. As Capital Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports, researchers say that doesn’t mean accessing the groundwater will be cheap or easy.

Researchers at Stanford University found what they call a “water windfall” deep beneath the Central Valley. Stanford Earth Science Professor Rob Jackson is the report’s co-author.

Leaders of the City of Fresno have officially broken ground on one of the biggest public utilities projects in city history.

Although trucks are already working on the 58-acre site in southeast Fresno, city leaders celebrated the start of the nearly $200 million project Wednesday by signing a section of the 6-foot diameter pipe that will carry water from the Kings River to the plant.

Once the surface water treatment plant is fully operational it is expected to deliver as much as 80-million gallons of drinking water a day to the city.

USGS

California’s prolonged drought is once again causing the valley in sink. Groundwater pumping to keep water flowing and plants growing is resulting in the valley floor to settling and sinking in what is known as subsidence. As the water is pulled out the ground underneath fills the space and settles. In some places, the land is subsiding as much as a foot a year.

  Hydrologist Jim Borcher says the Valley has experienced sinking before, but now it is back.

New State Office Could Help Poor Valley Communities Get Clean Drinking Water

Mar 25, 2015
Valley Public Radio

The emergency drought relief bill that California lawmakers will begin voting on Wednesday would create a new state office. That might sound fairly mundane. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, supporters say it could help disadvantaged communities.

Clean water advocates will tell you that it can sometimes take decades for small or poor communities to get clean drinking water. Laurel Firestone is with the Community Water Center.

California Will Strengthen Oil Drilling Waste Rules

Feb 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California says it will do a better job of monitoring oil drilling that could affect the state’s groundwater supply. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on a new plan out Monday.

Drilling for oil can be messy. About 90 percent of the fluid that comes up is waste water and the oil companies have to dispose of it somewhere. California lets them inject the waste back into the ground in designated locations. But last summer the state became aware that some of these injections were happening in unauthorized locations. That prompted a review of the practice.

John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

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